Saturday, June 24, 2006

Weekend Babyblogging: SMiLE!

A lazy weekend afternoon here, perfect time to share SP's new Skillz.

All together now: AAAAAAWWWWWWWWW!!!!!


Just heard about this:
Pit stop for Road Rage; Saratoga show canceled

Road Rage Tour headliner Blondie is taking a hiatus from it national tour due to an injury sustained by one of its touring partners.

Elliot Easton, founding member and guitarist for The New Cars, underwent surgery on June 12 for a broken left clavicle sustained during a near crash on June 5 when the tour bus swerved to avoid another vehicle.

Determined to not miss any dates, Elliot continued to play. "I've been waiting 17 years for this tour," Easton told his doctor when was getting his X-rays, although, because of the severity of the break, Easton required surgery.

Said Debbie Harry of Blondie: "It was amazing that after the accident, Elliot played four more shows in a brace and in constant pain. He really tried his best to keep on playing, so he should be given a great deal of credit for that."

Get well soon, Elliot!

Friday, June 23, 2006

President Springsteen

Let me just echo Atrios:


Great Lost Artists of the PowerPop Era: Rob Laufer

Another irregular continuing feature here at PowerPop. Regular readers know that my pop mentor is the rock critic steve simels, who won my heart by recognizing a tres obscure 20/20 reference I once made in an Eschaton thread.

Simels and I have been trading music back and forth for a couple of years now, but rarely have I seen him as excited as he was about this artist, or as completely in the dark. I mean, it might be a good thing to have the music and nothing else, or not. But steve had only a few songs by this guy, about whom he couldn't say enough. I have to agree.

Rob Laufer.

Steve was especially taken with this song, Do You Fly in Your Dreams?, which popped up on my ipod the other day, reminding me that I had been planning this post for a while.

When I went to track down his story a few months ago, there wasn't much to find. I was unduly tickled by the fact that he played George Harrison in Beatlemania (though not, I'll bet, in the travelling version I saw on my birthday in 1978 or 9), and I noted that he had a couple of records in the mid-90's (from which I'm pretty sure "Do You Fly" is taken, also the excellent "Reactionary Girl," memorably covered by Robin Zander on his 1993 solo record). Looks like he did a lot of commercial work, as well. In other words, he's a working musician who sometimes gets to do his own stuff.

So imagine my joy when I went to update the notes and links I had and discovered that he has a brand spanking new record out. Woohoo! We love that stuff here at PowerPop. Hear some tracks at his MySpace page (no nudity, Marie Osmond, don't worry), and it definitely sounds like He's Still Got It. Buy Laufer's new record, The Iron Age, here.

Congrats on the new record!

(As always, if the flagrant violation of copyright is a problem, contact me. I can easily take it down.)

Albums You Need: Apple Venus, Volume 1

We return to this occasional feature here at PowerPop. 1999's Apple Venus, Vol 1.

In the early 1990s, something kind of unusual happened: XTC had a hit. "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" had a video which actually got some airplay, and Nonsuch was buoyed up by it. It's unnecessary to rehearse what happened over the next several years: the arguments with Virgin, the ensuing strike, the years of silence. And then, improbably, the lush, orchestral Apple Venus.

I received this record in prerelease as a gift from sometime commenter Deeptoej, and I'm not sure I've ever seen the real packaging. But in a way, that just stripped down the experience for me, left me with the record and nothing else. Not that it was too hard to suss out what was going on with the record: Dave Gregory was notably absent, even if I hadn't known about his abrupt departure, reportedly around issues of artistic control and orchestration (he had handled orchestral arrangements on XTC's other albums; Partridge seized the reins here). Partridge's divorce (though blessedly not his prostate trouble) is on full display. But what I like, nay love, about this record is its zestful seizure of something that had long been an undercurrent in XTC's lyrical structure: the British pastoral. Andy Partridge "gets" something about the pastoral that few this side of the Wiccans do: its force for power and regeneration. Back on Skylarking, he had dismissed the need for traditional religion on the underrated "Season Cycle."

I really get confused on who would make all this
is there a God in Heaven
Everybody says join our religion get to Heaven
I say no thanks why bless my soul
I'm already there!

Apple Venus picks up that theme and runs with it, including the excellent tunes "Easter Theatre," "Harvest Festival," and most directly, my favorite track, "Greenman."

