Another glitch in the Matrix

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why, Whatever Else on January 31st, 2006 by bill

Some strange coincidences do occur in this world.

For instance, I just finished Walter Tevis’ novel The Man Who Fell to Earth. This book was written in 1963, 12 years before David Bowie starred in the movie version, and 9 years before Bowie wrote the song “Five Years,” in which he said that we have “five years left to cry in” before the world ends. Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across this passage:

Newton looked down at him. "Do you think there'll be a war?"

[Bryce] held the cigarette speculatively, then flipped it into the lake. It floated. "Aren't there three wars going on now? Or four?"
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A bad day at the movies

Posted in Moving pictures on January 28th, 2006 by bill

I haven’t written much about movies on this site, mainly because every movie that comes out now gets reviewed a thousand times, and who needs more? But yesterday I had an experience at the cinema so unpleasant that I want to share it, just to make sure no one else suffers the same fate.

It was Friday afternoon at the end of a not very good week, so I decided to treat myself by taking in a matinee of Woody Allen’s latest film, Match Point. What little I had heard about this film had led me to believe it was a romantic comedy involving tennis. I figured at worst I would get to spend two hours ogling the sublime she-creature we call Scarlett Johansson.

And there were some good opportunities for that, including a love scene in the rain and a scene of her angry and braless that made a strong impression. But what I didn’t expect was that—
WARNING: I am about to give away everything about Match Point (it would be generous to call it “spoiling”). So if you’re a purist who wants to see this movie without knowing where it’s going, read no further. On the other hand, if you’re a thinking, feeling human being who wants to avoid a dreadful shock, read on.
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The Year in Music, Part 4

Posted in Dancing about architecture on January 25th, 2006 by bill


Brian Eno, Another Day on Earth
John Cale, Black Acetate

These two geezers have nothing left to prove to anybody; they could have retired to their country chateaus long ago, quite satisfied with their accomplishments. Come to think of it, their careers have been almost exactly parallel. Both first made a name for themselves in a vastly influential band that they left after two albums (Roxy Music for Eno, the Velvet Underground for Cale). In both cases, the band never sounded quite the same again, which is not to say that Roxy and the VU’s later albums were worse — just different. Cale and Eno were X factors who lent unique qualities to Roxy Music, The Velvet Underground and Nico, For Your Pleasure, and White Light/White Heat. Their contributions were musical, certainly — Eno with his synthesizers and tape machines, Cale with his viola, bass, and vocals — but also conceptual. Both are musical strategists with adventurous, and therefore restless, minds. This explains why they left their bands so soon, although the heavy shadows cast by Bryan Ferry and Lou Reed may have had something to do with it.

In the 70s, both Eno and Cale made a series of acclaimed solo albums while also finding time to produce landmark records by other people. Cale specialized in debut albums, which he produced for the Stooges, the Modern Lovers, Patti Smith, and, strangely enough, Squeeze. Eno, of course, produced Devo’s first album and beloved trilogies by David Bowie and Talking Heads. In the 80s, Eno made a bazillion dollars by producing huge-selling albums for U2, while Cale kind of dropped off the radar (mine anyway). According to the All-Music Guide, he released a bunch of albums that I’ve never heard — they could be great for all I know — and produced Happy Mondays’ Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out).
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An old joke made new

Posted in Whatever Else on January 16th, 2006 by bill

Two cowboys — we’ll call them Roy and Butch — are out riding on the south 40 one day when they stop to take a piss. They are whizzing happily into some bushes when a rattlesnake lunges out and bites Butch right on the tip of his penis.

Butch yelps in pain and surprise and falls to the ground. “What happened?” asks Roy.

“Damn snake bit me right on the johnson!” yells Butch. “What do I do, man?”

“I’ll Google it,” says Roy.
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Let us now hail Van Vliet

Posted in Somebody's birthday on January 15th, 2006 by bill


Please take a minute out of your busy schedule today to salute the late Captain Beefheart.

Don’t get me wrong; the man who was Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet, is still with us and turns 65 today. But there’s been no Captain since 1982, when Van Vliet decided he’d had enough of the Long Plastic Hallway and gave up the music business to become a painter. Which seems to have worked out well for him; he’s been far more successful in the art world, at least in standard career terms.

