...the Weaver, Salka Valka and I will be escaping for a long week-end in the North Woods... see you all Wednesday...
The daily commute has its dangers. Driving home tonight, approaching a usually congested area, something was definitely amiss. It was too late for a back-up, and the slow-down started about a half-mile before it would normally begin. Flashing lights, many cars stopped on both shoulders of each half of the divided highway. Northbound- homeward- was moving, but slowly. Southbound only had a few cars straggling by at irregular intervals.
Nearing the scene revealed a grim tableaux. A small truck had crossed the median and was embedded in the front end of a sedan. The police were there with hydraulic spreaders, working on both vehicles through the back doors, in efforts to get to the drivers. Smoke was billowing from the sedan as an officer looked for fire under the gap where the crumpled hood had separated from the fender. Ambulances became visible in the rear view mirror. Creeping slowly past the wreckage, awareness of the "look - don't look" conflict overwhelmed. Glancing reluctantly, knowing that anything seen would rather be forgotten.
Next To Nothing
Television programming is of various types, done with various intents. Commercial networks exist to sell advertisers access to audiences. The programs are incidental, affirmed by the content of most of them. Some programs are simply ads, thereby bypassing all of that tedious writing, acting, entertainment, etc. The spaces in between the programs are taken up with ads, with only a very short station ID (10 seconds or less) that usually contains an ad of some sort as well.
But what of non-commercial television? They have "underwriters" who are allowed some mention. The more popular show usually have "non-ad" ads, soft sell name placements. And in between programs (which are usually standard length- about 23 minutes or 50 minutes) they have to fill in the extra time, with the previously mentioned non-ads or preview of other programming. That still leaves a minute or so at the top and the bottom of the hour. Our local Public Television Outlet, TPT, runs the names of donors, and a list of that evening's programs, along with air times. The thing I find intriguing, and annoying, is that in the background there are figures floating in a hazy fog of color; figures that move in slow motion, not exactly dancing or performing, or doing anything recognizable. It is sort of like the visual equivalent of wind chimes. Almost no information is conveyed. It's as if this blog were to suddenly dissolve in a cascade of meaningless words
drier experiment middle weather parsonage
thirty reached burden
the blurred against salmon
understand married thumb
check washing flower
"-What are you working on?"
"-A display print, somebody's senior picture I think..."
"-Senior pictures sure aren't what they used to be..."
She looks like her mother. The hair, the ever-so-slight olive hue in her skin tone. Those eyes; soft brown irises; looking straight into your soul, the way her mother's did. Her mouth: kind, gentle, with a bit of an overbite and a natural half-pucker. As was her mother's.
The summer of love. We had met at work the previous winter and had sort of gravitated towards each other. By May we were together, but come September we were not. When I left her, her eyes were still soft, but her lips had turned down, into a quiver. There was only one last desperate phone call, and then that was the end of it.
Now this. Returning in another guise, staring straight into the camera as if to say to me: "Why did you leave me? Weren't my lips enough? My eyes? My beautiful skin that you once caressed? I gave you everything I had but it still wasn't enough for you, was it? Look at me. I'm not angry, I just don't understand why you left. I don't understand."
Of course the girl in the picture isn't our child. It was thirty-seven years ago, not seventeen. And conceiving a child with her tied tubes was not physically possible. But the girl in the picture did look an awful lot like the woman I loved once.
"...She looks like someone I once knew... or someone I thought I knew..."
One of the changes I underwent during my early teen years was developing the habit of staying up late- reading, watching midnight movies or West Coast baseball on the TV, or scanning the airwaves; listening to distant AM radio stations- windows to a larger world. WLS in Chicago was a strong, clear-channel station that could be heard as soon as the sun went down. Art Roberts played new releases a week or two before they got to Minneapolis. KOMA in Oklahoma City played regional music, stuff that didn't always make it up the river. There was a station out of Baton Rouge that played the latest New Orleans stuff, Lee Dorsey, Al Tousan (Toussaint) and Aaron Neville. My physical world at the time only encompassed about three square miles, so this was heady stuff indeed.
My father had given me an old tube-radio, it worked all right, but it lacked a case. I would touch the tuning condenser in varying spots to improve reception, occasionally picking up a "stinger" of about 300 volts on my bare fingers. I had run an extension antenna out the window in an effort to pick up more stations: Nashville, Philadelphia, Mexico, even French-language stations in Canada. All in search of something, anything; anything that was different, new or exotic- or just far away.
