Sunday, August 24, 2008

Parked on my street



I was amused to find this car parked across the street from my apartment this afternoon. Their website is, as I suspected, a kind of interventionist site for heathen porn addicts who need to come to Jesus. Forgive me for finding this method of evangelism creepy. Disappointing too, considering I was more than a little curious about the existence of a burgeoning cyberculture for Christian fetishists. Sounds fascinating!

UPDATE: Since posting, I've done a little googling and discovered there's a world of information out there about just such issues. A website called Sex in Christ (www.sexinchrist.com) offers a proposal for Christian pornography that depicts loving married couples in erotic and instructive ways. Here's a favorite quote from their website:
No extramarital sex, unless it is to illustrate the downfalls of adultery. The spouses in a Christian porn production must never have adulterous relations, unless they (and their partner in extramarital crime) suffer and are punished fittingly for their sins. (In deference to modern conventions, the punishment does not have to be one mandated by scripture, i.e., being stoned to death.)
It has also has helpful links to essays like "Bondage in Christ: BDSM in a Christian Marriage," "Fisting and God's Will," and "Bare Before God: Shaving and the Bible."

Sunset Junction - Saturday

I'm on the fence about going today, but I enjoyed yesterday and even took a few photos.





The stilt-walkers are always a fun discovery.





Here are some carny shots.





JW makes another rare appearance.



I forget the name of this band, but the lead singer's pretty great.



There's something wonderful about walking down the center of Sunset Boulevard.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Remember how I always

talk about how much I love The Fiery Furnaces? Well I still do. The other day I was driving home from work while listening to their two-disc live album, Remember, and I heard Eleanor declare something about "a house once owned by the princes of Mataran." She pronounced it in this regal, elongated way she rarely has the time to conjure in other songs, what with all the crazy mouthfuls of lyrics she's got to get out. I knew the line was coming, as I've listened to all their music enough not to be too surprised by all the digressions and seeming disjointedness, but her delivery and that line are just so wildy wonderful I shouted in the car to no one in particular,

"OHMYGODILOVETHEFIERYFURNACESSOMUCH!!"

This morning I had disc two of Remember in the car stereo on the way to work; I've had the CDs for months and I still haven't tired of them. I was just marveling about how well they can write a slick pop song when they want to and how thankful I am that they mostly don't want to.

I was thinking of posting about this when I saw a review of the live album on Salon by Michaelangelo Matos and suddenly had an excuse to.

Matt [Friedberger], who writes most of the songs (and produces, arranges and plays most of the albums' music), has a gift for tunes as well as production trickery, and he knows his way around both classic-rock guitar riffs and set-piece keyboard parts. Sometimes he gets cutesy: "Clear Signal From Cairo," a song from last year's Fiery Furnaces album Bitter Tea, features a tinkly melodic tag ("It's a clear, it's a clear, it's a clear") that's one of the most annoying earworms I've ever encountered.
I disagree with that sentiment, but I'll let it slide; my main issue with "Clear Signal From Cairo" is that it's too long, but I get the feeling the Friedbergers know that, plus I think it's kind of funny to write a song about being called back to a lover's arms and never bothering to arrive at those arms, much less even answer the call.

What I won't let slide is that the song is actually on last year's Widow City. Bitter Tea was an '06 release.

Matos is on our team though. Don't worry. He continues:
But to listen to "Here Comes the Summer" or "Tropical Ice-Land" (both from 2005's "EP," a cheeky title for a work that at 10 songs and 41 minutes has the shape and length of an album, not an EP), or the delicate "I'm Waiting to Know You" (from 2006's "Bitter Tea"), is to hear a band that can seemingly make perfectly shaped, completely immediate pop records whenever it wants to.... Matt is one of the most arresting and original lyricists who's ever worked in pop, and one reason for that is that he grounds his songs in obsessively ordinary detail.
He even quotes the lyric that triggered my ecstatic outburst:

[T]ry this verse, from "Borneo" (from Bitter Tea): "So I gambled on going further afield/ So I flew to Sydney and then to Bali and then to Jakarta/ And called on my stepfather's ex-business partner, Major Timmy Sastrosatomo/ And he set me up as a silversmith batik dabber/ In a house once owned by the princes of Mataran/ And he told me all his troubles." Of course he did.
That's almost as good as another favorite line of mine, also on Bitter Tea -- actually I think it's also on "Borneo" -- the song turns into something of a dream narrative and a phrase ends with "the bulldozers came and turned us into whole fruit fruit bar sticks and China markers."

