from the hippo’s mouth

hippo

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when pot entered the picture

the first time i smoked pot it didn’t work. i was with my friend andy and we were in one of our garages and we smoked out of an aluminum can and i kept waiting to feel something but nothing happened. the 2nd time i smoked pot i was with my friend andy again and we were sitting in his corolla listening to rush and again we smoked out of an aluminum can(see what you do is you smash it a little at the end that doesn’t have the hole so that your marijuana will sit on the can without falling off and then you poke tiny holes in the in the now flattened part and put your pot on top and then light it while you’re inhaling from the hole where you usually drink coke or pepsi or orange crush from) and again i thought it wasn’t working but boy was i wrong. we were in the parking lot of baskin robbins and we sat there and listened to the music for while and then andy said “let’s go get some ice cream” and we left the car and i vaguely remember entering the shop but the next thing i was aware of was that andy was dragging me out of there and laughing and when we got outside he gave me the rundown which was that i had apparently walked into the crowded store and gotten super excited about what was on the menu and began yelling out all of the items i wanted to get and everyone was looking at us and so he rushed me out of there. i was surprised to hear about my shenanigans and got really embarrassed and then andy tried to get ME to go back in and get ice cream for us but i refused and finally andy went back in and he ordered us a “fudge brownie royale” and i swear to god it was the best sundae i’ve ever had.

andy was a notorious pot smoker at my high school and we used to do this thing in the summer which was that we’d go play tennis, get a slurpee at 7-eleven, get a sandwich at togo’s, and head for the beach. that summer we mostly listened to the buzzcocks’ “singles going steady” on the tape deck and we were both skim boarding a lot, that’s when you have a very thin piece of wood or fiberglass and you wait until the tide starts going back out and there’s a thin sheen of water on the sand and then you throw that thing hard onto the beach while you’re running to gather up speed and then you jump on it and ride it as far as it will take you. if there’s decent-sized shorebreakers you can hit those things and either cut back or do flips off of the board into the water. i ended up being a skimboarder because the very first time i tried to surf was in mexico when i was 8 years old and i got hit in the mouth with the surfboard and it split my lip open and cracked a tooth in half. there wasn’t really much we could do until we got back to california so i had to sit around ensenada for the next 3 days with a busted tooth and a lip the size of a waffle.

later on i got into more into music and andy got more into pot and we didn’t hang out quite so much but we still went to the same high school(he was a year ahead of me) and he drove an old piece of shit station wagon his parents gave him(the very same on that used to cart us off to the beach when we were kids) and one day he was coming back from lunch with a car full of his stoner friends and they were high as kites and andy decided to hit the little ramp that went into the top parking lot(there were 2) at high speed and apparently they attained lift-off but when they landed they wrapped the car around a light pole and nobody got killed but andy and his friend john got busted up pretty good and were found wandering onto campus super out of it with rivers of blood running down their faces where their heads had hit the dashboard. shortly after that andy’s sister jennie died in a car crash when her drunk boyfriend was behind the wheel and he ran full speed into a concrete divider while trying to get onto the freeway and they both died instantly. my dad was best friends with andy and jennie’s dad mory who was out of town at a sales convention so my dad had to drive out to the place where the convention was and tell him. i was upstairs when he got the call giving him the news and i remember him saying “goddamn it, goddamn it” over and over.

andy quit smoking pot shortly after that and my dad died a little while later and at his funeral mory gave the eulogy or whatever and he was really good, he was funny and tender and it was about as nice as it could be. my dad was in the hospital when i turned 18 and when i graduated high school and then died of brain hemmorhage after having a stroke. shortly after i that i got my acceptance letter from berkeley and almost didn’t go because i didn’t want to leave my grieving mother but she kind of insisted and by that point i was completely done with suburban life and all of the pot and drunk driving and white people and dead people and no culture and no edge and no nothing.

down in the flood

confusion is good when you’re talking about music because it means that your preconceptions about whatever it is you’re listening to were off and that often points to a situation where you’re actually hearing something “new” in one fashion or another and who doesn’t like “new”? especially because in musical terms “new” not only offers the opportunity of specific discovery but also the possibility of expanding your sonic universe in general because once you open up to something there’s often no way to close the door and then you’ve got a bum’s rush of new musical ideas on your hands and that’s where the magic happens. i mean it would be easy to rest on one’s laurels and just listen to the same sort of stuff over and over again for factors of familiarity and comfort but you know what they say, familiarity breeds contempt and the only people who need comfort are the afflicted so if you want to avoid both or either situation then you’d better get to expanding.

i bought the first public image record when i was 13 or 14 and was hoping to get a very sex pistols-ish sound from it but ended up getting something else and it sort of threw me and i’m still sort of thrown. i’ve come to decide that i don’t necessarily LIKE it all that much but i do appreciate the fact that PIL was trying something new and to me that’s almost more important because when you like a band that’s an isolated thing but when that band broadens the range of what can be done you might literally reap YEARS of listening challenges and enjoyments from other quarters.

another band i sort of skipped on “getting” the 1st time around is the fall, and they sound something like this:

but with the fall it was a little different because i didn’t know what to expect. i heard “bingo masters break out” on a punk comp i got when i was a tyke and i liked it but it was over my head at the time and it took me ’til i was in my 30’s to really come around. which is good but too goddamned late in a certain way. because it’s never to early to get your mind cracked open.

enough about music though, i’ve been in a funk, sort of a bad one, and par for the course there’s not a lot of specific culprits but instead a vague kind of all-consuming dread. i guess that’s what they call “depression” and as usual it’s a draining experience, motivation fades and you start the day with a crappy outlook that makes too much effort seem ultimately kind of pointless. this is why i haven’t been writing lately, this sense of incoming and inescapable doom. and it’s fucked because i know exactly what it is(even though the causes remain nebulous) but can’t do anything but pop a few meds and hope for the best. and let me just say that when you’re taking meds for depression and you still get depressed you really start to question the effectiveness and long-term outlook of this approach. not to mention the fact that i feel like something of a guinea pig taking all of this shit with little knowledge of possible side effects because the literature on this stuff usually lists everything from sleepiness to insomnia and from dizziness to diarrhea. spell check tells me that last word is spelled wrong but i think it’s spell-check that’s off the mark on this one.

wookie is also depressed and we were hoping that our depressions would generally get staggered so that at least one of us is functional at all times but it doesn’t seem to work like that, goddamn it. i’m hoping that getting up at 4:30 this morning and sitting down to write bodes better for the day effort-wise and hopefully even outcome-wise. i’ve been reading every dennis lehane book i can get my hands on, he’s the guy that wrote mystic river(which i will recommend) and he has a series of these sort of hardboiled mysteries/thrillers with these 2 private dicks that are really pretty good, funny and dark and psychological and violent. i’ve been shredding through a lot of the stuff wookie recommended that i read(i’ve been out of the literary loop for years) and it’s been fun, that 5-year reading hiatus really came to a crashing halt when i picked up pelecanos. unfortunately i’m a lot less adventurous with fiction than with music and have been sticking with gritty sort of detective stories but it’s been fun. i remember kamins told me once when i was considering moving in here that the only arena i was adventurous in was music and that the rest of my life was spent well within the boundaries of my comfort zone. as usual he’s probably right but his taste in music still sucks, so there.

diamonds in the rough

occasionally, like the proverbial “diamond in the rough”(or needle in a haystack), sometimes the countless hours seemingly wasted trolling youtube for something worth watching pay off and you end up with a man impersonating a rabid dog, or a dog gettting messed around treat-wise by it’s owner, or…well let’s just say there’s a lot of dogs on the internet. but ANYTHING that sort of cuts through the barrage of pointlessness that the web kicks out at an alarming rate is something to celebrate, and while i guess you COULD call a wasted orson welles slurring his way through a drunken paul masson ad “pointless” let me just remind you how little laughter there is on offer in the psychopathy of modern industrial civilization. because personally these days i take it where i can get it.(and speaking of diamonds in the rough):

back before you had shit like youtube and other kinds of modern technology(shit, before you even really had the internet) you had a generation of musicians  going in the opposite direction and making use of all kinds of lo-fi machinery and techniques as both an economic concern and an artistic approach, a sort of strident reaction to the seemingly endless technological “advances” that were basically making it less and less necessary to make any actual “music” that might be of any real value and instead just doctoring the output of shitty bands with all kinds of production tricks that basically hid(or tried to hide) the continuous lack of substance that major companies were trying to jam down our collective throats. i mean sure the music industry’s job has always been to generate profits for the record companies but before there were all of these tricks available what people heard on the radio and on the stereo was pretty direct, you had a recording artist at one end with a song and some musicians and some microphones and tape and that was about it, you knew  that what was coming through was pretty unfiltered and it was therefore a lot easier to avoid getting tricked, at the end of the day you basically had a song that was either good or shitty by a musician that had that either had something to offer or didn’t. and while there have always been modes and methods of manipulation in terms of lyrical/musical approaches(that’s why they call it an INDUSTRY, because they’re hawking a product for profit no matter HOW you slice it) it was ultimately pretty hard to hide the oft-glaring lack of substance with a bunch of technological skullduggery.

anyways eventually you got a backlash and it was not only a healthy development but it pretty much salvaged the concept of music-as-art and also as honest expression. responding to an empty assertion such as the idea that music is simply a product and the goal is to manipulate the audience to sell records is crucial, and by not just asserting the opposite but showing the legitimacy of its approach IN THE DIRECT CREATION OF THE PROOF IN MUSICAL FORM the semi-phenomena of “lo-fi” was able by its very existence to undermine the idea you needed good looks or dancing chops or expensive equipment or producers or engineers or the record industry itself in order to make music. why do you think vinyl is making a huge comeback and that digital studios are now using effects that make the sound more “analog” while CD’s are finally understood to be shittier even than cassettes in terms of quality or longevity? because bands like dead moon showed us the way.

yesterday i let leni make a fort in the living room with pillows and blankets and chairs and i also helped where i could and it ended up being a mess but a pretty good fort nonetheless. she wanted to keep it up so she could show wookie her handiwork when mama returned from work and i made her promise that if i let her do that, she would clean all the shit up at the end of the evening. i guess in a way i knew better(i’m not sure she’s ever actually cleaned anything) but i figured if you give them enough opportunites to respond in the necessary fashion during one of your attempted “teaching moments” then maybe eventually they’ll come through in the clutch. needless to say that is not how it went down last night and so now i’m re-evaluating my sort of shot-in-the-dark approach and trying to figure out how, in fact, you either get the tyke to understand the sort of merits of keeping stuff somewhat clean/organized or simply manage to get it through their heads that they better clean up after themselves OR ELSE. of course then you have to figure out what “or else” means and now you’ve entered the sort of obtuse neverland of parental guidance, a place where it’s been pretty difficult thus far to get a handle on the layout of the land. where’d i put that fucking atlas?

party with me punker

fear of the new is an old and unfortunate story and absolutely fucks SO MANY things up that it should be made illegal so that the human race might progress and evolve in time to avoid the absolute devastation we have coming down the pike and quick. i mean we’re talking really armageddon-type shit unless we get our collective act together and part of it has gotta be figuring out a way to make the leap with or without the naysayers. the political scene moves way too slow and is also insulated from the harsh realities facing all of us and is corrupt as hell anyways. if they won’t join us, beat ’em. all the way back to the stone age, or at least back to the reagan era. shit while you’re at it send them packing to 1950’s america, before civil rights and the feminist movement and with absolutely NO resistance to the rich white male supremacy these assholes are trying to re-establish and how are they doing it? they’re trying(with some success) to get rid of any and all gains that have been achieved by the people through long and militant struggle. smash the unions, gut the voting rights act, close all the abortion clinics, privatize everything, lower wages, etc, all while making sure to turn planet earth into a giant garbage can. these folks are evil motherfuckers and should be regarded as such.

