Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Last night I dreamt that Johnny Marr loved me

For the past few weeks I purposely didn't look up articles about Johnny Marr. I didn't want to discover that he too, like that other person from the Smiths, had become a terrible person.

Marr performs at the Granada Theater, Dallas, October 2018
Like most queer men of a certain age, I fell hard in love with the Smiths. The swooning, crooning vocals over jangly acoustic guitars. The preening wordplay and unmistakable sheer unlovability of its cheeky frontman.

Certain lyrics from The Queen Is Dead helped to push past the awkwardness between me and my partner when we were falling in love all those years ago. I repeated those words as my wedding vows to him in 2013.

Since the Smiths' breakup, I followed Morrissey's solo career. The first few albums are still good. But when I started hearing him in concert, it was clear that he meant to destroy any goodwill his fans had for his earlier career.

Refusing to play any of his popular songs and touring with his terrible neo-grunge band, even the better tracks from his later albums sound awful.

It's been seven years since I last saw Morrissey in concert. I refuse to see him again.

The spirit of the Smiths, however—as well as the spirit of all of his other great musical collaborations—lives on in Johnny Marr, clearly one of the most accomplished guitarists and musicians alive today. From his impressive professionalism to his setlist, it's clear that he loves his work and appreciates his fans.

The Smiths are dead. Love live Johnny Marr!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bloomsday: My Conversion

Happy Bloomsday!

It's a greeting I thought I'd never say. But here we are: June 16. I'm wearing a fucking boater and heading to my first Bloomsday celebration. All because I read a book.

To be more precise: I read the book.

As someone who refused on principle to finish A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (see here for more background on the sham Professor Perl and his shite, over-determined interpretations), I, too, am surprised for having finished Ulysses. (I feel like we need to call it The Ulysses.)

Ulysses had already been waiting for me for 96 years. I'm glad it waited.

It was difficult and worthwhile. Every tender moment was broken up with some goofball pun. Met him pike hoses made me laugh every time.

I loved the overplayed psycho-sexual parenting/trapping/parenttrapping of Poldy and Molly over Stephen. Poldy, having lost a son (and father), wants a son as well as an Italian tutor for Molly, who, having lost a son (and mother), dreams of mothering the young professor herself, suckling him to her breasts like she had done with Poldy, her husband-cum-child-cum-husbandchild.

I loved the wandering eyes wondering if Poldy is circumcised. I loved the Wandering Jew returning home Ulysses-like (jewgreek is greekjew, after all) to his quasi-Jewish wife. I loved the farts, the fart jokes, the literary space for farting. Oh, and the handjobs and the public wanking and the literally orgasmic fireworks!

I loved Joyce's excessive writing sous rature and finally understanding how Joyce's writing impacted and influenced Derrida's writing and thinking. I loved how every word exceeds its semantic/sea-manic/Semitic/semen-ic order. Yes, I will see you in tea.

I loved the tonality of "The sound of the peal of the hour of the night by the chime of the bells in the church of Saint George." Yes, that's a hepta-prepositional phrase that also bends toward onomatopoeic tintinnabulation.

I loved Joyce's Nietzschean Bejahung, his Ja-sagen, the finality of his (Joyce's), Ulysses'—Molly's, no?—final yes that exceeds both finality and affirmation: "and yes I said yes I will Yes." Finally, I loved how the finality of this yes was said first and foremost to provoke a question whose response was already a predetermined yes. Finally.

Monday, May 7, 2018

SD1-989, or Why I Cried During the Slowdive Concert

Slowdive Concert, Granada Theater, Dallas, April 2018
I see several concerts every year, and I recently saw Slowdive for the second time live. Near the end of the concert they played a song, and I realized that I had started to spontaneously weep. The song reminded me of what I was listening to during the early 1990s when I was living in Austin. It might've been one of the actual songs I listened to back then.

