Sonic Youth: “Brother James”

I dug up an old tape this morning of SY’s “Hold that Tiger”, a live show (bootleg?) from Japan in the late 80s. The vinyl copy is still in my mother’s basement with about four-hundred other choice albums from my collector days. The tape is scratchy, the sound quality sucks, but there is a song on it called “Brother James” which has always appealed to me. I don’t think they ever put it on any studio album.

It was something of a live favorite of theirs since 1985 or so, way before I or anyone really cared or knew who they were. The first time I heard them – thanks, Joe! – I thought it was utter crap. I was still into the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1989-90. Then something clicked and I fell geekishly in love with this band. Their music was the soundtrack for my first year in college. Since “Brother James” is ostensibly about a trip to hell, I figure it captures perfectly the mood of those few years.

*I didn’t bother uploading one of SY’s 80’s performances of this song because the quality is normally awful. This version, at the height of their “selling-out” period, captures the particular dynamic of this song well. It’s all about Steve Shelley’s primal drumming and Kim Gordon’s indecipherable yowling anyway. The rest, as they say, is noise.

The poetry of the cosmos

Someone should – if it hasn’t been done yet – edit an anthology of poetry of the cosmos. Maybe they could make sure to sprinkle Hubble images all throughout it, just to make us cosmonuts happy and get our rocks off doing two things we love at the same time: reading poetry and pondering the stars. Via Miranda Celeste Hale.

Wading through the muck

Lee Smith is back this week with a response to the readers of his article last week in Tablet about Israel’s critics, their commenter hoardes and the “mainstreaming” of anti-Semitic invective by respectable purveyors of information. Wait, who wrote what again?

It’s complicated.

I don’t think anyone in the Sully-Walt-Greenwald camp is going to be canoodled into the Smith-Goldberg-Dershowitz camp, but you’ve got to give Lee Smith credit for actually wading through all the muck around Stephen Walt’s posts.

Highlight: One commenter on Smith’s article claims to have secret access to a Smith-inspired death-threat, but his hands are tied.

“Not only can I source the comment, I can quote it in full here and now. But Tablet Magazine has requested that I not do so.”

I guess that puts Tablet Magazine right up there with AIPAC and Jeffrey Goldberg on the “Jews Who Run the World” list.

The first Arab novel about the Holocaust

That’s what the newly refurbished cover of The German Mujahid tells us.* My guess is they tacked that phrase on due to Paul Berman’s lengthy discussion of is in his recent FOTI. Anyway, that’s how I first heard about it.

*I know this because I’ve actually held the book in my hand, though I haven’t read it.

Blood on the tracks

I was late to work this morning because some guy decided to lie down on the tracks and get himself killed by an oncoming train. In Rome. I remember when there was a flurry of “pushers” in New York around ten years ago.

I asked my colleague, “Do you think he may have been pushed?”

He replied, “I wish he’d just shot himself in the fucking mouth in the privacy of his own home.”

Suicide can be so inconvenient.

Nostaligia and bile

Read this eloquent piece in the Stranger on Gallagher 2.0. Ever wonder, as I have, what ever became of the craaaaaazy watermelon-smashing mainstay of Showtime, circa 1984? I am shocked – but, alas, unsurprised- that Gallagher circa 2010 is a “paranoid, right-wing maniac.” That just kind of fits perfectly with has-been, don’t you think?

And did I mention watermelon-smashing?

Stop smoking

I believe from time to time I get to be a bit of a pedant on my own blog. It’s the price my readers pay – especially those searching for Hubble images, a strangely growing phalanx – for all the diamonds and gold I’ve selflessly unearthed for them from my own mind.

So here is my pedantic trip for the day: Stop smoking. No caps, no boldface, no fancy fonts and no colored letters. I’m not dressing this up like a placebo with a bowtie. It’s dead serious and so am I. Stop smoking.

You know why. You’ve thought it through a million times yourself. Now I’m reiterating it for you. I want you to think of me next time you light a cigarette or buy a pack. Bogart wasn’t cool; he died a shitty cancer-ridden death. Sure, he looked cool in black-and-white. You, on the other hand, look like a fool. Because you know so much more than Bogart knew about what smoking is doing to you.

I want to be a pain in your ass about this.

Gary Shteyngart’s new novel

I’m not allowed to reproduce this wonderfully imaginative excerpt for Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, Super Sad True Love Story. I’m going to assume by the title he’s been hanging around Jonathan Safran Foer lately.

(Here’s a teaser, though: pistachio ice cream and early Velvet Underground!)

Days of 1994

I’ve been reading about the early years of blogging and find the evolution of it fascinating. I’ve never been a techie, so I completely missed out on the 1990s and the advent of blogging. In fact, as recently as 2005, I thought it must be the stupidest thing one could possibly do with one’s time (still a constant worry of mine.) Humble pie.

So I thought I’d try an experiment; after all, that’s how blogging began: by experimenting. I’m going to write a post in the voice of my younger self; in effect, I’m going to try and put myself in the shoes of Justin, who was only two states north of me in a different university when he began his Links in January of ’94. For the record, I was living in an off-campus apartment in Richmond, VA with a friend. I was enrolled in the VCU Art School. And I was miserable as hell.

January 27, 1994*

I stayed up all night listening to the VU’s Murder Mystery with headphones, jotting down the lyrics as best as I could. I kept having to turn one headphone down to hear Lou, and the other one to hear Doug and Mo. It’s the best song ever recorded, after Sister Ray. I should get some sleep.

Missed class today. Too groggy from my all nighter. I wish J would call me. What happened?

I can’t wait to get the fuck out of this shithole. This fucking ghosttown is piled up with corpses vampires. I HATE THE SOUTH. Take me to New York, baby. That’s where I wanna be.

Shitkickers. That’s what B was telling be about his high school. He was like the only kid in his entire town who knew who Fugazi was. He says they all drank beer and listened to Bocephus. Chased him around with a shotgun for kicks. Now he’s the beer drinker. WTF? Oh, Virginia.

Yesterday I bought a copy of Coltrane’s My Favorite Things on cd. Lester mentions it in his book. Sounds like Tom Verlaine, or vice-versa. I wish Lester were here now.

No one around here knows who the goddam Stooges are! If it was recorded before 1992 they’re not interested. But now they’re stealing my ideas, tuning down their guitars and jamming like Thurston Moore. Last year they hated Sonic Youth. Now they imitate them.

I think if I moved to NYC there’d be a ton of people with my same interests.

Ripped a t-shirt so I’d look like Richard Hell. My design teacher just stared at me like, “Whut?” Bitch. I’ll burn her classroom down.

And I did just that.

*I didn’t really write much in 1994, so this is a rather ad hoc attempt at nailing my major obsessions with hindsight. Anyway, it was a trip down memory lane.

Sucking up

Franco Frattini, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, keeps piping up about the “right” to display the crucifix in Italian public schools. He’s bristling over the Strasbourg Court’s hearings; soon they will have to make a decision over whether or not the crucifix can be legally affixed to the wall in public classrooms in Italy.

There are almost no politicians in Italy willing to stand up to the Church on this one (surprise, surprise). Left or right, it makes amost no difference. In fact, it was the State that appealed to Strasbourg after the court had decided that crucifixes were unlawful. The State doing the bidding of the Church. All in the name of brainwashing its own children from the time they are old enough to get an education.

Italians have broadly failed – and their representatives most miserably of all – to understand the principles of secularism. They want that label on their constitution, but are frightened to follow it up in practice. The pope gets angry and stamps his foot and frowns. And they, in parliament, are his subjects.