City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Month: December, 2013

No5 Orange

No5

I belong to the dark chanteuse
who walks in beauty like the night

her eyes are like a wasteland
I will never know her name

our love is a Fata Morgana
where cosmonauts crash to work out their demons

where the taps flow
& Billie sings one never knows
& orders Odysseus on the rocks
& one more for the road

we are the martyrs of the rue morgue
the China doll on the Silk Road
the loup garou on the wrecking ball
Bonnie & Clyde on the run

our love is undocumented
we dance beneath a strange taxonomy
worn like exchange value
naked as an orange peel
holy as an effigy

when you talk to me I hear nothing but
the darkness of my own perception

& John the revelator
wrote the book of the seven sins

The endlessness of the stars

Papa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father would have turned 95 yesterday, if he had ever turned 72.

He didn’t though. He died of a heart attack (his third, from what I was told–one for each marriage, whatever that’s worth) when I was 17.

He died on August 11, which is two days after the Tate murders and one day after the LaBianca murders, for any Manson family devotees. I was always vaguely fascinated with the Manson murders growing up, mostly because I was born too late for the 60s (in the words of the late Lester Bangs, growing up in the 70s was like coming to town the day after the circus left) and because it was LA and I was obsessed with LA and it was warm and there were palm trees and it was sunny but in a really dark sort of way. Plus I was a teenage boy for seven years, give or take (we are every age we’ve ever been), and the darker something is, the more fascinating it is (see also: Marilyn Manson, cf: Columbine). But what’s odd now is that I knew that world, the Los Angeles I wasn’t within 2400 miles of, really well, and sort of who Manson and his followers were (minus the nuance, and there’s always nuance), but had no idea of the world my father lived in, and who he was, 4000 miles away.

When I was a freshman at UCLA, my girlfriend was a freshman at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. E-mail didn’t exist yet. We met each other a week before I left for Los Angeles when I happened to be in western New York for the only time in my 18-year life. We mostly talked on the phone (one Valentine’s Day massacre cost almost $200) and wrote each other actual letters via what was once known as the US mail. Once when we acknowledged how odd it was that we were becoming serious under the circumstances (although in retrospect I often wonder whether the circumstances helped, not hurt, us), she told me, “We’ve only seen each other in person for a total of 11 days.” I told her, “I think that’s as often as I saw my father.”

Of course, it wasn’t really. He and my mother and I lived in his apartment in Zürich when I was a few months old. “Awkward” would probably be an understatement. Zürich was his home for 54 years, 27 of them married to a woman no longer his wife with whom he fathered four children, three of whom also lived in Zürich. My mother wasn’t fluent in German. Women could now legally vote as of two years ago. My mother was also extremely close to her mother, my grandmother, who was now 4000 miles away and even less fluent in German (though she knew some Yiddish). It was a divorce waiting to happen, and it wasn’t a long wait.

I was as close to my mother (and my grandmother) as she was to hers, and whatever memories I had of Zürich (whether hers or my own) weren’t pleasant ones, so I rarely talked or wrote to my father for the rest of his life. We saw each other a few times, twice in the states when I was 4 or 5 and when I was 11, once in Zürich when I was 15. My mother broke the news of his death to me. I felt blank, probably nothing other than an odd relief I wouldn’t need to travel to Israel with him the following summer as he had wanted and I had feared (his notorious bad temper was apparently even worse than my own, and I’ve punched a hole in my wall and walked home several miles after an argument in a car). I didn’t even know his exact birthday until the past 10 years or so, though I knew we were both Capricorns. (Tellingly, I thought, my father shares a birthday with Alex Chilton, rather than the other way around.)

Who was my father? I guess I still don’t know. I’m not fluent in German either, which means I still haven’t read the majority of what my father has written, though I’ve read whatever was translated in English and own some of what hasn’t been. Writing isn’t the only way of understanding someone, though. I don’t even know that it’s a way. It’s just another myth. We ask too many questions of other people to try to figure ourselves out to begin with.

I went to the gym yesterday without even remembering what day it was. When I turned on my Walkman before my workout, it opened with a live version of the Tragically Hip’s “Fully Completely,” the title track off their terrific 1992 album about mortality, memory, and the wreckage of the Old World we never quite leave behind. “I ponder the endlessness of the stars,/ignoring said same of my father,” sings poet-shaman-frontman Gord Downie as he writhes and twists and shakes in perpetual audio. (In other live versions, including the “official” live version off 1997’s Live Between Us, the lyric becomes “I ponder the endlessness of the bars,/ignoring said same of my lover,” which also works.) It took me years–almost as long as it took me to figure out my own father’s birthday–to realize he’s quoting, almost directly, Milan Kundera, from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. He’s writing, or re-writing, someone who’s writing, and keeps writing, to get to the endlessness of someone, and something, who can never be known.

I lacked Papa, and all of us are lacking in our work because in pursuit of perfection we go toward the heart of the matter but never quite get to it. That the infinitude of the exterior world escapes us we accept as natural. But we reproach ourselves until the end of our lives for lacking that other infinitude. We ponder the endlessness of the stars but ignore the endlessness our father has within him. It is not surprising that in his later years variations became the favorite form for Beethoven, who knew all too well…that there is nothing more unbearable than lacking the being we loved, those sixteen measures and the interior world of their infinitude of possibilities.

Questions & answers

I have no idea what this is from but found it on an old floppy disk cleaning out my office. I guess I owned a toaster once. I also don’t know what the Orlando comment refers to (inside joke I’m now outside?), as I would sooner be (or move) there than hundreds of other places.

1. IF YOU COULD BUILD A HOUSE ANYWHERE WHERE WOULD IT BE?
the woods

2. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARTICLE OF CLOTHING?
scarf

3. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOL MEMORY?
when I was locked in the gym for an hour and couldn’t get out

4. THE LAST CD THAT YOU BOUGHT?
Van Morrison, St. Dominic’s Preview

5. WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO BE?
the west

6. WHERE’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PLACE TO BE?
Orlando

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO BE MASSAGED?
“in bed”

8.WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT, STRONG IN MIND OR STRONG IN BODY?
mind but it’s important to have a body too

9. WHAT TIME DO YOU WAKE IN THE MORNING?
7:00

10. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE?
toaster

11. WHAT MAKES YOU REALLY ANGRY?
someone being hurt

12. If YOU COULD PLAY AN INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
keyboard (I do, vaguely)

13. FAVORITE COLOR
noir

14. WHICH DO YOU PREFER, SPORTS CAR OR SUV?
sports car

15. DO YOU BELIEVE IN AFTERLIFE?
yes

16. FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK?
Story of O

17. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SEASON?
fall

18. IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPER POWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
make everyone annoying mute & empty all streets of traffic

19. IF YOU HAVE A TATTOO, WHAT IS IT?
none but it would be a black cat

20. CAN YOU JUGGLE?
I can barely even drive

21. THE ONE PERSON FROM YOUR PAST YOU WISH YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO?
my father

22. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DAY?
May Day

23. WHAT’S IN THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR?
the body

24. WHICH DO YOU PREFER, SUSHI OR HAMBURGER?
sushi

Communist humour

Marx, Engels, and Lenin were each asked what they preferred, a wife or a mistress. Marx, whose attitude in intimate matters is well known to have been rather conservative, answered, ‘A wife’; Engels, who knew how to enjoy life, answered, of course, ‘A mistress’; the surprise comes with Lenin, who answered, ‘Both, wife and mistress!’ Is he dedicated to a hidden pursuit of excessive sexual pleasures? No, since he quickly explains: ‘This way, you can tell your mistress that you’re with your wife, and your wife that you are about to visit your mistress…’ ‘And what do you actually do?’ ‘Learn, learn, and learn!’
–quoted in Slavoj Žižek, The Plague of Fantasies

Louie’s Top Albums of 2013

Louie

Top Eleven Albums
1. Yeezus, Kanye West—arguably the album of the decade so far*
2. Indicud, Kid Cudi
3. False Idols, Tricky
4. Trouble Will Find Me, The National
5. AM, Arctic Monkeys
6. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, Foxygen
7. English Little League, Guided By Voices—better than any of the 17 albums they released last year
8. Matangi, M.I.A.
9. Golden Grrrls, Golden Grrrls—a Vaselines cover band, & not in a bad way
10. Born Sinner, J. Cole
11. Mosquito, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

