Friday, April 25, 2008


Park Rapids recently got two feet of snow in two days. Even the snowplows got stuck.

Needless to say, the Incident Report is saturated with rollovers and stuck-ness. Here is a selection of recent shenanigans:

A Park Rapids service counter representative reported an intoxicated customer; A pregnant woman reported being pushed and harassed by a male in Park Rapids; "Mudding" was reported on a closed forest road in Lakeport Township; A male was reported running southbound without a shirt, yelling for help with a bunch of guys chasing him in Farden Township (call cancelled, kids were making a video for YouTube); A caller reported he had a vehicle stolen and tracked it to a salvage yard, where it had been crushed; A water fountain was stolen from the Flower Boutique while in the process of moving; A stolen - and recovered- van was stuck in Straight River Township; Loud music and loud exhaust were reported in Park Rapids; A hitchhiker was reported flipping people off and "flashing" just west of Park Rapids; Passing on the right was reported in Straight River Township [note: this is reported on two separate days]; A male was reported to be possibly buying liquor for minors in Park Rapids; A verbal altercation was reported by Nevis School; A Park Rapids caller reported finding a locked safe under the Red Bridge; A male was reported trying to break down a door in Lake Hart Township, caller was hit in the face and cell phone taken; A field was on fire in Helga Township, imperiling buildings; Tires were taken from a vehicle parked at the county garage; Wood was reported stolen from property in Crow Wing Lake Township; A boat came off a trailer in Park Rapids; A young male reported his parents are in the ditch; A Hubbard Township caller reported his mother stuck in the ditch, twice.
The heifers, however, retain their typical pragmatism and foresight (as per caption.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The Labi Siffre records arrived and here's the full version of what I mentioned earlier, as it appears in the liner notes of Remember My Song, re: Eminem's sampling of "I Got The..." in his hit "My Name Is."
I've read several inaccurate reports about that song so I will clarify.
1) I wrote it (including the bass riff)
2) When asked to give permission for the sample to be used, I requested changes because I thought some of the lyric was lazy writing. Attacking two of the usual scapegoats, women and gays, is lazy writing.

If you want to be radical, if you want to do battle, attack the aggressors, not the victims. Attack the abusers of power. Attack theism (the new fascism). Attack Christian religious leaders who don't live in poverty, preferring not to emulate JC. Attack child abuse where most happens: in the home. Attack believers who incite the murder of wielders of free expression. Attack corrupt politicians and systems.

"Woman is the nigger of the world." Bravo Yoko. They do about 70% of the work, control about 1% of the resources. They bear most of the effects of war, famine and poverty. Around 80,000,000 of them have to put with the pain and medical problems of female genital mutilation purely to please the fragile egos of gutless men. How would Eminem 'n' Dre and their record company executives feel about having to piss through a straw for the rest of their bladder-infected lives. You wanna be radical? Attack sexism. Attack racism and heterosexism self-servingly euphemised as homophobia. It ain't a phobia. It's bigotry plain and simple, like racism--and no, just like heterosexuality, it ain't a preference, bro. Rant over.

Had it been original work, I would have noted it as the common currency of badly written rap (bitches, hoes 'n' fags) and got on with my stuff. But I don't want my work to be used that way. They made the changes. I gave my permission. It was a success. Smiles all around. End of story.
Plus how great is this album cover.

Friday, April 18, 2008


A Taiwanese student whose writing I adore wrote in her essay about manga:

The "Black Jack" series is not popular here because America doesn't like a lesson in the dark; they like to say anything on the surface.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Last weekend I loaded into the rock camp van with a couple of comrades and we went up to Seattle to check out the Pop Conference at the Experience Music Project. All conferences are essentially the same, I think: this structure of panels with three or four people saying different things about the same thing, or saying different things about different things, as it often turns out, followed by some windy and/or wonky audience questions, followed by everyone shuffling out for a ten-minute break and then shuffling into another room. The rooms are windowless, the chairs in rows, the panelists seated with their elbows resting on a beclothed folding table. This was all true at EMP, but the rooms were pretty cool--the one in the Sci-Fi museum part looked like it molten red lava or Mars or something. (Exhibit A: Douglas Wolk giving his funny and smart and well-technologically-endowed presentation on "The Battle of the Green Berets." Always such a pro.)

What's cool about the EMP Pop Conference is that the idea is to give writers and critics a forum to present their work like art--more like a festival than professional development. I won't go on at length about all I saw, I just want to hit on a couple pieces that really stuck with me, the ones where I left hungry to know more.

Charles Aaron, the music editor at Spin, delivered a really beautiful, heartfelt talk about Labi Siffre, whom I'd never heard of before. It was a simple talk, read straightforwardly from a paper, and at times it almost sounded like he had a lump in his throat. You could tell he really felt it, this love and respect for Labi Siffre, not just an analytical or academic interest.

Notes on Labi Siffre: He had a few hits in the 70s and 80s, notably "Something Inside So Strong," and Eminem and Kanye West have sampled his songs for some of their hits. Born to a Nigerian father and a Barbadian/Belgian mother. Gay. Met his partner when he was 19 and the partner 38, and they're still together. "Something Inside So Strong" is ostensibly an anti-apartheid anthem but the lyrics are straight-up liberation that could just as well be gay.

When Eminem came to him to clear the sampling rights for his first hit single, "My Name Is," Siffre said he'd do it only on the condition that he rewrite some sneery lyrics about a gay teacher. Eminem complied. In his own subsequent liner notes, Siffre wrote that we should go after aggressors, not victims--he said degrading women and gays is "lazy writing." In two words, that's the most succinct and apt critique I think I've read on that.

Siffre has a blog which is apparently his primary artistic output right now.

This guy spoke too. This is pretty much all I remember. A lot of stuff about Mudhoney.

The last talk I saw--because after it I couldn't imagine sitting through anything else--was Daphne Carr's paper correlating musicality with sexuality--namely, extreme loudness and masochism. This too was an intensely felt presentation, obvious in the occasional quaver and long pause as well as in the gradually more personal revelations, though it followed a more deliberate structure. First, the science of noise, and I loved all this, the way the sound is created from feedback, the physics and physiology of it. Our bodies are full of liquids that vibrate with sound; the proximity of other bodies alters and sets the co-vibration; even when you plug your ears, sound enters through your nose and mouth.

Then the social dynamics of live shows, etc., and finally she worked up to the heart of the piece, where musicality and sexuality meet. The punishment avenue to pleasure of masochistic sexuality=the painful intensity of experiencing noise. The noisemaker is not a sadist, she said, but a sadomasochist sympathetically offering pleasure to his fellow pain-seekers. Finally, a silent slideshow of rapidly shifting words and phrases, simple white text on black, then 3, 2, 1, period, and an immense noise blasted from the giant speakers, filling the room, heavy and all-encompassing. It went for about a minute. Shivers ran up and down my body again and again. It was visceral and awesome in the classic sense of the word.

End result: I ordered two Labi Siffre albums. I went to see Thurston Moore the other night and I thought about the sound traveling into me and the liquids in my body vibrating and co-vibrating. I even, I'll admit, opened my mouth for maximal admittance (Trees Outside the Academy is one of my favorites of late). I had gotten a little jaded about shows, like oh big deal, stand in a room for three hours, shifting from hip to hip, stretching up on tiptoes trying to peer around the huge dude inevitably planted in front of me. But now I got to thinking differently about it, the science and the sound of it, and I felt the way that live music is more than just sound and sight, that it's in your whole body, that it's a non-replicable feeling and experience. It revived my interest in going to shows and being in the singular moment. No camera. No saving it for later. Just being there and feeling it.

This I could stand to do more of in the rest of my life as well.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


The library at Oberlin is a looming concrete box with tall dark windows, heavy and gray; its name, Mudd, is all too apt. But inside--and I did not adequately appreciate* this until a few years later, when I was working at a design magazine--it is decked out in full technicolor '70s drag.

A row of Eero Aarnio ball chairs--which everyone there calls womb chairs--lines the east-facing windows on every floor.

(Top floor: orange.)

The centerpiece of the library is this sprawling rainbow configuration of soft blocks. Best nap zone in the world!

And color-coded study zones are planted everywhere--in the sprawling obvious places along windows and bookshelves, but also tucked in tiny pockets and dim out-of-the-way corners, some as still and untouched as empty movie sets.

What I later figured out were Aarnio "Pastil" chairs used to sit out on the roof all winter, pooling rain or humped with snow, like lawn furniture. (They're gone now--rescued, I hope, and not discarded.)

Dear Oberlin, please never renovate.

*"Adequately appreciate." I thought about this later when I was walking the dog. Why is it that to know the name of something--to be able to identify the designer, the market value, the vintage--qualifies as "proper" appreciation? In fact, as a student I demonstrated my great appreciation for the furnishings of Mudd Library by delightedly slinging my whole body onto them every day, even though I didn't know who Aarnio was or that a womb-chair is worth a zillion dollars. Really, it's a far more tactile and real enjoyment than skulking around the library taking snapshots of them. Fortunately, next year I can do both of these things.