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