Friday, October 31, 2014


Imhotep bids you a happy Halloween.

And so do I, in the form of music - enjoy!:

1. Half Japanese - Frankenstein Must Die
2. Neutral Milk Hotel - Ghost
3. Slint - Nosferatu Man
4. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
5. Blue Oyster Cult - Joan Crawford
6. Donovan - Season of the Witch
7. Pink Floyd - Lucifer Sam
8. Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London
9. Chickasaw Mudd Puppies - Lon Chaney
10. Butthole Surfers - Creep in the Cellar

What my iTunes can't provide, YouTube offers - Edgar Winters Group and Frankenstein:

And the Surfers, worrying about what might be living under the floorboards:

And the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies serenading the man with a thousand faces:

And Junior:

And finish up with Slint, live:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Music Friday, With Associated Technological Musings

Rather shocking to notice the date - how far along this month, and year, has gotten. Time is passing! We have had a week of bloody bad weather - winter is coming....

Meanwhile, I have a new computer, a new Mac Mini; the first time in a long while I have gotten a piece of hardware the minute it showed up in the stores. For all my love of computers and such, I generally wait - partly, I suppose, because once I have something that works, I am willing to keep it as long as I can. I did get an iPhone 5 as soon as they showed up (mostly because the old iPhone I had was becoming noticeably low) - before that? you might have to go back to the beginning - the first Mac I bought was a Classic, 1990, which I also got the minute they appeared. I hope that's not too portentous - the first Mac I ever bought; now the last one? I wonder sometimes. Companies these days seem to be pushing users to mobile devices - operating systems these days seem to be trying to look like mobile devices - Yosemite has the same ugly flat design the new iOS's have; it gives you things like the "launchpad", which acts like an iPad screen - just a flat array of icons. I have been able to avoid Windows 8, but by all reports it is even more atrocious. Lawd, lawd, won't these kids get off my lawn?

I don't know; maybe I'm old and stubborn and set in my ways; or maybe the point is that I was smitten by macs in the first place because they were a better way to write - whatever it is, the core of the computer experience for me is still sitting down at a keyboard and firing up Word. (Or, these days, Scrivener, as much as Word; in the glory days of the early 90s I went through word processors at a dizzying rate - Word Perfect; MacWrite; Nisus - which still exists? there's a nostalgia kick for you...) Phones and iPads and such are good in their way - what they are and do is very nice indeed - but they are something apart from computers. I have yet to find any way to write on them: at least not in the satisfying way I can write on my computer. Which adds up to this - that I am very happy with this new machine: a very pleasing setup: desktop computer, driving 2 big monitors, with a good keyboard (I bought an Apple wireless keyboard for this machine - and I find it to be very good. I have found Apple keyboards in the 21st century to be flimsy and unsatisfying devices - but this one is very good; it feels right, which is what you need in a keyboard), giving me plenty of room to open up a dozen folders and documents and carry on to my heart's content. It is hard to deny that for me, the computer reached its moment of perfection 20 odd years ago - all I really needed was a good word processor, a good keyboard, a decent monitor, and a connection to the outside world - this machine might as well be the old Mac Duo I had back then, just a lot faster for some things. (Though not everything - partly because back then I set up a RAM disk on the duo, and so approximated the fusion drive this one has; and partly because no one has really improved on Word 5.1.) I wanted a computer to write on - I was very happy when the internet developed to the point that I could read on it too - and that's still what I want it for. Music and movies and things like that are nice, but they are gravy - TV and stereos work perfectly well at what they do...

I suppose that's ironic in a post about playing music on my computer. So what? I contain multitudes, just like my Mac! and so enough of that - iTune! Randomize!

1. Deerhoof - Cooper
2. white Magic - The Light
3. Big Boi - Buggface
4. Neil Young - Comes a Time (from Live Rust)
5. M.I.A. - 10
6. Grant Hart - Morningstar
7. Nina Simone - Jelly Roll
8. Tim Rose - Long Time Man
9. Rocket from the Tombs - Foggy Notion
10. Flaming Lips - the Observer

Viudeo? Here's Grant Hart, performing live:

And - say - Nina Simone, playing I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl (since I can't find a good live performance of Jelly Roll.)

