Entry 0053: Live Magic


LP: It’s Beginning To and Back Again by Wire

1989 Enigma Records 7 73516-1, Mute STUMM 66

Favorite Track: Eardrum Buzz

A couple of nights ago, I finished re-watching the Harry Potter movies for the third time. I used to fall asleep to Futurama episodes, then Arrested Development, but now I’ve seen them so many times, I find myself laughing only on the occasion that I forgot a joke or discovered a new one. So sometime in my adulthood, I switched the Harry Potter movies because I am still envious my years in school didn’t include Defense Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration. I would still have hated Potions class.

I have made a handful of lists before on this blog and today’s post will be no different. Since I made a wine pairing list to go alongside Wire’s catalog, I felt like using the new live Wire album I purchased a couple of days ago. Today’s list will be the order in which I prefer the Harry Potter movies (not the books, I’ll do that later) and why.

This list is completely biased by my subjective Slytherin perspective so take it with a grain of butterbeer.

8th place: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Why so low: The trouble with the penultimate movie is that there is no strong central mystery to it. Half the movie is Voldemort’s backstory treated as periodic infodumps when the viewer needs that crucial bit of information. The other half is what is Draco doing that is so mysterious. The Half-Blood Prince mystery is nearly forgotten in the movie. Then there is the romance. I’ve always found romances in movies to be largely annoying and forgettable. The Hermione/Ron split feels largely forced to separate those two until the next movie. I would rather have seen Hermione and Ron get together in, say book three, and watch how their relationship changed throughout the ever perilous years at Hogwarts. That is not to say this whole movie is bad. There are some great parts: Snape is as perfect as ever, Slughorn finally giving in to sharing his embarrassing memory, the cave filled in Inferi.

7th place: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Why so low: Starting with the third one (which commits the gravest of excluding important background info about the creators of the Marauder’s Map), all the Harry Potter movies had to cut side plots and shorten events to fit into a two hourish movie. Goblet of Fire has a lot taken out of in and sometime feels like a skeleton of the book. The Triwizard Cup is blown through in the first ten minutes although the Dark Mark is eerie without the movie feeling completely abominable. Time spent in the classroom is cut to bare minimum although “Mad Eye” Mooney’s teaching of the Unforgivable Curses still remains one of the best parts of the whole entire series. Instead, we get long drawn out Triwizard Challenges with nifty special effects, but more action-scene orientated than the suspense, humor, and mystery of the novels. The other problem is the Triwizard cup being a Portkey. How exactly did *SPOILER* know when Harry and  Cedric would touch the cup? Why didn’t *SPOILER* just make Harry’s bed a Portkey the night after the tournament when no one was around to notice he had disappeared?

6th place: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Why so average: This movie had the most extraneous information cut from it, but benefits because of the editing. Where it falters is the ending with a shortened daring adventure throughout the Ministry–the one time so many of its secrets are revealed in the book. But the atmosphere, the tone, the secret DADA club, and, of course, the wizard’s duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore make this an enjoyable movie. If you’ve read the book a dozen times before.

5th place: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

Why so average: I do not envy the scriptwriter who had to take the 7th book and split it into two movies. It probably could have been one and been more effective (though long) but I think some of the emotional aspects would have been lost, especially in the beginning (in the Part One where they are traveling around lost and clueless for horcruxes). One problem with Part Two, the movie feels like it is the middle of a movie so if you didn’t just watch Part One, you are disorientated from the get-go. One thing I noticed this time around, despite so many messages to Harry saying you need your friends, the later movies increasing focus just on his battle. Fred, Tonks, Lupin, McGonagall, and others show up for the tiniest screen time ever. But their lives mattered. I do like, however, that the true heroes of the whole tale end up being Draco Malfoy and his mother who both could have turned Harry Potter in to the Dark Lord but do not.

