Entry 0044: Satan Summer Mix ’15–the Only Way to Combat the Heat, Baby

mc5

LP: Kick Out the Jams by MC5

1969 Elektra EKS-74042, CENSORED

Favorite Track: Kick Out the Jams

Yes, I have the original Kick Out the Jams where “motherfucker” is changed into “brothers and sisters”. The LP is a little water damaged buy plays fine. I love it a lot. Come listen to it with me.

A co-worker of mine asked me about a year ago to make a Satan-themed mix tape. I took too long in making it but I finally finished it up today. I strived to only put a couple of metal songs on the mix as a) I could easily do a whole metal mix with my eyes closed and b) metal is not her preferred music genre. Plus, I wanted to go back and forth between scary Devil songs and the Devil is My Best Friend songs. I am sure I forgot a few classics.

This mix tape is dedicated to the oppressive heat of summer. Here is the Satan Summer Mix ’15:

  1. Satan is Real – The Louvin’ Brothers
  2. Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden
  3. Running from the Devil – the Ohio Players
  4. The Devil’s Paintbrush Road – Wailin’ Jennys
  5. Crossroads – Robert Johnson
  6. Go to Hell – Alice Cooper
  7. Lucifer Over Lancashire – The Fall
  8. Devil’s Resting Place – Laura Marling
  9. Black Juju – Lydia Lunch & Rowland S Howard
  10. Running with the Devil – Van Halen
  11. Red Right Hand – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  12. New Faith – Slayer
  13. Swamp – Talking Heads
  14. He’s Waiting – the Sonics
  15. Hessian Bodyfarm – Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Throw up those horns!

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Entry 0043: Dancing with Porthos

happymondays

LP: Pills ‘N’ Thrills and Bellyaches by the Happy Mondays

2015 Warner Records 90 Limited R1 60986, 2015 Record Store Day Release, yellow

Favorite Track: Step On

Happy Monday!

Last night, I sat by a window and read the beginning of Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas, waiting for the rain which never came. I am Harry Potter-obsessed with the d’Artagnan Romances. I haven’t been this into a book series since Harry Potter, reading the books back to back and forgetting all the 50 some books on my to-read shelf. Louise de la Valliere is the fourth out of five (in America, technically the last three books are just one giant story) and it is just as filled with daring swordplay, witty rejoinders, Court intrigue, secrets, spies, and those clever musketeers up to their schemes. The characters of d’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis are more fascinating than I ever had imagined. In the first book, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis are musketeers and defined by a singular trait which usually is exploited for some comic touches: Athos is bitter and drunk to the point of locking himself into a wine cellar and drinking a tavern out of business, Porthos is a giant who is always hungry and tired, and Aramis seeks to join the church despite secretly being romantically linked to several married women and stabbing people with swords. d’Artagnan himself is a hot head whose mouth is always getting him into trouble as well as his wang. But then the sequel (Twenty Years Later) happens and all the characters are so much better fleshed out and even atone for some of their problematic ways in the first book. Where this all will lead to in the end, I don’t know but I have a feeling that I am going to cry and be really sad that I have no more adventures to read. The last time this happened was when I read Don Quixote and even though I knew the whole time he was going to die, I was heartbroken when it happened.

Oh sorry for the spoiler.

