Jesse Jarnow

Archive for July, 2006

frow show, episode 8

After three months of waiting, Brotha Andy has finally posted the eighth installment of the Frow Show! Booya!

Listen here.

1. “True History of the Rolling Stones” – The Rolling Stones (via my friend Tim)
2. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – Devo (from Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo!)
3. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
4. “You Just May Be The One” – The Monkees (from Headquarters)
5. “SA-5” – Beck (from Deadweight EP)
6. “1000 Cities Falling (part I) – The Sadies (from Favourite Colours)
7. “Holding” – John Hartford (from Aereo-Plain)
8. “The Tain” – The Decemberists (from The Tain EP)
9. “Wheel of Light” – The Guppies (from Hydrologic)
10. “Sit Down, Stand Up” – Radiohead (from Hail to the Thief)
11. “Stand” – R.E.M. (from Green)
12. “Superdeformed” – Matthew Sweet (from No Alternative compilation)
13. “Cold Irons Bound” – Bob Dylan (from Masked and Anonymous soundtrack)
14. “Nobody Knows De Trouble I’ve Seen” – Marian Anderson (from Sacred Roots of the Blues compilation)
15. “Down Home (rehearsal version)” – Jerry Garcia (from All Good Things box set)

“wait for you” – the mountain goats

“Wait For You” – The Mountain Goats (download here)
from Babylon Springs EP (2006)
released by 4AD (buy)

(file expires on August 4th)

The closer from the Australia/iTunes-only Babylon Springs EP, “Wait For You” is a quiet John Darnielle gem. Instead of the lighter-and-liter full-band arrangements Darnielle has favored lately (including the other tracks of the EP), “Wait For You” opts for the straight-up acoustic guitar/bass of the Mountain Goats’ live gigs. Done right, the guitar/bass combo is one of my favorite sounds in the world, warm and rich, and part of what makes a lot of Blood on the Tracks such a joy for me.

Here, Darnielle whispers his narrative with all authority. “When it came time to wait for you, I took the bus to Malibu,” he begins, simultaneously precise (bus, Malibu) and vague (you? wait?). The chorus hook is gorgeous, its combination of image (“and a rainbow in the west wrapped its coils around the earth like a serpent”) and delivery (quieter and quieter and quieter) making for a little moment of transcendence.

stand in the place where you live (now face west), no. 2

(See part 1 for explanation.)

Just to play devil’s advocate here, what’s more important: knowing the information here instinctually or knowing how to find it on the world wide cyberinterwebnet? Clearly, all of this information is good to know. I feel more responsible as a a citizen for having some idea, now, where my garbage is going. Is it useful? Maybe in the broader sense that I’m now thinking about these questions. Strokes chin.

11.) From what direction do storms generally come?

12.) Where does your garbage go?
Since the Fishkill landfill on Staten Island closed in 2001, New York area garbage has been shipped to various out-of-state landfills. Last week, a plan was approved to ship it out by barge.

13.) How many people live in your watershed?
I’m a-gonna guess about 3.7 million, given that the Northern Long Island watershed is about half of Long Island, which has about 7.4 million residents.

14.) Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood?
Anybody who purchases products from A&R Lobosco, Inc., Potential Industries, Inc. (awesome name for a company!), Paper Fibres Corp., Rapid Recycling, and Triboro Fibers.

15.) Point to where the sun sets on the equinox. How about sunrise on the summer solstice?
Hmmm, over there and over there (points towards clusters of buildings).

16.) Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move?
In the Atlantic, south of Far Rockaway beach.

17.) Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water?
I’m not entirely sure, but I’m sure the Federal Pump Corp., who drill wells, would be able to tell me if I really needed to know.

18.) Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past?
I live in Brooklyn, but I like Jason Kottke’s answer too much: the bedrock beneath Manhattan was truly a sacred consideration in the construction of those most holy skyscrapers.

19.) How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)?
Early April-Mid May through October.

20.) Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put?
Common loon (migratory), red-throated loon (migratory), horned grebe (migratory), red-necked grebe (migratory), Cory’s Shearwater (migratory). (Lots more.)

stand in the place where you live (now face north), no. 1

Answering Kevin Kelly’s questions about The Big Here were way tougher than I imagined. I knew in advance that I didn’t know many of the answers, but even tracking some of them down via Google was a bit tough — quite different from an age where most people would probably know most of this stuff instinctually. I only got through the first 10 (of 30) and it took a good long while. If any of these seem horribly wrong to fellow Brooklynites, please correct.

