Friday, September 30, 2016

Five Americans – "Western Union" (1967)

Got your cable just today
Killed my groove I've got to say

(It sucks when your groove gets killed, doesn't it?)

The United States is a very different place than it was a decade ago, thanks primarily to an explosion in the number of microbreweries and bicycle-sharing networks.

Here are some fun facts about microbreweries:

– There were 4131 breweries in the United States in 1873.  But there were just 89 in 1978, most of which were operated by a just a few large breweries.  

– That increased to 110 in 1985, 858 in 1995, 1477 in 2005, and 4269 in 2015.

Some of the beers brewed in the Washington area
– There are 70-plus breweries in the Washington, DC, area – that’s more than any other city in the Eastern time zone except for New York City.  Many of those are in the city, and are very accessible even if you don’t have a car. 

And here are some fun facts about bicycle-sharing programs:

– More than 700 cities worldwide operate bicycle-sharing networks, which allow riders to borrow a bike at one station and return it at another station a short time later.

 – The Chinese cities of Wuhan and Hangzhou operate the largest systems in the world, with 90,000 and 60,000 available bikes, respectively.  The only non-Chinese city to crack the top 12 is Paris; its Vélib’ system has over 18,000 bikes, or one bike for every 97 residents. 

A Capital Bikeshare bike
– In 2008, Washington, DC, became the first city in North America to build a bike-sharing network.  Today, Capital Bikeshare is the third-largest system in the United States (after New York City and Chicago), with over 3000 bikes available at 370 stations in DC and three adjoining suburban jurisdictions — Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland.

Put microbreweries and bikesharing together and what have you got?  You’ve got my day last Friday.

After lunch with my older son and his wife, I headed to the Capital Bikeshare docking station nearest to my office in downtown Washington, DC, and checked out a bike.

Capital Bikeshare docking station
Like most bike-sharing networks, Capital Bikeshare is easy to use as long as you have a credit card.

You insert the card at a Capital Bikeshare station and choose between a single trip for $2, a one-day pass for $8, a 30-day pass for $28, or an annual membership for $85.   Enter the code into the docking mechanism to unlock your bike, and off you go.

Capital Bikeshare stations are
everywhere in downtown Washington
I chose a one-day pass, which allows as many rides as I want to take for a 24-hour period.  I can pick up a bike at any docking station and return it at any another station.  The only catch is that any single ride that is not completed in 30 minutes or less triggers an additional fee.  (This isn’t as big a problem as you might think.  If you’re trying to get somewhere that’s more than half an hour’s ride from your starting point, you can always stop at an intermediate station, return your bike, check it out again, and continue your ride.)

My first stop: the Right Proper brewpub
From 7th and F — which is just in front of Washington’s most beautiful public building, the Old Patent Office Building, which now houses two Smithsonian art museums — I rode 1.3 miles north on 7th to T Street, docked my bike at about 2:00 pm, and walked one block to the Right Proper Brewing Company’s brewpub and restaurant, where I tasted Blanc Slate (a farmhouse ale) and Baron Corvo (a strong “keeping beer” that is fermented in large oak barrels, which gives it a somewhat vinous character).

The first beer of the day
At 3:30 pm, I walked back to the same docking station and rode 3.5 miles (east on T, right on Florida Avenue, left on R, right on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, left on M, right on 4th Street N.E., left on L, left on West Virginia Avenue, left on Fenwick, and right on New York Avenue) to the bikesharing station nearest my second stop of the day, Atlas Brew Works.  From there it was about a half mile to the brewery, where I arrived about five minutes after it had opened at 4:00 pm.

Tasting at Atlas Brew Works
Atlas CEO Justin Cox and my older son were at Vanderbilt University together.  Both then went to law school.  My son went to work at a big Washington law firm, while Justin founded a really cool microbrewery.  (Justin’s dad is sooooo lucky!)