All of this has got me to thinking what kind of Musketeer story I would write if I were given the opportunity to write a tale. The first issue to address is the sexism. Athos is particularly bad in the first novel although this makes the second book so much more interesting as he begins to regret the choices he made twenty years ago as Morduant inspires great and deserving fear into his heart. Curiously, Athos is more sober in the second and third–way to go alcohol, always bringing out the worst of ourselves. I don’t think the series would pass the Bechdel test for movies. There are no female swashbucklers, many of the women are scheming and being in love with the various economically-powerful men in the novel and always talking to each other about them, and some general stereotypical comments are made. Yes, Dumas is sexist especially to today’s definition of feminism, but part of the problem is simply a flaw with narration. Even in a novel where you are allowed to stall the plot while you build characters or settings, you still can’t fit everything you want in the framework of a story without sacrificing suspense and pacing. The overall plots to these books involve the schemes of the Kings of France and England, the French Cardinals and other high court nobility, which is dominated entirely by men. It is hard to write a scene about two women talking together without mentioning a man because they are so wrapped up in the giant multiple schemes that make up the plot of the book. Even what seems like the most trivia scenes are actually there to advance the plot, but the difficulty in writing is how to balance plot, character development, world building, philosophy, suspense and pacing into a storyline that grabs a reader and forces them to keep reading late into the night instead of putting it down and waiting until tomorrow. And same if you reverse it because the men talk a deal about (although, yes, not as much) the women because they are also wound up in the schemes. In a sense, the same can be said about minority characters. Here you have Dumas, a Moor, writing about white people. But again, the story takes place in 17th century about the Musketeers, which are the King’s Guards, and their adventures with secret mission to keep the power in the hands of the King. It would have been nice to see d’Artagnan interact with a Moorish trader or philosopher. The novels are not very realistic at all–everything is masterfully at high tension with crazy plot twists and super-forward pacing–so he could have slipped something unrealistic race-wise in, although would it have been serialized then back in day?

So what would I write? First, I would repeat a pattern that is developed at the beginning of all the novels. In the first book, d’Artagnan accidentally causes himself to set a time for a duel with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis respectively and this serves to be how the characters meet. In the second book, he travels to their homes trying to recruit them for a secret mission and only manages to convince bored Porthos while Athos and Aramis deny him because they are secretly plotting for the other side. In the third book, d’Artagnan travels to find his friend only to not find any of them and is incredible lonely. For my book, I would reverse this. For once, d’Artagnan would stay home and be glad he isn’t off in some war or secret mission when Athos would arrive and ask him to join his scheme, then Porthos, then Aramis. I would have d’Artagnan join with Athos as Athos is obviously his substitute father figure (who I would have return as a character). There is some mistrust between Aramis and d’Artagnan and I would highlight that. Porthos is everyone’s work donkey (he does all the heavy lifting essentially and generally just follows everyone else) so I would have him following Aramis but, for the first time, scheming for himself.

I don’t have a solid plot in my mind but it would involve traveling to Northern Africa, a Musketeer thought to be assassinated only to show up at the end and win an incredible swordfight, and the destruction of at least one famous building.

Oh, wow, I just realized I have been here for four hours and need to eat lunch. Later!

Oh yeah. I am so glad this album was reissued for Record Store Day. It is a favorite of mine and good summer jam. Check it out.

Entry 0042: The Free Writing Continues to Happen

fugazi

EP: Margin Walker by Fugazi

2009 Dischord Records DISCHORD 35

Favorite Track: Burning Too

 

The haze shimmered purple and cinnamon obscuring the sun as a scratched cornea. Plumes of smoke hung permanent in fat toadstools around the wrecked city. Violet saw the disused entrance service tubes grown over with the pink filth of moss and spray paint. Some of the tracks still scaled the intimidating plateau’s slope but halfway up the tracks bent outwards reminding Violet of the time she was a child in the Natural History museum and she came upon the Woolly Mammoth and shrieked for her guardian. A vulture sat pecking at something leaning against a turnstile.

 One of the great engines was still on fire engulfing the west side of town in perpetual flame. 100,000 people trapped. More since, inevitably, even the Isolationists breed. It had been 23 years since the last contact was made with the Isolationists. What kind of society did they construct after all? Or were they true to the fanaticism of their philosophy? Did nobody ever speak to each other here in Nirvana City.

A loud rending tore metal from the sky spooking the vulture to the sky trailing a line of grey entrails. Violet watched as the top of a skyscraper (why did the Isolationists build building in the images of the cities they left?) cracked and drop from the suspended ceiling above the original city streets. It crashed expelling a cloud of plaster, steel and glass that rained down over the plateau toward Violet like an avalanche of rolling infrastructure. Something sharp ripped a gash in her shirt, snagged a line of blood on the white cotton as she nimbly jumped out of the path of the sleeting destruction. The sound was incredible canceling internal thoughts and the thump of her pulsing heart. She was plaster blind as white winds swept over her, footing lost and on the ground in a fetal position protecting the vulnerable parts she could. Another rip.

