Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Show Review: Kasabian @ The House of Blues San Diego

Kasabian's writer and style icon Sergio Pizzorno

Show Review:
@ The House of Blues
San Diego, CA

   Of course I'm not a Kasabian fan, but seeing a band that headlined Glastonbury THIS YEAR headline an 1100 capacity club in San Diego was an obvious choice.  If you read about Kasabian on the internet, you will learn that they are despised by critics and loved by normal people.  They are huge everywhere BUT the United States.  They draw comparisons to Oasis and Primal Scream, don't consider themselves indie, and main man Segio Pizzorno likes to pal around with English comedian Noel Fielding, and the two of them have the same hair cut.

  I say more power to them.  The crowd last night was super enthusiastic, almost entirely dudes, singing along to all the cuts and even going up on each others shoulders.  The live show is exactly what you would expect from a band that headlined Glastonbury, broad, with lots of crowd interaction/appreciation.  Almost every Kasabian song has an amazing opening 30 seconds, with lyrics that.... well they are broadly written lyrics designed to appeal to a large swath of the public.

  The lighting was amazing- easily the best lighting display I've seen in San Diego ever at any venue. Kasabian played a ninety minute set, and I recognized all the songs that have made it to the radio.  Backstage Sergio explained why he was wearing a t shirt that had "Corn" written on it in black. "My mate made up a ton of them, like 400 different words, so I wear a different one every night, I'm going to wear "Holiday" in Mexico City this weekend."

  The band was charming and good natured backstage, and seemed genuinely enthusiastic about playing to an 1100 sized crowd in a second tier American market.  It's more than I can say for other, much smaller bands who I have seen cop an attitude at House of Blues.  Robin Roth stopped by with what I presume were either contest winners, staff winners or both.  I never know whether to just say hi to her or introduce myself or neither, I feel like at one point we were introduced...anyway- Robin if you are reading this- I always say nice things about 91x and yourself when people ask me about the San Diego radio scene, and talked up 91x to Kasabian's manager over drinks after the show last night.

  In conclusion, fun show, adoring crowd, fuck the haters.  If you are a band in 2014 that has fans and sells records, that is an accomplishment itself.

Vile Bodies (1930) by Eveyln Waugh

Vile Bodied by Evelyn Waugh

Book Review
Vile Bodies (1930)
 by Eveyln Waugh

  I must confess that I read Vile Bodies with absolutely NO memory of the plot or characters of the last Evelyn Waugh title I read, Decline and Fall.  My review of Decline and Fall, in total, was three paragraphs. (1)  Vile Bodies soldifies his focus in a way similar to how Great Gatsby soldified the focus of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  In America, the group of characters was called "the Lost Generation."  In England, the corresponding group was the Bright Young Things.  These people were Artists, trust fund babies, proto celebrities, demi-mondes, patrons of the Arts, etc, etc, etc. So the important thing to understand about Waugh is that he satirizing these people, not worshipping them.

   And although Waugh is hardly at the forefront of experimental literary modernism, he isn't stuck in the past the same way that say, Ford Madox Ford was in Parade's End.  Vile Bodies will inevitably put readers in mind of the celeb obsessed culture epitomized by TMZ and the Kardashian clan.  In fact, much of the plot revolves around a scurrilous gossip column dedicated to printing the most libelous falsehoods that evoke  the gossip of the web.

   Waugh's characters may not be memorable, but Waugh's writing is.  Much of the breezy style of modern pop literature owes a direct debt to Vile Bodies, consciously or not.


Book Review
Decline and Fall (1928)
by Evelyn Waugh

  Decline and Fall is Evelyn Waugh's first novel. Waugh belongs to the "comic" strand of the novel, a strain of literature that is present in the creation of the novel itself and in a certain sense is a constituent element of the literary elements that preceded the novel proper.  Waugh draws from different comic sub-traditions: contemporary critics claimed that Waugh was simply aping Voltaire's Candide.  If you are looking for French inspiration closer in time, the characters of Guy de Maupassant in Bel Ami come immediately to mind.

