Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Music: Was (Not Was) and Man Man

I've been taking a couple weeks off from listening to music. I've been reading a book--an actual book made out of paper--and sitting in my garden, weather permitting.

Last week, I saw the animated feature Ponyo. It was refreshing to watch gorgeous hand-drawn animation again, instead of the slick, computer-generated stuff currently dominating the screen. I remember seeing Luxo, Jr.,the early CGI short by Pixar, at an animation festival in the late 80's. It killed, as they say. The audience actually applauded. At the same showing was Christoph Simon's animation for the Was (Not Was) track "Hello Dad, I'm in Jail." I still really like it, as well as the Was brothers'* foray into hardcore (jazzcore?). I can't believe they're the same guys who did "Walk The Dinosaur." Embedding has been blocked, so watch it here.

*they weren't really brothers

And a more recent selection by Philly's Man Man. Borderline NSFW.

Man Man (Official Site) Link

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Music: A Fifth of Beethoven

My troubled relationship with the month of August began in 1965. That was the year I completed summer vacation between 1st and 2nd grade. Even though my birthday was in August, the dread of the coming school year overshadowed the promise of gifts and chocolate cake. My freedom was nearing an end. No more swinging on grapevines with the neighbor boys, catching toads and crayfish in the nearby stream, or day-dreaming in the endlessly green, afternoon shade. I also wasn't allowed to draw pictures at length. They didn't seem to like my pictures anyway, since the color always went outside the lines. At recess, I was supposed to play with girls, but their behavior was puzzling. One game involved two of them twirling a rope while another jumped over it, chanting. It seemed both difficult and tedious. But, the worst thing about school were the potty breaks. At regular intervals of time--which were probably much shorter than the eons I remember--we lined up and visited the restrooms. This caused me untold anxiety. I had never had to "hold" it before, and was unsure about how long was too long. Another girl wet her pants while seated at her desk. I still remember her tear-streaked face.

This August has definitely lived down to expectations. In no particular order: mom in hospital for four days (she's ok now), lost (and dead) cat, stepped on glass then broke baby toe, migraine (?), detached dental veneer/crown and several oncology appointments. I have had a couple good days--ones where I haven't been crying or mutilating my feet. One of those was Saturday, when we went to Millennium Park for the final classical program of the summer. The performance was of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which ends with the chorus "Ode to Joy." It was beautiful, "august" even. But, you still can't dance to it, and my feet are long overdue. The single "A Fifth of Beethoven" hit number one in 1976, and was later featured on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

A Fifth of Beethoven [At]

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yellow is the saddest color

It finally feels like summer here in Chicago. After a cold and wet June and July, ninety-degree days remind us of why people used to abandon the city. There are few things more dispiriting than summer heat radiating off of scorched pavement.

And, in this heat, a door was left open too long. Our cat Yellowboy is gone. I've plastered the neighborhood with fliers, walked the alleys in the wee hours and called all the shelters. I even visited the city shelter, a very melancholy place--a dump for unwanted animals. Last night, a teenager came to the door. He said that a yellow cat was hit by a car nearby. His family called "the vet," which I presume was really Animal Control, who came and got the cat. There's no way to confirm the story, or to even if it was Yellowboy. The city is not forthcoming with information, and seeing the enormous volume of animals housed at the shelter, I can understand why.

I am somewhat resigned to never seeing him again. So, here is Yellowboy's eulogy. He was a good cat. (Well, most of the time. Two weeks ago, he snuck an entire bbq chicken breast off of the counter.) When I came home from work, he greeted me. Cynics might say it was a plea for food, but he did so even when he had already been fed. He jumped on a chair near the door, and stood on his hind legs, his paws on my chest. His purring was ecstatic. It was flattering to have someone be that excited about my arrival.

Yellowboy loved dried apricots, and could hear a bag of them being opened from across the house. He enjoyed sitting in laundry baskets and boxes. He was also a direct communicator. One technique for rousing my husband for breakfast: gently gnawing on his toes. When he wanted to go on the back porch, he would start out meowing loudly, gradually rounding his catlips until the cry resembled the howl of a coyote. It was very annoying. I wish I could hear it again.


We found him. He had become entangled in a neighbor's central air-conditioning wiring and electrocuted. From the look of the body, he had only been dead a few hours, which makes it especially hard. Cats will sometimes hunker down when frightened. We both were in the alley behind that house half a dozen times, day and night, calling him. He must have been too terrified to even answer us.

He was a good little soul, and I will miss him terribly.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sunday Music: The Mekons

It's been a great week for music. On Thursday evening, I caught the Mekons at Schuba's. The core band members been performing together nearly continuously since they were art students in Leeds, England, back in the 70s. And wow, rock and roll will keep you young; Jon Langford danced like he was on fire, and Sally Timms still sent middle-aged hearts a-flutter with her blond eyelashes and impish way. A bit of their music, starting with the wonderful "Ghosts of American Astronauts" is here:
The Mekons (Myspace)

On Saturday night, I caught a promising young band, Blah Blah Blah, at the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival. At times they sounded a little like a cross between the Smiths and Tortoise. I'd go see them again, especially if the Crown Liquor Dancers (actually, a bunch of tipsy neighborhood characters) are in attendance. Seriously, these guys are good, and closing out with a mix & scratch of Michael Jackson and James Brown tunes was a lovely way to end the evening.

Blah Blah Blah [at Sonicbids]

While enjoying a Bramble at The Whistler, I met Eddie Torrez and his partner Andrea. Eddie plays conjunto (Tejano style) accordion with The Delafields, a Chicago alt-country band. For the uninitiated: when conjunto accordion is played, es imposible no bailar. The Delafields next show is at Simon's Tavern on September 12.

The Delafields

Summer days are waning, so don't forget to get your daily dose of soul-fortifying music.