There's so much in this review I'd like to post, but I'll just do one more little bit and let you read the whole thing here if you like.

If you remember from my last FF post, I mentioned how Fiery Furnaces devotees should have a nickname. This made me wonder if all their fans are as nuts over them as I am. Matos makes the same suggestion here:

As much as with the studio albums, there's a conspiratorial feel [to Remember], a sense of glee at pushing limits and bringing you along if you're willing. Even if you're a fan this can all seem like too much. But too much is what the Fiery Furnaces do best. Because their music is compelling, its fractures become part of the draw; the holes in the narratives invite filling in. The Friedbergers appeal to people as obsessive as themselves: Trekkies, Whovians, comics geeks, people who enjoy stepping into made-up worlds, who like their meanings at least partly buried, who pride themselves on knowing the codes, but don't mind not getting everything, because it gives them more work to do.
So I'm not the only one! Where's the fan club?! Sign me up!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wow!

This is a big blog day for me! Three posts ranging from weepy straight boy indie rock to international politics to Bravo reality TV and drag! And now a self-congratulatory fourth post! It's just like the good ol' days here at FWL! I'm on fire!

Two things about

last night's drag Project Runway.

1. I'm totally in the "Terri was robbed...again!" camp. BUT...

2. I'm also officially in love with Varla Jean Merman and her male alter ego. Rungay beat me to the punch on this, but WOW. JW and I kept rewinding the DVR to get extra looks at his shoulders. Go here for pictures. Drag or no, Merman is HOT.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The New Yorker on Russia and Georgia

David Remnick's piece in Talk of the Town this week is really worth reading. I've been following the Russia/Georgia conflict as well as I can, and there are some keen insights about both the historical context and the social and political implications of the whole thing. Here's a sample:

Taken individually, the West’s actions since the collapse of the Soviet Union—from the inclusion of the Baltic and the Central European states in NATO to the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state—can be rationalized on strategic and moral grounds. But taken together these actions were bound to engender deep-seated feelings of national resentment among Russians, especially as, through the nineteen-nineties, they suffered an unprecedentedly rapid downward spiral. Even ordinary Russians find it mightily trying to be lectured on questions of sovereignty and moral diplomacy by the West, particularly the United States, which, even before Iraq, had a long history of foreign intervention, overt and covert—politics by other means. After the exposure of the Bush Administration’s behavior prior to the invasion of Iraq and its unapologetic use of torture, why would any leader, much less Putin, respond to moral suasion from Washington? That is America’s tragedy, and the world’s.

There is little doubt that the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, provided Putin with his long-awaited casus belli when he ordered the shelling of South Ossetia, on August 7th. But Putin’s war, of course, is not about the splendors of South Ossetia, a duchy run by the Russian secret service and criminal gangs. It is a war of demonstration. Putin is demonstrating that he is willing to use force; that he is unwilling to let Georgia and Ukraine enter NATO without exacting a severe price; and that he views the United States as hypocritical, overextended, distracted, and reluctant to make good on its protective assurances to the likes of Georgia.
The article is here.

The Elliott Smith wall

One of the LAWeekly blogs has some nice photos and commentary about the Elliott Smith memorial at Solutions in Silver Lake. For those who don't know, Solutions is the site of the photo taken for Figure 8's album cover.


Here are a couple of highlights from the memorial photos, just in case my non-L.A. readers have never seen before.


The photos are by Mark Mauer. I love this next one.


The post is here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who would've guessed

I'd get so involved in the Olympics? I always used to hate it growing up because it cut into the usual TV schedule. I guess I was really into summer reruns as a kid. But this year JW just turns it on in the evenings and I fall asleep watching Michael Phelps every night. It's kind of soothing and reliable in that way. What will I do when it's over?

Phelps is alright, but my real swimming crush is Aaron Peirsol. And JW and I are both endlessly amused by how inexplicably dreamy we find Rowdy Gaines. And how strange Costas' face looks. And I totally fell for Dara Torres last night. I was more alert for her silver; I slept through Phelps' record-breaking win. I perked up for the 500-meter dash, though. I was even rooting for the Jamaicans, in spite of their hatefully homophobic home country. See how the Olympics erase our national differences? It makes me want to buy the world a Coke!

Of course JW has to hiss every time any Russians come onscreen. He's less forgiving that way.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Last night

I got home to find a check for something I'd written waiting for me on the counter. I've been paid for my writing before, but this is a stab at fiction, so that's exciting. I may or may not give more details later. But hooray!

Anyway, I was catching JW up on these developments -- I'd told him about it ages ago but things fell through and then potentially got back on track and then really got back on track and a year later here we are -- and then I was going on about my day and just rambling on about things. We were sitting in our living room chit-chatting as some tinkly classical thing played in the background when we began to notice a helicopter circling above. Given that this is Los Angeles, this is not necessarily an unusual phenomenon, so I just kept up with my blathering on about my day, but JW kept looking out the window while pretending to listen to me. So I'm sitting there trying to ignore it along with my slight annoyance at how distractible JW is being when I notice blue lights out on the street and realize that the helicopter is basically circling our block and spotlighting the patch of street right in front of our building.

So we both commenced to freaking out a little bit as we watched the serious police activity on the street below. At one point I screamed to no one in particular, "We're harmless! We promise! We're just homosexuals!" I think the chopper drowned that out though. The whole thing turned comical eventually; I'll spare you the details, in part because it turned out to be anti-climactic, but also because I don't want to scare people from coming to visit me! Our neighborhood is adorable and diverse and totally safe for curbside parking; I promise! Unless your car is stolen. Cuz then the cops will get ya! Or handcuff you and then release you to scream obscenities at them from the sidewalk about racial profiling for 10-15 minutes. Something like that.

Long Weekend

I took two days off just for the heck of it, and I've got nothing planned today except seeing The Dark Knight in IMAX at 12:15. Should be fun.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I was faced with a dilemma

tonight at Barnsdall Art Park, as JW and I had gone to see Independent Shakespeare Company's production of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. I've seen all three of their shows now and they're all lovely. Faustus is definitely not the best play in their season, but it's certainly the most interesting evening of theater they're offering this summer, but never mind.

The dilemma I faced was found in the trio of audience members sitting directly behind us who had thought they were attending a production of Twelfth Night. When the boyfriend part of the trio discovered they weren't seeing a "tragical history" rather than a "comedy," he mentioned that he was in a "ha ha ha" mood and not an "oh ho ho" mood, and wondered if maybe they weren't better off going to a movie instead. The girlfriend really wanted to stay, and the male friend of the couple saw his opportunity and started pushing for Hellboy II.

Now, the theater enthusiast in me felt compelled to turn and say, "If it means anything, it should be pretty funny. The reviews have all pointed out how it accentuates the comedy and it's also only about 90 minutes." I should be encouraging people to support the theater, right? Right.

Except these people were really annoying. Their conversation about how to proceed went on for a good 10 minutes, with the friend gunning for the movie, the boyfriend obviously really wanting to be one of the guys but not wanting to piss off his girlfriend, and the girlfriend obviously wanting to stay but feeling bullied by the men and torn between standing her ground and being a good sport. I really felt for her, since deep down I knew it was probably all she could do to get them to drag their asses there in the first place and now she's gotta fight with these two alphas pretending they weren't trying to steamroll her into the action movie they obviously would rather see. But if I was going to have to listen to them much longer and all the whiny passive-aggressive attempts at persuasion, I was going to call up Mephistopheles myself to take care of things. I knew I should've tried to talk them into sticking around, but I just couldn't. They finally left, ditching Faustus for Hellboy, and JW and I both breathed a sigh of relief.

And then they were replaced by the college freshmen debating the true nature of tragedy and justice. Serves me right.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I guess my instinct

to come up with a new weekday writing routine was to be trusted. I've been camping out with my laptop at a certain mega-chain coffee shop after work because it's near my job, but I always feel a little guilty when I do so because I'm not supporting local businesses and whatnot. Not that I'm hardcore about such things, but I do what I can, etc.

Last week I tried an independent place in Silver Lake, but my routine got all out of whack when the barista started cleaning and closing up around me somewhere around 8:20 for a 9 pm closing. Since I'm in the process of becoming an old man about my writing routines, I've gone back to my usual ways and am at this very moment back in the mega-chain.

Except this time things got disrupted by marauding youths brawling in the parking lot. I'm not sure of the specifics, as I was trying to ignore the hubub of the in-store rubberneckers, but it became impossible to ignore when a guy ran past the window nearest my table brandishing a tire-iron. My earbuds came out at that one, as all the other customers were loudly insisting the manager call 9-1-1. Minutes later the wimpiest bicycle cop you've ever seen walks through the door, looking more annoyed than alarmed. I don't believe any arrests were made.

Who knew Atwater Village saw this much action? Hope it's safe to get to my car!