Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jack White's Vescovo video explained

Jack White fans will remember the Vescovo & Co Clinic for Contagious Diseases gig on July 2nd in London.  Third Man Records describes it this way

Last night at midnight in Central London, Jack White played a secret show in the basement of a disused office block, to fans clad entirely in powder blue medical gowns.
The event was a collaboration between Jack and the Punchdrunk Theatre Group who had temporarily transformed the space into the Vescovo & Co Clinic for contagious diseases, and had staffed this fake medical facility with dozens of their actors playing the roles of doctors, nurses and orderlies at the time of a disease outbreak. 
Drawing on the themes of Jack White's current album, 'Lazaretto', a term used to describe a quarantine island, the experience began with an elaborate online treasure hunt. A spoof medical infomercial from 1949 appeared in the archives of online medical resource The Wellcome Trust, which contained various obtuse clues that led Jack's superfans to a website belonging to the fake medical company, Vescovo & Company. Thousands of fans submitted their details to this website as part of an online screening for a contagious disease. A lucky few progressed through the screening process that lead to them receiving a telephone call from Punchdrunk actors inviting them to an out-of-hours appointment at the Vescovo Clinic. The clinic had been created for this one occasion by Punchdrunk Theatre across multiple floors of a disused building owned by The Vinyl Factory.
On arrival, fans were asked to change in to blue medical gowns before being subjected to a variety of treatments testing in a maze of medical rooms staffed by Punchdrunk actors. Chaos descended as an outbreak alarm was raised and terrified fans were herded into a smoke filled quarantine chamber. Finally a screen was dropped to reveal Jack and band in full medical uniform who proceeded to belt out a thirty minute set before Jack himself succumbed to the mysterious disease. The rock star fell to the ground in a fit of convulsions before being strapped to a stretcher and wheeled off to a waiting ambulance.
As the press release states, one of the items in the online treasure-hunt for clues on how to win attendance was "a spoof medical informercial...appeared in the archives of...the Wellcome Trust".

I wondered how a record company could get a spoof video into a medical resource library.

The infamous video.


The US musician Jack White (formerly of the White Stripes) recently launched a new album, ‘Lazaretto’. Lazaretto is also the name given to maritime quarantine stations typically in the Mediterranean with many being established during the time of Venetian mercantile domination. Some were associated with the slave trade and others with leper colonies.
He got in touch with the Wellcome Library through a production company, Nomad, about a secret gig he planned for fans on 2 July whilst on tour in the UK (just after he played at Glastonbury).Punchdrunk who produce immersive theatre were engaged to create a one-off event themed around the idea of a lazaretto and contagion.
The producers at Nomad had already selected one of our videos – How to Mask (above) – and re-edited it. They made the highly unusual request of asking us to ‘hide’ their video on our youtube channel. In the accompanying metadata we were provided with, there was a link to what turned out to be a ‘fake’ pharmaceutical company, Vescovo & Co, and people who navigated to this website were invited to register for unspecified medical experiments. After some discussion around the value of our contribution, we were keen to get involved in a project that used our content so creatively and we agreed to go ahead and host the new video called How to Stop Contagion part III, Vescovo & Co (1948).
Nomad agreed to let me attend the event.
So I guess the answer was: We got bribed by a chance to go to a Jack White/Punchdrunk happening.  And there was "some discussion around the value of our contribution", whatever that means.

The blog goes on to describe what a fun time they had.  They also embed the original film that was edited to form the Vescovo&Co video. I can't seem to embed it here, but it's worth a trip to their blog to see it and the rest of the write up.

Edit to add: It's hardly possible to use an ampersand on blogger without the html "amp:" appearing after it. I'll try to wipe it out but it will keep coming back.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

San Juan Capistrano Summer Night

Yesterday my city put on a little fun in the park. We had a Creedence Clearwater Revival band called Creedence Relived for entertainment. They were a fun band who had the hassle of dealing with people who were already wedged in their folding event-seats, and yet managed to achieve about a 15 to 20% dance rate by the end of the second set.

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Creedence Relived. The man on the right with the scrolls who looks like a town cryer is the town cryer.

It's odd how old this music sounds. I mean, it is old - CCR's heyday is before my time as a listener - but this sort of southern boogie is primevally old; it's in people's DNA now. It doesn't sound as though someone is playing it, more that it is leaking out of the cosmos on its own. I think everybody is born knowing the words to Proud Mary (hint: it's the "rolling on the river" one); Bad Moon Rising must be taught to everyone in the cradle by their mothers (STB described it as "a jolly little song if you don't listen to the words); and Susie Q sounds like a primal force, more like Zeus or Thor than something someone sat down and thunk up.  Still, the familiarity with the material didn't stop the audience from failing to complete their half of the sing-alongs.

