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Saturday, January 11, 2003

Hooray for this guy! Sid Laverents!

Friday, January 10, 2003

Last night Chuck Barris appeared on Letterman, a visit occasioned by the release of a film - "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" - based on a strange, fanciful book he wrote 20 years ago. I've had the book for years, since I'm fascinated by Barris and the cover blurbs were written by Cassavetes, Falk, Rowlands and Gazzara: the thinking spud's "rat pack." At the time, the book (billed as "an unauthorized autobiography") was mocked or ignored, but now it's been reissued since George Clooney has put it on the big screen. More'n likely, the shiny fandroids on shows like "Entertainment Tonight" cluck gaily over memories of the Dating Game and share "insider dish" (a tv dinner for shut-ins) about Barris and the film's cast.

This can be taken as a lowbrow version of the very late appreciation Charles Ives experienced once his music found champions and audiences. Barris seems to be enjoying his, thank heaven. Ives was too far along to care very much, but it's hard to imagine that he didn't feel some sense of vindication (not validation; he never wanted or needed that). The only parallel is this extra-innings notice; these are the very different stories of very different men. For me, though, it's notable because my interest in Barris began the same time as my obsession with Ives: 16 years old.

When the Gong Show started airing, I loved it so much that I'd cut high school 2 periods early each day in order to catch it at home. A guidance counselor cautioned that this would doom my academic career. "But you will never receive a high school diploma!" "But I'll have seen the Gong Show." True on both counts, and while the Gong Show began to seriously suck before very long, it was probably the better choice. The program was fun for a while, and "fun for a while" is the best thing I can say about most of life. Around that same time, by the way, Pete and I regaled ourselves with another weird game show entitled "Money Maze." It was abominable: contestants scampered like rats through a huge maze looking for money (hence the name, see). Your host and star of "Money Maze" was Nick Clooney, George's pappy. The fabric of existence weaves itself whole.

So, Mazel Tov to Barris and his current burst of fame.

Been thinking about lyrics, since I write some myself. Mostly I consider them secondary, and I'll buy many a bad-to-mediocre lyric if the music carries it (seldom does it work in reverse). But I wanted to mention some of my favorite lyrics, and before I do, I'll lay out my prejudices and opinions on the subject. Be aware that I confess to having broken every rule I'll mention, not through perversity but through ineptitude. Every example of "bad lyrics" I cite could have been replaced with any number of my own embarrassments. Few if any of the sterling examples are rivaled by anything I've made. This is neither false modesty nor self-doubt; it's just my opinion. There are several times when I've reached the goals I set below. Too few for my satisfaction, but considering how rare a good lyric is, having written any at all is a point of pride.

"Poetic" lyrics are generally a big mistake. Sometimes you'll get a Van Dyke Parks feat like the kaleidoscopic "The Attic," which (like most of Song Cycle) achieves bewitching effects with wordcraft above and beyond wordplay. When evoking memory or considering large topics like history, his brand of punning, cross-reference, cascades of images, etc., works better than a direct lyric might. That direct approach might run the risk of bathos or overreach (respectively regarding the two topics mentioned), so Parks pulls off a verbal counterpart to the Ivesian music of that album. He recreates processes of thought and tides of emotion rather than plunking down conclusions; try Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" for a ham-handed stab at historical import. Yech. Elvis Costello, who is often brilliant, is not above things like "A butterfly feeds on a dead monkey's hand... Jesus wept; he felt abandoned" which I can't fathom (maybe that's my own fault) and which distract me from the very touching moments elsewhere in the same song. In general though, somebody like Dylan grabs me more deeply with lyrics like those of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" than with those in "Desolation Row." A personal preference... I'd never want to ooh and ahh over someone's smarts if I could be transported by a shared feeling.

A good lyric interacts with the music, creating something neither could evoke alone. This can be achieved through the kind of perfect match in a song like the Gershwins' "Someone to Watch Over Me" where the early lines (there's a somebody I'm longing to see... etc.) are delivered in an uncannily speech-like rhythm, with the upward melody peaking on the words representing the emotional peak of the set-up (... LONGING to see....) and then stepping down and expanding into a broad reverie on the title line: the real nugget of the character's wishes. This method is so subtle it often avoids detection; we just feel it. But it can work without the amazing craft of George and Ira, too. "Oh How Happy" by Shades of Blue is colossal to me, as the combination of simple, exuberant lyric and simple, exuberant music genuinely lift me into happiness whenever I listen. There is no higher art. It borders on magic. Conversely, the grinding, churning angst of much hard rock works to illustrate how ridiculous the lyrics are by redoubling their already terminal self-importance. Howzabout: "Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage!!!" All that energy spent for what? To give me a headache? To surrender? O Nobili. A better effect is achieved by the flat-out evil song "Don't Fear The Reaper" (let's ignore the dippy middle part), which uses light, appealing music to convey a persuasive invitation to suicide.

Another, trickier technique that impresses critics even though it's often poorly handled (critics usually like when it's poorly handled, because then it's obvious enough for them to congratulate themselves on "catching") is a contrast between music and lyric. An overt, fairly egregious example of the contrast idea is Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again Naturally," which aims for pathos by setting lyrics of abject, suicidal surrender against a jaunty little ditty. This cheesy Chaplin gambit touched America's Jarvik heart to the tune of 7 jillion bucks and counting, so who am I to scorn it? A better use of this tension is "Sunday Morning" by Lou Reed, where the twinkly pop melody enhances lyrics of implied dread and paranoia. Gene Simmons of Kiss likes to shit on the Velvets because his sole measure of success is "success." Which is like saying a McDonalds burger is better than yer home-grilled sirloin because the masses are "right." Why a spectacularly successful hack like that needs to attack actual artists is one for the shrinks. Maybe it indicates the hollow inside or betrays some personal wound, but that's a digression I'll skip.

One nice trick is the character stance, which - in first-person mode - permits either deep irony (Randy Newman) or - in third-person - a safety screen. What I mean by that is something like "Ruby Tuesday" creating one of the first and finest hippie chick prototypes (like 20th Century Fox, Suzanne, the Cowsills' "flower girl" and others: patchouli-scented blow-up dolls invented by slick seducers to surely seductive effect), Mick and Keith express wide-eyed sentiments otherwise alien to their usual hard, dark POV. Not only does this allow them to offer thoughts like "catch your dreams before they slip away" - which would sound too wussy for them to admit first-person - it also gets us off the hook. We can relish this sweetness without surrendering the grim, jaded coolness we pretend to share with the Stones otherwise. One outstanding (in kind, not quality) example of "I'm so tough" listener-flattery is "Sweet Dreams" by Eurythmics, which lets us feel like the wizened cynics we wish we were, temporarily unbothered by the vulnerabilities that squirm inside us. Never underestimate how much music you love because you feel cool enjoying it. "Clever" lyrics serve the same end.

One writer who made a career out of "look ma I'm clever" stunts is Sondheim, an annoying-ass songwriter if ever one lived. His stuff dates quicker than an SNL catchphrase yet people keep falling for it. I just watched a broadcast of one of those revues of his work that pop up so frequently. These twitchy contrapuntal examinations of the secret thoughts of bitter married people at cocktail parties grind my nerves like nothing else this side of Judge Judy. Oddly, the one song of his I can stomach (really, a particular version of a song) is "Not While I'm Around" (from Sweeney Todd) as performed by Streisand, a performer from whom I otherwise run screaming. She sings as if there's no irony in it at all, though in the show it was intended as a plaint of doomed naiveté. So a songwriter I can't stand is interpreted by a singer I skeeve, and the result moves me. Go figure.

People seem to think that you can't have too much irony or garlic. Bullshit. Used very sparingly and cunningly, both enhance the dish, but some people let them overwhelm everything. Randy Newman often impresses me more than moves me, but something like "Sail Away" works mightily because of his bravery in wedding such a caustic lyric to such swooning music (which is truly a composition, more than an arranged tune). Most of us, if lucky enough to pull such music from the ether, would set it to words more apparently ingenuous (which he did, in fact… nearly rewriting it as "Louisiana 1927" a few years later). Given that lyric inspiration, we might put it to a tune that reinforces the bleak humor, just so nobody misconstrues it. Newman shows cojones on that score. On a tune called "Pretty Boy" Newman skips irony, putting vaguely anxious, oppressive music behind a scenario of threats and thuggery. It's unnerving, as are tunes like "Old Man" that drop the shield and lay bare something brutally true.

