Sunday, June 23, 2024

Happy Valley bike ride / Freeya

Free plug for the app Freeya, a pretty good solution to the problem "how do I get rid of this free item without driving to a thrift store, leaving it at the curb, or dealing with a dozen BuyNothing/Craigslist flakes?" Everything is automated, and if someone flakes out on you (as they always do - I don't understand it) it's no big deal. Their window to pick things up just ends and someone else gets a chance. Anyway, if you're in Portland, Seattle, or Atlanta, recommended.

I posted some tape decks today and decided to look to see what's around. Someone up in Happy Valley was giving away some earbuds that would be an upgrade to what I have, and I was looking for a bike ride, so why not? I hopped on the non-electric bike because I was feeling crazy and headed up the daunting slopes of Mt. Scott.

The motor in my core and legs took me up past the mall, past the fire station, past the inevitable golf course. The motor in my core and legs was regretting my choice at the top of the hill. I rode down past dozens of McMansions, rode through the park, walked my bike on the gravel trail, then went up the hill, past the barrier, and emerged on 122nd. Taking the secret path made me feel like a genius and a super-dork all at once.

Here's where I ended up - the house was at the bottom of this serious hill:

I picked up the earbuds, emerged from a secret pedestrian exit next to the inevitable Jamba Juice (there is an outlet!) and rode home next to all sorts of fancy Happy Valley vehicles in all sorts of anonymous shades of white, gray, and black, then took the bike path home to the sanity of the flatlands.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sonora Casino "Astronautas a Mercurio"


This Peruvian oddity goes everywhere all at once, and just when you think it can't find another gear, there it is, another gear. Total strutter.

I love they hand lettering and color scheme on the cover. My wife had the cover model saying "make sure they get my good side."

This is one of multiple tempting 10-euro LPs on Vampisoul's bandqlamp at the moment, but one of the many stupid things about vinyl is that even a good deal like this one is negated by the fact that it takes so much petroleum to haul big chunks of petroleum like this one across the globe.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Cabalgata rabbit hole

I was working on a document from Mexico for work and wanted to get an idea of the geography for a small town in Jalisco. The town was too small to be on Street View, so I did what one does, typed the name of the town into YouChoob.

The first hit was for a cabalgata, a horse-centric town-wide party/parade (English equivalent "cavalcade" is less relevant in non-horsey urban USA in 2024). I was not aware but it is awesome. I won't link to the video in question for privacy reasons, so search for cabalgata jalisco in YouChoob. There are a lot. Watch the horses dancing, hear the tubas echoing in the horse paddock.

Ads on the walls for businesses in the US. BIENVENIDOS HIJOS AUSENTES. Día de los Migrantes. A two-sided flag with the Great Seal of the State of Oregon on one side, but instead of a beaver on the other, the Mexican flag. 

Mules. Ponies. Men drinking Modelo on horses. Pretty ladies in fancy dresses sitting on the hood of lifted trucks. Dancing in the horse paddock, lifting up their fancy dresses. Crazy trumpet sounds. Stick with that video for some hoof-based ASMR at 03:15. Looks like a good time.

Apparently these horse-based festival parties are a thing in Colombia as well. Probably other places where people have horses and like to party. This rabbit hole is deep and I will get there eventually.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Things to love June '24

  •  Helen DeWitt The English Understand Wool
    • Reading The English Understand Wool in the hammock under the apple tree in a single sitting
    • Discussing The English Understand Wool with one's sweetheart after she also read the book in the hammock under the apple tree in a single sitting
  • Playing Donut County and the Frog Detective series on the Steem Dekk with the boy in the hammock
  • The hammock
  • The apple tree
  • The typography in the inner sleeve of Born Against's Nine Patriotic Hymns for Children

  • Thinking about sending cash in the mail in the 90s to order Born Against records
  • Wanting to send cash in the mail to order records in 2024
  • The new bike paths next to Linwood Avenue in unincorporated Clackamas County
  • Riding my big blue unelectrified puffy-tires cargo bike on said paths and feeling like I'm sailing a yacht
  • Getting to ride those paths every day this summer to take the boy to summer care and back
  • Thinking about doing the library's summer reading bingo game for adults
  • Thinking about doing the reading in the hammock under the apple tree

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Bobby Hebb "Sunny '76"

Who doesn't love Bobby Hebb's song "Sunny?" Like the best uplifting moments, it comes out of a dark place (in this case his brother's murder a day after JFK's murder), and in this case it includes multiple key changes and a delightful flubbed bass note that I cherish. Turns out the studio musicians were working overtime, so I guess it makes sense, but it's the beauty mark on the face of the song that makes it even greater, the one people don't notice.

