Molly Templeton's blog
Da Capo Press's Best Music Writing 2007* just arrived â€” I mean seriously just arrived â€”Â in my inbox. This is one of my favorite book-arrival moments of the year: the quick perusal, the head-shaking, the nodding, the wondering why I haven't gotten around to reading last year's edition yet. This year, I think, I will read it. I will read it soon.
The â€™07 tome's guest editor is Robert Christgau, which is completely appropriate, especially following his abrupt dismissal from the Village Voice â€” to me it seems like a way to acknowledge how wrong that dismissal was, and how Christgau's place in the music writers' pantheon is a solid one. Not that the world's about to forget him; he's writing for Rolling Stone, and he'll make his voice heard one way or another, the opinionated git (this is said admiringly, if my tone's not clear yet). I often disagree with Christgau, or simply find that the things that stand out to him are exactly the opposite of what stand out to me, and I'm still put off that his entire argument at one of the EMP Pop Conference panels last April seemed to be based on the assumption that of course the Bob Dylan record was the best record of last year; if you didn't agree, you were simply wrong, no questions asked or discussion encouraged. But I respect the guy, as music writers and listeners really should.
The Best Music Writing list, at first glance, looked like a Who's Who of that Pop Conference, from keynote speaker Jonathan Lethem ("Being James Brown," from Rolling Stone) to den mother Ann Powers ("Latinos Give New Life to Neil Diamond Anthem," Los Angeles Times) to Carl Wilson ("If Music Is the Answer, What's the Question?") to Portland's Douglas Wolk ("The Syncher, Not the Song: The Irresistable Rise of the Numa Numa Dance," The Believer). It made me roll my eyes a little, I admit it. But that wasn't quite fair: sure, the Pop Conference had a certain clubhouse feel for the great majority of the time, but if I'm forcing myself to be honest, many of those folks knew each other from previous years, from jobs, from everything else in life, and if I felt like a stranger there, it was at least partly my own fault. (Confession the second: I refused to wear my name badge because I didn't like the way I'd see people's eyes glide over the badges of attendees they didn't know or recognize.) Plus, well, there's a reason those folks were presenting papers at the conference, and it's the same reason they're in the damn book: They know their shit.
And beyond that, when you start digging a little deeper into BMW, you find some funny things. A handful of online pieces come from both names you know (David Byrne) and names you probably don't (Jane Dark). The big papers and magazines are there, but smaller ones are too, and a couple of weeklies crop up as well. I have a particularly high level of respect for the alt-weekly folks simply because I never seem to have the time to think about music as much as I ought to, and clearly they're making time in better and smarter ways.
So what's my point? Well, firstly it's just that this book is always interesting (it comes out in November; the complete list of selections should be online soon, but I can't find it yet). And secondly it's that music criticism is doing something that other forms and outlets for writing ought to be doing: broadening the circle. At the AAN (Association of Alternative Weeklies) conference in Portland in June, there was a disappointing smugness apparent in a discussion of food bloggers and how they might affect alt-weeklies' own food coverage and commentary. All four panelists seemed to shrug off the very possibility that bloggers â€” a misleading term to begin with, since it encompasses everything from 12-year-olds with the hots for Britney to the likes of Sasha Frere-Jones and the insightful folks at film blog The House Next Door â€” could have something meaningful to add to the conversation.
But here we have Christgau â€” one of the most recognizable names in his field â€” picking from the old standards and the new pages on the block. He's not the first to do so; it's not the first time internet-based stories have appeared in the annual collection. But it makes me happy all the same to see it continue; to see that you can still get in the damn pool.
* Full disclosure: I know (from college) and admire series editor Daphne Carr. But I'd read the damn book anyway, were her name not on it.
Possibly to be continued...
