Sunday, August 30, 2015


Don't get hung up on grudges, because your enemies are all doomed anyway. As are your friends. As are you.

Hey, it's something you can count on.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Random Ten - The Real Thing™

Tonight I watched One, Two, Three. This is the Billy Wilder movie where James Cagney plays a Coca Cola executive in West Berlin. It's not Wilder's best, which depending on day and hour I'd say is either The Apartment or Some Like It Hot.  This one starts better than it ends, but it's not bad either, and it's bold in letting Cagney be as obnoxious as any of the Commie characters while the Cold War was in full swing.

Wonder what happened to Pamela Tiffin. She's very young in this movie but has some of the funniest line readings.

1. The Ramones - The KKK Took My Baby Away
2. XTC - Paper and Iron
3. Mose Allison - Do Nothing Till You Here From Me
4. Lower Dens - Suckers Shangri La
5. The New Pornographers - These Are the Fables
6, Les Baxter - Wake the Town and Tell the People
7. Simon & Garfunkel - Fakin' It
8. Yo La Tengo - I Should Have Known Better
9. Fairport Convention - Come All Ye
10. Sarah Vaughan - What Kind of Fool Am I?

Thursday, August 27, 2015


If Burning Man has turned out to be another decadent playground for the One Percent, I can't say I'm all that surprised. I first heard about it at a wedding some years ago. It was the 21st century, because my friend who was also attending had started dating the future mother of (most of) his children, but it was early in the century. This other guest was all gung-ho about the Burning Man experience and really hoped he'd be able to go again next year. My second reaction - internal - was that this setup sounded like it was for the gullible and the unscrupulous, who always find each other sooner or later.

My first reaction was, "Jesus Christ! Somebody's charging just for the privilege of walking around naked in the desert? I hope some fallen Indians rise from the dead and eat his brains."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Dick in time

A year or so ago I read a book called American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett. A big book, and one that won a few awards, it had a fascinating setup. A Western town where a quantum experiment had been done was inhabited by multidimensional beings, most of whom inhabited town elders. In essence it was like Twin Peaks with Lovecraftian Elder Gods, not all of them evil. And for a while, each succeeding chapter seems to introduce a wild new element. Yet I read with a sinking feeling that I'd be disappointed by the end. That the energy generated in creating this anything-can-happen atmosphere would be spent in bringing it to a conventional close that doesn't serve the ideas present. And I think despite Bennett's best efforts, that's what happened. The rules of popular storytelling are so entrenched that no matter where you start from, odds are you'll end up in the same old place. (To some extent this happened with the Lost series finale too.)

Philip K. Dick predated the rulebook, or at least the current edition of it. Oh, God knows his endings could disappoint. That's one of the sources of tension: Can he get to the end without falling apart?

But when he fails he fails in his own way. He keeps an eye on what he is doing, rather than what he should be doing.

The Penultimate Truth, which I've just finished, is a case in point. The story begins with Nicholas St. James in an "ant tank", a cramped subterranean community for laborers supporting World War III. Except the war is over, and nobody told them. St. James is forced to go to the surface and becomes involved in a battle of wills between allegedly radiation charred (but really just Native American) David Lantano and proto-Jabba the Hutt Stanton Brose.

I won't give away much more, but the story takes a few turns and ends small. This is right. It's built as a small story, its tight frame keeping it from bloating. You don't have to look too close to see Dick's Gnostic interests at play. Brose and Lantano are obvious demiurge figures, the former almost pure evil, the latter not really pure good, but livable. But perhaps because these were concerns he lived with in his daily life, he can fit them into a simple - but not predictable - story. He doesn't feel the need to blow everything up to epic proportion.

And as a result, The Penultimate Truth remains only itself. Just as Dick could only ever be himself.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Living up to its name

One of those sites that can keep you occupied for days on end is The Weirdest Band in the World. The webmaster/editors have compiled hundreds of acts, from those just about everyone knows (Devo, Beefheart, P-Funk) to the truly obscure. The lady below is one of the latter, it's pretty safe to say. They also mention her being a Residents fan, which shows.

More or less weird than the metal band with a parrot for a lead singer? The great thing is you get a chance to judge for yourself.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fahrenheit Friday Random Ten

It's pretty much been a weeklong heatwave. At the very least since Sunday. This means finding yourself in a more liquid state than normal much of the time. (So easy in the other months to forget that you're two thirds water.) Still, this too shall pass. If you have AC everywhere you go you're just forcing yourself not to notice.

1. Fairport Convention - Tam Lin
2. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross - Everybody's Boppin'
3. The Ramones - Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)
4. Les Baxter - Ruby
5. David Bowie - Star
6. The New Pornographers - The Bleeding Heart Show
7. Nick Drake - Hazey Jane I
8. Simon & Garfunkel - Mrs. Robinson
9. Yo La Tengo - Mr. Tough
10. Finn Riggins - Battle

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Novelty record a gogo

This track from 50 years ago is just remarkably bizarre. If Mansfield could sing this isn't the song to prove it, if "song" is the right word. ("If PanaCea™ makes your back crack and your liver quiver, stop taking it and consult your doctor.") The guitar, though, is by young Jimi Hendrix. And while we're a long way away from, say, "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" the music is actually good. at the very least I could see it keeping the cocktail waitresses alert.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The importance of owning Ernie

Salon's Arthur Chu  has some thoughts on the new normal regarding Sesame Street, whereby HBO effectively owns the show and shows first run episodes that will rerun in nine months' time. Is this something, by the way, that Jim Henson would have accepted were he still with us? Maybe if his back were really against the wall, but I can't imagine him being happy about it. Chu provides some background on how this came to be.
The basis of Ganz Cooney’s famous “little dinner party” where a small group of TV executives and developmental psychologists came up with the idea for “Sesame Street” was a simple formula–poor kids watch more TV than rich kids, thanks to poor kids having busy parents and being more likely to be “raised by TV.” Poor kids get less education than rich kids. Make TV that’s educational–good TV that’s educational, TV that was “addictive” in the way successful shows are rather than the crappy low-budget afterthought TV that most children’s programming was back then–and you might level the socioeconomic playing field.

The idea has its obvious flaws, which were criticized at the time. (Doesn’t all of this just train kids to watch more TV? Doesn’t the constant need to entertain necessarily distort your message? Neil Postman, etc.) But the mission is undeniably noble and shockingly radical even for today
Maybe more radical for today. So what happened? A couple of things, I think. One is that public television is part of a government reachout that's been so demonized by the right that even people who agree with its mission have started to see it as doomed. Also the intellectual class - at least the most accepted part of it - has a serious case of shiny object syndrome when it comes to technology. Consider the seriously-made argument that taxi companies represent a monopoly but ride-apps don't even though the latter are represented by only two companies nationwide. Anyway, in 1969 TV was still a relatively recent technological development. The big changeover to color was only three years in the past. Yet people were sufficiently critical of it to recognize that it wasn't going to provide a cultural good all by itself, that this might take some effort.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Saturday Random Ten turns

I ran into a friend tonight who was reading a book on vermiculture. Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, to be specific. He's been in the Peace Corps and has some interesting ideas for business/social ventures. Hope they work out.

1. Finn Riggins - Vs. Birds
2. Sarah Vaughan - Baby Won't You Please Come Home
3. Simon & Garfunkel - Save the Life of My Child
4. Lou Rawls - Your Good Thing (Is About to End)
5. Les Baxter - Blue Tango
6. Dave Van Ronk - Cocaine
7. The Ramones - I'm Affected
8. The New Pornographers - Another Drug Deal of the Heart
9. Broadcast - Tears in the Typing Pool
10. Beth Custer/Joe Goode Performance Group - The Mermaid

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday night grab bag

Never heard of the singer/guitarist here before - apparently by the name of Ollie Ford. Probably doesn't have a recording contract or anything. Do love what she's done with this song, which was originally synthpop.

This week I've been reading Padgett Powell's The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?</>. The book is made up entirely of questions, although some have declarative sentences buried within them. Here's a sample "paragraph."
Is there diabetes in your family? Are you scuba certified? How much will you pay to enter a strip club? If you got a puppy, do you think witnessing its puppy energy would give you yourself a little puppy energy again? Do you like to smell and feel--they'll squeak against your fingers--brand-new automobile tires? Have you ever paid to have something either sandblasted or gilded? Have I told you of the time my grandmother escaped the nursing home and I found her a block away on a door stoop expiring in the sun and she said to me "What took you so long?"

Despite the seemingly perverse format, a character and story do emerge regarding the man - educated guess - asking these questions. You can glean this, and/or enjoy the Bob and Ray flat surrealism of it all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

...and cover

Ducks Dining from Microdac on Vimeo.

