Sport Spiel
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Saturday, February 08, 2003

Dammit to hell, a previous engagement prevents us from attending the launch party for my good pal Paul LaGrutta's New Jersey restaurant: Mulberry Street.

Opening night is Wednesday, but tomorrow's the "friends and family" gathering I swore to attend. Of course, this fucking cafone LaGrutta tells me about it LAST NIGHT. This is one of those hard-won accomplishments I admire and applaud; Paul has sunk his life into making a swank eatery out of a regular merdaio. With a cry of "Chi fa da sá, fa per tre" Paul endured grueling hands-on labor, headaches and strafed finances to turn his dream into a beautiful reality where I plan to chow down as soon and as often as possible (guess the cuisine, Miss Marple). We were there New Year's Eve, and I woke up pretty sfatto!

I'll soon post info about the place so Garden State residents and visitors can stop by and mangia. Please do: A buon intenditor poche parole.
Many blessings to Paul and Julia!

Friday, February 07, 2003

Today I'm at the folks' house as per usual for a weekday. I am enjoying one of the welcomest sights, sounds and scents I know: my mom, cooking dinner. She hasn't been able to do so since before the holidays. Nobody wants to feel useless, and when we are denied the chance to do those things that define for us our "purpose" or our arena of expertise / confidence, life becomes intolerable. Along with physical limitations and pains, depression descends and we feel like a burden to our loved ones on top of everything else. My mom has had a heap of woes, depression foremost. We've fought doctors and dolor, cooked dinners and picked up lotsa take-out. I've tried to boost the parents' flagging spirits with concerts of old recordings and special video presentations. Shelley has provided them with special visits by the great bulldog Olivia, and my sister, brother in law and nephew have increased the frequency of family gatherings. Brian has done the daily driving and fetch-em-ups. My mother has improved, and consequently my father has as well. Today, things are pretty good for the old folks at home.

I have go to shovel snow now, and then I'll come back in and eat a meal made by my mother's hands. There is nothing sweeter in this world than the opportunity to re-appreciate the commonplaces that comprise our richest treasure in life. Nothing is more rewarding than a small, temporary triumph over fate's grueling onslaught, and nothing's more delicious than the taste of love. A moment of silence, then, to smile, breathe deep and remember that we're alive. And a wish to you that you are similarly blessed this day.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Courtesy of David Garland (who will recieve today's "Eagle Eye" award: a Scott Walker compilation and another, "omnibus" cdr with Viv Stanshall and others), a new review for Uncle. This is from a brilliant and perceptive person named Tyler Ritter, who personifies all that is good and wise in humanity. Tyler Ritter is a writer with rare gifts of perception and craft... we can all take a cue from Ritter's example, and thereby become better listeners and finer people. I don't know Tyler Ritter, but I wish I did, and know that I could only be enriched by such an acquaintance.

Sport Murphy’s third album, Uncle, is a wonderfully
strange, funny, sweet and sad offering that is incredibly
diverse musically. Of the 22 songs here no two are alike.
The liner notes (and press release) put the music
contained on it into context—Murphy’s nephew Peter
Vega, who was raised with his family as his little brother,
was one of many New York City firemen who died saving
lives on September 11th. That said, this album is nothing
like any music written in connection with the
tragedy—there are no protest songs, no searches for
answers, no "let’s roll" dogma. Murphy doesn’t make it his
purpose to comment on the tragedy—he has opted to
deal with the loss of his surrogate brother by creating
something that he thinks that he would’ve enjoyed. The
results can best be described as beautifully and purely
childlike—the songs are divided by tapes that Murphy and
his brother made when they were children.

Musically Michael "Sport" Murphy could be described as similar in sound to Smog
without the distancing self-irony and satiric self-absorption. Oh and without the
sloth-like deadpan voice. Murphy has long been a conjurer of some of music’s
most overlooked artists—Charles Ives, Stephen Foster and Glen Campbell—as
well as Scott Walker and Brian Wilson who you rarely see mentioned in the
same sentence. The lilting "No Fair" and the barroom jazz ballad "Everybody’s
Gone" are the only songs that are solely about his loss—the former’s lyrics
vaguely depicting a forlorn narrator in search of an after-hours bar. Not much
to go on, but there isn’t much more that needs to be said.

