Thursday, March 27, 2008

The original lo-fi

Decades before Edison. Hats off to Jody Rosen for an incredible story.

Fidelity in 1860 wasn’t so high, though. (Clip.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

‘Singing-cowboy sci-fi’


Dave Kehr in today’s Times on the DVD release of “The Phantom Empire,” a 12-part serial from 1935 that sounds like a mad attempt to capitalize on every comic book genre then in print:

Life is sweet at Radio Ranch until a band of “renegade scientists” arrives, looking for the massive radium deposits of the secret underground nation Murania, the gateway to which happens to be located in a canyon behind Gene’s ranch. Before too long, Gene and his two l’il pardners (the child actors Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross) find themselves caught between the rampaging savants and the legions of Wagnerian Thunder Riders (accompanied by appropriate sound effects) and lumbering mechanical men (whimsical robots built for a production number in MGM’s “Dancing Lady” but cut from the final film) sent forth by Murania’s “She”-like Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) to prevent her land of peace and plenty from being invaded by rapacious “surface men.” It’s a lot for Gene to handle, particularly since he has to get back to Radio Ranch by 2 p.m. every day for his broadcast, which he carries on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. (Link.)

Can’t wait to see it. Gene Autry’s first starring role!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The peep-hole of the past


Comfort for any bookworms with fond and sad memories of card catalogs:

The Health Sciences Library at Columbia University recently “pared down its card catalog” — adorable: this means they’ve still maintained one? — and made this sideshow of some of the more unusual cards. This is the medical school library, so most have to do with microbes and “nurses on horseback.” Besides the one above, my favorite is for a 30-page study from 1815 entitled “A foetus found in the abdomen of a young man, at Sherborne, in Dorsetshire.”

Just as fascinating and heartwarming are all the quirks of format and typeface — the weird brackets, the inscrutable codes and their inscrutable placements, the additions by typewriter and pencil. This was knowledge at its most compact in the pre-computer age.

Thanks to D. for the tip.

One Girl’s Confession


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

The only band I saw twice at SXSW


I could have watched the deviant contortions of Pissed Jeans’ Matt Korvette all day. At an outdoor set in the hot sun on Saturday afternoon, Korvette performed shirtless and before long started tugging at the elastic band of his underwear, eventually tearing it out through his (dry) jeans in a dramatic, angry gesture. He stood for moment holding this tattered gray cloth and making a face like he had just tasted something putrid.

The sound: 40 percent “Liar”-era Jesus Lizard, 15 percent “Fun House,” 20 percent Flipper. If that doesn’t add up to 100 percent, well, so what.

Bonus: No Wikipedia entry (yet), their MySpace is pathetic and out of date, and dude is an insurance claims adjuster.

Download “Secret Admirer.”

Spitzergate: The folk art

Culled from Flickr and elsewhere.




(l{ope}pr{schwa}{sm}x{revc}{lm}n, {sm}l{ope}pr{schwa}k{revc}{lm}n) Forms: 7 lubrican, 9 leprehaun, lepreehawn, leprechaun. [Written lupracán, lugharcán, lugracán, in O'Reilly Irish. Dict. Suppl.; in the body of the Dict. it is spelt leithbrágan, doubtless by etymologizing perversion, the sprite being ‘supposed to be always employed in making or mending a single shoe’ (leith half, bróg brogue); O'Reilly also gives luacharman as a synonym. In some mod. Irish books the spelling lioprachán occurs. All these forms may be corrupted from one original; cf. Middle Irish luchrupán (Windisch Gloss.), altered form of Old Irish luchorpán (Stokes in Revue Celtique I. 256), f. lu small + corp body.]

In Irish folk-lore, A pigmy sprite ‘who always carries a purse containing a shilling’ (O'Donovan in O'Reilly Irish Dict. Suppl. 1817).

1604 MIDDLETON 2nd Pt. Honest Wh. III. i. Wks. III. 175 As for your Irish lubrican, that spirit Whom by preposterous charms thy lust hath rais'd In a wrong circle. 1620 DEKKER Dreame (1860) 28 Mounted on a spirits back, which ran With mandrake-shrikes, and like a lubrican. 1627 DRAYTON Agincourt, etc. 127 By the Mandrakes dreadfull groanes, By the Lubricans sad moanes. 1818 LADY MORGAN Fl. Macarthy (1819) I. v. 289 There, your honor, them's my cordaries, the little Leprehauns, with their cathah heads, and their burned skins. 1860 All Year Round No. 38. 282 A little, lisping, attenuated falsetto voice, such as you would fancy would have proceeded from an Irish leprechaun. 1895 J. BARLOW Strangers at Lisconnel 231 A little ould lepreehawn.
Comb. 1883 W. BLACK Shandon Bells xvii, This little red-haired leprechaun-looking Andy.

Copyright © Oxford University Press 2005

Season of the Lep: Day 6

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Love, Warwick


Bonus: Warwick Davis’s other little-green-man franchise, the non-horror “Very Unlucky Leprechaun”:

La idioma del Leprechaun

  • Your luck just ran out. (Tu suerte se acabó.)

  • This time, luck has nothing to do with it. (Esta vez, la suerte no tiene nada que ver.)