We also had marvellous cream puffs by someone I've unfortunately forgotten, thingy burgers by someone I've unfortunately forgotten as well, and a whole park full of shills getting in on the act, including the famous Sectum Sempra Energy, who want to build a three-storey electrical substation approximately next door to me in a town which does not allow three-story buildings but apparently can't stop a utilities company from doing whatever it wants. In an effort to sway the populace, they were giving away beach balls and little flashlights with their logo on, or "outreach" as they called it. SJC's herd of chiropractors was out in force, adjusting people by the dozen. The Toll Roads were there - weird really. I mean the stables weren't there, or the ridgelines or the creek. But the roads made the trip, and handed out clever lie-flat emergency water bottles which I hope does not signal lack of faith in their product (which is otherwise branded as efficient transportation without the possibility of getting stranded in a dry desert). Elsewhere much coconut water was hawked, but I didn't see any salted caramels.

Mayor Allevato was there, looking tanned and well, along with Councillor someone or other, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten. No, I wasn't drinking. 

Success! My home grown pineapple

After only six years of hand-watering and personal care, my pineapple top has grown an entire new pineapple.

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It's a very small version of a variety that's currently $2.99 in the stores. So this is a great victory indeed.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Low flyby of military planes this morning in Orange County

Two warplanes flew over my house this morning. Twice, unless there were two separate flights of them. I hid under a desk for the first flight as I thought the world was ending, but shortly after the second flight I took this picture of a much higher altitude plane that seemed to be associated with the low-fly group.

 photo plane_zps0287e193.jpg

What is it? And what were the other planes? One friend suggests it was the Commemorative Air Force.

Minnesota would-be governor explains AIDS. It's caused by sperm.

The internets are a strange place. On the one hand, you can learn a lot from them. On the other hand,  it's rife with "facts" so erroneous that they make your eyes bleed. And, although I haven't set foot in a children's classroom in years, and I know teachers who will strenuously disagree with me, I get the very strong impression that American education is so fluffy that you can quite easily graduate high school without being able to tell the difference.

In this case, Mr Loudly Incorrect is Bob Frey, a candidate for Governor of Minnesota. At least I assume he finished high school.  His views, according to MinnPost:

"But when questioned about his position on social issues, Frey added that it “does certainly need to be addressed for what it is. It’s not about the gay agenda but about the science and the financial impact of that agenda. It’s more about sodomy than about pigeonholing a lifestyle.”

Frey then explained his view: “When you have egg and sperm that meet in conception, there’s an enzyme in the front that burns through the egg. The enzyme burns through so the DNA can enter the egg. If the sperm is deposited anally, it's the enzyme that causes the immune system to fail. That’s why the term is AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.”"
His son Mike Frey said the same thing, when testifying before the MN House Civil Law Committee about Gay Marriage.


It's utter bullshit, of course, and anyway fails to explain why gays shouldn't get married, as I imagine if they couldn't get married they'd just go in for premarital sex. In fact, I think premarital gay sex may have been observed in some societies already.  So there aren't many benefits to preventing gay marriage on disease-prevention grounds.

Tracking this statement down a little further, I was directed to this page -Towleroad.  Here, the authors are debunking a group founded by yet another Minnesotan politician, Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, which put out bizarre videos that make the entirely incorrect claim about anal sex, above, as well as a number of other equally peculiar ones. Weirdly, the video is entitled Sodomy, Health, Money, and HF-826,” which is to say it was produced to address a school anti-bullying bill that somehow can only be attacked by videos filled with endless descriptions of anal and oral sex.  (Full disclaimer: I have not read HF-826.)

Here's the video which makes the anal sex claim.  If you're short on time, start at 3:21.


Or just take my word for it that the stills below are from the video.
 photo Untitled-1_zpsfcb221e3.jpg

 photo Untitled-2_zpsed9ac4fa.jpg

 photo Untitled-3_zpsde74b393.jpg

It claims that the references are peer reviewed before publication.  There's only one reference in there – Judson et al's COMPARATIVE PREVALENCE RATES OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES IN HETEROSEXUAL AND HOMOSEXUAL MEN Am. J. Epidemiol. (1980) 112 (6): 836-843

Note the date.  It's from 1980. HIV/AIDS was not known at the time. Even the early name for AIDS, Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID), was not in use before 1982.  Judson's paper, which according to that site has been cited only once, concerns the higher prevalence of syphilis and gonorrhea in homosexual men attending STD clinics compared with heterosexual men.   Other STDs had a lower incidence in gay men. The speculation on the cause?
"It is speculated that higher rates of gonorrhea and syphilis result from a larger mean number of sexual contacts, more potential sites of infection, and more hidden and asymptomatic disease, while the lower rates of the other STD result from a lesser susceptibility of anal mucosa to the causative agent(s) of NGU, herpes genitalis, and venereal warts or from a lack of pubic apposition (pediculosis pubis)."
Nothing about the sperm "burning" through the mucosa with its enzymes.  This is because that is not a peer reviewed fact. It is more along the lines of hooey.

Larry Burtoft's Setting The Record Straight, also mentioned, is a book. Not a peer-reviewed paper.

Sperm do have enzymes in a vessel at the top of their heads.  Called the acrosome, it contains hyaluronidase (the -ase ending to enzymes means "I eat it") to break through the egg-surrounding cumulus cells it comes into contact with (they are suspended in hyaluronic acid, sometimes known as "goo" as it functions by "gluing" cells together or lubricating things that should slide over each other), and acrosin, which dissolves the clear zone around the egg so that fusion can begin . However, in the vast majority of cases, the acrosome is only activated after the sperm swims in the uterine environment and meets the chemical signals coming from an egg.  Sperm are not born as armed nuclear warheads looking for mucosa to "burn through", or happily burrowing with gimlet-eyed ease through rectal skin that's tough enough to keep billions of fecal bacteria – some armed with hyaluronidase – out of your bloodstream.

Still, that's not the weirdest part about the video.  Anybody can fail to remember what a zona pellucida is (or lack the nous to look it up), but most people can ask "what if?" questions. Such as "In that case, why aren't women getting AIDS in their mouths in vast quantities?" and "What about heterosexual anal intercourse?" and  "Why aren't all female porn stars dying?" and "If it's just due to the membranes being thinner there, why don't we see AIDS cases going back thousands of years? and "What is this HIV thing we've heard about – are you saying it doesn't exist?' and "If sperms have little cell-dissolving bombs on their heads,  why don't all teenage boys have a permanent rash on their hands?

Do politicians have a duty to at least partly understand the world we live in, or is it our duty to kick out the ones that clearly don't have a clue? In this case, he hasn't a clue. Don't vote for him, for heaven's sake. 


9:37 pm edited for clarity.
10:45 edited because Minneapolis is not a state

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The Bees buzz awhile: Chicken Payback

This is not new to anyone who listens to adverts in Britain, but I heard it for the first time yesterday in a movie called How to Lose Friends And Alienate People, which I watched because Netflix said I'd like it. (It said that because it has Simon Pegg in it.) Like many oughties movies, it has a carefully curated soundtrack ranging from the worst torch singers yea even unto Motorhead, but the only one that made me want to get up and dance (which would have been inappropriate in my living room during a rom-com) was Chicken Payback, by The Bees.

Like the one that goes Woo-hoo woo hoo! and is probably called Woo-hoo! in Tintin Quarantino movies, it's remarkably catchy. At first I could have sworn I'd heard it on Nuggets, or Boulders, or Pebbles, or possibly Gravel, but apparently not. It's not real freakbeat. But I'm relaxed about authenticity, as I've mentioned before, so here are the Bees with Chicken Payback.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Jack White on Zane Lowe, 14-07-02 (audio file); follow up Vescovo show article

If you missed Jack White's appearance on Zane Lowe's show yesterday, it's up at the BBC site. But more importantly, it's up on YouTube, thanks to uploader Matthew and that won't age off the site (I hope). It's audio only, so there's just one nice picture to look at while it plays.

There's an interview with Jack first, and the performance is the last 45 minutes or so of this file.




Jack followed this up with a secret invite-only gig in a "contagious disease clinic" that featured a full immersive performance by the theatre group Punchdrunk.  It sounds thoroughly wonderful and I'm sorry I couldn't be there! (They did send me a consolation email with some nice pictures this morning, though.)

His record company, Third Man Records, described it this way:

Last night at midnight in Central London, Jack White played a secret show in the basement of a disused office block, to fans clad entirely in powder blue medical gowns.
The event was a collaboration between Jack and the Punchdrunk Theatre Group who had temporarily transformed the space into the Vescovo & CoClinic for contagious diseases, and had staffed this fake medical facility with dozens of their actors playing the roles of doctors, nurses and orderlies at the time of a disease outbreak. 
Drawing on the themes of Jack White's current album, 'Lazaretto', a term used to describe a quarantine island, the experience began with an elaborate online treasure hunt. A spoof medical infomercial from 1949 appeared in the archives of online medical resource The Wellcome Trust, which contained various obtuse clues that led Jack's superfans to a website belonging to the fake medical company, Vescovo & Company. Thousands of fans submitted their details to this website as part of an online screening for a contagious disease. A lucky few progressed through the screening process that lead to them receiving a telephone call from Punchdrunk actors inviting them to an out-of-hours appointment at the Vescovo Clinic. The clinic had been created for this one occasion by Punchdrunk Theatre across multiple floors of a disused building owned by The Vinyl Factory.