The rest of the album is playful in its stylistic shifts—nearly every song is a
complete departure from the previous one. From the balladic "Late Days of
Summer" and "The Sound of Her Voice," to the crooning "Sleepy River," the
noirish "Played By Linda Blair," the childlike abandon of "Frogs Are Singing"
(which features the most unlikely hook possibly ever with "Frogs are
singing/Fuck ‘em, fuck ‘em") and "Paul LaGrutta" somehow Murphy keeps the
stylistic changes strong and heart-felt.

This is a wonderful gift of an album packed tight with gems. Few pieces of
music so cohesively nail the nature of being human as this record does. In his
liner notes Murphy claims this to be his "inadequate gift" to his lost brother, but
after listening to it it’s quite clear that he’s being awfully hard on himself. It’s a
more than adequate gift to whomever is lucky enough to discover this album.

Again I'm clearing out clutter on the computer, so I may as well post this stray thing... it was forwarded to me (by Irwin) from the "Outsider Music" message board about a year ago. Citizen Kafka of WFMU's "Secret Museum" posted the plug for my Ives essay which begins this pasted piece, and this other guy - a stranger to me - responded with a few words about my album Magic Beans. That album's reception may be summed up by the fact that Barnes and Noble offer Willoughby and Uncle on their website, but not Magic Beans. Which is to say that the other two albums are more or less credible failures, but MB does not even exist. Fine, scumbags. Ask me why I refuse to take discussions about Beck or Radiohead seriously. No, don't.

If anyone ever wants to flatter me into doing some favor, all you need do is parrot the following. But this guy had no expectation I'd even read this comment, so it means plenty.

> speaking of glory trances, see this essay:
> for what makes the internet a great and personal place.

yes, see this...Sport's off topic, so disregard the rest of this if you
don't wanna go off topic

as sport has struggled to put his feelings about ives into words, i have
similarly been trying to make some kind of connection between pops, bleeps,
static buzzes and washes of white blood in my brain when i listen to sport
to the tips of my tongue or fingers, to make impression meet expression.

magic beans barely leaves my cd player. im not the type to often be worked
into enough of a frenzy about an artist to even call myself a "fan." im too
cool and aloof for that. ("yeah, some of the beatles stuff is okay") but
sport does it to me. he condenses all that is great about the last 200 years
of music into pellets of barely digestible nutrition, even occasionally
embracing the kitsch that i generally find so repulsive, but which he can
use because "he's allowed." each listening uncovers another queer perplexing
background noise or sly musical joke. most current music, insider or
outsider, corporate or indie, doesn't approach the depth and subtlety of
sports music. again, we careen off topic, but its a nice detour.

--jimmy tremor--

Since, as I previously explained, I've begun to leave bloggish buffooneries corked up in my head, I thought I'd demonstrate why they might be better left there. I offer you a list of names given to sizes of Champagne bottles, in ascending order. A bit of history on each is included as a public service. Read and learn.

(Liters / Name of bottle and derivation)

0.375: Split or Pony - "Split" is what you gotta do, man, when the time comes, dig? It's also the battle cry of a little-known version of "Captain Marvel" circa 1966, whose body parts would fly off in different directions so that the fingers could poke guys in the eye (ala Moe Howard) while the feet were kicking other guys in the balls (ala certain Dominatrixes).
"Pony" is a role I played in Eric Bogosian's play "Suburbia" as well as a dance popular in the Hullabaloo era. All these things - beatniks who leave early, that superhero, that play, and that dance - are half-assed, so it applies to a half bottle of champagne.

