Yeah, I know, its not much of a title for a
music column, but you probably picked this guide up for free anyway, so quit yer
complainin. Besides, it gives me a reason to start using a ratings system (for all
those who, like me, prefer a user friendly precis option in their media reviews):
^^^^^= Five chips- The salsas great and the chips are eternally
refreshed. Dunk at will and repeatedly. Own this.
^^^^ = Four chips- The chips are a wee tad more stale than you would
prefer. Enjoy the salsa, though, cause its mighty tasty. You might want to own
^^^ = Three chips- Salsas less than perfectly fresh and the chips
are still stale. It adequately mimics the peach salsa experience, but that very special
something is missing. Borrow this at least.
^^ = Two chips- It physically resembles chips and salsa, but it
aint it. Dont feel bad if you miss hearing this.
^ = One chip- It seems to resemble a food stuff, but who knows what it
is anymore? If you must, crane your neck briefly to take notice of this, as you would a
car wreck on the highway.
_ = No chips- Better you eat cow chips than this. Avoid this and warn
your friends to avoid this. Please.
All set? Good. Now for this months reviews.
(A mental diary of the early days of the post WTC age)
So Im wandering around a strip mall on
Wednesday, September 12th, in one of those moments when I wonder if Ive just been
too wrapped up in myself to notice the world going to hell.
And this because the sporting goods store on this mall closed ten
minutes early, and I couldnt get a new backpack to replace my one with the quickly
wearing out zipper.
I stuff it too full anyway. Right now, it has probably three different
notebooks, a sketchbook, two trade paperbacks (you know, those larger ones), an address
book, a date book, various other sundries and a newspaper with a headline Id been
seeing all day.
Yup, too full. So, I obsess briefly on how I can simplify my life. One
notebook, maybe? Only one paperback? (I remember the pictures of shell-shocked
businessmen, covered in dust, debris and ash, still clutching their briefcases
Maybe I should leave that newspaper at home.
Yeah, thats it. I mean, on a personal level, do I really need
this? Do I need to be reminded that the horrific, politicized violence of the Gaza Strip,
the West Bank and Northern Ireland are now only a couple of hours down the road? Nah,
leave it home. Theyll be playing these images again. Sure. Ignore that feeling that
you should hang onto these pictures, in your bag or your mind. Stop telling yourself that
you should never forget them.
Didnt I see something like this already in "Independence
Day?" That movie was fun. Stupid, but fun. Remember the President in that movie,
played by Bill Pullman? He was fun to watch as a dimwit in "Ruthless People"
about ten years before. Not like realitys President at all
Bill Pullman keeps on getting confused with Bill Paxton. Bill Paxton
was the panicky Marine on a hair-trigger in "Aliens," and a cruel, ignorant
older brother in "Weird Science." Oh, and he was in that other big
"reality" based disaster movie, too, the one that showed us people leaping from
the upended bow of the sinking ship
Yup, leave it home.
It wasnt a movie. It seemed like a TV show. It messes with my
basic sense of security, and is another reminder of how not-in-control we are. How
not-in-control we ever were.
The people who engineered this destruction believed themselves in
control, Im sure. They werent.
The passengers boarding those flights trusted someone else with
control. The people who went to work that day, like everyday, trusted that they, or surely
someone like them was in control.
And all fell to chaos. Or:
Some very misguided people did some extraordinarily, monstrously,
murderous things, all operating under the misconception that it would gain them something.
No one got anything worth getting, though. When the day ended (if it
has yet), we all had even less than when we started, and the whole event merely served to
re-purpose and re-motivate a war machine which had never really stopped with the Cold
Welcome to the twenty-first century.
Where jumbo jets destroy landmarks and you cant even get a decent
IDYLLS EPILOGUE (Morning, September 13th)
My brother and his wife have been out in California on business. I had
a dream last night that I and a friend were walking past their empty, suburban home, when
a jumbo jet crashed into it, nose-first, obliterating much of their neighborhood. I and my
friend ran away, ahead of the flames and debris. No time to process it all as two or three
blocks of West Hartford were razed free of homes and businesses
mostly homes. We
thought about running back in to help people
I was only dimly aware on waking up that this was what could be
technically called a nightmare. It certainly wasnt a happy dream. I was still
disconnected from the images. It was more like
I turned on the television at 5 am. The weatherman was too choked up to
Well, October 2nd, anyway
About ten years ago, I used to offer my reviews to this program guide
in comics form. It was near the Gulf Wars beginning (Police Action/ War
dont seem to need formal declarations anymore), and I remember drawing a strip
depicting myself in a dark hole with only a candle for light. I spent some time
recommending CDs and much more time bemoaning another war offering "more blood
for oil." By the next issue, I was walking around in a brighter room
I guess it would piss some people off for me to say that I dont
know any good reason to kill somebody. Oil? Economic stability? Preserving the Status Quo?