Really BAD irony can be heard in "It's A Beautiful World" by Devo, in which that band of smart stylists inexplicably flogs a dead hamster of an idea. Then they further overdo it all in the video, which pushes the nothing so far I'm almost tempted to view it as an infra-clever exercise in über-satire. But truly, irony in song is the oldest and un-fun-est monkey in the barrel. A rule of thumb should be: "Unless there's no other way to get this idea across, let me just be forthright." Or maybe just skip substance entirely, and stick to the cute jackanapes of "Jocko Homo." Better yet, the irresistible idiocy of "I'm Too Sexy." Nothing wrong with that, either.

I have enough arrogant views on this to fill a hundred tedious volumes, naturally, so enough for now. Maybe I'll do more of it some other time. What I want to do is mention specific lines I love from various songs. The reason is that these are gems I like to roll around in my hand and enjoy; one always wants to point out things of beauty. Since much of my general logorrhea is devoted to pissing and moaning, it might be nice to spend time on stuff I just plain kvell over. I'll just do a few for now.

All night long
We would sing that stupid song
And every word we sang I knew was true
(Becker / Fagen - "Dr. Wu")
My all-time favorite lyric line, strangely enough. It nails with precision the exact feeling of my own love affair with song. I can mention a million nights when this occurred, but you have a million of your own. It snapshots the moment when a dear memory is born… when a friendship is sailing through its fairest waters and some random tune becomes impregnated with personal importance. Somehow, for me, this short line holds poignancy and loss along with joy and promise. Because of that, the song itself became for me what it describes; I rarely hear it without recalling youthful nights enjoying the tune alongside some friends with whom I was once very close. As the years wipe away those alliances and harden our limited memories of them, it's tough to recapture their true flavor. This does the trick for me. Whether this emotional openness was deliberate or accidental, or whether it is really a snide joke too "in" for me to grasp, this is one of those rare Steely Dan moments when the arch comes down. Apart from all that, it also serves as a crucial element of the song's narrative, so it's objectively as well as subjectively satisfying.

In the bar hangs a cloud
Whiskey's loud...

...He's trembling for the taste
Of passion gone to waste
In memories of the past
(Phil Ochs - "Pleasures of the Harbor")
Here's a classic of compression, cramming a lot into plain words and painting vivid interior and exterior scenes at the same time. There's no phrase here that holds only one meaning. The first line is a straight double metaphor: smoke-filled room, hovering melancholy. Second line takes it further, as the din of drunken barflies is applied to the booze itself. Ochs, an alcoholic, hears the whiskey screaming over the other people. The whiskey demands his attention, and all that the whiskey represents to him (relief, remorse, death, celebration, et al) creates a racket in his head. The rest of the verse these lines are from is just as good, further describing the crowd scene confronting the character. Ochs puts a distance between himself and the character by basing the vignette on a scene from a John Ford film, but the device really makes it even more personal. If this were first-person, it wouldn't sink its hook so painfully; it would be a mere whine. The rest of it, from the next verse (beginning with "And the bottle fills the glass," an ordinary image out of context, but in the song it feels almost sexual in its anticipation) can be read the same way, as an acute portrait of the alcoholic's psychology. Memories of the past are where he wastes his current passion, and his memories are riddled with passions wasted. He trembles for the taste of the whiskey and the associations it supplies. The trembling itself is fear, helpless sorrow, and straight-up boozer shakes. The whole thing is a tender tragedy, with the repeated chorus "soon your sailing will be over..." gathering importance with each passing verse, and concluding with no cheap resolution. in fact, there's hope somewhere. A genuinely great song from an artist too little understood and too seldom remembered.

He hit a chord that rocked the spinet
And disappeared into the infinite!
(Johnny Mercer - "The Old Music Master")
Mercer is about the motherfucker. Working with an incredible array of great composers, he always nailed his collaborator's individual vibe with a flawless lyric. This one is a minor one for him and the mighty Hoagy Carmichael, but it's a delight. In the song, Beethoven is visited by a "little colored boy" from the future, who teaches him how to swing. It's a dopey conceit, for sure. Hoagy sings "infinite" as "in-FIN-et" and it's not only genuinely funny (to hear, I mean, not to read), but again it does in effect what the song describes. The melody is a "classical" pastiche that opens up to a big jazz groove on the selected line, the moment Ludwig gets hep. The melody / words combo is a marvel of syllabic, rhythmic and melodic synchronization. They way the lyric lays in against the tune, it HAS to swing… swing is built in as naturally as a Monk melody. It conveys the discovery of that freedom jazz represented to those of Hoagy's time, and carries the same sense of ecstatic release Chuck Berry's "School Day" does when he hits the line "Hail, Hail Rock and Roll" and the heavens open. So it's a love song to the artist's greatest pleasure, and with bright wit it shows us exactly why he feels that way. There's almost a Slim Gaillard sense of groov-o-reenie absurdity, but it's more than simply silly fun, it's a celebration of why such silly fun is a profound gift. More than just a goofball rhyme, "the infinite" is where jazz takes Hoagy. Anyone who loves music knows what that means, and how sometimes the lightest craft can carry us to the highest altitudes.

I'll get to others as I feel like it. Mind you the blog entires are liable to get shorter as novelty wears off. Let's hope so... these long spiels must surely scare people off. Well, so what?

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

(this was prepared for the press re:uncle, so may as well share it here for my friends)

Track By Track… this goes on a bit, and is recommended only for the truly interested.

