Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bruce Manning, Presente!

Good ol' gregarious larger-than-life Bruce ... poker tournament emcee and organizer ... improv comedian ... PR and podcast specialist who knew more about optical communications than most of his clients ... quintessential Southern Californian with gold chain and perfect tan ... knew the best jokes and told me one Monday ... died suddenly Aug. 19 of causes yet unknown.

"Enjoy every sandwich." - Warren Zevon, on the occasion of his inoperable cancer

Indeed I shall, Warren. I savored every minute of that toasted everything bagel at the auto mechanic's today. I was sure Bruce was snickering about the mess I was making.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From Catholic to Sufi Ways of Knowing

The Sisters (of Charity, not Perpetual Indulgence) were in town last weekend to bear witness at Peterson Air Force Base, and at the N-8 missile silo where Carl Kabat was arrested August 6. There's a wonderful speech by Sister Louise Lears, in four parts at my YouTube library, that got me thinking about how Catholic ritual intersects with activism. Just as interesting was the skit by Donna Johnson and MaryLynn Sheetz, featuring the two nuns, Edna and Loodeen, which they regularly reprise at every annual Sisters Witness Against War. This year's was particularly interesting, with a "Mental Floss" presentation featuring the super-sized puppet, Sister Prophylaxis, otherwise known as Diana Floss:

There's also a wonderful First Strike Theatre spoken-word piece on truth decay. On Saturday, we had a gathering up near New Raymer, Colorado at the N-8 silo, with a surprise visit from Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa, publishers of The Nuclear Resister in Tucson - they happened to be in the neighborhood for a family reunion (and this was boondocks).

Since I was never one for the Catholic guilt ritual after Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, I got a different spiritual purge on Tuesday by listening to more Sufi-influenced work by Ben Chasny and his friends in Six Organs of Admittance. This time around, Luminous Night, they include violinist Eyvind Kang and flautist Hans Teuber, but do not include the incomparable Elisa Ambrogio of Magik Markers, who was around for the last couple Six Organs rides. Here's a Village Voice page bringing us up to date with both Elisa and Ben, and here's a video from the last album:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Two Prayers

Two goofy recitations, one my own, one an excerpt from Laurie Anderson, intended as incantations or call-and-response:

Local Minima

My depth of gratitude for Clint Takeda’s simple words was not evident until the evening we leaned against the Knight Rider pinball machine in the long-demolished 15th Street Tavern, our inclined angles almost in parallel to the careening ball finding temporary traps in the pockmarks of David Hasselhoff’s painted face. Isobel was chanting, whispering perhaps, and it suddenly occurred to me the bardo pond looked just like the oscillating trap that those testing mixed-signal integrated circuits call “stuck-at-fault.” The bardo pond felt just like the point at which the energy daemon in a game of simulated annealing becomes “stuck at local minima. The energy daemon felt just like the last pinball in the round.

Experts in genetic algorithms tell us that the energy required to overcome a local minimum is at least twice that to begin the process of annealing. From the point of view of the pinball, the valley walls are sheer and high, and the pond is cozy, maybe a bit warm for the mountains. There’s beer and brats for the beachfront property. Only that ominous I-70 sign, warning truckers they have not reached bottom yet, reminds the pinball it is far from its poky little home, where its mother is no doubt greatly displeased. How does the pinball reach the flippers? In the wheel, the minimum quantum of energy is one lifetime. In pinball, the minimum quantum of energy is tilt. Twice the energy at go would suggest cheating at some point.

Western Missouri in 1842? Serb highlanders in 1942? Maybe the jerky pattern of those whispers is the sound of a record skipping. Call upon your gods or siphon some gasoline or split the atom, but escaping the local minimum and leaving the canyon is a matter of chance. And the next annealing may not be the karmic destination you were hoping for. Maybe it’s best to sit by the pond in the bright sunshine and wait for the next streetcar to Pleiku.

Around the World in 48 Hours or Less

Issa Bagayogo played Colorado College August 6, in a wonderful free show sponsored by Pikes Peak Library District. Browse through some of the other clips on YouTube, some wonderful rhythm and keyboards work. The instrument he plays, by the way, is a kamele n'goni.

The next night was the strangest of dual sets at Venue 515 in Manitou Springs. Several friends told me not to miss Eilen Jewell, a rockabilly queen who also fronts a rockin' gospel group and a Loretta Lynn covers group. She gave us a little bit of everything, including this Loretta cover:

The band after Eilen was really a surprise as well. Caspian Hat Dance plays klezmer and Eastern European (Carpathian) and Ukranian folk music, all at a breakneck pace with strange sound elements mixed in. Their final encore was the great anarcho-syndicalist anthem "Bella Ciao," which everyone danced to.

(Oh, and I got another chance to see Edith Makes a Paper Chain at the Speedtrap in Palmer Lake, Colorado Saturday night. They're all locals, but bragged of having audience members from France, Japan, Ireland, and Narnia. I have older videos of EMPC at YouTube, but the Saturday night show features a wonderful rendition of The Swell Season's "Falling Slowly," featuring Sarah and a very young collaborator.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

"I Hear They Smoke the Barbecue"

I'm not sure whether it was the fact that the first weekend in August was just about the first two sunny days of the summer, but there sure was a lot of interest in barbecues. Confession: the only barbecue I actually ate all weekend was Jeff Heidmous's delicious chicken-basil bratwursts. But the barbecue events Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon sure provided a lot of musical sustenance.

First, thanks to Brian Santo and Deral Fenderson for insisting I not miss Charlie Parr as he breezed through Colorado. Charlie, a Delta blues and scruff-a-duff banjo-slide picker, played up at Swallow Hill for $20 or so, but he played in Colorado Springs, out on the patio of Front Range Barbecue, in a free show Aug. 1. He's best known for his song 1922, but he also pulled out some very obscure songs from folks like Charley Patton and Blind Willie McTell, and I especially loved the way he handled "Stagger Lee."

I talked to Charlie between sets and mentioned how Deral has worked with the Jack Rose/Pelt/Black Twig Pickers gang, and he said he was working with Pelt's Klang Industries on a vinyl-only release later this year. He's hoping Mike Gangloff will play on the recording. I picked up his "Roustabout" CD, and fell in love with the song "The B&J Ain't Nothin' but a Hole in the Ground," even if I don't know what the hell it's about.

On Sunday, Denver's finest three-minute pop band, The Hot IQs, played their last show ever as part of the Larimer Lounge's Sunday BBQ. Eli, Bryan, and Elaine were in top form for their originals, like the infamous "Duck and Cover."

The interesting thing about the final session was the first half of the set consisted of formative cover songs, including songs from Pavement, Magnetic Fields, Buddy Holly, Archers of Loaf, and David Bowie. There's even more at my YouTube library. And of course, for the encore, the entire crowd was invited on the stage to sing "Iggy Pop" a capella style.

As everyone gathered around to tell stories after the set, and I realized how much I'll miss Hot IQs, I remembered that not everyone takes the Pere Ubu route of treating barbecues as a source of frivolity. Laurie Anderson's poem "Private Property," in United States Symphony Part 2, talks about the former manufacturing areas that had been taken over by luxurious condos, and how the condos all seem to have been occupied by professional barbecuers.

"The smoke rising from their little fires made the whole neighborhood look like a giant battlefield.
And I said to myself, Hmm.
Do you want to go home? Do you want to go home now?
You ARE home."