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« Western Faith and Western Reason | Main | Art Innovation Bleg »

May 05, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Yahmdallah has been treating himself to a movie orgy. He lists and annotates some must-see movie-history greats, he gives up on Gus Van Sant, and he recommends the TV series "Dead Like Me." Great Yahmdallah line (a propos of "Thumbsucker"): "It's now official. I will never again waste time on a 'small film' about 'the little earthquakes' in our lives."

* Tatyana reviews a vacation in Portugal in pix and words. You'll be dreaming of sipping port by the time she's done. She also shows how beautiful spring can be in Brooklyn's Botanical Garden.

* Matt McIrvin is a major fan of the Polish sci-fi genius Stanislaw Lem.

* So Jen and her good friend Nat walk into this bar, and ... OMG!

* Starbucks signs with William Morris.

* YouTube is about to surpass CNN in online popularity. Paul Boutin tries to figure out what kind of juju MySpace and YouTube share.

* Speaking of YouTube, here's the Jefferson Airplane on Ed Sullivan, doing a rousing version of their grimly ecstatic "White Rabbit."

* The delicious and talented Molly Crabapple -- saucy both as a po-mo vaudeville personality and a designer/illustrator -- co-sponsors a hip and happening downtown drawing session. Here's the drawing session's own blog. I'm glad to see that Molly is showing her naughty Victoriana in Phoenix soon.

* Chris White, who owns an art gallery in Maine, sometimes stops by 2Blowhards and provides good-humored and brainy counterpoint to our more cranky rants. Please be sure to check out his gallery's website. Chris handles a lot of classy and beautiful art.

* Having taken the plunge and devoted herself to writing, Prairie Mary reviews her financial situation. Those who imagine that the writing life is a glamorous and glitzy one will learn much from this posting. Savor that prose too -- Mary is a powerhouse of a writer.

* I confess that I have no idea why so many people seem to think that skyrocketing population numbers are a great thing. As Dean Brown writes, "What's the Problem With Less Crowding?" James Kunstler thinks that we ought to be warier than we are when our elites use the word "growth."



posted by Michael at May 5, 2006


I posted a comment a while back about how wretched it was to live in an area experiencing rapid population decline (Connecticut circa 1990). Having barely survived that situation, I cannot take James Kunstler's worries about growth too seriously. Just consider the alternative.

Posted by: Peter on May 5, 2006 9:31 PM

I have to confess that I just don't get the MySpace craze. I think I missed the target demographic by about 5-10 years.

But now YouTube, on the other hand... LOVE IT!

(and thanks for the link! if my cautionary tale can help just one person, then it will all have been worth it.)

Posted by: jenny on May 5, 2006 9:59 PM

Occupational hazard: I thought you meant this William Morris! "Starbucks is changing it's money-making wall color ! they must be nuts!"

Thanks for the mention - but I realize of course: now I MUST fight my lazy nature and continue; how can I disappoint all 5000 readers you've sent my way? it's a trap...

Posted by: Tat on May 5, 2006 10:23 PM

You Tube has so much cool stuff on it that my mind explodes. Ramones live on German TV? New York Dolls live? The Yardbirds live? Hawkwind?
The Jam? Merle Haggard?

Got 'em all.

It is staggering. And there is new stuff all the time.

You tube is the greatest thing on the Web in a long time.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 5, 2006 11:37 PM

That Jefferson Airplane video is awesome. Thanks.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 5, 2006 11:49 PM

Wait, what am I thinking? I can embed a frame of the video in the posting. Who needs a link? Lordy but I have a hard time thinking like a real Web 2.0 person. Just don't have the instinct. Still ... done.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 6, 2006 12:45 AM

"White Rabbit" reminds me of Ravel's "Bolero". Out-of-context, you want to find it ignorable. In context, its incessant buildup and inevitable explosion us always awesome. My friend and I have played it, he on guitar/vocals, me on alto sax (and once clarinet) with a kind of brrrrr-bop bip bip pattern that sorta mimics the original percussion and tracks the melody. Hard to explain, but you can probably imagine it.

Posted by: J. Goard on May 6, 2006 5:30 AM

Funny that I used "he" and "me" in parallel like that.

Posted by: J. Goard on May 6, 2006 5:32 AM

Are you people for real? You Tube is incredibly boring...and those names sound infantile. I don't want to check out something named White Rabbit.

Posted by: Tat on May 6, 2006 8:18 AM

Amazingly, the lead guitar player in the Jefferson Airplane is a friend of mine, and a former neighbor in Woodstock, Jorma Kaukonen.

I watched about 10 seconds of the video and turned it off. Wretched. The childish self importance and Grace Slick's megalomania drove Jorma from the band, along with the band's bass player, Jack Cassady. Grace Slick pioneered the "I will fuck anything that walks" stance for women rock singers. Jefferson Airplane metastasized into the worst rock band in history, the Jefferson Starship, a godawful band that continued to belch up hymns to revolution while the stars were living in orgiastic luxury. The spoiled brat lunacy of this era in the Bay Area boggles the imagination... and I was there.

Jorma and Jack formed Hot Tuna, probably the best blues band of the past 30 years. (Take that, you morons who believe that blues is a black music form.) They were enormously successful, particularly in Europe, for a decade. Jorma is a very funny and likeable man. I was surprised to see in the video that we play the same guitar... a Gibson ES-335.

Forget the Jefferson Airplane. It's an embarassment of the great Spoiled Child rebellion of the 60s. Hot Tuna, however, is a great blues band that you can listen to over and over again. Their drummer (at least one of their drummers), Harvey Sorgen, still lives in Woodstock. I've done a couple of gigs with him. He's an amazing virtuoso of the New Orleans stride style, with a stunning grasp of the hestitation beat.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on May 6, 2006 10:58 AM

Everything Shouting Thomas says is true about the utter awfulness of the lifestyle and later musical efforts of Ms. Slick, et al. However. Due notice must be given to the two shatteringly great singles the band produced -- "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love". The Airplane were a two-hit wonder, but those were great songs. No matter how awful the next almost 40 years have been, they hit home runs with those two songs. Hot Tuna is great, stipulated. But that band is one that requires a sophisticated appreciation to "get it". The Airplanes two killer singles were POP -- meaning anybody can get it when comes out of the car stereo, in mono, on an AM station, and it sounds positively Olympian. Such is the mystery of the greatness of pop. It is music for people who don't know much about music -- they just know something is great when they hear it.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 6, 2006 1:06 PM

Agreed, YouTube is fantastic for music. You can use it to go on a nostalgia trawl (late 80s, early 90s videos for me), or look up stuff before your time, or all sorts of live performances.

Where else am I going to see ancient Adam and the Ants videos? This is why they invented the internet.

Posted by: Brian on May 7, 2006 12:30 AM

Ditto LG. Shatteringly great is right. The creative force of the Airplane clearly had the ability to produce top-shelf pop/rock, musically and lyrically, but apparently fell victim to lifestyle, ideology, and personality stuff that has a lot to do with celebrity in music, and very little to do with quality. God, I hate writing something so profoundly banal, but it bears repeating.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite poetic passages in the history of "popular" music:

"Tears are running, running down your breast,
And your friends, baby, treat you like a guest."

Strikes right at the heart of despair as I experience it. And yet I think of how many people I know whose first reaction might be: "Hey, I'd love to be a guest all the time. Everybody falling over themselves to impress you, you not having to lift a finger -- sounds great!" The song also reminds me of that pivotal stanza from Auden's great poem, "September 1, 1939":

"The windiest militant trash
Important persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish.
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart.
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love,
But to be loved alone."

So the taunted addressee of the song wants to overcome that chasm between self and universe, and is desiring that perfect romantic partner to make him/her special, but makes the mistake Auden claims we all make, and so the chorus ends appropriately: "you better find somebody to love", i.e. it's up to you to engage the other.

Insofar as the term means anything, this is an important song.

Posted by: J. Goard on May 7, 2006 1:31 AM

It doesn't matter how bad Jefferson Starship was or how much of a twit Grace Slick proved herself to be in later life -- Jefferson Airplane was a great band that produced great art out of a really significant cultural moment, SF in the late 60s. I just saw the fantastic documentary "Gimme Shelter" again, and it reminds me what a significant creative and artistic moment the 60s were. We may never see its like again. Too many people are so motivated to denounce the self-importance of their least favorite baby boomers that they overlook the artistic greatness of that period.

On growth: we've made a bit of a devils bargain. We are utterly dependent on economic growth to lubricate the economy and create sufficient job opportunities to give people flexibility and choice in their lives. Without economic growth the social contract in advanced societies would eventually collapse. Yet growth also systematically erodes our quality of life in ways we are ill equipped to handle collectively.

Posted by: MQ on May 8, 2006 12:22 AM

And it's Dean Baker, not Dean Brown. He's one of hte best and most interesting economists on the web, glad you're turned on to him.

Posted by: MQ on May 8, 2006 12:27 AM

Bought a copy of "Surrealistic Pillow" after maybe 20 years of not hearing anything aside from "White Rabbit" and it is a GREAT album from beginning to end. I'm speaking as someone who is sharply critical of much classic rock. To take one touch of genius, what about the meter shift in "You're my best friend"? A wonderful touch. The Airplane may not have continued on that level (although "Lather" is a great song) but not many bands did. Let's not let personal dislikes, no matter who well grounded, get in the way of hearing some beautiful music.

Posted by: jult52 on May 8, 2006 1:46 PM

With genuflection to the snipes above re Grace Slick and the spoiled babyism of some of the 60s movement (as with all things, there was good and bad there), I've always wondered why Marty Balin was so unsung, as he was the other primary songwriter and voice you hear on the songs. Besides the two hits, the only other good songs were done by Balin. He also seems to be a decent human being. He was the only member of the band who didn't get screwed by Grace Slick, and he dove into the crowd during one famous concert to help someone who was getting beaten up.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 10, 2006 10:44 AM

Thanks for the mention. Because I closed the actual, real world, retail/exhibition space a few years ago, the site has languished for a while. This summer I'm curating a rotating exhibition of plein air painting and will be putting new artists and images up on the web site over the next few weeks.

Posted by: Chris White on May 11, 2006 8:15 AM

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