* other contenders (2010- ): THE MONITOR, Titus Andronicus; FLAMINGO, Brandon Flowers; BLUES FUNERAL, Mark Lanegan; TRAMP, Sharon Van Etten; Kanye’s own MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY; ASTRO COAST, Surfer Blood; LOCAL BUSINESS, Titus Andronicus

Top Eleven Songs
1. “Bound 2,” Kanye West
2. “Royals,” Lorde—the fact that it’s about the Kansas City Royals makes it even more brilliant
3. “Demons,” The National
4. “Do I Wanna Know,” Arctic Monkeys
5. “Red Eye,” Kid Cudi (feat. Haim)—Days Are Gone is a fine album, but this is the best Haim song of the year
6. “Black Skinhead,” Kanye West—or “Send It Up” or “Hold My Liquor” or pretty much every other song off Yeezus, really
7. “Villuminati,” J. Cole
8. “Beez,” Kid Cudi (feat. RZA)
9. “No Destruction,” Foxygen
10. “Fear of My Identity,” Best Coast—The Worse Things Get… is a fine album, but this is the best Neko Case song of the year, I think
11. “In the Kingdom,” Mazzy Star

Yeezus

Also Worth Mentioning (in sort of descending order until I gave up)
Change Becomes Us, Wire
The Messenger, Johnny Marr
Howlin, Jagwar Ma
Holy Fire, Foals—the album title is probably not a Twilight Singers reference
Muchacho, Phosphorescent
Fade Away EP, Best Coast
Reflektor, Arcade Fire
Everybody Loves Sausages, Melvins
Silence Yourself, Savages
Night on Earth, Lee Ranaldo & the Dust
Emancipated Hearts, Dean Wareham
Love is the Devil/Drifters, Dirty Beaches—may actually be two different albums—I don’t really know
Kveikur, Sigur Ros
…Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age
Bankrupt!, Phoenix—“Oblique City” will end up in a car commercial shortly, and I will still like it
True Romance, Charli XCX
Soft Will, Smith Westerns
Specter at the Feast, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Another Self Portrait: 1969-71, Bob Dylan Bootleg Volume 10, Bob Dylan, a.k.a. the kid who opened for Llewyn Davis
Coming Apart, Body/Head
Chelsea Light Moving, Chelsea Light Moving
Days Are Gone, Haim
II, Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Perpetual Surrender, Diana
The Invisible Way, Low
3, Retribution Gospel Choir
MBV, My Bloody Valentine
Imitiations, Mark Lanegan
Black Pudding, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood—if this isn’t enough Mark Lanegan, he’s on a track off the Moby album too
Adam Ant is the BlueBlack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, Adam Ant
English Electric, OMD—frighteningly 1980s-like
Delta Machine, Depeche Mode—frighteningly 1980s-like
Magic Hour, Luscious Jackson—frighteningly 1990s-like
Bloodsports, Suede—frighteningly 1990s-like
New Moon, The Men
Dark Eyes, Half Moon Run
MGMT, MGMT
The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Neko Case—what’s with the Fiona Apple titles, Neko?
Electricity By Candlelight, Alex Chilton—a throwaway live album with poor audio unless you are or were ever once obsessed with Alex Chilton, ergo, it’s ranked here
Amok, Atoms for Peace
Crimes of Passion, Crocodiles
The Bones of What You Believe, CHVRCHES– bonus points for the “name that comes up in Google searches” thing
Artpop, Lady Gaga
Partygoing, Future Bible Heroes
The Man Who Died in His Boat, Grouper
Seasons of Your Day, Mazzy Star
Forever Endeavor, Ron Sexsmith
Love From London, Robyn Hitchcock
Love Has Come For You, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell (or vice versa)
EP-1, The Pixies—a.k.a. “oh God, there are more?” but seriously not terrible
Can’t Talk Medicine, Pickwick—best Black Keys album of 2013
Me Moan, Daughn Gibson
The Terror, The Flaming Lips
Heartthrob, Tegan & Sara

“Waiting to be Processed” (have ‘em, haven’t listened enough)
Doris, Earl Sweatshirt
Static, Cults
I Hate Music, Superchunk
Melbourne, Jackson Scott
Head in the Dirt, Hanni El Khatib
Dromes, Younghusband—other than the title track, because I don’t live in the UK
Nomad, Bombino
Melophobia, Cage the Elephant
Fade, Yo La Tengo
Five Spanish Songs EP, Destroyer
Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze, Kurt Vile
My Name Is My Name, Pusha T
Shulamith, Poliça—worth listening to just for the title, plus “Dark Star” off Give You the Ghost (2012) was pretty good
Pure Heroine, Lorde
Light Up Gold, Parquet Courts
The Next Day, David Bowie
Big Wheel & Others, Cass McCombs
Home Life, Andrew Cedermark—sadly, the only new Titus Andronicus of the year
Push the Sky Away, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Innocents, Moby
Tres Cabrones, Melvins
Nightingale Floors, Rogue Waves
Honeys, Pissed Jeans
Defend Yourself, Sebadoh
Bitter Rivals, Sleigh Bells
Weapon, Skinny Puppy

Fulfilling Low Expectations
The Marshall Mathers LP2, Eminem
Pythons, Surfer Blood

Undecided
Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, Franz Ferdinand
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros—other than that I still think they’re missing an “e”

Overrated
Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend—Rolling Stone’s album of the year? Seriously? It’s not a bad album, but there were 40 or 50 better ones—
Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails—maybe I just liked “Closer” that much

Top Quotes
“Yeezy season approaching,/fuck whatever y’all been hearing” –Kanye West
“Never kept me up before,/now I’ve been awake for days,/I can’t fight it
anymore,/I’m going through an awkward phase” –The National
“I don’t write songs grasshopper, I write sceneries” –RZA
“There’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore” –Foxygen
“She say, ‘Can you get my friends in the club?’/I say, ‘Can you get my Benz in the club?/If not, treat your friends like my Benz,/park they ass outside ‘til the evenin’ end.’” –Kanye West
“Darling I’m not giving in,/that happened miles ago,/I heard the north star say,/Kid you’re so lost even I can’t bring you home” –Magnolia Electric Co. (not 2013, but RIP Jason Molina, & Scott Miller, & Stompin’ Tom Connors, & Lou Reed)

Matangigolden grrrlsFoxygenBorn SinnerAMMuchachoWireBody HeadMBVMazzy Stardark eyesDoris

Don’t even think about it

Fluffya 014

“NO FICTION” courtesy of Brickbat Books, Queen Village, Philadelphia

Death of a Trotskyist

“I was an adolescent again, and it was before the war, and I belonged to a small organization dedicated to a worker’s revolution, although that dedication already tempered by a series of reverses was about to spawn its opposite and create a functionary for each large segment of the masses we had failed to arouse. I was young then, and no dedication could match mine. The revolution was tomorrow, and the inevitable crises of capitalism ticked away in my mind with the certainty of a time bomb, and even then could never begin to match the ticking of my pulse. There was a great man who led us, and I read almost every word he had written, and listened with the passion of the novitiate to each message he sent from the magical center in Mexico. Of all the students in the study group, none could have been more ardent than I, and for a winter and a spring, I lived more intensely in the past than I could ever in the present, until the sight of a policeman on his mount became the Petrograd proletariat crawling to fame between the legs of a Cossack’s horse, and a drunken soldier on a streetcar merged into the dream I was always providing of the same soldier on the breast of the revolution, shaking his fist in an officer’s face as he cried, “Equality. I can’t explain it to you, vile exploiter, but equality, that’s what I want.” There never was a revolution to equal it, and never a city more glorious than Petrograd, and for all that period of my life I lived another and braved the ice of winter and the summer flies in Vyborg while across my adopted country of the past, winds of the revolution blew their flame, and all of us suffered hunger while we drank at the wine of equality, and knew with what passion to be later buried that our revolution would beget the others, and in a year, in a week, we the ignorant giant would bestride the earth and refashion it until there was nourishment and love for every man our brother.
“More than two decades later I could have the dream in all its purity, and if from the tenets of the organization which taught me, I could also learn how the great wave had crashed and the revolution had been betrayed, our leader persecuted, those twenty years were thrown into a minute, and I from my own need and own hunger listened to the time bomb I had fashioned and was certain that tomorrow the people would crowd the streets, and from the barricades would come the victory that meant equality for the world.
“So the memory came down to the sea, and across my back scar tissue burned ever new circuits with its old pain…”

–Norman Mailer, Barbary Shore (1951)