I did not know that there was a disco remake, "Sunny '76". Wikkypeeeedia describes it as "reharmonized," which is putting things mildly:

As the millions of readers of this blog know, I love disco revamps, but when I first heard this, I thought the big boogie major chords and swirling disco strings were a step too far for this song's minor-key heart. I felt a visceral distaste for it. But now that I've listened to it a few times, I appreciate how outlandish the changes are. It is gaslighting the listener. Oh, those feelings you had when you heard this? Let me reharmonize them. Quit moping and dance. Totally ridiculous. I kind of love it.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Steem Dekk / Pikuniku / Super Mega

I finally gave in and bought a refurbished Steem Dekk. I had a lot of various bundle Steem games sitting around and wanted something that would travel well from the couch to the TV (for the exercise bike). Turns out it is totally great. I should have jumped earlier. Who knew.

The boy was totally delighted watching me play Pikuniku (I was also delighted to play it) and so now we are hanging out in the hammock playing it again, this time in Spanish. Good translation, if a little Iberian-heavy? Fun to see him reading the Spanish and doing a good job translating it into English. Just amazing. Hooray for the DLI program at his elementary school.

Another game I had kicking around in my account was Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings. While I have only a scintilla of interest in our national pastime, I have to admit that this scratches a lot of the same itches that Hardball! did back in my Apple //c youth. I play on easy mode (or low "ego" as they put it) and it is chill and silly.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Mdou Moctar / the Resonars / consistency

Everyone is talking about the new Mdou Moctar album, as well they should. I like how they balance their trademark spine-tingling excursions with more intimate moments, and I love that he/they is/are advocating for use of the Tamasheq language instead of the colonial French. (side note: Tifinagh 💕) Sad that their 2024 tour will be skipping our lightly populated quarter of the country.

The new Resonars album sounds like pretty much every other Resonars album, as it should, with the addition of a couple extra-psychedelic synthesizer interludes. As always, instant good times. A bird singing the song it was meant to sing since birth.

I'm a little jealous of people who can consistently make excellent music in a consistent style. I'm like a hummingbird flitting from style to style to sound to sound, always jittery.


Thursday, May 2, 2024

Striped T-shirts

When I went to pick Jennifer R. up before our show at Mother Foucault's on Friday, I mentioned that I was wearing the same thing I'd worn for a Qostqo run a few minutes earlier. She said, oh, probably a striped t-shirt and shorts? Amazingly I was NOT in fact wearing a striped shirt, but rather this fine number from Made in Milwaukie. That got me to thinking: are striped shirts part of my personal brand at this point?

Like other niche items, striped shirts are not consistently available at mall retail, so I have to go big when they are in fact available. Turns out this is one of those years where the Ggapp is pushing Ghostbusterz shirtz instead of striped tees. Sigh!

Then today I ended up working on a certificate from Güira de Melena, Cuba
(side note: looks pretty awesome, and the BIENVENIDO A GÜIRA DE MELENA sign in this video is super cool)

and anyway, that made me think about Spanish pop group Melenas and then I happened upon this video and was flabbergasted by the guitarist's shirt:

It does not appear to be available anywhere online, so in case anyone is reading this, I would like to summon this exact t-shirt to show up in large quantities on extreme clearance at some store that I know about.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Jody Harris Robert Quine _Escape_ / RYL / late 80s survivors

How had I never heard about Jody Harris/Robert Quine's album Escape? As soon as I heard about it I had to listen to it, and as soon as I listened to it, I heard the distinctive sounds of the Electro-Harmonix DRM-15 (or 16 or 32?) preset drum machine and that was it. Then they started playing alien sped-up guitar and funk bass on top of it. I like it.