Even living in Austin, a city that often boasts itself as being a refuge of progressive politics in an otherwise conservative state, friends were attacked, mugged, and beaten leaving gay bars. My boyfriend and I were refused housing because landlords wouldn't rent to two men sharing a one bedroom apartment. I was out to very few people because I didn't trust anyone. When your existence is under attack by very powerful people, you learn not to trust.

There was a time in the early 90s when it seemed like the whole world was holding its breath waiting for a death sentence. There was a time during those years when it seemed like everyone knew someone who was leaving this world in the most excruciating way. While politicians snickered about our deviant lifestyles. While preachers condemned us to hellfire and damnation on earth. It was exhausting to be so under attack. I'm not sure when it was that I learned how to breathe again.

I thought of all the people I knew (and knew of) who were diagnosed with HIV and who were dying of AIDS. Kitty's husband. Lum's best friend. Chuck. When David Wojnarowicz died, I clipped the announcement out of the newspaper and put it in one of his books that I owned. It was a private grief that I wouldn't share with anyone, including myself. It was basic survival instinct not to acknowledge how broken this heart was. The consequence is that sometimes I spontaneously cry. My pantheon of queer saints included Ron Athey, Robert Mapplethorpe, Derek Jarman, Brad Davis, Freddie Mercury, and Pedro Zamora. Of those, only Ron remains. This is the gospel according to dead saints. And Slowdive, the Credo of our liturgy miserabilis.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cold Specks, Part I

One of the most unique and talented singers I've been listening to for the past five years is Cold Specks. In 2013 she collaborated with Moby on two songs for his Innocents album: "A Case for Shame" and "Tell Me." Her voice was haunting; her lyrics, sublime. The vocals on those tracks took my breath away. I felt as if I was hearing a voice from my childhood that I long ago forgot existed as a possibility.

I devoured everything by her. I bought her first album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion as well as all the B-side and one-off tracks I could find. These songs were damn beautiful--a constellation of doom-soul and goth-folk. "Blank Maps," for me, is the highlight of her early work.

That October I flew to Los Angeles for Moby's concert at the Fonda Theatre, where I saw Cold Specks perform her two songs with him. I was enraptured.

The following year she released Neuroplasticity, an album gushing with angular jazz forms restrained within listenable pop structures. Her collaboration with jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire on that album proved fruitful, and she sang a track on his album that was also released in 2014. Here is "A Season of Doubt."

In just the first two years of following her career, Cold Specks excelled in bizarrely disparate genres. While cutting her teeth on folk-leaning doom-soul, she's also shown herself an impressive lyricist, singer, and interpreter of trip-hop, electronica, soul, and jazz. She even provided backing vocals on Massive Attack's "Dead Editors." All of this sets the stage for her third album, 2017's Fool's Paradise.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet is one of my favorite music groups. I first saw them perform live in 1989 or 1990, and as the cliche goes, they changed my life.

I had studied music since I was a child. I am a classically trained pianist, and in high school and college, I played both oboe and horn. I knew classical music and could pronounce "Wagner" and "Chopin" correctly. But Kronos Quartet revealed the world of new music to me. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

I have since seen them perform multiple times, and I have many of their recordings. Sometimes I seek out a specific track or movement for a particular mood; other times I put on an album or my entire playlist and let what comes come, especially while I'm writing.

Here are my Top Ten tracks performed by Kronos Quartet according iTunes:
  1. White Man Sleeps #4, composer Kevin Volans
  2. Adagio, composer Samuel Barber
  3. The Beatitudes, composer Vladimir Martynov
  4. String Quartet #5, Movement I, composer Philip Glass
  5. Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished), Movement I, composer Vladimir Martynov
  6. Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished), Movement II, composer Vladimir Martynov
  7. String Quartet #5, Movement IV, composer Philip Glass
  8. String Quartet #5, Movement II, composer Philip Glass
  9. String Quartet #5, Movement V, composer Philip Glass
  10. String Quartet #5, Movement III, composer Philip Glass
I don't know this from experience, but I suspect that the top four tracks will get you laid, if that's your thing. At the very least, they can help set the mood for some sweet lovemaking. But that mostly depends on your own fuckability.