Category Archives: California

It’s a Mann’s Mann’s Mann’s Mann’s World, cont.

aimee_mann__smilers_071223_h_2550.jpgPostscript from the big little Birchmere show.

Capsule review: Nice! Aimee was in better voice than she’d been at the Christmas show in December, although still having some troube, most noticeably during “Deathly,” the last song she sang. On the upside, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her smile as much during a performance as she did last night. A relaxed, happy performer is naturally more fun to watch than a nervous one.

As promised, she made up more than half the 19-song set on the fly from audience requests dropped in a bucket at the foot of the stage before the show. (No love for “The Fall of the World’s Great Optimist,” my request, though.) After she chose “Susan” as the first audience-request number, she told us, “Here’s the funny thing: I never remember my own songs. So part of the fun of this is going to be . . . well, I don’t know what about it is going to be fun for you at all.”

She also played eight songs from the upcoming Smilers album, including “Medicine Wheel,” which we heard here at the Birchmere a year and a half ago, “Columbus Ave.”, which she played at the 2006 Christmas show, and “31 Today,” which she performed at last year’s Christmas show. Conclusions: Um, she plays regularly at the Birchmere. And she’s not shy about playing stuff she has no plans to release for quite a while.

Bonus points: she dissed Coldplay when somebody asked for “The Scientist,” stating reasonably enough that since she couldn’t recall her own lyrics, she certainly wasn’t going to remember lyrics as “not necessarily overly erudite” as those. Oh, snap!

The setlist:

*denotes a tune frome Smiliers, the new album she said last night will probably be out in April.

01 (unidentified song from Smilers) Sample lyric: “You’ve got a lot of money but you can’t afford a freeway.”

02 31 Today*

03 Susan (lots of scat-singing, many forgotten lyrics, ultimately aborted)

04 Longshot

05 (unidentified song from Smilers) lyrical snatches: “You love me like a dollar bill,” “love doesn’t change a thing.” Nice change/change wordplay there, Ma’am.

06 4th of July

07 The Great Beyond*

08 The Other End of the Telescope

09 Little Tornado*

10 How Am I Different

11 Medicine Wheel*

12 Invisible Ink

13 Columbus Ave.*

14 Ray

15 It’s Not

16 Borrowing Time* (commissioned for and rejected from the Shrek III soundtrack, she said)
ENCORE:

17 Save Me

18 Wise Up

19 Deathly

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Santa’s Big Olde Bag, opened

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?

Prologue: This is Christmas music! The first voice you hear is that of De’voreaux White as Argyle, the poontang-loving young limo driver who spent a memorable late-80s Christmas Eve locked in the parking garage beneath “Nakatomi Plaza” (actually the 20th Century Fox building) in Los Angeles. They made a movie about it, and that film is universally hailed as the greatest Christmas movie of all time. It’s called Under Siege. No, wait, it was Passenger 57. Um, Sudden Death? No, no, only kidding, merry-makers. It’s Die Hard, the once and future king of action pics.Once can only hope that IMDB is not an accurate reflection of De’voreaux’s recent career: His last screen credit is from eight years ago, in Shadow Hours. In the role of “Second Tranvestite.” Hey, remember when Ray Charles shot at a very young De’voreaux when he tried to pinch a guitar from Ray’s music shop in The Blues Brothers? That was awesome.

Santa’s Got a Big Old Bag. (The Bellrays, 2005) – Yep, Lisa Kekaula, that mic is on.

Ding! Dong! Death! (May Be Your Santa Claus!) (Sufjan Stevens, 2003; preacher recording found by Andy Cirzan, origin unknown) – A mash-up, albeit a very primitive one, of my own design. I started out with like, half-a-dozen pieces culled from Sufjan’s remarkable set of five Christmas EPs recorded each December from 2001 through 2005, and in June 2006. The latter is the one that includes “Christmas in July,” as well as “Jupiter Winter,” “Sister Winter,” and “The Winter Solstice,” most of each stand out as notably depressing even among this, whose five volumes comprise one of the most muted Christmas albums ever. Thanks for bringing us all down, Sufjan.

Save the Overtime (For Me). (Dees, Gallo, Knight, Knight, Schwarzenegger, 1983) – Surely the best of the Governator’s collaborations with Gladys Knight and the Pips. Squats are an excellent exercise.

I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Without You. (Margo Guryan, date unknown) – She’s a creepy broad, ain’t she? But tuneful.

Brian Wilson Reveals All. Behold the startingly revelatory, probingly incisive, revealingly probing, piercingly insightful secrets of Wilson’s creative process explicated here. Josh du Lac got some good stuff out of Wilson a few weeks back, like the fact that Phil Spector is “Zany!”

Melekalikimaka. (Al Jardine, Mike Love, 1974) – “’Melekalikimaka’ is ‘Merry Christmas’ in Hawaii talk-a.’” This kind of thing, really, is what this compilation is all about. A powerful argument that Jardine and Love were the real brain trust behind the Beach Boys.

Pearl Harbor Didn’t Work Out, So . . . (Steven E. DeSouza & Jeb Stuart, 1987) – I had a film studies textbook in college that claimed Die Hard was subtly, or perhaps unsubtly, racist, sexist, xenophobic and every other damn thing, just because it’s about a heroic white Reagan-voter who takes down a crew of slumming Royal Shakespeare Company types, including ballerina Alexander Gudanov and some American guy who looks eerily like Huey Lewis. The film supposedly espouses contempt for invading Japanese conglomerates, professional women who eschew their spouses’ last names (lots of stuff about that Rolex on Holly McClane/Gennaro’s wrist that Hans Gruber is hanging on at the end of the movie) and relegates not one but two black actors to sidekick roles. What an awesome movie.

Daddy Won’t Be Home Again for Christmas. (Merle Haggard, 1973) – This just in: Hag’s a shitty father. No clue here what’s keeping him away. Not prison, since he can write that “little check” that he’s hoping, puzzlingly, “will fit.” Is “forget” a really hard word to rhyme?

Sleazy Con Men in Red Suits. (Randy Kornfield) – Jingle All the Way is remembered as an epic, cautionary failure, but which I submit to you is not even among the five worst films released in 1996. Freed from its distracting visuals, the film’s audio, tastefully excerpted here, reveals a surprising profundity and even grace. Well played, Randy Kornfield, well played.

Christmas Present Blues. (Jimmy Webb, ?) – My prose is not worthy.

Snokenstein. (?) – The first of many, many treasures here that I appropriated from Andy Cirzan’s bizarro Christmas compilations as featured each year on Sound Opinions. Andy is on the show again this weekend, and I fully expect him to bring plenty of obscure wonders and oddities that you can bet will show up on my compilation next year.

A Great Big Sled. (Brandon Flowers, 2006) – Nobody will ever accuse Flowers of being a great lyricist, but I would have been delighted to have penned the line “little boys have action toys for brains” myself. I’m living proof it can last a long time. Way better than anything on Sam’s Town, the lyrically-impaired Killers album released a couple months prior to this.

The Ultimate Stretch. (Journey feat. Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger) – I just love hearing The Terminator talk over that opening vamp of “Don’t Stop Believing.” I guess we’ll never know whether Tony Soprano finished all 30 of the pushups.

Reindeer Roll Call. (Kornfield) – Listen to how Arnold is just mercilessly taunting Sinbad as he outruns him. “I’m having a good time now,’bye!” If you’ve seen Pumping Iron, then you know that workaholic salesman Howard Langston is probably the role truest to Arnold’s real-life personality, especially once his competitive juices get flowing. Jingle All the Way really does require repeat viewings to fully absorb its many insights into the Gubernatorial mind.

. . . and many, many more!

It’s Irish Genius Week in my Clip File!

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po-faced [poh-feyst] – adjective, Chiefly British. having an overly serious demeanor or attitude; humorless.

And U2 Week in the Style section at the Paper of Record, apparently, what with yesterday’s gushing front-page profile of Bono, my review of the 20th Anniversary reissue of The Joshua Tree in today’s paper. Maybe I’ll post a longer version of that review here. Or maybe I’ll just say “enough is enough” and get on with my life, too much of which has already gone to cutting that thing down to the not-ungenerous length at which it ran. Verily, writing about your sacred cows can be a tricky business.

The other Irish genius of whom I speak would be Samuel Beckett. The National Theatre of Great Britain Production of his 1961 Happy Days starring Fiona Shaw is at the Kennedy Center’s Terrance Theatre for a short run of concluding the day after tomorrow. I reviewed it for DCist. Not exactly light entertainment — for that, there’s A Christmas Carol 1941 at Arena, which I took my parents to the following night; DCist review forthcoming — but, you know, thought-provoking, imaginative, ballsy. Beckettian, I guess.

Frontin’

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It’s official: My review of the Eagles’ long-awaited (or long-in-the-making, anyway), startlingly craptacular double album is going on to the front of tomorrow’s Style section. It’s my first visit to that coveted bit of real estate, though I’m told the Wille Nelson, Merle Haggard, & Ray Price concert review from Merriweather last month came close.

Thanks for nothing, Don Henley. I already expected I might be in for a little hate mail when the piece saw print, but now . . .

Judgment Day Plus Ten

Or “judgement” day, but I’m going with the spelling used by the producers of the Greatest Film of All Time, which of course I don’t need to tell you is James Cameron’s 1991 apocalypse-contraception epic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

In 1992, I got my driver’s license and French-kissed a girl for the first time. But the highlight of 1991, the year of Achtung Baby and Use Your Illusion I and II (I wouldn’t buy Ten for a year, or Nevermind for several more after that), was definitely T2. It was the first film for which I bought the screenplay. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-purchased the film each time a new VHS or DVD edition was released.

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August 29, 1997 is the day that film told us half of the human race, give or take a few million, would perish in a nuclear exchange instigated by SkyNet, the artificial intelligence network entrusted with all the assets of the U.S. military. When SkyNet unexpectedly becomes self-aware, it decides that its human masters are a threat and takes preemptive action. You’ve all seen the movie. The 2003 release Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, revises the date of Judgment Day for obvious reasons, having an aging Arnold tell us, “Judgment Day is inevitable” and actually letting us see the beginnings of it in a surprise downer ending. But T3, although a decent-ish genre flick if not compared to its two brilliant precursors, was neither written nor directed by James Cameron, the auteur behind the first two, so it ain’t part of the canon as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway. We’ve lasted another ten years. Congratulations, everybody! Does that mean Michael Jackson is 50 today?

Sustainable Community

Well, this is a bit odd. But only a bit.

I’m writing this from my old office in the house I lived in in glorious Ventura, CA from late 2000 until early 2005. This is day four of my first return visit to the Golden State since I moved to the District two years ago. I saw my ex, with whom I remain on friendly terms, for the first time in two years last night — she made dinner — and we’ll be hanging out together with some mutual friends this evening and tomorrow.

I shared a Studio City apartment with two really cool people with whom I’ve lost touch for about five sad months in mid-2005, but for most of my California experience, I lived in this town, in this house. Ventura is so beautiful it’s a little bit heartbreaking to come back and realize I gave this place up. I had good reasons for moving, and the two years I’ve lived in DC have been the two happiest of my life. But still.

When I came to Ventura, I had just turned 24, and the place (and of course, the relationship that brought me here) seemed full of promise. Two years later, it’s exactly as I left it. All the stores and restaurants I remember are still here . . .

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. . . including a few whose survival I never understood . . .

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. . . and most significantly, the original, non-News Corp.-affiliated Kwiki Mart!

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Salzer’s, my favorite record store (with apologies to Amoeba, which surely has a more wide-ranging selection but to which I never developed a sentimental attachment) remains. When I stopped in yesterday afternoon, Frank remembered my face, though I think he had to get my name off my credit card. I asked if he still had his band, and he told me they would be playing tomorrow night at a new bar that’s opened up since I left, a place downtown called It’s All Good. (Their booker must have better taste than whoever chose the name, I guess.)

Since I haven’t really found an indie record shop to favor with my commerce in DC, I was eager to drop some cash at Salzer’s. I got the new Rilo Kiley CD, Under the Blacklight, which came with a free vinyl single. (Not only does Salzer’s regularly beat chains like Borders on price, even if you’ve let your KCRW membership — usually good for $2 off every CD you buy — lapse; they also give you freebies like singles and posters. What’s not to love?) Also, since I’m catching up on Spoon and the New Pornographers, I got a pair of catalogue titles; Gimme Fiction and Electric Version, respectively, along with A Year in the Wilderness, John Doe’s new solo record, featuring, appropriately enough “The Golden State.”

Anyway, I went to my old house after that, greeted my old cat, and set out to run one of my old routes.

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With it’s moderate temperatures, low humidity, varied terrain, sparse traffic, and of course, its beauty, Ventura is a runner’s paradise. It’s more known as a surfer’s paradise, of course, but I never quite got the hang of that.

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After running all summer in the heavy, humid DC air, to run in a place where I can actually stand to wear a shirt comes as a shock to the system.

I carried my camera in my bottle-belt and took these shots while I was out puffing along.

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Anyway, after dinner and a catch-up visit with the ex last night, I went back down to Los Angeles, where I’m staying with my beloved professor from the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting, and her two dogs. Today I’m back up in V-Town at least until tomorrow night.

Earlier this afternoon, I was tooling around downtown. Like I said, it’s all exactly as I remember it. Which shouldn’t be strange, but given how quickly Columbia Heights, where I live now, is changing, and how constant the change in Chantilly, VA, where I grew up has been, it’s odd — and comforting — to find some continuity.

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I happened to be walking by the post office earlier, and I thought I’d stop in to get another look at the WPA mural I remember. Since I was already there, I figured I should ask if they have the new Marvel Super-Heroes stamps. I recognized two of the four postal clerks working the counter. And when I asked for the super-hero stamps, one of them remembered me. Specifically, she recalled that I was the guy who never wanted to use a meter strip to send a package if I could decorate the box with dozens of stamps instead. Nice.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to get to Sylva’s, which has relocated since I was a member, and Ralph’s Comic Corner. Viva Ventura.