Then it was over. Violet checked herself before regaining her feet. Bruised with two minor cuts but, surprisingly, in good health. And fortuitous as well as the rolling ball of crushed offices had left a zig zag of foot holds up the mountainside. Violet found her bag, unscrewed the water bottle, found it untainted, swigged some, and started her climb. The first hundred feet were easy to use T-bars and giant chunks of the concrete roof to pull herself along, pausing to sit a top of the larger ledges to catch her breath and strength. From a slippery piece of framework, Violet precariously leaped to the light rail track and began the laborious climb up to where the rail bend backwards. Mrs. Dawes told her about the maintenance tunnels built inside the mountain for, in the early days, the light rail broke down from the weight of lifting so many people. When the Isolationists decided to destroy their own tracks and cut themselves off from society, they planted the bombs at the midway point. Perhaps, they foresaw a day when they would have to fix the tracks to allow more people into Nirvana.

Twice, she slipped. Her water bottle dropped at a sickening speed that left her dizzy. It was cool against the mountain and the sunlight was blocked. She almost missed the secret entrance in her determined climb as it was about two hundred feet lower than she had imagined. No pass code or card swiped barred entry, the door just swung open. Violet collapsed onto the cold tiled floor sobbing from exhaustion and happiness for having succeeding in what she had determined to be the most difficult part of her challenge. She thought about Victor in the dark tunnel lit every twenty yards by neon lamps. The passage was wide enough for a vehicle to traverse with ease. An image of a boxy drill with six robotic tentacle arms like the cover of a pulpy sci-fi book came to her mind. She thought about the gun in her bag. She better start protecting herself. She was about to be the first non-Isolationist to enter the great Nirvana City. Would they be friendly or hostile? Would they even care? It was possible they would just view her as another human being who just wanted to live in solitude.

The tunnel ended after an hour’s worth of walking. Along the way she saw closets filled with various equipment and extra tracks broken into smaller pieces. Water and sewage pipes dripped above her. The system used to give the Isolationists water must be a technological marvel but Violet was not well versed in mechanical engineering. At the end of the tunnel was an elevator and Violet waiting a painful twenty minutes for it to come down. When the doors opened, she did not expect the bloodstains. The light flickered excitedly. Violet stepped just inside the elevator avoiding the dried blood that caked much of the floor, leaned over and inspected the numerous buttons to choose. She had expected only one and there certainly wasn’t a simple lobby button.

All the way to the top, she thought and pressed the button. The elevator was extremely fast. The trip still took twenty minutes because it had a long distance to travel.

Entry 0041: My Bone Machine Needs To Get Writing

tomwaitsb

LP: Bone Machine by Tom Waits

2010 Europe Island Records (?) ILPS 9993, record store staff quote: “of dubious origins”

Favorite Track: I Don’t Want to Grow Up

 

 Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and anything in between, new, or alien: This morning is the start of a 5-day vacation I did not ask for–work just gave me 5 straight days off in a row. And to start the trip off right, i am going to do some free association writing about this novel I have worked on again, off again for six years. Originally, it was to be titled 2020 for two reasons: it was going to be set in the near future (I conceived the idea in 2007) and play off of the idea of hindsight is 2020. Alas, that is only five years away so I squandered that silly opportunity. In theory, the germ of the novel is very similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (a movie I don’t actually like) but setting and character-wise is tied to two of my favorite novels: Albert Camus’s The Plague and Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren. Of course, i cannot write like those two authors. But I am also potentially going to borrow a similar opening scene like the one in Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

Okay, let us begin. The following will probably be completely re-written, destroyed, and recycled, hopefully finished and then published. Enjoy!

 

She rehearsed her cover story as she surmounted the flight of stairs that lead to the top story of the duplex. A thin layer of ice made the top flight of stairs dangerous and Violet questioned the decision of installing the laundry machines in the basement. She knocked a layer of dirty snow off her boots before she knocked on the door. Paint came off of her knuckles.

 “What do you want?” a rough voice behind a rough door. Lots of tiny muffled footsteps.

Violet found her mind losing the thread of her cover story already. “Mrs. Dawes? I’m from the university. I’m doing research for a paper. I need a primary source and I thought you’d be able to tell me something no one else can.”

The truth. So much for pretending to be from the newspaper. Wearing her emotions on her sleeve again. Why lie anyways? The truth is just as hard to take as a lie, but at least it is honest.

The door opened a crack and a bulging eyeball inspected the heavy overcoat and hand-knitted scarf that hung down to her knees. Violet felt like she was being sized up or looked over for weapons but her lithe figure and affable countenance passed whatever security check she was given. She heard the clacking of a lock being turned and as she entered she noticed the shoddy workmanship in the installation of the lock. Self-installed. Illegal. What was she walking into?

She followed the woman down a long, dirty hallway. Scuff marks covered the lower half of the walls and bits of plaster stuck in the garish carpet. The woman walked with quick steps toward the growing noise beyond a pale blue door.

“Ryle! Jenner! Ezekiel! Harriet! I told you to stop that!”

The racket only increased. The apartment was tiny and crammed. Four roll-out sleeping bags laid on the floor beside a disheveled bed next to a couch used more as a storage shelf than for sitting. Violet didn’t see any children but heard them in the kitchenette whose door was closed. The woman fell heavily on the bed as if the short walk exhausted her. She offered Violet no where to sit.

“Every year it is a new student. You have questions, but you have all the wrong ones.”

Violet started to take off her coat but left it on. She pulled out a moleskin journal and opened it flipping past pages of her terrible handwriting. She knew she had lost a quarter of her notes due to her penmanship and promised herself to write steadily this time. Mrs. Dawes could give her the biggest clue to the mystery.

“I hate to bother you, Mrs. Dawes. And I understand that this is a sensitive situation for you so I want to assure you that I am not prying into your life to sell it to some rag paper or fifteen minute blurb on the radios. I am probably like you: strong-willed, keeps to my own, and wants to know the truth–“

“You are too young to be like me,” Mrs. Dawes answered flatly.

Violet cast her eyes around the room. Everything looked like it had been hastily packed up and thrown in boxes that would break long before they made it down the staircase. A photo album rested on top of some folded blankets. Mrs. Dawes watched her with cold eyes, her brow wrinkled in concentration.

“I was a child when the Isolationist movement happened. I remembered watching it on the visionset and asking my mother lots of questions. She answered many of them, but there was always one she didn’t answer. I grew up fascinated by those times and have spent hours outside of school in the stacks and reading room of various libraries reading what I could, but, as you know, there isn’t much. It happened, the government–no, we the people of the United States–let it happen and then we forgot all about it.”

During this Mrs. Dawes calmly folder her hands into her lap. Something was on the verge of her thin lips.

 “I know that you are personally involved with the Isolationist or at least…”

Violet put the notebook back into her coat pocket. It felt too heavy in her hands.

“It’s always about Victor. You kids idolize the Isolationist like they were some kind of progressive movement. You’re probably wearing their logo on your teeshirt under that coat. Think it is all about being yourself when it is all about abandoning all who love you so you can be in love with yourself. The Isolationists cost people their lives, Miss–“

“Violet. Violet Henson.”

“Miss Henson. They brainwashed my boy. My eldest. He moved away and left us all behind to fend for ourselves. Left me to raise his siblings by myself with no income. Father in jail for life. And you think it is for kicks–to fight the establishment or society or whatever.”

“Mrs. Dawes, I didn’t mean to offend. I’m just trying to get answers–“

“Answers to what. They don’t want anything to do with us. That was the purpose. To leave.”

“I want to get inside.”

“Why would you want to do something stupid like that and why would you think I know how to.”

Violet clenched her hands. “Because you have been there.”

Mrs. Dawes eyes lit up in fury. She attempted to stand up but fell back on the bed with a loud squeak.

“Get out of my house!”

The noise from the kitchen emulated the mother’s wail.

“Mrs. Dawes. I have personal reasons to get involved with the Isolationists. Like you, I lost somebody. And while I am there I can look for Victor if he is–“

“If he is still what?”

Violet suddenly understood that Mrs. Dawes had not heard the latest news. She noticed there was no visionset in the apartment. She swallowed.

“If he is still alive.”

Mrs. Dawes stood about an inch taller than Violet. Her eyes were wide open.

“What do you mean by that?”

“The government keeps a watch on the city. In case, they finally change their minds and come back. A week ago,” Violet took a step backwards but Mrs. Dawes pushed forward aggressively. A wild look had come over her. “there was an accident. The city is in ruins.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The floating neighborhood’s engines failed. It crashed right into the mainland. The smoke and fire has obscured much of the view and, of course, the government won’t do anything to rescue them. FEMA is just sitting idle while people are dying. As you know, the city was built on top of a large plateau and then all the entrance elevators were disabled after everyone moved in. I need to get in to save a life. Maybe two. Will you help me Mrs. Dawes?”

Entry 0040: The Day Before Vacation

rsdsingles

EPS: Kingdom Come by Tom Verlaine/David Bowie

2015 Elektra/Parlophone R7-547633, Record Store Day 7-inch, white translucent

Favorite Track: Kingdom Come by Tom Verlaine

Adult Books by X

2015 Superior Viaduct Sv081, Record Store Day 7-inch, yellow

Favorite Track: Adult Books

I am on lunch break. Five hours from now (and a 30 minute bus ride home) and I will be free for five days. Normally, I would be sitting at my to-read shelf choosing between four or five novels, exchanging a short sci-fi for a long-winded classic and then doubling back to the space lasers just to really want to drink French wine and sit outside in the shade with Dumas.

I do not have that problem this time. I am four-hundred pages into Dumas’s The Vicomte de Bragelonne and I will probably read most of it tonight and then jump right into Louise de la Vallière. I finished the New York Sunday Crossword puzzle, which I thoroughly enjoyed this time even though its theme was gag worthy puns on horse racing. A new Fall album just came out and all the reviews are saying it is the best one in years. One day will be devoted to Dungeon and Dragons. Two others to the Red River Gorge.

What is the problem?

Writer’s block. All the excitement I had been building up from the start of this blog was destroyed in April due to migraines. I let May slip away content with giving myself time to re-cooperate, catch up on my reading, and attempt to relax despite continuing to pick up lots of extra hours from work. At the start of June, which completely snuck up on me, I was ready to delve back into creative writing, my truest passion. And was the well dry.

Even this blog has suffered in the last few entries–pairing Wire albums with Wine and creating a Summer Mix Tape (which is quite good)–but I was hoping this pleasant distractions would shift my brain back into thinking absurdly. It has to some degree, but the spark is missing. That rush of I have to get this down on paper before I lose it all. That rush of I just want to write this story because that is how my mind works.

These days, I have been questioning if my mind works at all. It feels empty. Muggy, humid summer has hit the city hard. Reading outside is an exercise in deep breathing. Listening to records is distracted by the loud hum of the air conditioner. Board games have brought friends over and occupied a day. I re-discovered how truly amazing the ending of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone really is: Eleven year old Harry Potter fights his professor (who was a mad dark wizard’s face growing out of the back of his head) in a secret altar room (surrounded by flames) underneath a magical castle and Harry kills the professor by disintegrating him with his bare hands as they grapple over the Philosopher’s Stone.

I hope I can write something better than that. And that is a tall order.

My vacation time goal is to start earnestly writing the novel that has been inside my head since 2007. I have to re-read Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, but after I finish the d’Artagnan Romances because I am Harry Potter-addicted to them. I highly recommend you reading them. The first book is very good, but flawed as Athos is a bitter, dejected man. Twenty Years After, the sequel to the Three Musketeers, seriously is in my top five favorite books. And, probably, my favorite high adventure novel.

Uh-oh, lunch break is ending. A quick note about the records picked for this entry. The first one is a split between Tom Verlaine (of Television, one of my all-time favorite bands) and David Bowie (another favorite). The Tom Verlaine version has mix tape written all over it. The Bowie version is busier with sharp pop-sensibilities and great bass, but loses a little intimacy that the original has. The X single is a different version of Adult Books than the album version and is much better. I don’t know what the story is behind why there are two different cuts of this song. If you know, please let me know. I saw Television (with Tom Verlaine playing guitar and singing) and X and memories of their concerts are coming back to me. Television was simply stunning. I remember being really hot in that packed venue, but not caring for a moment. X blazed through their opening set (before Blondie) but I remember the sound was off for the first two or three songs.