0.75: Bottle - This is the least imaginative of the bottle-size names, which is why it's the most popular. "Where are you from?" "Around." "What do you listen to?" "Rock." "What will you have?" "A bottle." See what I mean?

1.50: Magnum - A large size condom. Also a role played by Tom Selleck on television. So then: big hit show, big dick sheathe. It suggests an ample amount of suckage, however you read it.

3.00: Jeroboam - Israelite king who waged bitter war with:

4.50: Rehoboam - despite (or because?) of the similarly doofy names. What a minstrel show team they could have made! But why did the "battle o' the 'boams" inspire these designations for bottles? Well, think about yourself drinking 3 liters of Korbel and your arch enemy (and if you don't have one, you're living wrong) downing 4 and a half liters of same. An inevitable brawl of biblical proportions.

6.00: Methuselah - Oldest man ever! Died at 969 years, in the year of the flood. Didn't look a day over 800. So we get two idiomatic expressions here, "he's old as Methuselah" and "Ain't seen him since the year of the flood." Two cliches plus a hell of a party. And remember Ira Gershwin's take on Methuselah's longevity: "Who calls that livin' when no gal will give in to no man what is nine hunderd years!" Sho 'nuff - drink up, pops.

9.0: Salmanazar - Assyrian king (several, really) who combined the religion of Israel with local pagan faiths, creating a notable early example of the "moral relativism" and "mix-n-match religion" that purists and orthodox sorts decry. What better way to toast your impurity and impiety than with a ridiculously huge bottle of booze?

12.0: Balthazar - This is one of the Magi of Christmas creche fame. Your 3 Wise Men. I get this quote from some exhaustive Bible "who's who" website:
"There is no mention of camels or any mode of transportation in the biblical record. There is also no mention of their names. The traditional names adopted in the West are Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. The Syrian tradition uses the names Gushnasaph, Hormisdas and Larvandad. Others use Hormizdah, Perozdh and Yazdegerd, or Basanater, Karsudan and Hor, or various other names."

So why Balthazar? As we'll see, Melchior gets a bottle named after him, but not Gaspar. How come? Lost to the mists of time. But amen that we need not order a "Larvandad" or… yikes… a "Gushnasaph" of bubbly, though, friends, a "Hor full of wine" sounds like a fine, fine idea to this scholar.

15.0: Nebuchadnezzar - probably the baddest of your ancient kings, this time reigning o'er the land of Babylon. All those non-Rastafarians would cry "Neb, you RULE!" Which should give him the jumbo-est of all bottles, but no. Instead he replaces Wiseman Gaspar ( which is fine, because a guy with that name (( Gaspar, I mean, not Wiseman, who is a guy that makes documentaries )) used to own the club "February's" in Elmont New York, and paid the Skels el-dicko for playing there ) in the "we three kings" stakes. Neb, son of your friend and mine, Nabopolassar, eventually paid for persecuting 3 upright Hebrews (in the "fiery furnace" referenced in my hangover classic "It's Definitely Sunday") by suffering "lycanthropy." A WEREWOLF!

18.0: Melchior - OK, this is the other wise man. I can only surmise that he gets pride of place for bringing the gold to baby Jesus. Obviously, that's the gift that keeps on giving, but what of frankincense and myrrh? Well consider this little nugget about myrrh that I found in my exhaustive research for this important piece:
"It has been thought to be the chestnut, mastich, stacte, balsam, turpentine, pistachio nut, or the lotus. It is probably correctly rendered by the Latin word ladanum, the Arabic ladan, an aromatic juice of a shrub called the Cistus or rock rose, which has the same qualities, though in a slight degree, of opium, whence a decoction of opium is called laudanum."

Okay, gold… opium… and INCENSE? Guess why Gaspar was excluded from the wine-tasting party! Tom brought money, Dick brought dope, and Harry brought AIR-WICK! All mysteries are answered if you dig deeply enough.