4th place: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This was the movie that convinced me to finally read the books. The minute Harry heard a serpentine voice whispering throughout the castle, I was sold. The story may feel like a slower, more drawn out copy of the first movie, but a lot of secret set-up is happening for the last movies. Plus, Gilderoy Lockhart may be one of the under-appreciated comedic moments in the whole series, books or movies. I love the reveal that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is in the girl’s restroom where Moanin’ Myrtle died. (Oops *SPOILER*) The early Potter books and movies were great that everything somehow connected to the end.

3rd place: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Why so above-average: This one gets bonus points because of the animated sequence about the Deathly Hallows. What a perfect way to convey that information and what beautiful graphics! This movie nails the tone down immediately. Hermione wiping her existence from her parent’s minds is heartbreaking. The trio face the hardest challenge: staying together. Whereas, a longer Deathly Hallows movie would have completed the storytelling arc more successfully (after all, who wants to watch a movie only to see to be continued at the end?), most of this movie probably would have been cut to make that happen. And we would have lost so much time we needed to watch Harry finally go the his hometown, for Ron to sit staring at the radio in a daze, and for Dobby to become a hero in his own right. The music is a bit bombastic, but I love it.

2nd place: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Why so great: I am a fierce lover of the first book/movie. Christopher Columbus would not have been the director I would have chosen. I wish Alfonso Cuaron directed them all. But this one is faithful to the book the most. And what kind of children’s movie ends with the 11-year hero inside a secret room underneath a magical castle that he and his friends had to solve mysteries to get into, only for the hero to find one of his professors with AN EVIL WIZARD’S FACE growing out of the back of his head searching for Nicolas Flamel’s Sorcerer’s Stone and the 11-year hero kills his professor. That is dark.

1st place: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Why so great: When I first saw this in the theaters, I hated it. All the next day, I kept spitting and swearing to myself. It was cold in Athens, autumnal. I had no homework to do so in the middle of the afternoon, I went and saw it again. And it completely became my favorite immediately. The minute I put aside my perfectionist fanboy attitude of they didn’t explain about who created the map and why aren’t they wearing their wizard robes, I saw the genius direction Cuaron took the series in. Daniel, Rupert, and Emma do their first great acting jobs. The sets look more magical. The tone is impressively chilly. Lupin is so much better than Sirius. The music wonderful. And no one dies.

About live concert albums: typically, I am not a fan of live albums. Their sound quality is often poor, you hear them making mistakes as they jump around on stage, vocals can sometimes be unintelligible. Then, sometimes they are more raw and exciting. IBTABA captures Wire in their second incarnation. Here they mesmerize not with ferocious punk energy or strange post-punk experimentation. They cut songs like David Lynch films: normalcy with an underbelly of everything bizarre and possibly unholy.

Which is why Wire is one of my favorite bands.


Entry 0052: Invisible Cities, the TV show


LP: The Stooges by the Stooges

2002 Sundazed Music LP 5149, reissue

Favorite Track: I Wanna Be Your Dog

Last night, I met with the other Space Wizards, a sci-fi/fantasy/horror library book club, as we discussed Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. We had much to discuss and the conversation was cerebral to say the least. For those who may not be initiated in the works of Calvino, imagine two figures standing on the stage (one gesticulating and contorting his body as if in a middle of a dance, the other sitting and nodding) and the background is constantly being built up and torn down as we pass through 55 cities only to come to the realization that all the cities are the same, that we have already lived and been living in each one, yet, we have never traveled or arrived at any of these fantastical cities. They are beyond us.

Confused? Sure. Invisible Cities is a post-modern novel that is a perfect example why genre labels are arbitrary. It has elements of science fiction, fantasy, philosophy, theology, architecture, city planning, madness, sadness, romance, dystopia, utopia, hope. It reads like a postcard.

After the book club meeting, I had a brilliant thought I should have brought up in the first place. Invisible Cities should be a television show. 55 total episodes. Each episode would depict Marco Polo’s adventures through each city. Each episode would have a different style according to the mood or tone of the city’s description. For example, Perinthia, the city of monsters, would have a heavy True Detective atmosphere, a cultish murder, the suggestion that the stars are all wrong. Some episodes would be animated, some live action, some just lines or waterpipes with music and vocal tracks. Maybe Alejandro Jodorowsky would direct an episode.

And what music should be the opening theme? Why the Stooges, of course. The droning of We Will Fall featuring John Cale’s searching viola would give the credits a mysterious, ill-eased feel. 1969 would blast each credit name like a shotgun blast. No Fun would evoke images of Marco Polo driving a space car with the space windows down, the Stooges blaring as illustrated cities fly past on either side, the same city always in the rearview mirror.

Maybe each episode could start with a different Stooges song? Maybe I should just go listen to the Stooges. Oh, I am. Maybe you should come to the downtown public library and see the Seeing Calvino exhibit at the downtown public library in the Popular Libary department. Now through Nov. 20 with a closing reception on Nov. 16th at approximately 7 pm.

Entry 0051: Nigerian Nights Part Three


LP: Nigeria Special: Volume 2

2010 Soundway SNDWLP020

Favorite Track: Ajambene by Eric “Showboy” Akaeze and His Royal Ericos

Yarl’s father smelled of the afterlife. His eyes were cloudy. His teeth rotten like black kernels partially chewed down to the cob. Thizzie scrubbed away flesh with the bathing stone on the last morning of their visit. Oke merely said Yarl’s name with a somber air, spittle pooling down the folds in his hanging jowls. He wouldn’t live for another month and Thizzie inwardly prayed a selfish thanks for his hanging onto to life throughout their visit. There would be no need to return for the funeral. He would be placed in a ceremonial deathrobe and slid out the vacuum tube to outside the station where his body would feed the nutrient-starved soil.

Yarl sat across from his mother at the breakfast table while Thizzie slowly packed their bags.

He hadn’t said much the whole trip and each unspoken moment hung in front of him like a stone wall. For all the words he could pour forth in a story, words he would strike out and change, manipulate and be manipulated by, words he could choke, he found himself unable to speak to the very people who most needed his words. Because, at the moment, words were meaningless in the face of death or, more precisely, in the face of the absence of life. Words were life: they are born from a void, run up the slide and swing the monkey bars of a park, dance ungratefully at a prom, age into maturity over a bottle of wine, and, always, stimulate, mimic and express life.

When there is death, there are no more words.

Death is the last word.

Koma spoke all the time about Oke’s condition. She spoke of it like she was feeding the pigs or changing the bed sheets. Yarl wished he could be strong like her. Even Thizzie seemed her normal self albeit reserved and respectful. Why couldn’t Yarl act calm? Frustration had gotten the better of him the night before and he spoke rudely to Thizzie in the same insolent manner as he did during their rocky moments two years ago. Thizzie turned her back on him, pulling the patchwork quilt away from his shivering legs. But when he woke up, she had returned a portion of it and Yarl said thank you before stumbling off to see if Oke made it through the night.

“She is holding a secret against you.”

Koma’s heavy voice held an unusual agitated tone to it. Yarl felt a bit unnerved.

“Thizzie? I can’t imagine that she would keep a secret. She tells me everything to help me go to sleep. You know my writing gets my brain going and–”

“She is holding a secret against you. A mother knows when and why. You must steel yourself to be hurt, my dear son.”

At that moment, Thizzie came down the stairs, embraced Yarl, and kissed his needful mouth with earnest passion. She pulled back puzzled when Yarl’s lips did not move but stuck to her wet mouth.

“What’s wrong? Is Oke alright?” Instictively, her hand went to her teeth. At the same moment, Oke emitted a serious groan of torment. Koma lifted herself up and entered the bedroom. Yarl looked at Thizzie, desperate to forget his mother’s words. There was no possible way that Thizzie was holding something from him. Her demeanor was affectionate and demonstrative. What was his demeanor? He felt like a bull trapped inside a pen, the glare of a thousand bloodthirsty eyes upon his quivering nostrils.

