Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's comin' on Christmas. They're cuttin' down trees...

You know, it's sad when you wake up alone on Christmas morning wishing you'd joined your friends for an early-a.m. Waffle House breakfast ambush, despite how your random upper respiratory tract infection-snacking has been impacting your body image, simply because you need to hear the half-toothed waitresses (waitressi?) call you "honey" and feign affection.

Truth be told it's not like I can spend the money-I can't. Seriously, three dollars for hash browns? You must be mistaking me for a pre-recession Russ. A Russ unconcerned with where his next paycheck's coming from (if from anywhere indeed). But I guess in a fashion akin to that used-up literary throwback of Holden Caulfield paying the hooker to talk to him (or not paying, really), I'd be willing to throw down for something warm, tasty, filling and greasy as hell if it's accompanied by a side-helping of someone pretending to care that, this Christmas, the only friend I really have is Joni Fucking Mitchell.

It's not like I listen to that much folk music in general, or much Joni Mitchell in particular, but Blue is an album that is intricately, almost synaesthetically, linked, for me, to winter. I had long conversations with that album cover yesterday, the first day of this year that I've actually listened to it straight through. Blue is the epitome of the sad, mournful holiday album, despite the fact that it affects a certain sort of almost-embarrassingly humble folky groove a little way through (see: "Carey"). Even the more upbeat moments, like "All I Want", mask a serious longing.

"I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Looking for the key to set me free
Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unraveling
Its the unraveling
And it undoes all the joy that could be"

This album is, I guess, this year, the Christmas present to myself to cap off a year where everything has changed. But then, it's the same present I give myself every year about this time. I always talk about Blue as a use-once-and-destroy album, and maybe what I mean is that, as opposed to being a throw-away album, it's the sort of record that I can only listen to during this time of the year. When there's no family to reach out to, no tree no lights nothing really? There's this record. This is the record that starts playing inside my head when the box of useless junk my mother sent to my work address because it's the only way she knows how to get in touch with me anymore arrives, and I have to bite my nails to the quick (which, these days, given how withered and brittle I've left my cuticles, doesn't take much) before finally deciding to open the package-boxed, of course, in a left-over industrial-sized box of napkins no doubt acquired from her job as a waitress or hostess at a cafeteria-style restaurant somewhere...I wouldn't know. I can't tell you the last time we've spoken.

Blue is too much red wine and a headache, it's cinnamon-scented coffee and waking up in the throws of a fever and peppermint tea and it's really the only way I know to spend the winter: me and this record. I don't actually own a copy of it for more than two or three months out of the year-there's no point for me, honestly. It's like wearing a wool sweater in the summer, or baking gingerbread cookies at Easter, or vacuuming to celebrate a birthday. Blue, for me, any time other than the long stretch of gray lonely that is the winter months , is completely anachronistic.

I understand why "River" gets cherry-picked for everyone's holiday compilations (though I don't understand how it ends up on, like, the Starbuxxx Super Merry Mega Happy Save Now Sale-A-Thon-For-Christ Compilation 8!!!!!, it's such a suicide song), but really the entirety of Blue is about a year ending, making resolutions, and longing for that which can't be had-which, frankly, is my schema for Christmas. Even the songs that should be totally dismissible, like "This Flight Tonight", come with forlorn gems in the middle:

"Sometimes I think love is just mythical
Up there's a heaven
Down there's a town
Blackness everywhere and little lights shine
Oh, blackness, blackness dragging me down
Come on light the candle in this poor heart of mine"

Anyway. I shouldn't still be sitting here, in my pajamas, with the Disney Parade or whatever the hell the network stations are showing on Christmas for families to have on in the background while they squeal with glee and smile over tea as presents are unwrapped and good will and joy and cheer and all that crap is spread around, on mute, choosing instead to have Joni sing to me about how she's so hard to handle because she's selfish and she's sad. There's a lukewarm Southern Christmas Wonderland outside, of closed shops and damp puddles and temperatures akin to early fall.

This is what I know of Christmas.

"Just before our love got lost you said
'I am as constant as a northern star'
And I said, 'Constantly in the darkness
Where's that at?
If you want me I'll be in the bar'"

Joni Mitchell never lies.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 in music (for me)

As usual, with anything I could potentially be involved with, my Top Albums Of 2008 list is, well, a little late. And....this isn't even it. I still have superlatives, and books, and things of that nature, to add. But I try to, in times like this, remember the old saying about eating an sucks. Entirely. And you shouldn't do it.

Russ's Top Catorce Albums of 2008
(why catorce? because, years ago, it was good enough for Bono, and that's still good enough for me)

1) Deerhunter, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont
Proustian meditation on southern small-town ennui, stasis, and the pains of being the world’s most pure-at-heart blogrock superstar. I had no idea these kids were capable of making an album this beautiful, this brilliant and this weird and out-right stunning…ever.

2) Kanye West, 808s And Heartbreak
God, when have I not been talking about this album lately? Even IF you divorce the ego from the music, you still get a stunning, stark, risk-taking album from a modern rap maverick. Leave what you know about Kanye in place, though, and you get something even more-the knowledge that this, what should have been a bedroom album catharsis about his breakup with his fiancée and the death of his mother (that he blames on her following his own love of excess and the trappings of fame), is publicly consumable.

3)Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree
Eschewing the glittery electro-stomp that they’d built their names and bank accounts on, this year Goldfrapp went wry, sincere and pastoral-ambient. I will admit to having listened to this album and nothing but this album for like a month as soon as I figured out the lyrics to “A&E”.

4)Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
Say what the hell you want about Weezy: boy is off his freaking rocker in all the right ways. Everyone looks for comparisons to justify their love for Lil Wayne, and mine is simple enough: Kool Keith. Wayne is the second coming of the multi-personality-laden, utterly unhinged and just-not-caring Keith.

5) Leila, Blood Looms and Blooms
Another early 2008 favorite, Leila’s “Blood, Looms and Blooms” is like a night-time visit to a moon-lit wax museum: child-like, haunting, and frightening.

6)School of 7 Bells, Alpinisms

This is what I think I wanted the High Places record to be: less ambience, more epic, world-music-informed emotive drone passages.

7)Portishead, Third
Jesus Christ who saw this one coming? The band that invented the salon-rock triphop genre suddenly returned from a length hiatus with…this. A stunning, bleak landscape of harsh sounds balances with Beth Gibbons’ unmistakably beautiful and fragile voice.

8)Lykke Li, Youth Novels
This album fell of my radar later in 2008, but early in the year I was all about this oddball Swede-pop chanteuse, so much so that to NOT have this on my tops of 08 would be utterly turning my back on the first half of the year.

9) Tie for nine: Now, Now Every Children, Cars/Atlas Sound, Let The Blind Lead Those Who See But Cannot Feel

Now, Now Every Children is a band that busted up into my listening habits, literally, a month before making this list. Their debut full-length, though, is so damn good that it shot up into the top ten-full of epic, sprawling and heartfelt songs like a more ramshackle Arcade Fire.

Atlas Sound is the flip-side of the coin from Bradford Cox, frontman of Deerhunter. Atlas Sound is his ambient/experimental project, which, at first listened, sounded like coins loose in an echo chamber to me. Played back-to-front with the new Deerhunter, though, Let the Blind sounds less like self-important electronic noodling and more like creepy, brain-infecting variations on the music from Twin Peaks.

10)TI, Paper Trail
OHMYGOD what an album. Every single song on this record bangs, both lyrically and beat-wise, and I have no doubt it’s because he did exactly what he said he would never do again-actually wrote his lyrics down. From the utterly cheesy (“Whatever You Like”) to the instantly pummeling (“Swagga Like Us”), this was the southern rap throw-down T.I. has been threatening to make.

