Creative Incongruity

I was driving around running errands this morning, listening to the new Fall album, and had a little revelation about why I so like Mark E. Smith’s lyrics: he uses a lot of some tricks of incongruity and absurdism that I do, and we all like listening to things to that remind us of ourselves. F’rinstance . . . in my own writing: my favorite part of “Cronus” from a few days ago was the line about Hades tasting like old socks, because in order for it to mean anything, you have to assume that Cronus is familiar with socks, a decidedly non-Ancient-God-like garment. That poem worked far better for me when I pictured Cronus sitting around in a pair of baggy gym shorts, wearing black socks, than it did when I pictured Cronus the way the classical Greeks and Romans did. Or in “Witness,” having Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego owning an office supplies store was another similar lurch of creative incongruity, putting then and now on the same plate and stirring things up with a whimsy whisk. And that’s what Mark E. Smith does so well: one of the best songs on the new album is “Sparta F.C.”, in which “F.C.” means football club, applying a modern-day English soccer ruffian ethos to ancient Greece. I also particularly like this little riff from his song “Mountain Energei:” “So I went fishing. A note from a fish said: ‘Dear dope, if you wanna catch us, you need a rod and a line.’ Signed, The Fish.” Fish writing notes. Cronus wearing socks. Office Max precursors in Babylon. Hooligans ripping up ancient Greek soccer stadiums. I like that stuff, a lot. (And, no, I’m not comparing the quality of my writing to Mark E. Smith’s, lest you think I’m being an arrogant tool. I’m just noting that I finally figured out why it resonates so deeply with me: neither of us make much sense sometimes).

Some things . . .

. . . . related to prior things.

1. One day after our burglary at the C+CC, at almost exactly the same time, I was on the phone in my office, thinking I was alone in the building, when I saw someone quickly scoot by my door, leaving the building. Where had they been? How long had they been in here? What were they doing? Could have been completely innocuous: they could have gone to the sanctuary to say a prayer while I was down in the boiler room. But . . . it didn’t feel that way. So I tailed them out the building, got a license plate number from the car that they drove away in, and called the police in again. Kinda creepy. Bleh.

2. I’ve been telling Katelin for years that when Amy (our older cat, the one who has to have the operation) turned 10, we would get a third cat, so when something happened to one of the current pair, there would still be a companion for the surviving one. (All cats are social animals, but Siamese/Balinese/Javanese are particularly so, and walk around the house screaming when they can’t find somebody to be with). So . . . just to be on the safe side with Amy’s pending surgery, I figured this might be the time to go ahead an investigate Cat Number Three. (Amy is 9 now, so it’s a year earlier than I’d planned). I contacted the breeder where we got Amy and Lyla to ask if she had any other adult, spayed females, which we prefer adopting, since they’re not quite as cute as kittens and tend to be harder to place, but also don’t come with weaning/litterbox training issues. As it turns out, the breeder did indeed have a cat who seems right up our alley: a two-year old red point Javanese named “CH Sanlino Rosebud of Purrmatix”, also known as Rosie, who had been spayed after having reproductive problems that rendered her not useful as a breeding cat (same thing as with Amy and Lyla, our two current cats). So after about all of 18 seconds worth of conversation last night, the general family consensus is that we’re going to adopt the third cat when we return from Maine in August.

3. Today would have been my dad’s 65th birthday, had he not been taken away from us sooner than we all would have liked. I think I need to have some good chili dogs today in his honor and memory, although I can’t bring myself to eat them with raw onions, the way he liked them.

4. I was in the mood for doing some packaging and submitting of poems last night, so spent the evening doing that instead of writing a new one. I was a day ahead, now I’m on target. I need to get ahead again, with vacation pending.

The Rule of Threes . . .

. . . as in “Bad Things Happen In.” It was in effect here over the past 24 hours. Nothing awful bad, mind you, but just sort of cumulatively ennervating, and from three completely different directions and places.

1. One of my cats has to have surgery to remove lumps in her stomach that are most likely mammary tumors. She’ll probably be okay, but I always hate the thought of having to do stuff like that to pets, since you can’t explain to them that it’s for their own good, the way you can with a human. They just know you’re leaving them at the vet, and that something hurts.

2. The Predator (my family’s own version of Courtney Love) has popped out of her spiderhole to make life miserable for assorted kith and kin. Again. Count yourself fortunate if you’ve never had to deal with a mentally ill junkie in the family.

3. It was a grey and dreary day at work today, and I had four students at the office with not a lot to do since it was so yucky out, and I had planned to have them working in the gardens. So I decided to take everybody out for lunch, which was very nice, except that when we returned, we discovered that someone had come in the building and stolen one of the students’ laptop computer and cell phone out of the lounge. Stealing from a church, for Pete’s sake, sheesh. The student was devastated at the loss of property and I feel institutionally violated by knowing someone was in my space with nefarious intent. The afternoon was spent searching (we found her Nalgene water bottle in the bushes outside the building, but nothing else), dealing with police and campus safety and insurance companies and the like, and just generally feeling really, really, really sorry for my student.

Bleurgh. I think it’s time for some comfort Macaroni and Cheese. Macaroni and Cheese makes everything better.