25.50: Sovereign - once the most ubiquitous gold coin in British circulation, coin collectors scorn these nickel-sized bits of change as too common. So they are worth only the value of the gold itself. You think "worth its weight in gold" is a compliment? Then you are no numismatist, and philately will get you nowhere. Now, 25-and-a-half liters of champagne is just way too much. Foster Brooks, Shane MacGowan and Boris Yeltsin couldn't put all that away with Tex Antoine's help. So really, the regal name accorded this super-size serving of the stuff is a lot of piffle. After all the obscure biblical references the other bottles boast… after all the compelling background info I've dug up for you... we end here? Yes.

Not with a bang, but a whimper.
And I don't even like champagne.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Well, let's see… things have been reasonably quiet these last few days. The folks are fairly OK. Been gathering myself for whatever's next, and hoping it's mostly productive and not destructive. I'm going back to Cali. I think so. Feb 20 through 26, to visit friends Claudia and Brad and ol' pal Rich Honig. Miles Hunt is also out there, and I don't know how we'll get through a night of our brand of cheer considering the notorious LA smoking prohibition. We shall see. Maybe it'll be houses and store-bought. (Anybody got good ideas for what else to do out there?)

Been especially taken with Milo's song "Amongst the Old Reliables" lately. Quite a fucking piece it is, and there are 2 versions on 2 albums to compare …except I can't choose, so it hits me like Alan Price's "Between Today and Yesterday" (a masterpiece, that) which bookended the same-titled album in minimal and maximal versions. Gotta listen to them both. I guess there are others… "Hey Hey My My" and its acoustic counterpart, etc. Which reminds me that "Helpless" never got to me at all, and I don't know why it's so beloved. It sounds like "Knocking on Heaven's Door" which I feel the same way about anyhow. If one gets into my head on the constant random-select, the other combines with it and I go batshit trying to rid myself of them. Well, anyway…

I made a cdr comp of Irish and Scottish songs I plan to send Brian O'Connor, and while making it I found myself playing a song "Farewell! But Whene'er You Welcome The Hour" over and over. It's by Thomas Moore (1779 - 1852), who was famed for his arrangements of ancient Irish melodies, to which he set original lyrics. Moore was the Irish equivalent of Robert Burns, but is, for some reason, far less celebrated and commonly known. He was the major influence on the songwriting of Stephen Foster, and one can sometimes find examples where Foster out-an-out lifts musical passages (talent borrows, genius steals, eh?). The song in question is a bittersweet toast to friends no longer known. Damn it's gorgeous. So that's what I'm on about tonight. I'd dwell on it in detail, but nobody needs any more song analyses from me.

It's gotten weird with this blog… I think of things, and instead of hitting the keyboard I just ponder them through and leave things at that. The same thing has happened with songwriting. Something comes to mind and I develop it mentally until I'm satisfied and that's all. Actually realizing these things in words or sounds seems beside the point anymore. Some funny spiels, my friends… and some nifty tunes… lost as soon as I turn on the tv or read some comic book. So it goes. My medium is woolgathering. It wastes no resources, requires no collaborators, and it's nobody else's to review or ignore. I won't say this is healthy, nor will I say it's especially troubling. Just my way of explaining why the entries are getting rarer. Well, stay tuned; who knows?

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Sorry for blog lag. Sport Murphy has not been in the best state of mind these recent days, and has opted to spare you the play-by-play. But anyway, for those unable to find UNCUT or unwilling to pay for it, here's Jim Allen's very kind commentary from the current issue.

**** Crafty tunesmith puts Bruce Springsteen in his place.
Stunningly varied, vibrant and well-crafted, this sonic eulogy to the firefighter nephew that Murphy lost in the 9/11 tragedy has roots in everything from Hoagy Carmichael to Brian Wilson, and is the true heir to the mercurial genius of Pet Sounds (Van Dyke Parks himself lends a hand). Murphy's deep, sad voice moves through a harmonically sophisticated landscape, like Mark Eitzel crooning the Rufus Wainwright songbook. With a sense of humour yet! Murphy is a skewed pop visionary to be reckoned with.