And end with Nick Cave performing Long Time Man:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cedar Creek (and Ypres I)

I've been terrible in keeping up with my Civil War posts lately - but need to put something up today, the anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek. When last we left U.S. Grant, at the Battle of the Crater, he had failed, yet again, to break through Lee's lines outside Petersburg - and he was about to stop trying. He settled down to hold Lee in place, and look for ways to win the war elsewhere - the trenches let him do that - though they also let Lee send some of his men off to try to win the war elsewhere. Specifically, he sent Jubal Early to the Shenandoah Valley, to see what mischief they could make. They made their share - marching up to Washington, firing on the city itself, causing panic and fear in all but Lincoln and Grant (Lincoln went to see the fighting, and terrified the Union Generals by peering out at the rebels over the parapets.) Grant sent an army corps (the VI corps - which by this time was probably the best unit in the army); later he sent Phil Sheridan and most of their cavalry, and sent them to do their worst to Early. They did quite a bit - thrashing the Rebels at the battle of Winchester in September - then a couple days later at Fisher's Hill - this left Early's army in ruins, and Sheridan set out to make the Shenandoah Valley waste. Anticipating Sherman's march to the sea, Sheridan marched through the valley, burning crops, destroying barns and mills, turning what had been a major source of supply for the Confederacy into ruins. At the bend of this, thinking that Early was done, Sheridan went to Washington, and started planning to bring the Army of the Potomac men back to Grant.

But Early had other ideas. He had been reinforced - and he knew he had to do something, since he was running out of supplies - so he attacked. In the event, the attack went splendidly - he found that the Union army was not keeping close watch on their left flank: the ground was rough, they though it would discourage the Rebels - but Early was an old Jackson underling, and took that kind of situation for an opportunity. So they attacked, and caved in the Union left, and forced the whole army into retreat. There was heavy fighting, especially when the Rebels ran into the VI corps - but the Federals were drive steadily back.

Meanwhile, Sheridan was in Winchester, a dozen or so miles away. By 9 in the morning (after 3 hours or so to it), he heard enough of the noise to decide to get moving - he rode south, and as he did, realized there was a battle going on. So off he went, at full speed, arriving somewhere around 10:30. He found the lines fairly stable - the VI corps was holding their lines; the rebels had called a halt to their attack, to regroup - to recollect their men, who had been looting the Union camps. Sheridan set about organizing a counterattack - it was ready later that afternoon, and when it came, it was overwhelming. He attacked on the flanks with cavalry, then straight ahead with infantry - there was a period of heavy fighting, then the Rebels collapsed, the cavalry got into their rear, and the rout was on.

And that was that. This was the end of Confederate efforts in the Valley - it was always a strategy doomed by long odds: the Union had very large advantages in numbers, everywhere - so when the Confederates sent away men to fight elsewhere, Grant could send away more men. The very trenches that allowed Lee to dispatch parts of his army to try to find other opportunities allowed the Yankees to dispatch more men to beat the Rebels in detail. Which is what they did - here and elsewhere. Whenever the Confederates came out of their trenches in 1864, they were thrashed mightily. They were outnumbered, and increasingly outgunned - the union cavalry was starting to carry repeaters, and starting to operate as a powerful offensive force on their own. The cavalry itself was becoming a decided Union advantage - especially here, in a fairly mobile warfare, where cavalry was deployed as an offensive force. Their mobility, their firepower told.

It might be enough to make you think that cavalry was still a viable arm of the military! A delusion we might want to visit again in the next couple days - 50 years after the battle of Cedar Creek, the First Battle of Ypres started, October 19, 1914. That would mark the end, really, of mobile warfare on the Western Front - or more precisely, the end of warfare in the open. But we can come back to that - the Battle of Ypres lasted for a month. But I will end with this - no one in Europe paid much attention to what happened in the Civil War; if they had - they probably would have looked at battles like Winchester and Cedar Creek, with their decisive cavalry actions, and saw vindication for their ideas about offense. What they would not have noticed, since they never noticed it, is that what really started to separate union cavalry at the end of the Civil war, was their firepower - Sharps, Spencer and Henry rifles, breechloaders and repeaters - which would change everything, more than anyone could conceive in 1864, and, tragically, even in 1914.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Five (Lazy October Edition)

I have been awfully lazy in posting lately, on this once a week schedule - I can't pretend to have a reason.... I suppose I could blame work; that's always a nuisance. I suppose I could also blameHarvard, for offering a very interesting class on the Great War - that's probably served to distract me from writing historical pieces for this blog.

Well, there's nothing for it but to keep on going, hope productive energy comes back - and in the meanwhile, at least we have Fridays:

1. Lift to Experience - The Ground So Soft
2. Minutemen - Party with me Punker
3. Minutemen - Fodder
4. New York Dolls - Personality Crisis
5. John Zorn - Inside Straight
6. The Kinks - You Really Got Me
7. Beck - Don't Let It Go
8. Iron & Wine - Carousel
9. Beatles - Lovely Rita
10. Ella Fitzgerald - They Can't Take that Away From Me

and so - video? Kinks, of course:

And the Minutemen, just a song, but I have to post it:

And in another vein - Ella, like in Finland they can't take that away from me:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Holy Ghosts ands Talk Show Hosts

October is here and time for another Band of the Month - and another entry in the bands of the 80s, too, for that matter. But what can I say - when I got out of college, I started buying records, going to shows, reading about music - turned into a bit of a nerd about it. Went looking for stuff that could fill my head with music I wanted to hear....

Like the Meat Puppets. In the summer of 1987 I got Mirage - I loved it. I was obsessing over Hank Williams and Johnny Cash in those days, and the Stooges, and I guess the Meat Puppets landed cleanly in the middle of that. I remember that summer - we had an enclosed porch in the apartment, and I took it over mostly, with my desk and books and record player out there, and would listen to records while reading or writing or whatever I did... I remember the mornings, especially - getting up, getting a cup of coffee, sitting on the porch and listening to a side of a record before I had to go to work. Puppets - Hank - maybe the Velvets now and then, the Feelies - but especially the Meat Puppets. Mirage is their airiest record, right? swirling guitars, those rough harmonies, loose, light songs, countrified bass lines - great stuff, and a perfect way to get a day started.

Over the years, then, they have been a comfort - they kept putting out records throughout he early 90s when I wasn't really listening to rock, and I kept buying them, liking them - still do! - though maybe not as much as the 80s records. Of course that gets us to an irony - once I discovered them, I jumped right out and bought their music - on LP, not CD - and so later on, I would go years without being able to listen to Up on the Sun, until I broke down and bought them again on CD. Technology - man... Still, they were in my head - I rather obsessed over Mirage and Huevos (and I think I got Huevos on CD, pretty early, so I could get my Look at the Rain fix a few times a year) - and the 90s records were still pretty good. They always made me happy - good songs, their sound, and the fact that every song seemed to be about food, drugs or masturbation - simple pleasures!

I saw them play live, twice, in the late 80s/early 90s. The second show, around the time of Forbidden Places I think - was strangely disappointing - they were sloppy, the material a little less sharp, their performance kind of routine... It was surprising because I'd seen them when they were touring Huevos, and it was one of the best shows I have ever seen. I suppose they might have been as sloppy and shambolic as the later gig, but their casual style was a big part of the appeal - the way it makes their music sound effortless, like three guys in a garage, or - and I admit this is something I can't ever get out of the back of my head - like the people who got up and sang at church when I was a kid. Who might or might not be able to carry a tune, but somehow, meant it - and could somehow get across the strength of the songs themselves, through the imperfect vessels of their earthly bodies. So that first show I saw - they were so good. Curt was inspired - soloing all over the place, kind of pushing home the fact that they were a very good set of musicians. All their charms were there to see. The great songs; their loose, adventurous style; the messy, but deceptively competent harmonies; the sense of fun they showed - funny, smarter than they act, and enjoying themselves and all the noise they were making; with clever, well played covers; all of it going on and on, a sheer joy.

All right. They've been at it for 30 plus years now, and have produced a nice body of work - still putting out records that remain likable and listenable (if not quite something I can obsess about). Though there's no getting around the quality of the first decade of music. And so, to get to it - here is what I take to be their 10 best songs:

1. Look at the Rain
2. Crazy
3. Up on the Sun
4. Lake of Fire
5. A Hundred Miles
6. Plateau
7. Shine
8. Beauty
9. Paradise
10. Swimming Ground

Videos: kind of a mixed bag out there - lots of newer footage, most of which is quite competent - but maybe lacks both the shambles and the moments of transcendence they had in their prime. But there is some - this, say - vintage Look at the Rain, shot off a TV screen:

Here is Up on the Sun and I Can't Be Counted On, 1990:

Lake of Fire, mid-90s, Kurt letting his inner shredder out a little:

A 2011 cover of the Sloop John B:

And a cover version of Plateau, featuring the Kirkwood brothers on guitars:

Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday in the Fall

Getting cold outside. Rain and gloom all week, which I hope is done. I like fall - it's cool, comfortable, and usually drier than the spring - all that is good. And apple pie! etc. All right - cut straight to the music shall we?

1. Boris - Ibitsu
2. Flying Burrito Brothers - If you Gotta Go
3. John Cale - Save Us
4. Bishop Allen - Eve of Destruction
5. Big Star - Til the End of the Day
6. GONG - Magick Mother Invcation
7. Benny Goodman (featuring Charlie Christian) - Gone with "What" Wind
8. Jane's Addiction - City
9. Jimi Hendrix - Manic Depression
10. Pere Ubu - 30 Seconds Over Tokyo

Video? here's this - Jimi Hendrix on TV in 1967 - a very bad tape, faded and abused, so you get flicking glimpses of the band through the haze. Kind of cool I suppose, and - well - some metaphorical significance I guess. I saw the new Jimi: All is by my Side film last week - which I'm tempted to say gives a similarly fleeting and murky picture of the man. Mostly because it's missing most of his music... but it's still compelling, in its slightly maddening way - and so is this.

And - here's Alex Chilton, with Yo La Tengo, covering the Kinks: