Short Attention Span

These things I hold to be self-evident: that it’s the rare film that deserves (or needs) to be more than 100 minutes long, and it’s the rare record that deserves (or needs) to clock in at much over 45 minutes. Those are optimal points for visual and aural entertainment: long enough to keep a listener/watcher engaged and to pass the time, but not so long that they out-stay their welcomes.

In general, and with very few exceptions, I won’t even deign to attempt to watch a three hour movie. I’m looking at you, King Kong and Titanic. Or even my beloved and most-favored film-maker David Lynch: Inland Empire clocking in at 197 minutes of hand-held wobble? David. Please. You can do it better when you do it tighter. Re-visit Eraserhead. 97 to 108 perfect minutes, depending on which cut of the film you get. Brilliant.

On the musical front, in general, and with very few exceptions, CD’s that fill their 80-minute capacity are going to bore me before they’re done, which means I won’t be likely to listen to them again. Ever. In the early days of CDs, it seemed that artists of the vinyl era felt compelled to fill their discs, resulting in a lot of really over-long albums that would have been masterpieces had they had to contend with the time constraints that vinyl imposed: 40-something minutes at decent fidelity, or 50-something minutes if the record had “made loud to be played loud” stamped on it, indicating lower than optimal recording quality.

I’m glad to report that it seems many of today’s younger musical artists are relearning the value of brevity. I have downloaded four new albums from eMusic in the past week of interesting up-and-comers, and all of them clock in within the time limits that I generally prefer. They choose quality over quantity, and I applaud them for it. I recommend all of the following records accordingly. Click on the links below to hear some samples.

Via Audio, Say Something Say Something Say Something (41 minutes)

Montag, Going Places (42 minutes, and the best of the four records)

Minus the Bear, Planet of Ice (47 minutes . . . a smidge long, but worthy)

Caribou, Andorra (43 minutes)

I should note that I find eMusic to be a great music shopping site for me for no other reason than because they have a fairly limited selection, which forces me to use my monthly allotment of downloads to find interesting new stuff, rather than just buying computer versions of old stuff I like, which is generally all I ever do with iTunes. Necessity is the mother of something or other, and limitations lead to exploration for me . . . especially when I find nice, short albums like these.


1. We took Katelin back to school Friday at Darrow. She was thrilled to be back, and we were thrilled for her to be there, knowing how well last year went for her. It was certainly easier on us this time round, since last year we drove away thinking “What have we done?!?” I gather that all parents have that period of readjustment when the oldest (or in our case, the only) child flies the nest for the first time. For us, it was a lot harder than we anticipated, but in hindsight was the best thing possible for Katelin, and that’s what matters most.

2. Marcia and I then spent the weekend up at the Stratton Golf University.  She had gone there last summer, and then taken private lessons, but this was the first time I had received formal instruction in the sport. By the end of the weekend, I was hitting my seven iron further than I had been hitting my driver. They can do amazing things with your game there, for players at all levels. We stayed in the ski village Friday and Saturday nights in a condo we’d stayed at before. Quite nice. Recommended!

3.  Space Grief has been replaced with Space Euphoria, since the Martian dust storms have abated, and Rovers Spirit and Opportunity are on the roll again. Most exciting, Opportunity is preparing for its drive down into Victoria Crater. Awesome! As were the early photos sent back by Cassini from its close flyby of Saturn’s moon Iapetus. These are halcyon days for planetary exploration. I’m glad I’m getting to witness them.

Poesy and Music

Poesy: While I was organizing the People Poems, I also html’ed a 2004 chapbook that I’d published called Jefferson Water, named after one of my personal favorite poems. It’s linked here: Poetry: Jefferson Water, and also in the sidebar. When I first wrote the title poem, I explained it on my old blog thusly:

I was dreaming when the alarm went off this morning. All I remember of the dream is the final image: I was in a meeting that was evidently in my home (although it wasn’t my real home), as the meeting broke up, one of the other participants turned to me with a crazed and needy look on his face and said “We’ll do the next meeting at my house . . . but you have to bring the Jefferson Water.” To the best of my knowledge, there’s no such thing as Jefferson Water, but I figured it musta been some nasty, spooky stuff based on the way that guy asked for it in the dream. I envisioned some hallucinogenic brew that looked like a combination of molasses and something fished out of a classic Southern blackwater creek: a dark, viscous stew. The poem’s set in some alternate Carolina, I guess, home, but not quite. Most of the place, thing and people names are obviously made up, although there really is a Bisco and Locust in North Carolina, and there’s probably a Clyde down there, too. Although I haven’t been there.

You’ll have to read the poem to figure out what that means.

Music: This week’s top spins winner on the stereo is Dandelion Gum by Black Moth Super Rainbow. dandeliongum.jpgAmazingly trippy, yet melodic, music from a quintet of youngsters from Western Pennsylvania playing vintage keyboards, drums and bass. The weirdness factor is capped by all the vocals being performed and processed through a vocoder (or similar vocal processing unit, not sure if that’s exactly they one they use or not). Check out this clip of them playing “Sun Lips” (one of Dandelion’s standout tracks) live. Can you believe them all sitting on the floor working their keyboards? How adorable is that?

marryme.jpgA close second place on the household popular platters list is Marry Me by St. Vincent, a solo project by Annie Clark, who has evidently played with Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree. Frankly, it’s a good thing I didn’t know that before I sampled the album, because I probably wouldn’t have given it a chance, since I don’t much care for either Sufjan or the Spree. (And that’s putting it mildly). Most reviews I’ve read compare the disc to Kate Bush’s The Dreaming (my fave of her albums), and while I can hear the relationship, I think St. Vincent reminds me more of A.C. Marias, a project featuring Wire’s Bruce Gilbert and video director Angela Conway. I know that’s an obscure reference, but it’s accurate, and if it inspires you to investigate both St. Vincent and A.C. Marias, then mission accomplished here today, for sure.