Actually it sounds like the Raunchy Young Lepers (at that point just "RYL") were trying to reverse-engineer this album on a crummy boombox on Sex and Heredity. Some of the same beats even. Not that I would know anything about that group, although I am delighted that someone has started selling tea under the name "The Ryl Co." Not that Goat-Boy would have emailed me about that either.

Speaking of things that happened in the late 1980s, I would never have guessed that of all the artists from that era, the one that my seven-year-old would be singing in 2024 would be... Rick Astley?

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

White Winged Moth / Vacation nightwalks

This morning after not thinking about the artist White Winged Moth for over two decades, I thought about the artist White Winged Moth. Anything on YouChoob? Yes, this:

Whoa, sudden college radio nostalgia feeling, totally crazy! Is this what it felt like when Boomers saw the ad for Freedom Rock?

I think I drove up to Los Angeles to see him/them perform and I feel like I remember seeing people dragging folding chairs around in a dark room. Was that the performance? Was I disappointed? Or elated? 

I looked to see if copies exist on Disqwogz. They do, and they aren't expensive. Weird cardboard-and-elastic Moleskine-evoking packaging - how is that holding up three decades later? One person selling it was clearly a college radio nerd in the late 90s, and the CDs for sale are basically one stratum of padded envelopes that I would have been very happy to see come into the music office. Do I need any of them? No.

We went to Lincoln City on the beach. After boyo went down for the night, I went to wander through the hills. 

There was a deer by the pickleball courts. I gingerly stepped down the hill to get a closer look and it vanished. 

There's a ditch across from the Surftides resort that erupts with frog song at night - I had completely forgotten about it, but they are louder than ever. Do people hear it from the resort, or is the ocean louder? 

I walked down a hundred steps or so to the ocean. The whitecaps were illuminated by the lights from the resort. A ways down the beach I could see people having a driftwood fire. It looked cozy but then I remembered that I don't like fire. I took a moment to contemplate, think about how small I am against the ocean, and how small I am in time, and then I walked back on the twisty streets to the motel.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Cosmonox / LP bins in 2024

Cosmonox played a show at SE Foster's finest dark void of a music venue, the legendary Starday Tavern. No cover and in a prime pub crawl location. It was fun to see how various stumbling-in drunk randos reacted to this alien tape squawk music. I will spare you the photo, but it involves some very short basketball shorts. My brother was there and journalistically observed the parade of drunks, from "Where do they find these people" to people just totally feeling it and taking phone videos.

My mom watched the boy last night so JL and I went, naturally, to a certain estate sale warehouse in Tigard. We got some glassware. Their LPs were priced at $5 apiece (!!!) but were half off by the time I got there. The left bin was random would-not-sell-at-25-cents records (you can probably picture a lot of them) and classical records, the right bin was mostly Christian music, and the center bin was various picked-over pop-folk stuff. But I was pleased to find, in the middle of all of this, a copy of Richard and Linda Thompson's Pour Down Like Silver. RT's blue eyes staring out at me in the middle of all of this rote flipping. As someone who had only ever played the album on the streamz, I was surprised to see that Linda's portrait appears on the back.

We put our treasures in the hatchback and had an actual date night, with happy hour cocktails even, in the incredible April sun on the mysterious west side of the Willamette.

Friday, April 12, 2024

99 Cents Only / Parsnip "Turn to Love"

I spent a pretty good amount of time in the 99 Cents Only chain of discount stores when I was extremely poor in grad school in the Southland. At least at that point, it hit the right balance between looniness and desperation, unlike many similar discount stores. I was a fan. Apparently they are going out of business, so I'd like to say thanks for the memories and the cheap and questionable food. And because I have a song for everything, here is "Tamagotchi 99 Cent Only." True story, I think. RIP.

This Parsnip video is just delightful, at that rare meeting point between extremely psychedelic and extremely hammy. Great song, too.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Miss Macintosh My Darling / the Inland Northwest

Miss Macintosh My Darling is available! After having Marguerite Young's massive magnum opus on my internet auction watch list forever, Dalkey Archive has the e-books available. Actual 1,200 page novels are still in preorder, but after going through War and Peace in the dead tree edition recently, I'm OK with the ebook. We'll see how far I get, but I'm excited.

We took our spring break trip out to the Tri-Cities and Spokane in Eastern Washington. Richland has a really nice park by the Columbia River and the dramatic weather made it even more exciting. 

