Monday, September 27, 2010

All Elvis'd out

I used to have the soundtrack to "King Creole" on vinyl. I kept it solely for the nice portrait of Elvis on the cover and because I loved the way he sang this song:

Yes, it's a haunting call-and-response about a crawfish. And somehow it works.

Eventually, I got rid of this album, which I'm kind of unhappy about. But I move around too much--it's my fate, and records are heavy and difficult to pack and move, so albums with only one good song eventually have to go. It's my hoarding protection plan: moving every few years.

Let's delve further into "King Creole" musical territory, since I haven't heard this soundtrack in many years--these songs are like new again.

Love Doll

Throw-aways like this make the album ultimately disappointing.

New Orleans - entertaining but I think a more realistic treatment was this year's "Treme" on HBO. No matter--it's Elvis.

Title track. Why is a song about Crawfish so much more heart-felt than this? This is a Broadway tune. I guess I don't miss that record that much after all.

Is it a Quentin Tarrantino film that asks the question: are you an Elvis person or a Beatles person? At first, the answer seems obvious. Beatles. But when I thought about it, deeply (I'm unemployed and have a lot of time on my hands), I realize I'm actually an Elvis person at heart. Why? Because Elvis rocks. You can't tell from 90% of his films, but his early career is like watching a hard-rockin' Mozart emerge from the deep South.

Let's listen to Mystery Train.

And Good Rockin' Tonight. Indeed!

Baby Let's Play House is a good example of the rocking soul of Elvis. This song could easily be watered down for his later film career. It could have been produced as goofy, corny and cheap. But look what he and his Sun Recording band do with it. Such conviction. It's very sexual, yes? And somewhat dark. No wonder America was scared and thrilled all at once.

Friday, September 24, 2010

In celebration of fruits and vegetables

We all got a nasty cold this week. Congestion, exhaustion, dementia, in one three to five-day package. While I was recuperating, I had some real appreciation for fruits and vegetables. It was 95 degrees out today and that heirloom tomato from Safeway and fresh lettuce from our tiny garden were much appreciated--thanks natural world (and unnatural grocery-store world--one that would play Asia's Only Time Will Tell at top volume, causing me to race through the aisles at top speed so I could escape).

Even eating a banana today, I thought: Wow--I'm so lucky--I can get bananas whenever I want and they always taste so good. I can even get them at Target. I can buy deodorant, batteries and bananas all in one stop. I even got some succulents on sale there last week, but that's another post. So--what...? I told you I had cold-related dementia. So, fruits and vegetables--hooray.

I started a container garden for tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, greens and now future carrots. They're in seed form, awaiting sprout mode. It's excellent to grow food from seeds. The tomatoes are finally showing up after a very late planting this summer. We're lucky to live in such a mild climate, one that favors the Mediterranean diet. If these carrots make it I might branch out into peas. And possibly potatoes--it's the Irish in me. Did you know you can grow them in a garbage can? Charming!

I think this was my first exposure to opera. Thanks Sesame Street. Before sub-par celebrities like Katy Perry, SS used to feature animated singing fruit.

Have you ever seen "Veggie Tales?" Neither have I. It's a very popular animated Christian concept in singing-vegetable storytelling. Which makes about as much sense as a lot of the Bible, I guess. Sorry for sentence fragments. I do have a cold.

So far I've completely avoided "Annoying Orange," until now. Annoying Orange has over 32 million views. It's the Super Bowl of YouTube uploads.

The Vienna Vegetable Orchestra plays it with a straight face.

A carrot clarinet by Linsey Pollak. This carrot swings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oh no--Liberace Museum to close! World a little less shiny

So sad that the Liberace Museum in its nondescript Las Vegas strip-mall location couldn't make it in these tough recessionary pop-culture times. Can't someone step in and save this boundless camp experience (Lady Gaga...)? Though it was a pain to get to, off the main strip by a couple of miles down a boulevard of sunspot-causing concrete, the Liberace Museum was a glitzy, paean to tackiness. It didn't try to be Paris or Milan or even some crazy semblance of a medieval castle. It just tried to honor the man who would wear sparkly red white & blue hot pants at Radio City Music Hall.

You kids with your technos and vocoders just wouldn't understand. This man played a grand piano covered in rhinestones! This man was covered in rhinestones, most of the time. And you should've see his antique bedroom furniture. I didn't know the meaning of Baroque until I walked around the bedroom suite at the Liberace Museum. Who knew wood could curly-cue like that and remain so high-gloss over the centuries?

My one visit to the Museum was long ago, during the building of the great MGM Pyramid. Very elderly employees admitted me but with a warning that they would be closing in less than an hour. Thereafter, they followed me from room to room, whispering darkly, "We'll be closing in 30 minutes. See as much as you can but--30 minutes." As if I were touring the Smithsonian instead of a multiple-roomed strip-mall store-front. I wish Liberace had been alive to swoop down and say, "Ladies, ladies. Please. For my fans--we can stay open an extra 15 minutes. They still haven't seen my mirrored Rolls Royce and matching piano!" I managed to see the entire exhibit, my eyes wincing at the multitude of sparkles at times, and still had time to buy some fabulous nylon Liberace knee socks for Ms. Iconoclast (I hope she saved them!).

Some highlights:

The world's biggest rhinestone at 59 pounds.

Take the tour, America!

The kid from Milwaukee regales us with a polka.

Artist or technician? Who cares; for a few decades he made piano-playing almost cool.

Gershwin, represent!

Greatness will never truly be forgotten.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gogol Bordello - Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)

Gogol Bordello is made up of band members from Ukraine, Russia, Israel, China, Ethiopia, Ecuador and Trinidad. From the album "Trans-Continental Hustle," produced by Rick Rubin.

Punk immigration--interesting concept. In this political and economic climate, immigrants have to be tougher than ever. I dedicate this to all my former neighbors in Vancouver, WA, who came from Ukraine. Brief memories: one guy always wore shorts in the dead of winter while de-icing his windshield before the morning commute. The teen-agers down the street made a haunted house in their front yard every Halloween. Their sister would warn them when little kids were coming so they wouldn't jump out and scare them. Another neighbor was a stay-at-home mom with eight kids. Her sons were friends with my son and they were the only boys. Their dad was from Armenia so they knew three languages. Hats off.

Interview at BoingBoing

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kendra Smith - Stars Are In Your Eyes

Stars Are In Your Eyes from The Guild of Temporal Adventurers (1992)

Sometimes I wonder how long the Internet galaxy can hold up. This constantly updated and "improved" technological space probably doesn't have a long shelf life, considering you can't put it on a shelf except metaphorically. Which brings me to today's video. Kendra Smith had/has(?) one of the most haunting, ethereal voices in indie rock. She's really more of a soul-folk singer (soulk) than pop goddess. There's intriguing philosophical and spiritual questions running through her solo work. What? You don't know who Kendra Smith is? Actually, she doesn't seem to mind that, having been living in a rustic cabin in the Northern California woods for nearly 20 years. She was last heard from in 1995 when she toured exactly two dates for her solo album, "Five Ways of Disappearing."

"Under the Radar" would make a good album title for Kendra Smith. She was a founding member and played bass in one of the best Velvet Undeground-inspired bands of the 80s, the Dream Syndicate. But left that situation to start Opal with Rain Parade co-founder David Roback. This was a good thing on some levels because she started singing and her voice was much needed in the boy-world of alternative music. Unfortunately things didn't work out between her and Roback and she left the band abruptly mid-tour. He went on to form Mazzy Star with Hope Sandoval and Kendra released some solo work before disappearing from music for good.

Come back Kendra! I miss your lovely voice and deceptively simple melodies that are actually quite thoughtful and unique. Alternative music is even more boyish than ever. I need some dreamy yet grounded women singers in my life. You might too. You might not even know you need that, but I bet you do. The rumor is that Smith's house doesn't have electricity so the odds of her showing up in cyber-space are slim, and yet, here is the perfect place for a solo artist to reconnect with her fan base and find new fans along the way. Somebody track her down in the forest and tell her I said so. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Catalog Haiku

Well that was a refreshing computer vacation. Very little computer usage for the past several days has left me feeling almost fully human again. I played a little two-square, drew some pictures with chalk on the sidewalk, went for walks, visited with friends and family, even talked on the phone a bit. Crazy times.

Oh yeah, I started that young-adult novel I promised myself I'd write over 30 years ago (and have started and re-started four or five times over the years). This time I'm going to stick with it, until the next re-start. I'm getting good at that.

Meanwhile, I was able to focus more intensely on the mail. That stack of paper that comes in the little house on a stick in the front yard most every day. Everyone complains about spam, leaving the original spam--junk mail--on the back burners of our minds. But it's there and it's clogging up our lives and recycling centers, costing us trees and valuable time that could be wasted in more productive ways. I'm thinking about all the mixed drinks that had to be put on hold; the children who were ignored; the neighbors who were shunned, because we were too busy, tossing and shredding the mail.

What to do? Make haiku--particularly catalog haiku. It's time has come (five days a week).

Eddie Bauer
Wrinkly rumpled
khaki brown adventure wear
for slender posers

Home Trends
Simplify your life
with 700 products
Microwave Must-Haves

Urban Outfitters
Gangly sullen
teens draped on costly patchwork
furniture; Grump-wear

Need that massaging
radio-controlled bean bag
Recession be damned

Land's End
Middle-class basics
Choose from primary colors
stripes or polka-dots

The Vermont Country Store
Autumn chills the air
and that flannel granny gown
looks mighty good now