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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Show Review: Divers///Cathedral X at the Whistle Stop

@ The Whistle Stop Bar & Cantina in San Diego, CA.

  Legendary San Diego venue has seen some shows.  Here are the last two shows I went to:

Dirty Beaches & Jeans Wilder published on April 1st, 2010. (SHOW REVIEW)
Best Coast, Pearl Harbor(Puro Instinct, Beaters published on July 19th, 2009. (SHOW REVIEW)

 So that's where I'm coming from, when I review this show.  I can't even remember the last time Mario booked a band at the Whistle Stop- I think Jon Greene said that it was the Plateaus record release part a year ago.  I can remember for the prior two shows- Best Coast and Dirty Beaches?  I was actually excited beforehand, and I had a similar feeling on Friday night.

 Why I am excited?  Well, I'd prefer not to elaborate too much.  DIVERS and CATHEDRAL X both have numerous advantages in the market place, most notably the support of a record label and mastered material "in the can."  Oh wow, that's already more support of 99.9% of "local" bands.

  Then there is the music itself.   I'm more of a DIVERS man than CATHEDRAL X, and I know writers are not supposed to play comparison games according to sensitive Artists, so it's hard to write a review where they were playing back-to-back.  I'll tell you the crowd was larger for DIVERS, who played first. I think some of that is just attributable to the timing of the Friday night South Park bar scene.

  Here is what I said about the Audience at the Whistle Stop for this kind of show, written in 2009,  when I reviewed Best Coast's first San Diego show, it's exactly as true now as it was then:

IV. Crowd
Are these the people who show up on a saturday night at the Whistle Stop? Half the people ignoring the music, half the people paying attention. That's the way it has always been here, that's the way it always will be. Fine with me- easier to actually see the bands. Of the people that were there to see the music I recognized maybe half of them and some were down from LA to see the first two bands, others seemed to be new- (guy wearing a k records/beat happening t shirt I'm looking at you.) 
Certainly, the attention level of the people who were there indicated that there was some local interest in this show among local amateur music enthusiasts. It ought to emphasized what a minority enthusiasts for this brand of music represent in the local area. There are perhaps 75 people who attend these shows with any kind of regularity. 
       That is the way it will always be here, and there is freedom in invisibility. It's the Roman style freedom: "Freedom FROM." In San Diego, the artists and their fans are ghosts, walking amongst the citizenry unnoticed in between tanning plastic surgery freaks and american idol finalists. Two things that San Diego is "not" is a place where a local musician can achieve fame and notoriety amongst the locals or a place where the locals "care" about interesting local music. Trust me about that.  (2009 SHOW REVIEW)

  So that was exactly the case last night, in case you were wondering.  No progress. Doesn't matter, though.  A lot of people were out, half of them were paying attention.  I like it when bros come over to watch the band and look badly misplaced, I actually think that is an interesting phenomenon about the Audience segment consisting of "bros looking to score."    What you get, though, is an Audience, for Artists have that little or no Audience of their own.

  I doubt the case it will be like that forever for either Cathedral X and Divers, provided they commit to playing shows and putting out music.  It certainly didn't turn out that way for Best Coast or Dirty Beaches.  I'm just using those Artists as examples because those are the last two shows I've seen at this venue, not because I think there is any specific comparison between those Artists and these Artists.   It certainly is, at the very least, 2-3 years later, so it's a "different time" even if it's the "same place."

  One of the attractive features of Divers performance is that there was a real progression and build of emotion during the set- sort of a building of tempo?  That you often don't see with newer bands.

  Divers will make progress when people can listen to the songs on Spotify or whatever- when Artists put out recordings of strong songs, they can begin to create the feedback between Artist and Audience that inevitably results in bigger Audiences.

   Cathedral X is a different thing. What I like about them is the combining of a very distinct and formal visual presentation (they have a costume wearing dancer as a member of the band.) but the song structure and lyrics are experimental/improvisational.   This is not a band, 2, 3 years ago that I would have expected to keep the Friday night bar crowds attention, and some people walked off, but people were watching, which is a tribute to the sophistication of the Audience.

     I can see where people wouldn't find it "musical" enough to warrant attention, but if there is one thing that I have learned about contemporary music is that there is plenty, plenty, plenty of room on the musical fringes.  Maybe more room there then there are in more well established musical styles.

     I think Cathedral X needs to have more then a song or two out before they contemplate touring- they will want to make sure they have an Audience for the theatrical elements of their live show.  On the other hand, Divers can pursue a more tour intensive approach.  I liked having it as a two piece, and I'd be interested in seeing a three piece, but there is no need to hold up shows in places like LA or SF fiddling with the line-up.  Most importantly, Divers touring as a one piece or two piece is simply more efficient then touring as a three or four piece.