Not sure where this is going on, but I like the feeling of serenity that comes from it.

Ducks must see the world differently from us. Any creature whose eyes don't face the same way will have a different neurological setup. Wonder what that's like. Is it related to the head dunking?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Oh ya ya know

Another item I borrowed from my library system's fine audiovisual collection: the first season of Fargo. Which, as I've read was actually filmed in Calgary, Alberta. This actually makes sense, somewhat. The speech patterns of Central Canada and a Northerly Plains state like Minnesota aren't hugely different.

The cast is enviable. Billy Bob Thornton's Lorne Malvo is obviously malign - his name is one letter off being an anagram for "malevolent" - but he's the kind of bad guy that I could see being taken in by, for a number of reasons. Thornton's also a tie to the Coens themselves, as he starred as a quite different character in The Man Who Wasn't There. (Also was in Intolerable Cruelty but I've never seen that one.)

The show seems a little darker than the movie it was inspired by. Jerry Lundegaard made one big wrong choice in life. Marge's husband in the movie stood as an example of a weak man - or at least one lacking in traditional manly traits - who could find his place in the world through the love of a good woman, and there was a suggestion that Jerry could have taken this path. Lester, by contrast, seems to have no life worth speaking about behind him or ahead of him before he cracks. It's not like evil is the right choice, but overall it's a relatively honest one.

Friday, August 7, 2015

As the Friday Random Ten plays with a ball of yarn...

The cat dies. Yes, it's a spoiler, but if you go in thinking anything else will happen, it will be too depressing to endure.

There's a whole gamut of potential responses to the film Goliath, a movie from the Zellner Brothers filmed in Austin. On the Internet Movie Database, a couple of the User Reviews described it as the worst thing they'd ever seen, an abomination, etc. Others liked it, but under the inexplicable impression that it's a comedy.

The nameless main character played by David Zellner is an absurd figure in the Basil Fawlty mode, i.e. someone unsympathetic enough so that awful things can happen to him and it will be funny instead of tragic. But this strategy fails over the 80 minute course of the film, and I think it fails on purpose. There's a limit on the number of indignities you can root for, and by the climax even the cringe comedy has palled. Mind you, what the guy does is as hard to watch as what happens to him, but all things considered not a surprise.

On a lighter note, Goliath show a much stranger and more impressive side of Asian fetish porn than I've seen elsewhere.

1. David Bowie - Starman
2. Fitz & the Tantrums - House on Fire
3. Sarah Vaughan - In Love in Vain
4. Beth Custer & the Joe Goode Performance Group - Take/Place Finale
5. Fairport Convention - Book Song
6. Nick Drake - Northern Sky
7. The Beatles - In My Life
8. Irma Thomas - Time is On My Side
9. Morphine - Free Love
10. Dave Van Ronk - Long John

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The thrill of the hunt

Earlier this evening I was on the street - or, as we call it in the hood, "the sidewalk" - and a couple of young folk approached me. Don't know if they're in college. Taking summer classes maybe? Or just hanging out. At any rate, the young lady asked me if I had a business card. I replied that sadly, I did not.

Then I found out that they were on a scavenger hunt. It occurred to me that I probably did have some. In fact in my wallet I had the card from an exterminating business whose services I never wound up using. So they - the scavenger hunters - were happy and I was glad to help them.

Never assume, I guess.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Puddle update

When I woke up this morning it was raining hard, complete with lightning and thunder so powerful the windows shook. I took my umbrella with me when I left for work, but the storm was over by then, no more rain at all. Within an hour the sun was out. And yet, I saw a couple of trees down. Not big branches, whole trees. So in a way I was relieved that I didn't get soaked. In another way I was disappointed to have missed the show.

Hope the trees didn't really feel it.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Taking French leave

Winter With Satie from Soyoung L. Kim on Vimeo.
This is an 8 minute long shadow puppet performance I performed at the Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline, MA. It is based on a short story I wrote about a young pianist who encounters the ghost of Erik Satie and this encounter sets off a process of healing and inspiration for the woman.

Note that the above caption is from the official description on Vimeo. I didn't write it.

Still and all, I find this a sweet and affecting mini-movie, using only those two basic colors (black and white) and a few forms. It's a lovely little mock-up of Paris the artist made.