Here's the permanent link to Matt's story about how he got on the cover of that book down there. Hopefully soon he'll start a blog so that his brilliant observations don't go away after a few days.
Here's an interesting article I found from slashdot that compares the coorporatization of the internet and the DMCA to the counter-reformation in Europe, when the Catholic church tried to limit protestantism and the dissemination of information fostered by the invention of the printing press. Lot's of protestants died. My only question: Could Martin Luther Play the Boogie Strange?
So the Bob Dylan show on Saturday night was totally amazing. Bob was on fire, wearing a big white suit and string tie, dancing around with his knees like Elvis and leaning into his many guitar solos like Neil Young. He played for two full hours, including many of his hits, sung with completely new phrasing and sometimes melody. This made it hard to sing along, but once you got used to it you could just rock out and enjoy his new versions. The whole band played on every song, alternating acoustic guitar and bass with electric, and sometimes mixing it up. The band was a 5 piece consisting of Bob on a sunburst Gibson acoustic and a white Fender Stratocaster, Charlie Sexton on Gibson Jumbo acoustic, dobro, and some different electric guitars, another great guitarist on acoustic, telecaster, stratocaster, pedal steel, and bozuki for one song, a bass player on stand up and electric, and a drummer. They were incredibly tight as you can imagine, providing a solid rocking ground upon which Dylan could lay his unique vocal and guitar phrasing. Bob played lead on every song, including the acoustic numbers, stretching them out and building up the tension until a final release into the outro or another verse. Also, he didn't use a harmonica holder, but instead would play it blues style into the mike, bending his knees and pushing the tension up until the whole crowd was cheering before the resolution. The gig was at the Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster California. We arrived early and checked out the fair in the 100+ degree heat, the highlights being the baby animals, the minerals exhibit (petrified wood is cool), and the giant barbecue where we got our meat sanwiches. The sun was going down as Dylan hit the stage, and if you looked to your right you could watch the bungee jumpers bounce around. Here's some impressions and quotes: During the show I heard behind me a cracked cigarette veteran woman's voice creak out the request, "Forever Young!" During "Like a Rolling Stone" when Dylan goes, "How does it feeeeel?" the really drunk guy behind us yelled out, "It feels great, Bob!!" Some teen queens complete with "Miss Acton" or whatever ribbons walked by, about 15 of them together. I don't think they noticed that there was a genius on stage working his magic. And there was a couple down in front of us with what looked like a newborn baby. Word got back to us that the baby's name was Dylan. Of course. He seemed to like the show. I mean, he didn't cry. Here's a link to the set list and some other people's reviews with more details. Also on this site is a reference to another tour in October, including gigs at my alma mater UCSB, La Jolla, and the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 19. Too bad I'll be in Mexico.
And what about "Rat Race," which I saw last week at the Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood? It was a pretty darn good comedy. It started a little slow, but built up long jokes into hilarious climaxes. Mr. Bean (aka Rowan Atkinson) was the best, he's just plain funny, but everyone else was good too, and the recurring jokes with the John Cleese character were great. Nothing earth shattering here, but if you want a fun time at the movies, check it out.
And from the library I got the video of the movie "Best Seller," starring Brian Dennehy and James Woods, which was really good. Dennehy plays a cop and novelist and Woods plays a psychotic assassin who blackmails him into writing a book about Wood's old boss. Good use of the Nixon mask! And not quite as good but still fun was "The Public Eye" staring Joe Pesci as a "shutter bug" ("He's an insect!") in New York during WWII. Murder, the Mob, crime scene photos, corrupt cops, all that stuff.
posted by Greg 10:41 AM
Thursday, August 23, 2001
Here's something strange: My handsome friend and talented singing writer Matt Welch has his picture on the front of some book that's being reviewed in Salon.com. But unfortunately he didn't write it, or have anything to do with it. Be sure to read his funny story about how this came about.
posted by Greg 1:11 PM
Here's a great story about a slightly nutty guy who taped lots of live country music in the 50' and 60's, then forgot about it all till recently. Now all the record companies and museums want his stuff. Me too.
