Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"It's not that hard to block out the light"

A new favorite, which I discovered on this here very website, thanks to Nate...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Youth Lagoon

This kid is all I've been listening to lately. With a bit of Light Asylum thrown in.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This woman is my new hero

“It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world.” — Dorli Rainey

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tigers Jaw Cover Fleetwood Mac!

This might be the best thing I've heard from Tigers Jaw yet!

Also keep your ears open for something from Fabulous Muscles...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Feynman Series: On Beauty, Honours, and Curiosity

Here's the brilliant, late, great Richard Feynman articulating some thoughts on beauty and mystery and science, arguing against false certainty and mystical (mis)understandings of the unknown—all ideas I've found myself arguing quite often over the years.

"You see, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not-knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong."
"I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in this mysterious universe without having any purpose..."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"On The Air": David Lynch's Post-Peaks TV Show

Here are six of the seven episodes filmed for David Lynch and Mark Frost's brief return to network television after Twin Peaks.

From Wikipedia:
On the Air (1992) is an American sitcom created by David Lynch and Mark Frost and broadcast by ABC. In the United States, only three episodes were aired although seven were filmed. The program followed the antics of the staff of a fictional 1950s television network (Zoblotnick Broadcasting Company or ZBC), as they tried to put on a live variety program called "The Lester Guy Show" with disastrous results.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"And I remember pretending I wasn't looking"

Here's an old favorite. Contender for best love song?

I remember a summer's day
I remember walking up to you
I remember my face turned red
And I remember staring at my feet
I remember before we met
I remember sitting next to you
And I remember pretending I wasn't looking

So we'll try and try
Even if it lasts an hour
With all our might
We'll try and make it ours
Cause we're on our way
We're on our way to fall in love

I remember your old guitar
I remember "I Can't Explain"
I remember the way it looked around your neck
And I remember the day it broke
I remember the song you sang
I remember "The Way You Look Tonight"
And I remember the way it made me feel

And we try and try
Even if it lasts an hour
With all our might
We'll try and make it ours
Because we're on our way
We're on our way to fall in love

A Voice from the Shadows

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Here are some old sketches from my notebook...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Winged Victory For The Sullen

Stunning, haunting music from one half of Stars of the Lid, Adam Wiltzie, plus German pianist Dustin O'Halloran.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen (EXCLUSIVE FULL ALBUM STREAM) by erasedtapes

The album is available via Kranky HERE.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Things to Read, Drinks to Drink: Charles Baxter's The Soul Thief & Segura Viudas Cava

Charles Baxter's The Soul Thief & Segura Viudas Cava

A slim, complex, and completely engrossing novel, Chales Baxter's The Soul Thief is a book that's hard to describe without revealing too much. A good deal of the pleasure derived from reading it comes from Baxter's delicate and precise prose. (This is obvious to Baxter's readers perhaps, but to put it plainly: Baxter is one hell of a sentence writer, a writer of such consideration that the pages fly, even as the situations and characters Baxter presents grow ever more complicated and difficult.) Baxter has wit to spare, but the book is never didactic, never obvious, which is a feat given that the setting of the first half of the book is a graduate program at SUNY Buffalo, a school whose reputation for poetic seriousness and the study of critical theory precedes it. As such, the book is shot through with references to classical composers both popular and obscure, and mentions of (and quotations from) dead writers abound. Brilliantly and thankfully, these details aren't present to polish Baxter's bonafides, but to lend his characters depth and dimensionality.

The novel's protagonist, Nathaniel Mason, is a serious student and is seriously a wreck. He's got a strong moral compass, but runs headlong in to moral quandaries of his own making. He's got the brain of a savant, but is easily confused and agitated. He's the model of academic asceticism, but his self-neglect becomes a kind of dangerous self-torture. And then things really go off the rails...

It's a deceptively straightforward sounding novel in some respects (graduate students studying and screwing and drinking and talking shop have difficult and interesting and ecstatic times even while a dark pallor hangs over them) and a slim book to boot, but it was, hands-down, one of the best reading experiences I've had in a long while.

That got me thinking of those refined alcoholic beverages that, on the surface, may appear uncomplicated or common. Best among these, perhaps, are the Spanish sparkling whites called Cavas. And among those dry, often floral or nutty, effervescent wines is a commonly available and completely delicious series of bottles from the maker, Segura Viudas.

Located in the Penedès region (in Catalonia, near the French border and on the Mediterranean), Segura Viudas has become all too common in American wine shops and restaurants in the last decade. And for good reason: it's wines are absolutely delicious and they're completely affordable. In the $10 range, the Extra Dry is well worth keeping on hand just for the hell of it. Look a bit harder and spend a bit more (around $21) and try the Brut Heredad. While it comes in a goofy, ostentatious looking bottle, it's lighter in color and more delicate in flavor than either the Extra Dry or the Brut Reserva and is great with a variety of foods. Incidentally, it's also great while sitting in a bar finishing an exacting, beautifully written, surprisingly illusive novel.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Uh Huh

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Just when I thought I couldn't love Sharon Van Etten any more...

Sharon Van Etten covers Fine Young Cannibals

I actually covered this song once at a show in college and it didn't go over as well as I'd expected. Fine Young Cannibals: underrated.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The BBC's "Do You See What I See?": Putting the U in COLO(U)R

Here's a fascinating episode of the BBC program Horizon about color perception and its links with age, sex, time, emotions, language, and culture.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The L Magazine's Summer Fiction Issue: 2011

Each year, I have the pleasure of helping to put together The L Magazine's Summer Fiction Issue. In the past, we've published newer voices like Kevin A. Gonzalez, Andrew Malan Milward, Ted Thompson, Samar Farah Fitzgerald, and Leslie Jamison alongside more established writers, including Kevin Canty, Ron Carlson, and Kaui Hart-Hemmings.

The 2011 Summer Fiction Issue includes stories by Benjamin Hale, a debut story by Phil Sandick, and short pieces by Lydia Conklin and Cutter Wood. The images are by Crystal Gwyn, and they're just beautiful.

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

"See for the Woods"

A friend just sent me a link to these stunning double exposures by Oliver Morris. They remind me a bit of these.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

LUST BRIGADE Mixtape & Interview (☮)


Head over to Adam's Lust Brigade blog to check out the first of 3 mixtapes I made for him, plus an amusing interview... I will likely be posting more of our chat on here in the near future as well.

Wistful Riddles: The Curfew by Jesse Ball

I have a review of the latest novel by Jesse Ball in the new issue of The L Magazine. It's a magnificent book that I highly recommend, full of a whimsy that eschews preciousness (which I think I say in the review, so I'm repeating myself). It's like The Road if it were written to be directed by Jeunet—less bleak, but possibly more heartbreaking. Lots of writers (including me) wish they wrote like Ball, who is possibly our best young postmodern fabulist.

Scattered within the novel are self-contained parables, such as one about a stunning woman who “wore her beauty carelessly” but had to walk a particular way in order to conceal a deformity. There is something that feels not so antiquated but timeless, to the point that an otherwise trivial detail like a plane flying overhead stands out for placing the story in the modern era. The book is such a pleasurable read, the type you devour in a sitting.

Final note: fiction too often squanders the poetic potential of visual presentation, but Ball has lots of fun with form and type, filling some pages with only a few large, evocative words, and ultimately presenting storytelling and imagination as absolutely essential affirmations of life, language as memory and tribute.

"There wasn't anything that tied life's moments together, except life. And when it was gone?"

"Your trials will one day finish. You are young and will outlive your torturers."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Moon is a band.

Moon is maybe like early Cat Power, and maybe like Sharon Van Etten, and maybe a little bit like Wye Oak. But not really. I don't know how to explain it, except to say that these songs are richly layered, and the vocals are sort of low in the mix and are sort of haunting. The tracks and the videos speak for themselves.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Things to Read, Drinks to Drink: Bad Guy Edition

Is Zeke Pappas a Bad Guy? Perhaps. Perhaps Not. Either Way, He'd Surely Enjoy a Bad Guy Manhattan.

The Book:

I read Dean Bakopoulos's new novel My American Unhappiness in much the same way that I might enthusiastically drink a newly discovered small batch beer. I picked it up, admired the packaging, read the label (jacket copy and author bio) and then cracked it open. And, much like a favorite six pack of good beer, I went through it in one sitting and when I got to the knockout of an ending, I didn't want the night to be over.

Like many other contemporary novels, this is a book that provides us with a protagonist who isn't always easy to root for. This phenomenon makes many a kind reader crazy. My (very kind) mother says things like "Why would I want to read about these people? They're horrible!" Needless to say, mom wasn't a fan of The Corrections.

But what makes My American Happiness unique among a number of novels with vaguely untrustworthy, unlikable, or sometimes downright loathsome main characters is that Bakopoulos seems uninterested in cutting his protagonist, Zeke Pappas, much slack. Even a character like Fuckhead, the drug-addled central figure from Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, seems let off the hook in a way that Bakopoulos can't quite allow Zeke. On a few occasions in Jesus' Son, Fuckhead tells the reader that he knows what he's doing is wrong and admits that he feels bad for, say, holding a gun on a guy or for smashing a bunch of baby rabbits while in a druggy, half-conscious haze.

Fuckhead's apparent awareness of how screwed up he is allows the reader to feel at least some sort of empathy for him. He wants desperately to mask the horror of his actions by attempting to explain them away with excuses, and it's Fuckhead's recognition of his own culpability (as evidenced by those excuses) that makes him seem redeemable.

Zeke Pappas, by contrast, is mostly un-self-aware and, as a result, seems an unlikely candidate for our empathy. But if Johnson's Fuckhead provides readers with various excuses for his behavior, Bakopoulos has been wise enough to provide Zeke with plenty of actual, substantive reasons to be unhappy and, indeed, to behave like a crazy asshole. In a purely definitional way, excuses are hollow and are presented in order to deflect blame and to shirk responsibility. Reasons, though, the very nuclei of causality, are somewhat trickier and weightier things.

And that's where this novel's brilliance really lives: Bakopoulos has created an environment and a set of circumstances in which it's hard to imagine not going completely nuts, and I found myself nodding my head at Zeke's outrageousness, saying "Sure, if I'd lost the love of my young life and if my mom was ill, and if I had lost a brother in Iraq and a sister-in-law in a car accident, and if I were tasked with raising my twin nieces and if I couldn't find love though I desperately needed it, I would be a horrible wreck as well."

Given everything he endures, it's a wonder Zeke is as well adjusted as he is. And therein lies at least one of the novel's big and messy truths: we live in a deeply complicated world, and times are bad. People are trying, to varying degrees of success, to hold it together. If that seems a cynical trope, it is, and if circumstances seem dire, it's because--within the purview of this book and beyond it--they are.

This is a book in which it's simultaneously difficult to root for Zeke (he's such an asshole sometimes) while being nearly impossible to want him to fail. Knowing what we know about the world Zeke inhabits (which looks very much like our own), a vote against him seems a vote against ourselves. Bakopoulos provides enough good humor to counter some of the dark political subtext, and the driving line of narrative moves at a good clip and contains enough inventive, old fashioned twists to keep you turning the pages. And like Zeke at the end of a workday, once you reach the novel's end, you'll almost certainly need a drink.

The Cocktail (& a Byzantine Full Disclosure):

Before talking about the cocktail pairing for the book, this post demands a full disclosure: Bakopoulos is an acquaintance who recently read at the Monsters of Poetry reading series in Madison, WI, which I co-curate. The after-party for the reading, which also featured Chicago writer Patrick Somerville, was held at Sardine restaurant in Madison, where I used to tend bar. The owners of Sardine have also sponsored the reading series. Phew. That's a lot of disclosure, but the point here is that after the reading, the bartenders at Sardine whipped up a great cocktail for some of us, and they were calling it the Bad Guy. Essentially, this is a gussied-up Manhattan, but boy did it hit the spot:

The Bad Guy Manhattan:


2 oz. Willett Rye
.75 oz. Punt-e-Mes
2 dashes Angostura Bitters


1. Fill a rocks glass 3/4 full of quality ice. Actually, once big cube or sphere would be great for this one
2. Fill a mixing tin halfway with ice
3. Add the Willett, Punt e Mes, and Angostura to the mixing tin
4. Stir at a moderate pace until you get clear, cold condensation on the outside of your tin (10-15 seconds)
5. Using a Boston strainer, pour the mixture over the ice in your prepped rocks glass
6. Cut a large swath of orange peel and express the orange oil on top of the drink, then garnish the drink with the peel

Oddly, the sharpness of the Willett is mellowed by the Punt e Mes, which itself is quite bitter. With two healthy dashes of Angostura, you add a bit of spice, and expressing the peel over the drink gives it a nice orangey punch right on the nose. It's got a bite and a very vaguely sweet finish, and it's going to be darker because the Punt e Mes is basically brown, as are the bitters. A good brandied cherry couldn't hurt as an additional garnish.

"But that's the way the blur was used"

Loaded at the wrong door
Waiting for the brakes to sound
What was all the panic for?
Check that spun-out flagging down
Coming on as tunnels do
Trace the line and stay inside
It drew us out but I was late
Leashes falling one more time
Spend that trowel on a missing vane
It seemed the night was almost true
Tell me, too, I’ll show you in
I'm speaking of the talking through
Swollen off in distances
The embers now are under you
Beaten down before the stars
Hands were had, nests were sold
But that was just the floor so far
Take that call back, I know it's cold
But that's the way the blur was used
Cap it off and crawl away, the summits were so little then
Asking to be home to stay
Holding out on promises
Finally growing up to find
What I woulda known without
The mercy and the caution lights
Down at the movin' on and slowin' down
It was fine just to lose

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Spotted vs. Barred

Our friend Lauren Sommer just filed this interesting story on sure-to-be-controversial efforts to save the Northern spotted owl...by "eliminating" invasive barred owls:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stuff We're Listening To (6/1/11)

Lucinda Williams - EssencePrince - Dirty Mind
Mirah - Advisory CommitteeLee Hazlewood - Something SpecialDuchampion - Purple Clouds
Woods - Sun & ShadeThe Alps - Easy ActionSpacemen 3 - Perfect Prescription

Lucinda Williams - "Steal Your Love"

City Center - "Cookies"
CITY CENTER "COOKIES" from Peter J Brant on Vimeo.

Prince - "Dirty Mind"

Mirah - "The Garden"

Lee Hazlewood - "Shades"

Duchampion - "Philadelphia"

Woods - Sun and Shade
Woods: Sun and Shade by alteredzones

The Alps - Easy Action preview
The Alps - Easy Action (album preview) by experimedia

Spacemen 3 - "Take Me To The Other Side"

Friday, May 20, 2011

"I just hugged the man that murdered my son."

StoryCorps is always superb, but the latest story had me fighting back tears this morning. If this pair's story doesn't prove the power of forgiveness and the capacity for growth and rehabilitation, I don't know what does...

While most StoryCorps interviews are between family and friends, this conversation comes from two people who easily could have been enemies.

In 1993, Oshea Israel was a teenage gang member in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One night at a party Oshea got into a fight, which ended when he shot and killed another boy.

Now 34, Oshea has finished serving his prison sentence for second-degree murder.

At StoryCorps he spoke with Mary Johnson, the mother of the boy he killed.

Mary Johnson founded From Death to Life, an organization that supports mothers who have lost children to homicide, and encourages forgiveness between families of murderers and victims.

Recorded in Minneapolis, MN.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Celebration of Violence & Revenge

Ok, so the news is still sinking in, or, rather, it should still be sinking in. But before anything has had ample time to sink (not the news nor the body of bin Laden) and register in a lucid, meaningful discourse, the story's been sold and embraced as a cause to celebrate as opposed to a cause célèbre. This should be a time for reflection, but instead it's been seized as an chance to restore a (frankly) distressing and ugly strain of national pride.

Glenn Greenwald has a great article over at Salon that pretty much sums up how I feel about the present national celebration, and I'm not sure I have much to add...

