Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bong Hits for Jesus: SCOTUS OKs slide toward Fascism

The US Supreme court this week ruled against the free speech rights of the high school student who unfurled a banner that said Bong Hits for Jesus during the Olympic Torch run in 2002. They argued that, since his school was there, he was subject to school rules and requisite speech limitations. One can quibble about the rights of students on field trips, etc., but he had never attended school that day, and this is crucial. The majority was so intent on supporting the administrative authority of the principal to control speech, they completely overlooked the in loco parentis issue, which affords schools certain rights and responsibilities usually only afforded to parents or legal guardians.

The effect of this ruling is to raise the in loco parentis rights of schools over the natural rights of parents, since the student was not at the rally in his capacity as a student, but rather as the independent minor child of his parents. As of Monday, your children belong more to the state and less to you than they did before the ruling.

Taken to its logical extreme, the schools now can monitor any private student behavior and override parental rights in order to preserve the school's authority.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Owl and The Bear

Just want to point you to this site, link to the left, that republished my narrative with photos. Lots of cool stuff there.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Califone in DC, Bitter Tears and Cardinal Sins

We drove to D.C. on a whim, twelve hours each way on 95, for Califone 's show at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Highway barbecue, coffee, a night in South Carolina where "Deluxe" still describes cheap motels. Slither on HBO. North to President Inn ('s not included) on New York Avenue near the arboretum. Capital Dome: I bare my ass to it in the window, more than they deserve, and Amy and I head out. The neighborhood is depressed, restaurants all closed or takeout Chinese or ff chain. We eat shrimp lo mein and fried rice and walk to the club.

Mannequins wearing animal skulls menace the upstairs bar, and the bartender, bright red hair, big slash of candy-red lips and green eyes and what'll you have, a pretty apocalypse. Guinness, red wine. We sip and wait for the show. Rooms of old velvet furniture, obligatory rock posters. The drinking, white, young college-age elite begin to gather along with the music nerds, order cocktails. We talk to Joe downstairs, setting up the merch, about solo projects, Jim's new film/music project, Interkosmos, and future tours, records, Yoko Ono at the Pitchfork Festival, Slint's Spiderland. Head back up for another beer and watch Jim play pool with Amy, who will guest at cello for the evening. These United States finally starts the show. Decent Americana, but we head out, where Tim is relaxing, smoking. We catch up. The band's future, other projects, etc. We talk about school, heat, humidity. Amy bums a cigarette from Tim, rolls it. A lost traveler asks for cab fare, and we give her what we can. Tim blesses her with water for dopamine, hope for light. She is big-eyed and missing and kind in that desperate way. She asks us to pray for her upcoming move. This is mine. Tim shows us pictures of his beautiful son. I talk about my two. Ben comes up, asks Tim something, leaves. Then Tim excuses himself to get ready for their set.

We hang out a little longer outside, but go in to hear Bitter Tears. Hammer-subtle irony. They're boisterous, musically random and literate and funny. (I recall Oingo Boingo in costumes marching and blaring up Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley for some reason, but this is darker.) Their instruments are horns, upright bass, drums, guitar, and Weimar irreverence mixed with country prank. They wear prom dresses or bunny ears and lipstick like the bartenders', but smeared and sweaty. The crowd laughs and cheers, but avoids, otherwise, interaction. Too bad.

Finally, Califone opens with "Golden Ass," while the defrocked Bitter Tears horn section ignites around the fuse of guitars and percussion, the pulsing vocals. After the song, Tim introduces their guests; he says he went to seminary school with them in Chicago, and he reminisces in some kind of hieratic code, a little jokey, a little edgy. That edge breaks the beginning of "Slow Right Hand" and they restart it after a few bars and it breaks out over our heads, falls in like orioles into bushes when it rains. The long flat room is a matchbox and it squeezes the music; the songs want to spread out more. This isn't a set list. I don't remember the order. I remember trying to find a place to hear better, "Orchids" with horns, "Michigan Girl" with Amy on cello, "The Eye You Lost in the Crusades." Finally I settle next to the speaker, and the room stays out of the way and the pain in my ear is maraschino masochism. "Pink and Sour" with its '40s big band harem themes begins and the floor erupts in dancing. This is the one the girls were waiting for, this spiked Shirley Temple, cologne at the nape. The song concludes and the dancers evaporate. I guess this is the one from the local college radio list, their evening apparently over. Califone's wasn't. Tim snaps a guitar string, lays it down. They reset. He comes out of the next song squeezing his head, first side and side, then hair and chin. He starts speaking about seminary school again, some Cardinal or priest, something in the woods, body of a young boy, hints of things we aren't supposed to see or know like some weird Franklin scandal action. They're almost Pentecostal now and everyone's nervous. Ben and Joe sit and look down at their skins and bones, Jim looks on concerned. Tim moves close to Alan and holds his face, starts talking about the priest, he's here in D.C. somewhere and they're failed priests and that body in the woods and they should turn him in. Alan looks like the drama mask that makes you think of Medea ripping at her breast. Real babydoll tears in Alan's eyes and the crowd on edge and time is nearly up, so Tim steps away and announces the last song. "Horoscope Amputation Honey" begins slow, keyboards, twang, a little noise, builds, breaks out into long legs of improvisation, twenty minutes or so. Alan joins in and more horns and they jam 20 minutes and end finally into a short song that's a prayer. And that's it. No encore. No one explains. The bar shuts down, kicks us out or upstairs after a few minutes.

