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December 2004

the critic's role

There's an interesting discussion forming over at Rockcritics Daily that grows out of a piece John Fahey came up with some years ago about Greil Marcus' take on Bob Dylan's "basement tapes." At least I think it's interesting, because as I post this, two of the four comments are mine. By the time I get up in the morning, it'll be two of fourteen for all I know ... the discussion isn't over yet ... so it doesn't make sense to cut-and-paste my comments here when we may not even be done talking yet. But I can't resist, so here's a taste of what I wrote in response to Fahey's complaint that Marcus free-associates connections that don't exist:

The connections between Harry Smith, Bob Dylan, and the Basement Tapes most certainly do exist for Greil Marcus. It's not up to him to "prove" the connections as much as it's up to him to demonstrate their resonance in such a way that readers can get a sense, an understanding, of how those connections might be made, whether or not they are our connections.... it's up to Marcus or whoever to climb out of their subjectivity far enough for the rest of us to see where the connections might be. But the value of the criticism comes from the ability of the critic to show us those connections, not from some misguided sense that the work of art in question has a specific, single value that can only be appreciated objectively.

still waiting

A year ago, Robin and I went to Spain for a couple of weeks. Before we left, I set up two VCRs to record our favorite shows. We thought it would be the last time we had to do that, because Comcast's rollout of a DVR was imminent, so the next time we needed to record something, it would be digital.

Today was the latest "sure thing" date for the release of Comcast's DVR. I had a cable guy to my house today on another matter ... he didn't have any DVRs with him. Another date has come and gone. We're still using our VCRs. And the DVR?

Still waiting ...

karma top ten

I can't believe it. I finally have a new #1.

As a reminder, these are the most-played songs on my Karma. I don't know how accurate the software is, don't know if there are ties, I just post the ten songs that come up when I choose "Top Tunes." And for the first time, Queen Latifah is not at the top of the list. Here they are at the end of November, last month's rankings in parentheses:

1. Prince, "The Question of U" (-)
2. Queen Latifah, "Ladies First" (1)
3. Simon and Garfunkel, "Cecilia" (8)
4. Prince, "Delirious" (3)
5. Willie Nelson, "Whiskey River" (5)
6. Bruce Springsteen, "Glory Days" (2)
7. B-52's, "Love Shack" (-)
8. Peggy Lee, "Fever" (4)
9. Donovan, "Riding in My Car (Car Song)" (6)
10. Buffalo Springfield, "Kind Woman" (-)

Falling off the list are Marianne Faithfull's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which fell from #7 to #12, Prince with "When 2 R in Love" (#9/#13), and En Vogue, "Don't Let Go (Love)" (#10/#14).

And, continuing last month's new tradition, #51 is ...

Earth Wind and Fire, "Shining Star"


Nathan Newman draws our attention to an interesting situation in Nicaragua, where, according to Hugh Dellios in the Chicago Tribune,

The Sandinista Front won 87 of Nicaragua's 152 mayoral posts in elections this month, making significant inroads against a right-wing ruling faction divided by infighting and corruption scandals. Analysts say the victories also reflect the leftist party's success in running several cities efficiently and fairly.

At a time when the United States is fending off a growing chorus of leftist criticism in the region, Bush administration officials worry the victories will boost Ortega's chances of winning back the presidency he lost when Nicaraguans voted him out in 1990 after a decade of socialist rule and war against the U.S.-backed contras.

As Nathan points out, this "follows the trend in Latin America of opponents of US military and economic hegemony winning elections across the region." He adds, "What is remarkable is that the fixation of the Bush neoconservatives on military power has cost them ideological support around the world."

Neal works with a Nicaraguan guy who has a "Viva Bush!" bumpersticker on his car. When I asked him why he supported Bush, he explained to me that if Kerry had won, the Sandinistas would soon be back in power, and this was not something he wanted to happen. I didn't see the point in starting a fight with someone who worked with my son, and who, to be honest, knows more about Nicaragua than I do, even if I disagree with his politics, so I changed the subject to Dennis Martinez and left it at that. But if the above is true, Neal's workmate is going to get the opposite of what he expects from Bush. I wonder how long that bumpersticker will last then.


republican update

"Evangelicals to Bush: Payback Time"

Gary Cass, head of a grassroots political organization affiliated with Coral Ridge, called the Center for Reclaiming America ... wants a U.S. Supreme Court that will outlaw abortion and gay marriage. "Do you want to take your children to a National League baseball game for instance and have homosexuals showing affection to one another? I don't want my kids to see that," he said.

I guess what he's saying is that if you want to kiss a homosexual, it'd better be in an American League park.

Fucking dickheads.

trivia by the numbers

Scott Woods is going alphabetically through his record collection. I don't think I'll be doing that here anytime soon, but I can do something trivial ... I'm good at that!

I'll start with albums whose title begins with a number, since that's what comes up first in my database file. Album that you'd be most surprised to know I own? How about 16 Most Requested Songs by Rosemary Clooney? Album I never listen to? It's not really an album, but how about the EP of remixes of "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)"? Random track from mix CD? How about "When It Falls" by Zero 7, from a mix I made called 2004 Quakes ... I assume I listened to it on the road to San Jose sometime this summer. Best album? 30 Greatest Hits by Aretha Franklin. Top four albums that aren't anthologies or mixes?

New Order, 1981-FEP 313-1982
Randy Newman, 12 Songs
Prince, 1999
Rolling Stones, 12x5

remake of the dead

Some people actually read this blog for an informative break from their daily routine, so here's a movie review!

We just watched the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead. I saw the original when it came out and liked it ... at the time, I liked it more than I liked Night of the Living Dead, although I'm not sure I still hold that opinion. Truth be told, I don't remember much about the original, which is probably a good thing, since most of the reviews of the remake note that it's not as canny a critique of consumer society as Romero's film. Instead, I got off on the zombie stuff ... it's not as funny as Return of the Living Dead (brains brains), but it's of the same genre as that goofy sequel/remake/whatever, and it's better. The first ten or so minutes are killer ... in fact, that's why we watched the movie, because I saw a free preview of the opening and was sucked in. Some good actors, lots of good gore, does what it sets out to do even if what it sets out to do isn't particularly wonderful ... seven on a scale of ten.

A note about the format in which we watched it. As we wait endlessly for Comcast to finally deliver DVR (Robin reminds me that when we went to Spain last November, we hoped to have DVR when we returned ... it's been a year and we're still waiting), we decided to take advantage of the other thing Comcast is offering: On Demand. Dawn of the Dead cost us $3.99 ... my first movie pay-per-view! ... but three of us watched, which was only $1.33 per person. And it was widescreen, with terrific surround sound. And because it was On Demand, it had pause buttons and the like, which came in handy when the phone rang. All in all, a good experience, equal to renting a DVD and a lot easier. They have HD On Demand ... the movies there are $5.99, and the only non-IMAX film right now is Passion of the Christ ... but I liked the non-HD version of On Demand enough, I'm sure at some point I'll taste the HD version as well.


My bloggish crotchety-ness may make my life sound worse than it actually is ... December is often my worst month, it's true, but it's not December yet, I don't consider it xmas season until after my sister's birthday on Dec. 1, so I'm in PMS mode, not full-blown xmas fear mode, not to worry. I really am quiet around here, more than anything, because of what I said back on the 10th.

I just sent a long email to Charlie ... maybe I'll steal some of it and post it here, as an update to what's going on. Thanksgiving wasn't bad at all ... I started freaking out that day, it's true, but the holiday I have problems with is xmas, not Thanksgiving. I just got depressed by one of my students on Thanksgiving night ... not sure why, exactly, there was nothing new, just the wrong time for the frightful combination of refusing to experience new things and a relentless desire for a grade rather than knowledge that one of my students showed me in lieu of an apple on my desk.

I often wonder why xmas bothers me so much. It forces me out of my shell, which is good for me but nonetheless produces anxiety ... I have to spend extra time with family, which isn't so bad since my parents died ... man, that sounds cold, doesn't it? I don't hate my parents, and there are a lot of worse ones out there, but they were a pain in the ass to be sure, I can't say I miss them. There's the part where everyone is supposed to buy people stuff, which isn't quite so creepy now that I can buy stuff online, but I really really really hate to shop and that's one of my fears of xmas even though I don't have to do it much anymore. Part of me thinks I never got over Santa Claus being a lie ... I loved Santa Claus and getting presents, and I'm shallow enough that I miss the present part of xmas, not that you don't get presents when you're older, but you can usually get the stuff you want without someone giving it to you, xmas presents are for the young, and I wouldn't be surprised if that bothered me on some level.

And then I feel like such a shitty father, because xmas IS for kids, and I suspect my only contribution to my kids' xmas was that their dad was a jerk, I don't know that I ever did a single thing in close to 30 xmases that Neal or Sara would consider a good thing, and that's pretty fucked up.

Not to mention the Rubio family xmas where I told my mom to get fucked. Liberating for me, but it kinda put a damper on that year's festivities ...

Mostly, though, I resist the part where everyone is supposed to be happy because it's xmas. I don't start out the holidays being miserable, more non-committal, but then everyone starts acting like we're all supposed to be happy, and that's guaranteed to put me in a bad mood.

Oh well ... I've got life dicked and I'm still miserable, the story of my life, as I've said many times, back when we were young and I was truly miserable, Robin told me one time that I'd never be happy, and she sure wishes she could have that one back because I always act like I'm just justifying her opinion. I've got a great wife and great kids and great friends, I barely have to work, I can indulge in a my-life-is-meaningless-let's-fuck-off attitude on a regular basis, and yet here I sit, complaining to myself and wondering why I bother. I would be funny if it wasn't pathetic, or maybe it's funny AND pathetic.