After 17 years, fans of the cult (and personal) favorite Geek Love by Portland-based author Katherine Dunn are finally getting their wish for a follow-up. Knopf, Dunn's publisher, will release Dunn's second novel, The Cut Man in September 2008. Back in 1989 Dunn told The Guardian, "'The cut man in boxing is the person who stops the bleeding in a boxing match. The new novel is about boxing and serial killers."
In the meantime, you can get your Dunn fix here, where Dunn is guest blogging for a bit. Be sure to check out the comments section below posts where the host blogger asks her questions about her life and writing. She gets into the nitty gritty of how the writing process works for her.
She is especially interested in the sound of the human voice, writing yesterday, "I keep trying to remind people that the hen scratches are just symbols for the sounds of the human voice. That it's the sound that communicates. You've got to hear this stuff as you read it. It's gorgeous, this process. Alone in a room you hear the sounds and note them down in silence and they go out to others who read them in silence and hear the sounds again."
Her first post on the blog is the essay "Just as Fierce," which was originally published in the Nov/Dec 1994 issue of Mother Jones.
Okay, so this is a little strange. The San Francisco Chronicle's Executive Editor Phil Bronstein is writing short, eloquent posts remembering former colleagues let go because of the paper's downsizing.
The paper announced this spring they were laying off 25 percent of the newsroom by end of the Summer, and readers can now learn tidbits about folks who were let go. For example, one former Style editor was a "renaissance guy with broad knowledge of jazz, literature and other subjects," and one editor was able to deconstruct complicated stories and reassemble them as mini-masterpieces every day.
What's odd is that the blurbs say things like "Her departure after 32 years of faithful, professional service represents an irreplaceable loss," which sounds more like an obit. But sensitive remembrances don't make good on the fact that many talented journalists are going jobless. As the Project for Excellence in Journalism points out in its 2007 State of the News Media report, two important journalistic pursuits — monitoring of local governments and regional issues — are losing out to newsroom downsizing. (Other Bay Area news staff reductions get frequent updates here, and MoJo's"Breaking the News" investigation digs even deeper.)
If news companies do not assert their own vision and take risks, the PEJ report argues, their future will be defined by those less invested in and passionate about news than the heroes being eulogized by Bronstein.
Last night I relived my childhood. I saw The Police in concert. The sound of Sting's voice filling an open-air stadium (this time in Oakland) really took me backthough the biggest Proustian moment came when I saw Police posters for sale. Posters!
The performance was fantastic. Sting can still sing gorgeously. He's still got a winning little twist to his mouth as he does it, and if my ass and biceps look as good when I'm 55, I will be seriously, seriously happy. (I'm not sure if it was an ironic note or not, but the band revisited its 80s look, headbands, sleeveless shirts and all.) The really great thing about the show was seeing the band feeling free to delve deeper into their influences. Sting got a little scat into "Roxanne," which might have been borderline cheesy in a solo performance, but with Stewart Copeland there to reign him in, it was amazing. There is obviously still some interpersonal tension, but, damn, hearing them let their songs get a little abstract and airy, but thenPOP!bring them back down to earth, made me really wish they had been able to make that compromise as a band. In my younger years, I would send a dozen roses backstage for Sting at every concert. Last night, I thought the roses were for Stewart. (Andy came across as a man with ample skills but little soul.)
One disappointment: There was no political statement or undertone. Correction: During "Invisible Sun," a song about the bleakness of the industrial age, the video monitors showed footage of what might have been Iraq. But, come on, "Bombs Away" was an obvious follow-up:
The President looks in the mirror and speaks
His shirts are clean but his country reeks Unpaid bills In Afghanistan hills Bombs away But we're O.K
"Walking in Your Footsteps" also begged to become a song about exploding the carbon bomb instead of the atom bomb (Hey there mighty brontosaurus / Don't you have a message for us? You thought your rule would always last / There were no lessons in your past. / If we explode the atom bomb, / Would they say that we were dumb?).
Nonetheless, the songs revealed their well-craftedness as the band turned some major chords minor, filled up some places that had been emptier, and emptied out some places that had been fuller. The Police aren't just the pivotal band of my youth; they're also a band that has earned a significant place in musical history.
Guys in robot masks and silver pants everywhere can start computing their travel plans now: NME is reporting Daft Punk's highly anticipated new feature length film, Electroma, will screen at various locations in the US and Canada this summer. The film premiered at Cannes last year, and apparently involves a couple robots who travel around America in a quest to become human. Why do robots alwayswant to be human? Don't they know about, like, acne?
Electroma will screen in LA on June 29th and Miami on July 29th, as well as in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
A couple previews have made it onto YouTube. First, the official trailer, which is pretty great, and gives you a sense of the film's pace:
Then there's this, which is apparently an actual excerpt. NME is reporting the film is "silent," but I think they mean it's not accompanied by dialog or any Daft Punk music, and indeed, this segment features Todd Rundgren, to spectacular effect.
Not included in this week's Top Ten: Major concert events at the Shoreline, controversial finales to popular television shows, or the new Queens of the Stone Age album, even though there are good things about all those things. But the Top Ten must be an honest appraisal, and if I'm moping around to swirly dream-pop and grooving to Southern hip-hop, then I have to tell you that, right? No off-limits topics here, thank you very much.