but i’m WAY off topic, i wanted to talk about punk rock. i know i do that often and i also know i’ve posted scads of minutemen songs already but you have to remember that their songs only last a minute or 2 so there’s a lot to be choosing from. i mean their masterwork “double nickels on the dime” alone has 45 tunes on it. the minutemen were  sincere and genuine and about as punk rock as you can get, 3 dudes from san pedro who played abstract and angular short blasts of the often elusive raw feeling that lies behind all good music. so it’s odd that i avoided considering them to be punk for many years and took my own goddamn time to come around to their way of looking at the world. now that i’ve arrived i don’t know how i was ever anywhere else.

punk’s a good example of something new striking fear into the hearts of those not prepared to grapple with the emerging realities of the new world. i was pretty resistant to it myself at first, having cut my teeth on the hard rocking monoliths that eventually would come to resemble the de-fanged(claw-less too!) dinosaurs that they always were. but frankly it was only a matter of time, and not that much time, until the immediacy of the new swept the old into the dustbin. at that point i was an eager convert and soon after i began to discover what that meant in the grander scheme of things. i mean people freaked out! i began to be on the receiving end of anger and bad vibes and sometimes even hatred, me of all people!(i’m as nice as nice can be). that lasted through middle school and into high school but at some point the wrath began to ebb as more folks were coming into the fold. and the funny thing was that it wasn’t always the MUSIC that put people off but the CONCEPT of the thing. many times i was able to extract a hearty thumbs up from the haters i knew by lying to them, i’d just tell them it was some other, non-punk band that they weren’t familiar enough with to see through the ruse and play them the damned or the buzzcocks and they’d hop right on board. i mean what 13 year-old could resist this?

anyways the fear of the new disappears when it becomes the old and then it’s time to leave such things to the mainstream who are always 20 or so years behind anyways. or even better you can just learn to love stuff like beefheart(and in a way the minutemen too) which will most likely NEVER cut the mustard for polite society and will remain all yours into the foreseeable future. time for coffee with wookie.

expressway to my skull

the song of the day is sonic youth’s “expressway to yr skull” because i woke up with ornette coleman’s “lonely woman” in my head but didn’t want to post it because i might have already done so. how i stumbled into a sonic youth song i haven’t listened to in about 5 years is one of those “unknowns”, either serendipitous or tragic depending on your point of view. now that i think about it sonic youth and ornette coleman DO have something of a common thread in that both sort of extended the range of “useable” notes, playing seemingly counterintuitive harmonies to the point where a lot of people just thought they were out of tune. in this way both made an important contribution to the musical landscape, freeing up a lot of other musicians to investigate sounds that got progressively further and further afield. so if you’re someone who enjoys listening to stuff that leans toward the dissonant end of the musical spectrum, ornette coleman and sonic youth are 2 entities that have managed to make something of an difference in your life. which is very generous of them.

they’ve got something else in common too which is that i used to have a lot of records made by each of them and now have quite a bit fewer. in sonic youth’s case i’m not that bummed, i no longer really listen to them and anyways i managed to hang on to the 3 records of theirs that i actually WOULD put on if i found myself in the mood. the loss of ornette records is just one more in a long line of events that i hate looking back on. selling off pieces of a collection you’re been working on for 20 years may seem/be necessary at the time but with a little foresight i could have avoided it easily enough. i got rid of scores of good records but the ones that really chap my hide are all the good jazz records i sold back. with a lot of the rock stuff i had heard the songs so many times that not having them in album form is not going to ruin me and while i guess losing the jazz ones won’t either it’s nonetheless different with them because the jazz tunes always sound new, there’s always stuff to hear that you hadn’t caught before. here’s the example i’ve already mentioned, it’s not 15 minutes long which is how i like them but it’s pretty superb for sure:

well there you have it. i’m cutting this one short because i don’t trust this new wordpress “new post” page too much(i’ve lost at least 2 blogs to it already) and you used to be able to use the old “new post” page but apparently that option has been dropped. wookie and leni are attempting to figure out their day and i guess i am too, hope yours is good.

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