“Thizzie, you are hiding something from me. I cannot fathom what it could be, but if it has to do with Enyina–”

“Enyina? Why I ought to smack you, Yarl, right across that devilish face of yours. How many times can I explain that their was nothing between Enyina and I but the best and most honest of friendships–”


“Don’t “you” me. Your intrusive mother has been feeding lies in your willing ears.” Yarl observed that Thizzie was red in the face and her eyes flickered from his face to the door behind which Oke continued his lamentable moans.

“You dare insult my mother in my father’s place? He is dying in the next room. Get out of my sight. You’ve disgraced me.”

The plate of food had already left her hands before her cheeks felt afire and the salty sting of tears blurred her vision. She vaguely recalled the opening gash of red skin on Yarl’s forehead as she ran down the staircase, CleanAir mask muffling her sobs into a hissing whine. Yarl can take the bus. He deserves to wait. She sped to the Kano Station where a crowd of panicked onlookers rushed her vehicle as if seeking shelter. Fists banged on her windows the way her heart beat in her chest. She did not spot Sorrel among them. There were police officers and deathrobe men. She more or less parked in the street. Sorrel would know what to do. Is there anything to do? Sorrel would know what to say. Is there anything to say? Thizzie moved like a somnambulist toward the blinking lights and the propped open apartment door. A hand grabbed her shoulder, but she hardly registered it.

Sorrel did not wave, speak, embrace, comfort, blink.

Thizzie looked into the remaining eye of death.

Entry 0050: A Side/B Side Vacation 2015


LP: Grande Liquidação by Tom Zé

2011 Mr Bongo MRBLP075, Rozenblit LP50.010

Favorite Track: Quero Sambar Meu Bem

On the way to the airport in Hebron, KY, the TANK bus broke down on the side of the highway. My head drooped onto the crook of my elbow, hair pricking my skin keeping me awake. Not now, I thought and stared at the flat surface of grass alongside the hot pavement. Nobody else seemed to mind as if this kind of thing happens regularly.

Within minutes, a new bus pulled up and we got on and sat in identical seats. The next exit, the bus veered into the road leading to the airport. I had plenty of time before my flight to eat and to start reading Tampa by Alissa Nutting.

I was about to go on vacation: to get away from the frustration of failing to land a full-time library position; to see my parents who were traveling from Alaska on that same day; to visit a host of friends living in Portland; to go record shopping; to hike through the tall hemlocks and douglas firs; to simply not be in Cincinnati for a week.

The vacation started in Seattle at the Maxwell Hotel, wound itself around the Space Needle and throughout the family parks and museums to the dining district of 2nd avenue where I lost myself at Singles Going Steady record store, busied itself at Pike’s Market, enjoyed all 11 floors of the Central Library, and returned to its origin via a long walk down the waterfront. The vacation continued early the next morning with a drive south through Tacoma and the outskirts of Olympia (where I saw Sleater-Kinney Road!) and turned paths in Aberdeen until the beautiful 76 mile drive through the Olympic Peninsula to Ruby Beach and the Hoh National Rain Forest. There I stretched my legs at the rocky beach and wrote a couple of post cards while dipping my feet into the crisp water. Amid the two hundred feet hemlocks, spruces, and bigleaf maples covered in spikemoss, at the Hall of Mosses, I let the phantasmagorical copses play with my mind like I had entered the very pages of the Dungeon and Dragons quest I was writing. At the fallen spruce, I envisioned the hill giant picking up a large stone and throwing it at the gnomish cleric…and then we were back in the car to race around Crescent Lake and wait in line for a ferry ride from Bainbridge Island in the dark of night with the twinkling lights of the city blinking underneath the International Space Station while waves lapped the great steel boat.