 At the same time, Waugh is a quintessentially English writer.  Although his books are perhaps not particularly popular in 2014, his influence in mediums like television and film is omnipresent. The whole idea of a dry, sarcastic, archness in dialogue seems to originate with Waugh himself.  Compared to other "light" authors of the teens and twenties- Edith Wharton, I'm looking at you- Waugh's satire cuts with a knife and would not be considered "gentle."

  There can be no question that Waugh is NOT for everyone.  I'm sure J.K. Rowling has read everything Waugh has ever written, but I bet none of her Harry Potter fan base have even heard of him.  When you take Waugh's influence on other light lit franchises- Bridget Jones diary would be a not so distant grand child.  Television shows like Absolutely Fabulous- these are all made possible by Waugh.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Radetzky March (1932) by Joseph Roth

The Austro Hungarian Empire in all its glory

Book Review
The Radetzky March (1932)
by Joseph Roth

  Joseph Roth is a lesser known German language author from the early part of the 20th century (he died in 1939) he was a journalist, and very active in anti-facist/nazi circles, leaving Germany as Hitler rose to power. The Radetzky March is a story of three generations of Austrian military men- the grandfather, ennobled after saving the life of Franz Joseph the "Grand Warlord" in action in Bosnia in the late 19th century.  His son becomes a District Supervisor, and the grandson becomes  military officer of no great distinction.  Although The Radetzky March is in theory about the lives of the three Von Trotta men, it is hard not to see it as a story about the decline and fall of the Austrian monarchy, pressed by forces (Nationalism, modernity) that it could not control.

  One notable attribute of The Radetzky March is the use of the Austrian Monarch as a character, who speaks, and whose actions are subject to description similar to any character.  Although today we are acclimated to fictional depictions of real historical characters, Roth's move was unheard of in the early part of the 20th century.  The Radetzky March is worth tracking down if you are as into the decline and fall of empires as I am (very.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Well of Loneliness (1928) by Radclyffe Hall

Radcylffe Hall

Book Review
The Well of Loneliness (1928)
by Radclyffe Hall

  Typically known as "the first lesbian novel," upon reading it I would have to say it's closer to being about transsexualism/gender dysphoria than it is straight forward "lesbianism."   Loosely based on the life of the Author- The Well of Loneliness is a straight forward bildungsroman where the protagonist happens to be a woman, who is attracted to other women and "feels like" a man. There can be no doubt that the "novelty" of having a novel with a lgbt type protagonist overwhelms any picayune concerns about whether or not Hall is a progressive stylist of the novel in the manner of other mid 20s English female novelists (Virginia Woolf.)

  I can see where first-wave gender theorists/women's studies types might see Hall's "Steven" character as a self hating lesbian who only thinks she wants to behave like a man, but a more inclusive perspective might take the position that Steven is gender dysphoric, a man trapped in a women's body.  The Well of Loneliness is a good example of just how supple an art form the novel is for an outsider looking in.  The "outsider" quality brings interest in the novelty of the character, her position as the daughter of an English aristocrat privileges her viewpoint, making her ultimate dream acceptance by her peers, rural English aristocrats. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Show Review: Step and Repeat 2014 at MOCA Geffen Los Angeles w/ Stephen Malkamus, Neil Hamburger, Geneva Jacuzzi, Tim Hecker, Heather Lawless, Dub Club DJ's

Comedienne Heather Lawless was a pleasant surprise at MOCA Geffen's Step and Repeat, and yes, she really does look like Sissy Spacek. 