On arrival, fans were asked to change in to blue medical gowns before being subjected to a variety of treatments testing in a maze of medical rooms staffed by Punchdrunk actors. Chaos descended as an outbreak alarm was raised and terrified fans were herded into a smoke filled quarantine chamber. Finally a screen was dropped to reveal Jack and band in full medical uniform who proceeded to belt out a thirty minute set before Jack himself succumbed to the mysterious disease. The rock star fell to the ground in a fit of convulsions before being strapped to a stretcher and wheeled off to a waiting ambulance.

Completely missing the point personal note: I've worked with infectious disease (ID) doctors most of my working life and I've never heard them say "contagious disease" but what do I know? (Apparently it refers to diseases which are infectious on close contact - appropriate for a lazaretto, I suppose.)

He's done this kind of show in London before - Halloween at Shoreditch Church.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

I won't shop at Hobby Lobby

I'm fed up with several recent events concerning the Supreme Court, so here's Maru sitting in a box. Really, he just sits in the box. But that's Maru!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music by Rob Young (Book)


My parents were into folk music. They'd go to clubs that had young men standing around singing with their fingers in their ears. Their friends were all into it too; we'd go to the Yorkshire Dales or the Peak District; everyone would get drunk and challenge each other to races over Pen-y-Ghent and back, and then they'd sing folk songs.  I assumed that people had been singing the Derby Ram, Tam Lyn and going Morris Dancing for about a thousand years. 

So I picked up this thick book, Electric Eden, to find out a little bit more about British Folk music. It turns out I was wrong. There's nothing really authentic about people – folk – singing folk music, and nothing much more authentic about recording artists, like Pentangle or the Fairport Convention, singing folk music either. "Authentic" is a problematic word.

But that's all right, because it turns out authenticity doesn't matter. Although the book  subtitle is "visionary music" it's actually about "visionary spaces" – psychogeography – although I realized this only about half-way through. The reviews I've read seem to think Rob Young is writing about music – easy mistake to make, since he devotes literally hundreds of pages to discographies and track-by-track descriptions of folk music records. But on thinking back, I remembered the book started out with a journey, a trip through a real landscape, telling  the story of Vashti Bunyan, her man Robert and her horse Bess taking a vardo from England to the Isle of Skye on a two year journey starting in 1967.  Bunyan is not provably a relative of Paul Bunyan of Pilgrim's Progress fame, says Young, "but the name is richly evocative of quests in search of paradise." Bunyan, who disappeared for about forty years after this trip, is not the most obscure folk singer discussed in this gigantic tome. And she's certainly not the only one who set out, as we used to say, "to get our head together in the country".



Now, we all know that Hunter S Thompson was somewhere outside of Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold – Bat Country – and Kraftwerk sang about how sie fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn, but as Young points out, unlike the US or Europe, Britain is not a place where the road trip is the thing itself. In the UK, "the British road is a road to the interior, of the imagination rather than a physical coverage of the distance. […]  All rambling efforts are focused on byways, lanes, hidden walks, undiscovered villages, forgotten churches, ruined walls and weathered stones […] There is the sense that one wants the landscape, and the history it contains all to oneself."

Accordingly, in between the exhaustive descriptions of almost every folk record made in Britain between about 1960 and 1974, there are the interludes where many of these people go to get their heads together in the country. My own favorite, covered briefly in the book, of course, is Robert Plant and Jimmy Page setting off to a cottage in Wales called Bron-yr-Aur, whereupon, on getting their heads together, they wrote Stairway to Heaven, among other things.  Getting heads together in the country dates back at least as far as the early 1900s, with composer John Ireland seeing fairies while walking among barrows and Neolithic sites, and his eventually settling in the Weald of West Sussex from where he could see the Chanctonbury Ring; through the Incredible String Band living in a cottage in Balmore and Glennconner, Scotland; through Donovan's purchase of three Scottish isles for a commune; through Graham Bond rehearsing a band called Magus with Carole Pegg in "a spine chilling country house in the middle of a wood"; through Paul McCartney relocating to the Mull of Kintyre, to anarcho-punk band Crass, who lived (and may still live) in a 'reality asylum' in Epping Forest.



Here a little matter of authenticity arises again. The British landscape is not unchanged from the time Stonehenge was built, or even the time when Tam Lyn was allowed back from Faeryland to live with his baby mama in the real world.


