Nov 3 – 17, 2015

This diary is failing as a diary if I only update it once every two weeks, because for me the whole point would be to augment my generally terrible memory. But my memory is so terrible that after 2 weeks I haven’t the foggiest idea of what went on.

We were on vacation from November 12-17, so presumably the 3-11 were spent working extra-hard to get ahead of things before leaving. Right? Nowadays basically all I do is work & then read alternating entries in the Elvis Cole & Parker detective/crime/noir series, so it’s a safe bet there was some of that going on.

And watching episodes of Master of None along with literally everyone else I read on the internet. Not much to be said there that hasn’t already been said. It’s good. Watch it if you have Netflix. If you don’t, you’ll probably survive.

Saturday the 7th, at least, I went out in public & saw Too Many Friends at the Pinhook for the debut of my friend Reese’s new band (and their excellent album). It was good. It wore me out.

We went on vacation on Thursday the 12th, and I did a reasonably good job of ignoring social & other media, so I felt like I was watching people react to the terrorist attacks in Paris from a distance. I don’t know that this added any clarity to my perception of any of it. You can zoom way out & it becomes a story about 500 years of imperialism (or 1000 years of European Christian hegemony). Or you can zoom way in & it becomes a story of disaffected unemployed young people in the suburbs of Paris.

People talk about the Internet as the greatest democratizing force the world has ever known, and it’s true. It’s just as full of lies and propaganda as all the other media, but it positions that stuff alongside truth in a way that heightens the power of both.

It’s easy to tell people that nihilistic violence isn’t the solution to the problems that confront them, but too often it seems like the only alternative presented is to continue living exactly the same life, forever.

Our vacation was to Savannah and Charleston, prompted by a national Masters division weightlifting competition in Savannah. M lifts; I watch.

It was interesting to get to compare the two cities back to back. Savannah is kind of like Charleston’s drunker cousin, I guess. It has all those beautiful squares, but it also has booze in go-cups, insanely complicated one-way streets, and largely forgettable food. (With the exception of The Florence, which I can wholeheartedly recommend).

Charleston is the neat-freak who studies hard & gets good grades & still likes to booze it up after dark. Amazing food, a surfeit of cocktail bars, and a shitton of white people who love some historical markers and who would just as soon not talk about slavery if they can avoid it.

Seriously. We took an impromptu guided tour of one of Charleston’s architecturally significant homes. 45 minutes, a dozen rooms, endless monologue about the furnishings & the marriages of the family who owned it — and a single small room off the gift shop that provided the only mention of the fact that the guy who built the house was an importer of dry goods, lumber, and, oh yeah, people. And that he had 8-12 people enslaved in his household to make his beds & cook his meals.

I have the impression that some other museum-homes do a better job of presenting the whole picture, but the only way Charleston could truly convey the Whole Picture would be to replace every one of the literally hundreds of historical plaques on half the buildings downtown with new ones that say “built by enslaved people; paid for by profits from buying and selling enslaved people, and stealing their labor.” I mean, that wouldn’t be nearly enough, but it would be a start. Because you’re swimming in it down there, and thus everyone ignores it as much as they possibly can.

Like literally: Are you down in the historic district? Is the house bigger than a breadbox? Was it built before 1865? Enslaved people built it, and probably worked to maintain the white people who lived in it. Would it be redundant to put a sign on every single pastel building down there? Yes. That’s the whole point.

But man they have some good restaurants. The Ordinary was the best meal of the trip (better than Husk! albeit not by much). The cocktails at the Gin Joint were outstanding. We may not go back anytime soon, but I’ll remember those things as well.

Nov 3 – 17, 2015

Oct 21 – Nov 2, 2015

Nearly two weeks; in my defense I was sick for 8 of those days. Last Thursday we went & played games with friends at Atomic Fern, which was low-key and nice, except for the part where the nearly empty bar was invaded by someone who decided it would be cool to smoke inside. It’s so weird that we used to just put up with that. And so wonderful that we mostly don’t have to anymore. In any case, apart from that, it’s a solid place to go & nerd out with friends. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before it closes, given how empty it was on a Thursday.

Last Friday we visited friends who live on a farm between Durham & Chapel Hill. This included the petting of baby donkeys. It was already dark when we got there, which is why I don’t have any pictures of adorable baby donkeys with which to illustrate this entry. They had large flat heads & big eyes, and had been rolling in the dust all day long.

