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i've only just finished reading flesh and blood by michael cunningham. you know him because he wrote the hours. flesh is his second novel; hours was his third. i have a weakness for first novels, for their presumption and their fragile, wanting egos, but flesh is not a first novel. it's an expansive, swelling thing, a massive thing with its own specific density, its own mass and gravity. i read most of it this weekend, maybe 13 hours collected, and i lost myself in it, in that drained emotional state that the body enters when it has given all of its hope and adoration to something and, left with nothing more to give or to defend, is left to be battered about like a kite in the wind.
i think jessie hates it when i read like that. because i end up giving so much to the characters, pouring so much into making them real that i'm left with no natural resistance. i cower in my corner, clutching my pile of bound sheets, trembling with anticipation, and by the time i'm done, i'm left with so little that i spend the rest of the night sulking around the apartment staring mournfully at the walls, trying not to cry. it's much too morose be around, i'm afraid.
flesh shows the beginnings of the sweeping style, the overt drama that cunningham gave us so eloquently in the hours. but it lacks that novel's rigidity, its stern focus and its cold rules. hours read like someone painting very beautifully and very much within a set of pre-drawn lines. flesh is more disorderly, more chaotic and organic. and yet still there is a deeply rooted feeling of sameness, as if the same pallet and brush had been used to carry the entire work by themselves. while he allows his characters and their stories to wander and grow, he keeps them lashed together with a familiar, fixed language.
the story explodes outward, the story of a family through three generations, and we watch as each character spins off on his or her own, growing new branches and roots, spreading the story outward exponentially. and yet the language in which it's all told is so tight, so internal, so shrinking, that the combined effect is almost vertiginous. again and again, cunningham returns to a language of organic description, of roots and trees and plants and soil, smells and tastes and solid, earthy textures. And experiences, entire passages almost perfectly internal, scattered with references to shrinking, fading, collapsing, caving, all bleeding into the characters a kind of deep, pulsing sadness.
it's a surprisingly gay-themed novel, although not exactly enough to tip the balance. just shy of halfway through, i recommended the novel to my little sister, only a half hour later reaching a homoerotic moment so vividly detailed that i felt the slightest bit bashful about my earlier recommendation.
the novel centers most on the lives of the family's three children, susan, billy and zoe. told in a series of vignettes, each chapter offers us a rough scene or two from one year. the story changes speeds throughout, skipping briskly through a period of years, settling into a rest over another period where we might see a much deeper view of the people and events unfolding. the focus shifts often from one character to the next, offering a well-balanced ensemble perspective throughout most of the novel; however as it nears the end, the focus clearly narrows down on a handful characters who are tasked with the job of carrying us to the end.
having not read cunningham's first novel, i can only wonder how he grew into this novel. being familiar with the hours however, i would suggest that this book shows a determination and an ambition that was clearly honed by the time he wrote that much-lauded novel. flesh and blood teeters precariously on the edge of its own ambitions, almost-but-not-quite falling into an abyss of its own self-importance. the problem with an epic novel is never one of it's quality but one of it's quantity, and the impossible question of how to hold everyone's attention throughout such a far-reaching affair.
i just finished a book last night, an act that always makes me feel heavy and sad. if i could, i would just sit here all day in the gray light, listening to elliot smith and cat power, because that's the speed i'm traveling at right now.
instead, i'm giving you a song (right -->) by denali. it's big and pretty and heavy. it's a lot like the feeling i'm carrying today, without as much obviousness as i would expect. but don't get too worked up; it's pretty much their best song, so there's no real use in running out after the album. still, i hope you enjoy this little nugget.
of course i bought too early.
i miss the summer. but i miss richard more.
some of you have been demanding (ok, one of you) that i post more about my new job. as always, i'm initially hesitant to say anything at all about work, but since i seem to have, you know, nothing else to post about here, i may as well give you the scoop.
i've been going on more press checks in the last few weeks, which is good. my boss came with me to one, kind of to check me out, i guess, and it went well, so now i'm free of that yoke and out on my own. but i haven't had any opportunties to travel yet, which i'm a little bummed about. i'll get to go to LA, it looks like, starting in July, but i'll have my boss in tow again for the first one or two trips. i don't mind that so much though, because we'll be printing large format, which isn't something i have any experience with. they do a fair amount of screen printing as well, which is a whole other world to me. so there's a lot of room for me to grow here, which makes me feel good about the job, good about the future.
i do miss some things though. i mean, besides the obvious things like my friends and the comfort/trust level that i had established. i miss art buying, quite a lot actually. in my new job, i'm all print, all the time, so i don't get to do things like photo shoots or work with illustrators. i got a little bit sad when i saw an online banner ad on a website that i had secured the illustrator for. it was a shitty task when i had to do it, but now that i don't have the option, i'm a little bummed by it.
the company is great though. can you imagine a place where you're treated well by your employer? where you're respected and supported by the corporation? where upper management's top-ten list of concerns includes making sure you get to go home on time, all the time? it's a dramatic difference from my last company (sorry mark!) and it's a really, really nice feeling. by and large, it's getting me up in the mornings again.
just in time for the coming weekend, i'm feeling much more sane about the world around me. i'm just going to ignore it until november. i figure that'll hold me over. no iraq, no prisons, no geneva convention, no beheddings, no wanton abuses of power.
i'm ducking town for the weekend. headed to fresno for graduation time. my little sis has got the smarts, you know. she's off to grad school this fall. in the meantime, to tide you over for the weekend, and to make up for my inconsiderate blogging, i'm posting two extra mp3's. on the left side of the page, for your normal update, i offer my favorite (by about 2 weeks) pixies song. a languid delight.
of the two other songs i wanted to share, there's another rapture track, olio, which shows off the boys mad keyboards (versus the crazy cowbell madness of house of jealous lovers). i'm also posting my favorite sleater-kinney song ever. that voice!
the world's a fucking mess. a holy fucking mess. i can't even begin to go into how terrifyingly screwed everyone is right now. i'm scared shitless, honest to god.
"When you eat them when they're soft and mushy, when they come out of their skin, they taste like cold, canned asparagus."
i'm disgusted and fascinated by this whole cicada business. i mean, they're gross looking. and apparently they're terribly loud. and big. and scary. and, contrary to the lovely sentiment expressed above, apparently they can make you ill. they're making me ill right now, as a matter of fact.
playing around this morning with someone's new lcd, i saw, for the first time ever, the joy of dual displays. death to this prison cell of a screen, this puddly little 12" powerbook screen! i needs to get myself an external monitor. i've suddenly got a buying itch. anyone have any experiences with non-apple flat panels?
not using it anymore, i almost wouldn't have noticed that blogger was recently revamped. besides the aestetic changes, it looks like most (all?) of the blogger pro features have migrated into the free version (is there a pro anymore?). anyway, i have to say, it looks good. and it seems fast. not that i'm going to go back, but i sure would love to see movabletype pick up that post-by-email feature that everyone else (including their own typepad) has these days. not sure how it can work with individual servers, but i'd still like to see them take a crack at it.
i got one of these at work today. it's called a fob. it's a funny little bug, and using it feels part 24, part x-files, as if my corporate mama might detonate a poison-filled capsule implanted in my brain at any given moment. it's also part overkill, methinks.
as of yet, i haven't been too woo'ed by the motions being made in the tablet pc arena. i think there's a niche to be filled, in these ultra-portable, almost-wireless, media-most-everywhere days, for a device that is more than a palm but less than a laptop. i mean, when our laptops replaces our desktops, doesn't something get to replace the laptop?
but tablet pc's suck, which is why i was anxious for (though not entirely optimistic about) the OQO device. but that's never going to happen, so i'm psyched to see that sony has (basically) beatten them to the punch. it's a great move for sony; this thing is cool in the way apple stuff is cool. although i'm not so sure about the fish-bait stylus. and that mess'o wires product shot isn't getting her any dates either. but still. i want to see one of these.
without starting too much of a tangent from my once-a-year praise of something from PC-land, i think this is a great space for apple to get into within the next couple of years. i know they're leery of the pda market, but this is a graceful half-step, and i think apple's finely honed skills at making things pretty, tiny and simple to use would fit in very nicely.
update: let's go ahead and add all of the other cool sony toys from this week to that list: playstation portable, monolithic media center PC and god's tivo. what just happened at sony? did someone start putting methamphetamines in the water cooler?
alright, so it's a little johnny come lately of me. i didn't make it to the party on time, but i'm here now and i'm trashed and i'm dancing on the table, proclaiming the greatness of those things i missed while i was growing up under my rock. namely, the pixies. and converse shoes. good god, i'm in love.
the in today's new york times on bike messengers left me wanting for more. i'm totally fascinated by them and i really wish this story had been a little less reminiscing and a little more documentarian.
my friends are tough. and my friend's friends are tougher. this is what i came away from cafe du nord with last night.
i went there last night with kate and crew to see seachange and Pretty Girls Make Graves (second time this week!). i was intrigued by seachange (i loved the advance track they released a few months ago, but have thus far felt mixed about the full-length matador-released LP) and wanted a chance to see pretty girls again in a different setting than they played in at coachella. kate discovered that the band's lead guitar player had quit the band less than a month ago, which is certainly a good excuse for their cautious coachella performance.
first of all, the bands. seachange was interesting, but mostly overwrought. too many cooks, so to speak, and the band in general seems to lack any coherent textures or ideas throughout their songs. they're great for a few tracks, but a full set only seemed to reveal the weaknesses in their songwriting. i suspect, however, that minus a few superfluous performers, this band could produce some exceptional indie pop. pretty girls on the other hand, managed to break out of the somewhat reserved demeanor that had adopted on sunday. this is a really tight band, even with their role structure banged up by such a recent departure, and it shows when they let loose. they have an inventive sound and an almost dangerous vibe that electrifies an audience. almost too much.
in the midst of the second song of pretty girls set, a group of kids (i call them kids because they behaved as such; these idiots could have been almost any age) pushed past us and shoved-in between my friends and the band. the shove-in is a difficult social event to take on, because while it's rude, it must be commonly recognized that you're at a rock concert, for christ's sake. but these kids were clearly out of bounds. they shoved-in with 5 (five!) of their friends, and backpacks, and pretty roughly squeezed my friends and i out. nobody was interested in putting up with it. harsh words were exchanged, but we took the high road and backed off rather than inciting a scene. then the kids started trying to mosh.
if you've ever been to cafe du nord, you'll immediately recognize the stupidity of that decision. du nord is not a moshing crowd, and it's not a moshing space. after causing four or five people to spill their beers and completely body-slamming a rather meek looking young lady, these friends of mine took care of them. my favorite scene of all was brownwyn, pixieish mother of a 2 year old, who was at the show despite the fact that she was supposed to assist on a 23 hour operation to remove a gorilla lung at 6:30 the next morning, managed to knee one of the craziest kids in the groin. they pronounced that they were "the most hardcore people here" (which sucked, in their estimation) and promptly left.
i came home sunday night, sun-soaked and shell-shocked. coachella was an amazing music experience, well beyond my expectations. both the trip and the destination were well worth the investment.
traveling with kate and jen, i flew into long beach and drove the remainder of the way out to indio. our hotel was like a dream, 1972 palm springs resort-motel all over again. the vibe was great, at the hotel, all around town, at the festival. i enjoy a weekend of debauchery as much as the next guy, but it was nice to find out that (by and large) people were here to hear music, not to tweak out and get shit-faced (with the exception of one exorcist-style puking in the beer tent, i didn't spot any uncouth behavior).
saturday was fantastic. 103 degrees. 8 bands. we trudged onto the event grounds around noon. started off with saraha hotnights who were loud and fun, though a little bit off. the stills put on a fantastic show and more than proved their worth. they're a tight band with a well-honed sound. the good looks and confident stage presence don't hurt either. q and not u were new to me; although i only got to hear about 4 songs, i was impressed. death cab for cutie, playing fully in the blazing hot mid-day sun, were a real treat. they're really together, their sound clean and distinct, and they make magic bringing the beautiful atmosphere of their albums to life on the stage. i was so happy to see them give such a stellar performance, having been somewhat disappointed by their last appearance in sf. at the time, ben's voice seemed to be giving out, and throughout the night he continually fell short of the range that he displays on the band's albums, which is one of the most crucial elements of their sound.
by now, if you care, you've already read more than enough about the pixies, so i wont bore you with the drivel of the uninitiated. what i will say is this: they make the most real, human music i've ever heard, and i'm glad i had the chance to see them perform live, even if i missed the boat when they broke open the scene 10 years ago.
and you know, as well as i do, that i can't offer any realistic critique of radiohead's performance. thom's voice was back and was right on, and although i've heard some people say that he was clearly straining in places, i didn't notice it a bit. the set list was almost nostalgic, much more bends-heavy than most of the other shows i've seen. and "the gloaming" came to life on stage in a way i've never seen before. johnny sampled and remixed the song live, a la "everything in it's right place", closing the song with a smashed up crescendo of samples, a train wreck piling sounds up against themselves.
for me, the absolute highlight of the entire festival was seeing the rapture. (mp3 at right) they've been almost universally praised by critics and hipsters everywhere, so i was expecting to find it hard to keep a straight face during the show, but holy shit, these guys know how to make some fucking rock music. nobody in the entire crowd (a big one, at that) was standing still as the foursome banged through an ultra-loud, super-charged set. they had more energy, more enthusiasm, and more instruments than any band i've ever seen. their music seems to come from everywhere at once, part punk, park funk, part rock but always incredibly danceable. which is not to call it dance music, because it's not. you simply can't help but dance. the power of cow bells compels you.
mind you, this was still saturday. the night ended with the most eerie, entrancing set by kraftwerk, who i feel a burning desire to see in concert again very soon. these guys are legends and they know it; the show they put on is incredible and spooky, even if they hardly move a muscle the entire times. honest to god, if any other band in the world stood on a stage typing on laptops for an hour, i would walk out. but somehow, when these guys do it, art itself lurches forward.
sunday was more relaxed. we couldn't see most of the headlining bands (belle and sebastian, flaming lips, air) because we needed to be back in long beach to make our flight. we did manage to get in long enough to see pretty girls make graves who were endearing and heartfelt, if not a little overwhelmed. i enjoyed their set, but i'm glad that i have the chance to see them again this week in a much smaller venue. and for all the hype, i have to say i was disappointed by !!!. perhaps, however, it had more to do with the lead singer ("we're like, so fucking happy to be here today, like, fucking making music for you to fucking listen to, and i think we should all be glad that we're, like, fucking here right now and not like, a fucking corpse in a fucking pile or some shit. i mean, fuck, i mean, rock!"). yes, perhaps it was the lead singer that turned me off.
the trip home was a much fun (despite the settling exhaustion) as the weekend. besides spending 2.5 hours in a car covered in grime and sunblock, i enjoyed the gradual unwinding. kate and jen and i enjoyed a few beers and some food at the long beach airport bar, chatted up the waitress and drank our own home-made jack and coke on the flight home while the three of us bopped along almost simultaneously to some "i love the 80's" videos on in-flight vh1. if you thought about going to coachella and didn't, well, your loss.
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