Friday, May 21, 2004

Bridget and I were watching the Pistons step on the Nets in Game 7 last night (jeah!), and I was going on and on about how awesome Ben Wallace is. I think I was probably using terms like "Black Superman". Bridget was like, "Don't you think you're fetishizing him?" And yeah, I am, totally. Really obviously too, if I stopped to think about it, which I hadn't done up until that point. Ben Wallace has always seemed like some archetype of black strength to me, this huge mass of skill and muscle and hair. And that's really fucked up, the way I look at him. Of course, the announcers are fetishizing him too when they talk about how he was raised by Alabama sharecroppers. And the Detroit fans are fetishizing him when they show up to games in Afro wigs. How did I not catch myself doing this? How did I let myself do this? How does everyone else let themselves do it? How does Ben Wallace feel about it? Part of the reason I love pro basketball is for the larger-than-life personalities that it creates, the way a player can turn himself into a character, and virtually every star player has done it. And when I stop to think about it, a sports arena is a really weird and messed-up scene. Most of the people who turn up to watch the games, it seems like, are middle-aged, middle-class white men. Most of the people playing the game are young black men in amazing physical shape. If you look at it in a certain way, it's not all that different from the battle royal scene in Invisible Man. Am I wrong on this? Am I reading too much into it? Am I tainting a perfectly simple form of recreation? I don't know. I get total strangers telling me that I should be in the NBA constantly, and that's just for the simple reason that I'm extremely fucking tall. These people have never seen me blow a layup or get winded from climbing a couple of flights of stairs, and I always get annoyed because people look at me and only see height. So what am I doing? What do I see when I'm watching basketball? Am I fetishizing players the same way random strangers seem to fetishize me? If you have any answers, hit me up, since I sure as hell don't.

Speaking of Wallaces, did somebody say David Foster Wallace has a new book coming out? Awww shit, here we go.

In other news, Nick Hornby is a douchebag. "Little Latin Lupe Lu"? Whooooa, dude. Don't you read the Freelance Mentalists? Oh, and while I'm thinking it, peep this review of Hornby's Da Capo book that I wrote for my college newspaper a couple of years ago. This was before I'd ever heard of rockism, but I still knew it when I saw it. I was a smart kid! Go me!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

This article by Kurt Vonnegut is awesome. It's funny to hear someone putting the baby boomers on blast from the other side of the generational chasm. Vonnegut is a wise man. If he would write another book, I would be happy. (Spotted on David Drake's blog, which I should probably link on the side of the page.)

Also awesome: this short story by Jhumpa Lahiri from the new New Yorker. Jhumpa Lahiri is way badass. She never gets sick of writing about confusion and displacement in the lives of Bengali immigrants in Boston, and I never get sick of reading about it.

Another awesome thing: the Streets' A Grand Don't Come For Free. I'm usually unconcerned with lyrics, but lately a lot of amazing writers have been making records: Dennis Coles, Craig Finn, Kanye West, John Darnielle. And now we've got Mike Skinner telling us an actual story over the course of an album. And it's a good story, well told. Skinner's eye for detail is fucking fantastic: peeling the label off your beer when you can't think of anything to say to a beautiful girl, the lame protests of someone called out on his bullshit. And the music fits the story; the pulsing beat on "What Is He Thinking?" sounds like the blood pounding in your head when you're so mad you can't talk.

Not awesome: Chris Webber's buzzer three-pointer bouncing in and out. The Kings played very tentatively last night, and they probably deserved to lose. I can't even remember how many times Webber and Brad Miller had open shots they didn't take, how many times Mike Bibby should have stormed the lane. And I'm happy for the Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett playing like a lion on his birthday, the crowd booing Brad Miller every time he touched the ball. But I can't be happy that the Kings' season is over. It just seems sad.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

YES! Lil Flip is taking my advice and doing an album with David Banner. Quoth the Flip: When we do tracks together, I bring the best out of him and he brings the best out of me." I'm saying!

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"Bad Boy This, Bad Boy That" was the jam (I'm serious!), but Diddy absolutely made the right decision in breaking up Da Band. I missed the final episode of Making the Band (I'm sure it'll be on another million times), but it sounds like Diddy's smart enough to realize that the only way those fools were going to be making him any money was through the TV show - there's no reason to keep them around now that the show's over. Hopefully no one will ever name a group "Da Band" again; that's an even stupider name that "The Band". Now the word is that he's keeping Chopper, probably the most irritating member of the group (most irritating rapping member, that is; Sara's probably got him beat overall). Gah. Some people never learn. Now when's the DVD coming out?

Brian Scalabrine reminds me of Michael Rappaport. Of course, any white guy on the Nets would probably remind me of Michael Rappaport. And you know what's really intriguing to me about the Nets/Pistons series? Darko. Larry Brown has this enormous Serbian guy, seven feet something, second overall draft pick, and no one has ever seen him play! They're keeping him close to the vest like a doomsday weapon. Here they are in this ridiculously contested seven-game series (the triple-overtime Detroit loss on Friday was insane), and we still haven't seen this guy! I'm picturing a dark cloud falling over the court if Ler finally puts him in sometime in the 4th quarter of game seven. Dude, his name is Darko! Put him in!

Dream sequences are wack! The five-hour Sopranos dream sequence on Sunday was only the latest offense we've been forced to endure - who else just fucked around and gave up on Max Payne when they got to that first dream sequence? Seriously, I can't think of a single good dream sequence; why do people insist on doing them? Even the thing in Vertigo was lame! I guess all the Twin Peaks ones were OK since the whole show was pretty much a giant feast of random. But come on dudes, you should know better.

I was thinking I'd buy the new Morrissey today, but then Keith Harris put him on total blast. Fuck it, I think I'll just get the Trillville & Lil Scrappy thing instead.

Friday, May 14, 2004

TV on the Radio was surrious last night - they surged, soared, plummeted, breathed fire. They were drunk as hell and visibly exhausted from touring, but they still turned the Supreme Imperial into a palace made of clouds. It occurs to me that a steaming-hot non-air-conditioned warehouse space with smoky air so thick that you feel like a bug trapped in amber at 2:30 a.m. when you have to work the next morning - this is the perfect place to see this band. They bend time and space around their fingers. Also, Dave Sitek, The White Guy, reps Baltimore!

It was a ridiculous, unalloyed joy to see them sing "Staring at the Sun" with Katrina Ford from Birdland, who sings on their album. Birdland opened, and while they're not exactly my thing, Katrina is an astounding singer. The music is to cabaret what the Dillinger Escape Plan is to metal, an insanely mathed-up borderline-unlistenable squall, but Katrina is on some straight-up Nina Hagen shit with her vocals. Something occurred to me at the show: Baltimore is a great town for singers, especially unhinged, theatrical, over-the-top singers. Katrina, Dan Higgs from Lungfish, Mike Apichella from Human Host, Dan whatshisname from Long Live Death, even Rjyan Kidwell sometimes: these dudes are like whoa. You should be afraid of these people.

And I can't believe I forgot to tell this story about the Lungfish show. When I got into the club, I went to the bar to buy some cigarettes and a beer. This older dude next to me bums a cigarette from me, and then he says, "I'm Roger and I'm in this band Mission of Burma and we're playing at the 9:30 Club next weekend." I don't know too much about Mission of Burma, but I know this guy is a big deal. He's the main guy, right? The one with tinnitus? So anyway, he's super-amped to see Lungfish, who he just heard for the first time a couple of months ago. He's in town to play orchestral accompaniment to some silent movie at the Maryland Film Festival the next morning, and he'd heard that they were in town when he ran into the Quails, who were opening, at a restaurant. I guess he didn't really know anyone there because he kept coming up to me and talking to me. I told my friend Justin, and Justin said it reminded him of this time when this guy tried to hit on some girl he knew by saying, "Hey, I was in that band Survivor! We wrote that song "Eye of the Tiger", you know?" After the show, he came up to me and said, "Wow, that guy [Dan Higgs], he just blew a hole through the world and came out the other side." He was right. Lungfish was amazing.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I can't let the Lungfish show go without comment; it was spectacular. They leaned pretty heavily on recent material, which is just fine with me. The newer stuff is hypnotic and droning in all the right ways; the riffs keep coming like waves, endlessly repeating, surging and subsiding, somehow getting more satisfying with every repetition. And Dan Higgs makes scary, scary faces. Nanci update: she's out of jail and she's OK, no injuries. She is, however, being charged with second-degree assault for spitting on a cop. Oops.

If I were still doing the Top 10 People thing, Tom Perrotta would be an easy #1 for this week. Little Children is just a ridiculouly entertaining book, a perfect summer read. Some blurb quote on the back of the book says that Perrotta is an American Nick Hornby, and that would be true except that I don't have to read Perrotta's books with the knowledge that he writes obnoxiously rockist record reviews and listens to Joe Henry (maybe he does, but I don't have to know anything about it). Perrotta's characters are instantly recognizable and remarkably fleshed-out, and their feelings have a real resonance. And for some reason books about love gone sour never seem to make me unhappy; it's more like I feel real justification for the choices I've made and optimism for my own future. These characters aren't me, and that's nice.

Oh, and peep this: my name is now on my favorite blog. These links just keep coming.

I really hope that Nina Sky song blows up and becomes an enormous summer jam because it is gorgeous. Also, I have good things to say about the summer jammage potential of Yung Wun's "Tear it Up".

The new Devendra Banhart album is utterly beautiful in a fragile, unassuming kind of way. He doesn't shriek or seem possessed by muppet demons anymore. Instead, he seems like he's in a teen movie, sitting outside Rachel Leigh Cook's room and trying to serenade her because she's arty. I really wish the people who make teen movies would tap Devendra instead of A Simple Plan or whatever.

The NBA finals are heating up, but I'm having a harder and harder time staying interested. Right now every series involves a Team I Like Playing a Team I Like (Kings/T-Wolves, Nets/Pistons), a Team I Hate Playing a Team I Hate (Lakers/Spurs) or a Team I Don't Care About Playing a Team I Don't Care About (Pacers/Heat). Please let this series end so some teams I like can start playing some teams I hate. Please. Bonus: who's uglier, Sam Cassell or Doug Christie?

The Nicholas Berg killing is incredibly sad and fucked-up, but I wonder about his father complaining that the military wasn't protecting him enough. If you go to a war zone to try and make money, you have to deal with a very real possibility that you'll get killed. Wartime opportunism is both disgusting and dangerous.

Check out Nate Patrin on the Hold Steady. I just interviewed Craig Finn for a City Paper story in the Hold Steady, and it looks like I'll have to step my writing-about-the-Hold-Steady game up.

Monday, May 10, 2004

There is violence in the air. Most of the assholes guards involved in the torture of Iraqi prisoners are from Cumberland, Maryland - way out on the state's arm, but still pretty much in my own backyard. And on Friday afternoon, the Baltimore suburb of Randallstown saw the sort of school shooting that Gus Van Sant doesn't make movies about, though my friend Nat told me that it was eerily similar to a scene in the Beanie Sigel opus State Property. This was the type that doesn't involve introverted picked-on white kids. Instead, it involves a bunch of kids getting into an argument about a girl, then coming to a high school just as a charity basketball game was letting out and firing indiscriminately into the crowd, hitting four people, none of whom was the intended target.

And then Saturday night, after an amazing Lungfish show at the Ottobar, I went to a ridiculously fun party in Hampden and saw about a million kids I hadn't seen in forever. The party was broken up by police about an hour later, which is understandable considering it was a loud, crowded party in a residential area. What isn't understandable is the way the party was broken up: three police cars, one paddy wagon, and handcuffs on any kid who talked back. I saw my friend Nanci thrown to the ground by three cops; I saw her head hit the asphalt. Last night, I talked with Nanci's boyfriend Justin, who'd also been arrested. He spent the night in central booking, an experience he compared to spending 15 hours in a Greyhound station bathroom with eight dudes. He was released at the same time as everyone else from the party, but Nanci wasn't. Last night, nobody knew where Nanci was. I still haven't heard anything, and I'm worried.

Lines are being drawn. I always envied my parents for living in a time when every kid with half a brain was united against a common enemy. Now I'm not so sure.

I can't wait to see M.O.P. at the Ottobar. I need to blow off some steam.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Remember when I wrote something about how it sucks that Black Eyes broke up? Never mind. I just got a copy of Pause, their new album, and it blows. Black Eyes was unbelievably great when they were on, but they also seemed perfectly willing to sabotage themselves with a whole lot of noisy jazz wankery. Their debut album has a few songs that are among the best released last year, these unbelievably exciting blasts of incendiary propulsive lockstep rigor, like if the Rapture and Fugazi were trapped in a log cabin on a mountaintop and surrounded by wolves. But their live show always had its obnoxious moments; the band was prone to forgetting its rhythmic power and noodling around with saxophones instead. Pause is the result of that noodling. It's a noodley album, and you don't need it. Apparently there are now a couple of bands out there with former members of Black Eyes, and apparently they're also a whole lot of noise wankery. Oh well. Good things never last.

Like, it's a damn shame that Mean Girls is only 110 minutes long; I could've watched it all day. Mean Girls is the best high school comedy in years: better than Bring It On, better than Clueless, possibly even better than Some Kind of Wonderful. There's this part in 10 Things I Hate About You where someone is introducing all the different cliques in the cafeteria, and he points out the cowboy table, where everyone is wearing enormous cowboy hats and eating baked beans from the can; it's a moment of pure genius. Mean Girls is full of moments like that, ridiculous little side jokes that just get funnier the more you think about them. It doesn't bear any sort of relation to actual high school as I remember it, but it just made my heart sing.

Actually, scratch that. There is one moment of pure, gut-wrenching truth. Lindsay Lohan is at her first day of American school after spending her entire childhood in Africa. She gets up in the middle of class to go to the bathroom, and she's totally confused when the teacher pulls some weird power play and refuses to let her leave class. On the voice-over, she says, "I'd never been in a place where adults didn't trust kids." In light of this ridiculous story (courtesy O-Dub), there's an uncomfortable truth to that observation. I know that teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and I know the system doesn't make it easy for teachers to reach kids in any sort of meaningful way, to help them become complete people. But there are just so many stories of educators who seem more focused on controlling kids than educating them, on abusing what little power they have. Remember that story about the high school that banned pink clothes on guys because they thought there was some sort of implied gang affiliation there? High schools need to stop doing shit like that.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Wow, so apparently the whole top ten people thing doesn't really have much of a following at all. Not one person has e-mailed about wanting me to keep it around, so anyone who likes it better get their grizzly on and e-mail me post-haste.

O-Dub just put something up on his blog about how he wasn't feeling Meadow's boyfriend on The Sopranos and how he needs a backbone upgrade and whatever. But I think this whole plotline with the boyfriend is one of the best things The Sopranos has ever done. I like the show a lot, but in general there's something really alien about it, or maybe familiar but alien. The characters certainly seem recognizeably human, but I don't know anyone who lives that way or who lives with the constant threat of mob violence. With this storyline, I can see how an innocent if clueless dude - one about my age and who seems to share my general disposition - can get mixed up in seriously unsavory shit just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Really, it's a miracle that people function at all; sometimes it seems like I and everyone I know are just a few steps away from complete chaos, no matter what we do.