Once the boy went down I took a night walk to their quaint little Uptown shopping center, where a block off the highway there were actual dreadlocked individuals spinning flaming batons. I walked a half block south and was surrounded by people who were a few sheets to the wind and super jazzed about riding a mechanical bull. Totally jarring and wonderful. I stared through the windows of the public library at night even though it was closed and I didn't have a card. 

This sign made me very happy:

Spokane felt a bit like when Portland was deciding if it was a lumber town or a hipster destination. There are cool people doing cool things - we stayed in the Garland District, which felt like a pint-sized Hawthorne - but there are also huge lifted pickups everywhere, just a nonstop wall of diesel whine at all times. Riverfront Park, where you can walk over a waterfall mere blocks from downtown, is indeed awesome. We had a delightful vegan meal at Rüt and I got to wave hello to the world's friendliest baby multiple times. I bought a copy of Myron Floren's Disco Polka for a buck (along with a Silver Convention record) at a punk rock record store and felt sheepish, but it is a record that cannot be denied:

Spokane is also a good town for walking at night. The air felt great and we were a few blocks away from an amazing view of the skyline. That said, the constant aggro menace sounds of the lifted truck scene reminded me of the night walking privilege I have as a cisgender heterosexual white dude. And indeed, while we were there, dudes in lifted pickup trucks a half hour away in Coeur D'Alene were revving their engines and hurling epithets at black female basketball players staying for the NCAA tournament. SIGH.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Appliances / Password Plus / CDs

A couple weeks ago we paid a plumber to fix the pipe that burst in our garage - now our dishwasher isn't working. While I kind of secretly love washing dishes - and I may have written my poppiest song in years about washing dishes while watching Password Plus on the tablet - I'm ready to let machines do the work. Let's see if the fancypants new dishwasher I bought lasts longer than the H*me D*p*t cheapest possible option I went with last time.

Inspired by the good folks at ElectrifyPDX, we are slowly getting rid of our fossil fuel household appliances. Today was the day we broke out the checkbook for a heat pump. Kind of thrilling to think that we will actually have air conditioning for the first time in my life. (And it will be good to get rid of our nearly 30-year-old gas furnace). 

As part of the energy audit, the tech got down in our crawlspace (apparently not as horrifying as I had feared). In order to make that happen, I had to clean out my wine cellar/CD storage closet. There were a lot of OMG moments as I realized where a lot of my CDs had been hiding. Currently rocking Cyclops' Goat Volume, which holds up pretty well. I'm a sucker for Flying Nun b-team/Xpressway-adjacent stuff from the era, and "Simpleton" takes one and a half chords about as far as they need to go.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Things to love Feb. 2024

The Montreal Assembly PurPLL effects pedal

Pedro Mairal The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra (must try to track down the original Spanish) and the way it depicts the father-son relationship after the father has died

Riding the exercise bike during lunch break

Playing Ys VIII and Ys IX during said bike breaks - bright, earnest, and a little goofy beat-em-up RPGs whose "Normal" difficulty level and pacing are just right to be played while also working out for an hour

Being able to check out Ys VIII and Ys IX from the Tualatin Public Library

Fitting a second-hand exercise bike in the back of a Mazda2

While we're talking about father-son relationships: Chris Elliott Daddy's Boy

Finding out that there are Wire EPs that I haven't listened to

Playing guitar at low volumethrough older Peavey bass practice amps (currently a Basic 112 from a garage sale down the street - I carried it four blocks home)

Seeing "Unicode" and "Gamelan" crossing "Mimeograph" in last Sunday's NYT crossword

The first few weeks of Flaming Hydra

My 7-year-old creating a word game called "Groups" where "Phone" and "Tablet" are grouped together by being "rectangular objects"

My 7-year-old finding the Spanish word mapache ("raccoon") very funny - I love it too

Friday, January 19, 2024

Primrose Trio/Dance Series by Various Ukrainian Artists, the site that keeps on giving, has this one. I previously mentioned this series, with its great music, eye-popping design, and slightly unsettling illustrations, but this one is even better. Primrose Trio (here rendered in Microgramma as "Prim Rose") have a series of three wild and wonderful LPs with their pictures on them, but this one just gets the lady, this time staring at you. I always appreciate how the guitarist kind of plays the bass notes and kind of plays the chords and almost always plays notes that I would not consider playing given what the cymbaly and fiddle are playing. I can learn a lot.

If you like the illustration, K 6001 (featuring the Thunder River Boys) features the exact same artwork, just, as they say, palette-swapped. It's a good time too, if more traditionally polka-flavored.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Slacker prog/Frances Chang/Manta(r)/dollar bins/ecosystem analogies

The Ramp Local newsletter pointed me to Frances Chang's upcoming album Psychedelic Anxiety (good title, also a good cover, more album covers should feature pictures of ducks and samplers). The song "Eye Land" in particular is a quality example of what she aptly calls "slacker prog":

i.e. it goes all over the place, there are fuzzy 90s indie-rock guitars in spots, but not for long, nothing stays in one place for long. A jigsaw with a lot of pieces and a lot of the pieces are a dizzying blue sky.

In sort of related news, I went through my M box of CDs and found Manta's album Classic Battles, which hits some similar notes. Some really memorable songs in there that also go all over the place, particularly "On the Banks of the Sad River" and "Light Is the Only." 18 years later I still find myself singing "We all die alone" over and over again, or "A seal makes me feel strong." Her stuff with The Badger King is also great if largely unobtainable at this point - not expensive, just obscure. Naturally their best moment is on some EP that I never saw in real life and that never made it to Disqwogz, probably just handed out on CDRs and that rattled around Soulseek long enough for me to suck it down.

I do like how people are using as a sort of virtual dollar bin. One of my beefs with Bandqlamp is that there's no place for the bottom feeders - that weird thing you put out fifteen years ago will kick around forever at the $7 price point rather than showing up scuffed in some bin on the floor for a dollar. That's not how nature works!

The person who posted this one posted a lot of other mid-aughts Portland stuff from that scene that I was tangentially involved in, stuff that would never actually be rereleased and that I barely remember, but that still forms a pretty good rabbit hole to get lost in.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Able "Screw You Around"

In the unthinkably 25 years ago past of 1999 or 1998 or something I was in a car headed up I-5 from the Southland to San Francisco. Maybe this was the time when a certain noise band was playing at the immortally named "Clit Stop"? Who knows, long time ago, long drive. The car had recently been broken into and there was some plastic sheeting where a window should be, yelling rustle rustle rustle all the way up the long straight inky blackness of the Central Valley.

Above said noisy rustle was the new album from Able, Lost Love Songs, soon to come out on Blackbean & Placenta Tape Club. Mike was very excited about this album that I thought sounded like the Eagles. It didn't really sound like the Eagles, but I was young and insufferable and needed to make a point. In a few months, I realized that Mike was right and that it was great, particularly the quizzically named "Screw You Around":

While there are oodles of songs in this world about being a young brainiac being pushed around by bully goons - well, I'm assuming there are - this one inverts the young-brainiac-makes-good formula and turns it into a surprisingly delicate saga of underachievement, questionable parenting, and false memory, punctuated with an endless chorus of "Don't let them screw you around."

Ekphrastics/old friends

Frank Boscoe of Wimp Factor XIV/Vehicle Flips has a new album, this time under the name The Ekphrastics. Very happy to see that he continues on, forever singing heartfelt and tuneful pop songs about underachievers in obscure fields of interest. Sure, this formula has not set the world on fire, but that doesn't mean it's not a good formula. Every new album feels like hanging out with a friend you haven't seen in ages, but with whom you still connect instantly.

Pick to click: "Special Delivery"/"The Ballad of Becky Jane Joplin."

I forgot that I had written this draft, but I was washing dishes last night and saw that someone on YouChoob had posted the final syndicated episode of Sale of the Century from 1986, so of COURSE I had to watch it while scrubbing bits of broccoli in garlic sauce from the skillet. 

And get this: Jim Perry (the ever smooth) threw in a pre-commercial reference to what must be this same story as "Special Delivery"/"The Ballad of Becky Jane Joplin"! I mean, woman marries postman who is delivering hundreds of love letters from faraway beau? But leave it to the author of "Our Returning Champion" to get not one but two songs out of this possibly apocryphal story.