Show Review: Step and Repeat 2014 at MOCA Geffen Los Angeles
w/ Stephen Malkamus,
Neil Hamburger,
Geneva Jacuzzi,
 Tim Hecker,
Heather Lawless,
 Dub Club DJ's

   This past Saturday I went to the last edition of the MOCA Geffen Los Angeles' month long cross-disciplinary be-in/event (theme "performance art") where I saw Stephen Malkamus & The Jicks, Neil Hamburger, Heather Lawless, Geneva Jacuzzi and (missed Tim Hecker's thing) inside the empty MOCA Geffen space in DTLA.  I am always down for a well curated Museum attempt that attempts to integrate pop culture, and I feel like the MOCA Geffen is certainly headed in that direction, and generally has a downtown type of vibe.

  MOCA Geffen takes advantage of the useable space out in front of the museum to make their evening events work. Of course, inclement weather would fuck everything up, but this is Los Angeles, so evening weather is essentially perfect 100% of the time.  Also, this space is surrounded by parking lots and pedestrian public space, so there is zero traffic or even people walking by who aren't involved with the event.  It makes for a comfy, cozy environment.  The bar set up is a bit of a small nightmare, but I would say that is to be expected when you go to one of these here museum events.

 The night started off with Geneva Jacuzzi.  They sounded vaguely familiar, and a quick check of my Facebook app revealed that 15 of my Facebook friends already like the, including tastemakers like Mario Orduno (Art Fag Recordings) and Mike Sniper (Captured Tracks.)  They started their performance with a video-toaster looking edited video piece that featured the two of them as pitch women for "MOCA Lotion" and a series of other typical tv sold products, in a style that seemed to draw from Tim & Eric's aesthetic and earlier parodies of tele-sales.  After that, one of them got into a plastic inflatable skull, dressed in a witch costume, and then she crawled around inside it.  I made it about 10 minutes after the 10 minute video, what I heard was interesting but the performance was static.  When I returned afterward, the plastic inflatable skull she was inside had collapsed, so there may have been a dynamic visual there to close the piece- I don't know.

  Heather Lawless opened for Neil Hamburger.  I recognized her from the Patton Oswalt starring life action "The Heart She Holler" where she plays Hamrbosia, sister of Hurshe (Kristen Schall.)  Her stand up was super duper awkward, by design, I am quite sure.  It very much fit with the Neil Hamburger vibe but was otherwise an awkward surprise. I would watch her again.

 Hamburger took the stage to weak applause.  The audience, as one would expect, seemed to consist more of people who'd heard OF Hamburger but perhaps never seen him or watched any of this online, clips, than of long time fans.  I would put myself somewhere in between, but I was excited to see him, and I've seen him before (in San Diego in July 2013).  Hamburger/Greg Turkington appears to have grown closer to the Tim & Eric matrix, in particular his online video series with  Heidecker, On Cinema and the attendant cross over with Heidecker's other online offering, Decker.  Hamburger's act doesn't vary much, but the audience reaction sure does.  When you watch Neil Hamburger perform you are really watching the reaction of the audience to Hamburger and responding to that, more than any particular joke.  Neil Hamburger is certainly closer to a long running performing art piece than an "act" performed by Turkington.

  I was unable to watch or hear the Tim Hecker piece, which seemingly required waiting in two separate lines, having your id scanned, and wearing a pair of headphones.  There was no explanation of what was going on other than the description of the piece itself in the program for the night, so I would call that an organizational fail.

 Headliners Stephen Malkamus & The Jicks sounded terrible because they were playing inside of a museum.  I would have thought playing outside would have sounded better outside but I can well imagine issues with that happening. I haven't followed Malkamus post-Pavement career, but I would have liked to have heard him.  The poor sound quality made that impossible, but it's impossible to blame anyone, it is, after all, a museum, and can hardly be expected to have gentle rock acoustics.

 On the whole I would judge the entire project worthwhile, and would recommend Step and Repeat to anyone contemplating going in the future.  Thank you to MOCA for having me!

Nadja (1928) by André Breton

Braque's 1910 painting "Guitar with Violin" appears as an illustration in the "surrealist classic" Nadja, by French author/surrealist Andre Breton

Book Review
Nadja (1928)
by André Breton

  The very idea of a "surrealist classic" is antithetical to the surrealist movement, which stands in direct opposition to "classics" and "classicism."  The ideal surrealist work is something spontaneous and irrevent.  Both those values are inconsistent with any idea of classicism, which stresses adherence to known forms and careful contemplation prior to memorializing an idea.  A more accurate description of Nadja is "one of the most well known works of the surrealist movement."  I would imagine that is mostly because Breton himself was a leader of the surrealist movement in Paris during its formative period.

  Although it doesn't appear in the 1001 Books list, Breton's Surrealist Manifesto (1924) is THE most exemplary work of surrealist movement, since it seeks to define an idea that supposedly defies definition.

   Nadja is a loosely woven tale of a character who very much resembles the author and his relationship with the eponymous character, a woman of elusive charm and no fixed address or income. They wander the streets of Paris and environs, and Breton intersperses the text with both photographs and drawings, some of which are said to be done by Nadja herself.   This is not the melting clocks, razor in the eye surrealism of Dali and Bataille.  Rather, it is a more placid depiction of mental disquiet, a disquiet made explicit by the institutionalization of Nadja in an insane asylum at the end of this short (150 pages, with 50 pages of pictures/drawings.)

Monday, October 06, 2014

Show Review: Aziz Ansari & Joe Mande at the Orpheum Theater

Aziz Ansari and his girlfriend, Courtney McBroom.  McBroom is a chef and published Author, also journalist and writer.  If you are at all a fan of Aziz Ansari, the fact that he has a girlfriend is the most important thing to know.

Show Review:
Aziz Ansari & Joe Mande
at the Orpheum Theater
Los Angeles, CA.

  On Friday night I saw Aziz Ansari do what was essentially a series of smaller, LA area warm ups for the big show at Madison Square Garden this coming Thursday.  I'm a huge fan of Aziz, and I'm sure that some of this review would constitute a "spoiler," so if you have tickets to the show this week don't read past the photograph until after the show.  No excuses.
Aziz Ansari performed at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles last Friday.

  So I'm a big Aziz Ansari fan- I remember watching his videos on the internet before he was on television.  I've certainly seen all the stand-up specials upon debut or ckoe thse to it: Comedy Central, Netflix, etc.  One thing you have to say straight up about Aziz as an Artist is that he is a hard working guy, I feel like the last Netflix special was not more than a few months back, and I chatted with my date about whether this would be "100% new material." (we both thought it would be because of the Madison Square Gaden show.

  I'm certain that the Madison Square Garden will have stuff added- some bits maybe, and you would have to imagine that we will call in ALL his favors with his celebrity buddies for the MSG two night stand.  The main bits revolved around factory farming and feminism- which to me seemed like an attempt by Ansari to have a couple signature bits that have some social consciousness element.  The back end was largely his relationship stuff but interestingly including his new relationship with Courtney McBroom, a chef at Momofuku and Milk Bar in New York city.  I'm only putting her name in because she's a published author and does press and obviously wouldn't object to having her mentioned in a totally neutral fashion.

  I don't know Aziz, but the long time fandom and solid "one degree" of separation between the two of us make me feel like I do.  Because this blog specifically deals with the relationship between Artist and Audience, I think I can convincingly argue both that stand up is an Art form worthy of serious aesthetic consideration, and that Ansari is a serious Artist in this feel, and that you can tell this by his combination of technique and theme, and his obvious success in connecting with a significant audience.

  It's a very obvious thing to talk about Aziz Ansari's technique, whether one wants to appreciate it or criticize it.  I think it's just a simple fact that it "works" and that people love it, and people who criticize it are either ignorant, or haters or both.  The influence of hip hop on Ansari's delivery is well commented upon. I personally believe that the primary influence on Ansari is Chris Rock, and that Rock is essentially the career path that Aziz Ansari.  I say that as a fan of Rock, but as someone who lost interest with his "serious" projects, including a remake of some french relationship drama that I really should have been into.

  I would imagine that he is looking past stand up, since Madison Square Garden is basically "it" in that area.  Given that he originally worked in video/online, and that he has balanced the stand up with a long-time role on cult classic and still on NBC comedy Parks & Rec., I'm sure the goal is to have his own production company and do whatever the fuck he wants to do.

  I'm not sure that this show was any kind of a "go out on a high note" career transition, typically stand ups get to do marriage material, kid material, or they can drop out of the stand up game and move on to flim and television.  So, the fact that he's "doing" relationship material- which is DEFINITELY the high light for any long time Ansari fan.

 Ansari has risen on his "single guy" relationship material, and his television character is a perpetually frustrated would-be lothario.  His extended discussion of one night stands as "Skittles" and relationships as a "healthy salad" had the ring of something that will inspire t-shirts and catch phrases.  That ending bit with the factory farming/feminism bits are the three "hits" that one would expect to hear on a hit record, and I will be interested to see if I'm right about that as these bits permeate outward from the Artist.

  Long time fans won't be disappointed, people coming because of the television show won't be disappointed either.  It isn't raw, but we're talking Chris Rock not Eddie Murphy.  I think something that happens to all Artists is that they are radical at the beginning, to draw attention, and then generally mellow and leaven commensurate with obtaining a larger, and more general audience.  I think this is probably as close as a "rule" as you can get when discussing the relationship between artist and audience, and I think Ansari has figured this out in terms of his own career, and has done a good job coming up with a work that can please both the smaller audience of core fans and a larger audience of new ones.

  If I could make one humble suggestion it would to have him do something about his family back in India, I think that would be amazing and interesting.

 Opener Joe Mande had a solid opening set- including a spectacular peace about smoking pot in the form of "dabs" that I found very amusing.

Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared)(1927) by Franz Kafka

The Statue of Liberty holding a sword aloft is one of several bizarre images from Franz Kafka's, Amerika/The Man Who Disappeared (1927).

Book Review
Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared)(1927)
by Franz Kafka

  Unfinished like all of his published novels, Amerika is also the least "Kafka-esque" of Kafka's books, to the extent that one defines Kafkaesque as being the state of being subject to the unfeeling hand of an absent higher power.  17 year old German Karl Rossman is sent to America by his parents after impregnating a 35 year old house maid.  He arrives by boat in New York, seeing the Statue of Liberty holding an upraised sword in his hand.  There are several bizarre misstatements of fact by Kafka in Amerika- the sword wielding Statue of Liberty, a character from New York telling Rossman to seek his fortune at San Francisco, "in the east;"  and perhaps most notably, the existence of a bridge that links Manhattan to Boston.

  These mistakes were likely made out of a simple lack of familiarity, but their inclusion heightens the strangeness of Kafka's America, which, in the end, is more like the Central Europe of his other novels than any other version of America from literature.  Rossman is beset by events that echo the activities of Kafka's other heroes- he is dismissed by his wealthy uncle via a letter "handed to him at midnight" because he accepts an invitation to go to the country house of a wealthy friend of his uncle.

  Later, he is kept inside an apartment and forced to become a servant to a blowsy divorcee who has taken up with one of his earlier travelling companions. Amerika ends abruptly with Rossman still a servant- 20 pages of appended fragments show that Rossman would end up travelling across America. He did not get to do any material on San Francisco or California, which I'm sure would have been amazing.

  Kafka, who wrote in the teens, was published in the 20s, and didn't really catch on in English until after World War II, is an excellent example of the unappreciated genius, perhaps the example, considering his aversion to publication and lack of an artistic circle during his lifetime. He ought to serve as the patron saint of the unknown artistic genius- him and Vincent Van Gogh. 

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