I will say that I'm glad for how it will likely help to ensure Obama's reelection, but aside from that I think this should be an opportunity for reasoned solemnity, not bloodthirsty and vengeful pride. If we aspire toward some "moral superiority," as we always seem to, maybe we should start by responding rationally to a violent echo of an even more heinously violent shock, now nearly a decade past but still fresh in our collective consciousness.

Murder, even that of a loathsome mass murderer (along with, let's not forget, four other men—including one of bin Laden's sons—and a woman reportedly used as a human shield*), will not undo the atrocity of 9/11. Revenge will not heal any of those wounds; not the emotional ones nor the arguably more critical global, diplomatic, and political ones. Taking this event as a cause to chant "USA" simply doesn't seem sensible.

I'm not often one to quote the Bible, but our friend Matthew Streib posted a good line today: "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice." (Proverbs 24:17) There's one sentiment from that book that makes sense to me.

At N+1, Richard Beck has an excellent personal account of the celebrations at Ground Zero last night.

Finally, after figuring out that I—along with many others, apparently—was fooled by some memetic misquoting (misattribution gone viral**), I can safely share this sage quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiples hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” — from Strength to Love
(It seems there are a few variations in different writings/speeches, but this one's easiest to corroborate.)


* Update: Here is the official report of the raid.

** Another Update: The fake MLK quote originated from an accurately puncuated Facebook post by a woman named Jessica Dovey.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Poems by Thea Brown (Over at H_NGM_N)

Thea BrownOh my goodness: I am beyond-words-thrilled to have woken up this morning to two poems by the startlingly brilliant Thea Brown over at H_NGM_N. They are titled "The Subject Is Sometimes I’m Defensive and Try to Be Sincere" and "Healer," and both will leave you with a wonderful ache somewhere deep (spleen?). And, if you're like me (i/w/c I'm sorry, but) you'll get at least a couple good chuckles, too! When's the last time you read poetry this astonishingly good?

I know it's a bit uncouth to pull fragments from poems—and you really should just skip right over to the excellent H_NGM_N Journal page—but these are just too good not to quote and tease a little bit...

From "The Subject Is Sometimes I’m Defensive and Try to Be Sincere":
"... tonight your hunting locates
a love song radio marathon—yes, like one hundred
ten degrees mosquito torpor like leaving messages
on windshields graceless language I’m only trying
to tell you that when New Order comes on
I will feel exactly my age ..."

From "
"... This morning
I woke before the working man only to fall asleep again
On the sidewalk out front, a pair of squirrels pilfering some
Of my hair to build their nest. It is the fall, I know. ..."

[Hey Thea, is this the proper way to quote from poems?]

I'd have quoted the breathtaking last lines of "Healer," but for those you really have to head over here:

2 Poems by Thea Brown!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bird of the Day: The Bobolink

"The Way to Know the Bobolink" by Emily Dickinson
The Way to Know The Bobolink
From every other Bird
Precisely as the Joy of him –
Obliged to be inferred.

Of impudent Habiliment
Attired to defy,
Impertinence subordinate
At times to Majesty.

Of Sentiments seditious
Amenable to Law–
As Heresies of Transport
Or Puck’s Apostacy.

Extrinsic to Attention
Too intimate with Joy –
He compliments existence
Until allured away

By Seasons or his Children–
Adult and urgent grown –
Or unforeseen aggrandizement
Or, happily, Renown –

By contrast certifying
The Bird of Birds is gone–
How nullified the Meadow–
Her Sorcerer withdrawn!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Adventures with Poison Dart Frogs

I sort of want this guy's life. Not his paunch nor his lousy Latin American impression, but the rest of his life...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Yes, now I know, you must reap what you sow. Or sing."

It begins with a breath. A quick inhalation. A gasp. Though what follows contains nary a surprise. It's more of what we've come to count on with Callahan: commanding, stark, understated Americana with lyrics rivaled only by Berman. And, of course, the voice; that unaffected, bottomless baritone always hinting at some deep, enigmatic soul. Who else could breathe new life into the tired metaphor of flowers for women? "She was not a weed; she was a flower."
How could I run without losing anything?
How could I run without becoming lean?

Smog — "Baby's Breath" (from Apocalypse)

Apocalypse comes out 4/19 on Drag City. You can pre-order it from Insound now.