From the monthly archives: October 2011

Slow News Day is not a bad band name. It’s also not a good band name. It’s kind of a middling-to-fair band name. Glad we cleared that up. Here are some Slow News items, beginning with another band name:

First this. Which is particularly weird given this.

Then this, which is less weird than embarrassing.

Oh, and that big magazine cover above? You can pre-order the issue, which contains within in it not just that picture but a couple thousand words I wrote down that Bob Pollard said to me, here.

 

Apparently I wrote an article for the 1,225th Anniversary issue of Spin Magazine, which occurred in May of 2010. I mean, I did write an article, but I totally forgot. And I have never in my life paid for a copy of Spin, so. Luckily, an obscure internet startup called Google has taken it upon itself to scan everything ever written by me (and possibly other people) into its data-collector-device. I have embedded, or hope I have embedded, the article below for your reading pleasure in case you don’t have the twenty-five cents or whatever the going rate is nowadays to go buy your own copy.

The piece probably discusses the circumstances surrounding my leaving the magazine and joining the rock band Guided By Voices, but I can’t be entirely sure, because that would mean reading the whole article, and in addition to never having paid for an issue of Spin, I have never in my life read an issue of Spin, and I am if nothing else consistent. What I will say is this: man, did I used to be fat! (Related: why am I the only one drinking in this picture? Not realistic.) The title of the article and its sub-hed or “dek” were not of my own device. I mention that only because both are clumsy, misleading, and humiliating. Reminds me of the days I used to edit that magazine. Shudder.


 

Prologue

Low light slants through a bower of maple branches onto the roof and dirt-spattered windshield of a car parked on the red clay driveway. No wind stirs, and the mosaic of shadow slides by imperceptible degrees from the blue roof of the parked car to the tawny drive, crawling from there to the tips of the trees. Cinders of sunset spark on the windshield between buttons of grime. On the porch of the adjacent house, a large dog sleeps restlessly, its black ears twitching in the evening heat, next to a swing hung between white wooden columns. Through the grid of windows facing the porch, a woman stirring sauce in the kitchen presents an occasional profile, hair pulled back neatly and rubber-banded, brow flexed in thought. She stops stirring and lifts the spoon to her lips, one hand cupped beneath, bending her neck forward slightly to greet the upwards curve of the spoon-bearing hand.

My cigarette smoke rising from an empty chair on the porch mirrors the steam from the sauce, twining in the window, which reflects not only the warm light from the kitchen but the sun’s quiet death. The first few fireflies test their turn signals, harbingers of impending night. One buzzes too close to the sleeping dog, inducing a drastic shift in the stubborn flow of time and place: the dog yawns, and suddenly I’m in a dark room in a cold city with a streetlight blaring in my eyes. Impermanence, I have a feeling, is a self-inflicted wound.

1. Absence

It’s cold in here. The window is loose in its frame and rattles with every gust of wind. I can feel the wind through my sweater, slowly unraveling like the frayed edges of my personality, falling apart now that I’m alone, now that no one else is around to give me substance and meaning. Outside the glare of another’s perception, I’m afraid I have no real being. I’m an accretion of foreign fluid—the sweat and saliva I’ve sucked out of you and everyone else. That equals me. That’s my sum.

Without you I have no memory, and without memory people are little better than husks. I can no longer draw your face in my mind: I remember only plangent recombinations of light and shade, half-shimmers of reflected recollection, spangles of recognition—as if you were mirrored in a poorly-lit store window, at an oblique angle, on one of my memory’s byways or sidestreets. I’m starting to forget what everything looks like. My room is inhabited by phantoms of objects I’m sure I long ago lost, and the shapes of the few things that do remain seem to shift from moment to moment. I’m constantly bumping into my table and spilling books onto the floor, books I didn’t even know I had and certainly have never read, nor will.

Hunger and thirst are feminine. Ho fame, ho sete. Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness, or do you, as I do, simply hunger and thirst, in the most obvious and humiliating ways? A penny shines on my dresser, reflecting the tangerine streetlight outside the window. I want that coin’s brightness, its permanence, its lack of permanence. Everything.

Time’s been severed at the root, lopped, trimmed and sent spinning from space by a single brutal blow. Poor gap-toothed infinite, our silly sun, useless armies of stars in her fingerless hands. Garlands and garlands of two-lipped truths dangle from her neck. Who collects the residue of passion?

2. Presence

Liquid syllables spill down the phone lines, like wet diamonds, like a wild boar in a shadow forest. Message from a seasick heart. The sun in my blood goes supernova and gutters out. The moon, I’m beginning to think, has designs on me. The moon has a motive.

I’ve felt the lunar tug before, but never so strong, never so pure. Every atom in me vibrates with its light, and I lie unmoving, pinned to the bed, barely blinking. A jacaranda tree outside my window, spindly with age, bends in the moonlit wind, directing my eyes, my hands, my heart towards the image inhabiting the center of my mind.

