Thursday, July 30, 2009


Last night I saw Sonic Youth. By the time I disembarked from the MAX and walked through Old Town, it had cooled to 99 degrees. I don't mind the heat. I like extreme temperatures. They sharpen the experience. They make you feel something.

The show was hot. The band were hot, glittering sweat shaking off Thurston's soaked hair, Kim in a silver lamé dress, guitars going haywire. The intense human zoo aroma made me wish for a snorkel but I didn't even mind the sweat rolling down the backs of my legs. It felt good to be engulfed in sound and the heat became a physical element of it; dissonance is a hot sound, friction. Lots of Kim songs, lots of Lee songs, most of The Eternal, light on the hits, heavy on dude-roars for the hits, a crowd-surfer beamed in from the '90s, two encores, I would have killed to hear "Schizophrenia" but it wasn't in the lineup. Is it ever?

I like The Eternal a lot so far. It's solid. But live, I cannot even tell you how thrilling the song "Antenna" was. To approximate it, turn it up and up until you feel it in your whole body, and then when it gets to that single unison repeated eighth note, da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, turn it up steadily louder and then at the pause, hold your breath for a second, and at the crash, flash all the brightest white lights on stage so the whole room seems to explode. It was like that. Pure pleasure. A thrill to the bones.

Here's "Antenna".

Thursday, July 23, 2009


David Foster Wallace, in the intro to the Best American Essays 2007, has this to say about writing nonfiction.
Writing-wise, fiction is scarier, but nonfiction is harder--because
nonfiction's based in reality, and today's felt reality is
overwhelmingly, circuit-blowingly huge and complex. Whereas fiction
comes out of nothing. Actually, so wait: the truth is that both genres
are scary; both feel like they're executed on tightropes, over
abysses--it's the abysses that are different. Fiction's abyss is
silence, nada. Whereas nonfiction's abyss is Total Noise, the seething
static of every particular thing and experience, and one's total
freedom of infinite choice about what to choose to attend to and
represent and connect, and how, and why, etc.
I am always gonna miss this guy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


When a baby horse is born, it is said to be by its sire and out of its dam.

As in, Secretariat was by Bold Ruler, out of Somethingroyal.

In other words, the father authors the foal, the mother simply expels it.

This strikes me as a little sexist.

But it also reminds me of that timeworn writing trope wherein the author claims to be the mere vessel for some kind of divine authorial force.* You know what I'm talking about: "The words seemed to write themselves," "This character came out of nowhere and all I could do was sit back for the ride," et cetera.

In this context the writer becomes mare, and the muse the stallion.

Which is at least a satisfying switch of their classic gender assignments.

*a.k.a. "the Muse." I detest "the Muse."

Friday, July 17, 2009


The Builders and the Butchers music video I worked on had its premiere on Monday night at Mississippi Studios. It was like a reunion. Kristin was wearing some crazy Australian leggings that were part plastic. Rachel concocted plans for a "celestial voyage" to central Oregon to see the Milky Way. At first I did not recognize Lacey outside of her Vivian Girl costume, so sleek and brunette and grown-up was she in real life. And Alicia was showering us with drink tickets.

We watched the video five or six times that night. It was like Teletubbies: Again! Again! and someone would hit the play button. I personally am quite taken with it, no less enchanted for having witnessed its construction behind the scenes. Maybe more, in fact. That one-second underwater moment means a lot more once you've seen your friend immerse herself in a thick green pond to get it. (The "pondcam" aka "scumcam" shot.)

Today the video premieres on Get your Darger on.

We filmed at the beautiful barn and property of Mike Midlo, whose charming musical project Pancake Breakfast is playing on my speakers right now.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


The Waypost feels both open and cozy on an uncharacteristically gray July day. They're serving Stumptown's Panama Carmen Estate, subtle and delicious enough to drink black. The barista is taking it easy, sweeping, chatting. Low-key cello music and the hiss of espresso steam. This is what it's like here all winter, a good reminder of what I've left behind. One of the guys playing guitar outside is in buffalo plaid, the other is someone I played with in the Extreme Guitar Orchestra a few years ago. (I think his band is Sexton Blake?) It feels familiar, comfortable, brooding and gentle, productive and slackerish. It feels like my life again.

Trying to unpack that statement only leads me down a thorny path of how much "life" is the narrative you make it.

This morning I pined for the brilliant blue skies and river-ready sunshine Portland summers overcorrect with, but bunkered down here now I appreciate the introspective cloud cover. A gray blanket pulled over our heads. Good for closer reading and writing, taking stock, figuring out where the narrative is headed and what this twist is really about--as I pester my students, not just about, but about.

The word nostalgia comes from the ancient Greek nóstos (a return home) + álgos (suffering, pain). A suffering to return home. When I returned to Portland last month, the first week back was nearly unbearably good and painful. I ached, peculiarly, for the place I was already in. For leaving it, for returning home to it, with the knowledge I'd leave it again at summer's end. I think most of us tend to think of nostalgia as a softer twinge, sentimental, golden and hazy, but this was a sharp and difficult feeling, true to the root.

M. Ward "To Go Home"
("I'll be true to you forever or until I go home")

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I am now the proud owner of How Do You Want Your Hair Cut Today? from the wonderful Lesbian Art Show by my beautiful and talented friends Mary McAllister and Asza West. When I saw it online I thought it was cute, and then when I actually arrived in Portland and felt the enormous relief and joy and love of being among My People in such great numbers, and then saw it in person, big and beautiful and real, I knew I had to take it home with me to Ohio.

On Friday, driving through the Columbia Gorge en route to a video shoot, I listened to Mary and gallery co-owner Leslie Miller talking about the show on KBOO. Mary talked about the hand-painted barbershop posters that inspired her, and how hair is such a cultural marker, and the ways "lesbian haircuts" are both stereotypes and meaningful signifiers. I felt moved hearing my friends' voices on the radio, broadcasting real truths about queer art and life and culture. It's only when you actually do hear it that you realize how little it shows up on the mainstream radar.

The conversation hit me in an unexpectedly deep place, and the stunning stretch of the Columbia River I was on made everything feel epic and meaningful, and the second the show ended I called up Leslie and said, "I want it."

The Pacific Northwest in the summer is so beautiful I literally cry a little or at least feel that swelling in my chest every time I really look at the world around me. The green here is so saturated, so dark; in the winter the evergreen-covered hills are almost black, gothically so, but in the summer the golden light coaxes out the richest deepest green ever, stippled with the lighter-green of the deciduous trees that spring up between and in the clear-cuts. Red and gold cliffs jut out of the green, and the Columbia River is even bluer than the impossibly blue sky, and Mount Hood is sharper and whiter than ever by contrast, no mist or clouds to hide it.

I spent all weekend out on these mountainsides working on a video shoot for the Builders and the Butchers' new song "Golden and Green." The days were incredibly long and sometimes arduous, and most of us were working for free, but what better place to spend the weekend than in the sunshine in a place like this? Alicia Rose directed with meticulous attention to detail and a 20-person crew, and it's going to be gorgeous and spooky. (Henry Darger meets Deadwood!)

For really amazing shots, check out the Flickr sets of Casey Parks and band member Brandon Hafer.