I am not a music festival fan, but I would recommend seeing both bands while you can, any way you can.

Entry 0039: Summer Mix Tape

kinkdom

LP: Kinkdom by the Kinks

1965 Reprise Records RS-6184, Reissue

Favorite Track: I Need You

 

Summer means a lot of things to me: seasonal depression, having to turn on the air conditioning, listening to people complain about how humid it is after just complaining about how cold it is, a busy time of year at work. But it also means summer mix tape time. I used to make actual mix tapes on cassette all the time. Often, they were just recording my favorite 90’s punk and ska tracks of the week. When I upgraded to making mixed CDs, I began making them for other people and met with lots of compliments, which always sort of fueled an idea that I should be a DJ. As far as I can tell, I never made a specific “I’m secretly in love with you” mix for a lady, but I know there were lyrics that she probably thought about her own secret crush instead of me.

Now I am in a position where I cannot make a mix tape for anyone. At least, not a physical one. So I am going to write out the mix tape in this blog for all of you and add a little commentary. The commentary may expand in the next couple of days because I can’t even listen to 90% of the songs on the list because of a long line of computer issues.

I stole this idea from the Onion’s AV Club’s 60 minutes of music for the band Wire. Mine is 61 minutes. I’m sorry.

Without further ado, here is your and my 2015 Summer Soundtrack:

  1. Lightning Bolt – Mythmaster (5:11) – Spring is better than summer because of the frequency of thunderstorms. This is the passing of Spring.
  2. Stiff Little Fingers – Suspect Device (2:29) – One of the catchiest punk singles from the ’70’s. That concept in itself would make a good mix tape.
  3. The Standells – Dirty Water (2:48) – It’s summer. Let’s all flock to the polluted water sources!
  4. Tinariwan – Amassakoul Ntenere (3:25) – I got turned on to Sahel sound by Crimson, an energetic mass of moving curls spring loaded to make me smile each and every time I see her. In an attempt to find more similar music, I found this. Try to get it out of your head.
  5. Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz (5:58) – I always knew I loved Leonard Cohen. I have no explanation on why I kept skipping his albums on vinyl until I found I’m Your Man, which I knew is rare. Two months it never left my player and a couple of my friends immediately became addicted. This song was the tipping point.
  6. Ruth Brown – Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean (2:57) – This was my favorite song I discovered when I took a History of Rock’n’Roll class at university. I feel like this generation has no idea about this song and they should.
  7. Tom Waits – Goin’ Out West (3:20) – This was almost my first choice for opening track. It will be when I go out West to Seattle and Portland this summer.
  8. Wire – Blogging (3:46) – Every song of the new Wire album could easily integrate itself into a mix tape. I love the lyrics to this one.
  9. Cabaret Voltaire – Spies in the Wire (3:19) – Playing off of the last song, this is one of Cabaret Voltaire’s more accessible tracks.
  10. Telex – Dance to the Music (4:15) – Who the hell are Telex? I didn’t know either until earlier this year, but now they have been a frequent jam.
  11. Happy Mondays – Holiday (3:28) – I am almost on vacation. I am almost on vacation. It is a mantra.
  12. The Saints – Swing for the Crime (3:37) – I’ve been obsessing over trying to find the third Saints album on vinyl because of this song.
  13. the Flesheaters – Satan’s Stomp (5:42) – There is a lot of good punk mixed with horns from the late 70’s and early 80’s. By the time I came around, it all devolved into ska. What happened?
  14. Fleetwood Mac – The Chain (4:47) – Guess why I like this song?
  15. the Electric Prunes – Get Me to the World on Time (2:30) – The title is the epitome of summer attitude.
  16. Hamadth Kah – Ce Weeti (4:50) – Best cover of the Police’s Message in a Bottle. I didn’t know there was such thing as best cover for that song. I do now. Thanks, Crimson!
  17. the Kinks – I Need You (2:29) – One last fast and crunchy guitar song to make you want to start it all over again.