I want to pause here for a second, because "Greenman" really does encapsulate the pastoralism of XTC, a certain kind of British rural experience that we can see, say, in Tolkein's Tom Bombadil. The Greenman is partly a god of the forest, partly a force for production and reproduction, For XTC, he's part lover, part father.

Please to bend down for the one called the Greenman
He wants to make you his bride
Please to bend down for the one called the Greenman
Forever to him you're tied

And you know for a million years he has been your lover
He'll be a million more
And you know for a million years he has been your lover
Down through the skin to the core

Heed the Greenman
Heed the Greenman

Please to dance round for the one called the Greenman
He wants to make you his child
Please to dance round for the one called the Greenman
Dressed in the fruits of the wild

And you know for a million years he has been your father
He'll be a million more
And you know for a million years he has been your father
Run to his arms at the door

Lay your head, lay your head, lay your head, lay your head on the Greenman
Lay your head, lay your head with mine
Lay your head, lay your head, lay your head, lay your head on the Greenman
Build a bed out of oak and pine

See the Greenman blow his kiss from high church wall
And unknowing church will amplify his call


There's even a sci-fi collection.

Apple Venus, Vol. 2 is, of course, the excellent Wasp Star. "The Man Who Murdered Love" also got some radio play, and prompted my then-nine year old to ask why murdering love might be a good thing, something to brag about, to be thanked for. Quite a lively conversation ensued about false emotion, the possibility of pain, etc. But in my heart, AV1 is the more surprising, more crucial record.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

This Is My Happening, and It Freaks Me Out!

James Wolcott confesses that he has never seen Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

It is one of the mysterious lacunae in my film education that I have never seen Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the legendary collaboration between critic Roger Ebert and exploitation auteur Russ Meyer, boob men with a mission.


In a tour de force appreciation, Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule pays homage to the film's bravura palette and neo-Eisensteinian editing:

"The transfer rendered for this release by Fox Home Video is superlative—the colors pop off the screen and overwhelm you with their audacity just the way they’re supposed to, courtesy of cinematography by the usually workmanlike and stodgy Fred Koenekamp, fresh off of Patton ( !!! ), with an occasional assist from former wartime photographer Meyer himself. And if you watch any part of the movie, or all of it, with the sound off—either to listen to one of the two commentary tracks included on the main feature, or to watch the French subtitles or English SDH titles—Meyer’s fairly radical editing techniques become more apparent and appreciable. For instance, during the movie’s first big Hollywood party set piece (the one in which Z-Man delightedly exclaims, to no one in particular, 'This is my scene, and it’s freaking me out!'), you might not notice, underneath the mad cacophony of squealing, shouting partygoers, the only slightly exaggerated fashions, and the driving beat of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the razor-sharp, insistent, almost metronomic montage that Meyer uses to carve the scene up into strobe-light flashes of overwhelming experience, mirroring the disorientation that the Carrie Nations are themselves experiencing as they jump into the Hollywood scene for the first time. The whole movie is edited in a similar fashion, and although Meyer necessarily alternates the rhythms for different scenes, no one scene is ever edited in a precisely classical manner—shots never last too long, but they sometimes don’t last as long as we expect they might, and the Panavision frame is always subject to the intrusion of an unexpected flurry of evocative, and sometimes not entirely thematically connected imagery which keeps us laughing, but also serves to keep us slightly on edge. Perversely, however, when the movie takes us up to and over that edge during the bizarre horror-film denouement staged at Z-Man’s isolated estate, Meyer shifts into a much more rhythmically smooth and familiar style of editing, as if to say the sudden assurances of his style are no assurances at all up against the lurid, unmoored and genuinely shocking horrors that lie in wait for the characters, and for us."

From Wolcott's source, the fabulous Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule:

But when the movie was released in the summer of 1970, though it ultimately made back its $900,000 budget ten times, audiences, who might have been expecting a more straightforward follow-up to the creaky, self-serious 1967 original, seemed confused and put off by Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. (Imagine the level of their confusion when the movie started out with a title card that spelled out, in no uncertain terms, that what they were about to see was emphatically not a sequel to Valley of the Dolls, but instead an original work connected to the first film in name only.) And though the movie did receive the occasional favorable review, the mainstream press was largely dismissive. In fact, one of the most caustic reviews Beyond the Valley of the Dolls received came from none other than Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, who made a point of roasting the work of the movie’s neophyte screenwriter. In the late ‘70s and mid ‘80s, Siskel would even, on occasion, use the film’s supposed substandard quality as a club with which to bludgeon his colleague’s taste on their televised movie review program.