  If you can tour as a one or two piece that puts you ahead of all the bulkier acts- like you are starting further down the road.  I'd like to see a Divers, Yohuna tour booked by Cory Stier this summer.  That would be dope.  DIY style.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The History of Rasselas Prince of Abissinia


The History of Rasselas: Prince of Abissinia
by Samuel Johnson
p. 1759
Oxford World's Classic Edition 1998 version
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by J.P. Hardy

  Samuel Johnson is one of the founding figures of modern English prose- specifically since he wrote the first English language dictionary in 1755.  The Oxford English Dictionary wasn't completed for another 150 years, and during that time Johnson's dictionary was THE dictionary. He also dominated the London literary scene in the mid 18th century and wrote a variety of essays, poetry and this proto-novel, The History of Rasselas.

  The obvious comparison to make is between Rasselas and Voltaire's Candide.  Both take the form of the travels of a young man, accompanied by a teacher, travelling the world and seeing all the bad stuff that can happen to people.

  I read this book a couple years back but didn't review it because it isn't really a Novel, it may be an important book that had a huge influence on later Novelists and the Audience when it was published, but its hardly a Novel.   It's more like a philosophical inquiry attached to an episodic narrative.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


The Moonstone
by Wilkie Collins
p. 1868
Read on Ipad/Ebooks
Project Gutenberg Edition

   This is a book I tried to buy on Amazon- because I liked his other hit, The Woman in White- but I couldn't find a copy for a reasonable price...perhaps because this is a 650 page DETECTIVE STORY.  I can see why a Penguin Classics or Oxford's World Classics would be like ""

 There is a brand new Harper Collins Classics (?) edition out as of the end of last month. (AMAZON) The copy I got of Woman in White was shitty- a DOVER GIANT THRIFT edition. If I have to chose between Dover Thrift edition and reading the same title on an Ipad/Kindle- I'll take the ereader everytime.

   Wikipedia calls The Moonstone an epistolary novel, but I think Wikipedia is wrong in this case.  Epistolary, of course, means "written in the form of a letter" and the texts that make up The Moonstone are more in the form of sworn statements under perjury, i.e. the "writer" is swearing to tell the whole truth to the best of their recollection. (1)

 Big difference between that and a true Epistolary novel like Pamela by Samuel Richardson.  Epistolary was the original novel style, and Collins, writing in 1868- a century and a half after Pamela was published- certainly was doing something more with format then writing an epistolary novel.

 Wilkie Collins was a bosom bro of Charles Dickens- the indexical entry in Peter Ackroyd's Charles Dickens is itself over half a page long and has entries like:    Collins, Wilikie: travels abroad with CD 677-82; visits huanted house, 870; CD conceals absence from Gad's Hill from, 999.  ETC.

  Collins was famous, in his time as the foremost exponent of "sensation novels" although he worked with already existing themes like Gothicism or Ghost,  he brought an easy to read, audience conscious style to the material and was buddies with Charles Dickens- so you can see where people would be coining new genre terms to describe the work.

   Whereas Woman in White is largely devoted to sprucing up Gothic/Supernatural themes, The Moonstone is widely considered to be the first Detective novel- not the first Detective story- but the first long form novel.

   If you actually read this entire book- all 650 Ipad sized pages of it- it's easy to see both why the book was famous at the time and why it is less beloved today. First, it is easy to read- none of the stylistic peculiarities of 18th century Gothic fiction.  Second- it inherits from the Epistolary novel or embodies an aspect of that format in that it is VERY LONG. Epistolary novels are ALL VERY LONG because of the attempts of Authors to simulate "reality."

 The fact that it takes Collins 600 pages to get to the denouement speaks against the lasting quality of this book, and although it gets the credit for being the first Detective novel, it's arguable that detective fiction is best in smaller doses.  Like short story size doses.  Certainly not 650 pages worth to resolve the theft of a jewel.   650 pages and ten years of "book" time.  Yikes! Solve that crime already, guys.


(1) I looked at the corresponding wikipedia entry for Epistolary Novel and it's clear that Wikipedia has an expansive view of the term Epistolary novel as a "novel consisting of documents," whereas I would say the documentary novel is different then an Epistolary novel because letters are different then legal depositions. A small point, perhps.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Pit and The Pendulum (1842) by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was the first American author to survive on his earnings as a writer.

The Pit and The Pendulum
by Edgar Allan Poe
Read on Ipad/Ebooks
Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume II
originally published in 1842

Guide to 19th Century American Literature

Book Review: The Awakening by Kate Chopin ,1899,  9/26/13
Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1885, 10/15/13
Book Review: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ,1880 , 7/16/13
Book Review; Ben Hur by Lew Wallace,1880  6/13/13
Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott,1869, 3/9/13
Book Review: The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne 1860, 9/19/12
Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852, 9/12/12
Book Review: The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne,1851, 5/30/12
Book Review: Moby Dick by Herman Melville 1851, 8/27/12
Book Review: The House of the Seven Gables,1851,  6/21/12
Book Review: The Pit and The Pendulum  1842, 3/28/12
Book Review: The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe, 1844, 3/27/12
Book Review: The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, 1839, 3/20/12
Book Review: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, 1826, 6/18/12

  It has become clear to me that I can't review another Edgar Allan Poe short story without additional discussion of the format of the short story, which I despise, just personally. (1)
  Really, the short story has to be viewed as a "modernization" of the Novel, in that it took advantage of technological and social changes in the Audience and modified the length and scope of the Art Form of the Novel to achieve a different effect.  But you can't begrudge the Artistic success of the short story as a form of literature, particularly in the 20th century.
        Certainly the 1001 Books list contains few Novellas and even fewer short stories.   So what makes Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum one of three short stories Poe gets onto the 1001 Books list in the 2006 edition?  I guess the fact that he is pretty much first, that he didn't write any "full-length" novels and that he is American.  I think his American citizenship plays a part in his enduring fame. Also, his Romantic biography helps.
  He kind of has the "rock star" quality where the biographical details outweigh the Artistic output.   You get the sense that he just didn't have the time and space to sit down and write a Novel- that's the impression you get from any introduction to a Poe short story.
  The Pit and the Pendulum is  both one of the first short stories and one of the best, according to the 1001 Books list.   I think most of this has to do with the early publication date- 1842. Considering that the short story "didn't bloom" in the U.K. until the 1890s- that would make Poe fifty years ahead of his time- the equivalent of a delta blues man to Mick Jagger, artistically speaking.
  I would say that this period- from 1840 to 1890- the short story suffered from the kind of lack of critical attention that other popular art forms have experienced- film, photography, pop music, comic books, etc.  It's an attitude that continues in the field of "genre fiction" until today.
    So yeah, The Pit and The Pendulum- the story of this guy- being tortured by the Spanish Inquisition- is rich and atmospheric and achieves in less then 50 pages what lesser Authors took 400 or 500 pages to accomplish.   Poe produced his short stories for a public, magazine reading audience, and his style reflects that audience.  He remains clear and readable to the present which is a testament to the enduring value of his prose style.
   But does Poe deserve three titles in the 2006 edition of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die?  I would say, no.


(1)  I just Googled "history of the short story" and chose an article by Willliam Boyd at site called, Prospect Magazine.  The article is called "A Short History of The Short Story,"  and all quoted paragraphs in this note come from this specific source.


      It has been argued that the honour(sic)(A) goes to Walter Scott’s story “The Two Drovers,” published in Chronicles of the Canongate in 1827.  The only problem is that after Scott’s start, the short story in Britain hardly existed in the mid-19th century...Therefore, in many ways the true beginnings of the modern short story are to be found in America. One might posit the publication of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales in 1837 as a starting point. When Edgar Allan Poe read Hawthorne, he made the first real analysis of the difference between the short story and the novel, defining a short story quite simply as a narrative that “can be read at one sitting.”


  Fundamentally, up until the beginning of the 20th century, you have the two great traditions: the event-plot story and Chekhovian story. 
  (1) (2)  The event-plot story (the term is William Gerhardie’s) refers to the style of plotted story that flourished pre-Chekhov—before his example of the formless story became pre-eminent. Most short stories, even today, fall into one of these two categories. From them other types emerged over the coming decades. Perhaps the most dominant of these new forms is what I termed the modernist story, in which a deliberate, often baffling obscurity is made a virtue, however limpid the style in which it is written. 
  (3)    Next among the other varieties I classified was the cryptic/ludic story. In this form of story there is a meaning to be deciphered that lies beneath the apparently straightforward text. This is also known as “suppressed narrative” and is a more recent development—perhaps the first clear move away from the great Chekhovian model. Mid-20th century writers like Nabokov, Calvino and Borges are representative of this mode of writing.
 (4)     The next category, the poetic/mythic story, is a rarer beast. Dylan Thomas’s and DH Lawrence’s stories are typical and JG Ballard’s bleak voyages into inner space also conform to this set. 
  (5) The final category, and one that brings us up to the present day, is what I called the biographical story, a catch-all term to include stories that flirt with the factual or masquerade as non-fiction. Often the impedimenta of the non-fiction book is utilised(sic) (footnotes, authorial asides, illustrations, quotations, font changes, statistics, textual gimmickry). This is the most recent transmutation of the short story form and largely originated in America in the 1990s, where it has found particular favour(sic) with younger writers: Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace, William T Vollman are notable exponents. 


Colleen Green In-Store Performance
performing songs from her Milo Goes To Compton LP and Cujo EP on Art Fag Recordings, as well as other material.
San Diego, CA.
April 7th, 2012
M-Theory Records
in Mission Hills San Diego, CA.

     Just so it's clear, the Colleen Green Milo Goes To Compton LP is a modest hit.  I'm not saying Colleen Green is going to be designing a casual clothing line for Urban Outfitters or buying a house in Hollywood Avril Lavigne style anytime in the immediate future, BUT- she's got an Audience for her current records, and she's got a record coming out on Hardly Art and I personally guarantee that she will have an Audience for her music for years to come.   More importantly, she will have people who want to put out her records knocking on her door for a decade or more based on what is already out.  Anything I say here is simply in support of the established fact that Colleen Green is a viable Artist with a substantial existing Audience.

  A point I wanted to make about Colleen Green is that part of her appeal- a large part in my mind- is her fragility.  The combination of that kind of fragility with the immediate access that an Artist can provide via social network platforms like Twitter and Facebook is an intoxicating DIY brew that can easily be attached to good songs to create actual Artistic careers, and Colleen Green is a good example of this artistic  phenomenon.

  I feel like people don't get the fragility part of the appeal.  And watch out for the release of the Hardly Art LP- that's a record that will essentially be picked up by Sub Pop either officially or unofficially depending on how clued in they are to Colleen Green's amazing-ness.

  And seriously- if you are someone who has listened to Milo Goes To Compton on Spotify or whatever- and you didn't like it?  Stop reading my blog.  Never come back.  You have terrible taste in music, whoever you are.
 Seeing Colleen Green at M Theory this April is the equivalent of seeing Daniel Johnston in his tape days in Austin in the late 80s.  Colleen Green is already an authentic DIY legend, and she deserves more respect for her artistic achievement.  And she has hits for days.  FOR DAYS.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Purloined Letter (1844) by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

The Purloined Letter
by Edgar Allan Poe
published 1844
this edition read on Ipad/Ebooks
Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volume 2.

Guide to 19th Century American Literature

Book Review: The Awakening by Kate Chopin ,1899,  9/26/13
Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1885, 10/15/13
Book Review: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ,1880 , 7/16/13
Book Review; Ben Hur by Lew Wallace,1880  6/13/13
Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott,1869, 3/9/13
Book Review: The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne 1860, 9/19/12
Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852, 9/12/12
Book Review: The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne,1851, 5/30/12
Book Review: Moby Dick by Herman Melville 1851, 8/27/12
Book Review: The House of the Seven Gables,1851,  6/21/12
Book Review: The Pit and The Pendulum  1842, 3/28/12
Book Review: The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe, 1844, 3/27/12
Book Review: The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, 1839, 3/20/12
Book Review: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, 1826, 6/18/12

  Yet another incredibly cheap entry on the 1001 Books Before You Die list, because this is not a book, but a short story. It was originally published in a magazine, and even today you have to read it as part of a "Collected Short Stories" or "Complete Works" of Edgar Allan Poe.

  The Purloined Letter is the third of three stories that Poe wrote that essentially 'invented' detective fiction.  What it didn't event was detective fiction as a novel, that would have to wait twenty some years for Wilikie Collins very tedious The Moonstone.  You can certainly argue that detective fiction has thrived within the literary boundaries of the short story, but as I've recently expressed, I hate the short story as a form.  Weirdly.

 There is nothing gothic or romantic in the style of The Purloined Letter, which makes it different from his other two included stories on the list, The Fall of The House of Usher and The Pit and The Pendulum.  It is striking though that we are talking about something published in 1844 by an American writer, no less.  As I mentioned in the review of The Fall of The House of Usher, Poe was kind of the first "professional" writer of fiction in the United States when he got rolling in the 1820s.

Monday, March 26, 2012


A Modest Proposal
by Jonathan Swift
Originally Published 1729
Project Gutenberg Edition #1080
Published 2008
Read on Ipad Ebooks

  Man I tell you the Ipad/Ebooks combo is DELIVERING LIKE FED EX on volume of books.  A Modest Proposal is a super duper cheap entry onto the 1001 Books list- only 13 pages front-to-back it is not a novel at all, nor a book, but more like a pamphlet. Why not include Thomas Paine's Common Sense while you are at it?   Swift was part of the early to mid 18th century circle that included Alexander Pope- they were part of the same club.

 Swift was a consummate literary outsider- from Ireland of all places- he spent most of his time skulking around London trying to get a good gig in the Church.  A Modest Proposal in an early example of 18th century Satire- with the Author "suggesting" that England solve it's Irish poverty problems by eating Irish children.  In the sense that it is drawing attention to a social problem, A Modest Proposal prefigures the 19th century novel of social concern, but it itself is not a novel of social concern.

 Still funny though.  13 pages long. Takes about 10 minutes to read- so short you could read it online in ten minutes.

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