11)Amanda Palmer, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
It’s not often in my older years that I can say an album “saved my life”. In middle and high school, I used to think various singer-songwriter records were keeping me from slitting my wrists (granted, I never tried, and even if I had I would have cut across the vein as opposed to with, and, I mean, probably would have had some stupid stitches and been bullied worse upon returning to school), but it’s not an experience that happens to me much anymore. Amanda Palmer’s solo record saved me this year, and really that’s all I need to say.

12)Magnetic Fields, Distortion

It doesn’t matter how much distortion you bury Stephin Merritt’s tongue-in-cheek, brilliant lyrics under, they still come through…though, for my taste, I PREFER the pounds upon pounds of Jesus and Mary Chain-homage fuzz that Distortion saw the ‘Fields warping their pop tunes in.

13) REM, Accelerate

God, in an ideal world I would have liked this album SO MUCH MORE. Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Up, Reveal-they all were within the top five albums of the year for me when they each came out.

(We won’t discuss Around The Sun.)

It’s not that Accelerate is a BAD record-far from it. But, in the band’s attempt to reclaim the meat-and-potatoes rock fans that basically haven’t given a crap in years, they eschewed the playful experimentation that made earlier (and, granted, less popular) albums so much fun. That said, there’s still some classic R.E.M. here-the whole album, in fact. I just wish it wasn’t so straight-forward.

14) Tie for Catorce: Atmosphere, When Life Gives You Lemons Paint That Shit Gold/Vampire Weekend, S/T
Slug from Atmosphere is my emo bro. Seriously-there’s no one in modern music who can lay out a verse about being done wrong by a woman and have me empathize so closely. I didn’t give it the proper listen upon release, but When Life held strong through the end of the year.

Vampire Weekend? Oh come on I can’t even pretend to be able to justify this.

Most. Rushed. Year-End. List. I've. Ever. Compiled. But I hold to it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A tweeter who twits?

Shocking, stunning, fasci-freaking-nating news:

I have joined the cult of twitter. I am now one of those twitterers who twitters via tweets.

Which, following the vernacular pattern, makes me a twat.

Color me late to the damn party, but showing up with my own liquor (half of it already open and consumed).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Headlines like the Spice Girls said

From the Atlanta Journal this morning, which, in recent days/weeks/months/years has become a hard-hitting paragon of southern journalism (no, seriously, if you only click one of those make it the "journalism" link): the single greatest headline in recent memory

Jesus, if that's front-page 26-point font news? The entire cheerleading team...troupe...gaggle...phalanx...what do you call a collective set of cheerleaders...(answer: cheap trick!...oh, sorry)...of my highschool should've ended up making the AP wire ages ago. Now I think they all just sweep hair at the Cutz-Barn and have babies. Simultaneously.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

See Rock City! The Heartbeat Of America! Today's Chevy Truck fights terrorism!

I need a vacation. Badly. With thoughts of said "vacation", completely unattainable, dancing in my head for no good reason , I decided to Google the one place I know would be a decent day's trip and also encapsulate my redneck youth, something I could technically consider "research" for my memoir...

rock city!

For those of you who don't have a Southern United States redneck past nipping at your heels, this is a brief description of the "wonders of SEEING ROCK CITY", note that it means seeing as an act you are doing not that the rock city itself is seeing because they are ROCKS they don't see a GOT DAMN THING SON, from the seerockcitydotcom website:

Start your morning with a biscuit and hot coffee at the Big Rock Grill. Journey along the Enchanted Trail through the Grand Corridor. Follow the stone path that winds through massive rock boulders. Each step is a discovery!

Thread yourself through the amazing Needle's Eye, shoulder-to-shoulder with tall boulders that allow only slivers of sunlight to penetrate the shadows. Listen to the hush of nature where cardinals and finches flutter. Will you cross the thrilling Swing-A-Long Bridge or rock-solid Stone Bridge? Either choice rewards you with awesome views.

Cast your wish upon the 140-foot High Falls. See if you can spot the Stone Face, keeping watch over the Chattanooga Valley and Missionary Ridge. Stand mightily upon world-famous Lover's Leap or Eagle's Nest and wrap yourself in the magnificent view. Remember to stop by our Gift Shop and buy a world-famous See Rock City birdhouse!

now, pictures:




America, Freedom, and the free market all slumber inside these:

In the early days, Colonial Buford C Butternutt of the Southern Fried Order of Hominy and Grits Incorporated, named "rock city" the 9th wonder of the world. they took another count, killed some folks, and suddenly it moved up a notch!


"we came here to save our marriage by doing furries, apparently"

Also, wasn't ruby falls, like, just a tap-water fountain with rave lights? We only had the $$$ to actually go to *that* part of the tour once in my youth, and I don't remember it looking like this:

which is something I'd expect, like, Jill to photoshop Bono jumping out of.

Anyway. I want to go to Rock City again is all I'm saying.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate thoughts upon waking

I am reading so much about last night, and I don't understand anyone, especially folks on my big blue socialist side of the fence, who think Obama scored some sort of massive, knock-down drag-out victory.

He proved again that he is who he is and who we've fallen in love with: someone brilliant, thoughtful, an engaging speaker and an orator on-par with the best of them. However, it's reaching out into hayseed America that wants blood, white and blue, because this is 'merica and 'merica is 'merica, who only respond to teeth and claws. Mccain is psy-fucking-chotic, and, yeah, by just refusing to press his buttons and staying cool, calm, and collected, even being overly humanist, Obama let some of Mccain's frankenweenie tendencies shine through. but how, how how how, did they come to a middle-ground that is that America, as a country, is SAFER than it was years ago on ACCOUNT OF the massive government invasions of privacy into our everyday lives? Obama, this is NOT what we stand for, we're better than this and you know it.

Grace is a simple, beautiful and powerful force, and Obama applied it last night in debating a human being while John Mccain acted like Grandpappy Sourmilk. Yes yes yes, we know there was no eye contact from Diaperville to the Hope-Train, but haystack America? The folks who play "born in the u.s.a" at weddings graduations funerals church sunday suppers and have never once realized Springsteen's blood beats as blue as the fucking ocean? They don't respond to gestures, to the theater of politics. they need words, bold ones and not big ones. And Obama's still just pandering to those of us who are fucking going to vote for him anyway.

Now, I hold out hope for two things. thing 1: bama and Uncle Longpants have two more rounds. I'm hoping that, like the drama geek he is, Obama's setting John up for a massive fucking "WTFEV, go on HOME, pappa warbreath, your bedtime's long since come and gone" trouncing in the next two, maybe even leading up to a "bitch, PLEASE" in the final debate when Mccain's like "OH HAI GUYZ I CAN HAZ PEEE OWWWE DOUBLEWE!?!?!" (one of the best moments of the night: "fool, shut your whore trap. i have a fucking bracelet too").

The second, and honestly this remains regardless: Biden vs Palin. Oh GOD THAT WILL BE AMAZING. I hope she brings a puppy, a stick of dynamite and three unwed 16 year old mothers-to-be as back up, she'll need them.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

On David Foster Wallace, or Something I'm Unqualified To Write

David Foster Wallace is dead, and on the floor by the bed lays my copy of Infinite Jest, unloved since I first bought it when I thought that, maybe one day, I'd fall in love with someone who'd be attracted to me solely for my owning the book.

Fortunately, that didn't come to pass. What did come to pass, however, last night, as I too-drunkenly and too-full thumbed my way through the pages, is the stark and utter realization that things like this happens. Great minds expire in a puff of smoke. And this, this happening on the same day I first turned the first page in the first Amy Hempel book I ever picked up, only to, two pages later, have to throw the book on the floor from the inability to not shake from the fucking beauty her sentences unleash in the world.

Someone comes to town, someone leaves town-that, apparently, is how it goes.

DFW's non-fiction and short stories had placed him in my top 10, with Infinite Jest being that work that always hung around, that was always on the bookshelf but had never made it any closer to the bedside, if only because the time was just never there. I feel like it's a neglected friend now that I'm supposed to say a few kind words about when the neglecting had been entirely my fault. That's insane, I fucking know, but if you don't have personal relationships with your books I don't understand you and would rather not try to.

I spent last night drunk, seeking consolation from the cold stark-bare minimalism of Amy Hempel's "at the gates of the animal kingdom" stories (thank you Mister Palahniuk for that), finding nothing but bones and limbs and this

"I want him to know what it clearly seems to me: that if it's true your life flashes past your eyes before you die, then it is also the truth that your life rushes forth when you are ready to start to truly be alive."

A friend's blog reminded me about the existence of Dear Mr Henshaw, and how I desperately want to read that book again. It was always a favorite of mine since long before I could understand what it meant-everyone comes from mire and muck, there's hope nowhere unless you find it-and it seems about right right now.

I've had several people-old colleagues, etc-tell me how DFW's death being suicide has placed him in questionable status for them, for their students, for his students, for anyone who looked up to him. I recognize that, I do. I won't get into a dissection of suicide, other than to say that there's not a person who can say they've never thought of it. No one. Not a soul. But there's a difference...thought vs action...and it's his work that's going to live on, as Infinite Jest continues to stare up at me from the floor by my bedside.

I will find the time.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Oh Tori, Where Art Thou?

Dear Tori Amos:

WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU? No, really, I know that you were last seen sporting a trash bag on loan from Missy Elliot and signing comic books inspired by what happens when artists listen to ecstasy and take Boys For Pele…or, wait, maybe it’s the other way around. Anyway, you’ve been M.I.A. in a way that only she should be, but even Maya Arulpragasam’s been more up in my face this election year, talking about “blop blop” and “pow pow” and probably something about Mr Plow, also, cause that’s his name, that name again is Mister Plow...

(L-R: some guy, some guy, a woman, Tori and her Hefty Synch-Sack, Some Guy, Baseball cap dude)

SARAH FUCKING PALIN. I know you’ve heard of her, Trans-Am. I know you have. She’s from a state so boring even Sufjan Stevens refuses to write a song about it, she wouldn’t let her daughter have an abortion even if the baby was conceived via rape, and, oh, yeah, she thinks doing public or community service work is for “pigeon-toed sissywhackers ( I may be misquoting).

(l-r: A bunch of guys named Njord or Thor or Thjord, Sarah Palin, more guys named Fnjord)
That’s the sort of utter and complete assbag insanity that would normally have you frothing at the mouth, Tee-Aim. Isn’t this where you hop on some platform, either Letterman or Leno or something fat dude with a lisp in a baby blue/black ringer tee three sizes too small who writes for a fanzine called “Breakfast Every Hour”** or “Civilized Syllabub”*** or “Freakish Pancake Amistad”**** clutching a voice recorder, a pen and a doll he made from scraps of your hair he gathered over the course of sneaking backstage approximately five hundred and seventy two times in the past six years (and he can tell you about each and every time-what shoes you were wearing, how many choc-o-nana-crispies he had to bribe the guards with, whether or not you played “leather”…and you always played “leather”), and start spouting complete and utter nonsense that ends up with deep, passionate truth attributed to it out of sheer and utter incoherence? Stuff like “if I was a tigress, that bitch would be a panda cub and in my safari…no, no, listen…in *my* safari, we eat the flesh. We. Eat. The. Flesh” or “It’s like the state of ketchup being met with a ice cream float on a tuesday…and I will not stand for anything less than a hamburger. We have to protect our sundaes, and our meats, before the convenience-stand vendors in power begin coleslawing through the milk chocolate.” Or something like that.