  • Welcome to Vegas ... the odds are you won’t leave alive! (Bienvenido a Las Vegas ... ¡las probabilidades son que no dejar con vida!)

  • Evil has a whole new rap! (La maldad tiene un nuevo rap!)

  • Evil’s in the house. (La maldad está en la casa.)

  • One small step for man ... one giant leap of terror. (Un pequeño paso para un hombre ... una gigante zancada de terror.)

  • Welcome to Vegas ... your losing streak is about to begin! (Bienvenido a Las Vegas ... ¡las apuestas se inclinan a que no te iras vivo!)

  • The gold, the bride and the ugly ... (El oro, la novia y lo feo ...)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Four-word reviews from SXSW

I stole the idea from Coolfer, who used to do this regularly. Here are all the four-word reviews of bands I saw at SXSW, which have been posted on the Times’ ArtsBeat blog:

  • Film School: Neon shades, dreampop noise.
  • Bodies of Water: A starker Arcade Fire.
  • A Place to Bury Strangers: Thank God for earplugs.
  • Chromeo: Journey medley = girls grooving.
  • The Night Marchers: The Flamin’ Groovies redux.
  • Two Gallants: Singer fingerpicks, drummer sweats.
  • 2 Live Crew: Raunchy oldies; ladies appreciate.
  • Spank Rock: Raunch nouveau, spelled “B-O-O-T-A-Y.”
  • Shining: Complex, serrated Norwegian jazzcore.
  • Howlin Rain: Exorcism by Southern rock.
  • White Shoes and the Couples Company: Winsome Indonesian retro pop.
  • The Pillows: Unapologetic Japanese pop-punk.
  • Virgins: Nostalgia overload, but nice.
  • Wye Oak: Pensive, countryish. Drummer = keyboardist.
  • Torche: Beefy metal, unironic mustache.
  • Handsome Furs: Every song: hating home.
  • Health: Dance, noise? Neither? Both?
  • Born Ruffians: Hyperactive, not necessarily happy.
  • Pissed Jeans: Menacing vaudeville. Current fave.
  • Jay Reatard: Pretty standard garage-punk.
  • Liam Finn: A one-man basher!
  • Bon Iver: Mournful but gorgeous harmonies.
  • Atlas Sound: Pleasant guitar noise-clouds.
  • Le Loup: Tribal rhythms, postpunk angst.
  • Pit er Pat: More tribal, less angst.
  • Georgie James: Kinks aims, Petty results.
  • The Stills: Saw one song. Pretty.
  • Motörhead: Rock will never die.
  • Tokyo Police Club: Complex record, straightforward live.
  • Holy Fuck: Dance punk sex magik.
  • My Morning Jacket: Perfect jam/pop balance.
  • John Maus: Howling noisemaker, strangely handsome.
  • No Age: Ph.D. punk. Rocks, though.

Journalism, Texas style


Season of the Lep: Day 5

“The leprechaun then creates an illusion that fools Ian into believing that Bridget is asking him to kiss her breasts; in actuality, they are a pair of lawnmower blades, that start up after Ian shoves his face into them.” (Via.)

Lep 2

Highlight reel:

Poster for Thai release:

Lep 2

The last of the franchise to be released in theaters, grossing $2,260,622 in 1994.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Austin service

Austin is a fun town, filled with drunk kids and music blaring out of every downtown door and backyard. It’s also refreshingly hot here: it got to 95 yesterday, and from my first show at 2 p.m. until I stumbled back to the hotel 13 hours later, everyone I saw was covered in a thin film of rock sweat, with breath smelling of cheap beer. (I was lugging my computer around in the afternoon and my sweat layers weren’t so thin.)

But it is so not New York City, a fact reinforced every time I find myself the irritated fast walker on a sidewalk full of people who seem to be strolling, or even just swaying. It’s especially clear in restaurants and, as I just experienced for the second time, with hotel room service.

Me: Hi, I’d like to order some food for Room 918. I’d like the bowl of fruit with yogurt and honey, some orange juice, and coffee.

Room service (young guy, didn’t give his name): OK, you said you want honey with that?

Me: That’s just what it says on the menu. It says fruit with yogurt, dried cranberries and honey.

Room service: I do apologize sir, but we are sold out of honey.

Me: Sold out of honey?

Room service: Yes, sir.

Me: Uh, OK. Just forget about that then.

Room service: So cancel your order?

Me: No, please don’t cancel. Just forget about the honey.

On Thursday night I ordered dinner in my room, with great reluctance. I was tired from my flight and hadn’t eaten anything all day. The great BBQ place down the street (Iron Works; old sign inside reads “general and rectal surgery”) had a huge line and doesn’t deliver, and I had a deadline to meet. So I called downstairs.

Me: Hi, I’d like to order the barbecued ribs.

Room service (lady named Cindy): OK, sir. [Pause.] You say you’d like the Jack Daniels glazed ribs?

Me: Uh, no, just the regular ribs.

Cindy: OK, sir. Just one moment. I’m not seeing that here.

Me: It’s right here on the menu, under “Steak and Ribs.”

Cindy: Just want to make sure I’m on the same page, sir.

Me: Well, the pages don’t seem to be numbered. But it’s the page before all the Jack Daniels stuff.

Cindy: OK. [Pause.] Still not seeing it, sir.

Me: Really? Just a plate of barbecued ribs.

Cindy: We’ve updated the menu recently, sir. Could you hold please, and I’ll check on that.

Me: You know, I’m actually really, really hungry. Could I just put in an order of basic ribs?

Cindy: OK. I’m sorry, you were looking for steak, or ribs?

Me: Ribs. I’d like to order the barbecued ribs. I imagine your kitchen will know what that is.

Cindy: OK, sir, I do apologize for the delay. We’ll get your order up just as soon as we can.

Here’s the thing about being a New Yorker getting frustrated with Texas ways: you get a little ticked off and you know it’s clear in your voice, but the response from the Texan is always friendly and calm. And you feel like an asshole. So when I opened the door, I found Cindy herself delivering my food, calling me “Mr. Sisario,” apologizing profusely, and kindly asking how I was enjoying the festival. I felt like I was the one who should apologize.

But now it’s 35 minutes later and I’m still waiting for my breakfast of fruit and yogurt with no honey. And that ticks me off.

Season of the Lep: Day 4

In Vegas!

lep 3lep 3

According to this, “Leprechaun 3” was the most successful direct-to-video film of 1995.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Season of the Lep: Day 3

“Leprechaun 4: In Space”

Bonus: Guest spot on MTV’s “Alternative Nation” in 1994 with Kennedy, promoing Urge Overkill:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

SXSW bloggery

Just arrived in Austin for the SXSW festival, which means that something like 1,200 more than 1,700 bands will all be playing at the same time, taunting people like me with the laws of physics that prevent us from seeing any more than, say, 30.

I will be writing for the Times’s ArtsBeat blog, along with Jon Pareles and Melena Ryzik. Not sure how often, but I’m going to shoot for three or so posts a day, and I’ve already filed one. And now I’m going to go reward myself with some barbecue and bands with names like Holy Fuck, Genghis Tron and Future Virgins.

Season of the Lep: Day 2

From “Leprechaun in the Hood” (2000), movie number five. Because after space, where was there left to go? As you know, this one features Ice-T.

“Lep in the hood/Come to do no good.”

“I’m gonna kill that little green motherf***er!”

Bonus: reefer madness from the sequel, “Back 2 Tha Hood”:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Season of the Lep: Day 1

Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (2003)

Straight to video in 2003, “Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood” was the sixth film in the Warwick Davis little-green-horror franchise, and the second one set in the ganja jungle of “the hood.” The first featured Ice-T in a supporting role; this snags Sticky Fingaz (of Onyx, remember?).

I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the only part of the hexalogy I haven’t seen. But in a five-star review on Amazon, one Johnny Bottom (“insane and lonely guitarist”) offers this helpful synopsis:

Ghetto Queen finds the treasure and passes it around to her homies. They buy what you’d expect, cars, jewelry, weaves, gold teeth, and an ample supply of marijuana. Well our little green friend ‘don’t play dat’. He kills with a bong, rips your fillings out, takes an electric razor to the eye, kills the rival gang, burns in a furnace, is shot with hallow point rounds (filled with four leaf clovers ha ha ha!!!), but best of all he kills two cops and steals their car. How can a leprechaun drive you ask? Easy! He rips the leg off one of the cops and uses it because he can’t reach the pedals. Classic.

Stay tuned for more goodies in this Season of Shamrock Shakes Season of the Lep!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Press release(s) of the day: Deathsploitation

The check-out-my-tribute-to-some-dead-person-or-sad-event announcement is one of the most pathetic of all press-release standbys. I can’t tell you how many pitches for “A Song for Freedom” or “The Eagle’s Tear” I got in the months — years, actually — after 9/11. To be fair, these usually come from lone crazies and not from professional publicists. (Occasionally there’s not a huge difference between the two.)

Here’s the sacking of Gary Gygax, one of the creators of Dungeons & Dragons:

today is a sad dae that we tried to make a bit less sad.
you see, gary gygax died.
if you don't know, gary gygax was instrumental in creating dungeons & dragons.

welp, sad and inspired, we made him a song.
here it is:
(thank you) Gary Gygax
(or also on our myspace.) [LINKS REDACTED]

we realize all too well the unfortunate truth is that too often, folks wait until someone has kicked the proverbial bucketcan before they say all the nice things they meant to say about them. that isn't reason enough not to, let it just serve as a collective reminder to us all that we should tell people that we like them and that we like what they do. before they die. people have tried to convince me otherwise, and i refuse to believe it. but if you miss the boat, make them a song.

so the story is good. you see, i was home, when my friend the big j broke the news of mister gygax's demise (and gave us the beautiful line 'there's no graph paper map where you've gone' - thanks big j). i immediately freaked out and picked up the ukulele that i am trying to learn how to play and started singing about him. in between lyrics about orcs, i fired off an e-mail to my group of friends, whom i was LITERALLY SCHEDULED TO PLAY d & d with on this very night. seriously. we're in the midst of a very serious campaign, looking for some dwarven artifacts. i'm a monk, which, as a class, totally rules...

And below, the touchingly brief eugoogoly for Brad Delp, lead singer of Boston:


I wrote "All You Want" in memory of Boston lead singer Brad Delp. March 9 will mark the one-year anniversary of his untimely death.

The song is available as a free download to anyone who wants it:[REDACTED].

We rightfully celebrate the contributions of many departed rock legends. I think Brad deserves to be one of them.

There’s no graph paper where they’ve gone, indeed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tagging Spitzer

Like every other news publication in the galaxy, the Huffington Post reported on the Spitzer prostitution scandal today. And like everybody else, they mostly just linked to the New York Times story that broke the news.

HuffPo did outdo other sites in one particular area, however: tagstorm! Just to be thorough, they tagged their story with almost every conceivable permutation of “Spitzer,” “prostitution,” “hooker,” “governor,” “sex” and “resign”:

spitzer tight crop

But surely that’s not enough, right? What about:

  • Spitzer really fucked up
  • Holy shit did he fuck up
  • Omigod did you hear about Spitzer
  • Omigod did you hear about the governor
  • Omigod did you hear about the governor and how he really fucked up
  • Omigod did you hear about the governor and how he was screwing prostitutes
  • Omigod did you hear about the governor and how he was screwing prostitutes yes can you believe it Spitzer the straight and narrow scourge of Wall Street
  • Omigod the governorship of New York is up in the air
  • Omigod the governorship of New York is up in the air because Spitzer likes expensive booty
  • Omigod omigod
  • Omigod omigod Eliot how could you
  • Omigod Eliot I’m actually kind of jealous how was it
  • Omigod Eliot was she worth it no never mind take that back that’s gross
  • Spitzer sexgate
  • Spitzer you asshole
  • Spitzer you asshole governor sex scandal hookergate
  • Spitzgov sexhole assgate
  • Silda girl I feel for you
  • Silda sista drop that asshole
  • Silda wiretap dumb husband sexmoney Spitztail what kind of name is Silda anyway
  • Oh no you di’int
  • Oh no you di’int Spitzer
  • Oh no you di’int ElSpitz
  • So is this what Bush’s wiretaps are used for now
  • So is this what Bush’s wiretaps are used for now sexmoney Sildashame bad things
  • So is this what Bush’s wiretaps are used for now purple monkey dishwasher
  • Spitzperv scandal resigngate honey you’ve never been to a prostitute have you oh god no that’s gross
  • Spitzer sex scandal do you remember the scene in Twin Peaks where Ben Horne goes to that brothel over the Canadian border and his daughter is there undercover and he comes perilously close to having sex with her
  • Spitzer sex scandal do you remember the scene in Twin Peaks where Ben Horne goes to that brothel over the Canadian border and his daughter is there undercover and he comes perilously close to having sex with her yes it was gross but you have to admit Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne was pretty freakin’ hot
  • Spitzer naughty horny really really stupid wow
  • Eliot Spitzer screwed a prostitute the night before Valentine’s Day
  • Eliot Spitzer screwed a prostitute the night before Valentine’s Day alternative minimum tax
  • Eliot Spitzer screwed a prostitute the night before Valentine’s Day sex tax
  • Eliot Spitzer sexgate hooker does anybody remember that stupid Beck song “Sexx Laws”
  • Spitzer wheelbarrow sexhound
  • Eliot sex governor hooker dumbshit my God
  • Eliot sex governor hooker dumbshit my God holy crap
  • Eliot sex governor hooker dumbshit holy God my crap
  • Eliot sex governor hooker dumbshit sexgate what do you think the headline will be in the New York Post tomorrow
  • Wow Eliot that was really dumb
  • Wow Spitzer that was really dumb
  • Wow Governor Eliot Laurence Spitzer born June 10 1959 in Bronx New York that was really dumb
  • Spitzer Mayflower -Plymouth -rock -Pilgrim
  • Spitzer VIP -Paris -Hilton
  • Spitzer Emperors Club -Hirohito
  • Spitzer 3 diamond boom boom
  • (Eliot or Spitzer) fuck -men
  • Sex AND gubernatorial AND kinky NOT Clinton
  • Omigod did you hear about Spitzer and how he was screwing prostitutes yes I always thought he was a good guy well there ya go politicians are all alike I hear that amen brother
  • Omigod did you hear about Spitzer and how he was screwing prostitutes yes I always thought he was a good guy well there ya go politicians are all alike I hear that amen sister
  • Gubernatorial AND Mayflower AND huge boner NOT Plymouth Rock
  • Gubernatorial AND huge boner AND Mayflower NOT Puritans
  • Spitzer sex (uh-huh) -(nuh-uh)
  • Spitzer VIP bonergate Mayflower Ivana Humpalot
  • Spitzer 3 diamonds big spender lovely lady lumps sexpot assgate
  • Spitzer 3 diamonds did you hear that Bloomberg goes for no less than 5 diamonds
  • Spitzer 3 diamonds did you hear that Clinton goes for no less than 7 diamonds
  • Spitzer Happy Valentine’s Day honey come to bed sorry sweetie I’m tired really honey yes sweetie it’s been busy at the office this week
  • Spitzer Happy Valentine’s Day honey come to bed sorry sweetie I’m tired really honey yes sweetie it’s been busy at the office this week sexgov Mayflowergate holycrap
  • Client 9 Happy Valentine’s Day honey come to bed sorry sweetie I’m tired really honey yes sweetie it’s been busy at the office this week sotto voce actually it’s been busy because I’ve been screwing 3-diamond hookers
  • Client 9 Happy Valentine’s Day honey come to bed sorry sweetie I’m tired really honey yes sweetie it’s been busy at the office this week sotto voce actually it’s been busy because I’ve been screwing 3-diamond hookers Spitzperv resigngate Tucker Carlson Lou Dobbs Bartiromo
  • Client 9 come in Client 9 I’m afraid we don’t have the 12-year-old Thai boy you requested would this very hot 3-diamond sexy woman be OK
  • Client 9 come in Client 9 I’m afraid we don’t have the 12-year-old Thai boy you requested would this very hot 3-diamond sexy woman be OK well I suppose so
  • Client 9 come in Client 9 I’m afraid we don’t have the 12-year-old Thai boy you requested would this very hot 3-diamond sexy woman be OK well I suppose so do I get a discount no come on I’m the fucking governor of New York State Eliot Laurence Spitzer born June 10 1959 in Bronx New York oh shit did I just say that out loud
  • Spitzperv sexgate Layflower Sildacry resignboner NOT Joe Bruno
  • Eliot Laurence Spitzer born June 10 1959 in Bronx New York keep it in your pants
  • Eliot Laurence Spitzer born June 10 1959 in Bronx New York keep it in your pants stupid gubernatorial -Clinton
  • Eliot Laurence Spitzer born June 10 1959 in Bronx New York scandal sex bad boy stupidgate please please Google just deliver us some hits can’t you see we’re desperate here
  • Spitzer sexgate McCain who?

Thanks to Peter.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,’ Japanese style

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Hiro tells me that the title is translated as “Wild Party.”

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ingeniously obvious

Copyranter has a post about a brilliantly obvious guerrilla tactic to promote the the Black Lips’ shows at the Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg next week: vandalizing random posters and billboards with, of course, black lips.

Best of all, they put the wrong dates on some of them. (The Bowery show is Monday, March 10, for example, not the 11th as at left.)

A conversation with Stew


For a profile of Bill Bragin, the former director of Joe’s Pub, I interviewed Stew, whose semiautobiographical show “Passing Strange” just opened on Broadway. Bragin booked Stew and his band the Negro Problem at Joe’s many times, and by all accounts had a hand in the show’s early stages of development. (It originally ran last summer at the Public Theater, although I never saw it there.)

I wasn’t wild about the Broadway “Passing Strange.” The music is good, and while I found the theme of black identity fascinating, the main character’s bohemian/soul-searching wanderings in Europe seemed drawn-out and repetitive, and the focus on “the real” shallow and heavy-handed. (Not so for Charles Isherwood, who raved in the Times.)

And as it happened I wasn’t able to use any of Stew’s quotes. But his interview is an interesting look at an underground artist about to leap into the unfamiliar big leagues. Stew’s mantra: “When you come up here, man, you have to either stick to your guns or turn around and put on the Vaseline.” I wish him luck, but so far it’s not looking great. According to the Broadway League, which certifies box-office receipts, the show ran at just 31 percent capacity last week. I hope the reviews will help that pick up, otherwise it won’t last long.

This interview took place by phone on the afternoon of Thursday, February 21, seven days before the show’s opening.

I’ve heard that Bill had an important but unofficial role in the development of “Passing Strange.” Tell me about that.

Without Bill it wouldn’t have happened. He is without a doubt the only person you can actually say that without him it wouldn’t have happened.

Except for you, maybe.

Yeah, although, you know, they could have used one of those blond, blue-eyed starlets to play me. But yeah, Bill is a champion of underground culture, and he puts his heart where is mind is. When he believes in something, it doesn’t matter if it’s particularly hip; in fact, Bill tends to get in on stuff before it’s hip, and tries to make it hip. He’s just one of those guys that when he believes in something, he’s really into spreading the gospel. And he encouraged Heidi [Rodewald, Negro Problem bassist and “Passing Strange” collaborator] and me and helped us every step of the way, from our beginning gigs at Joe’s Pub, when we were not even sure if we could draw people because our crowd was a little more down market, like rock-club type folks. We were scared at the idea of people paying $20 because we were used to people paying $10.

He just became a fantastic supporter of ours. He’s the one that basically took us over next door, so to speak, to the Public, and he and Rebecca Rugg, who is I would say the second person who you could say that without her it wouldn’t have happened. Rebecca Rugg was the dramaturg at the Public at the time, and between the two of them and Heidi and myself we just cooked up this crazy idea of trying to bring actual rock music into the theater, not rock music with quotation marks around it.

Was Bill saying to you as you played gigs, “What you do might be cool theater,” or did you say to him, “What we do might be cool theater”?

Bill and I, because we both don’t have the best memories, already have conflicting versions of how “Passing Strange” came to be. You should ask him his version. My version is that in an email to Bill, among saying other things that we were working on which were true, I told a bold-faced lie that Heidi and I were working on musical. It was a complete lie. I had not written one note or one word toward a musical, nor had Heidi. And Bill immediately responds, like 30 seconds after getting the email, “Oh, you guys are writing a musical! Let me hear something from it!” And I looked at Heidi and said, “Oh shit, we better throw something together.”

I think Bill’s version is that he said, “Oh, you guys should try writing a musical,” or something like that. But I know what happened. I lied, he took me up on my lie, and the next thing you know the lie turned into a play.

The way all great art should begin.


So he’s going from Joe’s Pub up to Lincoln Center, and you’re going from elsewhere in the Public Theater up to Broadway ...


Do you have any reservations about these moves? Or do you feel like you’re colonizing the uptown world?

I don’t know about colonizing, but I feel like we are definitely infiltrating. If it didn’t sound so aggressive I would say that we’re behind enemy lines, and I mean that in the most positive way. I’m not saying that Broadway is my enemy, but aesthetically it certainly is. Broadway is certainly my aesthetic enemy. I like the people up here, they’re perfectly fine. They’re wonderful, actually. But I think what we’re doing is the same thing that Bill is going to do when he goes to Lincoln Center — you’re going to get Bill Bragin. And when you come up to Broadway, you’re going to get me and Heidi. You’re going to get the Negro Problem. You’re going to get our real music. We’re not going to turn into this other thing. People who have seen the show at the Public say it is even edgier now than it was before, and that’s just because we’re too old and jaded to worry about selling out. We’re so used to doing our own thing. It’s not like, “Oh, we’re these great mavericks, these young guns.” It’s the opposite: we’re just so set in our ways we don’t even know how to sell out anymore.

You’re maybe even trying a little harder now.

Yes yes yes yes.

Is that because of the institutional mindset of what surrounds you?

Oh, definitely. When you come up here, man, you have to either stick to your guns or turn around and put on the Vaseline. These people will try to get you to ... When there’s money involved, suddenly everybody wants you to make the play that they want it to be. You have to stick to your guns up here.

Compromise happens gradually. It doesn’t happen overnight. People think that you get handed a big check and you shut up. Maybe in Hollywood that happens. Maybe in Hollywood Spielberg hands you a big check and says, “I’m buying your screenplay and I’ll do whatever I want to do with it.” Well, fine, you go buy a house with that big check and then you’re fine. But up here a lot of forces can chip away at your integrity if you’re not careful. We’re really lucky because our team is a threesome: me and Heidi and Annie Dorsen, our director. It’s not like they can take one of us in a room and force-feed us caviar and do water torture with Champagne and then when we come out the next morning and be like, “I want to be the next horrible musical now because they just fed me all this caviar.” No, we have to check in with each other. So they don’t take us in any dark rooms with the light bulb swinging.

Thank God.

But that’s because there’s three of us. I think sometimes if one person comes up here, man, you can get wined and dined and next thing you know you’re making some stuff that’s like, crap.

Next thing you know you’re making “Gypsy.”

Right. And you don’t even know it. But every once in a while we just look across the table at each other and go, “Hey, look at these notes from these folks. We’re not doing this.”

Are you still in touch with Bill?

Oh yeah, all the time. Bill and I became friends long after we were working together. It’s not like I’m his friend from high school and then he started booking me. Bill knew about our music before he knew about us. But I consider the guy a friend. And I’m a fan of his work, so to speak, and obviously he’s a fan of ours. I’ve talked to him. He’s busy and I’m busy. We’re both busier than we’ve ever been in our lives now.

When you heard the news, did you think, “All right, now I’m going to have a gig at Lincoln Center”?

[Laughs.] It’s funny because we once had a really big, breakthrough gig for ourselves at Lincoln Center. A lot of people we were working with at the time said, “You and Heidi, the pinnacle of your New York existence would be if you got booked at Joe’s Pub, it’s such a great club for you.” And we got booked at Joe’s Pub at the same time that we got booked at Lincoln Center, so we ended up having to play Lincoln Center because they had first dibs. And we were like, “Oh man, have we blown it with Joe’s Pub? Now they’re going to get mad at us for playing Lincoln Center before them.” But yeah, we played Lincoln Center and it was a complete conflict with Joe’s Pub, so it’s kind of funny that now Bill is there.

The first thing I thought when Bill got the job was just, “Wow, this could be really exciting.” And it’s kind of what makes New York great, I have to say, that a guy like Bill Bragin, with this super-eclectic taste and this underground sensibility, would go to Lincoln Center. And Lincoln Center would be smart enough to get a guy like him.

And quite frankly, it’s also a testament to New York that a crazy underground band — you know, we’re not even underground, we’re like sub-underground — could actually end up on Broadway. It could not happen in any other city in the world. Because the line between low culture and high culture and middlebrow here is kind of blurry. I’ve been in and out of New York since the early ’80s. I remember when graffiti first went into an art gallery. And it took a long time for graffiti to get into an art gallery anywhere else. It happened here first.

I’m not a big fan of living in New York. [Laughs.] But there is no way in hell that we would be on Broadway or Bill would be in a place like Lincoln Center if we were in any other city. I’m really convinced of that.

[Thanks, congrats.]

Previously on “L.A. Law”: Lou Reed, M.I.A.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Press release(s) of the day: Un-Warrant-ed reunions


These two announcements came within 13 minutes of each other this afternoon, from the same publicist.

First, at 12:28 p.m., the return of Warrant:




Hollywood, CA ­ Multi-platinum selling rock band WARRANT, best known for classic MTV staples' "Cherry Pie," "Heaven," and rock anthem "The Down Boys" will co-headline the 2008 Rocklahoma Festival ­ marking the reunion of its original line-up including Jani Lane (vocals); Joey Allen (lead guitar); Jerry Dixon (bass); Erik Turner (Guitar) and Steven Sweet (drums) — for the first time in 14 years. Warrant will co-headline Rocklahoma with Cinderella, it was announced today by XM's Boneyard/VH1 Classic host, Eddie Trunk, at a press conference taking place at the world famous Whisky A-Go Go. Rocklahoma is a popular four-day music festival taking place July 10-13 in Pryor, OK, which attracts an impressive worldwide audience and big ticket sales. More than 80 bands will be performing on three giant stages with an expected attendance of more than 60,000 rock fans from all 50 states, every Province in Canada and every country in Europe. This phenomenon was covered in Rolling Stone's year-end issue with an in-depth seven page spread.

Followed at 12:41 by this inexplicably thorough and completely unformatted 1,150-word release on the reunion of Trixter. Yes, Trixter. As always, these are presented in unedited form, exactly as received (with, in this case, one typo and one grammatical error in the first sentence, to say nothing of “slowley” and “Saxaphone”). My only changes were to bold a couple notable lines:

The rock bamd TRIXTER is now reunited again after 13 years!!! They will be having a new CD out shortly! for more info. TRIXTER STORY: TRIXTER was formed in 1983 in Paramus , New Jersey by STEVE BROWN & PETER LORAN. After a year in the basement and the addition of new drummer , MARK "GUS" SCOTT, they played their first live gigs. They began playing the NJ / NY club scene and built a huge following of fans. In 1988 bassist, PJ FARLEY, joined TRIXTER finalizing the line up. With every gig the band was drawing more & more people to their shows and by May of 1989 the band landed a deal with MECHANIC/MCA RECORDS. September of 1989 the band went to Hollywood to record the debut album with producer, BILL WRAY. "TRIXTER" was released in May of 1990 with the song "LINE OF FIRE" as the single for ROCK RADIO. The song slowley climbed the charts reaching #1 on Z-ROCKS Top 100 by July of 1990. Along with the release of the album TRIXTER also filmed their first video for the song "GIVE IT TO ME GOOD". In September the band headed out a nationwide tour and after two weeks they landed the opening slot for, "STRYPER". From New York to Seattle , the band rocked clubs and theaters earning lerions of fans who were captivated by their high energy live shows. In Mid October TRIXTER joined DON DOKKEN for another tour around the USA. It was on this tour that MTV added the video for "GIVE IT TO ME GOOD". Within one week the video was #1 on the popular "DIAL MTV" top ten video countdown.The video stayed #1 for 5 weeks straight.The crowds were getting bigger and record sales started kicking into high gear. In December of 1990 TRIXTER filmed the video for the 2nd single, "ONE IN A MILLION" at a Sold Out show in Rockland County, NY. The band also recorded a song, "ONE MO' TIME", for the film "IF LOOKS COULD KILL". The song featured Rock legend, EDGAR WINTER, on Saxaphone. By January 1991 the record was selling 20,000 units per week.The video for "ONE IN A MILLION" went #1 on MTV for 3 weeks. The album peaked at #28 on BILLBOARD's TOP 200 ALBUM CHART and the single for "GIVE IT TO ME GOOD" was a TOP 50 HIT on BILLBOARD's TOP 100 SINGLES CHART. TRIXTER did their 1st ever arena shows opening for POISON and then headed out on a 5 month North American Tour with the legendary German rockers, THE SCORPIONS. As "ONE IN A MILLION" rocked MTV ,the single also went TOP 50 on BILLBOARD. In February ,the band flew to Daytona , Florida to do "MTV'S SPRING BREAK" and soon after MCA records gave the band some incredible news. Backstage at Irvine Meadows Amphitheater in California, the boys were told that their debut album had gone GOLD selling over 500,000 copies. In April of 1991 TRIXTER played their hometown MEADOWLANDS ARENA, where they were presented with their GOLD ALBUMS at a special after show party. In May they filmed the video for the 3rd single, "SURRENDER". By June TRIXTER started the "BLOOD, SWEAT & BEERS TOUR" with WARRANT & FIREHOUSE. Around this time the popular rock magazine, METAL EDGE, dedicated an entire issue to the band, "THE TRIXTER COLOR SPECTACULAR". The video and single for "SURRENDER" were released and once again the video went to # 1 on MTV for 2 weeks and the single went TOP 50 in BILLBOARD. In September of 1991 the "BLOOD, SWEAT & BEERS TOUR" was filmed for a Pay Per View special. October marked the end of the TRIXTER touring cycle for the very successful debut album. By years end the band racked up worldwide sales of 750,000, 3 #1 MTV videos, 3 TOP 50 SINGLES, HIT PARADER MAGAZINES "BEST NEW BAND" AWARD for 1991, METAL EDGE READERS POLL "BEST CONCERT" FOR THE BLOOD , SWEAT & BEERS Tour , and "GIVE IT TO ME GOOD" was in MTV'S TOP 100 VIDEOS OF 1991. TRIXTER also wound up in the movies. Their song "LINE OF FIRE" was on the soundtrack for the film "MARIO BROS....WHITE KNUCKLE SCORIN" and "ONE MO' TIME" was on the soundtrack for the film "IF LOOKS COULD KILL". In January 1992, TRIXTER began pre-production on the 2nd album. Also, during that time the band renegotiated their record deal and were signed directly to MCA records. TRIXTER chose JAMES "JIMBO" BARTON of RUSH & QUEENSRYCHE fame to produce. Recording began in April and lasted until August of '92. The result was the stellar rock cd, "HEAR". Released in October along with another Arena tour opening for long time idols, KISS, TRIXTER raged across North America supporting the new disc. Unfortunately , Grunge had taken over the airwaves which left little room for the single, "ROAD OF A THOUSAND DREAMS" on Radio & MTV. January 1993, they shot a video for the next single "ROCKIN' HORSE" and began a headlining club tour called "THE HEAR CLUB FOR MEN TOUR". May of that year had TRIXTER embarking on a tour of Japan. "HEAR was doing very well in the Land of the Rising Sun, so the band was invited over to do 2 shows and alot of promotion. The shows in OSAKA at Moda Hall and KAWASAKI at Club Citta were very successful. The boys had a great time. TRIXTER finished the "HEAR" tour in late June of '93 in front of 5,000 screaming fans at "Milwaukees Summerfest". Times were changing and the band was dropped from MCA records. In 1994 the band recorded the "UNDERCOVERS EP" in STEVE BROWN"s home studio. This was a cd of all cover songs that was released in Oct. 1994 on the indie label, BACKSTREET RECORDS. Once again the band headed out on the road again across America. No matter how tough things got the band kicked the shows were more often like a big keg party opposed to the typical rock show. Lot's of Fun, but the writing was on the wall that TRIXTER's style of Pop Metal had run its course. Time to move on....but what a great ride. Still to this day, TRIXTER, has fans all around the world and the music still gets airplay. In 1999 the band was featured on VH-1's "WHERE ARE THEY NOW" and in 2000 they were voted #29 on VH-1'S "TOP 40 HAIR BAND COUNTDOWN". The songs are on various rock compilation cd's: "GIVE IT TO ME GOOD" is on "GLAM ROCK VOL. 2" , "ONE IN A MILLION" is on "ROCK OF THE 80'S" and "SURRENDER" is on "HARD LOVE" and that was only the beginning. After 13 years, 2008 has the all original members rockin' the Worldwide Arena Circut once again. PETE,STEVE, PJ & MARK ...the one , the only , the mighty TRIXTER!!!

I confess that I once performed on the same bill as a post-Trixter band called Soaked, at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. I remember nothing about them.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ben Gazzara, watch your back

First Jeff Healey goes, now Patrick Swayze has five weeks to live has pancreatic cancer. Clearly someone is killing off cast members from Road House, Rowdy Herrington’s landmark 1989 film about life and death at the Double Deuce in Jasper, Missouri.

Which means that Sam Elliott (Wade Garrett), Ben Gazzara (Brad Wesley), Kelly Lynch (Dr. Elizabeth Clay) and John Doe (Pat McGurn) better watch out.


Negative-one-year Watchmen anniversary

The Watchmen movie, literally two decades in development, opens a year from today, and the film’s official blog has posted the following portraits of the main characters. They look ... good, I guess. They just remind me a little too much of Val Kilmer as Batman.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

More Buckley: The not-so-great debater

Following up on my post last week about the death of William F. Buckley:

Skeptical Eye is not quite skeptical enough on the subject (“his wit and charm and intelligence were captivating”), but it does link to some revealing video clips. Among them is this two-part debate with Noam Chomsky from “Firing Line” in 1969, in which Buckley attempts to argue that American military operations in Vietnam grew out of a “disinterested concern” for the stability and welfare of that country and had nothing to do with imperialist self-interest. Chomsky tears him apart, as you might expect, pointing out that we very definitely acted in our self-interest, as we tend to do.

I wish I could admire Buckley even for being a talented prevaricator. But as these clips show, he had a limited bag of rhetorical tricks, and not very sophisticated ones at that. Whenever he realizes he is losing a point, for example, he winks at the camera and raises a coquettish eyebrow. How witty and charming and intelligent and captivating! He simply must be right about that contradictory and confused comment about the Truman Doctrine’s effect on Greece.

Ladies and gentlemen, the original conservative charlatan.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Neat video series: Black Cab Sessions

The gimmick: Indie rockers do acoustic one-takes in the back seat of a moving London cab; the front-seat camera catches random glimpses of the city. Some of the participants: Spoon, Okkervil River, the Kooks, Cold War Kids, Elvis Perkins. Good performances and surprisingly natural, interesting films.

Somewhat similar to the more fancy-schmancy “Concerts à l’Emporter” at La Blogotheque. (The Dirty Projectors episode last summer is a highlight. They do their version of Black Flag’s “Police Story” — “This fucking city is run by pigs/They take the rights away from all the kids” — in Washington Square Park, inches away from cops on patrol.)