Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sometime I just ramble, maybe to make sure I don't have lockjaw or the Airborne Toxic Event

So the day before I finish reading Don DeLillo's 'White Noise' I roll into Eau Claire to stay the night at my parents house, just a little layover before I go to Milwaukee in the morning. But that morning the 'Waste Research and Reclamation' plant, on the south side of Eau Claire, catches fire. This building stores hazardous chemicals that can't be dumped into landfills; Eau Claire has a Teflon processing plant nearby and also manufactures some various products for military consumption. Anyhow it catches fire around 6am Friday (one week ago), there are only ten employees still working, around from the over-night shift. They fail to put the fire out with fire extinguishers and the fire departments begin to show up as the fire spreads. At this point the city hasn't officially told residents of Eau Claire to leave there homes (that might cause panic, right?) instead they have lightly suggested that it might not be a bad idea to leave your homes if you live on the south side of town. Businesses are shut down; people are told that they shouldn't go outside until there is an official report on if the chemicals are in the air (which is a whole other subject that irritates me, where the fuck do you think the air indoors comes from? unicorn farts? shit).

Then, as the fire spreads flammable containers begin to catch, which I haven't found an official word on the amounts of each chemical in the containers, but the plant began to shoot fireballs over 300 feet into the morning sky over Eau Claire. My father works at Bothun Nissan on the south side of town, they were having a sale, so they didn't shut down, he said you could see the flames as he was driving into work from the north side of town. Giant waves of flames and a growing black cloud. (I only mention White Noise at the beginning because this all sounds eerily like the Airborne Toxic Event). Public Officials, by nighttime, tell the city that the fire is under control, they are monitoring the air quality and that there is (this is a real quote) "no bad stuff in the air." Which I question, but I don't have the know-how to contradict him, so fuck it, I'm an idiot. But they put out these chemical fires with water (from 11 different fire stations in western Wisconsin). In the morning, again, city officials say "no bad stuff," breathe freely citizens (I still question it) but that the water supplies might be contaminated from the run-off of the fire.

Then what? The Leader Telegram (Eau Claire's daily paper) reports nothing after that second day. I scoured the internet for more information (not that you maybe wouldn't find something I couldn't) but there is nothing, NPR did a special the day after, then nothing, Star Tribune: one article the day after, Pioneer Press: one article, the day after. Everyone just let this go, and that kind of worries me. I don't live in Eau Claire and my real issue with doesn't have much to do with that my parents and little brother are drinking the city water and breathing the air (inside and out), but that this is how our news is run now. No one is digging deeper, it's not about getting information and creating informed and alert citizens, it's about headlines. That was entertaining for a day, but even the people it effects tuned out, Paris Hilton was about to get out of jail, and certainly that was more important. I know it was more important because I watched CNN for half an hour and there was more time spent on Paris Hilton than anything else that day, I believe we timed it at about 7 minutes worth of Hilton news. Doesn't anyone else think this is the kind of thing that city needs to continually keep people posted on and maybe issue some fines, maybe be checking the water supply and having the paper run the reports, even if it's on page 66Z. I'm sure there is more info out there (and if you've found some or know where to look please leave a comment and let me know, I'm very interested in the omnipresent apathy during this situation).

I just think that this event is somewhat emblematic of where our minds are and where the news sources we rely on are putting their priorities, I'm interested in this event, an important one in some respects, especially for the citizens of western Wisconsin whose air and water may or may not be contaminated, but I can't even find info when I'm hunting for it, when it should probably be readily available for everyone. Just a thought.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

whose a fucking star?

3: a famous or extraordinarily talented performer in the world of entertainment or sports
an outstandingly good or successful person in a thing or group

These are two, abbreviated, definitions of the word "star." Now i know this is not an exceptional way to start a blog or essay but I was contemplating the use of the term star yesterday while listening to Oxbow. I was talking about Eugene, their singer, who is simultaneously a journalist (he interviewed Clinton...), the editor in chief of a major magazine, the singer of a band that kicks ass all over, a professional fighter and an ex-porn star. Now Eugene Robinson isn't a household name, my father has never asked me, when I visit, if I read that Eugene Robinson article last month, or if I'd ever seen that one porn from 92' with eugene Robinson and that woman with a penis.
I've been sidetracked, the point here is that here is a man who is clearly not a star. Mainstream pop culture would never accept him as an icon. In his own way he is a star, of sorts, in small cults of society, mainly Germany and San Fran. But he is nonetheless a porn STAR.
Now if you worked hard playing baseball your whole life, there is a one in a billion chance that you could be a star athlete, or, likewise, if not used ironically, you could work your whole life to be a rock star. But the second you pull out your penis, or vagina, in front of a camera you are a star. Everyone who has sex on camera is referred to as a porn star. Maybe it's implied that they are exceptionally good at sex but this seems silly to me. How do you know who's good? Sure everyone knows the household names like Dirk Diggler, Jenna Jamison, Ron Jeremy, names people who have never seen a porn know, but if you're a beginner where do you start? Everyone's a star in porn. I've really got no one where to go from here, I'm cornered, I just wish there was some osrt of implied rating system in porn. Actually I don't, I just know I'll never be a star of any sort, and now you're going to tell me that some high school drop out is a star, and I'm a fucking no one. Who gives a shit? You think you're so special?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Miranda July (dustin swoons)

I've recently finished reading Miranda July's new book, 'No One Belongs Here More Than You.' If you aren't familiar with July she's a performance artist/filmmaker/author (who I wish I could hate, but love so much). She is one of the rare artists who tries to wear many hats simultaneously. Though, unlike artists such as Nick Cave or Kevin Bacon, she is continously successful at everything. 'No One Belongs Here More Than You' is not an exception.

For July fans:
Her book floats. It's in another world. Not in the way that Judy Budnitz's 'Flying Leap' is only marginally grounded in reality (though not to its disadvantage) 'No One Belongs...' creates its own reality. If you try to place a finger on what its 'otherness' exactly is you won't find it. It is real, very grounded, but very distant. For any July fan the book is an instant lover that demands to be reread, it's her typical, overly-poignant, non-sequitor-esque, dialogue. The stories wear bright colors (like the two pink or yellow covers available for the book) they leap in your face and sit in your mouth.

For everyone else:
For anyone who wouldn't consider themselves a fan of her work its an intriguing experience. It is a solid debut collection. Not perfect, solid. Stories like 'The Shared Patio,' and 'The Swim Team' are some of the best short story writing I've seen from any author in the last few years. The tone she has refined (or maybe the tone she was born with, the tone that George Saunders has coined as July-esque) is omnipresent. It leaves you wondering if she is relentlessly, hopelessly optimistic in the face of the horrors of the every-day, or if the characters in her stories are so riddled with pain that they have adopted this tone, refusing to accept that the world is as bleak as it appears.

For Everyone:
Read this book. If you have ever been intrigued by Judy Budnitz, Don DeLillo, Nick Flynn, Dave Eggers or need a good view of a harsh world through eyes that only see beauty you need this book.

She has also created the greatest website a book has ever recieved book site

for more info on her go to or

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

5 reasons to Annex Wichita (or I have a theory about that nasty lesion in the middle of America)

I, among many others in America, have had the priviledge of seeing Wichita, KS. If you are one of these people I know that you relate to this article, hopefully you will feel a sense of community, a feeling that what you feel, the sky you see, are not only yours but part of a larger scheme connecting all of us to each other.

Part 1: Wichita Theory

Wichita theory is the notion that the butthole of the midwest, namely Wichita (doesn't the sound of the word even make you cringe a little), should be annexed from our great nation. Wichita. A realy awful place. I'm not even really that patriotic, well maybe I am, I don't know, I just know I live in this country and Wichita is stinking it up.

You: Well that sounds a little extreme.

Me: Fuck it, what has Wichita ever done for you?

You: Point taken.

Me: On to my 5 reasons why Wichita should be annexed (or, really, I'd be satisfied if we turned it into a dumping grounds for spoiled Chinese imports)

1. Wichita is the "air capital" of the world. (for real check the official page for the city of Wichita)

This is a bit of a stretch. Air capital? We've got air in Minneapolis, Chicago. Even Huston and L.A. have a little air left. And I've been to Wichita the air tastes like greasy ass.

Oh wait, air capital doesn't refer to breathing air? Fuck you, learn to speak. Wikipedia says that Wichita is the air capital of the world because it is home to six major aircraft manufacturing firms. Even better. Lets advertise how much this place sucks because that's the best we can do. Lets move to Wichita where hundreds of test planesfly over our house all day and where the rejects of Kansas probably crash planes into homes weekly. Nothing like the steady rumble of jets roaring over head in the morning to make you feel like you're alive.

2. Don Johnson and Kirstie Alley live in Wichita.

nothing says "Mom, I'm a pedaphile" like a Don Johnson greeting card.

The caption to this photo actually reads "Wichita is for fart-biters"

3. According to Money magazine Wichita is the 9th best place to live in the U.S.
3. People in Wichita lie to people at Money magazine about how great Wichita is.

Every fucking city in the U.S. was listed in some magazine, or by some study, as one of the top ten safest cities in the U.S., or the top 10 places to live, or the top 10 places to visit. So fuck Money magazine, I canceled my subscription because they hire retards to do their studies.

Wichita's website also seems very proud that Wichita is the 51st biggest city in the U.S.

No one's paying attention. 51st? Who gives a shit? I don't ever remember going to work and talking with my co-workers about who took 51st in the NHL this season or who finish 51st in freestyle swimming at the last Olympics. Why? Because no one knows who it is. No one figured it out because when the numbers get that high it's just easiest to assume every one is a loser.

Wichita: But we're the biggest city in Kansas

Me: No one cares. Kansas Sucks. Even Kansas City left.

4. The addition non-stop flights means your airport is closing, retards.

A quote from the Wichita Eagle:
"With new nonstop flights on the horizon, the number of passengers flying in and out of Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in
2007 could set a record..."

By offering nonstop flight the airport has successfully limited its commercial routes to only Kansas City and Chicago. Who is visiting the air capital often enough that you need nonstop flights to anywhere?

5. You don't believe me? Ask someone from Wichita.

I would venture to call this purely mindless if these kids weren't on my team.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Not so Grand Old Day

I went to Grand Old Day in St. Paul this year. It was my first chance to really see Grand Ave. turned into a middle of nowhere style carnival. Moderatly frightening. I work on Grand Ave. and had this year off for Grand Old Day, so I was hesitant to go because I've had to work it every year, and that is an awful expereience, we gave out free ice cream last year so I spent my whole god damn day scooping ice cream for sugared up, spoiled brats. Spectaular.

So really I was going to Grand Old Day to see some music. There are somthing like 7 or 8 stages on Grand for the day. Most of which are hosting bands that aren't worth seeing in a free concert, much less the outrageous five bucks they charge for a wristband to get into the "free" event. But the Dixies stage is usually a pretty good line-up. This years included The Dad in Common, The Alarmists and Tapes-n-Tapes. The Dad in Common was my real reason for going (i just picked up their newest disc "Various Moms," - awesome) But I was moving in my new roomate for most of the early afternoon (our living room is real comfy now) So I missed both The Dad in Comon and The Alarmists, but went to see Tapes-n-Tapes anyhow.

Now i've seen them four or five times now, and am continually being tricked by the prospect of seeing them again. i really like their first Ep and The Loon is a solid album as well. But they are fucking awful live. Their could be a number of reasons this is my perception. The first time I saw them was pretty stellar, at First Ave. with Stnnng!, Kill the Vultures and The Plastic Constellations. Good show, good crowd, good drinks, good times. But everytime since them I have progressivly liked them less and less. they write good songs, it hasn't diminished the value of their albums, but they have no energy at all live. Not that I'm looking for mosh pits and a band that's going to run on stage and start destroying everything (I had my run with S.T.U.N. and The Blood Brothers) but they just feel like corpses on stage. Given the mix at an outdoor show such as Grand Old Day is not where you should be if you're looking for a solid sound mix and a fun crowd. But Jesus, it's everytime, they always have a bad mix, there is always something that is standing in the way of them delivering a good show. So I'm going to try and do something for mysle fand I am publicly declaring that I refuse to see Tapes-n-Tapes again. Unless the improve their shows...

On the bright side of the show the premiered some new tunes. Which were supriosingly some of the best tunes they played on Sunday. So I'm not giving up on listening to them all together, I think just from hearing those songs that there is potential for a decent follow-up to The Loon, and maybe their extensive touring over the last year is influencing their writing and they are writing songs that are based more out of a live tradition. Songs that are being fleshed out through live performances and informed by their lives on the road. (That doesn't necessarily mean that it will be good, as is repeatedly shown a band that has a good major-label debut has to change their lives greatly to adapt to life as a touring band and between a different lifestyle and inter-band tensions it ruins many bands by a second album, but they sound like they are benefiting from their experiences).

Really, if you take anything away from this posting, let it be this: Don't Go To Grand Old Day (in caps, I know). It's like a carnival for yuppies. The Dixie's stage isn't bad, but damn I hate Grand Old Day.

Disappointingly Redundant Louie

I finished watching the first season of Lucky Louie this week, and to say the least I'm quite disappointed. It's not really awful but, oh, I don't know, it's so complicated. Louis CK is great, he's one of the greatest comedians I've ever seen. He's not much of an actor but neither is Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David or Mitch Hedberg, comedy is not necessarily about acting. So that aside, I'm still disappointed. It's like when you really love a band and know the tunes they put on that EP that probably sold about 20 copies and then they put out a full length (you know, something that will actually sell) and they put the same fucking songs on it. And you wonder, why did you do that? I thought we were moving on, you've recorded this before. that's what watching the only season of Lucky Louie is like if you've seen all of his stand-up repeatedly. I haven't seen his new stand-up special, I'm sure it will be great, but Lucky Louie is nothing more than a complete season of acting out his old, old comedy routines. Which is good, at times, like when he is explaining his nightmares about Hell in the confessional to the father. Priceless. But that only really takes you so far before you say, wait a second the premise of every episode is that he's left in charge of his daughter, he fucks it up, his wife gets mad, they make up, everyone is a better person, until next episode when it all begins again. The show is fine, its humourous, but it isn't original, its a little redundant, it lacks the creative spin on traditional topics like marriage and kids that Louis CK made his name on. Worth a viewing, if nothing else, so that you know why HBO pulled the plug on a show that had great potential and just had not come into it's own yet.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

People with money say march, I say no, as I hop in line

It seems very chic at the moment to not dig Wes Anderson anymore. If pressed everyone seems to give a luke warm response as to why they don’t really want to watch him anymore, (they're too absurd, I don't believe the characters, no one talks like that, I don't really relate). there is an overwhelming sense that his films are becoming (or always have been) mediocre, or maybe it's just the people that I know. Given, he’s not a perfect filmmaker, the non-sequitors can become overbearing and too conveniently witty, the cast of reoccurring actors are become caricatures of themselves in the world of his films (Noah Baumbach’s as well, as long as we’re on the subject) )I’ve grown a bit tired of the new Bill Murray (Broken Flowers, Tenenbaum’s, Lost in Translation, Life Aquatic, etc. etc.) he’s great but its becoming a shtick) (speaking of non-sequitors) but the greatest filmmakers America has produced have consistently had these same things said about their catalogue of work. Maybe not these exact things, but it's damn near impossible to make a run of films that people would consider brialliant. And if there was really little to scrutinize the films couldn't be something fresh and intriguing.