(Hey Y’all Tori Amos dressed like a sheep once)
WHERE ARE YOUR POLITICAL QUOTABLES, Tiggity-T? where is your “I would set fire to that bitch’s igloo with the pom-pom in my wampum”? I GREW UP THINKING THAT THE ONLY OPINION THAT MATTERED WAS YOURS, which is why i care SO MUCH ABOUT ICE CREAM FLAVORS, SHOES, and LED ZEPPELIN. In what could possibly be the most important, at least the most memorable, election of my generation’s lives, I want to hear you mutter completely senseless but partially and almost-epically brilliant noun/verb/wild animal/clothing store half-phrases that both empower and befuddle.

(optional caption 1: “KEEP YOUR LAWS OFF MY SWINE”

optional caption 2: “AMERICA FUCK YEAH”

optional caption 3: “This is a statement about the current political climate, the bush administration, and oh crap that’s areola”

optional caption 4: “it’s the economy, stupid”)

Fuck, Ori-Tay, you shoulda been a pundit. You make at least as much sense as O’Reilly, and I’m fairly sure at one point or another you compared evil drunken Grandpa Bill to “a lost goose sliding down a mountain of graham cracker pudding into a world of shitstorms and bound feet” OR SOMETHING. AND THAT IS BRILLIANT. People think “it’s the economy, stupid” is quotable til infinity? Give you a half-bottle of red wine, two lines and the opportunity to use the words “shoes”, “track-horse” and “milk-maid” in one sentence and we’d all have our new political mantra.

In the words of the great god-poet of the sky Yeezy: tori, we needja right now.

Tuna rubber a little blubber in my igloo*****, which probably means OBAMA 08 MUTHAFUCKAS,

**an actual tori lyric, probably not a fan-zine name

***see above

****i’m just fuckin’ with you now.

*****nope, she said that.

Originally posted at Resonator Mag


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How to help old men stalk teenagers.

This is why I refuse to take the suit-and-tie Superprofessional 100k-a-year ad and marketing industry too seriously.

from my subscription to AdAge (or "adage", which, amusingly enough, rings akin to "sewage"), comes this:


Held in a fat, weird guy's mom's basement New York, but still incredibly, horrifyingly creepy in everything from concept to any potential execution. I envision something like that convention the Corinthian was a part of in Sandman.

From the conference's promotional mailing:

• Discover how to use social networking and other online marketing tools to build a big buzz
about your brands on a small budget
• Hear exclusive research from Nielsen Mobile and The N/The MTVN Kids & Family Group
• Learn how to anticipate major market trends in order to keep your brands relevant
to teen consumers
• Get straight answers to your questions from a live panel of teen boys and girls
• Connect with leading brand and agency experts at the MarTEENi Networking Reception

...The enticement to attend is that THERE WILL BE "LIVE TEENS"? Sweet. So this is just like being a predator on AOLCHAT, only way easier and in a higher income bracket!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sports like Huey Lewis

Maine, where my girlfriend is from, has the best baseball mascot ever:

A MER-DOG! Named Sluggo. Or Slugger. Or Slurm.

Something like that.

Now, if I had a Baseball team, my mascot would either be

and be called "Super-hittin' Snackyfriends",


and be the "Morrissey Mopers".

As a third option, I would, as Baseball Team Leader(...Manager? Project Manager? Do baseball teams have project managers? Executive Assistants? CEOs?)/Project Manager, consider:

"The Jessica Fletchers".

Ignore the safari hat: she KNOWS. Trust me, scum, she knows.

When will some two-bit American wanna-be-electro duo call themselves "Jessica Fletcher" and dance around onstage in pink panty/bra sets playing keytars? Anyone with friends in a band can take this one for free. I'm glad to be of service.