1.) Point north.
Thatta way: over the basketball court, past the vacant lot, across Bogart Street, and towards Queens.

2.) What time is sunset today?
Probably 8:30ish? ( says 8:18.)

3.) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.
Water collects in the Catskill/Delaware and Croton watersheds, in 18 reservoirs and three controlled lakes, before being channeled underground through the Croton Aqueduct, to the boroughs.

4.) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?
The waste water in my neighborhood eventually makes it way to the Newtown Creek treatment facility in Greenpoint. The sludge is dewatered into biosolids and subsequently used as fertilizer or something else pleasantly beneficial. Yay poop!

5.) How many feet above sea level are you?
Looks to be about 20.

6.) What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here?
Ferns, from what I can tell. Are they a wildflower? Yeep.

7.) How far do you have to travel before you reach a different watershed? Can you draw the boundaries of yours?
Northern Long Island. The Southern Long Island watershed begins not-so-far to the south, a mile or two tops.

8.) Is the soil under your feet, more clay, sand, rock or silt?
More clay than sand, leftover from the Wisconsin Ice Sheet.

9.) Before your tribe lived here, what did the previous inhabitants eat and how did they sustain themselves?
The Canarsee Indians, Algonquians, were hunters, including ducks, turkeys, geese, deer, and clams. They grew corn, too.

10.) Name five native edible plants in your neighborhood and the season(s) they are available.
No idea, but I bet Wildman Steve Brill can tell me!

ladies & gentleman, the bronx is burning

Ladies and Gentleman, The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City is a map of a Manhattan just out of my reach. Though I wasn’t born until 1978, Jonathan Mahler’s scope encompasses familiar locales, as they were (more or less) when I was a child. There is reference to the Stewart House, a building in lower Manhattan so large that it constitutes its own voting district, crucial to Ed Koch in his bid for mayor. It also happens to be where my grandmother moved later that year after my grandfather died (and where I spent much time during high school). There is Bushwick, too, the neighborhood that properly begins a few blocks from my home, and how its own residents essentially burned it to the ground in the mid-1970s, and gutted it during in a massive riot during the 1977 blackout. And there are the Yankees, in their full mustachioed glory, the all-too-human personalities behind faces I vaguely recall from baseball cards. But mostly there is New York: cars and restaurants and gray buildings and dirt and endless people.

By European standards, New York remains an infant, free of the millennia of history that most European city-dwellers take for granted. While some of the figures in the book, especially in Mahler’s excavation of New York politics, seem ancient, they also seem perfectly contemporary, like the same stories could be happening with only minor variations this very minute. In that, The Bronx is Burning is a trick: one could pull multi-tiered historical narratives — maybe not about baseball and disco, but somethin’ — from any period in New York history. But they probably wouldn’t be as engaging.

“bat macumba” – os mutantes

“Bat Macumba” – Os Mutantes (download here)
from Os Mutantes (1968) (buy)

(file expires on July 31st.)

Since Os Mutantes rickety, joyous reunion show at Webster Hall on Friday, Gilberto Gil’s “Bat Macumba” — played by the Mutantes to open their encore — has been lodged in my head; the soundtrack to a very nice weekend, indeed. I’m surprised no hippie band has yet attempted to cover this. It’s perfect: an infectious groove, a playful musical structure (a syllable gets dropped from the chanted title phrase each time around, changing the meaning slightly), and equally playful lyrics that (on account of the dropped syllables) reference, among other things: Batman, Afro-Brazilian religion, and — according to a friend who speaks Portuguese — a command to smoke dope. My kinda tune. It’s been stuck in loop in my brain all weekend, despite seeing a bunch of other performances. When I arrived home at 5 in the morning last eve to a roommate-less loft, I put on “Bat Macumba” and danced.

some recent articles

Yo La Tengo Is Not Afraid of You and They Will Beat Your Ass,” (interview with Ira Kaplan)
Os Mutantes Reunite for U.S. Shows,” (interview with Sergio Dias Baptista)
Lesh is More,” Times Herald-Record (interview with Phil Lesh)
Searching For the Next Little Thing,” (a trip to the Consumer Electronics Show)

Album reviews:
Play Pause Stop – The Benevento Russo Duo
Gypsum Strings – Oakley Hall
Welcome To My World – Daniel Johnston
Of Whales and Woe – Les Claypool
Ganging Up On The Sun – Guster
Requiems der Natur, 2002-2004 – Cloudland Canyon

Live reviews:
Ramble Dove at Irving Plaza, 31 May 2006
Phil Lesh and Friends/The Ambiguously Troy Duo at Jones Beach, 7 July 2006

Columns and misc.:
Dead Bird, micro-fiction
BRAIN TUBA: It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Downloading
BRAIN TUBA: Pleasant Valley Tuesday

Only in print:
o Summer Signal To Noise (Tony Conrad cover): feature on Glenn Kotche, live review of Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, album review of Sun City Girls
o July Relix (Michael Franti cover): book review of Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews, DVD reviews of the Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart, album reviews of Sonic Youth, Spinjunkies, DJ Deep See, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of compilation.

this shape we’re in

The slimness of Jonathan Lethem’s This Shape We’re In works to its considerable charm. Its 55 pages read as a quick immersion into Lethem’s almost literally cartoonish other-world. In the first sentence, before he can even establish a plot, Lethem creates a central tension: just what the hell is going on?

It began when Belkan came into our burrow during cocktail hour and told us he had been in the eye. Early and Lorna were sitting around sipping gin and tonics and watching me grill a hunk of proteinous rind which I’d marinated pretty nicely and was basting like a real pro and my immediate response was to tell Belkan to go to hell. Marianne offered him a drink and he took it with both hands like it was hot chocolate and went back to boasting about his extraordinary meaner and the culture of the forelimbs and the things he’d witnessed peering through the eye: the inky depths of interstellar space (his words: inky depths, interstellar space).

Why wouldn’t you keep reading (especially when it’s available for $5 at the McSweeney’s bookstore)?


“UMA” – OOIOO (download here)
from Taiga (2006)
released by Thrill Jockey (buy)

(file expires on July 26th.)

So, basically, I have no idea what’s going on here, but it’s fucking awesome (which pretty much describes what I love about Japanese psychedelia in a nutshell). In this case, it’s a bunch of women screaming/chanting/calling-and-responsing/doing-somethin’ pretty dang gleefully. My attraction to The Boredoms (OOIOO is a side project), Cornelius, and Acid Mothers Temple involves a pungent toke of exotica, fer shizzle, but there really is some core idea that is totally compatible with me as a listener. While it’s a stretch to call that something “universally transferable” (universally transferable to record geeks being tantamount to being world famous in Poland), there is still enough of a continuity to make the foreign language and hints of Asian folk music seem almost understandable, which is actually way cooler than literally understandable. It’s as if the song’s visceral meaning is forever on the tip of my tongue. Plus, it’s called “UMA.”

manual for the robots.

It’s not really a consolation, but I am glad that I never dislodged the teetering stack of favorite CDs from the top of the stereo. The sudden death of my iPod (as opposed to probable theft by a lesbian stripper) will at least give me a chance to reacquaint myself with the quaint fetish objects, such as the Automatic For the People disc I accidentally got blood on when I didn’t realize my finger was bleeding one late night in high school (still there on the surface, a brown-red smudge atop the timing of “Monty Got A Raw Deal”)…

have read/will read dept.

o BB recently gave props to Tom Stites’ critique of American media. It’s a spot-on, if depressing, assessment. Tom also happens to be my pal Bill‘s dad, and a rad dude. He also drove Bill & me to our first Phish show (and, to his credit, got it completely).
o Okay, okay, there’s nothing new here, but this Elizabeth Drew’s piece in the New York Review of Books, “Power Grab,” is one of the more fundamental indictments of the Bush administration I’ve read, tracing how they methodically redefined the Executive Branch. (Thanks, Rich.)
o Admittedly, I haven’t gone through the full list yet, but — in “The Big Here” — Kevin Kelly offers 30 questions to help you center your ass.
o Paper Thin Walls, another new music site, launched this week with their reader-driven music blog, Bullhorn.
o The alluring, stock footage-assembled coming attraction for the work-in-progress Os Mutantes documentary, Bread and Circuses. (Thanks, Ari.)

charles manson sings (greatest misses #3)

This got recently excised from a magazine because the editor (as I interpret it) didn’t want to be responsible for the residual spreading of Manson’s bad juju. Here ’tis.

[ESP] 3 stars

Original freak-folker shows ’em how it’s done.

Though the Beach Boys covered one of his songs, and Neil Young lobbied for him to be signed, it was simply not to be for a struggling L.A. singer-songwriter named Charlie Manson. Instead, he earned himself a cult following significantly different than most of his acoustic-slinging brethren. Recorded in September 1967, six months after Manson’s previous release from prison and two years before the killings that brought him to notoriety, Manson set down two-dozen of his original compositions. Considered in the wake of Devendra Banhart and others ragged folk-psych revivalists, Charles Manson’s music — originally issued during his 1970 trial — is quite listenable. “Arkansas” is dotted with weirdly barbed guitars, off-kilter harmonies, and hippie agrarianism, while one can hear what appealed to the Beach Boys about the rising chorus of “Cease to Exist” (effectively repurposed by them into 20/20‘s “Never Learn Not To Love”). Too bad he didn’t get signed. Banhart might’ve rediscovered him.

the light of l.a.

If Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is an album that has inextricably bound me to a group of friends, then Lawrence Weschler’s Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders is its literary equivalent. The book, as well as David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, which it is about, have been the root of a half-dozen convergences in my life — doubly strange, given the importance of the word “convergence” in Weschler’s vocabulary.

In 2004, Weschler — a former New Yorker correspondent — published Vermeer in Bosnia, an eclectic collection featuring pieces about the director Roman Polanski, artist David Hockney, Shakespeare, war trials, and many other topics. Several of the pieces focus on Los Angeles, including a beautiful, brilliant entry called “The Light of L.A.” In it, he surveys filmmakers, artists, scientists, and poets, synthesizing it all into non-fiction transcendence.

Weschler has just learned of “airlight,” a scientific term describing the interference between one’s eye and the mountains beyond, when there seem to be “a billion tiny suns between you and the thing you’re trying to see.”

The next morning, I happened to be jogging on the beach in Santa Monica, heading north, in the direction of Malibu, as the sun was rising behind me. The sky was already bright, though the sun was still occluded behind a low-clinging fog bank over LAX. The Malibu mountains up ahead were dark and clear and distinct, and seemed as if freshly minted. Presently, the sun must have broken out from behind the fog bank — I realized this because suddenly the sand around me turned pale purplish pink and my own long shadow shot out before me. I looked up at the mountains, and they were gone: lost in the airlight.

dead bird, no. 11

(Being an attempt to write short fiction in even shorter increments…)

dead bird, no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

This is what the dead bird told me: it told me that Monica started the fire. There was no mistaking this. We’d seen dead birds all around the house, both of us, the summer the plant closed. It was not possible to go ten feet in the woods that August without seeing them. We’d read them, Monica and I, and saw rich narratives unfold across the gruesome mess. As it happened, Monica moved three blocks from where I’d first come across the bird.

Before that, we’d ridden the train out of the city, to the town in which our mother grew up. The weather was nothing: no rain or particular sun, a muted blue sky. Neither Monica nor I knew the town well. We walked from the train station, through the town center, towards a park I’d seen on the map. Monica bought a beer, which she drank from a paper bag.

On top of the hill, when we were sure we were out of view of the parking lot, we opened the box. Some of our mother’s ashes whipped from us, but there was little wind, and most fell at our feet in a dismal, chalky pile. I thought of the fine black powder our living room had become, the dust Monica had wished to join, unaware that our mother was looking through boxes of knick-knacks in the attic.

Walking back to the station, Monica dropped the bag and empty bottle on the ground. I looked at her. “What?” she said, “We can dump Mom here but not a fucking beer bottle?” But it wasn’t that. I wanted to burn the beer bottle, melt it down. I wanted to keep burning the house, making sure every last part was disintegrated. I wanted to burn the ashes more, making them smaller and finer and smaller still. I wanted to burn all the dead birds in the world. [/END]

dead bird, no. 10

(Being an attempt to write short fiction in even shorter increments…)

dead bird, no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

“Don’t ever think about that,” Monica told me, still drunk, as I made my way towards the bedroom. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, if it was an instruction to me, or a statement about her own powers of thought.

I craved a return to the life I’d made: working at the coffee shop, jogging every afternoon, getting eight hours of sleep a night. I realized I still did most of these, though no longer had the boundless interior tundra I might wander without Monica watching.

“Ever?” I asked, as I closed the door.

“Ever,” she confirmed.

And so, of course, I thought about it. I thought about the dead bird like Monica told me not to, and what it meant that — a full three weeks into its dismemberment — its wings were now perfectly opposed to one another, as if in flight, albeit with two feet of sidewalk between them. I dreamt of the beach by the lighthouse, its beam chasing me as I swam.
Monica was still sitting at the table in the morning, awake. I could not tell if she’d slept.

dead bird, no. 9

(Being an attempt to write short fiction in even shorter increments…)

dead bird, no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

The doorbell woke me. I’d fallen asleep on the couch, listening to the old R & B station and half-reading about the Mbuti pygmies in National Geographic. Then there was knocking. I found a police officer in the hallway. He had puffy, pocked cheeks and hard eyes. Monica stood next to him. She’d been crying. She was holding a box of brownie mix.

“We thought she was soliciting,” he said. Monica squeezed silently past me into the apartment.

I was taken aback. “Carrying a box of brownie mix?”

The officer looked embarrassed. “That’s what she said. She was quite drunk, though, and very lewd. She kicked me.” I glanced at the clock on the mantle, next to our mother’s ashes. Monica had been gone for over two hours. “We were forced to ticket her,” he explained.

After the officer left, I took my contacts out. I had to work in the morning. Monica sat at the kitchen table, reading the brownie box. I thought again about what the dead bird had told me, and felt tiredness course through my body like ink dispersing in water.

dead bird, no. 8

(Being an attempt to write short fiction in even shorter increments…)

dead bird, no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

As soon as Monica left, I washed the blood from my knuckle. Then I turned on the radio and rolled a joint. Whenever we separated, I felt a change in consciousness, a portion of my thoughts returning to a private domain. Ray Charles was on. I nodded gently with the music as I smoked.

I’d started getting high a year before I left home. It was summertime. My mother decided that I was the one to attend college in the city the following autumn; Monica would remain at home and run the store. I spent most of my time at Billy Tiernan’s, listening to his stepfather’s record collection, playing backgammon, and getting stoned.

One night, we all went to the lake. Monica and her friends, too. Billy and I had smoked a joint in his truck. Monica didn’t like pot. As we plunged towards the water, through the woods and between sheets of fireflies, I instinctively looked for her in the dark ahead of me. She was gone, then. From me, I mean.

dead bird, no. 7

(Being an attempt to write short fiction in even shorter increments…)

dead bird, no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

The mail was still in the mailbox, all junk. There was an American Express offer for me, and I had not lived there for over a decade. I’d gotten lost on the way over, and it was almost dark. The house outlined in the mild, pink light, I squinted at the familiar facade. When my eyes focused, I realized the whole left side, from the kitchen up, was caved in; missing, like a dark chunk from a waning moon.

The fire had started in the living room, they said. I stood at the edge of the yard and looked at the first floor’s dim skeleton. As a child, I’d imagined fires in the living room many times; not fires that I’d started, but fires I envisioned at their peaks, flames lapping cruelly at the drab, off-yellow drapes. I wondered how this matched up.

I sat on the warm hood of the car for a few minutes before I headed back to the city. The coroner had given me the option of picking up the ashes in the morning or having them shipped. I gave him my address.

dead bird, no. 6

(Being an attempt to write short fiction in even shorter increments…)

dead bird, no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

“You told the coroner about the brownies?” Monica asked, cross-legged on my couch, drinking her third screwdriver of the night. She cradled the paper cup gently in one palm. Her head rested on the other.

“No,” I explained, “he brought up the brownies.”

“Do you want to make brownies?” she asked. It was after midnight. I was on my first drink. “Come on,” she nudged, “The corner store’s open all night, right?”

Three days after she’d arrived we had our first fight, a silent feud that lasted a week, about whether we could afford a funeral. We couldn’t. I had little desire to communicate with my mother’s sister. Monica wouldn’t do it, either, so I won, as it were.

After that, without discussion, we slid into a natural co-habitation. I’d readjusted to Monica’s whims, all of them impulses that existed close to my own surface. Thinking about it right then, I wanted brownies, too. I didn’t offer to go with her, though. That was my fault.

dead bird, no. 5

(Being an attempt to write short fiction in even shorter increments…)

dead bird, no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

The wallpaper over the urinal repeated infinitely: a house, a river, a moose contemplating the dwelling from the opposite bank, some woods, another house. Somewhere between the woods and the house, the image began again, like an MC Escher illusion. This was the wallpaper in the bathroom at the coroner’s office.

My mother looked more or less like herself, except dead, her blonde-grey hair still in a ponytail. It had been a terrible fire, to be sure, but it was smoke inhalation that had gotten her, in the attic, while firemen below tried to put out the blaze.

“Yes,” I told the coroner, “that’s her.”

He nodded, and said he’d bought brownies from Mom at a few school bake sales.

“Yeah,” I said, “Brownies,” thinking about chocolate and looking at my dead mother’s still face out of the corner of my eye. I was still imagining the sugar on my tongue when I drove by the burnt house at dusk.