10. Pissed Jeans "Secret Admirer" (from Hope for Men on Sub Pop)
If there's a better way to weed out weak and infirm listeners from the Top Ten than by kicking it off with distorted and scream-filled sludge metal, I don't know it. Take that, Riffers. This Pennsylvania foursome evoke a couple great hard rock bands (like The Melvins and The Jesus Lizard) on their second album, and this medium-tempo track has the growling menace of Killdozer. Anybody remember any of those bands?!
9. Sonny Jim "Can't Stop Movin" (video via Stereogum)
The song, a filter-happy rework of an old Jackson 5 number, is pretty cool, but for me it's all about the video: disco-riffic footage from the Jackson 5 cartoon show, cut up to match the samples. There's a moment when all the Jacksons' faces appear, one by one, in screen-filling heart shapes, as their bell-bottomed silhouettes dance below did we actually watch this?!
8. Pantha du Prince "Florac" (from This Bliss on Dial, stream on his MySpace page)
Yes, yes, I know: the Top Ten needs more German techno like the internet needs more, um, geeky dudes like me writing about stuff they like. But this is a little different. Pantha du Prince (a.k.a. Hamburg's Hendrik Weber) makes minimal electronic music with a darker, more organic feel than his contemporaries; his MySpace page lists his location as "Antarctica," and you can almost believe it.
7. ComaR - "Mr. Jones in a Forest" (The Cure. vs. Mike Jones, mp3 via Comar's site)
While it's doubtful any "Forest" mashup will ever equal the spine-tingling beauty of Gordyboy's 2003 Bjork combo "A Hidden Forest," French bootlegger ComaR has made an enjoyable runner-up. Houston rapper Mike Jones and his backup singers sound even more menacing over the Cure's double-time beat, and it's actually fun enough that you could almost dance to it. And not just that goth "swirly dance."
6. Justice - Essential Mix, BBC Radio 1, Sunday June 10th, 2007
(listen for the next week here or grab an iffy-quality mp3 here)
The French techno duo's highly-anticipated album, (yes, that's a cross), comes out tomorrow, and this set is like a soundtrack to the release party. Squeezing a record 70 tracks into their two hours, and veering from Janet Jackson to the Chemical Brothers, the Human League to, um, the Ronettes, what Justice lose in beatmatched flow they more than make up for in fun. And I do like fun.
Guitarist Pete Townshend (The Who) is coming out with his latest musical next month, "The Boy Who Heard Music." Based on an online novella, this won't be Townshend's first go at the theater, with The Who's rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia paving the way. Last year, Duncan Sheik (a 90s one hit wonder with the infamous "Barely Breathing") co-wrote the music to then off-Broadway, now Broadway musical Spring Awakening, a story about adolescent sex in Germany in the 1890s. Are quasi-washed out rockers finding a new career in musicals? Just ask Sheik, who in a recent article admits to hating musicals, but spent five years working on one anyway.
29-year old Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just won Britain's Orange Prize for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun. Rina Palta interviewed Adichie for Mother Jones last October; she also gave the novel a big thumbs up"a great read... without the oppressive symbolism or exoticism common to novels by young authors from so-called third world countries."
Chicago alt-rock elder statesmen Wilco have licensed tracks from their new album Sky Blue Sky to Volkswagen to accompany TV commercials featuring, for instance, the amusing antics of a tow truck driver who really likes the cute little VW GTI. Wilco apparently felt insecure enough about this decision to release a multi-paragraph statement defending themselves on their website. "We feel okay about VWs," the statement reads, in what I assume Volkswagen considers the indie-rock equivalent of a ringing endorsement. But Wilco didn't come to this decision lightly:
There's something about the band name The Traveling Wilburys that's about as exciting as a bowl of cold oatmeal. But the band, which consisted of Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, was considered a "fantasy camp for rockstars" when it first popped up in the late 80s.
Despite the fact that two of the band members have since passed away, the Wilburys are making a comeback with two volumes of reissued CDs. I admit, my friends and I went to great lengths making fun of the "old dudes" with a lame band name playing boring songs, but you can't ignore the Wilburys. The individuals that make up the group have a pretty amazing combined body of musical work, and as an ensemble, they snagged two hit singles and a Grammy.
If you liked the Beatlemaniacal Powerpuff Girls clip Ben posted below, check out this sentencing memo from a Montana judge (via the Smoking Gun). Peeved that a 20-year old burglary defendant had alluded to the band as the "Beetles" in a letter to the court, Judge Gregory Todd responded thusly:
If I were to overlook your actions and Let It Be, I would ignore that Day in the Life on April 21, 2006. That night you said to yourself I Feel Fine while drinking beer. Later, whether you wanted 'Money' or were just trying to Act Naturally you became the Fool on the Hill on on North 27th Street. As Mr Moonlight at 1.30am, you did not Think for Yourself but just focused on I, Me, Mine.
Because you didn't ask for Help, Wait for Something else or listen to your conscience saying Honey Don't, the victim later that day was Fixing a Hole in the glass door you broke. After you stole the 18 pack of Old Milwaukee you decided it was time to Run For Your Life and Carry That Weight. [...]
Later when you thought about what you did, you may have said I'll Cry Instead. Now you're saying Let it Be instead of I'm a Loser. As a result of your Hard Day's Night, you are looking at a Ticket to Ride that Long and Winding Road to Deer Lodge. Hopefully you can say both now and When I'm 64 that I Should Have Known Better.
Judge Todd then said the word and set the would-be beer thief free, giving him three years probation.