Monday, July 31, 2006

Come On, Feel The Annoyz

What is the deal Steve Rosenberg? I just got wind of your rant against my Valley article in the New York Times, even though it's a few weeks old (the rant, I mean.) Believe it or not, despite your cliched claim that everyone in the Valley is wearing a wooden barrel and selling pencils on Vanowen for a nickel a piece, there's no disputing the fact that our beloved region has gone upscale in recent years. You also must understand that the Surfacing section is a 500 word hit - there would never be room to list all of your alternative suggestions. Yes, I love Four N 20 pies, and the Good Earth is OK - but the story was all about hipstering up the Valley, not settling into old familiar favorites. That's a different story entirely.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Reynolds' Rap

When is a hug not a hug? When it's harassment, apparently. One bad hug, and now the best baseball analyst on television has gotten the hook. As one of ESPN's top stick-and-ball guns, Harold Reynolds wore his knowledge lightly. He stood out on ESPN, because he wasn't one of those blustery contrarian blowhards that the network seems to breed just to annoy me - if I cared enough about football, it would be insufferable. But Reynolds wasn't one of them, he was one of us - a fan and a student of the game that consistently pointed out something in a defensive play, a pitch sequence, a graceful swing, that you wouldn't have noticed on your own - even if (like me) you are slowly mortgaging your waking hours by endlessly watching baseball games, as well as pre-game coverage and after-game locker room interviews.

ESPN would be foolish to dump Reynolds, especially now that Peter Gammon's professional future is uncertain after his brain aneurysm. Who they got left - Kruk? NO!!!!! Anything but that.

So let's hope that the hug was some misunderstanding, and that Reynolds had forgotten about that bobblehead doll in his pocket or something.

Say it ain't so Harold!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Digital Reissue Label

This looks intriguing. A fellow named Keith Ambrahamsson, an A&R dude at indie label Kemado, is putting together a digital reissue label called Anthology records. Great idea; download all those records you sold for pot money years ago. The first batch looks pretty good, too: Minneapolis punk-rockers Suicide Commandos, Adrian Sherwood's African Head Charge, and some stuff I've never heard of but will shortly, no doubt (70's Krautrock band My Solid Ground? hmmm...)

The site isn't up yet, but here's the link:


Monday, July 24, 2006

Pet Theory

Ah, now here's something you absolutely must check out. We all know about Mike Love and his rotten attitude towards Brian Wilson's Van Dyke Parks period with the Beach Boys. Love is so anti-Loved by hardcore fans that many of them have secretly disparaged the recent talk about a Beach Boys reunion with Love on board.

As someone who loves the Beach Boys so much that rational thought about the band is impossible, I would love to see the comeback materialize, because I have a feeling that Brian and his musical handlers would ensure that it wouldn't be a fiasco. If it worked out the way Smile worked out - well, now we're talking.

But I'm drifting here - what I meant to say was, I just received the 40th anniversary of Pet Sounds in the mail and I'm psyched to watch the DVD doc, which looks intriguing. But here's what's REALLY intriguing. We should have seen the Love-hate coming years ago: This PR package comes with an album-sized reproduction of the Pet Sounds cover and this is something I never really noticed before - Mike Love is the only B-Boy who isn't feeding the goats!! It's a metaphor, I tell ya!

Oh, and I can't wait to read Catch A Wave, Peter Ames Carlin's bio of Brian Wilson. Yes, Carlin will be hard pressed to beat Stephen Gaines' definitive Beach Boys book, but I am duty-bound.

Snakes in the Machine

Apparently, Hollywood is very proud of itself for finally getting hep to those wacky Internet kids. In today's LA Times, the producers of Snakes on a Plane discuss the fact that they have trawled various blogs and message boards and have decided, per the chatter, to give the peeps what they want - more excreta, Cobra entrails, Wonderbras, whatever. Ramp up the coagulated plasma, it's showtime.

I ask you - how is this any different than the same bet-hedging stratagems that Hollywood has leaned on so hard for so many years - so hard, in fact, that it's fucked up the movies? Just because Hollywood, after much resistance, has pricked up its ears towards the loud din of bloggerheia, doesn't mean that this interfacing somehow symbolizes an evolution in the way studios go about their business. Filmmaking should be an autonomous art. It doesn't matter if it's mallrats in West Covina or html rats in West Hollywood; micromanagement-by-committee has no place in artistic endeavor. And yes, rattlers slithering around Business class can constitute creative endeavor.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Oh, Toby Young Again

Toby Young's naked ambition is refreshing. I appreciate the fact that he isn't ashamed to say that he wants to be a big Hollywood bitch, engorged with money and fame, bedding every starlet he can get his sweaty claws on. So many aspiring assholes in L.A. seethe quietly about the fact that they don't have the juice, that this personal trainer and that son of a mutual funds manager have somehow leapfrogged over them into the great movie Empyrean. Young doesn't mutter these things under his breath; he writes a book about it.

In The Sound of No Hands Clapping (great title, that!), Young flat out admits that, yes, he is enamored of celebrities, that he would love nothing more than to be just like them. Certainly his temperment is right on line for this kind of career goal; Young has turned his self-regard into a vocation. Recently on his blog, Young admitted that he "LexisNexis"-ed himself every day. That means he actually pays money to read articles about himself. You gotta love this guy - he understands well that print writers have to make complete jerks of themselves if they want the media to pay attention to them. His chutzpah would be galling if he wasn't such a funny writer. But I'm giving it up for him, because the man is funny and audaciously ballsy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Oh man, see, this is just wrong. There was a guy, his name was Paul Nelson. He was a very good music critic, one of the earliest serious writers to turn his attention to popular music. He was the founder, during the 60's folk revival, of an important folk music journal called The Little Sandy Review. He hung out in the Village, and he knew everyone in that scene. Bob Dylan was a friend from Minnesota, at least until he saw Nelson's record collection and proceeded to steal about 25 of his albums. Dylan mentions this in the Scorsese doc No Direction Home, so it's no myth. Or maybe it is, who knows.

Anyway, Paul Nelson was a very good writer. Along with Greil Marcus, Jon Landau and Lester Bangs, Nelson formed the nucleus of the first generation of important rock critics. He served a long tenure with Rolling Stone, eventually taking over the record reviews section in the early seventies. If you bought Rust Never Sleeps because of something you might have read in RS, it was Nelson's doing.

Because of Nelson, The New York Dolls got a record contract with Mercury. Because of Nelson, we got to hear some cool tapes of the Velvet Underground recorded live in 1969. But kids, this is why it's important to skip music criticism as a career option. What happened to Nelson? He wound up working in a video store. A 69-year-old man peddling Criterion Collection DVD's. That's just a sad and tragic fate for a writer as talented as Nelson. Kids, stay in school, become a veterinarian, an archeologist, a park ranger. It's just not worth the free CD's.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Greil Marcus

Many of you who read Greil Marcus back in the day have perhaps not kept up with his career. Mystery Train, his first book, is the best critical study of popular music ever published. His 1989 tome Lipstick Traces is really a bravura performance, a great big edifice of original thought about a specific strain of subversive art that has echoed down the decades of the 20th Century, from Tristan Tzara to Johnny Rotten. It is an absolutely stunning piece of work; there's really nothing else remotely like it.

I'm currently writing an essay on Marcus, and that afforded me the opportunity to read his lastest book,The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and The American Voice. It is typical Marcus: highly eccentric, bouncing as it does from Philip Roth to actor Bill Pullman to Twin Peaks to Martina McBride. But Marcus engages you, forces you to examine connections that you've never considered before, to argue his points and perhaps work through your own feelings about what Marcus is positing. How many writers can even pull that off anymore, without resorting to cant or politically-tinged received wisdom? Even when I disagree with Marcus, I'm grateful for his intellectual passion and rigor, and his willingness to dig deeper and exhume forgotten artists and cranks that nonetheless provide connective tissue to our current cultural condition. So check it out when it's published in the Fall.

Ralph Ginzburg

Ralph Ginzburg died last week. Ralph Ginzburg was a brave and courageous hustler, a man for whom the big score was worth sacrificing your livelihood for. He was a street smart striver who talked in the clipped Brooklyn patios of a Coney Island barker. Working his way though the advertising department at the old Look magazine in the 50's, he became a high-level exec in short order. But when he thought it might be a good idea to trawl libraries for obscure erotica and then publish it in book from, the shit really hit the fan. Ginzburg published An Unhurried View of Erotica while working as an editor at Esquire magazine. The book was a sensation; Mike Wallace had Ginzburg on his old NightBeat talk show, and the book wound up selling over 300,000 copies.

That wasn't a good move, as it turned out, as Ginzburg appeared on the Wallace show against the wishes of his boss, Esquire publisher Arnold Gingrich. So Ginzburg was fired from Esquire, but he didn't stop there. Next came a high-end quarterly called Eros, in which Ginzburg published previously unseen nude photos of Marilyn Monroe. This created an even bigger shitstorm, as the Supreme Court got involved, and ruled that Ginzburg was sending prurient material through the mail and was thus violating obscenity laws.

So Ginzburg then served hard jail time. But he bounced back with a series of small magazines, some of which did better than others. He then completely reinvented himself and became a very fine photojournalist for The New York Post.

Ginzburg was a rare breed indeed. Although he harbored a lot of bitterness over what had transpired across his long life, he never stopped moving forward. I admired the heck out of him, and I'm sorry to see him go.

I'm Back

OK, well, you know, what the fuck. I stopped writing this blog because I was getting bored with myself; it's like listening to the sound of your voice on a tape recorder and then wondering what alien revenant has taken over your body and supplied you with THAT voice. But lot's of things are on my mind lately, and so I'm reviving this thing, at least for the time being. Even if I am truly now engaged in an epic act of solipsism - that is, writing only to myself.

Syd Barrett died, as you know. What's tragic is that there are scads of Pink Floyd fans who only listen to the Big Four megarecords (Animals, Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, The Wall) and don't really bother to check out the earlier stuff. My good friend Mike, to take one example, worships those aforementioned records but hasn't a clue about, say, Astronomy Domine. But it's a stone fact that Piper At The Gates of Dawn is as important a psych-rock touchstone in its way at Sgt. Pepper, and it's a hell of a lot more fun besides. Barrett had a wonderful sense of play in his songwriting; his cultural radar was as well-tempered as Ray Davies, but Floyd's music explored far more interesting terrain than The Kinks. Piper is really flawless, just a wonderfully twisted record. As for Barrett's two solo albums - hit and miss. I love a handful of tracks - Baby Lemonade, Dominoes, No Good Trying. One things for certain; Robyn Hitchcock would not exist without those two records. So it's well worthwhile to revisit this stuff, because had Barrett not lost his mind, I'm certain that his status would have changed from minor to major.