Humor from on High

Monday, July 31, 2006

Music To Sweat By

Here’s an excerpt from a long ago email when discussing music with some friends and trying to “force” them to try “Escondida” by Jolie Holland:

Speaking of which...my selection sings about none of those things. She prefers to focus on morphine, assholes, and crazy british people.

After months of threats...I am finally force-feeding Jolie Holland to you. But, please, think of it not so much as force-feeding...as it is me already chewing her up for you and allowing ya'll to eat her from my mouth in tiny, manageable bites. Mmmm...ABC music.

My completely random discovery of this artist sprung from hearing "Mad Tom of Bedlam" (track 5) played on The Current very early on in its existence. Feeling tremendously empowered by the lyricissitude of the song, I immediately drove to the Electric Fetus (someone please explain to me what the fuck that means) to hopefully purchase the album that contained this lovely tune. As it turns out, this song is a very old folk song...sung over time by billions and billions of other wacky folk singers. And the rest of her album is far more...um...shall we say "out there, man" than expected. However, I've grown to Love her quirky (some say fingers on a chalkboard) way of singing...and you can't deny (well, you can until you've actually listened) her originality.

All I ask...and it's really more of a demand...is that you download and listen to the album at least twice before judging. If, after that, you've decided it's not your style...we'll split her in half and I'll give you the awesome, folksy, cover songs and take the bleeding, raw, original lyrictasticness for myself.

First off, I don’t know what “downloading” means, but I assume it’s a perfectly legal practice of obtaining music.

Secondly, that little email is less than or equal to the weirdness that was the Jolie Holland concert on Saturday. And for me, when music is involved, weird usually equals good.

The Quirky-Meter was off the charts. It would be fairly hypocritical of me to claim annoyance to her under-produced stage presence when that is what, in fact, drew me to her albums in the first place…so I won’t. Plus, I think the first words she said to the crowd were “I don’t believe in slick-ness”. (She then screamed “I am a Golden God”…no, not really)

The venue was outstanding…casual, sit-on-the-floor atmosphere, perfect for the mellowness that was to ensue. Although, when you don’t have one of those cozy places to crash, it ends up being like the usual sardine scene found at most clubs. It’s amazing the kind of spaces human beings will fit into for their love of art.

The first half of the show was made-up primarily of Jolie on the guitar or keyboard playing songs off of her new album, “Springtime Can Kill You”…backed by a guy on drums (and other percussion) and another on bass guitar. I bought this album the day it came out and have been slightly disappointed with it thus far. The aforementioned lack-of-slickness was less evident on this her third(?) album, and I was worried that the usual bigger=shittier equation was starting to take hold. But her live versions held true to the “coughing in the background” rootsiness that was prevalent on her earlier work. Including a few false-starts…reasons ranging from equipment issues to fucking up the words.

Her…let’s say casual…stage presence was fine, and totally within character. I was cool with the halting nature of the show…as she worked through instrument, lighting, and memory problems. However, and this is my only complaint, at times she seemed really disinterested in the whole process…which is off-putting. I know it’s art, but we did choose come to see the show…it’d be nice if the artist made the choice, as well.

But the concert, as with most things in life, completely turned around for me once she introduced the box fiddle. Ms. Holland seemed infinitely more comfortable holding this little beauty, and gone were the equipment problems that seemed to dog her through the first part of the set. This turn-around was aided by two other events, as well…she recognized a friend in the crowd (and gave no further explanation as to who it was) and called-out some folks near the stage that had apparently been talking her to distraction.

Whatever…the music got better.

I don’t remember the set list…but it was a nice mixture of old and new. And the second half embraced the talents of the other two musicians…something that didn’t happen earlier in the night. (And something that is, admittedly, difficult when dealing with songs that find their groove in being completely stripped-down). She played a nice version of Mad Tom of Bedlam (the song that started it all, for me) that woke the place up a bit, (Did I mention it was 150 degrees in the theater?) and finished the show on a much higher plane than where it started. I think the heat also caused sort of an awkward ending…the house lights stayed down in the usual “waiting for an encore” manner, but no one seemed to be waiting for an encore. The place cleared out pretty quick.

Not much of a review, I know. But I’m a blind, kool-aid drinking fan at this point…not sure I can write anything to make that transferable. But if you’re adventurous at all in your music tastes, check her out.

(Oh…there was an opening act. Sean Hayes…who I was vaguely familiar with going in. He couldn’t possibly have been mellower. I’d say an urban, effeminate Jack Johnson…with a falsetto. What’s not to love?)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Frankie (Really) Can't Relax

I can't even imagine being this funny, but I'll try again soon. You won't be able to stop reading, and yet, you'll really, really want to. The pertinacious Francesca Vitale ladies and gentlmen.

Clicky clicky for sicky sicky.

A snippet:

In the morning, I'm going to write a letter to the school district urging them to incorporate useful [Spanish] phrases into the curriculum, like:

"Do you sell plungers?"

"You didn't tell me you were married, you asshole!"

"Do you know that your penis is sticking out of your shorts leg?"

"That menacing way you're wielding your switchblade is scaring the shit out of me."

Because no one should have to endure the shit I went through today due to a paltry education.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Unintentional Comedy

Unintentional comedy comes in many shapes and sizes, and it is one of humanity's greatest gifts to...well...other humanity I suppose. It's funny how your brain works, but especially when you have the mental make-up of a mid-pubescent junior high school male, as myself and many of my friends happen to have. Hops remarked to me the other day (not that he's in this category -- but he is) how he saw a headline to the effect of "Crack Found in Space Shuttle Fuel Tank" and thought immediately about an imaginary Onion article with the same title, and started composing one in his head, no doubt investigating which South American country had financed the new shuttle and if said crack was to be brought into outer space to create a new market. I have to admit that I saw the same story but did not immediately turn the title this way in my mind. It took several seconds, actually.

I must be growing as a person.

Unfortunately, I still giggle whenever anyone uses the word 'duty'.

You can imagine why I was unable to turn away from this story I saw a headline for recently:
"Taking Sex From Films Violates Copyright Laws"

Last night on the Food Network, there was a classic unintentional comedy moment. It was Iron Chef America with Iron Chef Bobby Flay, Hannah Storm was a judge, and the secret ingredient was frozen peas. Shockingly all of this was perfectly normal. The fun began when one of the other pseudo-celebrity (and by this I mean she was not in the enormously useless catalog of celebrities in my head) judges was sampling some of the dishes from the challenger, who was doing a bunch of African-inspired dishes featuring the pea, including the frozen pea popsicle for dessert (yum? I can't decide). Anyway, peas were included in all his dishes, but were more of an accessory, and not necessarily the focal point, which is apparently a no-no in Iron Chef America. He got his ass whomped by Bobby Flay in the end, although I suspect there may have been match fixing going on, a la the Italian soccer scandal. The challenger's sous chef looked like he wasn't mincing OR chopping with usual vigor, so I'm pretty sure he was doing the cooking equivalent of point-shaving. But this poor nobody of a taste tester uttered almost this exact phrase when rendering her judgement of the contender's preparations:

"I really enjoyed all your dishes, but it just seems like I didn't experience the pea-ness enough."

Wait for it.

And giggle.

The worse thing is, 50 million people will watch this movie.

The movie I am referring to is, of course, Snakes on a Plane...The much anticipated thriller releasing this summer in a theater near you. Samuel Jackson stars as an FBI agent who is transporting a witness by plane when a criminal mastermind begins releasing snakes on board to kill the witness. The very fact that a movie with a plot as masterful as this exists begs the question, 'how did it ever become to exist?' Well, I think it went a little bit like this....

In the think-tank room of New Line Cinema, screenplay writers sit around a table dumbfounded...

Writer #1: So guys, we need to compete with the big time movies next summer by producing a blockbuster hit that will take the world by storm.

Writer #2: I agree, but what can we do.

Writer #3: Well let's just think of the ingredients we want in the movie first and then worry about the plot.

Writer #2: Stupendous!

Writer #1: Well, we obviously need a recognizable name. Somebody see if John Malkovich is available.

Writer #2: Well, I heard Samuel L. Jackson has been offering to do movies for $50,000 grand after the population realized he has only been in one good movie. Let's nab him.

Writer #3: Sounds good. Well Samuel really had a connection to those sharks in "Deep Blue Sea", what if we had another animal confliting with the protagonist?

Writer #1: Snakes, it has to be snakes. We saw the bank that Anaconda pulled in.

Writer #2: Excellent, we also need to attract the male audience so we should have a water shower that causes the females in the movie to expose their nipples through their blouses.

Writer #1: Yep, and then we need an original setting like a plane or something. Ya, a plane. That's awesome.

Writer #3: All we need now is a plot...Actually, I think this thing has alread written itself. Good work boys.

Thus, the movies conception.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Guster is for lovers

Before I attended the Basilica Block Party this past weekend I thought Guster's new album was their best work to date. Yet, after hearing all of their old songs at the BBP, mainly off "Goldfly," all of my previous recollections of that album came back to me...and now Goldfly is my favorite album...I would say Ganging up on the Sun comes in a close second with Keep It Together coming in an even closer third.

The best thing about Guster is that they rarely have a "bad song". Every one of their albums can be played from beginning to end without skipping a track. The BBP also showed how great the band is live...As opposed to many bands, Guster sounds exactly the same live as they do in the studio. Most singers sound much worse on the stage, but Guster's vocals might be better than their album songs.

Question for the masses: Where is the nearest blood bank around these parts...I know there is one in Mankato but am unsure of any other locations. Easy bucks man.