Saturday, March 30, 2013

spring has broken

I went to a Good Friday service with my folks last night instead of hanging out in an old cathedral listening to requiems, and I was kind of zoned out through most of it, not all religious experience is warm and fuzzies, sometimes it doesn't feel like anything as much as you'd want it to. But I'm sure a lot of this is what's going on with the body if not the soul. I have these moments of disbelief and skepticism still, it's a good thing we're not asked of anything larger than a mustard seed, and I guess I'd make a horrible Calvinist because that line of reasoning already amplifies my doubts.

And so sleep, and dosing with nyquil and dayquil, exiting music practice early because I felt like I was going to fall over and usually that leads to inflicting those I love with irritability, which no one wants. More sleep, laying out a sleeping bag on my balcony since there's no furniture on it, just a discarded drop cloth and some discarded liquor bottles from my landlady's lousy contractors, a walk with my neighbor, currently sitting at the local coffeeshop banging out more of the giganto paper, generously illustrated with pictures of reliquaries and Northern Renaissance art. Because. 700 more words and I'll be golden, though most of the relevant sources are in German or Latin and I suck American style at languages other people know. 

I know this fatigue of all kinds is in part the product of a stuffy nose and a tired brain. It's just so beautiful outside right now I just want to be awake enough to live it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

we call this Friday good

I know the vast majority of my readership comes here for the art nouveau and the college radio tuneage and not my existential digressions on politics and religion, but anyways. It's Good Friday, and that calls for some degree of observance even from lapsed-catholics-turned-bleeding-heart-evangelicalishes like yours truly. My goal tonight is to find a dark church playing old requiems where I can ponder existentially for awhile.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I'm on a mission to never agree

So everyone's getting all "woo equality" on the social networking wing of the Internet, and I'm sitting here watching folks brag about how they're so much more enlightened than this person or that person and so on and so forth, and the usual suspects are getting really sanctimonious, and I just find red and pink to be a color scheme that looks kind of ugly, so I've just been clicking the little 'hide' button and considering how the Human Rights Campaign is a bit of a misnomer.

And don't get me wrong, I'm cool with civil unions and domestic partnerships and marriage and whatever. I honestly don't think the state has any business saying who can and can't between consenting adults but I understand that the legality as such has implications when it comes to legal stuff like kids and hospital visits and whatnot. I wouldn't want to deny that to anyone. I also don't believe that morality can be legislated.

But as far as human rights go... even if gay marriage in some aspect is legalized here, our foreign policy helps prop up regimes that stone you for adultery and have brutal ways of treating folks who swing the other way unless it's somehow already culturally sanctioned. If we're going to talk about equality and human rights, what about our prison system, or our schools, or the disparity in sentencing between cocaine and crack, or that Gitmo is STILL OPEN, and the School of the Americas has just been rebranded, but continues to export terrorism, and that we're STILL AT WAR and bombing the hell out of other countries on top of that, or teaching people how to brutally treat their own and exporting weapons to countries to help them keep people continually marginalized (see: Israel/Palestine, Uganda, etc).

And so I can't help but feel this is a giant smoke screen, a bone to throw the people who voted for hope and change, a way to get the masses riled against each other while the war machine keeps turning. And everyone buys in.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

last week's and this week's

things played this week:

tom waits - 16 shells from a thirty ought six
gutter twins - bete noire
heatmiser - disappearing ink

fugazi - nightshop

my bloody valentine - several girls galore

husker du - the girl who lives on heaven hill 

buzzcocks - harmony in my head

gray matter - oscar's eye

the police - next to you

echo & the bunnymen - crocodiles

the ruts - something that I said

X - los angeles

bad brains - big takeover

the gits - guilt within your head

mudhoney - I don't remember you

monster magnet - twin earth

queens of the stone age - how to handle a rope

rival schools - holding sand
worm ouroboros - failing moon
throwing muses - speed and sleep
royal thunder - black water vision

cave in - brain candle
starflyer 59 - le vainqueur

subrosa - the inheritance
dead meadow - green sky green lake'

jawbox - savory
dream syndicate - forest for the trees
the posies - grant hart 

 the breeders - flipside/I just wanna get along

the pixies - monkey gone to heaven
ride- leave them all behind. 

 things played last week:
 swervedriver- a change is gonna come

mudhoney - slipping away/I like it small

sebadoh - can't give up

the melvins - the stupid creep

sonic youth - swimsuit issue/theresa's sound world

starflyer 59 - second space song

seaweed - red tape parade
50 foot wave - pneuma
jucifer - backslider
subrosa - borrowed time borrowed eyes
jawbox - ff=66
faith no more - caffeine
corrosion of conformity - seven days
brmc - red eyes and tears
nirvana - blew
screaming trees - all I know
meat puppets - we don't exist
monster magnet - all friends and kingdom come
smashing pumpkins - geek usa
jane's addiction - oceansize
bad brains - I against I
torche - harmonslaught
kyuss - 50 million year trip
REM - crush with eyeliner
elder - dead roots stirring
doc watson - steel guitar rag (request)
throwing muses - surf cowboy

Monday, March 25, 2013

carl otto czeschka's nibelungen illustrations.

It's been awhile since we've had an arty post here, but I stumbled across these works this morning while looking for something else and love the graphic quality that reminds me of if Klimt did printmaking and epic subject material instead of chicks. These Nibelungen illustrations are especially swank...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

pierce me

I got my ear repierced this afternoon, going over to the tattoo parlor on the west side that a friend of mine recommended. Looking a little more clean cut than usual, no band shirt, no grotty jeans, I listened to people waiting daring each other to pierce their nipples as I perused the seemingly infinite combinations of tribal tattoos, gothic lettering, dragons, well-endowed women, and various edhardyisms. It felt a little culture-shockish I guess, more of the ghetto neck tattoo crowd than the hipsters with obscure musical references and art nouveau motifs inked on their shoulders. It was short and relatively painless, it's been five years since I took the gauges out and I now have a little hoop in my left ear that goes with nothing in my jewelry box, but I feel like I accomplished something as I hear the guy doing mine say he's not going to pierce that other girl "down there."

but this weekend, I decided to stay home Friday night and drink tea and be all spinster with Armenian comedies from the library and books, woke up early and went to the community garden meeting with my neighbor and hung out with people from other neighborhoods where there's otherwise very little cultural exchange and while I tend to avoid ascribing too much to "community," I felt a sense of what that might be like.

And then I took a couple college radio folks and the Queen of the Bondo on an epic east side jaunt through Slavic Village, the hood, a fabulous bookstore, a nice record store where I came home with two Pentangle records, and Heart and Mott the Hoople for a dollar each. My compadres found more esoteric material and the Queen of the Bondo and I chortled over old copies of Hit Parader explaining how to be punk before heading back west to non-foodie mecca Parmastan for damn good Indian food and sundry tale-telling. Not too shabby, I guess.

Friday, March 22, 2013

agnostic on security

And in theme with yesterday, I went to my very first block club meeting last night. There were a lot of people there who were older than me, most of them I'm guessing were homeowners, and we listened to talks by the CDC representative, the police sergeant in charge of our district, and a guy who was trying to sell us on some kind of surveillance camera setup on our main drags.

I noshed on homemade cookies and bottled water and found that despite my frustration with law enforcement, at least this guy seemed to give us some practical solutions and not a whole lot of "those people" paranoia, some degree of common sense, and a caution that just going out and packing heat isn't the wisest idea if you really don't know what you're doing with a gun. 

The big problem in my almost-hood is heroin, which also corresponds with prostitution and the rise of burglaries around here. There's also a bunch of kids who call themselves a gang who've been stealing a lot of stuff and putting up pictures of them toting guns on Facebook. It's sad that even yours truly on the straight-and-narrow knows where to score drugs within a block of where I live each way.

And just like even my former conservative self was creeped the heck out by the Patriot Act ten-plus years ago, and is even more disturbed now, I'm just as averse to the "for our own good and our own protection" on the neighborhood level too. One person a little louder than me raises the issue of privacy and is ignored at first and then told she has nothing to worry about and when she insists that this is creepy the guy says 'well only me and a couple of other people will be watching," to which someone else says well if this is accessible on your smartphone can't it be hacked, and then they do a raffle for a security alarm and I'm left feeling slightly more informed about some non-emergency numbers, but a little weirded out yet unsurprised by this twist at the end.

When the CDC people find out I'm a renter, they try to sell me on a first-time homebuyers program but the last thing I want is a house down here, to be living alone with all this going on so I just tell them that I'm too irresponsible to own a house. This is partly true, but I feel like everyone's trying to sell me a bill of goods with a lot of catches that I just don't want to buy into.

agnostic on urbanity.

I do not mean to be so contrarian, to be constantly questioning, pondering the inevitable unintended consequences, the price of having a brain that doesn't shut off and a continual realization that most solutions create problems of their own or don't deal with the actual problems.

I've been organizing and inventorying piles of old Clevelandia newspapers, most of them independent,  for the last couple weeks, which is super fascinating, to read about history around the time I was born happening, when not all has been revealed. No, Clevelandia didn't come back the way they said it would in the 70's, or the 80's, or the 90's. Tawana Brawley was making it up. That guy endorsed in the paper (and that guy and that guy) who were supposedly such great politicians ended up in jail. That band never did make it out of the neighborhood bar. The neighborhood didn't come back when that new shopping center opened. All these young people love cities and are moving back! In 1975, in 1982, in 1993, in 2011.

There were those t-shirt companies making shirts back then just like they do now, providing a snarky sense of regional pride. Local vendors are going to save us all! In 1982, in 2002, in 2012. I forget how much I love print media, especially weekly rags gone yellowed, with ads that are hand drawn and typewritten, long-form journalism by people denied a voice in other places who were concerned and interested in things not covered much by the main newspapers. It's fascinating to read about the Cleveland punk scene as it was happening in the late 70's, in a place where even the biker bars had disco nights.

I don't believe in Cleveland. It's a place where I live, and a place that I don't mind waking up in. There's a lot of stuff here I like to do and people I love dearly. It's a good little place, but I don't believe in it, at least not up to the point that others do. I love art and music and writing, and while those improve the quality of life immensely, they're not salvation in themselves, and it's absurd to treat them as if they are.

So I wasn't surprised then, that Mr. Creative Class himself doesn't even believe the spiel that he pulled on every dying midwest town while laughing all the way to the bank. Those precious art scenes don't exist without Big Corporate or some kind of local Rich Patron, and your city being labeled as "cool" doesn't really help anybody who isn't of a certain demographic. The people I know here who are legit artists don't sell a lot of work locally, it's almost always people from elsewhere. Also, as much as I love mom-and-pop entities, they usually can't afford to hire a lot of people. There's limits to what an artisan economy can do, especially in a poor area where luxury goods are out of reach or culturally irrelevant to anyone besides other hipsters and those who co-opt their aesthetic.
Not everyone's into art galleries or brewpubs or indie rock. Heaven knows if they were, you'd hate that too.

This article made some people I know really angry but I think the rage is not so much against the argument, because even he says he's wrong,  so much as it's almost a dig at a certain way of looking at life that says that your lifestyle, however passionately you feel about it, probably isn't doing much for the world around you. I really look at this whole creative class business as Reaganomics for hipsters. Rather than tax breaks and concessions for corporate to trickle down to the working man, it substitutes an amorphous mass of "creatives" and technocrats. But a rising tide doesn't lift all boats in this regard, and that has borne itself out.

Not everyone can live in BikeMessengerLand (this being one of the few moments when I think that David Brooks is dead on), and I find the cultural snobbery that only people who are "cool" and have lots of disposable income are worth drawing to one's town. I might be construed as creative class due to my employment and interests, but I'm not exactly an ideal city resident. I'm not affluent, I rent so I can jump ship when things get bad. I've made an effort to put down roots more than some, but in all honesty, I live where I live because not everyone is bright young things my age. I like the stability of families with kids in tandem with regular folks and gay couples living in swanky Victorians.

Looking at only artists and people chasing cool discounts the vast majority of decent people who just want to be able to get through the week without too much hassle and be able to have a place where the kids can go to school and learn without worrying about them getting messed with there or on the way home. It's hard to rely solely on your bike when the buslines are skeletal and you're trying to handle three kids and a ton of groceries and taking care of your uncle who can't walk. Rage about sprawl all you want, but we can't undo what's already been done over the last fifty years, we have to deal with the way things are, not what we wish they were.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


So I messed up my left foot, and while I can walk all right, I'm kind of limpy and gimpy. There's a tingle of nerves down there where there never was before, and it's been about a week of this hoping it'll go away and it isn't. It sucks being limpy, I feel so old, and I take the ability to walk around so much for granted.

In the meantime, I've taken the big step of booking tickets to go visit a friend of mine from college who lives in Nuremberg who got married to a guy there last year and has been doing the expat thing for awhile now. We worked the library circ desk together for two years, having a common affinity for British punk and comedy, weird humor involving old ads and cryptozoology, and road trips to televangelist buffets and to see Kurt Vonnegut speak before he died, and hijinks at employee appreciation dinners involving helium balloons and Kate Bush. So, I can't think of anyone better that I'd want to explore another corner of the world with.

We watched "Doctor Strangelove" last night and one of my compadres was talking about some facebook memes about gun nuts but what I get out of the flick is more that the state is way more crazy and trigger happy than some goofballs out in Sticksville. But then again, I don't do those kind of binaries well.

Monday, March 18, 2013

city mouse and suburb mouse

So I live in the city now, I've been in various doubles and such for the last three years, I grew up in an inner-ring burb with a reputation for crackerism and general uncool dorkery that's now evidently kitschy chic in certain circles. I still think of rust belt chic as a white thing for canny marketers and the Instagram generation with no sense of history, but that's a whole other post.

I don't have the animosity towards the suburbs that my peers do because everyone's got their thing, and our things are different, and if you have kids, you probably want to send them to schools that don't suck if you have the means and having a yard where they can run around and not be cooped up in an apartment building is kind of nice. Not that suburban schools don't suck, but I get why it appeals to people because in a strange way, it kind of appeals to me. I never thought I'd say this.

The smugness and snobbery of the new urbanistas gets a little old because it really hits me as being self-absorbed at best and mean-spirited at worst. It's just as snooty to look down one's nose at people who like Nickelback and go to Applebee's (is it just me or is this lady kind of mean and profoundly unfunny) as it is to condescend to those of us who decide to live in the Big Bad City in proximity to Those People If You Know What I Mean.

But when I go back to where I grew up, it's not so bad. My parents have awesome neighbors who look out for each other, there's a lot of stuff within walking distance. I rode my bike way more in the suburbs than I do in the city for reasons not limited to but including crazy people on the road, not very nice Bike People, and the whole solo female thing that makes certain activities more complicated. 

I know there's crime everywhere, but things must have gotten dicey enough that even our lackluster CDC is starting to have meetings involving the local cops, the community and such. I feel way safer here than I did in the old almost-hood, but sometimes I dream of having a yard I can grow vegetables in instead of always living on the second floor of doubles and to know that if I call the cops they'll actually show up soon and not say things like "that's what you get for living in the city," as they said to the girls up the street when they got robbed.

I'm finally shedding the fortress mentality I developed at the old place, but the suburbs make more sense to me now than they ever did. I don't know what that says about me, but it's the truth. I love where I'm at right now, because my entire world is in such close proximity and the woes of the city are everywhere, but more and more I get the sense of things falling apart that I once did, and my roots here can only go down so far and I now wonder how long I'll stick around.

the existentials

So, despite all aversions to structure and whatnot, I ended up at some kind of art and spirituality retreat thing this weekend, in part because it was close by and I could bail if needed. It wasn't that good things weren't discussed, or that people weren't nice, I feel so profoundly square-peg even among those who'd consider themselves different from the norm, and averse to anything that remotely smacks of group therapy or whatever.

Part of this is leftover from certain church functions in my teens and in college where I went along to get along and then realized afterwards that I felt like it was all pretty ridiculous or just an exercise in navel-gazing/motivational absurdity with a spiritual veneer. I guess I don't totally trust other people, I analyze things a whole lot, and somehow I've evolved from a timid wallflower to someone who's still uber-introverted but way less averse to saying what I really think instead of tiptoeing around, sometimes to my detriment, in this case when I dropped some profanity in said explanation and was utterly misconstrued.

And it's strange being in this position, being the outlier among outliers, and yet much more doctrinally-traditional than my peers, emotional as anything, yet profoundly unpentecostal, not really buying into the narrative of marginalization of creatives in religious circles, maybe because I really believe in the whole one-body-many-parts thing, that we can't just say that other people who don't understand our artistic vision don't know anything, that we all have one common denominator, but a multiplicity of functions and giftings, and to be honest, the people I worship with love me in spite of my weirdness and encouraging me to do more with the art I do.  I like that where I go on Sunday morning means that I end up drinking coffee and sharing pews with people from completely different walks of life than my own, where we take each others' strangeness and warts in stride, that our politics and personal appearances and aesthetic preferences are secondary rather than primary.

So what was I left with? I guess I learned what works and what does not for yours truly, that for me the creative process is solitary, and that what seems like it'd work on paper doesn't always, that I feel like so much of this sequestering and self-separation is so overrated, and I wish I didn't feel like I was so damn contrary all the time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


The Kids are reprieved from their studies this week, Randal is a-darkthroning through Parmastan, and yours truly is continuing on the daily grind with the usual inherent after-work straungeness and such. I'm finding this whole daylight savings time a bit of an adjustment, though I like that extra hour for my wanderings, and it's never made me as ragey as others.

Still, the caffeine consumption has continued to rise, there's snow blowing outside, I'm digging through piles of 1980's local newspapers full of strange ads and figures from a different time... Rick James, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Tawana Brawley, World B. Free, a Cavs team with Mark Price and Brad Daugherty, vaguely remembered names and faces from my toddlerhood, now-disgraced Clevelandia politicians.

But last night, my neighbor and another college radio DJ was in the mood for a mini roadtrip and some live tuneage and so we ended up driving out to Oberlin to see Cult of Youth, pondering punk rock and politics on the drive there and finding it supremely ironic that a neofolk band was booked by the college to play in their student union within a week of certain, well, incidents. 

Oberlin's got a fascinating history and aesthetically it's a beautiful little college town. One of my friends from high school got married underneath the arch commemorating martyrs from the Boxer Rebellion, the village green is beautiful, the architecture lovely, the free art museum is quality. On the other hand, it sometimes feels a bit like a Portlandia episode in its overcompensating earnestness and general rich hippieness that reminds me of the targets of Camper Van Beethoven songs.

I learned from my previous roommate and her brother that black residents on the outskirts refer to the college itself as "the plantation," and the school itself has a secret list of people who aren't welcome, which makes me wonder if things aren't quite so kum-bay-yah to begin with. So while I think racism and other -isms are as bad as the next person who has any empathy, I find things like this a bit over-the-top, given the overanalyticalness and the presence of uber-helicopter parents. Most of us can point to something in our background that marginalizes us but sometimes this seems like firstworldposturing more than anything else. Those of us who live in craptastic neighborhoods and don't have rich parents and aren't hermetically sealed deal with these issues way more.

Part of this maybe has to do with working at a very racially and economically diverse place where we  have to peel off National Alliance stickers from the black history books and deal with all sorts of clownery, and some people did get shot here a few years back by some neo-nazi freako who wanted to start a race war.

Still, most of these clowns want attention and making a big stink only gives them what they want and while I appreciate the ideals of The Kids, it's hard for me not to roll my eyes at the usual tropes of 1960s protest with the bongo drums and whatnot. Perhaps we Clevelandians are tougher? Or just not as enlightened? Who knows?

Anyways... neofolk. We've had the new record up at the station, and I've played a few cuts that I liked and didn't find any red-flag moments in the liner notes, and they don't seem to play that up as much as certain other parties, but my compadre told me that there were a lot of shaved heads at their last jaunt through our city and the songs translated to a live setting were definitely more punky, or shoegazing with dubby basslines and some stomp to it that I enjoyed. The girls in front of me seemed a little freaked out, it seemed like more people were there to be there than anything else but what do I know except I was feeling pretty damn old and like I'd walked into an H&M commercial. Still, sometimes it's nice to get out and be somewhere else.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

stripped to the bone...

It was such a revelation when it finally hit me that high school never ends, that the same politics take on different forms, and instead of lunch tables, we have our demarcations of neighborhoods and occupation and cultural affiliation each with its own social codes. 

So in conversation today with my mom these things come up, of friendships lost, of judgment made, of ties severed. There have been those who've considered us too fundamental, others not fundamental enough, for infractions of politics and taste and dress. It's always infinitely easier to point out other's specks than deal with your own planks, always easier to tell others how they're wrong rather than deal with your own issues, always more fun to pass the gossip around than do anything productive. 

Not everyone will like you, not everyone will care enough to get to know you, and sometimes you can be dead wrong, and there's only so much to be done and to be bothered with to that end.  To that end, how many times have I said things I shouldn't, how many times have I not wanted to bother with others for whatever reason? And it seems so absurd to cast these aspersions, because not everything is as it appears, some will only see what they want to see, others will see the worst, and who of us can truly judge? 

Friday, March 8, 2013

cover me part 2

Also awesome, though I'm sure I'm missing a few...


cover me, part 1

College Radio Homie tells me he doesn't think much of cover songs, and there have been some bad ones, but there's something that I really like about when a band covers something and does it well, or turns it into something that you didn't expect that still works.

I was thinking about this because I was listening to a bunch of Screaming Trees b-sides last night while doing some reading for class. Evidently grunge bands and tales of nuns getting demonically possessed go together in my brain, but anyway, there's certain folks who can take a song and totally make it work, and other times it just feels utterly unnecessary or just plain wrong.

There are those covers where the original is rendered irrelevant or at least not as pleasing to my ears.

 The ones that do a complete deconstruction.

 Greg Dulli's remarkably good at this kind of thing. Thanks to Prince being a copyright goon, I can't find the stellar rendition the Twilight Singers did of "When Doves Cry," which is totally a first world problem. Still there's some other great ones here.

Longtime readers know I dig pretty much anything Mark Lanegan's ever done except those records with Isobel Campbell. The Christmas EP might be essential holiday listening now. That voice pretty much makes most songs awesome. That being said, I hoped that him and Martina Topley-Bird doing my favorite XX song would have been more awesome than it actually turned out to be. Still, the covers below are pretty swank.

 The air of menace in this Leadbelly cover gives it a sense of doom that's not necessarily apparent in the original. I know Cobain gets a lot of props for his version of this on MTV Unplugged, but this 1989 one where he's playing guitar is still my favorite.

Kristin Hersh always gets props:
I'm also partial to the Ramones' version of 'Somebody to Love'
 Jawbox was also extremely awesome in the cover song department. 

Other Joy Division covers that do it for me:


And the Mighty Melvins

One of my fellow DJs starts his show off with a Sabbath cover or two every week. Sometimes they're awesome, sometimes not so much. I want to track down a physical copy of this one since it's not even on itunes if I wanted it and this copyright chilling effect business makes other routes unconducive. 
Speaking of Sabbath covers: