Monthly Archives: November 2007

Defense

Congratulations to Mrs. Quomodocumque, who shall now and henceforth be known as Dr. Mrs. Quomodocumque!

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Madison retail, red in tooth and claw

People are nice in Wisconsin, right? Right, but business is business. My local bike shop, Budget Bicycle Center, filed a complaint in 2005 againt Williamson Bicycle Works, for registering the domain name budgetbicycleworks.com and redirecting it to willybikes.com. The National Arbitration Forum denied the complaint:

The panel finds that Complainant has not proved its case in that while the domain names are confusingly similar to a mark in which Complainant has rights, it has failed to establish that the use of the domain names made by Respondent was without legitimate interest and in bad faith.

And in 2007, Budget Bicycle Center still doesn’t have its own website.

Meanwhile, the owner of the State Street restaurant/theater The Orpheum was caught last month keying the car of his former partner, now competitor, who operates Crave around the block. (Warning: Crave’s website automatically plays music when opened, which to my mind is more than enough justification for keying the proprietor’s car.)

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The Jesus and Merritt Chain

I thought it was a joke when people started saying that the upcoming Magnetic Fields album would be loaded with feedback-soaked guitars and sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain. But it’s true! Or half-true; it’s loaded with feedback-soaked guitars but it still sounds just like the Magnetic Fields. Via Stereogum, here’s the first track, “Three-Way”:

This song is terrific, with a snaky little guitar that keeps popping in at surprising places, and big, repetitive, faraway-sounding piano that harks all the way back to the sound of “100,000 Fireflies.” It’s instrumental but for the band shouting the title. “Instrumental except for the title” is an underutilized form, by the way. “Tequila,” “Wipeout”, and the high point of the Orange Juice’s entire oeuvre, “Moscow Olympics” — is there a bad song that works like this?

Update:  Craig points out that I forgot They Might Be Giants’ “Minimum Wage,” which is really too great a song to be relegated to the comments.

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Truck is stuck

CJ’s new favorite song is Pavement’s “Heaven is a Truck,” because it’s about a truck. He calls the song “Truck is Stuck” and has modified the lyrics:

Heaven is a truck

It got stuck

Man wants to get it

I singing about it

There’s an argument that this improves on the original. Here it is performed by Stephen Malkmus at this summer’s Pitchfork festival:

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In which Jeremy Guthrie is the Rodney Dangerfield of the American League

Not a single vote for Rookie of the Year? Not one vote? After the fully deserving Dustin Pedroia, who’s the competition? Delmon Young got 3 first-place votes and 12 second-place votes. You can make a case that a 21-year-old who can hit in the major leagues at all is a pretty special commodity, but still, a .316 OBP and 127 strikeouts is not what you want to see from your right fielder. 16 people thought Brian Bannister was one of the top 3 rookies this year, with one voter ranking him first. Guthrie struck out almost twice as many in just a few more innings and had a better ERA, 3.70 to 3.87. Daisuke Matsuzaka had an ERA of 4.40 and went 15-12 for a 96-66 Red Sox team, and he got votes. Reggie Willits is an outfielder who came to the plate over 500 times without hitting a home run, and two people thought he was the year’s second-best rookie.

You know how many Red Sox starters had a better ERA than Jeremy Guthrie? Just Beckett. The Rockies? Nobody. Guthrie pitched well enough to be in the front of the rotation of a championship team. And not one person thought he was even the third best rookie in the league.

This is the most heinous crime committed against a Guthrie since Tom Morello, Slash, Perry Farrell, Les Claypool, Wayne Kramer, and Nuno Betancourt covered “This Land Is Your Land.”

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A hard day’s man

The two greatest opening chords in rock, explained:

Ben Sisario writes about the “Here Comes Your Man” chord in his 33 1/3 book on Doolittle:

The opening chord, originally just an open D, became a jagged open-string thrum that instantly conjures the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” (Thompson continued to play a straight D major, but the secret ingredient is Santiago’s beloved “Hendrix chord,” here a D7 sharp-9; a loose open E also rumbles faintly underneath.)

The book is great, by the way — heavy on extensive interviews with Black Francis (aka Frank Black, aka Charles Thompson) and light on the rock-critic bloviating. I learned a lot about a record I thought I already knew a lot about.

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B+ book report

CJ has learned an important life skill — how to answer questions in a factually correct but content-free way. For example:

Q: Who are we going to see at the party?

A: Some people!

Q: What are we going to get at the store?

A: Some food!

Q: Where is that schoolbus going to drive?

A: Somewhere over there!

Answers like this are called “B+ book report.”

Robyn Hitchcock and Daniel Pinkwater

Robyn Hitchcock played the High Noon this weekend. I believe he had on the same shirt, a black flowy number with bright yellow spots, that he was wearing the last time I saw him play. An enjoyable set, but the thing about a guy with a thirty-year-long catalog is that even if you go in with a mental list of ten or twelve songs you’d really like to hear, it’s unlikely you’ll get more than a couple. In my case, I got just one, “Balloon Man,” the closest thing Hitchcock’s ever had to a hit.

I was walking up Sixth Avenue when Balloon Man blew up in my face
There were loads of them on Bryant Park so I didn’t feel out of place
There must have been a plague of them on the TV when I came home late
They were guzzling marshmallows and they’re jumping off the Empire State

I’d never realized how much this song owes to Daniel Pinkwater’s Fat Men From Space, a young-adult novel about an invasion by a plague of rotund aliens intent on consuming the world’s supply of junk food, leaving the Earth a sad yoghurt- and wheat-germy imitation of itself. When I was 15 my ideas about the purpose of literature were founded almost entirely on Pinkwater, especially his strange twin masterpieces Lizard Music and Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. Someday I’ll write a long blog post about this, but not today. Today I’ll just key in a quote that made me laugh from the Pinkwater book I’m reading at the moment, Uncle Boris in the Yukon:

Sled dogs look like wolves. They like to pose for pictures standing on some rock, gazing into the distance, looking like Siegfried. What they are thinking at such a moment, when the last rays of the sun are hitting their grizzled and handsome coats, and their intelligent profiles are to be seen at their best, is probably: “Soon I will move my bowels. Yes. That is what I will do.”

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Fine, boil the kid in its own mother’s milk, but use OSHA-approved gloves — that vat is hot!

From the always interesting Zeek, an interview with Rabbi Morris Allen. Allen believes that in addition to the usual hechsher (for non-Jews, the little “K” or “U” on a food package that identifies it as kosher) we ought to have a new symbol, a hechsher tzedek, certifying that the food in question was produced in accordance with Jewish law concerning treatment of workers by employees. (“Tzedek” is Hebrew for “justice” or “righteousness.”) Allen’s campaign was partly inspired by labor troubles and animal-rights protests at Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meat producer in the United States.

Agriprocessors has attracted hundreds of Hasidim to its headquarters in Postville, IA, which I’m guessing was previously a relatively low-Hasidic-density part of the world. The story of the resulting low-grade culture war is told in Stephen Bloom’s reportedly great book Postville.

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Did me some talking to the sun

CJ loves “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” Some mornings, when we’ve got a few minutes, we watch YouTube videos of the song — you can see “Raindrops” by Manic Street Preachers, “Raindrops” by some kind of Dutch version of Celine Dion, “Raindrops” arranged for solo ukelele, and “Raindrops” sung by innumerable karaokists at their laptops. Our favorite version is this Ben Folds Five cover from a Burt Bacharach TV special:

I’ve trained CJ to yell “Rock and roll!” when the drums kick in at the end. That’s Burt Bacharach himself bobbing, weaving, and fake-conducting through the song, with a big “The kids dig my tune!” grin on his face the whole time.

But for kooky awesomeness this lip-sync take by a 17-year-old somewhere in America absolutely cannot be beat. This is why we have YouTube.

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