1 - NO FAIR: This concerns several visits to our old neighborhood (where Pete had still been living) in the weeks after Sept. 11, before they found his body. The realization that we'd really lost Peter, then my loss of faith, then my loss of sobriety. The childhood cry of "No Fair" …heard after a bad stickball call or a "Monopoly" cheat… seemed appropriate somehow.
2 - JOHNNY LIGHTNING: Begun as one of the discarded songs for Magic Beans' followup, about Pete and me playing with toy cars back in the days. I reclaimed a fragment of it, now serving as a sort of elegy. The first voice is Pete at around 13, recalling even earlier times. The poem, which I consider a kind of epigram to Uncle, is a lyric by Charles Ives: "There Is A Lane," recited by an artist Pete and I enjoyed deeply: Van Dyke Parks. Van Dyke was a good friend to me in the aftermath of the catastrophe, and kindly agreed to participate in the recording.
3 - THE LOST CHILDREN: Not much need be added to this one; it's some forlorn wishful thinking. Musically, it was the performances of Bowie, the Who, et al, at the Concert For New York (and the catharsis of the firefighters surrounding us there) that convinced me that rock and roll still had some validity to me. So here goes one.
4 - IN OTHER WORDS, NEVER: The title is a comment on my own chorus for the previous song: the lead-pipe thud in your stomach every time you realize there's no fucking hope. The recording is a brass piece Jim Gray and I made in the late '80s on a four track, which was slowed down and superimposed on some sub-Jerry Goldsmith / John Cage noise experiments I did years earlier. It's my funeral dirge for my little brother.
5 - THE LATE DAYS OF SUMMER: The one direct "universal" comment that I indulged in, written and recorded so quickly that we almost forgot we'd done it. Ragged but right? Sincere, anyway.
6 - BIRD IN THE HOUSE: A true story… woke up once with a big black bird on my knee, and we both went buck wild trying to escape each other, to the great amusement of my late brother Bobby and Pete. This music was the first thing I tried to write a few months after 9/11, pounding the piano with my fists. My friend Claudia informs me that a bird in the house is a traditional symbol of death. Dunno, but I can empathize with that bird. He did get out, by the way
7 - WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN HEAVEN?: This gospel tune by Charles Tindley was recorded memorably in the 1930s by the incredible Washington Phillips. This arrangement is indebted to his version, which Pete and I admired as a truly humanist hymn largely avoiding Christian cant. It would be nice to believe in a heaven ahead.
8 - MILES ACROSS THE SEA: My friend Miles Hunt (of England's Wonder Stuff) has helped me through some dark times. The coincidence of his name and location made for a nice title proxy for all those people who make an extra effort to be true friends, even when they don't realize how close you are to jumping off a cliff. This begins a section of the album concerning friendship.
9 - WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY: Here's Pete and me, recorded on shitty cassette many, many years ago doing a chant we "wrote" after a family road trip. Those endless hours of taped kiddy shenanigans were what led me to making records, and as this is the "friends" section, it handily introduces a ditty about current Garden State resident…
10 - PAUL LaGRUTTA: Pete's lifelong best friend has also been one of my dearest buddies. Through his own heartbreak, Paul took a page from Pete's heroism and held a lot of us together. To salute him in song, I went to the Beach Boys for inspiration, figuring that the effect of a song full of in-jokes (for someone the listener never heard of) was similar to my own non-driver bafflement over lyrics like "competition clutch" and "magnesium spokes." I still loved Wilson's songs, so what the hell. Drop-ins include young Pete mentioning his pal (and eventual best man), and my Dad singing "Volare" back in the 70s. At the end, you'll hear LaGrutta himself, surreptitiously recorded last July 4th.
11 - BEHISTUN: The first song I ever "wrote" was this chant, based upon a picture of an Egyptian temple I saw in an encyclopedia at 5 years old. The year Pete was born I strutted around the house singing this, and remembered it for this unadulterated 4-track recording, made almost 20 years ago. Sure it sounds like crap… sure it's tedious and ill-played… Pete would collapse in hysterics to know it made a legit release, and that's why it's here.
12 - YOU LOUSY STINKING SCUMBAG: A hitherto unrecorded favorite from my Skels days, here in its glorious entirety. Again: to amuse him, and to bridge into the subsequent section, concerning enemies this time.
13 - BAD GUEST: This is a jaundiced glance back at the New Year's Eve party at which I met Pete's eventual in-laws, a repulsive bunch of feral vermin I spent the rest of his life avoiding. Since his death, they've wallowed in the media "celebrity" granted 9-11 "survivors," visiting unimaginable cruelties to Pete's mother (and the rest of the family) that you wouldn't believe if I described them. They continue to do so, compounding our grief. Hatred is poison; induce vomiting, have a laugh at the enemy and move on. But first…
14 - PLAYED BY LINDA BLAIR: The main character in the film "The Exorcist" was a young girl named Regan., just like Pete's widow. I'll say no more. At the time of his death, Pete's daughter Ruby was a year old, and I have a photograph of him ecstatically holding her aloft. That snapshot prompted the next song.
15 - SUCH A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT: This is intended as a counterweight to the preceding bitterness, and is -in part - based on the same music. The last time I saw Pete was in a hospital on Labor Day 2001. Both of my parents had just fallen and injured themselves severely, and the shock of Pete's death shortly afterward ensured that their recovery would be limited. We're a close family. My Sister Maureen's resolve in raising Pete without a father was only surpassed by the lifelong delight she took in him; I saw the same qualities in that photo of Pete holding Ruby. His brother David read a eulogy at the memorial service in October 2001, and his eloquence and humor in the face of absolute devastation symbolized for me all that I've loved and learned from my family. A lot of stuff behind a song that, I admit, doesn't live up to the subject.
16 - SHOO FLY SHOO: One of the first songs made for the album, and its relevance is intentionally oblique. It's part of what I call "a child's guide to misanthropy," along with the next tune. A dog is harassed by a fly, which is sort of how a kid feels when the new kid arrives. There is no insect or mangy dog I do not prefer to the human race.
17 - FROGS ARE SINGING: The first verse of this was composed after the last Christmas we spent with Pete. It plopped out with no apparent reason. After we started this album I remembered it, and realized it was a sort of dream. I understand why a soul-baring artist like Neil Young is drawn to the serenity of model trains. Little Willoughby worlds we can fill with our fancies, where nobody cares about cool or commerce, where nobody's nonexistent deity commands genocide as the ticket to heaven. I hope you've gathered that the other meaning of "Uncle" is a cry of surrender. I live now in dreams, when I can.
18 - SLEEPY RIVER: So here's one on that topic, a song the great Paul Robeson sang (in the film "Song of Freedom"), which we would play and sing along with on many long, often inebriated nights alone together at his apartment. We never worried about sounding like alleycats, and I won't worry about a stiffness of delivery here, trying to croon back a river of tears. It's corn, sure, but I'll gratefully take such corny dreams.
19 - THE SOUND OF HER VOICE: So I grow some corn of my own, this time for my wife Shelley, without whom I could not continue living. Plain, sappy and as inadequate a tribute as the rest of this album, but likewise heartfelt. She held me together so I could help hold my family together, and though we all continue to disintegrate, there are still moments of joy in living. In Pete's name, we all try hard to cultivate that possibility, despite all.
20 - THE DORAY WALTZ: The Doray Tavern was a bar in our old Brooklyn neighborhood that I used to pass on the way to school. "Where Good Friends Meet" said the sign on the window, and my youthful sarcasm thought that was ironic, given all the old no-hopers who congregated there over Scotch and Viceroys. Now I know better.
21 - EVERYBODY'S GONE: After a concentrated avoidance of directly addressing Pete, we were wrapping up the album and it was time for this. My little bro and I used to savor those times we could get away from everyone to yammer, toss back a few, and listen to music. Hoagy Carmichael, Thelonious Monk, Copland, "Smile" bootlegs, on and on. Sacred times. I set up in the studio, poured one whiskey for him and one for me, and started singing this song, completely terrified. At every pause in the lyric I gulped another glass down, and got pretty wrecked in the four minutes it took to complete. No mystical visitation, alas. Just a long night of tears, more whiskey, and this souvenir of the evening's ceremony.
22 - THE CLANG OF THE YANKEE REAPER: Van Dyke gave me permission to use a bit of his gorgeous tune as the background music for one last word from Pete. The lyric of Parks' chorus is: "Gone… just like I said. The good old days are dead; better get it through your head." True enough, but there's one thing I'll never get out of my head, so I leave Uncle with it: the sound of me and my beloved little brother… my hero Pete… laughing.

So by the time I posted the previous, the "test message" had in fact been removed. May this bode well for swift erasure of the rest of my hysterical concerns.

Tried to delete the "test" message last night, and while the procedure seemed to go smoothly, the post still shows up. Consulting "blogger help" proved fruitless, as it instructed me to do exactly what I'd already done. Further exploration yielded: "I notice you're a free user... naturally we must atttend to our 89 million paying users first, so just hold your water, you insignificant pinchpenny" ... or words to that effect.

All of which means I must carefully consider what I post, since it's all gonna stay put at least until the honorable Elijah Muhammed returns to Earth from his holy spacecraft. This mild annoyance - typical of EVERY SINGLE FUCKING THING one tries to accomplish these days - reminds me to mention what's been happening with my mother. Since shortly before Xmas, she'd been experiencing bouts of weakness and dizziness. I brought her to the hospital (St Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown New York, default successor to a hellhole called Smithtown General) last week upon instructions from her doctor, a mild-mannered quack with an impenetrable accent (pc note: it is not the nationality of the md that bugs me, it's the inability to interpret any of the life-or-death information he ostensibly offers... at ease, hippie) who chooses patients' prescriptions with a dart board. I sat with her in the "emergency room" for six hours before some other doctor told me she was to be admitted. At this point I returned to my parents' house to attend to my father, who also needs regular care.

My mother lay in the emergency room for two whole days before a bed was assigned to her. This was because a heart doctor wanted her placed in ccu for monitoring and there were no available beds. So she waited on a gurney virtually unattended as loud drunks were hauled in and out, cunt night nurses and prick pseudo-doctors repeatedly ignored her requests for food, and predictable indignities and discomfort ensued. My mother is the type who sits patiently and trusts that her caregivers will give care; if she were the demanding, obnoxious sort typifying the American personality she'd get more attention. Meanwhile I called her "heart doctor" ...a real mystery man who'd apparently come in to the hospital, said hello to her and left (wonder what that visit will cost?) without a word of clarification. When the asshole finally returned my call, he had nothing to tell me yet, of course, and I asked him to please let me know what was up as soon as he could. Yes of course he would. This one had no accent at all to disguise his supercilious tone. Since experience with his breed has taught me that the one thing they resent more than a patient is a concerned family member of that patient - so they never listen to a word, making sure to radiate their godlike disdain for your petty, ignorant queries - I retiterated my request.

Dr Condescention assured me thusly: "Yes, I will keep you informed. I returned your call, now, didn't I?" What a guy.