But still, we miss the Captain, don’t we? From psychedelic space boogie to avant-garde art-skronk, he stomped a terra all his own. I don’t think he’d mind me sharing with you a song from his out-of-print album Lick My Decals Off, Baby:

I Love You, You Big Dummy

Bowie Quiz Answers

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why, Somebody's birthday on January 14th, 2006 by bill


I found myself listening to Young Americans yesterday, and being amazed by it. It may not be Bowie’s best album—I’d give that to either Ziggy Stardust or Station to Station, although it’s hard to ignore Hunky Dory, and Diamond Dogs begs to be included in the conversation—but in a way it’s his most remarkable. Here is Bowie in 1975, coming off the noisy art-rock of Diamond Dogs, right in the middle of his cocaine psychosis era, and he decides he wants to make an album of Philly soul. He’s out of his depth, out of his idiom, out of his country, and out of his mind; and yet somehow he pulls it off. Crazy.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the answers to the birthday quiz:

1. What was David’s original last name, and why did he change it?
David Jones; to avoid being confused with the Monkees’ Davy Jones.

2. Why are his eyes two different colors?
In high school, he was punched in the face by his friend George Underwood, apparently in a dispute over a girl.

3. What was the first instrument he learned to play?
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The Year in Music, Part 3

Posted in Dancing about architecture on January 12th, 2006 by bill


50 Foot Wave/Golden Ocean
Julian Cope/Citizen Cain’d

Question: To what extent does one have the responsibility to report the bad news, and to what extent is it better just to keep it to yourself?

For instance, we have here two albums by artists that I’ve been quite fond of in the past, but whose latest work leaves me cold. Should I write about them, or in the interest of being positive, should I leave well enough alone? My initial instinct was the latter, but I decided to listen to them one more time through just to be sure, and doing so raised the question that I started with.
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The David Bowie Birthday Quiz

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why, Somebody's birthday on January 7th, 2006 by bill


January 8th is a big day for rock’n’roll birthdays. Elvis Aron Presley was born on this day in 1935, and Bill Graham in 1931. There will be a big to-do at Graceland today, no doubt, and a two-day concert is planned at the Fillmore to celebrate Graham’s 75th.

But to some of us, the one that really matters is David Bowie, who turns 59 today. To us, Bowie is more than just a rock star; he’s the living embodiment of all we aspire to. Some people have Oprah, some have Donald Trump, some have L. Ron Hubbard, and we have Bowie. You’re either on board or you’re not, and if you’re not, we really don’t have much to talk about right now.
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File Under “Also Noted”

Posted in Somebody's birthday on January 6th, 2006 by bill


According to the information I have, Syd Barrett — born January 6, 1946 — turns 60 today. Much has been written about Syd, probably too much, and I don’t have anything to add. Still, I wanted to make a note of it.

The Year in Music, Part 2

Posted in Dancing about architecture on January 5th, 2006 by bill


Handsome Boy Modeling School/White People
Gorillaz/Demon Days

These two albums have a lot in common: Both are the product of concept bands fronted by imaginary characters; both are follow-ups to highly successful debuts; and both were made by a core duo augmented by numerous guest stars.

Handsome Boy Modeling School is the creation of superstar hip-hop producers Prince Paul and Dan the Automator, who for the purposes of this project wear fake moustaches and call themselves Nathaniel Merriweather and Chest Rockwell. The first Handsome Boy album, 1999’s So…How’s Your Girl?, was a star-studded mix of hip-hop, trip-hop, and comedy inspired by an episode of the Chris Elliott sitcom “Get a Life.” White People is even more star-studded, almost ridiculously so; at times it seems less like music than a way for Nate and Chest to show off the contents of their rolodexes. (Wait a minute…nobody uses rolodexes anymore…I mean the contents of their Blackberries, or their cell phones, or their assistants’ cell phones, or wherever high-powered producers keep their phone numbers these days.) Don Novello a/k/a Father Guido Sarducci reprises his role as Handsome Boy’s most successful graduate, while Tim Meadows does a version of the Ladies Man on between-song skits. Del the Funkyhomosapien, reggae star Barrington Levy, and Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos all appear — on one song, “The World’s Gone Mad.” Julee Cruise, who we last heard from on the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack circa 1989, duets with uber-hip Pharrell Williams on “Class System.” There’s not enough room on the Internet to name everybody else who shows up here, but a partial list would include De La Soul, Mike Patton, Cat Power, Jack Johnson, the RZA, John Oates, and two of the guys from Linkin Park.
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