Ever wonder what it's like to be stranded on a Pacific island? You don't need to be shipwrecked, just have the US government repossess the one plane that goes there.


Stuff that came out this year, currently residing on silver iPod mini:

Boards Of Canada, The Campfire Headphase
Bonnie "Prince" Billy & Matt Sweeney, Superwolf
Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene
Clap Your Hands!, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
The Decemberists, Picaresque
Explosions in the Sky, How Strange, Innocence
LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem
Mogwai, Government Commissions: BBC Sessions, 1996-2003
New Pornographers, Twin Cinema
Sigur Rós,Takk
Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
Various artists, Run The Road
Vashti Bunyan, Lookaftering
Wolf Parade, Apologies to the Queen Mar


Elizabeth Murray, Moma

Katie and I braved an absurdly overcrowded magic-tree-worshiping Rockefeller Center midtown crowd to check out the Elizabeth Murray show at Moma. The show covered several distinct periods. Some notes:

-Casual, doodle-like use of line as a fundamental design element. These kind of lines have as much to do how the tendons, muscles and bones of the arm and hand want to work as they have to do with the visual effects painters seek to create with this technology. Murray uses the kind of lines and interacting shapes you might fill in semi-consciously on a notepad as you talk on the phone, but she brings this to a epic level.

-Insistence on traditional oil on canvas, but custom molding the canvases into puzzle pieces, often in layers, giving the ground of the paintings a unique sense of freedom -- elements related one way that could just as easily be re-arranged and done another way. It gives her partially hybridized approach - painting pushing into sculpture -- the looseness, quickness, levity and freedom of a doodle or piece of off-the-cuff comic art.

-An interestingly complicated take on coloration. The early stuff -- earthy and subdued, the middle stuff -- bold and raucous clashes, the late stuff -- pull out all the stops visionary integration. Not sure you can call it visionary, though, since this work is sane and is possessed of so much levity. It's an entire class of it's own: cute/visionary?

The work in the final room from 2000-2005 was the most interesting for me. On a large scale yet totally approachable, integrating much of what had come before it. Integration in subject matter -- internal organs, pets, tables, rooms, keyholes -- living quarters inside and out. In patterning -- where the elements work together in a loose but highly coherent kind of co-operation without any part being forced into servitude to a grand scheme. All with a wild coloration that made me think of Huichol visionary yarn painting.


There something about the moment when the Northeast Corridor train emerges from the perpetual darkness of the Penn Station tunnels into the space and light of New Jersey: a sudden expanse of frozen marsh grass, dilapidated power lines and rusting storage containers. The expansive openness and stasis contrast sharply with the constricted views and hyperactivity of the City. You are in another world. It's a moment I never grow accustomed to.


I had to explain to Richard Pryor that Richard Pryor had died. He was standing on some kind of elevated floor, like a stage.

Because I didn't know the late Richard Pryor personally, I felt uncomfortable being the one to relay the sad news.


Hybrid Poetry Class #2

Walter Abish, 99:The New Meaning

"Wasn't his body after all, exploiting the capital formation of his thoughts, thriving on surplus value of his mind, and gorging itself on his will?"

Kamau Brathwaite, The Zea Mexican Diary

"And it was here I couldn't help her . . . for the lungs, I was in touch w/ Betelgeuse . . . beating there in the heart of the cold fury of Orion . . . whenever she coughed or seemed in danger, I wd bring that throbbing nebula into the very centre of my head my heart & hold off . . . it seemed . . . whatever was going on wrong..."

Emily Dickinson, The "Master" Letters from Selected Letters

"You send water over the dam in my brown eyes"


This piece on Petroleum Hat just out in the Dec Publisher's Weekly (click the Google link and scroll down). Check out pieces on Shanna Compton, David Larson and Linh Dinh.

Petroleum Hat
Drew Gardner. Roof (SPD, dist.), $12.95 paper (96p) ISBN 1-931824-17-7

The most salient form of "Google poetry"—or the collaging and strategic search-and-replacing of text from Web searches—has come to be called "Flarf" by an Internet collective that produces a great deal of it. None of the Flarf poets—including K. Silem Mohammad (Deer Head Nation), Gary Sullivan (How to Proceed in the Arts; he wrote the first Flarf poem, and coined the term) and Katie Degentesh (The Anger Scale, forthcoming)—is exclusively such, as is true for Gardner, also a Flarf listmember. Gardner's debut, Sugar Pill (2003), used hemistichic verse to slow down and process, beautifully, the money-and-information assault of contemporary culture and to develop a countering eco-animism on a par with that of Juliana Spahr. This book, clearly written (or Googled up) in reaction to the current Iraq war and the political climate surrounding it, is a lot more acidly ironic (or, in group parlance, "Flarfy") in an "extreme times, extreme measures" sort of way. Dropping the most absurd first-person declarations (some sweet: "I am reduced to being a fluffy lifeboat again") into nearly 50 lyrics, Gardner conjures the kind of complicated, childish political ignorance and faulty, malevolent citizenship that George Carlin can only joke about. It is this book's particular genius to make tightly grafted stacks of assertions like "A woman's hormone-driven 'logic'/ will equate power with war" (from "Chicks Dig War") start to look like a cable news crawl. (Dec.)


I know not having words is the major stumbling block for many pop/rock listeners trying to approach jazz music. I'm sometimes trying to get away from words in music, because language can have such power to ruin music. When listening to a band that is new to me I sometimes try to avoid understanding the words for as long as possible for this reason.

Listening today to Quasi, Sea Shanty. When I hit "Drifting on the Murky Sargasso of the Everyday," enunciated clearly, I'm like, oh well, I can't go back and suffer though that line again, despite the fact that the music on the track is good.
There's something about the intense acidic beauty of the lead guitar tone in Elliot Smith's Strung Out Again -- it sounds like it is about to come totally unglued but remains intact and strong -- that made me go back and listen to the song three times on the iPod this morning. The feeling of -- shouldn't I be coming a little unglued under some dire but routine set of circumstances -- and yet I'm not? The tone is similar in spirit to the sound in Eddie Hazel's Maggot Brain guitar solo, but ends up in a different place. Hazel allows the substance of his tone to pull completely apart at moments, embracing a dissolving force of experience by channeling it into a kind of escape route.