Entry 0047: Seeing Calvino (Milkmen Stomp)


LP: Eat Your Paisley by the Dead Milkmen

1986 Restless Records 7 72131-1

Favorite Track: The Thing That Only Eats Hippies


 I am very fortunate to own all 4 important Dead Milkmen albums in their original release. Are they important albums? Maybe, maybe not. Actually, I haven’t even heard their latest album and I bet there are some good songs on it. But the first four albums always held an allure to me that fed my craving to have a complete collection. One of the reasons is that I never heard the first four Dead Milkmen albums. I had a CD of Death Rides a Pale Cow which is a hits compilation. I found Beelzebubba first with the immortal Punk Rock Girl. I admit I swaggered a bit after buying that one. I didn’t know anyone else who owned one of their albums on vinyl although I assumed one or two of my friends did. They are hard to find. On my copy of Beelzebubba someone wrote, “Long out of print!”

Eat Your Paisley was the last one I found. Thanks to Black Plastic Records for that. Allmusic.com gave it only two out of five stars, but I disagree. It is my second favorite Dead Milkman album behind Big Lizard in My Backyard. Two Feet Off the Ground is completely underrated. I Hear Your Name, Happy Is, and Take Me Apart would make excellent mid mix-tape obscure tracks. Everything else is playful. Of course, Beach Party Vietnam and The Thing That Only Eats Hippies are the standouts. Give this album a shot if you have never heard it. Re-listen to it if you have. In this humidity, this can be your oasis.

My summer has been particularly busy at the public library preparing an art exhibit titled Seeing Calvino. Three amazingly talented artists by the names of Matt Kish, Joe Kuth, and Leighton Connor have illustrated all 55 cities in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. And I, somehow, managed to convince them to bring them to display at the library in the department I work at. My mind is blown. This artwork was recently projected against giant screens during the Eutropia 2015 music festival in which Patti Smith and Jimmy Cliff played before the images. The exhibit is to run from September 1st through November 15th.

I am not overly familiar with Italo Calvino as Invisible Cities is the only book of his I’ve read and one of four I can name. Post-modern and philosophical are descriptors that come to mind. Invisible Cities is a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn, but, as neither speak the same language, Polo uses objects from each city to describe it to Kahn who may or may not be interpreting Polo’s objects in his own unique fashion. The book challenges the ideas of what makes a city, who lives there, the history of cities, and, most importantly, are all cities the same or are they different?

Matt Kish, Joe Kuth, and Leighton Connor take their brilliant personal interpretations of each city and have rendered it for us to “see”. With simple strokes or minute details, they have brought Calvino’s images to life while adding an interesting third interpretation to the story. Are our artists faithfully designing these cities as Polo has seen them? Or are they like Kahn and left to their own devices? Maybe Polo never went and saw any of these cities and is merely describing the different aspect of Kahn’s own city?

Why don’t you come down to the Cincinnati Public Library on September 1st and decide for yourself. Or create your own interpretation.


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