 In order to have a sufficiently robust country in which to get one's head together, one needs an acceptably idealized Britain. A widespread dream of "Britain" began at about the time of the Industrial Revolution, when the Commons were inclosed, and the men who had previously lived off of the Commons went to newtowns to work in their novel Dark Satanic Mills.  The banal reality of farm life was forgotten in favor of William Blake's Jerusalem, an altogether more stirring image of a green and pleasant land, one in which Jesus had walked, or at least Joseph of Arimathea had planted his staff at Glastonbury Tor where it grew into a mighty tree, and later a mighty music festival. It's a land of ley lines, megaliths, Silbury Hill and long barrows. The Romantic William Morris (a favorite of Jimmy Page) also hearkened back to this sort of British Dream Time, when Britain was perfect and the Grail Knights quested at the behest of a damsel, before Britain's industrial fall. A little later, J R R Tolkien, unhappy at the lack of purely English folklore, made up his own fictional landscape, pitting the very trees themselves against the steam boilers and pits of Saruman. Peter Pan's home, Neverland, plays a part and of course, Alice's adventures down the rabbit hole also redrew the maps of psychic England. The folk musicians in this book may live in Epping Forest or perform at the Stonehenge Festival, but they pass without even seeming to notice back and forth through Middle Earth, Wonderland and Blake's Jerusalem, as the fancy takes them.  Robert Plant sings of The Battle of Evermore, where the Ringwraiths arrive in black, though the setting otherwise suggests Anglo-Saxons skirmishing with Celts. 'Pon a hill, Tyrannosaurus Rex sing of the seal of seasons and kings and dwarfs, and quote from Tolkien.

What threw me initially was that the definition of psychogeography  originally specified an urban geography; it is tied in with the concept of our relationship with architecture. Will Self expanded the definition of Psychogeography in his book of the same name: he described it as "a meditation on the vexed relationship between psyche and space" and he chronicled walks not only in the standard grimy city locales of hipster psychogeography like London, New York and more London but also in the spaces between them. Yet the term does not readily stretch to landscape.  The leap came when I realized that Jerusalem, the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Gondor and the Shire were builded here. They are architecture. Getting your head together in the country is getting your head together in a built environment, one of shared Brittanicity, if that's a word.

Young discusses a similar phenomenon of developing a shared, but inauthentic  (although by now I've given up caring about that word) history in a section on mysticism, where he points out that Alex Sanders' reinvention of modern witchcraft included a text called The Book of Shadows which had elements taken from Shakespeare's plays, Crowley, Yeats and a book by Charles Leland called Aradia.  It's a pastiche, but every modern witch, to be accepted, had to borrow an existing Book of Shadows and copy it in his/her own hand. The work was simultaneously individual and yet common to all. Earlier, Rob Young had made a relatively throwaway point that Morris Dancing is like a Cargo Cult, which puzzled me for a moment. And then I had to agree – it's people ("stealing from their own grandparents" rather than Native Americans or Indian sitar players, as Tinymixtapes said, rather peculiarly, in a review of the book) doing something they've seen done before, that used to work, even if it doesn't work now.  Getting your head together in the country is a Cargo Cult of its own. The Britain may not be "authentic" – it may even be Neverland – but the ritual has the intended effect. 

I couldn't imagine where this book would go after the early seventies, and it turned out neither could Rob Young, even with the benefit of his not writing it until the aughts.  There are still  folk musicians around – for example Billy Bragg – but Young isn't interested in the protest side of the genre. Instead, he goes down his own rabbit hole, into London Bridge station on the London Underground, to observe bands I've really never heard of (being out of the scene here in California) but who, on inspection, don't appear to have much truck with folk music whether produced authentically by the folk process or simply following in the tradition.



Ambient electronica and Acid House are mentioned and the recognizable names are Eno, Genesis P Orridge, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and The Orb. Benjamin Zephaniah reimagines Tam Lyn as an urban tale of immigration, a war refugee held tightly throughout a court appearance as his evil forms - such as pimp - are called up and dismissed and he becomes just a man again. Although the overarching project Young discusses is called The Imagined Village, it has a feel of real psychogeography, the fedora-wearing variety that spawns China Mieville books and people who think about Hawksmoor too much.

The road goes ever on, but the London Underground goes round in circles.

Reading a recent article by Will Self on Stonehenge one remark resonated: Self said that he normally got to Stonehenge by taking the A303.  This unusual intrusion of standard Brit car-speak (all British men love to discuss which A road and which B roads you should have taken to get where you are now, and tell you exactly why the one you took was wrong) into a conversation about a largely psychic construction struck me as hilarious but it makes a good short summation of Electric Eden.

I can't imagine many people will read every word of this book (except perhaps my old friend Roger) but you're guaranteed to get something out of it, whether it's a historical thread, a discussion of Third Ear Band, or a round-up of getting your head together in the country.

***

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jack of Hearts - falling in love with rock stars

There's a very interesting article that went around the Jack White community recently, dug up for us by Kali Durga.