New Rez

Got the new Residents CD, The 12 Days of Brumalia today. The songs had run last December online, but are now available in plastic and cardboard, the way I like them. A very, very good album on first blush(es). The key credited collaborators for the last couple of studio albums and tours (Nolan Cook, Carla Fabrizio, Molly Harvey, Toby Dammit and Eric Drew Feldman) are all back, giving this album a very organic and band-driven feel (at least by Residents standards, anyway). The music mixes melodic and noisy elements nicely, and the lyrics/framework are loosely based on that classic old holiday chestnut “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Like the relatively recent WB:RMX, this record incorporates a spectacular collection of very contemporary sounding beats and rhythms, and the production and mix are both beautiful. With a new contract this year on Mute Records, it looks like the Residents are poised for creatively and commercially for another great little run. How has this group managed to be so good for so long? Who knows, but I hope they keep it up as long as I’m around to listen to them. (I should note that I think I own more records/CDs by the Residents than I do by any other recording artist, and there’s still several important chunks of their canon that I’ve not yet acquired . . . it’s nice to have mysteries remaining when it comes to groups you love, I think).

You know you have a great job when . . .

. . . you can wear your new Piggly Wiggly shirt to work. Note well: the front page of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co.’s webpage notes that they’re having a special on “Hog Wild Barbecued Boston Butt.” I don’t know what that is, but if you’ve got to have some, you know where to go. Also, note that the Pigs have entered into the 21st Century: they have a link on the right hand side that says “sushi,” where it used to be more likely to say “bait shop.” I imagine that we have a reached a point where one can’t buy a box of nightcrawlers at the same place you buy your bacon and Kool-Aid anymore. Sigh.

While talking about Southern Grocery stores, I would probably be remiss to also not mention Ingles. Evidently, the Pig and Ingles decided to divide up market space in the Southeast by topographic location: from sea level up to about 1,000 feet, you get the Pig. 1,000 feet or higher above sea level, and you get Ingles. If you live in a marsh, you shop at Piggly Wiggly. If you live in a hollow, you shop at Ingles. Last time I was in Asheville at my sister’s house, we went to the nearby Ingles (they’re up in the mountains, so they’re in Ingles country) and I bought four of the largest cans of boiled peanuts that I’ve ever seen, big monsters, hard to lift two of them in a single plastic sack. The cans cost $1.99 a piece. How can you beat that with a stick? (And if you don’t know what boiled peanuts are . . . shame on you! shame! shame! you don’t know what you’re missing!)(Of course, as good as those cans of boiled peanuts are, in order to make them taste just right, you have to take them out of the can and put them in little brown paper sacks, then leave them sit out on the counter for a couple of days before eating them).

Formatting

Is it just me, or are other people having weird formatting problems with Blogger lately? Looks like they’ve changed the “compose” template to make it more WYSIWYG, but the problem is that What I See Is Not What I Want. Instead, I Want What I Used to Get, Not What I See Now.

I wish technically helpful websites would leave well enough alone when they’ve got things working well . . .

Big on the Pig, Part Two

I got my shipment of Piggly Wiggly shirts today. Stylish. Elegant. Classic Southern Fare and Wear. Order yours today. Based on the high volume of mail that I received from my first Pig post, there’s a lot of you out there who are also . . . Big on the Pig. Go team, fight, rah. (Note on the pictures: Katelin took them, so if it looks like I’m looming over you, it’s because I really do loom over Katelin).

Shrieks

I recently purchased three new related CDs: the mini-EP Having a Moment by Shriekback (on which two cuts feature the classic line-up of Barry Andrews, Dave Allen, Carl Marsh and Martyn Barker), Stic Basin (a solo electronic album by Barry Andrews), and Haunted Box of Switches (another Andrews project, this one with just Barry sitting at the grand piano, singing some new songs, singing a couple of numbers off of Having a Moment, and singing a couple of classic Shriekback tunes as well).

My preconceived notion, before listening to them, would have been that I would have liked the Shriekback one the most, then the electronic Andrews, then the acoustic Andrews, just because I so deeply liked Shriekback’s classic ganky, gunky dance music way back when. Interestingly, though, after a few days worth of listening, I find that I end up just the opposite of where I would have expected: I like the piano record the most, then the Stic Basin one, then the Shriekback one.

The Shriekback one, somehow, sounds far less Shrieky than the Stic Basin one does. The hard-to-find Naked Apes and Pond Life from a few years back (which does not include Marsh or Allen) actually sounds closer to the vintage soupy weirdness of the band’s ’80s sounds. This new EP feels slight, and the contributions from Allen and Marsh don’t really stand out much, whereas they used to be quite prominent in the mix and sound. The songs are a bit more rock-flavored than anything else in the Shriekback canon, too, more straightforward and “normal” sounding than their best stuff was. It’s probably telling that a chunk of latter-day Shriekback went on to perform as the Blokes, backing Billy Bragg, since this record sounds closer to Bragg’s caustic/cerebral post-folk music than it does to anything from Shriekback’s Y Records days.

The Stic Basin album, on the other hand, certainly has some of the creeping menance of Shriekback’s glory days, wrapped up in a nice and shiny 21st Century electronica sheen. Good stuff, if a little antisceptic at times. Haunted Box of Switches, on the other other hand, sounds nothing like Shriekback (except for Andrews’ distinctive voice, that is), but is a glorious, wonderful record, filled with great songs, delivered clean and simple like, so you appreciate the very, very clever wordplay and excellently skewed melodic structures. I’ve always loved the Shriekback song “Faded Flowers” (which contains this deliciously succinct couplet on relationships gone wrong: “We had some good machines, but they don’t work no more/I loved you once, don’t love you anymore”), and it positively glimmers in the skeletal reading it’s given on Haunted Box. Gorgeous stuff, all of it.

Toss one of the best album cover photos I’ve seen in ages into the mix and you’ve got a record well worth hunting down and buying, with or without any advanced expectations. Check it (and the other two records) out here.