I sampled several Atlas beers, including its District Common and its 1500 (similar to a German Helles lager).  Unfortunately, the Atlas tap room had just run out of Town and Country, a Belgian strong ale that’s aged in red wine barrels. :-(

A recycled beer-barrel urinal at Atlas
At 4:30, I returned to the same docking station, checked out a bike, and headed for the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, which was 1.7 miles away.  (I went south on Fenwick, left on West Virginia Avenue, left on Montana Avenue, left on W Street, right on Brentwood Road, through the Home Depot parking lot, and left on Washington Place, which dead-ended at the Metro station.)

A Red Line train
I headed north on Metro’s Red Line and got off at the second stop, Fort Totten, where I checked out my fourth bike of the day at about 5:30 pm and rode 0.8 miles to Hellbender Brewing.  (I went up the hill on 1st Place N.E., right on Riggs Road, left on 3rd, and left on 2nd.)

A yoga class at Hellbender Brewing
There were no Capital Bikeshare stations near Hellbender, an unpretentious and out-of-the-way little brewery, so I knew I was going to miss the half-hour deadline for the first time all day.  Keeping the bike for an hour instead of 30 minutes cost only $2 more, and it was happy hour at Hellbender, which meant I saved a buck on the four-beer flight I ordered.

My Hellbender favorites were its Bare Bones Kölsch and its appropriately-named Red Line red ale, but all four of the beers I sampled there went down easy:

Beer and dill-pickle-flavored chips at Hellbender
At 6:20 pm I was back on the Red Line, heading for a classy downtown eatery for one more beer (a Devils Backbone Schwarzbier) and some tasty deviled eggs topped with even tastier fried oysters.

By 8:00 pm, I was back on the Metro, where I promptly fell asleep.  Fortunately, I woke up just in time to hop off the train at my stop.

*     *     *     *     *

The Five Americans, who were originally called the Mutineers, met each other in 1962, when they were students at Southeastern State College (now Southeastern Oklahoma State University) in Durant, Oklahoma.

I used to pass through Durant when I was driving home from college and vice versa.  It is home to the “World’s Largest Peanut” statue, although many say that statue is most definitely not the world’s largest peanut.  

Never a dull moment in Durant!
“Western Union,” which was a #5 single for the Five Americans in 1967, has nothing to do with breweries or bicycles — shared or otherwise.  But it’s a great little sixties Top 40 tune that popped up on my iPod while I was on the microbrewery-by-bicycle tour I wrote about in this post.  That’s enough to qualify it to be today’s featured song.

Thanks to TV and the movies, I know all about telegrams even though I never received one.  But I'm guessing that my kids don’t have a clue what these lines from “Western Union” mean:

Western Union man
Bad news in his hand . . .
Fifteen cents a word to read
A telegram I didn't need

Here’s “Western Union”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nicki Minaj – "Stupid Hoe" (2011)

I’m Angelina, you Jennifer
Come on, bitch, you see where Brad at?

When Nicki Minaj released “Stupid Hoe” in 2011, Angelina (Jolie) was where Brad (Pitt) was at – and vice versa.

So why did Angelina file for divorce from Brad a few days ago, citing “irreconcilable differences”?

Some people believe that Angelina decided to lawyer up and dump Brad’s ass when he got into a nasty argument with their 15-year-old son, Maddox, on a recent flight from Paris to Los Angeles.  (The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services is reportedly investigating whether Brad’s behavior constituted child abuse.)

"Brangelina" and children
Another theory is that Angelina took exception to Brad’s behind-the-scenes canoodling with French hottie Marion Cotillard, who is his co-star in the forthcoming movie Allied.  

Us Weekly believes that Angelina and Brad clashed over her desire to move from their $60 million French chateau to London so Angelina could pursue her political ambitions.

Whatever triggered Angelina’s action, I can almost guarantee you that Brad is relieved that Brangelina is no more.

Let me explain why I say that.

Mr. and Mrs. Donald Trump with
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Stern
Years ago, I remember hearing Howard Stern interview Donald Trump about his breakup with his first wife, Ivana.  

Ivans had a noticeable eastern European accent, and Stern speculated that Trump thought that accent was charming and sexy at first, but later found it off-putting.  

Stern’s point was an astute one – an idiosyncrasy that is initially attractive can eventually become annoying.

I'm guessing that Trump’s second wife, Marla Maples, attracted him in part because she was the polar opposite of the exotic Ivana, a fashion model who had grown up in Czechoslovakia (hence the accent).  Marla was an all-American girl-next-door type who grew up in a small city in Georgia; she was the homecoming queen of her high school.  

Eventually, Trump ditched Marla and married Melania, another fashion model with an eastern European accent.

Jennifer and Brad
Brad Pitt travelled the same road as Trump, but in the other direction.  He started with Jennifer Aniston, a girl-next-door type, then moved on to the exotic and complicated Angelina Jolie.  Now that Brangelina is splitsville, I’m betting that Brad will hook up with a nice, simple, all-American type.

The grass is always greener, they say.  If a man is hanging with a Jennifer or a Marla, he’s probably going to decide eventually that she’s a little bland and that something spicier would be more to his liking. 

But if he partners up with an exotic, high-maintenance type like Ivana or Angelina, sooner or later he’ll decide that a nice, simple grilled-cheese sandwich would really hit the spot.

I have to think that one of the things that rubbed Brad wrong was Angelina’s predilection for sticking her nose into political issues.  (Her current cause du jour is the Syrian refugee crisis.)  

The Special Envoy of the High Commissioner
for Refugees addresses the United Nations
Like other entertainment-industry know-it-alls — think Sean Penn, George Clooney, Ashley Judd, and Susan Sarandon (just to name a few) – Angelina has strong political views, and loves to tell world leaders how to do their jobs. (There’s certainly no doubt that the world's leaders are making a hash of things, but I’m not sure that the best people to turn to for solutions are movie stars.)

Some say that Angelina is angling for a seat in the British House of Lords.  Given that she was born in Los Angeles — her father is actor Jon Voight — you might ask yourself how in the world she could expect to get into the House of Lords.  


How could Angelina Jolie, random American, get such a prime gig in one of Britain’s most revered bodies?  The short answer is that members of the House of Lords are appointed, not elected, to their seats, so if some prime minister wanted her there, it could happen. . . .

There are a few requirements Jolie would have to meet – she’d have to get British citizenship and pay taxes in the U.K., for instance – but, call me crazy, I think the Brits would be cool with letting her in.  A 2011 Census estimate found that there were 15 times as many members of the Lords who were over 90 than under 40, so she’d bring the average age down about by decades just be walking through the door.  Then she could don her special House of Lords ermine fur robes, collect her £300-a-day fee, and have a party!

(I’m pretty sure that Angelina would be the first member of the House of Lords to have a Buddhist prayer and the geographical coordinates of the birthplaces of her six children – three biological, three adopted – tattooed on her bod.  But if the Queen and the Prime Minister are cool with that, so am I.)

"Do I look smarter in these glasses?"
At first, Brad probably got a big kick out of doing political stuff with Angelina.

People often assume that really good-looking guys are dummies, and I’m guessing Brad enjoyed the opportunity to rub elbows with politicians and diplomats and journalists, most of whom pretended to take his opinions very seriously . . . not because they thought he know anything, but because he’s freakin’ Brad Pitt.

But I’m guessing that sh*t got pretty old.

I predict that Brad will be spending less time visiting refugee camps and more time at the Playboy Mansion in the next few years.

*     *     *     *     *

Speaking of high-maintenance chicks, let me introduce you to Nicki Minaj, who recorded today’s featured song in 2011.  

The “Stupid Hoe” video was directed by Hype Williams, the genius who directed Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” video.

Here’s “Stupid Hoe”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jaggerz -- "I Call My Baby Candy" (1970)

And when I pick her up at home
To take her out on a date
Don’t have to take her to a fancy restaurant
For a five-dollar T-bone steak

I go to Las Vegas every fall with several of my law firm colleagues to attend a trade show.  I think the first time I went to that show was 1991, and I’ve gone back every year since then.

Unlike most people, I don’t gamble when I’m in Las Vegas.  The last time I placed a bet there was 1998, when I put $10 on the San Francisco 49ers to beat the Washington Redskins by more than seven points in a Monday night game.

When I turned on the TV that night, the ’Skins were up 7-0 and I was kicking myself for throwing away my ten bucks.  But not to worry – the Niners shredded the hapless Washington defense for 504 yards and ending up prevailing by a 45-10 margin.

This matchup was a winner for me in 1998
The next day, I went to my hotel’s sports book and got in line to collect my winnings when I noticed an employee of one of my clients waiting in a different line.  He had bet on San Francisco as well, so we congratulated each other on our mad handicapping skills.

I got to the front of my line, handed the cashier my ticket, and collected my $10 in winnings.

He got to the front of his line, handed his cashier his ticket, and collected $500.  (This guy was no more than 25 years old, and I’m guessing $500 was at least a week’s pay for him.)

I haven’t bet since then because I can’t stand to lose.  Losing money at a casino would make me feel like an idiot – after all, you know you’re going to lose if you play long enough, right?  I don’t care how small the bet is . . . I would feel like I was just throwing away my money.

So why was I considering a bet that might have cost me $600 on my most recent Las Vegas trip?

It all started at a business dinner with some clients and other lawyers from my firm – including a very talented and successful young female partner who I’ve known since she was hired just a couple of years out of law school.  I’ll call this woman “Ellen,” since that is her name.

Ellen grew up in Pittsburgh, and she’s a big Steelers fan.  After watching her team pound the Redskins a few days earlier, Ellen had decided to put a Benjamin on the Steelers to win the Super Bowl while she was in Las Vegas.

The Wynn's sports book
The trade show was at the Wynn, which was offering 6-to-1 odds on that bet.  So if Ellen bet $100 on Pittsburgh at the Wynn and the Steelers did win the Super Bowl, she would be $600 richer.  But the Wynn’s sports book was closed by the time we finished our client dinner, and Ellen was leaving on an early morning flight the very next day.  

“Give me the $100,” I said.  “I’ll place the bet for you tomorrow.”

If she had given me $100 and told me to play red at the roulette table, I would have simply kept the money.  Better I have Ellen’s money than the casino — right?

But I couldn’t do that on a sports bet — they give you a printed ticket when you place a sports bet, and I couldn’t return to our offices without her ticket.

What I could do, however, was take Ellen’s bet myself . . . like I was a bookie.  If I covered her bet and one of the other 29 NFL teams won the Super Bowl, I would be $100 richer.

If the Steelers won, however, I would owe Ellen $600.

Let’s face it — if a big Vegas hotel is willing to take a bet, it must be a pretty smart one.  But I wasn’t sure I wanted to handle Ellen’s action.  

For one thing, the Super Bowl is over four months away.  The Steelers aren’t likely to collapse early – they are a solid bet to make the playoffs — so I would have had the possibility of having to pay Ellen $600 hanging over my head until January.  

I was still mulling over whether to take the bet or not that night when I went to the Venetian to have dinner and do a little shopping.  When I walked by the Venetian’s sports book, I was surprised to see that it was giving 8-to-1 odds on the same bet.  So if I placed Ellen’s bet at the Venetian instead of the Wynn, she would stand to win $800 instead of $600.  That’s a big difference.

The Venetian in Las Vegas
I could have still covered Ellen’s bet at 6-to-1 — she would never know that I could have gotten her 8-to-1 odds.  But I’m just not that kind of guy.

So I placed her bet at the Venetian.  Later, I told her the whole story.  I also told her that I expected a nice piece of that extra $200 if her bet ended up paying off.

I feel much better about the whole thing now.  The most I could have won if I had taken her bet was $100 – Ellen will give me at least that much if she wins, so my potential upside is the same.  

Steelers WR Antonio Brown celebrates a TD
But my downside is limited.  Now I’m not risking $600 if the Steelers win it all.  And I’d rather be on the same side of this bet as Ellen rather than be hoping that she loses. 

The favorites to meet in the AFC championship game are the Steelers and Patriots.  I’ve had a huge man crush on Tom Brady for years, so ordinarily I’d be sad if the Steelers knocked the Pats off in the playoffs.  But $100 would go a long way to assuaging that sorrow.