You know when you're at the grocery store and you're semi-frantically stuffing your crap back in your wallet and balancing your lunch in one hand so you have a free hand to get the door? No? Well, er, that's me. Often. And today, at Kiva, Suzi and I were babbling about LOLcats and covers while she bought her snacky sticks, and I think the cashier said something nice to us. But iced coffee was numbing my fingers and the coldness was spreading to my brain, I think, because it took about three minutes for it to register as a compliment. At least I'd managed to smile.
So thanks, Kiva Guy! That was nice.
P.S. While I'm thinking about nice cashiers and such, I'd like to sing the praises of the ladies of the Novella CafÃ©, who make my every coffee run just that much better â€”Â even when they're out of cinnamon sugar bagels.
Superbad is pretty super-good, but I can't help but wonder if I would have liked it as much if it didn't star Michael Cera, whom I have also adored as George-Michael Bluth on Arrested Development and as slightly creepy campus tour guy Dean on Veronica Mars. Cera's a slender, wide-eyed 18-year-old with incredible comic timing and a subtle sense of humor that's hard to pin down. Why, exactly, is it hysterically funny when he runs (in Superbad), or when he tries to explain to his dad that his dud girlfriend is cute (in AD)? (Just say the word "mayonegg" to me and I'll keel over with laughter). Partly it's just that he looks so, so, so, so normal, like your best friend's little brother or the guy who makes those really good vanilla lattes. But he's not normal. He's brilliant.
And he also has a band. A BAND THE ADORABLE GEORGE-MICHAEL BLUTH HAS A BAND.
Ahem. Sorry. Capslock excitement got the best of me there. You can also get more Michael Cera at Clark and Michael, where I am about to watch some funny interwebs TV about Clark and Michael trying to sell a script (at least that is what it says it is about). Also, there is a blog on this site, and Michael Cera most recenly blogged about Beulah, which is a band all people with good taste should like. So clearly he's more than just a pretty face the funniest 18-year-old of his era.
This is the best thing I've read all day. Besides Best of Eugene ballots, I mean:
I stopped reading beyond the basic news, because I'm spoilerphobic. But suddenly October is just that much better: Veronica on Heroes, just as VMars season three arrives on DVD! (See, I didn't watch the show when it started, and I'm trying very hard to avoid downloading season three as I want extras and things like that with the DVD set. I resisted this show like crazy, but now I'm a junkie for it. Go figure.)
Other things I'm tracking for fall: Moonlight, which looks like an Angel copy but stars Veronica Mars' Jason Dohring (oh, Logan!) as a bad boy (as well it should), and Pushing Daisies, because the commercials are neat looking.
But soon I will have cable, and then my resistance will be sorely tested.
People. People, people, people. (Yes, I am using people in that annoying middle-school-teacher way for a reason.) I know you want your friends, your friends' bands, your employers, your aunts and uncles to win Best of Eugene. But every time you put a duplicate ballot in the box, you make winning a Best of Eugene award mean less. Also, somewhere, a baby bunny cries. Let's go over a couple of quick things:
1. No, you may not fill out a ballot for your boyfriend / mom / sister-in-law / grampa in Kentucky. I don't care if they told you you could. I'm telling you you can't.
2. Using different colors of ink will neither disguise your handwriting nor make me think the ballots are coming from different people.
3. Voting for a few different things here and there while keeping the same votes in key categories will also not disguise your evil, ballot-stuffing ways.
Got that? I'm keeping a stack of these puppies, and it's growing. And it's very obvious when they come in.
Also, while I'm yelling at you, don't forget to put your name on the ballot and vote in at least 20 categories. Ballots that do not follow the rules will not be counted. No joke.
So I skipped yesterday. Sorry. I'd like to say it was the impending doom of having to get four fillings today, but I only just found out this morning that today is the Day of Dental Hell. Also, as you may have noticed, it's raining. A good day to wear flip-flops, too.
Yesterday did turn up one lovely example of what I shall ever so creatively call Oregon In the News: The New York Times did a nice piece on Clear Creek Distillery (as always, if it wants you to log in, go to BugMeNot). Pear brandy always reminds me of being a curious 14-year-old, asking my stepfather what he was drinking; the hot, fruity scent was wafting across the table at me. "Would you like to taste it?" he asked.
It was a very effective way to leave me disinterested in drinking. At least until college, anyway.
While I'm talking Oregon, don't forget the Tillamook Mac & Cheese contest. I can't claim to be inspired to such heights as to include crab â€” or maybe it's just that my wallet can't reach to such great heights â€” but there's something tantalizing about this all the same.
Which is more than I can say for most of the internet today. Short of doing another trawl through my unread bookmarks â€” all too many of which have to do with Harry Potter or Joss Whedon, it seems â€” I've got nothin'. You want something to do? Go vote for Best of Eugene! And come by and pick up some flyers while you're at it.
There. That should keep you busy for a while.
I have a confession to make.
I'm a bookmark junkie.
What happens is simple: I'm strolling along on the information (overload) superhighway (dirty allway) and something catches my eye. "Oooh!" I think to myself. "That looks interesting! But too long to stop and read/listen/respond to right now."
Tick! goes the little plus button. And the list is lengthened. And then again. And again. And sometimes I go back and the links are no longer there. (An episode of "The Leonard Lopate Show" from 2005 on which one of my former bosses makes an appearance, though, is still there for my eventual listening pleasure.)
Let's see what we can dredge up, shall we?
â€¢ Apartment Therapy. Boy, this'd be awesome if I were rich. As it is, I'm just envious.
â€¢ An interview with the cast of X-Men 3 from Comic Book Resources. Too depressing to read; can't seem to get past the Brett Ratner quotes at the beginning, no matter how often I try.
â€¢ "Up With Grups" from New York magazine. I've read this one, actually, but I keep it around to make myself feel better about my eventual future as a grown-up of some sort. Even though some of the people described are really quite annoying.
â€¢ Self-Discipline. Clearly something I am never, ever going to read.
â€¢ Chernobyl: Time Coverage. The kind of thing I fully intend to read so as to further my knowledge of events that happened when I was too young to read much about them. Alas, "fully intend to read" does not often equal "read."
â€¢ Newsarama talks to Matt Fraction about The Five Fists of Science. Yes, there are a lot of comic-related links in my jumbled bookmarks. Some of them are even sorted into a special folder. I love comics. But I usually wait until the library has them to read them. And I've forgotten to check on this one. So ... yeah.
â€¢ Language Log discusses how one ought to pluralize MacBook Pro. Language Log makes me feel stupid.
â€¢ Roger Sutton, editor-in-chief of The Horn Book (and one of my most favorite people in all of children's literature, which is one of my most favorite things) offers a superb quote worthy remembering on the difference between critics and regular people.
â€¢ Mark Jenkin's entertaining street installations (don't miss the parking meters turned into lollipops).
â€¢ Perry Bible Fellowship: Get your mean on. When you find the one about the unicorn, give me the link, OK?
I've got to stop this now; I keep finding unread links to stories about productivity, self-discipline and the like. Perhaps the bookmarks need a quick cull before I drag any more of them into the light.
Good lord, it's almost Halloween!
OK, no, not really. But it is the day of the first press release from Portland's Pumpkin Patch, home of the five-acre MAiZE. Yes, spelled like that. It's a little silly, but the actual maze is nothing of the sort. At least if you go during the last three weekends in October, when it's haunted. Some friends and I headed out to the maze a couple of years ago and found ourselves giggling hysterically for a good couple of hours while covered in mud (flip-flops are a no-no; I wound up barefoot, my feet getting an accidental mud bath). We got lost, we chatted up monsters, we got the crap scared out of us a couple of times, and we accidentally almost got a monster in trouble (we thought he had a flask). Remember, kids, the maze is as interactive as you make it. Engage the monsters in conversation! Especially the lonely ones near the end. They just aren't appreciated enough.
Oh, yeah: There's also a 30-foot hay pyramid. What?