Jesse Jarnow

Archive for November, 2005

nature trail to hell (in 3-D)

High school in Northport, New York was made oddly bearable by the fact that I ended up hanging out with some truly gifted and committed geeks. In autumn 1993, a year before I transferred in, they staged a mammoth production of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Nature Trail To Hell (in 3-D)” as part of the school variety show, replete with note-perfect metal shredding, a choral arrangement, a dude ripping his shirt off, and my friend Evan hacking up Cub Scouts with a plastic machete. Pretty impressive for a bunch of 15 year-olds.

On Thanksgiving, three Al tunes came up on my shuffle; on Friday, Bill (the bassist in the video) heard “Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung” in a bar (“they just went back to normal bar music after that… it’s like I hallucinated it,” he texted me), and now Matt — the keyboardist dude at stage left — finally digitized (and subtitled) the video. As he blogs, “Geeks rejoice! A crowd of rowdy teenagers will cheer for you. Especially if you’ve got a guy on stage with a machete chasing around a bunch of cub scouts.”

Totally lo-fi, totally inspiring. Thanks, Matt.

Here it is, in all its glory: Nature Trail to Hell (in 3-D). (8.5 MB, wmv file).

useful things

Besides obvious, everyday web tools — Wikipedia, the All Music Guide, the Internet Movie Database, Flickr, and such — I’ve come across a few other handy useful digital devices and information sources. Some are more utilitarian than others. There’s a lot of bullshit on the web, this blog fully included, and I have a certain fondness for pages that exist with genuine purpose.

o YouSendIt — A simple way to temporarily share files among groups of people without emailing them to everybody. Perfect for mp3s.

o — Shared logins for websites that require both free and paid registration, like the New York Times and MediaBistro. BugMeNot doesn’t always work but — when it does — it’s frickin’ sweet.

o PodWorks — This is one of the only pieces of downloaded software I have ever paid for. For a whopping $8, I can now copy music from my iPod back onto my computer, which is awesome, since my harddrive just isn’t big enough to hold all the music on my pod. By allowing me to copy songs, playlists, and albums, it converts my iPod from a play-only memory box into a functional harddrive.

o iWannaSleep — I like to listen to a really long shuffled playlist of quiet, purdy tunes while I’m falling asleep. This cute-as-a-button app is a sleep function for iTunes. Simple.

o Oblique Strategies widget — I have an old HyperCard edition of Brian Eno’s wondrous Oblique Strategies deck, though it clumsily opens OS 9 whenever I fire it up. I haven’t yet upgraded to OS 10.4 but, when I do, this Oblique widget will be my first download.

o Find A Human — If I call a customer support line, it’s generally because I can’t find the information I need online and would really like to speak to a person. I hate, hate, hate the hierarchy of menus I often have to go through to get there. Enter the IVR cheat sheet, which has come through with flying colors both times I’ve used it. Like the washing machine in the basement of my building that secretly only requires one quarter in the middle slot (shhhh!), these are video game codes for real life.

o The Hidden In-n-Out Burger — As a lifelong right-coaster, I admittedly have no practical use for the complete secret menu of In-n-Out Burger (those are good burgers, Walter), but some you westerly weirdoes might.

a day in transit, 10/05

Perhaps because it’s so stressful, air travel is a mighty reliable source for Zen in the new, weird America.

1. An early morning shoeshine in MacArthur Airport’s imperial new extension.

2. Iconography.

3. In which we achieve levity.

“alice’s restaurant” – arlo guthrie

“Alice’s Restaurant” – Arlo Guthrie (File expires on November 30th.)
from Alice’s Restaurant (1967)

It all started 40 Thanksgivings ago — that’s 40 years ago on Thanksgiving — that Arlo Guthrie ran afoul of the law in sleepy Stockbridge, Massachusetts and found himself in jail for littering, an offense that would later free him from the draft, and provide gristle for the above linked-to 18-minute boomer/rockist campfire yarn called “Alice’s Restaurant” (remember Alice?) that doesn’t really have anything to do with Alice or the restaurant. Yeah, you’ve heard the song a million times, so what’s once more for an old friend? On Thanksgiving, no less?