I know what the moon wants. I know and resist with an automatic strength. I know because I can see her: sometimes she lies breathing quietly in the next room, her long and lovely fingers clutching the edges of a borrowed blanket. I envy that blanket’s easy embrace, and resent the rasp of sheets against my flushed skin. Lead-limbed on my glimmering bed, I smoke a stale cigarette, exhaling with effort, and imagine the shadows falling across her face. Shadow fingers, shadow lips, shadow kisses. I’m no stranger to the rapture of attraction, but this is different. This is a matter of tides, of gravity. Of ineluctable force.

What is love? Movement of the soul towards its essential nature. All words become one word. When you say the word your life begins.

If. L’if. Life. In the strange geometry of ardor, words are never proof enough.

Epilogue

Today and tomorrow, no more. Whatever pain you have caused in the past: redacted. Nothing ensues, transpires: happens. Sadness: no more. In the sky, drifting ashes mix with snow and become snow, and fall, in wet flakes, on the international date line. Let’s get out of the house. Let’s open the high oak doors and walk outside, breathing new air. The ice ages but we do not: no more. A blue jay carries an almond in its beak, hopping along the crooked fence. The warped and rotting boards of the fence bear the weight of the bird, and the falling snow, without complaint.

 

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We sit here on a blind rock careening through space; we are all of us rushing headlong to the grave. Think you the worms will care, when anon they make a meal of you, whether you spent your moment sighing wigless in your chamber, or sacked the golden tombs of Montezuma? Lookee, the day’s nigh spent; ’tis gone careering into time forever… We are dying men: i’faith, there’s time for naught but bold resolves!

—Henry Burlingame III (as quoted in John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor)

 l-r Phil Krauth, Bridget Cross, Mark Robinson
Had I a better sense of timing, or any sense at all, really, I would have posted this photo during the late unpleasantness in London. And even though it wouldn’t have been funny then, either, at least it would have had some kind of topical relevance. The joke, I mean, not the picture. The picture’s just a picture. It’s the band Unrest taken in London. In July 1993, as the date-stamp helpfully points out. Usually I hate date-stamps on photos, but there’s no way on God’s blue marble I’d have correctly placed this picture without the date-stamp. Date-stamp! Is that even a word? I’m almost certain that Unrest, who had recently signed to the 4AD label back then, were in town to perform at a 4AD shindig at the ICA. I remember that I was busy transcribing painstakingly a story on the Smashing Pumpkins for Spin magazine from my computer screen to pen-and-ink paper, because though the world was sufficiently advanced to provide me with a laptop in 1993, it had not yet invented or at least perfected email, and neither I nor the hotel had a Mac-compatible printer, so the only option was to actually copy the story from the screen like some medieval monk, for Saint Peter’s sake, and then send my manuscript across the Atlantic Ocean on the radio air using a device we used to call a fax or facsimile machine. You can probably find an example of one of these in the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

 
I’m posting this photo not so much to mark an occasion or make a point, but to remind myself that Unrest were one of the greatest bands ever, of all time, and that their record Imperial f.f.r.r. was a high-water mark in something or other. If you don’t own it, go outside of your house RIGHT NOW and track it down, and if you have any sense at all (unlike me), you’ll look for it in a non-digital or digitized format. In other words, on vinyl. The way God and Mark Robinson intended (Mark and I were both raised as Christian Scientists, but please don’t hold that against us. Or at least him.). I don’t know if any of the Unrest or Air Miami (Mark’s post-Unrest 4AD project) physical product was stored in the Sony/DADC warehouse along with a pile of PIAS-distributed independent label music, and which burned down in the August riots, but even if not—and I know times are tough, but—it would be an act of double-edged benevolence on your part to explore and purchase not just Unrest/Air Miami but anything on any independent label affected by the fire. A list of which you can find here. Your benevolence would be double-edged because not only would you be supporting independent artists, who could use your help, but your life will become immediately at least 3.7 times better than it is. I am not very often right about many things, but I am right about this. Probably.

Mark also ran and still runs the Teenbeat label, home to so many items of lasting musical value that it beggars the imagination. I urge you to check out their website and browse their catalog. If you are a fan of Twitter, you can follow Mark at @Teenbeat463

Apparently he was commsissioned to make this for the 2011 Viennale, and probably I’m posting something that a) everybody’s already seen already and b) everybody already knows is some kind of almost self-parodic absurdly creepy stuttering anti-narrative larded with semi-ominous signs & symbols intended either to make fun of himself or of us. Or both. In other words: like everything else David Lynch does. And I like it anyway.

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Well, if CNN and (everyone else is) going to ignore this, it must be worth watching. But I’ll let you decide for yourselves:

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