The next day we took in Pather Panchali, the first in Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, at the Carolina. I had never seen any of them; now I feel like I need to seek out the other two. They were also at the Carolina, but I was laid low by a cold Saturday night, and didn’t really emerge into the light until the following Friday.

Pather Panchali reminded me equally of Italian neorealism, and of postwar Japanese cinema. I was taught bits & pieces of the latter two in college, but nobody mentioned the Indian film industry, at all. I wonder if that has changed in the 25 years since I was in school.

The cold that kicked in on Saturday night wasn’t totally debilitating, but it softened my brain considerably. I worked from home all week, but I was really only good for 3-4 hours at most. I did some reading — comic books (I love Spread), some noir, the new Carrie Brownstein. She has the intermittent tendency to string appositives together in groups of three, and after a while I really wanted to take a red pen to the thing.

Still, it’s interesting to read her formalization of a lot of what I consider to be conventional wisdom about smaller scenes like Olympia (or here) in the 90s — the politics, the anti-success emphases, etc. It all feels very familiar and it’s probably good to get it all down in print.

Wednesday night we watched Bone Tomahawk, the strange new western/horror film starring Kurt Russell (playing a crusty old sheriff, in a role that doesn’t look that far removed from his upcoming role in the new Tarantino movie). It’s basically a riff on the Searchers, but instead of run-of-the-mill Indians, they’re pursuing cannibalistic troglodytes. Shit gets really gnarly in the final 30 minutes, gore-wise. Ultimately it may be something of an esoteric taste, but it would make for an awesome double feature with Ravenous.

By Friday I was able to leave the house & go to the office, which promptly exhausted me. Saturday we went to the Carolina to watch The Assassin, whose trailer represents it as a Chinese martial arts/swordplay movie, but which is actually a remarkable (and remarkably slow-moving) art movie that has a few minutes of swordplay scattered through its 105-minute runtime. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it was “about.”

Also trying to figure out why it was shot almost entirely in 1.33:1, with the exception of around 5 minutes which were shot in 1.85:1. In a modern theater, whose screen & projection system are set up to accommodate widescreen, to get Academy Ratio you just wind up masking off huge chunks of the sides of the screen. Any compositional gain the director felt he was getting was offset, for me, by how dang tiny the image wound up being.

So: I’m not sure I’d recommend it, at least not to most people. Some of the scenery was flat out gorgeous, though. And the pacing was good for my still somewhat fuzzy brain.

Over the weekend we [finally] started watching Black Mirror. Yes, it’s very good. Yes, it’s very depressing. Question: Assuming we finish it before our free month of Netflix is up, are there other reasons to keep Netflix around, keeping in mind that we don’t watch any TV series with more than ~10 episodes per season? I suppose if even two movies per month are available on Netflix vs Amazon, we’ll wind up nearly breaking even. Last time we had it, it had gotten to the point where there was *nothing* left we wanted to watch, though.

Oct 21 – Nov 2, 2015

October 14-20, 2015

Will I get around to talking about micropayments by the end of this blog post? Stay tuned and find out. First, however, the week in review:

Wednesday the 14th was the day we learned about the new softball stadium that Duke is going to build in the big open field behind WXDU. It’s not actually a big open field — it’s a stand of mature oaks, many of them over three feet in diameter.

I’m told that they’re all willow oaks, same as the 20s/30s-era oaks that line the streets of Durham, all of which (we’re told) are going to die en masse sometime in the next half-dozen years. However, knowing that these beautiful & massive trees are elderly doesn’t make me feel any better about them being bulldozed sometime early next year.

I ranted about the bigger picture issue over on Facebook: too many of Durham’s urban trees are either like the willow oaks, about to be taken down all at once, or they’re on land that’s ripe for development in the current frenzy. One of my favorite aspects of living in Durham is being able to look around & see a stand of mature trees in at least one direction pretty much all the time. Not little street trees, not individual yard trees, but eight or ten or twenty trees together, all at least 30 feet high.

A decade from now, I’m not sure I’ll be able to say that.

Friday night I improvised a thick, noodle-heavy chicken soup for a friend who is ill, and then we went to see Abdullah Ibrahim and his group Ekaya. It was great, and kind of hilarious — Ibrahim would start riffing on the piano & the rest of his band would stand there trying to figure out what song he was leading into. Plus every couple of songs he’d call the musicians to the front of the stage, one by one, to take a bow. This triggered the standing ovation impulse in most of the crowd — I guess they couldn’t tell if it was the end of the or not & wanted to be sure they got in the de rigeur Durham standing O — which meant we wound up standing up 3-4 times before it was all over.

Saturday I spent half the day refactoring code & cleaning up git repositories because I had originally just checked everything in — including database passwords & stuff — under the assumption that I was never going to be showing any of it to anyone else. Turns out one of our new DJs is a software developer & he has naively volunteered to help.

Setting aside the retroactive repository hygiene I had to undertake, I’m also just generally mortified how terrible some of our code is. But after many years of telling my interns that I’m a terrible programmer, and having them still respect my opinions about things, I’m no longer quite so terrified to show my terrible code to other people. Plus it’s not all mine!

My reward was a trip to the theatre to see Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, which is part cold-war thriller, part Mr. Hanks Goes to East Berlin. There are a lot of speeches about the American justice system, but it never lets its didacticism completely bury it. For two solid hours it’s entirely engaging, at times gripping (plus the cinematography is gorgeous).

The last 10-15 minutes devolve into schmaltz, as has tended to be the case with Spielberg movies for lo these many years. We were picturing the meetings where Steven told Joel & Ethan Coen (who wrote the final drafts of the screenplay) that he was scrapping their ending & putting in something a little more mom + apple pie.

It’s still worth seeing. But if, at any time after the 2-hour mark, you start to sense things going all treacly, you can safely flee the cinema.

Monday & Tuesday we attended All Things Open, the annual open-source conference in Raleigh. As per usual, some of it was great, and some of it wasn’t. There were the professional conference presenters who had super-polished presentations that didn’t say all that much. There were the local amateurs who could’ve used some coaching. There were the people whose abstracts made it sound deceptively like their talks were going to be something other than walkthroughs of their (or their company’s) latest new tool/toy/library/widget. And the people who popped open a text editor & tried to live-code for 40 minutes.

And there were the people who were passionate about their topics, had put together great & funny & well-edited talks, and who taught me something. In that last category I’d put Christian Heilmann, Pam Selle, Lee Faus, Carina Zona, and Joshua McKenty. Next year, if I go, I think I may put less focus on topics, and more focus on figuring out in advance which people are known for being great speakers.

I’m realizing now that after two days of watching tech talks all day, I’m in no condition to write a long (or even short) essay about micropayments. Next time!


October 14-20, 2015

October 2-13, 2015

The first weekend in October was supposed to be Afropunk Atlanta, but the 8+ days of rain & the threat of flooding & hurricaning & whatnot led the organizers to cancel the whole thing. It is thus that I found myself driving to Greenville NC in a driving rainstorm with M to attend the North Carolina State Weightlifting Championship.

The weather was actually quite nice on the day of the event, albeit muggy as hell. Greenville has a very nice convention center. I have never lifted a weight in my life, but dating a weightlifter has turned out to be comparatively painless, inasmuch as the meets are indoors and they’re actually fun to watch. Plus nobody seems to mind if you just sit there & read a book instead. It’s one of those sports that’s all about the insides of the athletes’ heads.

After we got home, we went to see The Martian. On the one hand, it was a very well-made distillation of the book, preserving the highlights & teasing out the suspenseful bits to showcase.

On the other hand, it was in many ways a total betrayal of the thing that so many nerds loved about the book, namely that it’s essentially a 400-page treatise on problem-solving under duress. There’s a *lot* of that still in the movie, but folks who haven’t read the book will perhaps be alarmed to learn that for every innovative jury-rigged solution showcased in the movie, there are 50+ more in the book.

(This also means that the book can be tedious going if you’re looking for things like characterization & taut plotting — but man, if you like MacGyver and those 10 minutes in Apollo 13 with the duct tape, you’ll love this book.)

The rest of the week unspooled comparatively uneventfully — I had taken Monday off to fly back from Atlanta, so I went ahead & took it anyway, and spent the day continuing to slowly plow through some coding that needed doing for WXDU. (it was harder than I thought to find a WYSIWYG editor that would spit out markdown on the backend — apparently markdown nerds are a little too pleased with how easy they think it is to learn their flavor of markup, so WYSIWYG doesn’t even cross their minds.)

We’ll not discuss the 90 minutes I spent on 15-501 on Thursday evening. It’s amply documented on Twitter.

Saturday night we had tickets to see the new production of Antigone at UNC, with Juliette Binoche (51) playing Antigone (generally accepted to be around 15). This is the same production that premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music a couple of weeks ago, from the new Anne Sexton translation.