Don’t you just love a story with a happy ending?  Where virtue and honesty and loyalty to one’s friend is rewarded?

*     *     *     *     *

The Jaggerz were a Pittsburgh pop band whose name derives from the Pittsburghese slang term, “jagger bush,” which means a bush that’s thorny.  

“Pittsburghese” is one of the terms used to describe the American English dialect spoken in the Pittsburgh area.  Speakers of Pittsburgh’s are sometimes called “Yinzers” because they use “yinz” as their 2nd-person plural pronoun instead of the more common “you all.”  Click here to learn more about Pittsburghese and Yinzers.

The Jaggerz were best known for “The Rapper,” a fabulous single that made it all the way to #2 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in 1970.  But “I Call My Baby Candy,” another track on the group’s We Went to Different Schools Together album, is almost as good.  (I found that LP in a cutout bin about forty years ago -- I'm sure it  cost less than a buck.)

“I Call My Baby Candy” praises the singer’s girlfriend, who would have been called a cheap date in 1970.  According to the song, he doesn’t have to buy her fancy dresses or take her to expensive restaurants – a candy bar is enough to get him where he wants to go:

With a little help from milk chocolate
You should see the results I get

If the Steelers win Super Bowl LI next February 5, I’ll be expecting a lot more than a five-dollar T-bone steak.

Here’s “I Call My Baby Candy”:

As a bonus, here’s a really bad video of the Jaggerz performing the song on television.  I hope they fired the director immediately after this performance aired — the visual effects he used to cover his cuts from one shot to the next are incredibly annoying:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Albert Collins – "Too Many Dirty Dishes" (1986)

Too many dirty dishes in the sink just for us two
You got me wondering, baby
Who's makin' dirty dishes with you?

You would think that the invention of the personal computer would have resulted in such an increase in workplace productivity that everyone would be working a four-day week and taking the whole month of August as a vacation (like the French do).

My theory is that for every hour that an office worker saves by being equipped with a computer, he or she wastes an hour screwing around on the Internet – watching cat videos, posting photos to Instagram, playing fantasy sports, or watching porn.  So there’s no net increase in the productivity of the American work force.

To wit . . .

Someone recently sent me a link to a piece of clickbait titled 30 People Share The Biggest “Lazy Genius” Moment Of Their Lives.

Most of the 30 ideas on this list were unbelievably lame:

Started brushing my teeth in the shower. Saves a bunch of time in the morning.

How exactly does that save time, Mr. Genius?  I’ve got a better idea.  You pee in the shower — it doesn’t save time, but it saves water — so you’re helping save the planet at the same time.  (You do care about protecting the environment, don’t you?)

When I make a can of soup for myself, I just use the pot as a bowl.  Half the dishes.

I’ve been doing that since I went to college, and I’m betting you have as well.  We don’t need some website to tell us some elementary trick that everyone has already figured out.

I used to pretend to be asleep after car rides so my dad would have to carry me inside.

Sad — very sad.  (Whoever contributed this item is obviously a big loser.)

Had to write a paper on existentialism.  Had to write a paper on Billy Budd.  Wrote one paper on the existentialist aspects of Billy Budd and turned copies in for each course.

That’s not a bad idea, I guess.  

When I was a freshman in high school I was a member of the academic team. . . . During one of the competitions there was a challenge to create some sort of aircraft from paper, and the one that went the furthest would win the challenge and receive a certain amount of points.  Anyways, our group took the paper and made a paper ball, easily outclassing all the paper airplanes that other teams made and winning the competition.

I actually like that idea.  Let all your fellow nerds waste an hour folding up a piece of paper in a hundred different ways in the hope that your final design will have a tiny edge when it come to aerodynamics.  You simply wad up your piece of paper into a ball and throw it as far as you can — no fuss, no muss.

Here’s my favorite tip from 30 People Share The Biggest “Lazy Genius” Moment Of Their Lives:

I was out of clean dishes, so rather than wash my dirty dishes I wrapped a dirty plate in plastic wrap and ate off it.

I like that idea . . . I like it a lot!  It doesn’t really save you any time or effort — it would probably be easier to just wash the damn plate instead of finding the plastic wrap, tearing off a piece of appropriate size, struggling to keep the plastic wrap from sticking to itself, and then wrapping the plate in the plastic wrap.  But it’s the principle of the thing.

*     *     *     *     *

The late Albert “The Iceman” Collins was perhaps the greatest blues guitarist to come out of Texas.   “Too Many Dirty Dishes” was released in 1986 on his Cold Snap album.

The protagonist of “Too Many Dirty Dishes” wonders why the kitchen sink is empty when he leaves his house to go to work in the morning, but chock-full of dirty dishes when he returns home at night. 

It’s obvious that the dude’s wife is creepin' when he’s not around:

That glass over there, got a cigar in it or somethin’
I don't smoke no cigar

But his main concern seems to be that he gets stuck cleaning up the mess:

Makes me so mad, I don't know what to do
Thought I was her husband instead of a maid!

Wake up and smell the cat food, you big dope!  Your wife is two-timing you, bud – maybe even three- or four-timing you!  She’s letting her back-door man get a leg over with her while you’re working your ass off at your crappy job!

And all you’re worried about are the dirty dishes in the sink?

Here’s “Too Many Dirty Dishes”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Four Lads – "Standing on the Corner" (1956)

Brother, you can't go to jail
For what you're thinking
Or for the woo look in your eye

Here’s what critic James Wood had to say about the first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, a lengthy autobiographical magnum opus that some critics have compared to Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past:

Many writers strive to give you the effect, the illusion, of reality.  Knausgaard seems to want to give his readers the reality of reality – to strip away the literary tricks, to burst through language, to explode the artifice.  And he achieves this.  You read Knausgaard almost as if in real time. . . . [E]ven when I was bored I was interested (which is pretty much like life itself).

Karl Ove Knausgaard
The early part of book two of My Struggle, which picks up several years after the first volume ends, focuses on mundane events involving Knausgaard and his very young children.  

For example, the author takes one of his young daughters to a birthday party for a nursery-school classmate.  Reading his lengthy and detailed description of the party is like viewing an unedited home video of the event.

The author loves his children, but finds the experience of modern fatherhood to be emasculating:

When I pushed the stroller all over town and spent my days taking care of my child, it was not the case that I was adding something to my life, that it became richer as a result, on the contrary, something was removed from it, part of myself, the bit relating to masculinity.  

Knausgaard questions whether women and men in modern relationships are really happier than those in more traditional ones:

[I]t may be that women who followed their careers until they were almost in their forties and then at the last moment had a child . . . may have been happier than women in previous generations.  It was possible that men who stayed at home and looked after their infants for six months may have increased their sense of being alive as a result.  And women may actually have desired these men with thin arms, large waistlines, shaven heads and black designer glasses who were just as happy discussing the pros and cons of BabyBjörn carriers and baby slings . . . . They may have desired them with all their hearts and souls.  But even if they didn’t, it didn’t really matter because equality and fairness were the parameters, they trumped everything else a life and a relationship consisted of.  It was a choice, and the choice had been made.

Like father, like son
Knausgaard could have told his wife before they had children that raising them would be her responsibility — that he wanted no part of being a househusband.  But he understands that his silence implied his assent to  going by the "rules of the game" for enlightened young fathers in 21st-century Stockholm:

In the class and culture we belonged to, that meant adopting the same role, previously called the woman’s role.  I was bound to it like Odysseus to the mast . . . . As a result I walked around Stockholm’s streets, modern and feminized, with a furious nineteenth-century man inside me.  

Knausgaard believes that a man pushing a stroller is somehow less of a man:

The way I was seen changed . . . the instant I laid my hands on the stroller.  I had always eyed the women I walked past the way men always have, actually a mysterious act because it couldn’t lead to anything except a returned gaze, and if I did see a really beautiful woman I might even turn around to watch her, discreetly of course, but nevertheless: why, oh why?  What function did all these eyes, all these mouths, all these breasts and waists, legs and bottoms serve?  Why was it so important to look at them? . . . When I came along with a stroller no women looked at me, it was as if I didn’t exist.  

Et tu, Lego?
I don’t worry about women seeing me pushing a stroller.  That’s because the baby in the stroller that I’m pushing these days is my new grandson.  Let’s face it: women don’t look at grandfathers even if they aren't pushing strollers.

*     *     *     *     * 

As today’s featured song says, you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking — at least not yet.  But I’d suggest that you keep your mouth shut and wipe that woo look off your face when you're standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by. 

From the September 5, 1902 issue of the New York Times:

Here’s “Standing on the Corner,” which was a #3 hit single for the Four Lads in 1956:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Krista Siegfrids – "More Is More" (2013)

Be hardcore
More is more

I just finished reading volume one of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume novel, My Struggle.  (We’re talking 3600 pages altogether, boys and girls.)

My Struggle is officially classified as fiction, but it’s really autobiography.  The author is the protagonist, and his family members – in particular, his father, brother, wife, and grandmother, all of whom are referred to by their real names – are among the most important characters.

Karl Ove Knausgaard
Critic James Wood had this to say about Knausgaard’s magnum opus:  

Many writers strive to give you the effect, the illusion, of reality.  Knausgaard seems to want to give his readers the reality of reality – to strip away the literary tricks, to burst through language, to explode the artifice.  And he achieves this.  You read Knausgaard almost as if in real time.

Wood goes on to say that "even when I was bored, I was interested."  That is exactly right.  My Struggle is both compelling and boring, and what makes it compelling is the same thing that makes it boring.  The book doesn’t just appear to be about real life — it is about real life.  

Knausgaard leaves very little out of the book.  Relatively mundane events are described in excruciating detail.  For example, he spends about seventy pages describing one New Year’s Eve when he was a teenager living in a rural area in Norway.  (Like American teenagers, Norwegian teenagers believe that the only point of New Year’s Eve is to go to a party and get drunk.)  

One volume down, five to go
Much of the second half of the volume one is an account of the aftermath of Knausgaard’s estranged father’s death.

After separating from his second wife, the father had moved in with his mother – the author’s grandmother.  Both of them became hopeless alcoholics who lived in absolute squalor.  When the author and his brother showed up to make arrangements for their father’s funeral and their grandmother’s care, they were faced with a cleaning job of Herculean proportions.  

I personally would have rather tackled the Augean stables and let good old Hercules deal with the Knausgaard family home, the contents of which included hundreds of empty beer and liquor bottles, several months’ worth of unwashed dishes and carryout containers full of rotting leftovers, and massive piles of urine-soaked and feces-stained clothing – not to mention a house full of urine-soaked and feces-stained mattresses, couches, and chairs.  

Hercules cleaned out the stables of King Augeas
Many writers believe in wringing the excess verbiage out of a first draft until no unnecessary words are  left behind — the more time such an author spends on a book, the shorter it gets.  That’s how Knausgaard wrote, but one day he found himself facing a creative dead end:

The critical reading of the texts always resulted in parts being deleted.  So that was what I did.  My writing became more and more minimalist.  In the end, I couldn't write at all.  For seven or eight years, I hardly wrote.  

Suddenly the proverbial light bulb went on over his head:

I had a revelation. What if I did the opposite?  What if, when a sentence or a scene was bad, I expanded it, and poured in more and more?  After I started to do that, I became free in my writing.  Fuck quality, fuck perfection, fuck minimalism.  My world isn't minimalist; my world isn't perfect, so why on earth should my writing be?

Knausgaard is a man after my own heart.  I’ve been following his example for years even though I had never heard of him until recently.  

Not really
Like Knausgaard, I say f*ck quality, f*ck perfection, f*ck minimalism.  Just pile the prose higher and higher.  That’s what 2 or 3 lines is all about.

Less isn’t more, Mies van der Rohe notwithstanding.  More is more.

(Isn’t that obvious?)

