Dinosaur Jr. at Toad's Place

Man, do I love a good rock show. I will be the first to admit I do not go for all the post-rock, hard-core, slashing, screaming, constant feeback whatever. I think it's very easy to do badly. But I also think Dinosaur Jr. are brilliant. Whereas I might walk in to another show and have my teeth set on edge, making me all jittery on the surface, Dino get a place below my sternum vibrating and it's this unbelievable all-consuming understanding. Also, and this is important, they wrote songs. With harmonies, structure, layering, and melodies, even. Sometimes you have to work to hear them, but I like that, too! It's like a secret, my own little treasure hunt. Hunt for the hook. Ha.

Anyway, about the show. The band had all of their guitars ripped off just hours before it started. I heard some dude behind me speculating on the subject, and Lou Barlow confirmed it before they even started playing. It looked like his bass in the encore had a price tag on it, so I'm guessing they borrowed some from a local shop. The first couple of songs felt like they were just phoning it in, but then I think they warmed up to us.

The warming came through in their commitment to the sound, but there was no marked difference in demeanor, at least not in J's. As probably every audience member in the history of Dinosaur Jr. shows would tell you, J Mascis sure can play him some guitar. But without any kind of anguished shredder face or flailing gesticulation. In fact, now that his long locks have gone silver and his jowls slightly droopy, similarities are somewhere between Gandalf, basset hound, and weeping willow. Does anyone else think his nasal sounds a bit like Jay Farrar's? You were gonna say Neil Young. Their songs sound like Crazy Horse-era Young, by way of the Stooges. But his voice has something just a little bit (more) country about it. Regardless, I think it's the right counterpart to their stuff.

I don't know how to wrap this up, but I need to get some sleep because my boss gets back tomorrow (today). I guess, for my less musically inclined friends, go look up Dinosaur Jr. in your normal music resources and find out how genre-defining they were, how personal tension got between them and the music, and then how the wonderful compassion and mellowing of age have brought them back together. Then go see them on their now year-and-a-half long reunion tour. You won't regret it.


Good luck, Rookie.

Ohmygod, you can click-and-play Apple IIe games here.

Dig Dug
Oregon Trail
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? - so great.

(must use IE to load, via metafilter)

Slow on the fast

I had almost forgotten that Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation was made into a film directed by Richard Linklater. Debuted May 19 of this year at the Cannes Film Festival (where it had its own blog), now scheduled for release in theaters November 17.

More fun facts to come from the first-ever food issue of the Nation.


Taking a cue

My freshman writing seminar was named, with a nod toward the post-modern tradition, "Writing/s about Music." This course still stands out as one of my favorite academic experiences for many reasons. The one relevant to this post is that it made me aware of just how frequently music is used to move us. One of our assignments was to record every instance of music (defined as sound arranged with conscious intent to avoid including car horns and bird chirps) we heard for a 24-hour period and also to respond to it. Try it sometime. Eye-, I mean, ear-opening. Har har.

The professor specialized in film music, so the interplay between visual and aural cues received careful emphasis. The most straightforward cognitive science explanation of how music works with movies points to three aspects, 1) music reinforces, or adds a layer of, meaning, 2) music enhances memory, 3) music aids suspension of disbelief. Now, those are a blog post (or a dissertation) of their own. For our purposes, consider only that perception of visual images is changed when they are accompanied by music. This possibility fascinates me. I would say I am hyper-aware of music in film, often wishing I could talk to my teacher as I'm walking out of the theater, while also wanting to bring awareness to everyone else in my world. Two movies recently have motivated me to finally write about it:

Little Miss Sunshine

If you haven't yet heard about this movie, I don't know what rock you've been living under, but crawl out! The sun's shining! And there is much laughter to be had, so much it might kick you off your plush seat, or is that just me. Where I felt completely disconnected from Napoleon, I empathized with all six members of this ragtag family, who in the end seemed to my sister and me far less dysfunctional than they'd lead us to believe.