posted by Greg 11:21 AM
Tuesday, August 21, 2001
Snails should not drink beer.
posted by Greg 5:05 PM
I saw Howard Hawks' 1940 film "His Girl Friday" last night. It was great. Here's a quote for all my journalist and those who love them friends:
"A journalist? Hell, what does that mean? Peeking through keyholes? Chasing after fire engines? Waking people up in the middle of the night to ask them if Hitler's gonna start another war? Stealing pictures off old ladies? I know all about reporters, Walter. A lot of daffy buttinskis running around without a nickel in their pockets and for what? So a million hired girls and motormen's wives'll know what's going on. Why-... Golly, what's the use? Walter, you-you wouldn't know what it means to want to be respectable and live a half-way normal life."
For those if you who might have missed it, I thought I'd tell you how fantastic Artemis was on the Sunset Strip last night... covered from head to toe in a full-body cast save her eyes, mouth and 4 fingers on her right hand. She managed to be more expressive and hilarious in her ten minutes onstage than the scantily clad emcee was all night! Artemis was wheeled to the stage on a dolly by her assistant Cleofus Vanderbilt. Cleofus was a perfect sidekick. He remained silent and appeared awestruck by the lights on the stage. According to Artemis he is currently studying to be a "black leading man" at some acting school in the Valley. He maintained a goofy expression throughout while holding the microphone up to Artemis' red-lipped mouth. Occasionally he would let it slip away, so we could hardly hear her and then absentmindedly bang it against his hand to make sure it was on. Artemis' made nervous chit chat, complaining that people in L.A. were so "caught up with appearances." She went into a scene from Shakespeare with Cleofus acting as the two male leads. Eventually mock killing himself and falling to the floor. The big finale was Cleofus putting a Tina Turner wig atop Artemis' plaster covered head and the two of them singing a fantastic version of "Proud Mary" with Cleofus dancing the parts of Ike and the Ikettes to Artemis' immobile Tina. Artemis is too good for the hideous Comedy Store where the staff (and other comediennes) are terribly rude and idiotic.
Somehow I was able to find out that Austin City Limits was showing a classic Tom Waits performance from 1978 last night at 11, so not only did I get to watch it, but I taped it. (of course, being cable and dish-less, it has double image, but the sound is fine. I guess two Tom's is better than one.) It is a totally amazing performance, a poetry powerhouse. Tom starts out leaning against two gas pumps, chain smoking as the stand up bass, drums, guitar, and sax riff on the chords for Burma Shave. He starts rasping about traveling, the signs for burma shave, the town being just a wide spot in the road. He delivers this crazy beat peotry packed with images for a good ten minutes, through two cigarettes, overwhelming us with his talent and skill as a writer and performer. Then it's to the piano, and later guitar, and back to a prop street lamp for more regional recitations. His delivery is so intense, full of twisted faces, grunts, moans, and crazy phrasing. Man, he's so great!
posted by Greg 11:35 AM
Sunday, August 12, 2001
Attention: In a move apparently conceived to remind us that there is such a thing as a good intelligent movie made in Hollywood, they've re-released the best movie of the year, Spy Kids in theaters. This time it's a "special edition" with some extra scenes added on. I got to see this edition on Friday and was not disappointed. It's a great fun movie with lots of smart humor, great action, funny characters, and a big heart. Written, directed, produced and edited by Robert Rodriquez, Spy Kids is a big budget picture that manages to retain a real individual style, and it's the little touches that abound in this film that put it over the top into greatness. Too many movies this summer have suffered from the "too many cooks" syndrome, their vision watered down in the committee meeting. But not Spy Kids, it takes off from the start and if you're not rooting for the kids by the end, call the doctor cause your heart is missing. If you don't believe me, check out the 92% it got on the Tomato Meter. Go see it now, you'll love it! I can't wait for Spy Kids 2!
OK, so I finished Ken's brilliant novel Dot.Con last week, but I've been waiting till I had time to write about it properly. First things first: Buy it now! (support your friend's art, support independent publishing, help the Austrailian economy, be the first on your block to own one, pay for Ken's computers, get an insider's view of Silicon Valley, it smells good, etc....) This book was such fun to read. It's an action/mystery novel mixed with social satire, so you get the thrill of a fast paced wild story but are allowed to think about the different people and ideas he satarizes. And this is equal opportunity satire: no one escapes, including the narrator, Larry Jonestowne. But it manages to not be a series of complaints; the author and the reader get to have fun. Very roughly it's a cross between Hunter Thompson and Elmo Leonard with some PJ O'Rourke and Johnathan Swift (I don't know much about literature, so go easy on me) but really it has it's own unique style. I don't want to describe it too much, I'll just say that it's about how a renegade online journalist brings down a corrupt silicon valley tycoon. This word is contained in the book: impaled. That's all I'll say. It's also full of keen observations of things funny, quirky, or ironic delivered as one liners, especially about life in San Francisco (the lower Haight specifically) and general internet stuff. Plus you'll be replacing all your nouns with "deal" for weeks after you finish. (ie: "Hey, could you hand me that deal that's sitting on the thingy?") To me it's amazing how he can refer to so many things as "deals" and you still know exactly what he's talking about. For me this book was such fun to read because I happened to live in San Francisco when Ken did, so I know well many of the locations he uses, as well as some of the people the characters are more or less based on. It's a unique experience to read a book and know exactly what the author is talking about when he describes an apartment. Part of the fun of reading is constructing the images in your head from the author's descriptions, but in this case it was great because I knew more detail than the author put in. But of course you don't have to be so close to enjoy the book. It's fast reading but not dumbed down - fast because that's the pace of life these days, especially around when and where the book takes place. So go order it. And let it inspire you to new heights of artistic acheivement. It's one thing to read a book by some famous hack, but to read a book by someone you know that's better than anything else in it's class, that's downright inspirational!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Ken!!!!!!
Last night I listened to "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" LP again for the first time in a long while. This record was in my dad's collection and once I was old enough became one of my favourites. I recently finished that book about Dylan, and I wanted to listen for myself to the real deal (primary source material) to get some perspective. And what did I find? This is an amazing album, poignant, poetic, humourous, a multi-faceted and timeless work of art. Dylan sounds so old and wise, it's hard to believe he was only about 20 when he wrote and recorded these songs. A song like "Bob Dylan's Dream" sounds like a middle aged guy looking back on his life and wondering about the friends he's lost touch with, a melancholy and powerful idea. It ends like this: How many a year has passed and gone, And many a gamble has been lost and won, And many a road taken by many a friend, And each one I've never seen again. I wish, I wish, I wish in vain, That we could sit simply in that room again. Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat, I'd give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.
He'd already mastered the political song, ("Masters of War") the not-love song, ("Don't Think Twice, it's Alright") and the funny rambling song ("Talkin' World War Three Blues.") Not to mention the surreal and amazing "A Hard Rain's a gonna Fall." Twisted into this web of words and music is meaning both personal and political, and listening to it consistently yields rich nuggets of thought and emotion. I'm tired of books and movies about artists that focus on the negative things about them. They revel in the fact that they are regular people with regular problems, sometimes huge problems. But what they ignore is that they are not regular or normal, they are extraodinary for what they've produced and given to the world, for their ability to see things and express things that others can't or don't. Pointing out their personal shortcomings is valid and can illuminate their art, but what's the point in dwelling on these, making these the whole story? No one has to make art, in fact it's a lot easier not to. They are heroes. Artists, especially ones like Bob Dylan or Jackson Pollock, deserve to be celebrated for what they've given all of us.
And speaking of great art, I'm on page 199 out of 310 of Ken's book Dot.Con, and it's TOTALLY AMAZING AND FUN AND GREAT! If you buy it now you can say that you read it before it was published in America. Or before they made the movie about it. Or the video game.