*     *     *     *     *

Krista Siegfrids is Finnish, which isn't exactly the same thing as being Norwegian – but it's close enough for 2 or 3 lines

“More Is More” is the first track on her debut album, Ding Dong!, which was released in 2013.  If you’re running short on Katy Perry and Ke$ha songs, Krista is the answer to your prayers.

Here’s “More Is More”:

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tomorrow – "My White Bicycle" (1967)

Moving fast
Everything looks great
My white bicycle

My new Trek 7.3 is matte black – not white – but everything still looks great when I'm moving fast on it.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter e-mailed me about a biking event in Frederick, Maryland, where she and her husband live.

The “Tour de Hops” – a 17-mile ride on the streets of Frederick, punctuated by tastings at four local breweries – was a fundraiser for Heartly House, which provides comprehensive services for victims of domestic abuse.  It was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon when the weather forecast looked good and I had no particular place to be.   

(It was closer to 17 miles.)
The ride started at noon at Monocracy Brewery.  Some of the 53 Tour de Hops participants pregamed by knocking down a pint (or two) before the ride got started, but I refrained.  (I figured there was going to be plenty of beer along the way.)

The organizers of the ride had wisely constructed the route so we rode the longest brewery-to-brewery segment first.  Our first stop was Flying Dog Brewery, the largest and most widely distributed of Frederick’s breweries.  (I’m guessing there’s some Flying Dog for sale at your neighborhood liquor store.)  Our next stops were Barley and Hops (a brewpub with a large dining room that sells craft beers from many other brewers as well as the ones made on the premises) and Olde Mother Brewing (a modest-sized operation that had opened less than a year previously).

The ride ended where it began, at Monocracy Brewing, where there were four food trucks, a couple of musicians, and cornhole boards to entertain us.  We were given tickets for three samples and a pint – which was gilding the lily a bit after our three previous tastings – but I politely drank ever drop I was offered. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s get right to my photos of the Tour de Hops and save some words for a future 2 or 3 lines:

Tour de Hops bikes parked outside
the Flying Dog tasting room
Best reason I know to get a tattoo
Free beer for all Olympic medalists at Flying Dog
Replenishing our precious bodily fluids
It wasn't easy choosing only four to taste
Bathroom sign at Flying Dog
A ride leader's growler-equipped bike
Hop vines at Flying Dog
On the road to brewery number two
The Barley and Hops brewpub
A sweet Cannonade fixie
Tasting on the Barley and Hops patio
On the way to our third brewery
Olde Mother Brewing
More precious bodily fluid replenishment
The owner's puppy was a chick magnet
Wobbling down a quiet street to our final stop
The ride's end – which was also its beginning
*     *     *     *     *

Tomorrow was a short-lived English psychedelic band that broke up only a year after it formed in 1967.  

The brains behind the operation was singer-songwriter Keith West, who continues to record and produce music today.  The group’s lead guitarist, Steve Howe, later achieved fame and fortune as a member of Yes, while drummer John “Twink” Alder is best known for his work with the Pretty Things.  (Alder later converted to Islam and changed his name to Mohammed Abdullah.)

“My White Bicycle” was Tomorrow’s first single.  (It’s only other single was titled “Revolution.”  It preceded the Beatles’ “Revolution” by a year.) 

According to “Twink” Adler, the song was inspired by some Amsterdam anarchists who called themselves the Provos: 

[T]hey had white bicycles in Amsterdam and they used to leave them around the town.  And if you were going somewhere and you needed to use a bike, you'd just take the bike and you'd go somewhere and just leave it. Whoever needed the bikes would take them and leave them when they were done.

John and Yoko on a white Provos bike
“My White Bicycle” inspired “Bike Ride to the Moon” by The Dukes of Stratosphear – which was a tongue-in-cheek pseudonym used by XTC, one of the cleverest English rock bands that ever was.  (“Bike Ride to the Moon” was the second track on that group’s first record, the six-song mini-album 25 O’Clock, which was released on April Fools’ Day 1985.)

Here’s “My White Bicycle,” which was one of the first records to feature a backwards guitar recording:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: