Saturday, February 23, 2013

Has it really been eight years...

Yes, I suppose it has.  Tried to go for the decade, but I started getting too many spam comments and had to sign-n to delete  them.  Ah, so close.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Has it really been a month?

Apparently it has. That is not to say I've abandoned this little blog here. I've just been taking my own advice and clearing out my schedule, crossing things off my to do list, and the like. I've also learned to brew beer in the meantime. Well, I'm still in one of those places where I feel like a lot of things are going on, but that half of it is waiting for something to happen, which is always a little frustrating. Anyway, I haven't really thought of anything I like about Albuquerque this week, so I'll just mention Golden City Chinese buffet. Now, let me be clear, I'm not really recommending this as a restaurant, but more as a hangover cure. It's a little typical Chinese buffet that adjoins some hotel. It's actually right across the street from what used to be the New Chinatown and is now Mr. K's. If you live in Albuquerque you probably already know that the one thing we have beyond any reasonable proportion is Chinese restaurants. I'm not sure why that is, but there are probably a hundred of them scattered across the city. Anyway, I mention this place because, to my knowledge, this is really the best place to go for lunch following heavy drinking the night before. You wouldn't think it, being the typically fried food you naturally expect from a place like this, but somehow it seems to work well. My only recent complaint is that they've removed the pot stickers and replaced them with some kind of pineapple coconut dumpling. I liked those pot stickers and I'm sorry to see them go. Still, they may bring them back and in the meantime they still have french fries, which I, probably alone in the world, consider to be a necessary part of any Chinese buffet. Also, I should add, their hot mustard is very hot - another requirement. Look, to be honest, the place is a dive. After all their lobby connects to an old 60's style motel and the walls are done in dark wood paneling. There's a constant flow of bad Asian pop music through the speakers, and a collection of plastic novelty Asian gifts at the register. Still, when you think about it, this is exactly the type of place in which to recover from a night of excess, maybe because everyone else there is probably doing the same thing.

Currently reading: The Homebrewer's Companion - Charlie Papazian. I should add that I have finished several other books that had been on my list for a while as well as several other books on brewing.
Currently listening to: Rain Dogs - Tom Waits
Last Netflix movie: I think it was Re-Animator. If not, it was The Harder They Come.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

What is and what will never be...

Yesterday's situation still exists, I'm afraid. However, I've taken what I said about clearing my schedule some to heart. I do have too much stuff going on, which makes it hard to get anything done. That being the case, I've decided to devote today to finishing off anything that I can. If I can get a few things off my list, I should be able to focus a little easier on what's left. I'm not exactly sure why we tend to schedule ourselves for more than we could realistically accomplish. It's the path to needless stress and frustration, but we still do it. Well, that being said, I'm going to see what I cross off, and, hopefully, I should be back tomorrow with a chance to do something a little bit more substantial.

Currently reading: The Innocents Abroad - Mark Twain
Currently listening to: Greatest Hits of the 60's
Last Netflix movie: The Missing, which I'm told was actually called The Forgotten

A brief mea culpa...

I had intended to do the review of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway on Tuesday, but a very last minute editing/rendering spree tied me up, and will likely do so this week as well. There's only a limited amount of time I'm actually sitting next to my record player, you see, so I may not get to that one for a while. As for yesterday, well, I was reading a book called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, which I really enjoyed. It was one of those situations where you find yourself unable to do anything else until you've finished it. Not that the plot was that gripping or anything. It was more a book of ideas. Fantastically odd, sometimes funny, sometimes touching ideas spinning out around the life of Oskar Schell, a nine year boy who lost his father in the World Trade Center. Certainly the book had it's share of problems, but on the whole I found it well worth the read, and now that I've finished it I can get back to finishing How to Carve Wood, and the Mark Twain book I've been slowly tunneling through. What I should probably do is try to clear my schedule some, so there's more time. I don't really like banging out short posts or skipping them altogether, but my choices seem limited. That being said, if I were going to do my rant today it would be about people who make unrealistic demands on your time and don't at least have the courtesy to be as helpful or considerate as the could be, given the circumstances. However, thanks, in part, to such people I don't really have the time.

Curently listening to: Funky Caravan 2000
Currently reading: The Innocents Abroad - Mark Twain Getting near the end now.
Last Netflix movie: The Missing

Monday, March 28, 2005

As do the rivers, so must the music...

Today, in keeping with this week's music theme, I'm writing a little bit about mix tapes. It's a subject I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about over the years. There's an awful lot to think about when you get into the philosophical and aesthetic possibilities. So much so that I started putting together pamphlet on the subject, which was up to around 20 pages before I had laptop problems, and haven't been able to get to it. Someday, perhaps. I was only in chapter two, so I still had a way to go. Even so, I've been refining my theories, so when the day comes I can unleash a book on mix tapes like the world has never seen. I realize, of course, that the world has not exactly been waiting with bated breath or anything, but maybe that's simply because the definitive argument hasn't been set down yet. Ok, perhaps not.

Rather than writing about my unfinished work on the subject, though, I thought I'd explore a little my thoughts on one of the most important elements of the mix tape. The flow. Also known as the groove, the flow is right at the center of any mix tape, and I think at the center of life. What I'm talking about is something like a state of mind that manifests itself in tangible ways. In terms of the mix tape it has to do with structure and movement. There is a logical progression that you should seek to maintain. One song ends and another begins in a natural, organic way. Internalized, you seek to maintain this same fluid movement in your life.

I think a small bit of elaboration may be in order. Life is often a difficult process, and it's full of distractions, and problems that get in the way. If you always run at these and seek to overcome them with brute force you don't often make any progress, but if you allow yourself to pass by them like the river flows past rocks that disrupt it's course. That's not to say that there aren't rapids, or waterfalls, but there is an understanding that these will pass as surely as they came up. Now, in taking this principle into the realm of art you become the creator of the obstructions through which another river will flow. By your act of creation you provide the opportunity for someone else to experience something new. When you know what it is that you are attempting to do with your project you can employ obstacles to your advantage. It is clear in a novel. The use of tension and obstacles draws the reader into the story and helps them to bond with the characters they are reading about. If a book consisted of a series of uninteresting scenes where nothing ever happened it would be pointless. We read books to learn something about ourselves and the world around us. It is by representing the problems of the world in a more structured way that art can help us to understand and relate to the world and our place within it. All types of art do this. Looking at Andy Warhol's soup can we come face to face with consumerism. Watching Goodfellas we come face to face with the brutality of mob life. The mix tape, when understood, is not different.

I realize that there is a tendency to discount the mix tape as an art form, but they are innately concerned with aesthetics and composition and I have no issue including them as a form of artistic expression. I also realize that all of this looks like a tangled collection of Eastern and Western thought mixed with endless metaphor, and there's certainly a lot of truth to that. The problem is that whenever you begin to question the nature of the mix tape you must also deal with certain metaphysical issues. These are the questions that art seeks to explore, and must explore to understand art.

So where have my thoughts taken me? I spend a good amount of time looking at the transitions between songs on a mix tape. I find I prefer to make these transitions as seamless as possible, but realizing this I then seek out the dissonant. What happens if you push the boundaries? Sometimes creating an unusual break is effective. Sometimes it isn't. The thing I seem to find is that you have to be aware of what you are choosing to do. Creating a flow and then causing turbulence is interesting, but turbulence without structure is not. Or maybe it is. Maybe the next step lies in transcending structure. It's possible, but I'm not ready to do that yet. I am still in the place where rules exist, though they become more fluid as I go. An old adage tells us that you must first know the rules before you know when to break them. So I begin to experiment with the rules. I construct and then disconnected. And learn something about the process, why the rules exist and why I can move beyond them. From there its really to much of a leap to comparing the rules of one art form to another and looking for the overarching principles, or to questioning what the rules are for in the first place. This leads naturally into the question of what art is, which sits right on the doorstep of Metaphysics. I find all of these things to be connected, but as of yet I'm not able to put all of the pieces together. I tend to follow the as above so below philosophy, and thus reach the conclusion that by exploring one I am exploring both. Reflecting on life and making a mix tape become one in the same. You might want to think about that the next time someone gives you one.

I think that's about as far as I'm willing to take this tonight, but I'll probably return to it again sometime. I find it to be a interesting and largely ignored subject. Until then I'll just declare this all unresolved.

Currently listening to: South Park: Chef Aid
Currently reading: Richard Butz - How to Carve Wood
Last Netflix Movie: The Missing

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Fish in a barrel...

Ok, you might think it's a little to easy to take shots at Clear Channel these days. After all, everyone else already has, including several members of congress. In fact, as a company, you've probably heard it all when you finally decide to send your CEO out to a conference to inform people that you are not, in fact, "evil". Seriously, we solemnly swear we are not evil. Well, once you've reached that stage there's not really anywhere to go but up.

I'm not going to restate the case against Clear Channel. You can check or anywhere else for that matter. They can tell you all the statistics on what percentage of the radio market Clear Channel owns, or what subsidiary businesses they also own, or how they're just waiting for a chance to infiltrate the TV market as well with their Gestapo tactics.

What I'd like to do instead is focus on the bigger issue. Clear Channel is the popular target, but what about Disney, or Viacom, or the other large media conglomerates? We pay a little attention to them too, but shouldn't they be up on the rack just like Clear Channel?

So what's really so bad about Clear Channel owing a huge number of radio stations, a large number of concert venues, a slew of billboards, and wanting to own local newspapers and TV stations as well? It has to do with diversity, and the free exchange of ideas. Certainly, the radio business is that, a business, and Clear Channel has every right to try and maximize their profit potential. We have, however, always recognized the problem with monopolies. Once you have one they are very difficult to break up, and you can hardly rely on a corporation to act in the best interests of the populace. The possibility of losing customers, or revenue is often the only check the general public can employ. When you take this away we become ineffectual, and lose our ability to protest a company's actions. To be fair, Clear Channel is not a Monopoly, and are kept from becoming one by the remaining FCC regulations. However, it is unwise to ignore the amazing influence they have already secured. They have the power to regulate which artists will be heard by the public, which artists will receive publicity, and even, with their purchasing of venues, which artists can perform in your town. It would be a bad career move to get on Clear Channel's bad side.

This bring me to what, I think, is most dangerous about them. It's no big secret that Clear Channel leans pretty heavily to the political right. I'd hate to think that Clear Channel would use it's marketplace clout to advance this agenda, but I wouldn't put it past them. I don't really think corporations should have a political leaning, but that's a lost cause. At the least I would like to know that field is open enough that voices from all sides would have access to an audience. I fear that in today's media this is not the case. There is little room left for outsiders, dissidents, and non-commercial fare. There was a time, within my memory, when radio was a local phenomenon, and there was a local color and personality to the stations, but as the companies grow larger and more centralized, and grow more and more interested in market research their product becomes homoginized, bland, and less and less interesting.

Where's the room for your local scene when Clear Channel comes in? What happened to the local DJ who could take requests and turn you on to something new? It's a sad state of affairs, and I don't think there's any chance of ever getting that back. As I recall it was Billy Joel who wrote, "So I learned to dance with a hand in my pants, I rub my neck and I write 'em a check, and they go their merry way," and that was before deregulation. Imagine it now.

When you think about it, most of the movies you see, TV shows you watch, and Music you listen to are under the control of a few people who would fit around a poker table. That's an awful lot of influence on our lives, and I guarantee that the music they're listening to isn't particularly good. Still, we play into their hands. We go and see their movies. We watch their TV programs. We listen to the music they want us to. Is it because they now have the power to research what we really want and cater to that, or are we just too lazy to find the alternative. I suspect it's the latter. There is a lot of good music still out there, a lot of good foreign and independent films, and some local stations we should patronize before they're gone.

Here in Albuquerque Clear Channel owns at least nine stations including, ironically, Radio Free Santa Fe. They also own the Journal Pavilion, out most popular concert venue. I drive by their local office nearly every day. I drive by their billboards all over town. The one thing I don't do is listen to their programming. You can do what you like, of course. Forcing people to believe a particular idea is exactly what I'm warning against. It's your choice, but if we're not careful and don't start supporting the alternatives we may as well just well just go buy the t-shirt and get it over with now.

All in all, it makes you wonder who the fish in the barrel are. Us or Them.

Currently listening to: Pulp Fiction Soundtrack
Currently reading: Richard Butz - How to Carve Wood
Last Netflix movie: The Missing

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Are you into vinyl...

I know I was slacking last week. I didn't really have that much to say. Actually I was intending to do what I've got in mind for this week, but I didn't get the first step done, so I had to postpone. We're doing music all week, and to start it off I took a trip to Charley's Records and Tapes, one of the few places in town, other than thrift stores, where you can still buy records and tapes. Records are round (usually) pieces of vinyl covered with very small grooves. When you run a needle along these grooves and amplify the signal you hear the sounds which were pressed into the vinyl. Ok, so many of you knew that, but you can never be certain any more. Kids these days, you know...

So, Charley's is a great little store. I prefer it to Krazy Kat, because the atmosphere is so much better. It's actually just down the road from where Title Wave Books used to be at Pennsylvania and Menaul. I was really only going to check it out and buy an album to use for my Tuesday music segment, but 70$ later I wound up with quite a few more things. They have a large selection of used LP's (those are the large 12 inch records) and 45's (the 7 inch ones with the big holes. Ok, I'll stop now) both new and used. They even have one of the Beatles' butcher cover albums, if you're willing to spend some serious cash. I found a large box of Zappa albums, Moby Grape, the Stones, Floyd, all kinds of things. In the 45 bins there are just as many great, or at the least unusual things as well.

They also have a large collection of used cassettes, which is really unusual to find these days. I prefer records to tapes, but it's still an interesting collection to look through. As you might expect they carry CD's as well, though it's a little bit of a duck shoot as to what you'll find. You never know. You'll probably find major albums, but maybe not. They did have one of the largest collections of The Damned I've ever seen, though. You just have to look. It's definitely not like Hastings, or any of the large music stores that have 5000 copies of the new Green Day album, but nothing by the Flying Burrito Brothers. I actually found a couple there, which was a bit shocking. By the way, as a note to whoever's in charge of re-releases...Look, Gram Parsons just got a re-release of his solo work, how about the Burrito Bros. I'm thinking Guilded Palace of Sin. Come on. Rhino, I'm looking at you.

Anyway, when I'm looking for something specific I still use Amazon, but when I'm just out looking for anything, Charley's is the way to go. I actually found a copy of "Stars" in the 45 bin. "Stars" is the heavy metal "We are the World" type song produced by Ronnie James Dio in the 80's. How can you help but buy that one. You should really hear it if you haven't. It's God awful, a definite keeper.

Another interesting thing about Charley's is that there's a Soda Fountain connected to the record shop, I've never ordered anything there, since I've always spent everything I have at the record store first, but you might be differently inclined.

The only real problem I have with almost any small record store is the employees. They're always a touch on the condescending side, but Charley's isn't nearly as bad as Wherehouse Music for that. Charley, himself, is actually a really nice guy. So, to recap...tons of new and used records, bin after bin of 45's, a sizeable collection of tapes, a lot of varied and unpredictable CD's (including some amazing bootlegs), a few DVD's, some posters, incense and other oddities and a soda fountain. All in all, I think it's the best music store Albuquerque has to offer. If you're in town, or just haven't been there in a while, check it out. As for the rest of this musical week. Tomorrow's rant tackles the big one...Clear Channel, some various musical thoughs on mix tapes on Monday, and Tuesday a review of Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, one of the albums I bought at Charley's this weekend.

Currently listening to: Malcolm X Motion Picture Soundtrack
Currently Reading: Richard Butz - How to Carve Wood
Last Netflix Movie: The Missing

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Because Tsunami Books sounds stupid...

There are quite a few used book stores in Albuquerque. There are even quite a few good used book stores in Albuquerque. One of my favorites is Title Wave Books. Snide comments from geologists who point out that "tidal wave" is a misnomer aside, it's a great little store, which until recently has been on Menaul a little east of Pennsylvania. Apparently, it's going to be moving to a new location to Eubank and Constitution. I hope its still a nice place once they get settled in. Although there are other comparable stores around town, I've always liked the atmosphere at Title Wave, so I thought I'd mention it before it moves.

Over the years I've spent quite a few hours browsing there, and somehow never fail to leave without more books than I can afford, or have time to read, for that matter. In fact, I purchased the copy of The Innocents Abroad that I'm reading now there. They have a webpage you can check out, but the search doesn't seem to do justice to what they have, which is almost anything you could want. They even have card you get stamped once for every five dollars you spend. When you collect one hundred dollars worth of stamps you get a ten dollar discount on your next purchase. I've filled three, I think, so far. I actually have one that's full, so I'll probably go in and check on it once they're done moving. With any luck it will still be a place of great variety and good atmosphere, free of a coffee shop, and unconcerned about e-mailing me coupons I don't really want. If not, well, it couldn't last forever.

Currently Listening to: Frank Zappa - The Yellow Shark
Currently Rading: Mark Twain - The Innocents Abroad (they're into the Holy Land now)
Last Netflix Movie: The Missing (a truly awful movie)