At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

My solitary exile in the plains will be relieved by a couple of visits this summer. First, my brother is flying into Lubbock tomorrow afternoon for a weekend jaunt in the Llano. I'm excited but I hope I can find enough to do to keep him entertained. Second, "Pablo" of comments box fame kindly offered to fly out on the 4th of July for a campout in Palo Duro Canyon. Thanks guys!

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

obviate tr.v. ob·vi·at·ed, ob·vi·at·ing, ob·vi·ates To anticipate and dispose of effectively; render unnecessary. (

King Sunny Adé Juju Music [Mango, 1982]

The Message, the unavailable-in-the-U.S. Nigerian LP that precedes this made-for-export overview conceptually, actually comes closer to pop--it's brighter, edgier, more tuneful. The music here is all flowing undulation; even the experimental synthesizer interjections, while recalling the startling syn-drums of great disco, seem somehow rubberized, springing suddenly outward and then receding back into the slipstream. It's almost as if Chris Blackwell, aware that it was absurd to think AOR, aimed instead for a kind of ambient folk music that would unite amateur ethnologists, Byrne-Eno new-wavers, reggae fans, and hip dentists, just for starters. But never fear--not only do these confident, magical, surpassingly gentle polyrhythms obviate the organic and the electronic, the local distinctions between background and foreground. I can imagine somebody not loving Sunny Adé; I can't imagine somebody disliking him. A- (

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Movie Time!

A Mighty Wind--unfunny.


Robert Christgau Word of the Day

Aleatory a. Depending on the throw of a die or on chance; depending on uncertain contingencies; Mus. & Art involving random choice by the composer, performer, or artist. (New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)

Sonic YouthExperimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star [DGC, 1994]

Instead of distilling their weakness for experimental trash into noise-rock that sounds like a million bucks, they apply their skill at major-label compromise to their eternal propensity for experimental trash. After all this time, they know what they're doing when they fuck around, and their long-evolving rock and roll groove breaks down only when they have something better to do--there's nothing aleatory, accidental, or incompetent about it. Anyway, usually the groove holds; this is no Sister because it moves when it means to. Its unexpected noises are the marks of flesh-and-blood creatures thinking and feeling things neither you nor they have ever thought or felt before. If they can't quite put those things into words, that's what unexpected noises are for. A

John Cale Fear [Island, 1974]

With Phil Manzanera flailing his axe like rocksy music was a thing of the future and Eno doing his best Baby Cortez imitation it sounds as if somebody just played "Sister Ray" for Cale and he thought the world of it. Manzanera's feedback extravaganza on "Gun" is a landmark of six-string aleatoric, and on "The Man Who Couldn't Afford to Orgy" the entire ensemble comes up with the perfect sleazy-slick background rock for the glass-table scene in a porn flick. Concept: see title. A- (

Sunday, May 25, 2003

New Documentary Examines "Mystique" of Lubbock Music

I got back from Austin on Thursday night. I wish I could say that I had a great time in the cultural and political capital of Texas, but the itinerary was too brief and busy for me to do the sort of things I would have liked to. If I were smarter I would have taken a day of vacation time for my own amusement--lesson learned for my next conference, whenever and wherever that may be. A behind-the-scenes tour of the LBJ presidential library was mildly interesting, and some of the other librarians were worth talking to, especially one guy from a seminary in Charlotte who impressed me (although I'm no judge) as quite the expert on Baptist history. Oh, and I won a Baylor coffee mug, which is more exciting than it sounds because I've been collecting mugs from every university I've been affiliated with (seven schools so far).

Now I'm struggling to get through a three-day weekend. Yesterday I moped around Plainview, reading a bit from Otto's The Idea of the Holy, eating at our local pseudo-Chinese buffet, getting tendonitis from the PS2, and sipping Calvados while watching a thunderstorm blow through town, bringing some much-needed rain mixed with harmless hail pellets. I also saw The Devil's Playground, a documentary focusing on a handful of Amish teenagers in northern Indiana going through rumspringa, a period when they are allowed to taste the world's pleasures in order that their choice to join the church be more informed and settled. For me it was nostalgic--not that I was raised Amish, of course, but while in South Bend I occasionally visited Goshen and Shipshewana, where most of the documentary was filmed. One of the kids worked at the Blue Gate Restaurant, which I have seen many times. (I can't remember but it might be the restaurant Felix, Pablo and I ate at on our way to the U.P.) Another worked at a mobile home factory which I have also been in. While visiting a friend of a friend in "Shipshie" I woke up at dawn to the clapping of hooves on ashphalt, ate "fried mush" for breakfast, and went to a livestock auction where the rows of bearded, stoic men placed their bids with almost imperceptible gestures. Facets of Amish culture appeal to me--the devotion to family life, the nearness to nature, the chicks in long skirts and bonnets--but I wouldn't be able to abide their denigration of higher education.

Today I visited the Greek Orthodox Church in Lubbock. I enjoyed it more than I expected to. My experience with GO churches in northern Indiana was disappointing because the liturgies were in Greek, congregational participation was lackluster, and I was never welcomed into their ethnic enclave. Here the service was in English, everyone joined in the chanting, and after the service I was greeted enthusiastically. One thing I've chronicled in this blog is the number of free meals I've gotten by visiting various churches, and today I was lucky to hit St. Andrew's on a potluck Sunday. Aside from the olives, the food could have been served at any Anglo church. In fact, only a handful of people in the congregation looked obviously Mediterranean. There was a surprising number of attractive (but married) young women present. I'm sure I'll go back, at least when I feel the need for a liturgical fix.

Later in the afternoon I did some shopping, worked on an LJ review, and tried menudo (disgusting) at Tacqueria Jalisco. Now I need to think of a way to get through Memorial Day. Playing Medal of Honor: Frontline seems like the patriotic thing to do.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

lap·i·dar·y n. pl. lap·i·dar·ies

  1. One who cuts, polishes, or engraves gems.
  2. A dealer in precious or semiprecious stones.


  1. Of or relating to precious stones or the art of working with them.
  2. Engraved in stone.
  3. Marked by conciseness, precision, or refinement of expression: lapidary prose.
  4. Sharply or finely delineated: a face with lapidary features.

The Bongos Drums Along the Hudson [PVC, 1982]

Although these casually lapidary popsongs sounded slight as singles, they gain authority laid down seven or eight to a side. But for all their jumpy originality they're still slight, and Richard Barrone's lyrics are so oblique you have to wonder what his angle is. Growing up isn't that confusing--or that personal. B+ (