When the Beatles and the "British Invasion" hit, it changed things. The radio top-40 had been an eclectic mix of older singers (Nat Cole, Sinatra, Peggy Lee), Country stars (Patsy Cline, Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash) garage bands (Wipe Out, Louie Louie, Surfin' Bird) Jazz instrumentals (Take Five, Watermelon Man) Folk Acts (Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, Harry Belafonte) and novelty tunes (Ray Stevens, Allen Sherman.) Add to this the rapid ascent of Motown and it made for quite a mix. But at one point in 1964, The Beatles had the top FIVE songs, seven of the top ten, and suddenly a lot of musical diversity disappeared from the radio.
That wasn't a bad thing, per se, pop music had become big business, the British acts did a tremendous service in giving exposure to blues and R&B acts; things change.
But the money was so big, and the PR was so intense, that the regional influence in Radio kind of disappeared, and my searches through the late-night inter-station static came to a halt, in a few years FM Underground would emerge, burn brightly and then get devoured by the same business models. But FM, by its nature, doesn't travel as far, and, with the exception of a few independent and college stations, it is a medium of commerce, not culture.
I heard the voice of America
Callin' on my wavelength
Tellin' me to tune in on my radio
I heard the voice of America
Callin' on my wavelength
Singin' Come back, baby
Come back, baby
Amiina, Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 22, 2007
The Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis was built as a regular cinema, it then served as a photographer's studio for more than a decade. It has been refashioned as a concert venue and decorated in a Neo-Bordello style, replete with over-stuffed chairs, sofas, and beds, making this a most intimate setting for a concert by Amiina, the Icelandic minmalist-classical-improvisational group:
Tom Brosseau, a young Neo-folkie, opened with a solid set of songs played with the Carter Family guitar style. He should grow as an artist as he gets older. He closed with a very strong, personally experienced tune about the terrible Grand Forks flood of 1997:
Amiina, on the second stop of their North American tour, started out in a cloud of fog, literally- there was a noisy fog machine right above my head that never stopped spewing. They were in a bit of a fog themselves, but that soon cleared as they presented a program of "hits" and new tracks. The obvious affection they had for each other was reflected in the most attentive and polite audience I've seen in years:
You could hear a pin drop (and a fog machine) throughout the entire set. Sólrún even felt compelled to tell the rapt crowd that it was okay to clap. There was a fair amount of singing, the music almost becoming poppish at times. These are layered compositions, not for those with a short attention span. These melodies turned into lullabies at times, but could also turn somewhat melancholy. What they were throughout was feminine- not sexy, although the band was most appealing, but womanly, when they were all clustered around the back table, hammering on xylophones and thumb pianos, and playing water glasses, they looked as if they were washing, or preparing food- this is not to put them down- it was graceful and sublime:
An insensitive sound mix lessened the impact of several songs, and some equipment problems caused the last song to be scrambled, but they did encore with an ethereal, ultra-minimal, saw quartet "in compensation" for the botched tune:
Hildur, Sólrún sell Amiina stuff after the gig:
Sólrún glares at a rude fan:
I managed to purchase their just released CD Kurr, and after listening to it all the jitters and stage problems of the concert were quickly forgotten as the full effect of this magical music became apparent. After listening again, I find that my words cannot express what a special and moving experience the music of this group is. Highly recommended.
UPDATE: The definitive Amiina interview.
One of the most enjoyable (and rare) things about attending concerts is discovering a great new act performing before the headliner. Jimi Hendrix opened for the Monkees. I saw The Mothers of Invention with some guy/girl named Alice Cooper opening. To see Maceo Parker (Maceo! Come blow your horn!) open for (and play with) Ani DiFranco was a genre-bending delight. Usually, the opening act is forgettable, or sometimes even atrocious. In 2005 I attended a Sigur Rós concert. Takk had just been released, and the opening act was a quartet with the name Amína. Wow. I was ready for the sturm und drang of the headliner, but was completely taken by surprise by the opening act:
Photo by Egill Kalevi Karlsson
Amiina, as their name is now spelled, was a delight. Everything that most modern music is- serious, dull, overblown and tired- they were the opposite of. When they came back on stage and played with Sigur Rós for most of their set, it was stunning.
Tonight (Thursday) Amiina is back in Minnesota, they are the headliners. Instead of a huge (2000 seat) theater, they will be in a much more intimate space. With a new album just out, this should prove to be a very entertaining evening. Opportunities such as this are rare- think about these things: how many women's musical groups exist? How many write all their own material? How many have created their own musical style? How many combine classical instruments with modern technologies? How many are Icelandic?
OK, Björk has done that, but she's one person (and I can't wait to hear her new album as well) but she has integrated dozens of world-class musicians into her creations. Amiina are four friends from college, who write/improvise fun, challenging and musical pieces. If their performance tonight is anything like what I saw a year and a half ago, I'll be in heaven.
I knew there was a reason why I don't do internet quizzes!
Some posts are written for eternity.
Some posts are written for the whole world.
Some posts are written for a season.
Some posts are written for a chosen few.
Some posts are written for one.
Some posts are written to be read only once, then deleted.
I've been doing variations on a theme (photographic printing) off and on for 40+ years, perhaps it is time for a change. In the past I had spent some time in the public sector (City of Minneapolis, Police and Fire departments clerical work) and it would be tempting to settle into that routine again - generous deadlines, regular hours, good benefits, etc., for one last decade of full-time work before I retired. Sure, why not?
In a recent conversation with a coworker, she mentioned that her father, a State of Minnesota employee, had recently been issued a memo, outlining a new dress code. Evidently the casual Friday thing had spilled over into the other days of the week as well, with sweatpants, halter tops and other clothes-that-look-good-on-teenagers showing up as clothes-that-look-ridiculous-on-old-folks. Fair enough. But the memo went on to include underwear, complete with suitability requirements and enforcement provisions.
So that will be my new career. Underwear inspector. I'll be checking material, color, style, absence of, wear level, and staining. In order to facilitate this, "Everyone will be required to wear their underwear on the outside."*
Ok, I'm stretching things (elastic waistbands?) a bit. But the memo with the underwear clause is real, if I can get my hands on a copy I'll post it.
* - Woody Allen, in his movie "Bananas"
Heard about this courtship technique at a dinner party last week-end. The concept: after an initial interest is established, e-mail one another with questions about each other, some trivial, some not so. The couple involved didn't come forward with any examples, although they did say that they only made it up to 300 or so before they decided to get married. Thinking back on the events leading up to my own marriage, I have to admit that it was actually a similar process, if not quite so structured (and it would have taken forever via snail mail.) So this line of thought leads me to try and imagine what I would ask, if (perish the thought!) I had to do it all over again:
1. What kind of toothpaste?
2. Christmas eve/morning present opening?
3. Pets y/n?
4. Paper or plastic?
5. Garlic y/n?
6. Dirty Pots and Pans- soak or scrub?
7. Reality TV?
8. TV at all?
9. Bruce Springsteen/Bob Dylan?
10.Saturday morning housecleaning?
12.Mac or PC?
13.Lindsay or Britney as a rehab roommate?
14.Toe-may-toe or toe-mah-toe?
15.Regular or Christian Sex Toys?
...OK, it's already obvious that I'd be a washout in a test like this... What question(s) would you ask?
Dazzle my eyes with verdant palms
Cloud my reason with incense
Let the tropic sun melt my cold heart
Ice and snow are soon forgotten
Warm breezes disperse my wardrobe
And I stand naked
A stranger in paradise
I am yours
... the world seemed so disappointing as soon as you realized how thinly it was woven, how crudely the illusion was knitted together, how amateurish the stitches were when you turned it over to the back. Because only secrets and forgetfulness could make it bearable. -Daniel Kehlmann, Measuring the World
Half-truths, everybody tells them. Something to impress your audience, or to advance your argument, a thing said or written that leaves some things out with the intention of deception. Popular with politicians and pundits; phrases purporting proof. If I may be allowed the liberty of flipping the term, I offer you the "Half-Lie". An antonym that means the same thing as the word it opposes? Or perhaps a more nuanced version of the same concept. Created with the intent to protect, leaving out that which, by its very sordid or tawdry nature, would only needlessly hinder a dialog or relationship. Going beyond a "White Lie", the half-lie contains truth along with falsehood; its intentions are honorable. File under "Causes of Unintended Consequences."