In my last column, I blathered about whether it was possible for digital files to have auras (1). This lo-fi mp3 of “Alice” demonstrates, to me, that they can. I downloaded this from the O.G. Napster one homesick night during (probably) my junior year of college. It’s followed me through three computers, more than a dozen system crashes, three or four different mp3-playing applications and their attendant playlists (its icon belongs to an app whose name I don’t recall), two iPods, without me ever consciously making a back-up.

To me, the shoddy digital flutter on the acoustic guitar is just as distinct as the post-radiator-flood warble on my parent’s vinyl copy. And while I don’t expect all of that to translate universally to whoever downloads this particular copy of “Alice,” I do think that the idiosyncratically subpar sound quality of the recording will have an emotional effect different from a more standard, ripped version. Through mere survival, it has become unique. Yes, most art these days is the product of mechanical reproduction, but not all copies are equal — they all communicate something unique to their medium.

All of which is to say: it’s Thanksgiving and here’s a copy of “Alice’s Restaurant,” where you can still get anything you want.

(1) Don’t feel like giving Google your name?

a whole lotta articles

Oodles of catching up to do. Here goes, organized for your convenience…

Café Curiousity: A Shot of Herbie With That Latté, Sir? – feature interview with Herbie Hancock, published in Paste #18.

DVD review:
Video Overview in Deceleration, 1992-2005 – The Flaming Lips, published in Paste #18.

CD reviews:
Cripple Crow – Devendra Banhart, published in Paste #18.
The Sunset Tree – The Mountain Goats, published in May Hear/Say.
Shine – Trey Anastasio
Sixty Six Steps – Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon, published in Paste #18.
Bootleg Series, vol. 7: No Direction Home – Bob Dylan
The Jerry Garcia Collection, vol. 1: Legion of Mary and Pure Jerry: Warner Theater, March 18, 1978 – Jerry Garcia
Takk – Sigur Ros, published in September Hear/Say.
You’re Only As Pretty As You Feel – Caroleen Beatty and Mushroom
Acoustica: Alarm Will Sounds performs Aphex Twin – Alarm Will Sound
Bande Orignale du Film da OUTRE MER – Garage A Trois
Mehenata: New York Gypsymania – various artists

Live reviews:
Sun Ra Arkestra and the MC5 at Summerstage, 30 July 2005
Trey Anastasio at Jones Beach Amphitheater, 6 August 2005
Sufjan Stevens at the Bowery Ballroom, 19 August 2005
Seu Jorge at the Bowery Ballroom, 12 September 2005
The Disco Biscuits at Spirit, 13 September 2005
The White Stripes and The Shins at Keyspan Park, 24 September 2005
Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden, 1 October 2005
Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke at Irving Plaza, 29 October 2005

BRAIN TUBA: Time Passes Slowly
BRAIN TUBA: An Open Letter to Tapers
BRAIN TUBA: Bobology, fall 2005
BRAIN TUBA: Digital Rights Management and Other Digressions

Only in print:
o Rolling Stone #984 (Evangeline Lilly cover): Hot List item, Hot Attempt at Cataloging Everything (p. 92, next to the half-naked hipster chicks).
o Paste #18 (Cameron Crowe cover): album reviews of North Mississippi Allstars and Brian Eno.
o September/October Relix (Santana cover): Only the Pronoid Remain: John Perry Barlow Rides Again; album review of Phish; DVD reviews of Bernie Worrell and Woody Guthrie.
o November Relix (O.A.R. cover): Smoke. Stacks. Lightning: A Librarian Catalogues the Dead; album reviews of Why?, Seu Jorge and Bob Dylan; combined book/DVD review of current Pink Floyd product.
o August Hear/Say: album reviews of John Vanderslice and Son Volt.
o September Hear/Say: album reviews of Steve Kimock and Blues Traveler, book review of Jerry Garcia: The Collected Artwork.
o October Hear/Say: album reviews of Apollo Sunshine and Iron and Wine/Calexico.
o November Hear/Say: album reviews of Bell Orchestre and the Fiery Furnaces.

“london calling” – bob dylan

“London Calling” (wma) – Bob Dylan (re-upped through January 6th.)
21 November 2005, Brixton Academy, London, UK

Fly-by-night, lo-fi, punk-frickin’-rock recording of Dylan performing a solid minute of The Clash’s “London Calling” yesterday in London. The super-digitized distortion on the Windows media file is the 21st century equivalent of an oversaturated cassette bootleg made with a built-in condenser mic (and, hell, for all I know, this recording was made on an oversaturated cassette with a condenser mic). Dylan’s post-“Love and Theft” gruntfest howl is perfectly suited to the medium, cutting through the shit like a rude, distorted guitar and beamed around the world in a matter of hours by an anonymous head. (Thanks, anonymous head!) (…and to Aaron & Russ for pointing it out.)

frow show, it’s the frow show!

Back in the spring, I made four episodes of The Frow Show for the Ropedope Podcast Network. Episode 4 is a late night/headphones-recommended sound collage. Here are the playlists and links.

These editions follow previous stints on WNPT (the fake radio station/closed circuit radio at my high school), WOBC in Oberlin, Ohio (four to six am on Saturday mornings!), and a pirate radio station my friend Jeff set up in his living room (also in Oberlin) whose call letters I can’t recall.

Episode 1: Listen // Playlist
Episode 2: Listen // Playlist
Episode 3: Listen // Playlist
Episode 4: Listen // Playlist

If these don’t work, try here. They seem to have all the Ropeadope podcasts archived.

I’m in the process of putting together some new episodes.

frow show, episode 4 (the sound collage)

A three segment sound collage, with epilogue. Headphones recommended. Listen here.

1. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB

Segment 1 (containing, in roughly this order)
2. excerpt from “Orange Twin Field Works, vol. 1” – Jeff Mangum (from “Orange Twin Field Works, vol. 1”
3. random tracks from “The Lonesome Executive’s Fantastic Tape Recorder” – The Lonesome Executive (from “The Lonesome Executive’s Fantastic Tape Recorder”)
4. “Dripsody” – Hugh Le Caine (from “OHM: Early Gurus of Electronic Music” compilation
5. “Time Steps” – Walter Carlos (from “Walter Carlos’ Clockwork Orange”)
6. “Arrival in Mas” – recorded by David Baker (from “Pitamaha: Music from Bali”)
7. “Oh My God! Nature! Run!” – Funny Cry Happy (from “Postcards: Atlantic City” EP)
8. “To Inflate…” – Korena Pang (from “AUX” compilation)
9. “Black Firs” – A Hawk and a Hacksaw (from “A Hawk and a Hacksaw”)

Segment 2:
10. “(Tape Composition)/Evening Drones/Dusk At Cubist Castle, etc.” – Black Swan Network (from “Black Swan Network vs. Olivia Tremor Control”)

Segment 3 (containing overlapping excerpts from, roughly in this order):
11. “O Relogio” – Os Mutantes (from “Os Mutantes”)
12. “Karmic Light” – Tetsu Inoue (from “Ambient Otaku”)
13. “1/1” – Brian Eno (from “Music For Airports”)
14. “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” – Gavin Bryars (from “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”)
15. “Journey Through the Outer Darkness” – Sun Ra (from “Concert For the Comet Kohoutek”)
16. “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground” – Bascom Lamar Lunsford (from “Anthology of American Folk Music” compilation)

17. “Sea Song” – Robert Wyatt (from “Rock Bottom”)

frow show, episode 3

Listen here.

1. “Astro Black” – Sun Ra (from “Concert For the Comet Kohoutek”)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Wowie Zowie” – Frank Zappa (from “Freak Out!”)
4. “Halifax” – Hampton Grease Band (from “Music To Eat”)
5. “NYC Is Like A Graveyard” – The Moldy Peaches (from “The Moldy Peaches”)
6. “Hot Rocks Polka” – Weird Al Yankovic (from “UHF” soundtrack”)
7. “Ruby Tuesday” – Rolling Stones (from “Between The Buttons”)
8. “She Shot A Hole In My Soul” – Clifford Curry (from “Night Train to Nashville” compilation)
9. “Don’t” – Seu Jorge (from “Cru”)
10. “Drifter in the Dark” – Ween (from “Chocolate and Cheese”)
11. “Death Is Only A Dream” – The Stanley Brothers (from “The Complete Rich-R-Tone Recordings”)
12. “Train Song” – Phish (from “Billy Breathes”)
13. “Strange Fruit” – Robert Wyatt (from “Nothing Can Stop Us”)
14. “Nannou” – Aphex Twin (from “Windowlicker” EP)

frow show, episode 2

Listen here.

1. “Walking at Night on Key West” – Allen Ginsberg (from “Holy Soul Jelly Roll” box set)
2. “Go” – Apples in Stereo (from “Discovery of a World Inside the Moone”)
3. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
4. “Radio India #1” – Sublime Frequencies (from “Radio India: The Eternal Dream of Sound”
5. “Alabama” – Mark de Gli Antoni (from “Horse Tricks”)
6. “Non Dirle Che Non E’ Cosi’ (If You See Her, Say Hello)” – Francesco De Gregori (from “Masked and Anonymous” soundtrack)
7. “Sweet Young Thing” – The Monkees (from “The Monkees”)
8. “The Enemy” – Matt Van Winkle
9. “94 The Hard Way” – Jim O’Rourke (from “Bad Timing”)
10. “Phonoballoon Song” – Takako Minekawa (from “Candy Cloud Calculator”)
11. “My Boy Lollipop” – Millie (from “This is Reggae Music” box set)
12. “White Lexus” – Mike Doughty (from “Haughty Melodic”)
13. “It Must’ve Been the Roses” – the Grateful Dead (from “One From the Vault”)
14. “Hazy SF” – Six Organs of Admittance (from “Golden Apples of the Sun” compilation)
15. “Pink Bullets” – The Shins (from “Chutes Too Narrow’)
16. “You Belong To Me” (altered version) – Bob Dylan (from “Natural Born Killers” soundtrack)
17. “No Ke Ano Ahiahi” – Medeski, Martin, and Wood (from “Combustication”)

frow show, episode 1

Listen here.

1. “We Shall Overcome” – Charlie Haden (from “Liberation Music Orchestra”)
2. “The Infanta” – The Decemberists (from “Picaresque”)
3. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
4. “Yellow Brick Road” – Capt. Beefheart (from “Safe As Milk”)
5. “Allah Wakbarr” – Ofo & the Black Company (from “Love’s A Real Thing: the Funky, Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa”)
6. “Micro Disneycal World Tour” – Cornelius (from “Fantasma”)
7. “Grass Canons” – the Olivia Tremor Control (from “Black Foliage: Animation Music, vol. 1”)
8. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” – Neutral Milk Hotel (from “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”)
9. “Happy Today” – The Wowz (from “Long Grain Rights”)
10. “In the Wake” – John Biz (from “The Elephant in the Room”)
11. “The Bug Speaks” – The Song Corporation (from “Raisin Bran in the Sun” EP)
12. “Totaled” (alternate “I’ll Come Running”) – Brian Eno & the Winkies (from random BBC session)
13. “Burro” (mariachi “Jack-ass”) – Beck (from “Sissyneck” single)
14. “Too Much of Nothing (take II)” – Bob Dylan (from the complete Basement Tapes)
15. “Cars Can’t Escape” – Wilco (from “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” demos)
16. “Round-Up Time In Texas” – Girls of the Golden West (from “Flowers in the Wildwood: Women in Early Country Music” compilation)
17. “Dreaming” (Sun Ra cover) – Yo La Tengo (from “Prisoners of Love”)
18. “Ragtime Nightingale” – David Boeddinghaus and Craig Ventresco (from “Crumb” soundtrack)
19. “Surf’s Up” – The Beach Boys (unreleased bootleg version)

coney island, 10/05

An early October trip to Coney Island.

1. We caught the bus by Keyspan Park, took it down Surf Avenue, got off at 33rd Street, made a right on 34th, and the first left onto Mermaid Avenue. We looked for #3520, formerly occupied by Woody Guthrie and family. We found the apartment complex that replaced it long before we were born.

(1a. Incidentally, if you enter “3520 Mermaid Ave., Brooklyn, NY” into Google Maps, and look at the satellite view, Coney Island is a lush blur, like a SimCity screenshot printed on sunbleached Kodachrome.)

2. We walked down the Boardwalk. The sounds of the Polyphonic Spree ricocheted between the projects. We walked through Astroland at dusk.

3. The Parachute Drop as the light disappears. The cell phone camera overcompensates with its usual granular aplomb.

“down home (rehearsal version)” – jerry garcia

“Down Home (rehearsal)” – Jerry Garcia (File expires on November 24th.)
outtake from Cats Under the Stars (1978)
available from Rhino (buy)

If you’ve ever dreamed of hearing Jerry Garcia’s (1) voice layered over itself in wordless harmony — ala the Beach Boys on “Our Prayer,” the invocation to Brian Wilson’s SMiLE — then the rehearsal take of “Down Home” is for you. And if you haven’t dreamed of that, well, too bad. Though the arrangement is basically the same, the official version released on Cats Under the Stars, sung primarily by then-Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux — is something quite different. John Kahn’s bass guides sparsely but, here, it’s all Garcia, basically a capella, all northern California sweetness and heartache.

(1) Should you be a hater, at this point, I would like to both quote from and direct you towards a fine article by my friend Bill, published on the uber-heady BoomSalon:

“…a decade [after Garcia’s death], we Deadheads – yes, I now wear that label proudly, so bite me – still all too often keep ourselves closeted, having internalized the embarrassment we’re still told we should feel, its patent absurdity notwithstanding.

“Well, fuck that. Here’s how it is: The Grateful Dead are the hippest goddamn rock band there ever was, and if you don’t get it, YOU’RE the one who’s not cool. That is no longer my – our – problem. I am embarking on a campaign, starting now, to see to it that those brilliant bastards finally get the respect they deserve, and I shall beat it out of you, o reader, with every rhetorical bludgeon I possess should you attempt to resist me.”

the return of the frank & earthy blog.

Thanks to Craig’ers & Dave, the Frank & Earthy Blog is back. I’ve got a whole backload of entries from around the time the site shit the bed, so I’ll be putting those up in the next few days.

I’ve also stocked the new blog with all the entries from my initial It’s Got A Good Beat blog (circa 2003-2004), which are mostly (maybe uninteresting) exercises in listening carefully to and writing very specifically about Billboard hits, as well as the past 10 months worth of entries from They’re all properly dated, 1984-style, so as to give the illusion that they were always there. Just as Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, this has always been exactly what my blog has looked like.

I’m using new software, so it’ll prolly take a few days to work out the kinks. Anyway, glad to be back and shinier than ever.

more fun with light sources

1. In which the sun explodes over Bourgwick…

2. …and later sets behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sucking the foreground into pure, black silhouette.

3. And, of course: the (accidental, digital) agony of Paul McCartney.