There were a ton of problematic elements (not least the age mismatch), but I nevertheless found myself totally drawn in. The translation is spare, elegant, not particularly “poetic” but still beautiful. The staging worked well. Could have done without the hugely distracting use of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” as overpowering closing music/image/moment. Made no sense. I had a visceral reaction to it because it’s a brilliant piece of music, but that overrode whatever I had been feeling a moment before.

Did I ever write about seeing Sicario? Apparently not. I don’t even remember when we saw it. It was thoroughly competently made and kind of abhorrent. It’s all very Paul Schradery: here’s the drug war up close, here’s our lady FBI agent who still has a shred of human decency, here’s the wringer we’re going to put her through until she learns that human decency is an outmoded concept. Blah blah blah. Dudes make the most tedious movies when they think they’re being edgy.

Tonight we saw Goodnight Mommy, an Austrian horror/suspense movie whose uniformly good reviews mostly just illustrate how starved the nation’s critics are for marginally interesting horror. This has actually been a pretty solid year for indie horror — between It Follows and The Babadook, we’ve had at least 2x as many solid flicks as one might have expected. A third would have been overkill.

Goodnight Mommy covers some of the same ground as The Babadook — single parent, weird relationship with the kid, things spiraling out of control. The difference, at least for me, was that I picked up on The Big Twist within the first five minutes of the movie, and I think that skewed my perception of the whole rest of the thing. Plus, FYI, there’s some pretty unsettling torture in the last third which I wasn’t expecting & wasn’t prepared for.

We’re not watching the first Democratic debate tonight. I can’t bear the uniformly terrible questions, the stilted format, the candidates parroting their talking points into the camera. I’ll catch the highlights on the internet tomorrow. It’d take quite a bit to dissuade me from voting for Bernie Sanders, inasmuch as I’ve been an admirer of his for ages & ages.

Coming soon (probably this weekend): the results of my preliminary investigation into a couple of interesting micropayment platforms as an alternative to ads on The Internet. Spoiler: Not quite there yet. But very interesting.

October 2-13, 2015

September 25 – October 1, 2015

Saw Yo La Tengo from one of the fancy “Legacy Boxes” at the Carolina on Saturday night. We were in the middle box, which meant that a big chunk of one side of the stage was blocked from view by the box closest to the stage. I could only see Ira’s head, intermittently, unless I basically hung over the edge of the box and leaned out over the crowd below.

Still, it was an amusing experience. We had our own waitress, which mostly meant being distracted repeatedly during favorite songs by someone asking us if we wanted anything. I bought a couple of beers, in part so I could tip the young woman for walking up & down the stairs repeatedly, but then it was revealed that the Carolina’s credit card system is (logically enough) just set up for the counter sales they do downstairs, so there wasn’t a tip line on the credit card receipt. And she brought it up while I was in the bathroom, so even if I’d had a couple of singles on me, I didn’t actually see her to thank her.

The only reason we were in the box at all was because I flaked on buying tickets until all the good up-close floor seats were already sold. Memo to self: be quicker on the draw next time.

The show itself was good, of course — Ira was on acoustic guitar the whole time, so long-ago fourth member Dave Schramm, re-added for the recording of the new album & this tour, held down all of the electric guitar duties. He was phenomenal, full of expertly placed fills & the occasional amazing solo when such a thing was called for. Watching him was what kept me fully tuned-in through two sets that were otherwise a little more samey than I would normally prefer in a Yo La Tengo show — this was billed as an acoustic tour, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Fakebook & the release of Stuff Like That There, which is itself basically a tribute to Fakebook. So it was basically two hours of music that sounded like those two albums.

Highlight for me was a lovely mesmerizing version of “Deeper Into Movies,” which is usually a barn-burner live but which here packed all of that intensity into a hushed package, the only percussion Georgia’s fingertips on her cymbals.

Sunday night we started Todd Haynes’s 6-hour miniseries adaptation of Mildred Pierce, which took most of the rest of the week to finish, us being Working People and all. Unlike the 1945 Joan Crawford noir from the same source material, the Haynes is actually an almost completely faithful adaptation of the James M Cain novel, down to big stretches of the dialogue. Which is a good thing, because the book is one of the great noir melodramas, and six hours is just about the right length of time to do it justice.

My only quibble is that Haynes & his lead actress Kate Winslet didn’t (or couldn’t) go as far as the book in portraying Mildred’s pathological devotion to daughter Veda, which in the book takes on a decidedly carnal tone, particularly in the second half. Not that she wanted to sleep with her; that she somehow wanted to consume her, to become her, to reunite with her flesh. It’s remarkably weird in the novel, and you get some of that vibe in the movie, but not enough of it.

This week I had a bit of an about-face in my thinking about ads & ad-blocking. There has been a lot written on the topic recently due to the inclusion of ad-blocking APIs in iOS9. I read a lot of news on the web, and I have a fairly large number of friends who are professional journalists (plus a bunch more in the part-time/amateur category). Such writing has been ad-supported for, what, 200 years? More? But the migration of everything to the web has been hugely destructive to professional journalism, and blocking ads would seem to be just one more nail in its coffin.

So I have resisted installing ad-blocking software on my computers because I want journalism to still exist as a profession.

But the other day I read this essay by Maciej Ceglowski, the guy behind the awesome bookmarking site Pinboard. He is possibly better known for his acerbic tweets about the tech industry, but he also makes a living by charging a large number of people a small amount of money for a single-purpose service that Just Works (and has no ads).

The essay (which you should go read) makes the point that the giant iceberg floating under the surface of modern web advertising is this horrible arms race between click-fraud botnets & increasingly complex & heavyweight anti-click-fraud code, which has led to both an increase in unwanted tracking (reliable human-detection almost requires it) and an increase in the size of websites & the complexity of code they run, just to be able to serve ads.

He proposes ad-blocking as both rational protection from this iceberg, and as protest against it & everything it represents.

I still haven’t installed ad-blocking software on my computer, but that’s because I’m in the middle of a one-month experiment with micro-payments. I’ll have more to say about that in a week or two.

In other news, my trip this weekend to Atlanta was canceled because Afropunk ATL was itself canceled due to this endless rain & the threat of more serious weather to come. Hugely bummed about not getting to see all the bands; significantly less bummed about not standing in the rain in 60-degree weather for 20 hours.

Oh, one more thing. This.

Specifically this: “The team plans on naming the restaurant “Hattie Mae Williams Called Me Captain”. Brooks explained, “The name comes from an amazing woman who took care of my sisters and me growing up while my mom was at work; basically working for next to nothing during times when my mom couldn’t afford to pay for her. She used to call me Mr. President, until Robert Kennedy was shot. I was two at the time, and she decided that that wasn’t really a safe aspiration to have for me any longer. So she started calling me ‘Captain’ instead.

“She’s the person who taught me how to hit a baseball; she taught me how to collect things. Mostly I think she just taught me how to make a full and rich life out of next to nothing, lessons that I’ve carried with me, and have definitely put into cooking.”

To which my friend Eric Tullis replied:


September 25 – October 1, 2015

September 14-24, 2015

After Hopscotch came Hopscotch Recovery. But also a quick trip to Atlanta, where I had a decent burger at a neighborhood store/grill in Cabbagetown, saw Mr. Quintron play his Weather Warlock in an art gallery, and oh yeah, talked to students for six hours or so.

Then another 4-6 hours of studententalken at UNC. Friday night, after it was all over, we went to the Carolina and saw Grandma, which I did not enjoy as much as I had hoped I would. The script was kind of over-obvious (an old lady! is a lesbian! who cusses a lot!) and over-determined (her daughter has issues! so does her granddaughter!) and, as M said as we were leaving, it sounded like someone’s first attempt.

(of course as it turns out, the dude who wrote & directed it, generally a purveyor of vaguely screwball comedies & rom-coms, was actually nominated for an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for a Hugh Grant/Nick Hornsby thing — but I guess that probably just proves the point)

Plus, and there’s no easy way to say this, Lily Tomlin’s upper lip looked like a piece of bologna that had been glued on to her real upper lip. It was smooth and rarely moved. I don’t think she could have puckered if she had tried — a double tragedy for someone whose early career was made, in part, on puckering. She’s 74 years old. She doesn’t look 74, but she also doesn’t look any other human age.

I know she’s far & away not the only one, but it hits harder with the ones you respect & admire.

Anyway, point being, her face interfered with her ability to act on camera. Her eyes were down in there, working, but she mostly relied on just hamming the shit out of every line she had to deliver. It was depressing.

Saturday we were back at the Carolina for RetroEpics, albeit just one, Once Upon a Time in the West, which I’d already seen multiple times. I was thoroughly diverted by it, although M had read a comparatively negative review of it aloud to me right before we walked over there, so I was a little more acutely aware of its, uh, quirks. It’s kind of all quirks, actually, and is in many ways closer in spirit to a Jodorowsky movie than to “western” movies, even earlier Leone westerns.

Beyond that, I guess I’ve mostly been working & reading. Listening to music. Today I listened to the new Wyrms album, At Wizard Island. It’s pure fuzzed-out garage/psych/pop pleasure, just one hook after another, totally buried in fuzz, but still absurdly catchy. Pretty hard to argue with.

At the opposite end of one spectrum or another, I’ve also had a big chunk of Wes Tirey’s discography on repeat. He’s from Asheville, plays guitar, kinda talk-sings in that old, weird style — but he also unexpectedly busts out ominous organ parts, or goes on long improvisational flights. Cue up that Bandcamp & sample a bunch of it.

Tonight there are two shows in town that I want to go to, which is still kind of a rarity in Durham, despite the number of venues in town. Patois Counselors are going to win this round, though, hands down, no contest.

September 14-24, 2015

September 3 – 8, 2015

Anniversaries: I’m turning 45 sometime soon. Plus, near as I can tell, this week marks the 20th anniversary of me joining WXDU. I hadn’t realized until I dredged up that link that my first shift on XDU happened on my birthday. And, according to that email, I apparently spent that birthday doing 6 hours of radio at two different stations.

Friday night we went to see Mistress America, which has been marketed as Noah Baumbach + Greta Gerwig doing an homage to screwball comedy, but which is actually Noah Baumbach + Greta Gerwig doing an homage to Whit Stillman. It has its moments — or at least one devastating moment that should have been closer to the ending than it was — but overall I don’t know that I’ll be reflecting upon it in years to come. And I’m somebody who has seen Metropolitan more than twice.

Over the weekend we watched An Honest Liar, a documentary about The Amazing Randi, and Deceptive Practice: the Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay. I guess this is continued fallout from having seen Penn & Teller in NYC last month. The Randi documentary was terribly edited, but fascinating. Ricky Jay is also fascinating, but he’s also extraordinarily guarded as a person, so you’re left, perhaps fittingly, unsure whether you’re getting the truth.

Monday night we watched A Dangerous Method, which is ostensibly about the relationship between Jung and Freud, but is primarily actually about Keira Knightley’s lower jaw. So if you’re into that, go for it. It’s late-period Cronenberg, which is to say that he’s still horrified by bodies but he expresses it in a somewhat more naturalistic way. And he’s also clearly horrified by minds. I used to really love him, but I haven’t seen his most recent two movies, and this one didn’t leave me feeling compelled to correct that.

Looking ahead, Hopscotch starts tomorrow. I’ve been fairly heavily involved in the planning for the WXDU / WXYC / WKNC day party at Kings on Friday, so I’m mostly looking forward to that. I’m also super-psyched about the lineup for the Orientation in Space VI party at Kings on Thursday afternoon — Daniel Bachman + a couple of local electronic freaks + Asheville psych/krautrockers Nest Egg + the astonishing Guardian Alien.

I bought a wristband, though, so I should probably think about who I’d like to see after dark. A tentative list of where you might find me:

  • Lud
  • Some Army
  • Xylouris White
  • SOON
  • Wahyas
  • Morbids
  • Solar Halos
  • Silent Lunch
  • Lizzo
  • Mamiffer
  • Forn
  • Patois Counselors
  • Lydia Loveless
  • Naked Naps
  • Nathan Golub
  • HeCTA
  • Escher
  • Faults
  • New Music Raleigh
  • Wizard Rifle
  • Nots
  • Moon Duo
  • Zeena Parkins
  • No Love
  • Tombs
  • Jenks Miller + Rose Cross NC
  • Big Ups
  • Natalie Prass
  • Le1f
  • Old Man Gloom
  • Blaxxx
  • Pile
  • Boulevards
  • Bandages
  • Moenda
  • Warehouse
  • Ian William Craig
  • Drippy Inputs
  • Microkingdom
  • Hanz
  • Sarah Louise
  • Cakes da Killa
  • Mary Lattimore + Jeff Zeigler
  • Choked Out
  • Chelsea Wolfe
  • Sheer Mag
  • Jessica Pratt
  • Hank Wood + the Hammerheads
  • Zs

None of whom I’m totally over the moon about, but all of whom I’m at least moderately interested in seeing. I’m pretty sure I’ll have fun, assuming that my schedule is off-center enough to allow me to actually get in to the shows I want to get into. I didn’t get a VIP wristband this year, after pretty much never using them the previous 5 years that I did get them.

OK, enough. I need to go work on computing projects for 6 hours.

September 3 – 8, 2015

August 19 – 27, 2015

Just got home from seeing Tangerine, which I heartily recommend to all of y’all. I was going to say that it was the best movie I’ve seen all year, but it has been a good year for movies (It Follows, Mad Max Fury Road, etc) so we’ll just say it’ll definitely be making my top-10 at the end of the year. It follows two sex workers in LA on Christmas Eve, along with an Armenian taxi driver and his extended family. Both lead actresses are transwomen. The entire thing was shot on iPhones. It’s messy and anarchic and sloppy and foul-mouthed and totally filled with life. It made me feel like independent films used to make me feel in the 80s and early 90s, i.e. more Slacker/Clerks, less Little Miss Sunshine.

This week has otherwise been pretty quiet — my interns left on the 19th, so I’ve been doing wrap-up stuff at work, and have otherwise been able to start thinking more clearly about what I want to see at Hopscotch, and then a few weeks later, at Afropunk ATL.

In order to assist with the Hopscotch planning, I once again put together a Google Calendar of all the shows, both daytime and nighttime. See my earlier post for details. I typically use it by creating a second custom calendar & copying my shortlist picks over to it, and then hiding the original.

I already made a shortlist, but now that I have a little more breathing room, I’m liable to go back and re-listen to everything again. One thing is for certain, though: I’ll be at Kings for the WXDU/WXYC/WKNC Day Party on Friday, September 11. Won’t you join me?

Last Friday night my friend K & I drove to Winston-Salem to see High on Fire and Pallbearer at Ziggy’s. I’d never been there, neither this location or the previous, more-or-less outdoor one. It’s a weird room — big and boxy and industrial, with a balcony like the Lincoln or the Ritz, but somehow smaller than either of those venues. It actually sounded pretty good once someone who knew what they were doing, and cared, was running the mix.

At the bar, the special was a 32oz “rum bucket” for $10. There was a big pile of plastic Malibu-branded buckets on the bar. I didn’t see any of the metalheads drinking out of them. Weird vibe all around, but everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Pallbearer were great. High on Fire were . . . loud. I actually love their new record (and the songs they played from it definitely stuck out as superior), but mostly it was a lot of riffing and a lot of Matt Pike bellowing and after 25 minutes I felt like I pretty much got the picture.

On Monday the 24th, Chicago music critic Jessica Hopper tweeted the question “Gals/other marginalized folks: what was your 1st brush (in music industry, journalism, scene) w/ idea that you didn’t “count”?” She then retweeted all of the replies, hundreds of them. It overwhelmed my Twitter feed, off and on, for the next several days.

Someone did a Storify of a huge chunk of them. You need to go read it.

Speaking of Twitter, I usually skim back through my timeline when I sit down to write one of these, because my memory is terrible. And I have to say, it’s usually a pretty good read, my Twitter timeline. Even on days when it’s 95% retweets, there’s some quality filtering happening.

August 19 – 27, 2015

August 7 – 18, 2015

Spent some time this morning getting angry about how the local “progressive” newspaper just fired its editor, without warning, and without any explanation beyond “the decision was made to make a change.” Which is some mealy-mouthed bullshit, the kind that corporate TV newsrooms use to fire anchors once they reach a certain age. Or football teams use to fire their coaches, although in those cases there’s generally a losing record that everyone is well aware of.

I don’t really know Lisa Sorg — it’s a small town, so we’ve met once or twice, and we have plenty of mutual friends, but that’s about it — and I have probably spent more time over the past couple of years arguing with her on Twitter than praising her work. But under her direction the Indy has been vibrant & opinionated & full of a range of different voices. Including her own — her byline has appeared on more stories than that of any other editor that I can recall.

And maybe that was part of the problem — maybe she was a little distracted by her passion for writing & reporting. If that was the case, though, then why not negotiate a leadership change and move her to a staff writer position? Or at least tell her what the deal is.

I’m sure there are a dozen sides to this story that I don’t know, and at least 8 of them I’ll never know. But I’m trying to imagine a scenario in which the formerly locally-owned Independent Weekly would have fired an editor with no warning, and no stated reason. I can’t imagine it, because that was never how owner Steve Schewel & publisher Sioux Watson operated. Their progressive politics including being human to one another.

Another big gap in blog posts, obviously — work in mid-August is peak busy & peak stress. Took 16 interns to corporate headquarters in Armonk, NY for the big end-of-summer expo, and then spent a couple of days with M in Manhattan over the weekend.

On Saturday we saw Penn and Teller *and* Fun Home, *and* ate dinner with our old friend M. This after a sleepless Friday night thanks to the bastards at the Jane Hotel, who would apparently rather run a dance club than provide quiet rooms for their guests to sleep in.

I’m glad I saw Penn & Teller. It was about what you’d expect it to be, but live and in person. I’m fond enough of Penn — you pretty much know what you’re going to get with him, but it’s neat to see him do a 90-minute show with very few breaks, and to realize that he’s a real showman, an actor & a raconteur.

But Teller is the star (which Penn is at great pains to emphasize throughout) and it was honestly pretty magical to see him do his thing from 25 feet away.

Fun Home was beautiful. Although I have never been particularly resistant to musical theater, I’d hardly call myself an aficionado. And honestly, although the musical numbers were hugely entertaining, it was the acting by the three Alisons that really got me, so much so that I was about to wonder whether the show will be the same with other actors in those roles.

But I think the answer is yes. I look forward to seeing a high school production of it somewhere, sometime. That’ll be amazing.

I have one more day of interns in the lab, and then my summer is over. Expect more writing here shortly.

August 7 – 18, 2015

July 30 – August 6, 2015

This is the thickest part of the work year for me. It’s not the most stressful — that comes in early spring, when we’re alternating between worrying whether we’ll have enough projects, and worrying whether we can source the right candidates to staff them.

This is just good old fashioned 10000 things happening at once stress. Printing posters, corralling interviewers, advising 16 interns on career decisions, making travel arrangements, dealing with a jillion little details, all culminating in a quick 3 days in Armonk, NY next week. And then the long low fade into fall, which isn’t really all that long or slow.

Friday night we watched Wet Hot American Summer (for the first time). It was . . . OK. It was fine. Light summer comedy for a Friday night. Pretty forgettable, but definitely diverting in spots. We don’t have Netflix but even if we did, I don’t know that we’d feel the need to dip into the new series.

Although given the recent news about Netflix bumping up their paid parental leave to a full year, maybe M & I should consider re-subscribing just to support that.

Sunday night we watched Ride With the Devil, the 1999 Ang Lee movie based on a really great book, Woe to Live On, by Daniel Woodrell, whose later novel, Winter’s Bone, was made into a much better movie. RWTD did a reasonably good job of compressing the events of the book into a movie, but it failed to fully capture the remarkable voice that Woodrell gave to his narrator. Plus it had a really heavy orchestral score that just weighed it down.

RWTD starred Tobey Maguire, leaving me once again to wonder why people like him & continue to cast him in movies. He’s so damp. I guess I liked him in The Ice Storm (because I remember liking everything about The Ice Storm) but that’s about as far as it goes.

Tomorrow night we’re seeing Kamasi Washington in a small rock club down the street. I have high hopes for magic; you’ll find out next time I find the time to sit down & write. Could be a couple of weeks, though.

Oh! One other thing — yesterday I was ruminating in the morning about the seeming precipitous decline in narrative pop songwriting after the end of the 1970s. That decade was shot through with all kinds of crazy bona fide pop narrative hits, from the country side (“Harper Valley PTA”, “Ode To Billy Joe”), the folk side (“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”), the confessional singer-songwriter side (any/all Harry Chapin) to the, um, pop showtunes of “Copacabana” and “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”.

But not long after the end of the 70s, things kind of dried up on that front. Sure, there were a few mini-narrative arcs (some Twitter friends mentioned things like “Jack & Diane”, “Fast Car”, even “Don’t You Want Me,” but none of them had the narrative-as-prime-factor that those earlier songs did.

We did a lot of chatting back and forth, talked about the rise of hip-hop (which is packed with narratives, everywhere, from the 80s to now) and the fragmentation of “pop.”

But the thing that really stuck with me — and seemed to hit closest to a workable hypothesis — was the notion that the rise of music video, starting with the debut of MTV in 1981, shifted the narrative role from the lyrics, to the visuals in the videos. So many early MTV video hits were fully-fledged narrative films, and at a certain point perhaps it even became preferable for the music to abandon narrative so as not to interfere.

July 30 – August 6, 2015