I have to confess, I really sort of like this movie, though obviously it's Rocky Horror-level bad, just objectively. There's no real point in unpacking what's ridiculous and improbable about it (though beginning with the fact that the lead singer seems to have an English accent though she's repeatedly represented as being from the uber-pure midwest is one place to start....). It's more of a go-with-the-trashy-flow sort of thing. Definitely worth a good night at home with friends. Chemical assistance may be required.

Did I mention that it's rated X? Or that Redd Kross does a great cover of the Carrie Nations' "Look On Up from the Bottom"?

And, just because I can....

h/t to olvlzl.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Getting Old

So, I see over at Patrick's place that the teens have this ringtone they think only they can hear.

In settings where cellphone use is forbidden — in class, for example — it is perfect for signaling the arrival of a text message without being detected by an elder of the species.

"When I heard about it I didn't believe it at first," said Donna Lewis, a technology teacher at the Trinity School in Manhattan. "But one of the kids gave me a copy, and I sent it to a colleague. She played it for her first graders. All of them could hear it, and neither she nor I could."
The cellphone ring tone that she heard was the offshoot of an invention called the Mosquito, developed last year by a Welsh security company to annoy teenagers and gratify adults, not the other way around.

It was marketed as an ultrasonic teenager repellent, an ear-splitting 17-kilohertz buzzer designed to help shopkeepers disperse young people loitering in front of their stores while leaving adults unaffected.

The principle behind it is a biological reality that hearing experts refer to as presbycusis, or aging ear. While Miss Musorofiti is not likely to have it, most adults over 40 or 50 seem to have some symptoms, scientists say.

While most human communication takes place in a frequency range between 200 and 8,000 hertz (a hertz being the scientific unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second), most adults' ability to hear frequencies higher than that begins to deteriorate in early middle age.

But I could hear it, and I used to run sound. Can you?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Babyblogging

Miscellaneous adventures of the rugrats of Liberal Mountain.

Miss Rosie. I've lost probably ten pairs of sunglasses to her.

Yes, this is what SP looks like the vast majority of the time. But he's three months tomorrow: this phase of his life should be starting to ease up soon.

Frolicking on the couch. How much do we love the ponytails?


NTodd's mom died, suddenly, unexpectedly. He's in the air right now, on his way back from California. I have no words to ease pain I know he's feeling.

My mother, my grandmother, and my sister all died between 1997-2000. None were sudden, all were preceded by long periods of suffering. It took me literally years to "get my sparkle back," as Thers put it.

NTodd has suffered roughly similar losses--all unexpected--within less than a year.

Everything is inadequate now, but this song still chokes me up every time I hear it.

For you, NTodd.

The Offspring, "Gone Away."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

You Have to Tell Me These Things, People

Spent the weekend with a regular reader who told me no one got my Elrond joke in the New Pornographers video thread.


Does this help?

(Insert Ann Coulter joke here.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

God Save the Internet

Go. Listen. Take Action.

(posting from work, can't do links. But you all know how to cut and paste.)

h/t to Atrios.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Well, This Is Mildly Disappointing

You Are 30% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.
In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

Babyblogging: Tonsil edition

Light posting recently because of the surgery and recovery of the six year old, who shovels ice cream and lays around in turn.

Yestereve, the six year old and his sister enjoy sherbet. She's quite impressed with the array of puddings and ice cream in which the house is suddenly awash.

When he's not playing video games, the patient is content to lay around with the new arrival for periods of time extending into seconds.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Our Marshall MacLuhan Moment

You know that great scene in Annie Hall, when Woody and Diane are behind the guy in the movie line who's spewing complete nonsense about Marshall MacLuhan, so Woody steps out of the screen and brings MacLuhan in to say he's wrong, wrong, wrong?

How many times in your life have you wished for that opportunity?

It's now yours.

I blogged a few weeks ago on the insanity of the NRO's Top Fifty Conservative Rock Songs. Number One, of course, was The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."