Outside later, we say our farewells to Tim and Jim and Ben and Joe and it's warm. Some storm has passed. We walk into the DC morning. I owe Tim a whiskey.

Meme a whippa, meme a whippa (catching up)

I don't do these, ordinarily, extraordinarily, or otherwise, since by the time they get to me, anyone I'd tag is tagged, but since Amy asked, I have to (though I'll cheat by posting this to my myspace friends instead of tagging 8 people specifically.)

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (You’re not the boss of me!)
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. I can make my knuckle dance.

2. I enjoy low degrees of separation from many sports and entertainment figures because I've played pickup basketball with Les Connor (Oregon star, respected journeyman pro--long ago, in Berkeley), Joe Rose (Cal and Dolphins tight end), Tim McDonald (49ers d-back in Fresno--his elbow ruined my fine falsetto), and Rob Lowe.

3. Cleaning my office is considered "optional."

4. I used to watch scary movies as a child from behind the sea foam green Naugahyde footstool.

5. The most beautiful places I've been are in Nepal, Ireland, Utah, and Santa Barbara.

6. I used to be jealous of Kathy Helm at Woodrow Wilson Elementary because she could color in the lines and I could only dress up in women's clothing.

7. One day I will have to surrender my dream of making my 57 Benz run again.

8. I drink red wine with fish.

So, myspace friends and John G., go.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

God's eyes are closed, just like yours: Califone in DC.

Off to DC to see Califone, as close as they'll get to the deep south on this tour. Unlike some of the bands I've enjoyed over the years, Califone has maintained a rare level of aesthetic integrity and intelligence. I first heard "Dime Fangs" from an early ep while ensconced in my cubical atop QAD's hill in Summerland, where I wrote manufacturing software text with earphones on, where I went out to the parking lot with Mike Thorne on breaks to chat and sip coffee and look for dolphins leaping in the oily Pacific.

Their songs hit me in two opposing registers. So familiar. So strange. Early on, explaining it to people, I oversimplified it by calling it avant bluegrass. The two registers spiral around a palpable but invisible axis anchoring everything. Tim's hand-rolled voice and Jim's slide guitar and banjo power chords and Joe's tight snares and Ben's percussive inventions lull you like a summer afternoon at a family reunion in the park where they filmed Carnival of Souls. Lines drawn sharp like a cartoon memory (banjos, fiddles), but the ghosts of interference shadow everything, tense vivid dreams and unreconciled longings, accumulations of personal history, intimacy and terror, and once in awhile release in a pure rock burst, like a sigh's.

I briefly reviewed Roots and Crowns on Amazon, and it still feels pretty good:

If Joseph Cornell's boxes could sing they'd sound like this, narratives blown like an old transmission, parts clinking along the pavement, underwires pinging and cupping lasciviously, all sweet blues and sweeter decay. If you're familiar, Califone improves on their already remarkable range, lacing horns into the loops, pulling a gem out of Psychic TV's catalog with "The Orchids." If you're not familiar, it helps if you like the slow surprise of a junk drawer opening, scraps of paper scrawled in pencil, that bolt you need, that tiny photo of someone you used to know. The lyrics are poems, the songs sublime.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Aesthetically Disturbing

Went into our town's only Starbucks Wednesday (They must have heard me bragging once that I thought we were possibly the largest city in America without one), and on their music shelf I see Wilco's Sky Blue Sky in between albums by Maroon 5 and Michael Buble'. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad for Jeff and co.'s financial success, but this just looked wrong.