5 days later and nothing. Today's call was returned by a different doctor, one of the asshole's asshole associates. She told me my mother was fine. This means that the routine tests have proved inconclusive and, lacking an obvious justification for expensive surgery or simple prescription, they opt to hand her off to some other "specialist" for more routine tests and further billing. By the way, after several days of my mother's abandonment in the emergency room and repeated complaints from her and myself, her condition was "downgraded" to allow her admission to a regular hospital room. In other words, the heart "concerns" stopped "concerning" the good doctors once we pestered them with a few questions as to why she'd been marooned.

I will not continue detailing this situation, since it could go on for untold paragraphs. Maybe the world was never really any better than this... maybe it just seems that way in retrospect. Certainly, human beings have always been despicable vermin who care for nothing other than their own income, status, convenience, amusement and libidos, despite their ability - alone in the animal kigdom - to invent ethics. This is what was once called "evil." But I do believe there was - for a while - some commonly agreed standard of civility and mutually feigned respect. This permitted the few who were raised correctly to interact (with reasonable efficiency) with the vast majority of stupid, selfish scumbags whose selfish stupid scumbaggery was leashed by common custom. This is no longer the case, and people like my parents are left to fend for themselves in a world entirely incompatible with their temperaments and experience.


But no sense in belaboring things, eh?

Other news:
Got a copy in the mail of "Mollie's Mix" - a budget Kill Rock Stars comp including a new song (not on Uncle) entitled "Beatles, Stepping Off The Plane." The song is a satirical comment on the habitual use of that same piece of fucking film footage in every documentary (on music, the 60s, various entertainment figures, the Boer War, air screws, cryptozoology, Mata Hari, veal, et al) produced for cable, PBS, and other venues catering to masturbatory boomers who still believe "their era" represented the apex of human enlightenment. Anyone interested can order the cd from the KRS website. It's like 5 dollars and also features respectable artists people actually listen to. Yes, that means Sleater-Kinney.

Two cd releases in two days. Well, better go tear down all the Christmas stuff.

It has been suggested that I might start one of these weblogs in order to post the various rants I sometimes send to everyone on my email list. The advantage is obvious to the people in my address book: no more batch mails from me. To me, it's dubious. For one thing, the ephemeral nature of email works in my favor as far as redundancies are concerned; some journalists have noted this in forewords to their collected pieces. Pet phrases and overused words are less obvious when previous messages have long been swooshed down the virtual crapper. This kind of thing might provoke an anxiety to actually write with care and discipline, two things I've avoided all my life. Zounds!

Another issue is whether there's any point to this at all. Who the hell cares what I think about anything? Well, if nothing else, my life has been devoted to pointless self-expression, and the Internet is peculiarly suited to such pathological vanity. Here, I am amongst my own: anonymous cranks, dilettantes, and obsessives. The Jetsam Set. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to set up the web page Kill Rock Stars is hosting for me (sportmurphy dot com - which I spell out instead of correctly typing in order to discourage spambots) but that will principally serve as a kool-aid stand for my music, and anyway I can link from there to this blog once it's up. Email may be sent to sport @ sportmurphy dot com (ditto) - effective immediately - for anyone who doesn't have my regular email address.

So. A public diary. Lord help us. May most of it consist of blithe schussing down the slopes of schtick, but naturally there will be less entertaining entries. Today's news of note is that I received the box of UNCLE (the new album) discs from KRS. I wistfully recall how it felt to open the first crates of the previous KRS cds, WILLOUGHBY and MAGIC BEANS. Willoughby was best because of the potential it held and the accomplishment it represented, going from vanity pressing to national release on a noted label. Opening Magic Beans was great too, because it was (and remains) my proudest achievement in music. It turned out to be a dud, rejected by listeners who'd liked Willoughby and ignored by almost everyone else. I'll tell the lie that I didn't care, since I'm shit-sure that you don't.

Then of course, September 11 arrived. My nephew Peter died that morning, and all of that stopped mattering to me until we decided to make an album for him. I'm not sure of the proportion of factors explaining my near indifference to opening this crate, but a lot of things figure in. Let's hope I am by now cauterized enough to gracefully endure Uncle's probable quick trip to oblivion after the January 21 release. For Pete, I hope that it's something he'd have liked, at least in part. For KRS, I hope some sentimental indulgence on the part of press / radio inspires enough units sold to justify the release. For me, I hope I can seize one of these transient moments when the old excitement about making songs returns, and ride it through to some new stuff.

For you, I hope the subsequent entries are a lot more entertaining than this.