At Home He's a Tourist

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

Friday, June 20, 2003

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

trope n. 1. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor. 2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies. (

Marvin Gaye Here My Dear [Tamla, 1978]

The brightness of the disco remix Motown has made available on "A Funky Space Reincarnation" is a vivid reminder of how pathologically laid back Gaye is striving to be. I mean, seventy minutes of pop music with nary a melody line almost qualifies as a tour de force, and the third side barely escapes the turntable at all. Yet this is a fascinating, playable album. Its confessional ranges from naked poetry ("Somebody tell me please/Why do I have to pay attorney fees?" is a modernist trope that ranks with any of Elvis Costello's) to rank jive, because Gaye's self-involvement is so open and unmediated, guileless even at its most insincere, it retains unusual documentary charm. And within the sweet, quiet, seductive, and slightly boring mood Gaye is at such pains to realize, his rhythmic undulations and whisper-to-a-scream timbral shifts can engross the mind, the body, and above all the ear. Definitely a weird one. B+ (

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

non·pa·reil adj. Having no equal; peerless: the Yankees' nonpareil center fielder. n. 1. A person or thing that has no equal; a paragon. 2. A small, flat chocolate drop covered with white pellets of sugar. (

Nerdy Girl Twist Her [No Life, 1996]

nonpareil miniatures ("Single Bed," "Casa Nova") * (

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

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

Since it's vital that the world knows what I've been watching, reading, and listening to...

DVDs: The Golden Bowl--I became a Merchant/Ivory fan back in the late 80s and early 90s when they made three gorgeous adaptations of E. M. Forster novels: A Room With a View, Maurice, and Howard's End. But I've been less enthusiastic about the sources they've drawn on since the Forster well ran dry. Here M&I resort to Henry James, whom they treated in 1979 (The Europeans) and 1984 (The Bostonians) . I'm not qualified to criticize a recognized genius like James, I suppose, but I thought this unremarkable tale of adultery was too factitiously* literary, from the opening scene in which one of the characters tells a story about his ancestors which all-too-nicely parallels the plot to come, to the belabored symbolism of the object referred to in the title, to the stiff, writerly dialogue. And as far as eye-candy goes, I'll take Helena Bonham-Carter and Emma Thompson over Kate Beckinsale and Uma Thurman any day.

Time Code--A failed experiment. The screen is divided in four sections so that four different aspects of the story are presented simultaneously. For instance, in the first ten minutes or so (which is all I could get through) we see in the upper right hand corner a woman describing a dream to a therapist; in the upper left, two women argue in a limosine; in the lower left, some sort of business meeting is taking place; and in the lower right, a masseur enters the lobby of the business building to offer his services. The gimmick is pointless because the viewer can't follow more than one stream of action, and the director, Mike Figgis, concedes by only allowing one of the screens at a time to contain any significant action or clearly audible dialogue. Also annoying is the amateurish "Dogma 95" production style, unedited real time action shot with handheld video cameras.

The Woman Next Door--Anna Karenina á la française. Not bad.

Donnie Darko--Sardonic, depressed teen with problems at school and home is befriended by a being, perhaps imaginary, named "Frank" who wears a bunny suit and skull mask. In his quest to discover Frank's identity, Donnie eradicates his problems in a rather drastic manner. Except for a false note struck by the intrusion of a cardboard right-wing character (uptight, fanatical, and ignorant, of course), a enjoyable sci-fi flick.

Books: St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine--I've found that the patristics are hard to classify as either proto-Protestant or -Catholic, and this work dealing with Biblical interpretation also has something both parties will disagree with. Whereas modern Roman Catholic apologists often point to the many obscurities of scripture as proof that some infallible ecclesiastical interpreter is necessary, Augustine does no such thing, but says that God has good reason for making the Bible difficult, and gives the individual reader methods for coming to a reasonable interpretation. On the other hand, modern evangelicals would be uncomfortable with his assertion that the literal sense of Scripture is not as important as an interpretation that fosters faith, hope, and love, and furthermore that the Christian far advanced in these three virtues no longer needs Scripture. That is a salutary correction to Protestantism's overly propositional approach to religion.

Tunes: Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin--it's great that a band in the cynical 90s could have made an earnest, old-fashioned prog-rock concept album--I hear a few things borrowed from Dark Side of the Moon and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

*Thanks, Robert Christgau.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

puissance n. Power; might.(

U2 October [Island, 1981]

As they push past twenty their ambitions are showing, and suddenly the hope-addicts whiff both commerce and pretension. Sure it's still all fresh-faced and puissant in that vaguely political way that so moves the concerned rock journalist (and fan)--just not altogether unspoiled, sniff sniff. Bono Vox gets poetic, Steve Lillywhite gets arty, and those of us who expect more than sonic essence of rock and roll get enough melody and construction to make the first side a bit of all right. What a stupid band to expect purity from. B- (

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The nearest confluence has been visited and photographed recently; check it out if y'all want a good look at the flatlands.

Ivana Spalatin, an unusually enthusiastic and easily impressed reviewer for Choice, makes an appearance in the July issue. True to form, she gushes about the item under review: "It is an honor to review this extraordinary, original, scholarly, Leonardo-esque book, edited and translated by two outstanding women professors." This time her laudatory impulses drive her to incoherence. What does she mean by saying of the author that "Florensky is unclassifiable; his soul is like a blue diamond and a greenish-gold snake"? And is it really a compliment to say that "His insights are distinguishable, evanescent, and even cataclysmic"?

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Robert Christgau Words of the Day

lu·bri·cious adj.

  1. Having a slippery or smooth quality.
  2. Shifty or tricky.

    1. Lewd; wanton.
    2. Sexually stimulating; salacious. (

gamahuche v. & n. slang. Also gamaruche. M19. [Fr. gamahucher. perh. imit.] A v.i. & t. Perform fellatio or cunnilingus (with). M19. B n. An act of fellatio or cunnilingus. M19. (The New Shorter OED.)

Prince Dirty Mind [Warner Bros., 1980]

After going gold in 1979 as an utterly uncrossedover falsetto love man, he takes care of the songwriting, transmutes the persona, revs up the guitar, muscles into the vocals, leans down hard on a rock-steady, funk-tinged four-four, and conceptualizes--about sex, mostly. Thus he becomes the first commercially viable artist in a decade to claim the visionary high ground of Lennon and Dylan and Hendrix (and Jim Morrison), whose rebel turf has been ceded to such marginal heroes-by-fiat as Patti Smith and John Rotten-Lydon. Brashly lubricious where the typical love man plays the lead in "He's So Shy," he specializes here in full-fledged fuckbook fantasies--the kid sleeps with his sister and digs it, sleeps with his girlfriend's boyfriend and doesn't, stops a wedding by gamahuching the bride on her way to church. Mick Jagger should fold up his penis and go home. A (