It's William Giraldi's Jack My Heart, published by the Oxford American on June 24. It's the story of a man's obsession with a rock star.

It's interesting because it goes into some detail about infatuation from a male-on-male perspective. I've never met a man who's confessed to any similar feelings. In my own experience, when completely caught up in a pop act, men, at least online, say things like this:

Larry: "We need a mix of a 1971-era Preening Rhinoceros where the Mellotron doesn't dominate Parry's lute as it did on Dread Pirate Roberts, the 1983 BootOleggo Nihon Co. vinyl bootleg of the second set of June 12th 1971. I already have Audience Source 2 in FLAC (thanks, Gary and Harry!). I'm looking for Audience Source 3 but can't afford Brobdingnagian Dreams, the silver from El Empresa Contrabando Japon├ęs on eBay, and I missed the vine that went around last year. Can anyone upload a copy for me and I'll mix the two using BuffaloDroppings 3.1.2.x  on my Ascaris to bring out the miked instruments?" 
Barry: "Yah, bro, I have Brobdingnagian Dreams, but it's the pressing with the violet-tinted farm midden on the cover, not the one with Parry wearing a tweed overcoat on a Vespa." 
Larry: "No good, that release was sourced from the SBD with overdubs from Audience Source 4."

And:
"Parry did NOT use the HogHonker Geetar Octavio pedal with the modified rectifier during Rupert's Stiffle on the 14th August. He only used it for the first two shows that month, and then it was back to the WhammyFart Guitar Gizmo pedal until the tour break in August. "
And: 
Larry: "Remember the lime green vinyl pressing of Tabes Dorsalis Live at the Kunstwerks? The one with the run off groove inscribed by Mother Theresa in Latin and the cover hand-painted by Lady Gaga and only five were pressed and three of those were buried in solid gold boxes under the rocket launch pad concrete at Cape Canaveral and the..." 
Barry: "Yes, obviously, I know all about it. I wrote the 40 page history of the variant pressings for Tabes Rulez! Magazine last year." 
Larry: "Well, yesterday I was in Pittsburgh for a meeting of the International Society of Bores, and someone tipped me off to this tiny record shop in the barrio and on the wall was a copy of lime green TDLATKW! And the guy sold it to me for $500!" 
Gary: "Bah, that's nothing. Nothing! Last week I went one yard outside my house to a flea market that had just been set up by total coincidence and there was a wizened Italian organ grinder there. I gave him 5¢ and his monkey handed me a lime green TDLATKW. In a gold box. And the organ grinder gave me 3¢ change! And he played Preening Rhinoceros on his organ for me!"

It appears likely that this sort of obsession is one and the same with trainspotting and stamp collecting. But not William Giraldi. He was in love, L.U.V.  This is a man who is so verklempt that he does not dare actually set foot in Third Man Records, even though he knows Jack is not selling t shirts behind the counter. 

He uses the "a" word: Authenticity.

So this was beginning to get at the core of my obsession with the White Stripes: authenticity, yes, and artistic integrity, and making the imposters accountable. Jack and Meg recorded on eight-track analog tape. No computers, no digital malarkey, no synthetic tomfoolery or over-dubbing. Jack’s guitars were ages old and one had a hole in it, the one he swapped for at a pawn shop when he was a teen. They didn’t use a set list; every song of every show was spontaneous—an antidote to formula and fatigue—and frequently Jack stopped a song halfway in, raged into a different song, and then picked up where the first song left off.

Giraldi is a novelist and some sort of English teacher, and is prone to unusual adjectives. Women at concerts are "olden", "antique" and "senescent". Jack White is "epicine", twice.  

Here is a taste, from later on, when he has gotten far enough along the path to gain some hindsight:

I’d discovered my own artistic sensibility, my own method of artistic selfhood. Artists obsess over other artists, over the masters, because we want to be them, want their aptitude and cunning and force in the world. We want to touch our targets of veneration because we’d like to filch pocketfuls of their godliness with the wish of becoming gods ourselves. We obsess over what is doled to us in pieces but denied to us in total, but only until we gain the daring to achieve our own brand of mastery.

I guess that's the take-away message. It leaves me completely blank, and I'm hoping that this is a male/female thing and not that one of us is nuts.

Like pretty much anybody else, I'm prone to obsessions, or as Giraldi so generously allows, "If you’re a prepubescent lass with Bieber eyes, infatuation is fine." From 13 or so, I've had my things for pop stars and for movie characters. (Not movie stars so much: I get storytelling and so it's the characters that do it for me.) The 'prepubescence' has lasted quite a long time - until my senescence, in fact. But I've never waded deep enough to feel this riptide get a hold and drag me.



Jack White curfewed at Dublin show. Not that he cares.

Jack White is on tour - Glastonbury tonight! Fire up your browsers! - and played Dublin's Royal Hospital Kilmainham on the 26th. The Kills were the support act, and Alison Mosshart came out to sing Jack's Love Interruption with him during his set.



I love the way he grabbed her and got her to fight back for the song's line "grab a hold of me and fight me". She's pretty good at fighting. It's lucky that they weren't singing one of the dismemberment songs from that album (Blunderbuss). If they'd acted out "cut off the bottoms of my feet, make me walk on salt" (from Freedom at 21) I doubt if it would make me grin as much.

Apparently there is a curfew in Dublin, so the PA was shut down before Jack was finished with the show.  Here he is singing Goodnight Irene (with Alison on second vocals) until the PA shuts off, when, unfazed, he just asks the audience to sing it with him instead.



This tour is shaping up pretty well, I'd say.



Edit to add: Some more views of the songs - better sightlines but incomplete.





Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dib Cochran and the Earwigs - Oh Baby/Universal Love/Deep Summer (recording of single)

I was reading an interminably long web page about David Bowie's involvement in the Occult. It wasn't convincing, in general - it had that cramped-yet-loping-Gollum-style that characterizes Dr. Bronner's Soap labels and the handwritten screeds sent to the heads of observatories bearing proof that Einstein was wrong. But what really convinced me was when the writer implied that Marc Bolan and Tony Visconti had recorded an album as Dib Cochran and the Earwigs in 1972. Out of maybe a thousand "facts" in the article, that was the only one I could instantly dismiss from memory. It was a single. It was in 1970.

Collectors pay a couple of hundred pounds for a copy of the single. The internets have it, of course, so here's Oh Baby by Dib Cochran and the Earwigs for frees. I'm not sure if this is the released single or an outtake (sorry, I'm just not that obsessed), but it's close.


(Thanks to uploader Weilderofwords.)

Here's the first track on the B-Side, Universal Love.  Love the Beatles meet Bach vibe, along with a tiny touch of the atmosphere of Bowie's Low, which I assume is the Visconti influence at work. Very different from the normal Marc-pop of Oh Baby only the thickness of 1970-era vinyl away on t'other side.  It's Rick Wakeman tickling the ivories on this one.


(Thanks to uploader steve01274)

Here's the second track on the B-Side, Deep Summer. It's very familiar; it sounds like an outtake from A Beard of Stars, but it's nice to have it around, isn't it?


(Thanks to uploader purplepeace59)
Marc wasn't finished with Oh Baby (and why should he be? It's a very catchy tune) and he recorded it with T. Rex as well. YooToob has preserved that for posterity too.


(Thanks to uploader trexmarcbolan.)


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stonehenge

I'm still reading  Electric Eden, by Rob Young - it's a long book - and today I reached the beginning of the end of the Folky road: The Stonehenge Festival's growth and its subsequent short sharp death at the Battle of the Beanfield.  It's an appropriate thing to be reading at the solstice, even though it was simply an accident. 


Displaying a better sense of organization than I do, Will Self has a piece in today's Guardian about Stonehenge and its modern history, that is the history of people who looked at the history of Stonehenge, and British Heritage's recent guardianship of the stone circle. (No Grauniad pun intended.)  It's entitled, "Has British Heritage ruined Stonehenge" - and I suspect that "ruin" is a pun - and is worth a read.  Self mentions the festivals, the hippies and crusties as he calls them, and the Battle of  the Beanfield


The Stonehenge Free festival began in 1974, and during the following decade the numbers of celebrants and revellers descending on the stones to dance the shortest night of the year away grew and grew. The so-called Convoy – a cavalry of hippies, anarchists and crusties that moved around the country from festival to festival – became the focus of the secular authorities' displeasure. Goaded by local landowners, in June 1985 the then chairman of English Heritage, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, took measures to suppress the Free festival. Riot police with helicopter support were called in, and the Convoy was tracked down to a Wiltshire bean field on the border where many hairy heads were unceremoniously cracked. The following year, the Public Order Act was passed by parliament, in part to suppress events such as the solstice celebration.
I remember all that nonsense fairly well. Not only was I living in England at the time, but I'd been to a festival at Stonehenge, and although I was not part of the travellers' group (that was after my visit) a great time was had by all. I can't remember a thing about the music or the festival itself, except the part where just after dawn on the solstice, after the Druids had done their ritual, a large number of us crawled under the barbed wire and sat around inside the stone circle. It was a great deal of fun, mostly because we thumbing our noses at The Man, as one did in those days, but it was not particularly magical, or sacred or visionary.

 photo Will-Self-visits-Stonehen-011_zps5c94ba93.jpg
Will Self from the Guardian article.

In fact, I'd been once before as a small child, before English Heritage roped it off in 1977, and had wandered around inside the circle at that time. Like Will Self in the referenced article, I would recommend that a traveler looking to find The Old Weird England go to Avebury instead. Stonehenge is tiny. It's a marvel and all that, they dragged 11 stones 160 miles from Wales and so forth, but it is not that impressive to a modern person used to skyscrapers and even boats the size of palaces. The sheer size of Salisbury Plain dwarfs it. As flat and as closely cropped as a football pitch, the surrounding nothingness reminds one of the failure of Ozymandias to impress us with his works - all around the lone and level grass stretches far away. Avebury, by contrast, is enormous and the modern buildings in amongst the standing stones give you a sense of scale, and some sense of how important it must have been to the builders to put these things together. Why, we'll probably never know, but you are very impressed with their determination to do it.

As well as stone circles in the Cotswolds, Northern England, the Orkneys, there are more in Ireland and France, which I have not yet seen. Electric Eden is doing a good job of reconnecting me with the sheer age and gravity of Britain's landscape, but has not (at least yet) mentioned that the borders of this landscape don't match the modern borders of Britain.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Down Among The Dead Men (various media, various dates)

I'm reading a fascinating book, Electric Eden, by Rob Young, that chronicles "Britain's visionary music", by which it seems to mean, so far, folk music. I've learned a bunch which I may write about in due course, but today, let's talk about Down Among The Dead Men.

In a discussion of Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief, he refers to the deep folk content of that record. The Padstow Obby Oss and Pace Egging, for example. Then he says,

"Other artefacts include John Dyer's poem, "Down Among The Dead Men", and a postcard (discovered in the Farley House attic) of the gravestone of Thomas Thetcher, a grenadier whose preserved tombstone is situated in the churchyard of nearby Winchester Cathedral. Savage death and ritual resurrection: upon those lodestones was Liege and Lief erected."

Now Down Among The Dead Men is also the name of one my favorite science fiction stories.  It's a story about a military commander whose men are built from already dead warriors and therefore perfect fighting men in body. It turns out they are not necessarily perfect fighting bodies in, er, mind.

I had no idea that the title was from a poem, but who was I kidding? Half of SF titles are from a poem somewhere. So I looked it up on the Goog.

The John Dyer poem itself, is not about heroism.

 photo deaadmen_zpsf53bc371.jpg

It's actually a metaphor - drink, and throw your empty bottles on the floor with the other dead men (bottles). No combat is implied, nor for that matter savage death and/or ritual resurrection.

No aspersions to cast on the Electric Eden book, which I love so far, but it's interesting to me what I can get out of chasing a reference down the internet rabbit hole. How amazing to live in a world where "folk music" that tentatively got "saved" - or not - a hundred years ago is amenable to annotations by someone in an armchair.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Jack White in concert at the Fonda 2014-06-10 (Pro-shot video)

I don't even have my copy of Lazaretto yet but I did get to see a live Jack White band set, courtesy of NPR here.  They streamed it, but they have left the video up and it's still playable.

I don't know how long the live stream is left up, so watch it while you can.

 photo jack_zps898082f4.jpg

The crowd is a bit hopeless. I know I've been scathing in the past of rock bands who want to "feed off the crowd's energy" (man) but even I manage to clap my hands together and say "yay!" every now and again. It's the done thing. No one seems to have told this audience about it, though.

Any time you can watch something for free, it's a bonus, but I heard the set the next day (at the Mayan) blows this one out of the water, in terms of everybody's energy level and the fact that Jack jumped off the stage and walked behind the rail, so the front row of people got to touch him, which I would guess is probably better than watching a streaming video.

This band, the Peazzards (I guess, since Buzzcocks was already taken) is very blue, isn't it? Jack, you're sending yourself and your band blind. Change the lighting! It's also a little bit high-pitched what with a fiddle, a theremin and a squealy guitar player. A full-metal rock and roll band would have a growly saxophone to add a bit of dirt.  Free suggestion there, Jackie.

I'm hearing some of these songs for the first time, so I'll listen to this again today to get a better idea of them. The old faithful songs do sound different with this band. Some work better with a full band and some sound a bit busy. And I know I'm immersed in the Led Zeppelin remasters at the moment, but that version of Ball and Biscuit  (the first encore) sounded so much like The Lemon Song that I was singing the wrong words. "Came home last night, worked as hard as I can. I bring home my money, you take my money, give it to another man..." Of course I'd pay good money to hear Jack sing squeeze my lemon 'till the juice runs down my leg. He seems to have found his filth mojo recently and stopped pretending that everything is about sisters, friends and candy canes, so I suppose it's not out of the question.



Edit to add: Here's another video stream from KROQ. It's only up for another few hours though, so I won't make a separate post about it. It also has The Lemon Song version. :)

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