what it is: a guy who lives in a jar where i found it:ancient literature
About five different times in the last week I've come across references to Diogenes, the great Cynic of Sinope. I looked him up to find out more. Here are some highlights:
He lived in a jar.
He walked around with a lamp in the daytime, saying he was in search of a single honest man.
He got booted out of his homeland for defacing currency.
He sabotaged Plato's lectures, once mocking him while holding a live chicken.
He derided Alexander the Great while sunbathing (beat that).
He was captured by pirates and sold into slavery.
He founded a major school of philosophy.
His sole possession was a bowl.
He died from a dog bite or holding his breath or eating octopus meat.
He liked to masturbate, urinate and defecate in public as a philosophical statement.
what it is: aquaman delirium where i found it: my kid
By some unremembered turn of events my kid has gotten deep into Aquaman, certainly one of the lamer superheroes. What this means for me is that I've been watching Aquaman episodes every evening, often multiple times. I can't tell if they just seem really funny to me because I'm getting delirious from watching it too much or it really is as ridiculous as it seems. My wife can watch it with a straight face, which I find disturbing. See for yourself.
what it is:surrealist theater on the high seas where i found it:those north koreans
In other news, a gaggle of North Koreans got busted with a bunch of obsolete weapons (like radars that detect missles that no-one has used for sixty years) hidden under sacks of sugar on a beat up boat in the Caribbean and then tried to commit suicide.
what it is: playing for change where i found it:tape op
In this month's Tape Op there's an article about an organization called Playing for Change, which operates on the promising premise of traveling around the world and seeking out (mostly) street musicians and people playing music outdoors and having them contribute to a multi-track of a single song. You have to admire this effort even if it results in some pseudo We Are the World shit. Here's one example, which among its better segments unfortunately features some sunlit dreadlocks in slo-mo and Bono with those shitty $500 sunglasses he's been wearing for the last twenty years.
Seeing so many people sing a Bob Marley tune stokes up another question that has plagued me for years, which is: how did Bob Marley become such a reliable fraternity icon? Aside from a love of ganja I truly cannot figure out what massive organized gaggles of higher-education-oriented rich suburban white dudes have in common with a protest singer from ghetto ass Trenchtown, Jamiaca and his message of universal love (when theirs seems to be one of universal cheap beer/chick fucking/torturing younger "friends"/date raping/becoming president). Though it's silly, this guy seems to have some ideas about it. A brief search also shows me that the Onion has touched on this theme. Even if it's not the funniest thing they've ever written you should read far enough down to get to the compassionate Marley in the bathroom picture.
RIP T Model Ford, a great blues man when there aren't that many of those left standing. The NY Times wrote up a great obit here. Unfortunately there's no mention of his time spent as an advice columnist for Arthur Magazine, where people would seek guidance for things like their marriage problems or their father's dementia and he would unfailingly reply with something about whiskey and a switchblade and women and whiskey and a Cadillac and another woman and more whiskey and a gun. Rest in peace.
what it is: early cecil where i found it: before i was born
I've been on a jazz piano jag as of late, getting mostly into that great spot, mostly between 1955 and 1965, when the line to traditional chord changes was fraying, but before it popped and hurled everyone thrashing into the atonal abyss. Some of my favorites from this time are the early Cecil Taylor records before he became a mad genius shrew and way before he only had one dreadlock left and started bringing bags of groceries on stage. Monk is still solidly there in his playing and classical runs are fully intact, but his expressionistic spasms start to peek through and - for me - they seem exceedingly fantastic in this context. Not to mention Steve Lacy, Dennis Charles and vibes player Earl Griffith walking the same tightrope in their own virtuosic ways. You can get this stuff for cheap via amazon and the Real Gone label, but it's not so hard to find on vinyl if you're willing to do a tiny bit of hunting.
Along the same lines, but slightly more reigned in in terms of tonality, I also can't help but to mention the great Lennie Tristano and his New Tristano record. I'm not going to say much. You should just listen.
what it is: seasickness where i found it:california
A few days ago I posted about the author David Novak, who was also recently featured in the "Portal" portion of the Wire's website (here). I wasn't previously familiar with this Portal thing, in which the Wire convinces a different character every month to discuss their favorite digital locales, resulting in a huge collection of interesting links, which to tell you the truth makes me a little seasick and overwhelmed. My two favorites that Novak cites are this huge bin of American folk tradition films and this giant pile of cicada recordings. He points out that the latter sound amazingly like harsh noise recordings. I concur.
Also, loosely related to this as it's mentioned in passing by Novak in his Japanoise book, is the Gutai group and my annoyance at missing the recent Guggenheim show that centered around their work. Small solace can be found in this great video with shitty opera music of Yasuo Sumi creating about 50 masterpieces at once.
I realize that I've been posting inconsistently recently, but I'm trying to make a method-actor-like commentary that reflects my subject, behaving like a flaky California dude.
what it is:that guy on the rollerblades in the robe with the guitar where i found it: california
If you've ever been to Venice Beach you've probably seen this guy, who rolls up and plays/sings at you and wont go away until you give him some money. Known as the Mayor of Venice, you may also be familiar with him from the movie Fletch, in which Chevy Chase goes undercover in an eerily similar get up. Someone somehow got him into a TV studio and now we can "enjoy" his hot licks, science fiction based poetry and inhuman shrieking (the big payoff at the end) without feeling harassed.
I should also mention that while in Venice I got to see an exciting knife fight which ended with one of the assailants in a full nelson. I'm also happy to report that the style attributed to that neighborhood and sported by Suicidal Tendencies with the bandanas and the socks pulled up high and the flannels buttoned to the top is still going strong. I started walking a little faster when I saw a front porch full of Latino dudes gathering at dusk, all in the full get up.
what is it: unusual things where i found it:california
I owe a number of recent discoveries to my good Californian friend Mr. PM,
the Arabic music expert and obscure LP authority mentioned several
days back in connection with Reptilian Obama. This may be a longish
post, but it's worth your while.
First up we have something so fucking California I can't believe it. If you've ever heard the Nat King Cole hit Nature Boy, it was written by a character named eden ahbez (lower case on purpose) an early utopian proto hippie who lived under one of the big Ls in the Hollywood sign. Further more, he lived under there with his wife and kid and survived on $3 a week while penning hit songs. He wore robes, had long hair and only ate raw food. He made albums about utopian islands and surfing. Here's a weird clip that shows ahbez arriving to a TV show with a bicycle and sitting cross legged while reading about his love of nature. Before you write him off as a typical hippie, remember that this is 1948, twenty years before San Francisco was full of ahbez carbon copies. The clip then goes on to present Nat King Cole and some other guy singing Nature Boy with no trace of soul whatsoever. You would never guess from this that early Nat King Cole is mastermind material. At any rate, even if you don't take the time to listen to ahbez's albums, at least visit his wikipedia page, one of the best I've read.
meeting of two great minds
meeting of two great, if unusual, minds
Secondly, Mr. PM turned me on to Arabic music legend Abdel Halim Hafez. Known as the Great Dark Skinned Nightingale, AHH wrote long form compositions, usually about love, which had a gigantic impact on classical and popular music across the Arab world and integrated a very strange mix of influences. Here's a clip which features stratocaster vs. orchestra, an extremely enthusiastic crowd and vocals by a seemingly sincere and blissed out AHH for a mind numbing length of time. This one, on the other hand, hits us with some spooky haunted house accordion, telecaster vs. orchestra, a psychedelic backdrop and, you guessed it, vocals by a seemingly sincere and blissed out AHH for a mind numbing length of time. As for his wikipedia page, it sounds like it was written by a smitten third grader.
Third, which I'll keep short, is the excellent label Numero Group, which puts out beautiful vinyl reissues of generally unheard music. The one I listened to the most revolves around Michigan gospel and is great through and through. The Numero website kind of sucks and doesn't provide a whole lot of information, but I'd venture to say that you couldn't go wrong with any of their releases. That's a slippery slope, because they have a ton of them. Good luck to you and your wallet.
what it is:good vibrations (anything but) where i found it:california
Though California is most noted in song for its good vibrations, it's also full of the opposite: gangs, homelessness, acid casualty beach bums, the worlds largest per capita incarceration rate, the Manson Family, the recently deceased Night Stalker (also the name of my band in junior high), oppressive traffic and mean cops. Even the guys who sang Good Vibrations ended up like this: