Jesse Jarnow

Archive for January, 2008

have read/will read dept.

o New Murakami on the way! In July! About jogging! (Bill Hicks: “What do you jot down about jogging? ‘Left foot, right foot, blood spurts out nose.'”) Either way: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
o Like grapes becoming raisins, bureaucracy often transforms into absurdity, which — in turn — is a fine basis for proverb-soaked folklore. John Beamer on 14 “Rules and quirks” of professional baseball.
o New Yorker classical critic Alex Ross on Radio’eads’s Jonny Greenwood.
o This year’s Oscar-nominated animated shorts. Looking forward to watching these.
o Wired explores “The Life Cycle of a Blog Post.” Great concept, nice execution, but not nearly as complicated as the chart seems to represent on first glance.

a screening room in the mtv building, 1/08

bourgwick blows off steam following the state of the union, 1/08

have read/will read dept.

o Jennifer Egan’s “The General” — first published in Five Chapters, collected in Best American Non-Required Reading — is the raddest piece of short fiction I’ve read in a long while. Effortlessly modern and viciously hilarious, but also sweet and heartbreaking.
o A luxurious, Joseph Mitchell-style 2002 NYT piece on Sunny’s, where I recently caught Smokey Hormel’s Roundup. (see also: bassist Tim Luntzel’s page, for upcoming Roundup dates.)
o Via the Huffington Post: “According to Us Weekly, the Terry Gillian production of ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’, which Ledger was partially though filming, has been scrapped and everyone let go.” Dude can’t catch a break; peeps can’t even spell his name right. (Of course, Brothers Grimm and Tideland kinda sucked.)
o Tom Stoppard’s book valise. Hawt.
o Not reading, but not embeddable either, Eugene Mirman’s report from the New Hampshire primary is a useful distillation of his absurdism.
o Ron Darling has been training. (And of course you’ve seen Ira Kaplan’s Kiner’s Korner-parodying interview with Eddie Kranepool.)
o Why can’t American politics be this much like Joseph Campbell lectures about folklore? (Via NYT.)

Omens of his downfall are said to have included the breaking of a gavel in Parliament and Mr. Suharto’s loss of the chignon, or hairpiece, of his wife, Siti Hartinah, who died in 1996.

Many Indonesians maintain that her death was the beginning of the end for Mr. Suharto. She was a minor member of the royal family here, the Sultanate of Solo, and is said to have been the source of Mr. Suharto’s legitimacy as a ruler. In Javanese tradition, power has an essence of its own, known as wahyu, and is conferred like a mantle on certain chosen people in a way similar to the “mandate of heaven” that empowered Chinese emperors.

After the death of Mr. Suharto’s wife, spiritualists as well as political scientists saw Mr. Suharto becoming less deft as a ruler. In his desperation near the end, according to accounts at the time, he called in a West African spiritualist to help him.

“There is a tradition of Javanese kings becoming kings because of their wives,” Onghokham, a prominent social historian, said in an interview. He died last year. “When Suharto rose to power, people believed that the wife had the wahyu, the flaming womb, and whoever united with her would get the wahyu. After her death, people began to sense the wahyu was gone.”

Or maybe it is and we’re just too close to it.

some recent articles

Field of Schemes, on the Mitchell Report (Village Voice)
Interview with Walk Hard director Jake Kasdan (Paste)
Anthology Recordings Brings Forgotten Music To The Web (

Pazz and Jop 2007: ballot, comments

Idolator 2007: Ballot & Comments (

Live reviews:
Yo La Tengo at Maxwell’s, 4-11 December 2007 (Village Voice blog)
Yo La Tengo at Maxwell’s, 8 December 2007 (Relix)
Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night, 15 December 2007 (Village Voice blog)
Smokey Hormel’s Roundup at Sunny’s, 23 January 2008 (Village Voice blog)

Album reviews:
Jukebox – Cat Power & Ask Forgiveness EP – Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Paste)
I’m Not There OST – various (Relix)
Give Thanks to Chank – Col. Bruce Hampton & the Quark Alliance (
White Moth – Xavier Rudd (Paste)

Track review:
Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse” – Of Montreal (

Movie reviews:
Redacted (Paste)
Starting Out in the Evening (Paste)

BRAIN TUBA: The Bohemians (
BRAIN TUBA: War on War, parts 14-15 (

In print:
o Paste #39 (Art House Powerhouse cover): feature on Michel Gondry, blurblet on Todd Haynes’ Superstar, album reviews of Cat Power, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, La Belle Epoque compilation, movie review of City of Men
o February/March Relix (Black Crowes cover): features on Ween and Unbroken Chain symposium, live review of Yo La Tengo, album reviews of North Mississippi AllStars, Zox, Grateful Dead, book review of Will Hodgkinson.
o Signal To Noise #48 (Devendra Banhart cover): album review of A Hawk and a Hacksaw & the Hun Hangar Ensemble, Os Mutantes
o December Hear/Say (Angels & Airwaves cover): album review of Michael Showalter
Plus, “Ghost Stories” (from Paste #33) made Short End Magazine’s “40 Film-Journalism Must-Reads & Sees of 2007.”

pazz & jop 2007

Ballots for the Village Voice‘s annual Pazz & Jop poll were posted today. Mine is here. My full comments are below:

The other night Sancho and I were toasting the arrival of the Huns. His belief about the record industry’s collapse, which I support, is that it is wonderful that nobody can make a living playing music anymore, because then only people who really give a shit will try. I like it because it reaffirms the fact that everybody, it seems, does it anyway.

Granted, I write about music, and do so in Brooklyn, taboot, but I am optimistic that the glut is not local. I will have Sancho confirm this upon his annual return to Santo Domingo next week, but really, it seems that music is ephemeral again. The corporate bloodlettings — which greatly please Sancho’s North American Zoroastrian urges — are the final sign that the technologies for production and consumption are virtually interchangeable, a decidedly pre-modern balance.

Coupled with the pervasive and overwhelming data smog, one might even read the omnipresent desire to write/record/edit/curate music as culturally bred defense mechanism. Territorial pissing, more or less. Bodily fluids being what they are, this — needless to say — only exacerbates the issue. What is uncanny, though, are all the specific ways that music can make itself cut through, well, the crap. Sometimes it’s at least pretend-innovative, other times plain as day.

Released on a circular disc and judged strictly on its sonic youth, Radiohead’s In Rainbows would likely have been greeted as a songy disc by blokes reaching middle age. By selling it through ice cream trucks as they have, though, Radiohead has added a layer of (at least) temporary meaning to their work — ideally enough to get a listener listening long enough to really give the music a fair shake. (Which it’s worth. Really.)

Wilco (to use another example from the dwindling set of shared references) took a tried and true route: make it as plum pleasing as possible. Sancho thinks Jeff Tweedy is a stone shark-jumper (but that’s okay: more blood, potentially), though the shimmering guitars and dulcet tones of Sky Blue Sky wooed me endlessly.

There was just something I liked about the way it sounded, and couldn’t get enough of it for a while. Does that make it good? Dunno. I couldn’t really tell you what the songs are about, or even how I necessarily relate to anything beyond one or two lines, or — when it comes down to it — why I still consider it great even though I actually deleted the second half of the album from my iPod, cut out a plodding jam, substituted a live version of “What Light” and added some B-sides. Even with all of that, it holds up as a vessel, floating.

My enjoyment of the album is totally abetted by technology and its resultant lesson: the notion that music isn’t sacred. And it’s not even necessarily made by people with cool haircuts, righteous attitudes, or business sense. In the case of the latter, it sometimes just takes 40 years to reach who it needs to reach. Discovered anew, everything sounds current. Sometimes, everything current sounds old — like Vampire Weekend, who (on first listen) already sound like a band sucked into the hype grinder and spat out. I kind of hate myself for liking them. Sancho probably just hates them, though he’s got some theories about that, too.

“Start a blog,” I said.

“Bite me,” he said. “Then I’d have to write.”

frow show, episode 36

Episode 36: Won’t Somebody Think of Terry Gilliam?

Link here.

1. “Can’t Buy Me Love” – The Better Beatles (from Mercy Beat)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Only Heaven Knows” – Kevin Ayers (from The Unfairground
4. “Your Party Was Yesterday” – Sam Champion (from SM CHMPN EP)
5. “Spider Home” – O’Death (from Gigantic Series 7-inch)
6. “Amnesia” – Fire on Fire (from Fire on Fire EP)
7. “Cycles” – Frank Sinatra (from Cycles)
8. “Kandore Mandore” – Andore Mandore
9. “Ego Blossoms” – Samara Lubelski (from Living Bridge compilation)
10. “Music (Japanese version)” – Petra Haden (from Gum EP)
11. “Coloris” – Cornelius (from Coloris OST)
12. “Systems Thinking Business Modeling Consultant” – Magnetophone and John Darnielle (from Esopus #6: Help Wanted Alternative)
13. “The Deepest of Reds” – The S-Haters (from Stories As Cold as the Irish Sea 7-inch)
14. “Hyperstation” (live) – Sonic Youth (from Daydream Nation deluxe edition)
15. “California” – Dr. Dog (from Takers and Leavers EP)
16. “Four Freshmen Locked Out As the Sun Goes Down” – No Kids (from Come Into My House)

have read/will read dept.

o Jason Gross returns with his annual Best Music Scribing round-up.
o Nabokov’s son, Dmitri, has to decide whether or not to destroy his father’s last work, a work-in-progress titled Laura in accordance with Nabokov’s last wishes.
o Adderall/Ritalin prescriptions are up in the Major Leagues — 35 players during the 2006 season to 111 in 2007.
o My mind was totally blown by this Times article on Sunday about the genre of Japanese cell-phone novels. Hope they make it to translation!
o A Wired editorial by Clive Thompson titled “Why Sci-Fi is the Last Bastion of Philosophical Writing,” which (I think) is also what it’s about.

cornelius obscurities

“Coloris” – Cornelius (download)
from Coloris OST (unreleased) (2006)

“Mixed Bizness (Cornelius remix)” – Beck (download)
from Mixed Bizness EP (2000)

“Music (Japanese version)” – Petra Haden (download) (buy)
from Gum EP (2008)

(files expire January 28th)

Super-dooper-like-whoa psyched for the Cornelius gig at Webster Hall next Saturday. And you should be, too. As such, here’s some arcana from the shibuya-kei bitmaster.

First up is part of his contribution to the soundtrack to the Gameboy Advance game Coloris (thanks to Dessgeega for the YouTube vid). I’d love to hear more of this stuff! I like the idea of writing loops and algorithms and standalone pieces of music for video games as a formal challenge to create music that is economical, simple, and satisfying.

Cornelius’s take on Beck’s “Mixed Bizness” is probably my single favorite remix of all time, let alone in the deep catalogues of both Hansen and Oyamada. If there were ever any doubts about one being the Oriental/Occidental counterpart to the other, the mind-blowing singularity of this cut should blow them like so many oblique paper creatures.

My major problem was last year’s Sensuous was its seeming abandonment of the acoustic side of the electro-acoustic equation. On the new Gum EP, vocal acrobat Petra Haden’s take on “Music,” Sensuous‘s penultimate cut, re-humanizes the hyper-organized bleeps. (Also included is Haden’s English language version of the same.)

“four freshmen locked out as the sun goes down” – no kids

“Four Freshmen Locked Out as the Sun Goes Down” – No Kids (download) (pre-order)

from Come Into My House (Tomlab) (2008)

(file expires January 24th)

File No Kids’ “Four Freshmen Locked Out as the Sun Goes Down” with Grizzly Bear and Asobi Seksu’s recent Phil Spector tributes, Dr. Dog’s “California,” and any number of other indie odes to pre-Beatles pop. It almost doesn’t matter what the Vancouver trio are singing about. In fact, I’m not even sure if I know myself, other than vague hints of a break-up, framed in the sonic guise of Brian Wilson’s vocal heroes. The title and the arrangement — both novelties on Come Into My House — are all they need to sell me on the song, which powers through on sheer vibe, the type of thing I’m happy to listen to just for the sound of it until it means something more.

“kim smoltz” – ween

“Kim Smoltz” – Ween (download)
from The Mollusk demos (thanks,

(file expires January 24th)

I love this Mollusk outtake before Gener even starts to sing, the endlessly airy keyboard melody that’s warm ‘n’ synthy all at once. When the vocals come in, the genre is implicit immediately: the wizened rock tune filled with maximum meaningless cliché. “Take it easy, walk with a light step, baby,” Gener sings. But without breaking voice, the song turns weird. “Walk amongst the life forms in your day,” is one piece of advice. “Swim around ’til the fish float out of the socket in your skull,” is another. While it might sound like parody, by blowing the song into the psychedelic nether-regions, Ween imbue the clichés with their original power: they’ve been through the weirdness, come out the other side, and now have something to offer. “Marinate a good piece of beef, understand the mind of belief” reminds me of the Americana of “Roses Are Free.”

ball four

The steroids hearings today, coupled with the stories about the rise of Adderall and Ritalin prescriptions among players, reminded me off a few passages of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four (1970), where the then-active pitcher makes clear how entwined drugs, quack science, and baseball are. Besides speaking of rubs like “First Atomic Balm” and “Heet!”, Bouton writes:

I’ve tried a lot of other things through the years — like butabolidin, which is what they give to horses. And D.M.S.O. — dimethylsulfoxide. Whitey Ford used that for a while. You rub it on with a plastic glove and as soon as it gets on your arm you can taste it in your mouth. It’s not available anymore, though. Word is it can blind you. I’ve also taken shots — novocaine, cortisone and xylocaine. Baseball players will take anything. If you had a pull that would guarantee a pitcher 20 wins but might take five years off his life, he’d take it.

More present throughout are the omnipresent amphetamines:

We’ve been running short of greenies. We don’t get them from the trainer, because greenies are against club policy. So we get them from players on other teams who have friends who are doctors, or friends who know where to get greenies. One of our lads is going to have a bunch of greenies mailed to him by some of the guys on the Red Sox. And, to think you can spend five years in jail for giving your friend a marijuana cigarette.

And earlier:

There were 30,000 people in the park and it was exactly the kind of day in which you want to look good against your old club and in honor of the occasion Gary put down at least three greenies. They didn’t do him a bit of good.

have read/will read dept.: catch-up edition

Finally finished playing catch-up with many of my to-read bookmarks:
o Fantastic LA Weekly piece about Mark Mothersbaugh and Devo’s continued devolution. (“As an antidote, he and fellow Devo member Bob Casale in the beginning used to sneak subliminal messages into their scores. The first few times they were nervous, says Mothersbaugh. ‘I think it was a Keds commercial where we put in “Question authority.” I remember the people from Keds were tapping their pens on the table and the music’s playing, and it gets to the subliminal message, and I remember I flushed bright red. I looked over at this guy and he’s going, “Yeah! Yeah! Go go go!”‘”
o The McLovin12four screenname turned up on my buddy list, too.
o The Times writes a brief history of Webster Hall, which would be a wonderful place to see music if it wasn’t killing rock and roll in New York City.
o David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists–and Megastars.
o The Avant Garde Project provides an archive of out-of-print experimental LPs in FLAC and mp3.
o The Times profiles WFMU’s $mall ¢hange.
o Sad/sweet dispatch about George Harrison occasionally dressing up in the old Beatles costumes.
o A long thread (c. 2005) about the manufacture and distribution of LSD on Grateful Dead tour.
o “I Got What America Needs Right Here“: a wonderful Onion editorial by and about our man for ’08, Jimmy Carter.
o A map of online communities.
o An open-source freeware version of SimCity will be included with every computer distributed by the One Laptop Per Child project. The idea of impoverished kids learning about mega-conceptual society-building through SimCity blows my mind, but I do worry about the hegemonic implications, that SimCity merely represents the Westernized/American notion of urban development, beginning with power plants and industrial zoning, as opposed to in a poorer economic sphere.

useful things, no. 10: write room

“Paperback Writer” – The Beatles (download, regular) (buy, karaoke)

Over the weekend, I asked Spupes how to create a user account on my computer with all temptation-abetting internet capabilities blocked. Instead, he told me about WriteRoom, a text editor that takes over the computer’s full screen, literally blacking out all other apps in an emulation of a no-fuss ’80s-style word processor. By necessity, a screenshot could never convey exactly what is so wonderful about this program, so I’m not gonna try. Conceptually, it raises some interesting points about the usefulness of the complex, multitask-enabling GUIs that’ve become the norm versus the efficiency of one-track productivity. Practically, it’s just awesome. Or maybe it’s just a nice change of virtually scenery after 10+ years of Microsoft word processing products. Either way, I’m looking forward to getting up tomorrow and using this.

the city & eastern tunes of jeffrey lewis

“Texas” – Jeffrey Lewis with Jack Lewis and Anders Griffin (download) (buy)
from It’s the One’s Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through (2003)

“The Murder Mystery” (Velvet Underground) – Jeffrey and Jack Lewis (download)
recorded 2002 July 31 Peel Session

“Don’t Be Upset” – Jeffrey and Jack Lewis (download) (buy)
from City and Eastern Songs (2005)

(files expire January 18th)

Besides the press release for the forthcoming Mountain Goats album, which he illustrated, I have never seen any of Jeffrey Lewis’s comics. Nonetheless, they seem such a vivid way to understand his music. On “Texas,” speech balloon call-and-response (“How’s the pizza?” “Fucking awful!”) spirals methodically into imagistic madness, ala the Velvet Underground’s “Murder Mystery” (covered by Lewis on a Peel session in 2002), or a one-sheet comic in an alt-weekly. Elsewhere, it comes through in alternatingly hilarious and narcissistic autobiography — at it’s best, both simultaneously, as on “Don’t Be Upset” — where Lewis appears, like a self-illustrated post-hippie narrator, ala Kim Deitch’s Alias the Cat. Or maybe it’s just the power of suggestion. Just knowing that Lewis is a visual artist almost makes one forget the anti-folk cuteness that marbles his urban chronicles. Whatever it is, it’s a voice, and one that’s been absurdly prolific over the past few years, with a lot to discover. (And don’t neglect his legit cartoon classic, “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror.”)

fear & loathing off the campaign trail…

It occurred to me the other day that this is the first primary season of my life without HST around to bring a continuum of sanity/humanity (stylized, as it were) to Presidential campaign coverage. Drag.

There is something seriously bent, when you think on it, in the notion that a man with good sense would race out of his peaceful mountain home in Colorado and fly off in a frenzy like some kind of electrified turkey buzzard to spend three or four days being carried around the foulest sections of New England like a piece of meat, to watch another man, who says he wants to be President, embarrassing a lot of people by making them shake his hand outside factory gates at sunrise.

frow show, episode 35

Episode 35: Weather-Induced Serotonin Fluctuations

Listen here.

1. “New Year’s Eve” – Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers (from Heroin)
2. “New Year” – The Breeders (from Last Splash)
3. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
4. “He’s A Bad Boy” – Carole King
5. “Pochahantas” – Neil Young (from Chrome Dreams)
6. “Static #1” – Beck (from Radio 1 session)
7. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” – Ray Charles (from Complete Country & Western)
8. “Going to San Diego” – Allen Ginsberg (recorded 11/1971 Record Plant, NYC)
9. “Heshey’s Miniatures” – Corn Mo (from I Hope You Win!)
10. “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” – Kitty Wells
11. “From A Window To A Screen” – the dB’s (from Repercussion)
12. “Tengazako 2” – Esau Mwamwaya
13. “Amok!” – Evan Ziporyn and Gamelan Galak Tika (from Evan Ziporyn/Gamelan Galak Tika)
14. “Mixed Bizness (Cornelius remix)” – Beck (from Mixed Bizness EP)
15. “Shooter” – Lil’ Wayne feat. Robin Clarke
16. “Side A (cLOUDDEAD #4; Jimmy Breeze 10”) – cLOUDDEAD (from 2002/07/17 Peel Session)
17. “We Bid You Goodnight” – Animal Collective (from unknown date, Old Market Hove, East Sussex, UK)
18. “As We Go Along” – The Monkees (from Head OST)

moving entertainments

Cornelius on some kids’ show:

Cornelius’s music for a video game, Coloris:

David Lynch on the iPhone:

The legendary/lost/kinda-actually-sucky Biggs sequence from Star Wars:

A little old lady with an ax scares off a robber:

have read/will read dept.

o Nicholas Meriwether on the Grateful Dead moniker: “steeped in scholarship, near universal in human culture and history, and still capable — as one Deadhead put it — of alienating parents.” (via his introduction to All Graceful Instruments, an anthology of Deadhead academia) (PDF)
o Chuck Klosterman on why not reading Harry Potter will make him culturally irrelevant at some point in the future.
o Why dudes like sappy movies, as long as they’re made up (and vice-versa).
o J. Hoberman on Bob Dylan’s films.
o David Cross on selling out. This is something of a genre: the confessional post about why doing X isn’t selling out, or — if it is — why it doesn’t matter a damn. (See also: Kevin Barnes.) Somebody could edit an anthology of this stuff.
o Steve Jobs at home, circa 1982.

dead freaks unite, no. 2

“Box of Rain” – The Grateful Dead (download) (buy)
from American Beauty (1970)

The Lorimer/Metropolitan station connects the L train to the G train, or Williamsburg to Park Slope. It is, needless to say, a Brooklynite hub. After discovering Grateful Dead graffiti there last year, I had another late night Dead encounter, this time with a drunk hipster.

At around 2 in the morning, over Thanksgiving weekend, he wandered onto the Brooklyn-bound side, carrying a mostly empty bottle of wine, and singing at the top of his lungs. His bellows slapped off the tile, making the lyrics that much more indistinguishable as he sang along with his iPod. I slipped off my headphones, curious to hear what he was singing: “Box of Rain.” Needless to say, I started singing along.

Dude had owned American Beauty in high school but was recently inspired to dust it off thanks to the concluding episode of Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks, in which Lindsay Weir discovers the Dead and skips out on a summertime academic summit to head off on Dead tour.

The reclamation continues.

tragically HIP, no. 2

Following my debacle with the HIP website, I soon ran afoul of their legions of contradictory phone-bank loons, two of which approved a simple physical with a Manhattan doctor, and one of which added a few hundred dollars of additional charges to my account even though I’d already shelled out the agreed co-pay.

Thankfully, I have a secret force on my side, who revealed his identity in a manner most clever amid a thick tangle of bureaucracy that (I think) means I won:

v. The decision to overturn for the processing of the claim was rendered by Senior Clams Examiner, who is experienced in claims related issues.

The Senior Clams Examiner! Calloo! Callay! I’d like to think he is working away at his desk right now, high in some post-modern box overlooking a deserted midtown avenue, his office gloriously clean and new and tasteful. He empties a bucket of clams on the clean glass before him, the residue of previous loads miraculously wiped away by the futuristic self-cleaning furniture.

The Senior Clams Examiner praises Jah for the dumbass HIP executive who didn’t know the difference between oysters and clams and hired him to look for pearls anyway. He will be home in time to put his son to bed. He smiles, and grants his benevolence on a hapless sucker who didn’t realize that just because a hospital is affiliated with HIP doesn’t mean that all of its doctors are, too.

Putting the appeal in a pneumatic tube, the Senior Clams Examiner returns his attention to the batch of mollusks before him. When he finishes, he slides a few into his briefcase for a midnight treat with his wife, and leaves the rest for the robots to clean up.