Enough about the movie, now the music: scored by this great little band, Devotchka. I had never realized how similar Ennio Morricone's music was to gypsy music until I heard Devotchka. They make sad music, and not just a chin flopped in your hand sigh, but epically sad, like everyone you care about will be tortured for generations but you must go on. And that's what's really great: it doesn't wallow. There's all this life-affirming energy in the bouncy plucking beneath the wail. I'm mostly writing about the album How it Ends, because that's what I have, but the soundtrack has the added bonus of Sufjan singing a couple of the songs, still written by Devotchka.


Yesyes, the new Woody Allen movie, in which Woody Allen plays, but mercifully not as the romantic lead. I laughed. Sometimes the plot has the feeling of a tossed-off, this'll give us the tension, or resolution, or situation, that I'm looking for, but the thing is, he's right: it does give him the (fill in the blank). Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson are mostly left alone to be charmingly dapper British gentleman and refreshingly down-to-earth plucky American college girl, respectively.

Now, let me take a little detour into how the ballet world works. This'll all tie together in a second, promise. The big ballets are recreated over and over again, not just on the grand stages of the world's capitals, but in the studios of the small towns. Strict teachers rap the centuries-old combinations into thirteen-year-old heads, then on breaks they all watch videos of Dame Margot Fonteyn, Sylvie Guillaume, pick your hero. One of the variations taught from the repertoire is called simply "Little Swans," from possibly the most performed ballet of all time, Swan Lake. Hands held with overlapping arms, the four dancers make absolutely synchronized movements, from one foot to the other, across the floor on bent legs, then straight. It's a very difficult set of steps but is always given to young dancers and taught to everyone as both rite of passage and test.

The opening credits of Scoop roll with the "Little Swans" music. To an outside observer, it might sound kind of Nancy Drew detective story, but to a former dancer, that music plunges you back into the wide open space and your adolescent body, trying not to grip too hard on your partner, not to trip, not to bob your head, but yes to glide, yes to keep going. Amazing. Later in the movie when it recurs, possibly to bring back the memory of the first scenes, it really just dredges up smells of satin and hairspray. In fact, Allen ends up using several selections from the Swan Lake suite, a big corps de ballet number, part of the swan queen's big show, the white swan's solo (the harp piece), and the finale, I think. As if that weren't enough, the musical director tops it off with the toy soldier/rat fight scene from the Nutcracker, the awful ballet Americans insist on revisiting every year. I struggled not to lose my focus on what was happening on screen.

What's your favorite film score? Or story of hearing a song out-of-context that just transported you back somewhere?


the YouTube edition

So I don't know if it's because I've had to watch politically relevant clips lately, my personal computer is so much better at handling streaming than my computer at my former job, or the phenomenon as a whole is taking off, but I am no longer afraid of YouTube. Couldn't tell you whether or why I ever was. My friend Lamar does this for a living, at least in the summer. Anyhow, three that I wanted to point you to below.

Anti-Suicide Bombing PSA

This announcement could be as much directed toward Americans who believe terrorism is always in line with Islam's teachings as Muslims who hold that belief. (via this column, on which Lamar is the awesome intern, thx Chris for the translation)

Claymation for "She Sends Kisses" by the Wrens

On its own, the song is so poignant, with its open minor intervals in the synth reaching up, the anthemic chorus arching over, and the faraway back-up vocal almost rubbed out by distortion. And then this sweet, fragile visual representation...it almost breaks your heart. For anyone who's ever tried to manage long distance, gone back and forth on what to do, grown up. Highly recommended. (via wrens' blog)

Samuel L. Jackson on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart

"Did you have any idea what you were about to unleash on the American public?

p.s. I've been collecting these for a little while, so if you've already seen one, you are so hip. Mea culpa for attempting to be your friend.

p.p.s. Don't watch lonelygirl15, I'm not even going to link to her. It's worse than a fake, it's a hackneyed story vying for MTV airing with overly self-conscious writing and piss-poor acting. Gohepcat, despite his excellent taste in concert art, seems to be in on it.

p.p.p.s. Do watch "Where the Hell is Matt?" He's been linked to so many times I can't even offer proper acknowledgement.


I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

New England is not without its charms in the summertime. For instance, already one can sit on the porch without being bothered by bugs or sweat. Fewer thunderstorms threaten outdoor activities. The sky gains its vivid autumnal blue, sheds its heat haze, much earlier.

I do still miss many of the South's summer pleasures, chief among them the peaches. I'm not too sure about heaven, but I am certain of that first bite into a just-picked peach, the perfect consistency, the perfect sweetness, with just a little juice dripping over the fuzz. I have tried to find them here. In the grocery store, they are hard as little rocks, and then they over-ripen in a day, to a mealy, bitter-sour-barely-sweet thing that disintegrates before it's really on your teeth. I hear they do grow them nearby. So I went to the farmer's market, but the pickings were slim. I'm going to try again this weekend, since I haven't been around for many weekends since early July. But look, in the South they put them in bushels on the side of the road. They're pushed on you by well-meaning church ladies, parents of your dance pupils, relatives. The abundance is almost hard to avoid.

But I'm here. Not there. So if all else fails, I'm going to demand the birthday girl take me here, because the description in this NYT article almost has me convinced they could run a real race with Georgia there.

Do I dare?



Wet hair on a bare back. Shaved ice, sugar water, and coconut scent. The charred skin of a squash flaking onto the everyday plates from the ‘70s. Cicadas whirring. Knees shiny with sun glimmer. Left side of the face puckered, eye squinched, cheek in a grimace, and right hand cocked above the brow. A circle skirt, a hem you hardly feel, a floral ruffle. Poplin, eyelet, linen. Open windows. Ceiling fans. Falling down in a field. Firmness of a heart-shaped berry giving way, seeds between teeth, just a little tart, just a little grassy. Furry skin, juice dripping off flesh still clinging to the pit.

Laughter cascading off a porch. Bare feet under the swing. Grey gorgeous dusks when the light seems reluctant to leave. Dark silver water peeling away from the bow like mercury, smooth plunk of an oar the only thing disturbing the stillness. Warm rain, generous thunder. Glass pitcher on the rail, tea bag strings tied to the handle. Reclining. Leaning into your back foot, whizzing across the lake, popping your knees, hips steady, spray on calf. A towel warm on the chaise lounge. Boom boxes and speed boats. The crack of wood resonating deep in rubber-coated cork center. One lone drip of sweat on a freckled nose. Big dark plastic glasses, headscarves, hands up, top down. A smile you just can’t wipe off the face all the way down in the pit of your stomach.

1. Ron Sexsmith and Don Kerr, Lemonade Stand
2. The Thrills, Deckchairs And Cigarettes
3. Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, Tropical Hot Dog Night
4. Billie Holiday, Sunbonnet Blue (And A Little Straw Hat)
5. The Elected, Would You Come With Me
6. Fountains of Wayne, Radiation Vibe
7. Loudon Wainwright III, The Swimming Song
8. Band of Horses, I Go to the Barn Because I Like the
9. Fruit Bats, Lives Of Crime
10. Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil, Cinema novo
11. The Beach Boys, Cool Cool Water
12. The Flaming Lips, It's Summertime
13. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Details Of The War
14. Love, Orange skies mono
15. The National, All the wine
16. Modest Mouse, Float On
17. M. Ward, Here Comes The Sun Again
18. Bruce Springsteen, The River
19. Jane's Addiction, Classic Girl
20. Big Star, Hung Up with Summer
21. King Sunny Ade, Sunny Ti De (complete 5 song medley)
22. Jens Lekman, A Sweet Summer's Night On Hammer Hill