Wingnuts, meet Pete Townshend.

Won't Get Fooled Again has been listed in the UK Independent Newspaper as the number one song with - as I understand it - the political message most often misunderstood - in this case the message is said to be 'conservative', a word that may mean different things in the UK and USA.

Of course the song has no party-allied political message at all. It is not precisely a song that decries revolution - it suggests that we will indeed fight in the streets - but that revolution, like all action can have results we cannot predict. Don't expect to see what you expect to see. Expect nothing and you might gain everything.

The song was meant to let politicians and revolutionaries alike know that what lay in the centre of my life was not for sale, and could not be co-opted into any obvious cause.

Shove that up your hole of artistic intention.

(And in case you think Pete's not paying attention to all this, think again. Tom Watson has some terrific reflections on the role of blogs in this circumstance. He and Pete, err, talked about it. {Insert adolescent girlscream here.})

Monday, June 05, 2006

Monday Morning Videoblogging

Because I love this song. (Better or worse than Alicia Bridges' "I Like the Nightlife"? At least it's not Elrond...)

h/t to Eli. *mwah!*

(And yes, that is either Carl Newman or a startling simulation passed out drunk at the table.)

Saturday, June 03, 2006


We recently had our first real troll here at PowerPop, no doubt because of all the agita. A poster mourned the existence of Prussian Blue, saying it was really too bad that liberals had made such things necessary.


Personally, I blame Prussian Blue on their nutbag Nazi parents. Parenting is an imprecise science at best, but I have to confess that I really don't get parents who think that their child's future is wholly within their control. It's like anorexia or something: trying to exert control over some aspect of your life because there's so much over which you cannot exert control. I am rather more lasseiz-faire about this sort of thing: aside from matters of ethics (we don't steal, we don't hit, we don't sit on the heads of our smaller siblings), I figure my kids know who they are, and as long as they're safe, my job is to help them be that person, even if it's not what I personally might have chosen for them. (I was never a band geek, for example, but I fully support my kid's right to be one.)

As a parent, then, I guess I'm not much like Marie Osmond. Via Majikthise:

Pop star-turned-doll maker MARIE OSMOND has launched a personal crusade to clean up the Internet after learning her two teenage daughters have been posting sexually explicit correspondence on their websites. The PAPER ROSES singer felt compelled to give a statement to US tabloid National Enquirer after the publication uncovered outrageous content on her daughters JESSICA and RACHAEL's blogs. On her site, 18-year-old Jessica, who was adopted by Osmond as an infant, claims she is a bi-sexual who craves sex "as many times as possible," while her 16-year-old sister describes herself as a "slut" and a "whore" in correspondence and opened up about her dreams of having sex with DAVID BOWIE. In her statement, shocked Marie, a devout Mormon, says, "I am saddened by some of the choices that two of our children have made. The insidious potential for harm from adolescent Internet sites like only exacerbates these kinds of problems."

Well, MySpace is pretty chaotic, no doubt, but at 16 and 18 presumably these girls are making their own choices. They may be saying things their mother doesn't like, but that's their right.

It never ceases to amaze people that I don't snoop in my kid's room. At nearly 16, she deserves some privacy, and besides, we talk a lot, about all that stuff you're supposed to talk to your kids about. But then, we're wacky liberals.

By 16, Marie Osmond already had a hit record and a TV show; forgive me for believing that it was likely that she also did things (LA in the 70's? Please.) that her parents might not have approved of. She was engaged at 19, an engagement made and broken off abruptly. (I guess her period came.) But that was before MySpace, of course.

The internets are simultaneously public and private space, and the relationship between the two is not always clear. I don't blame these girls for thinking that their mom was unlikely to find their MySpace pages, or that they could conduct conversations there outside her attention. But then, we've all learned a lot about that these last few weeks.

As the commenters at Majikthise point out, what's concerning about her outrage is that it's not so much about MySpace, but about control of her daughters' sexuality. She's horrified that one is bi and the other a slut, but frankly, the one who claims she's bi is 18, and the other may in fact feel that she has nothing more to bring to a relationship than sexuality. That's sad, not because of any sexual activity she may or may not be engaging in, but because of what it says about her identity. We need to do a better job raising our girls to be strong and confident: shutting down MySpace isn't it.