Are my feelings just cowardice? I could tell you I was raised a
Catholic, though at this moment I consider myself a fallen-away agnostic. Does either
designation mean anything to you?
Heres another sad thing. At times like this, there are people who
wish to draw you into a debate about why you dont think killing is a good idea.
How about if I tell you I thought those terrorist attacks were the
worst ideas, brought about by the most hateful and close-minded of people? What does it
take to say Im an American?
What does it take to wave a flag? My friend who lives in the midwest
with his soon to be growing family, proudly displays the flag as a symbol of solidarity,
as do their neighbors, who are Muslims and Bosnians.
The week of the attack, someone was driving up and down the street in
his truck waving the flag and yelling "Fk the Ay-rabs!"
Now this will sound strange, but bear with me. This goes somewhere.
One major event of my life was this auto accident I was caught in some
years ago. One of my arms was broken, and the other was dislocated at the shoulder. I
vividly remember a moment beyond the shock of the immediate accident, when I was lying on
the ground, waiting to be moved to the ambulance. The moment they lifted me, they had to
move my arms.
I dont really remember the pain, but it had to have been there,
because I do remember the loudest, highest notes I think Ive ever screamed being
drawn from my throat.
It was a new event for me (I was in my thirties, and, luckily,
hadnt broken a bone to that point), so I, talker that I am, needed to seek out
someone to give me an idea of proportion to my pain.
THIS will sound REALLY strange
I waited for the right moment to ask a friend a delicate question. She
was the only person I had known, for a fact, to have experienced both badly broken bones,
and childbirth. Given what Id read and heard, women likewise come forth with loud
uncharacteristic utterances in their pain.
So, I asked for a comparison. Told you it was strange.
But, as I suspected, there was more contrast than comparison. Even if
you forget the two wholly different emotional spheres surrounding these pains, there is
one very big important factor to consider:
Endurance. My fantastic pain lasted only when they moved me. Labor pains go on quite a bit
longer, thank you very much.
Having received that instant perspective, Ive filed the matter
away until such time as I have a mate or another friend giving birth, who may want to
share the pain of that "moment," perhaps with the aid of a blunt object.
Hopefully, I can duck in time.
The upshot of the story is, pain can motivate people to sing, to create
or to destroy. Its tough to talk about. And its tough to gain any perspective
on that time does not lend.
To say war creates pain is very glib indeed, because war, in turn, is
created by pain, usually mental anguish or illness brought on by loss of some kind.
You could say war is brought on, too, by greed, but isnt
excessive greed a form of mental illness.
War creates pain, which creates war. Its a chicken and the egg
dilemma, isnt it?
Here I pause for a moment to remember a moment from a classic American
TV show. Yep. I speak, of course, of Star Trek.
In "A Taste of Armageddon," Kirk and company beam down to a
planet, one of two so committed to their endless war, that they think theyve found a
way to make their war easier to sustain, leaving their cultures and cities standing. They
wage their "imaginary" wars on computers, which record real
"casualties", dutiful citizens who surrender themselves on command to
disintegration chambers. War with all the death, but no destruction is the idea.
Kirk, easily the most "warlike" of the Trek leads thus far
(admittedly a generally peace loving bunch), ironically points out the flaw in their
plans, and takes it upon himself to destroy their war computers. The planetary natives
immediately react with horror at Kirks "barbaric" act, but then Kirk
suggests another answer to their warlike ways.
Simply stop killing each other.
Its that simple.
All it takes to stop war, is to stop killing, to stop destroying, and
recognize that the will to do this is as natural as the will to kill.
Pause to think past anger, past politics and you can stop killing.
I was heartened (surprisingly) by something I read in the Hartford
Courant on Friday, September 21st. While on the front page, our President poured forth
fiery rhetoric in one of the most stirring presidential speeches ever (and expectedly so),
as he spoke of unmarked graves, of polarizing politics and of the "Office of Homeland
Security," further down the page was the story of Judy Keane, a woman widowed by the
tragedy, as closely touched as any American could be by it.
She has begun to mobilize for peace.
She wrote to President Bush, urging him not to go to war over this, out
of concern for the thousands more innocents that could be hurt or killed in an act of
She doesnt want vengeance. She wants justice.
And she prays, as Im sure an increasing number do, as I do, that
somehow, someway this President will care that there is a difference between the two.
I dont remember where exactly in the Bible it said it (I think it
was in one of the Apostles letters), but this wisdom holds true in war or peace:
"If you want peace, work for justice."
DO NOT OPEN TILL XMAS/CHANUKAH/SATURNALIA/KWAANZA, ETC
In fact, holiday music! So if you dont want to be hearing this
stuff now, wait, and read this in December some time.
Otherwise, read on
Every year on my show ("Call It Thing," the Friday
"Gothic Blimp Works" (Midnight to three, following Friday "Accent on
Jazz"), I do what I call "Moondogs Holiday Vortex" a collection of
tunes and sounds centered around the great winter holidays that celebrate
This years show should fall on Friday night, December 21st, and
may feature these songs, or may not. At any rate, I present here, for your consideration,
some lesser known and/or less traditional holiday tunes.
John Wesley Harding- "Bridegroom Blues" (from The
Name Above the Title (Sire/Reprise, out of print))
"Joeys down in the dope queue
He should have signed on yesterday
Well, if he was a carpenter
And she was his lady
He wouldnt be able to make it pay, no
Harding, in a very ignored tune, recasts the nativity in the very
modern day, with Mary considering an abortion, and an unemployed, suspicious Joseph
("he dont believe in angels/ shes been seeing another man
a tune which is liberally peppered with "Silent Night" imagery, with a driving
beat and blaring horns and guitars matching the garishness and daring of the tune. Great.
Vince Guaraldi Trio (& Chorus)- "My Little Drum"
(from A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy))
Yes, "Linus & Lucy" and "Christmas Time Is
Here" are better known, but dont skip this little classic, which didnt
make the cut of the original animated special. Guaraldi takes "Little Drummer
Boy," and arranges it for a vocalizing chorus and jazz trio, a tasty concoction.
Fishbone- "Slick Nick, You Devil You" (from Its
A Wonderful Life (Gonna Have A Good Time) (EP, Columbia, out of print) classic
old Fishbone from a lost EP, circa 1989. It describes a childs nightmare encounter
with a drunken, carousing, thieving Santa, hilariously amped up to its melodramatic
heights by Angelo Moores unforgettable vocal ("You put Mad Dog in my sock/ I
wanted candy! I wanted candy! I WANTED CANDY!!!").
The Chieftains and Elvis Costello- "The St. Stephens
Day Murders" and The Chieftains and Jackson Browne- "The Rebel
Jesus" (from The Chieftains-The Bells of Dublin (RCA Victor)) Elviss
great lyrics amusingly confuses an overworked, stressed out holiday scene with murderous
intent ("ah its nice for the kids/ as you finally get rid of them"), while
Jackson Browne brings home the political importance of Christian ideals as only a self
described "heathen and a pagan" could.
Shelleyan Orphan- "Ice" (from various holiday
collections, particularly A Different Kind of Christmas (various artists, Risky
Business/ Columbia) or Acoustic Christmas (various artists, Columbia)
Wow. A Haunting, affecting holiday story, as singer Caroline Crawley
portrays a ghost agonizingly separated from all concepts of holiday joy by death. Despite
the "downer" theme, I still find myself singing along ("I dont like
Christmas anymore/ Since then out here, I just think of before/ Hands round this
table, silly lives/ I feel you standing on some other side"). Ripping stuff.
Stan Freberg- "Green Christmas" (from various sources,
including Dr. Dementos first Christmas Collection (various artists, Rhino)
and Christmas Comedy Classics (various artists, Priority). As hard a slamming of
the commercialization of the holidays as is possible, while still being at all funny.
Freberg recasts Scrooge as an unrepentant capitalist, who, instead of being moved by the
Christmas spirit, completely twists it to his own purposes, rejoicing in the money to be
made while exploiting the idea of peace on Earth.
Skunk Anansie- "Selling Jesus" (from Paranoid and
Sunburnt (Epic/ One Little Indian). OK, so the song is more generally about the
exploiting of love and religion for political and monetary gains, but when Skin screams
"LOOOOOVE!" repeatedly, youd better be feeling the holidays, or something
like them. For that extra seasonal connection, buy it as part of the soundtrack to Strange
Days (various artists, Epic Soundtracks). That movie, if youll recall, was set
at the then future turn of the 20th Century. You know, New Years Eve
Dianne Reeves- "A Merrier Christmas" (from Christmas
Present: Todays Stars Sing Holiday Classics (various artists, EMI-Capitol).
Thelonious Monk writing a Christmas tune
hell, damn near anything
to sit up and take notice. When interpreted by a wonderful voice like Ms. Reeves, the late
masters take on holiday time sentiment is even more precious a thing of beauty.
Cassandra Wilson- "The Little Drummer Boy" (from Jazz
to the World (various artists, Verve)). Cassandra Wilson brings sensual new life to
the old Harry Simeone chestnut. With its bluesy overtones and simple mbira and drum
backing, it is a wonder anew.
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra- Tchaikovsky: The
Nutcracker Suite (Arranged by Ellington & Billy Strayhorn) (Columbia). From
"Arabesque Cookie" to "Sugar Rum Cherry," Tchaikovsky has never swung
Henry Rollins- "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (from
A Lump of Coal (various artists, First Warning/ BMG)) and Luscious
Jackson- "Queen of Bliss" (both from O Come All Ye Faithful: Rock
for Choice (various artists, Columbia)). Rollins only had to imagine the LAPD in full
riot gear to envision this war zone take on Clement Moores classic. I wonder what we
might think of now?
Luscious Jacksons simple conglomeration of beats and choral
echoes features a simple lyric attempting to communicate the fear and wonder of a virgin
birth ("Dont know how it happened and I dont know why, my babys
lying in a manger/ came to me from on high, came to me from a stranger").
The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl- "Fairytale of New
York" (from If I Should Fall from Grace with God (Island)). The late Kirsty
MacColl lent her graceful pipes to this duet, also featuring (then) Pogues lead
vocal Shane MacGowan. Its all about Christmas love, dysfunctional relationships,
romance and magic, with a good trade of insults thrown in to boot.
The Beatles- "Christmas Time Is Here Again" (from Free
As A Bird (CD Single, Apple)). The complete 1967 Beatles Fan Club Christmas
Message remains an elusive prize (at least for me). Until I can get that, I soothe myself
with the segments of that message available on this "B-side" from the Beatles
Anthology single, "Free As A Bird." The tune itself was used, in smaller
segments, in the message, and is here capped by John Lennons Glaswegian poetic
Christmas wish, originally used at the end of the 67 message.
Jane Siberry- "Are You Burning, Little Candle?" (from Winter
Fire and Snow (various artists, WEA/ Atlantic) or Child (Blackbird/ Sheeba)).
Finally, an ode to the wonder of the capacity of humanity to synthesize hope from the
coldest of seasons:
"Shine your light on me
A little space left here to review Björks latest, the
beautifully wintery, Vespertine (^^^^½). With its chilly ambiences,
childrens chorus and music box melodies, this album, too, is a wonderful match for
winter holidays (or anytime you feel like one). Consider Christmas in July, why dont
Wow! Its just plain wacky!
Björks lyrics here speak frequently of love and transcendence,
placing them firmly in the territory of romantic poetry, like that of e.e. cummings (whose
lyrics she uses for "Sun in My Mouth").
She continues the musical concepts of her Selmasongs collection,
with beats sampled from the ambient clicks, pops, scratches and even snow crunching, of
everyday life. Madonna should be this inventive. Alas, no.
Add to that Björks sheer vocal imagination (screams, whispers
and other odd phrasings (no, not just because shes icelandic, OK?)), and you get an
intoxicating and just plain beautiful piece of work. And its all just par for the
course for this ladys solo work.
We may hear nothing more beautiful this year.
Next time, perhaps Ill cover the years best stuff. Or not.
Be well, and happy holidays.
Copyright©WWUH: November/December Program Guide, 2001