So what’s the point? I’m not trying to bash his films; in fact, though I'm not uniformally enthralled by his work, I'm somewhat of a fan, I'll for sure go see Darjeeling Limited and probably The Fantastic Mr. Fox (if it is actually ever going to come out). Anyway, there is already a lot of bashing his new film, Darjeeling Limited. This morning I've been reading a few blog entries and articles about the film and I’ve decided that I’m excited for the film. Though, I’m getting tired of these ‘new indy’ films that thrive on certain American actors and the nearly non-sequitor dialogue that is becoming a fad, (Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, Jim Jarmusch, David O. Russell, again, etc. etc.), but Anderson is good at it. I’m excited for the film. Did I say that already? I'll do it again. I'm excited for the film. The addition of Adrien Brody to his cast of regulars (here Schwartzman, Wilson, Murray, Huston, Etc. Etc.) is a logical addition and the stills that have leaked online and the reviews from the few people who’ve read the script are intriguing. But the real point is that this is all ridiculous. Having this much buzz before anyone really knows anything is absurd. I'm helplessly intrigued and disgusted with myself for being intrigued. there is no trailer, there is really nothing any average person can know aobut the film, but Google Darjeeling Limited and you'll come up with hundreds of hits. Hundreds. fucking hundreds.

So really all I'm getting at is that I’m sick of films getting heaps of online buzz and hype before they are even releasing trailers, it’s silly and its doing exactly what the studio execs pray for. Free, organic buzz, well maybe its not all organic, but that doesn't mean anything to them, they aren't reading the articles and blogs. But here I am responding to it all, and, basically, falling in line. Fuck it, I’m excited for the movie and I suck for caring. It's all absurdity and consumerism seeping into our daily lives, making products matter to us, but whatever. I'm excited for the film, I hate hype and buzz, but am drawn to it, unwittingly.

But really, look at that photo, doesn't it look like zaniness is about to ensue? Who, tell me who, who doesn't enjoy a little zaniness?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Ode of Goodwill and Hank Williams

I was wandering the aisles of Goodwill a couple of weeks ago, as I am wont to do, and found myself looking through their rather meager selection of vinyl. I used to frequent the vinyl section, but we’ve kind of gone our separate ways, I’d moved on. You see it just wasn’t giving back. I would take my time, be gentle, flip gently, carefully through the ‘new arrival’ section, and even go through the rest of the shelves, just in case I missed something last time. But it just isn’t surprising me any more. It doesn’t excite that same light feeling in the stomach, the rabid butterflies of anticipation. There’s always Frank Sinatra live at some dive and Bing Crosby does Christmas vol. MMX and there’s always a copy of Déjà vu (not that I’m trying to rag on Déjà vu, but everyone owns it, that’s the issue, good album, I just don’t feel the need for more than one copy in my life right now) and (well, actually that’s not true, I own it on CD and vinyl, so two copies in my life…) (not that I’m that big of a fan of it, it’s a burned disc, and the vinyl was used, I guess if I had to really give a concrete opinion I’d say its ok, I get kinda bored sometimes on side 2) and Eurythmics, which is absurd, but check a Good Will, it’s there, you’ll find at every Goodwill, on CD and Vinyl. So anyway the vinyl section and I have a complicated relationship, and had kind of gone our separate ways. But for some reason I was drawn back. I began flipping through the ‘new arrivals’ and there it was. Hank Williams ‘The Legend of Hank Williams in Song and Story.’ Bam, period bitches. Fucking Hank Williams, period. I happen to like Hank Williams. And don’t have much on vinyl. I’m not huge on “Greatest Hits” kind of albums (you miss all the gems, like have you ever seen “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” on any Bob Dylan greatest hits? No. I rest my case) but in this instance, though a bit skeptical, I thought, “sold.” Turns out this album is fucking amazing. It’s Hank Williams Jr. narrating two full length records of his father’s songs. He tells anecdotes he’s heard from other musicians, tells the stories behind some songs, in short, if you gave me one word to describe this affair I would choose “fucking fantastic.” A new prize in my collection. Though it’s mostly songs you’ve got elsewhere in the Hank Williams catalogue, but it’s still a one-of-a-kind Hank Williams album. And it has two poems by Hank Williams read by Hank Williams Jr. that are so bad that they are, you guessed it, fucking fantastic. I don’t know where you would find this again, I’ve never seen it or heard of it before, but it’s a beautiful thing. There may yet be hope sweet vinyl section at Goodwill, yes, there may be hope for us yet.