We left Seattle after one last delicious breakfast at Citizen and drove to Mt. Rainier to battle gravel roads, heights, and a one-lane bridge over a river to find secluded Lake Mowhi. To beat the falling sun and the incoming traffic, we drove to Portland where my heart was hammering in my chest as I thought about all the people I know who live there. I wouldn’t have a chance to see them all, but I had to try to see as many as I could. And I could not be any luckier because BEETS, most excellent BEETS, went out of her way to accommodate my crazy demands to show my parents around and then be lead around Portland while driving my mother and father to the Japanese Gardens, the Rose Gardens, the Shakespeare Garden, the Oregon Zoo, Vita Cafe and its still lip-smacking tofu buffalo things, and more. And I ran around to Powells, Mississippi Records, Jackpot Records, Lovecrafts, Holocene, White Owl Social Club, and others laughing, gaming, and drinking myself into a state of sated euphoria. BEETS and I went to the Art Museum to witness the first Monster Drawing Rally where both of us scored weird and eldritch drawings. The sun beat down on us heavily but we endured late into the night. Like an aged photo album, yellowed pictures of familiar faces stood up, shook the dust from their hair and brows, regained their color and focus, and smile upon me over drinks as we traded stories since the last time I saw them. There was FALAFEL in her sharp suit jacket laughing at my recent outrageous interactions. ZITI and PENNE forgot ten years of silence for music, board games, and a photo booth. However, did I really erase the smudge of time lapse upon our friendship in that short four days? I truly hated to leave although the last day offered us a smokey view of Mt. Hood.

As I scored lots of good records before and during this trip, I felt like making a mix tape with all the new music I acquired. Then, as many of them were 7-inch singles and I visited two cities, the whole A-Side/B-Side connection flared inside my thoughts. So why not make two mix tapes: one for Seattle and one for Portland. There will be no true “flow” to either mix tape as many varied genres of music are being tapped: Brazilian tropicalia, Germany krautrock, British punk, American hardcore, Malian Sahel and Ngoni sounds, and Black American rhythm and blues.


A Side: Seattle: Morning Mist, Citizen, Climb the Mountain to the Hidden Lake

  1. Ammassakoul ‘N’ Ténéré – Tinariwen
  2. Non Alignment Pact – Pere Ubu
  3. Strawberry Julius – Bikini Kill
  4. Tomorrow’s Girls – U.K. Subs
  5. Will You Love Me Tomorrow? – the Shirelles
  6. Shoplifters of the World Unite – the Smiths
  7. My Perfect Cousin – the Undertones
  8. White Lightning – the Fall
  9. Curso Intensivo de Boas Maneiras – Tom Ze
  10. Papa Was a Rolling Stone – the Temptations
  11. Problem Child – the Damned
  12. Reclamation – Fugazi
  13. Identity – Xray Spex
  14. Down at the Tube Station at Midnight – the Jam
  15. Shake Rattle and Roll – Big Joe Turner
  16. Luzifer Ghlom – Amon Duul II
  17. Hour of Need – The Sound
  18. Harmony in My Head – the Buzzcocks
  19. Come Out into the Open – Penetration
  20. Musow For Our Woman – Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
  21. Jennifer – Faust
  22. Hey Joe – Patti Smith

B Side: Portland: A Late Night Out Among the Brightest Stars and Friends And Firs

  1. Plastic Man – The Temptations
  2. Half a Person – The Smiths
  3. It’s a Bit of Pain – Faust
  4. Land – Patti Smith
  5. Real World – Pere Ubu
  6. Let’s Submerge – Xray Spex
  7. Ladon – Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
  8. Jeopardy – The Sound
  9. Living Too Late – The Fall
  10. Quero Sambar Meu Bem – Tom Ze
  11. Binocular Images – Penetration
  12. Boys – the Shirelles
  13. Don’t Wanna See You Again – the Undertones
  14. Long Division – Fugazi
  15. Scum of the Earth – UK Subs
  16. Aldhechen Manin – Tinariwen
  17. Rah! Rah! Replica! – Bikini Kill
  18. You Take My Money – The Damned
  19. You Know I Love You – Big Joe Turner
  20. Something’s Gone Wrong Again – The Buzzcocks
  21. Phallus Dei – Amon Duul II
  22. The Night – The Jam