Category Archives: why artists need math

in this world of masturbating do-gooders

Oh, you people who fault John D’Agata for being a liar, a fact-molester, and a manipulative meany.
Oh, you “sharers” of videos, “thumb-uppers” of call to actions.
Lets get a few things straight.

– It took the US decades to improve working conditions for ourselves (and it’s still ongoing), even with a democratic system at the top.

– John D’Agata has never claimed any more territory than that of the essay, and has never tried to massage facts in order to “underline a cause” or “raise consciousness” (in the Kony/Foxconn sense). His stakes are intellectual and insular, as he is playing with representation similar to the way certain photographers (Dorothea Lange, Jeff Wall etc.) have been doing forever. (Well, maybe not forever, but—*yawn*—the literary world can be so conservative. If they’re so banked on nonfiction telling the truth, then why are they insistent that fiction writers have experience, or better yet, an identity, in what they’re writing about?)

– The hubbub around Mike Daisey and his monologue “The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”* and the fact (!) that This American Life aired part of it, stood behind it, reaped a shitload of PR from it, and then retracted it (with even more PR) as a bunch of lies is not doing the Chinese people a whit of good. I could ask: since when did TAL become a medium of truth rather than a radio show sharing personal experience, (I wouldn’t believe a word of David Sedaris for all the iPads in the world) but that would be sort of besides the point.

But so.

It’s one thing to fail to do any kind of fact checking, and quite another to be half-assed about it.

Hello Ira Glass, you can’t have it both ways (and yes, D’Agata can, as I will get to later). TAL explains in the apology broadcast that Daisey told them his translator couldn’t be reached and their response was “…because the other things Mike told us – about Apple and Foxconn – seemed to check out, we saw no reason to doubt him.” How can you, TAL, if you for one minute think you live up to journalism standards, fail to talk to the translator? Or even try to find her? Especially a story about human rights, especially since Daisey doesn’t speak Chinese at all? Plus, the statement that a working class person in China cannot be reached is a joke. The working class mainland Chinese can ALWAYS be reached. Miss a call and you miss making money. They don’t have voicemail, they don’t change their phone numbers (unless a number with a lot of “8”s in it becomes available, but then they can’t afford it – yes different phone numbers cost different prices in China), and they always always always answer their phones.

OK then, was calling China too expensive? Too hard to figure out the time difference? According to TAL’s Retraction podcast, all Rob Schmitz had to do was to google “Cathy and translator and Shenzhen” and she’s the first number that comes up.

Shoot me now, but the reason I think TAL failed to do due diligence was because they believed the story too much. They wanted it to be true so badly they willed it into truth. Yes, Mike Daisey lied to them. Yes, Mike Daisey stood on a stage and said “this happened to me,” but deep down TAL knew the show was going to be a ringer, and the listener response would (and did) shower TAL and NPR with buckets of good old-fashioned self-righteousness. Westside liberalism at its finest.

Why does this matter?
It’s the Chinese who will get screwed by this. Their very real concerns of worker safety and factory conditions have now been reduced—by the very people who wanted to help them—to a stupid battle over theatre vs. journalism. Has TAL or Mike Daisey considered that while they lounge around hogging the airwaves discussing the risks and rewards of journalistic rigor, (or not), these people with real or not so real poisoning, and quivering and/or mangled arms have to go back to work?

The factory situation is complicated, but the workers deserve respect. But respect is not a simple thing to arrive at after six days tooting around Shenzhen, much less a night at the theatre or a cozy podcast.

The workers are fucked. They live in shitholes. They have a government of corrupt maniacs which views them like an army of expendable ants. They work their asses off at the factories and with their first month’s wages they get to buy a mattress for their cot. The next paycheck gets them a pair of shoes, all of which have to be purchased at the “factory” store and this wonderful store, as you can imagine, is filled with discounts (“Only one!” “For you, special price!” “Hello, lunch!”) They—and you’ll never hear this on TAL—prefer/pray to get jobs at factories owned by westerners. Their preference of nationality as far as bosses are concerned is (from worst to best): Taiwanese, Hong Kong, mainland, western. Yes, Foxconn is Taiwanese owned, and yes, despite my better judgement, if one considers deep down that the Taiwanese, Hong Kong and mainland people are the same, then this is just another way to show that the Chinese are profoundly capable of being extremely cruel to their own people.

And now, us westerners, by trying to save them, to help them, have drowned them in an absurdist drama called the Real Housewives of NPR. Thinking about what is true, and who’s telling the truth (and it really is “tell,” since many in the peasant class are illiterate) in China is like asking a starving person (before he gets to eat) to twist the stem of an apple while reciting the roman alphabet until the stem breaks, and the letter that he was on will reveal to them the first initial of a person who has a crush on them.

Plus, TAL and Daisey have in effect pooped all over the real journalists, the ones over in China doing the legwork. Because now, if those journalists do uncover a hexane poisoning, or an under-aged worker, it will be an uphill battle getting anyone to believe them. So please, Mike Daisey, stop hamming it up and remember who you’re trying to help, and TAL, please read up on your Martha Rosler.

Social causes have their purpose, but the idea is to help. If the idea is to make workers conditions better, then do it by demanding better working conditions for Chinese factory workers. Do this with purchasing power, and do this by understanding the situation better, and do this, knowing that it takes more effort than a lot of us are willing to put in in order to really bring about social change.

Now back to John D’Agata. Why does he get to decide which facts must remain as facts and which facts can be tweaked? Because, like many visual artists, he has a system, and it’s rigorous and clear in his own head. And most importantly, he’s not asking us to help the Rwandans, or save the harpy seals. He’s simply asking us to think. His beef is with representation, not social issues. His description of the many years the nuclear waste would sit inside the mountain is neither an anti-nuke statement or an ecological one. The scale of the facts are too enormous to simply toss from one side of a political argument to another. Nobody stands in front of a Jeff Wall photo and sounds the alarm that Photoshop was involved, and nobody should pick up a John D’Agata book and fret over facts that may or may not be true. Most importantly, and this is where he is different from Mike Daisey and TAL, he doesn’t claim to be something that he’s not. He doesn’t take the (often ugly and predominately male) position that he’s the wonderful person that’s going to bestow knowledge upon you, that he’s the amazing guy that is going to teach you something. John D’Agata expects his readers to come to the table already smart and curious. And that, deserves a little respect.

Above is the taxi driver we met in China, from Guizhou, the poorest province in China, who told us firsthand (no translator needed) about the factories and the lack of mattress and the wire cots. He told us he left home to go work in a factory in Guangzhou in 1999, and couldn’t even take it for a year. He said that the worst crime to humanity, the absolute worst evil about the factories, the thing that really made him cry and come home, was that in Guangzhou the food was not spicy enough. “Not even close.” Imagine.

He did make a lot of money, however, but after refueling on Guizhou hot pot he partied like it was 1999 and blew it all in a single weekend in Nanjing, and doesn’t regret a single minute. I will bet too, that I can call him up on his cellphone and he’ll pick up and ask me what I’m having for dinner.

* Christ let’s end this post already. But wait there’s more. Foxconn doesn’t just make crap for Apple, it makes stuff for the PeeCees too. And Steve Jobs is not Apple, he’s just the founder. And all you radio people: stop pronouncing the “zhou” in Guangzhou or the “jing” in Beijing with a vibrating “g” sound. It’s Beijing, as in “Bay” “Jing” (J as in Jingle).

Coffee is the name of the bean

Don’t ask me why it took so long for us to invite the roaster into the household, what with all our other forays into quality beverages, but we finally did it.

We opted for the microwave-sized Behmor 1600 recommended by none other than my fanatic dentist, and started up the machine as soon as we checked to make sure our fire extinguisher was still charged. And the first thing we did was under roast some beans. Whoops.

Though I take full responsibility for being a little too trigger happy on the “Cool” button I have to say my confusion for when to stop the heat was partly due to mediocre descriptions for when “second crack” (the critical point in a roasted bean’s life) is reached. Most people describe “first crack” as loud pops similar to popcorn (basically the bean heating up and emitting CO2, hello—it’s farting) and “second crack” is softer, more like rice crispies (apparently the cellular matrix of the bean itself is getting fractured). Whatever. I just know the cracks started happening and I couldn’t tell whether they were popcorn-y or rice crispy-y, and all I could see was the giant warning in the manual of “Do not go 10 seconds beyond second crack or you will have FIRE!” and little pieces of chaff were flying about and landing on the heating coils and bursting into flames, and one timer was ticking down to zero and another timer was ticking up to infinity and things were just a little chaotic.

And so. There’s nothing like the sour-bellied recoil from an under-roasted coffee and the fact that you have no other beans in the house to help get over that learning curve. All it took was a little practice.

I have to say though, that “second crack” sounds an awful more like sizzling meat than any kind of rice crispies, and, since sizzling meat is the most familiar sound to me second only to the coffee grinder, that would have been a much easier sound for me to spot. In addition, what’s happening to the beans between first and second crack is that the sugars are undergoing the coveted Maillard reaction, which has something to do with deprotonated amino groups, but without which we’d have no browning of meats, toasted brioche or fried onions!

INERT=I Never Ever Really Travel

When we were traveling in China several years ago my dad often sent emails that started out like this: “since you’re in the area, why not go to…” When the next stop on our itinerary was Xian and the Terracotta Warriors, he made a huge deal for us to “not miss” the Banpo Neolithic Village, which showcased a matriarchal society dating back to 5000 B.C. (They call it a matriarchal society because “Women, the crucial labor force, were responsible for making pottery, spinning, and raising the family, while men fished.”) Although we were exhausted from seeing the Warriors, and disturbed at the parents who let their children (wearing the butt-less pants) pee on the dirt, and concerned for all the people who bonked their heads against the protective glass, we went. Turns out Banpo was incredible, and more amazing (shoot me now) than some Emperor’s maniacal dream to entomb an entire army of soldiers. The pottery had an eerie resemblance to Pre-Columbian pots,

the shape of this water jug “proved they understood physics”*

and best of all, they had a display of a “neolithic ball,” which was really just a rock, only they dated it to the neolithic period, just like the pottery, only it was just a rock.

When I told my dad that Banpo was better than the Warriors he wanted to know what I was smoking. I told him about the rock, and about musing over what the difference was between a really old ball-shaped rock and a slightly less old rock-shaped ball. His response was somewhere between the response he gave me when I told him I was going to art school, and when I told him you could see the Great Wall of China from the moon. If I could have seen his face I imagine it was closer to the art school moment.

Turns out, that kind of thinking was excellent practice for contemplating the rock that is currently on its way from Riverside County to LACMA to become Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass.”

They date Heizer’s idea of the piece to 1968, but it took him all this time to find the right rock and then move it. Not like the rock is in any kind of hurry. It’s the ideal (if not the heaviest) piece of found art, actually, where it’s been lying dormant for 20,000 years and now it’s art. Well, it’s not quite art yet, it’s en route to becoming art. Which makes the whole transport and the gawking and the engineering so fascinating. (And oddly worth all the hoopla.)

Like Duchamp’s urinal, which is art because it’s not being used for what it was intended for, the rock is actually art only when it’s exhibiting a non rock-like state, in other words, when it’s moving. Heizer’s own expectation for the finished piece is that when the viewer walks under the rock, the rock will appear to be levitating.

Some funny facts LACMA keeps pushing over and over:

– “At 340 tons, the boulder is one of the largest megaliths moved since ancient times.” and “The transporter is roughly 260 feet long and 32 feet wide. The large size of the transporter enables the weight of the rock to be distributed over 196 wheels, in such a way as to prevent road damage… LACMA has worked with numerous city, county, and state agencies in acquiring proper permits and establishing the most prudent route for this endeavor.”
They make it seem that in the olden days when megaliths of this size were moved frequently (and usually before supper time) the ancient people were not bogged down by permits and worries of road damage, thus they were able to do similar feats of rockery with less dependance on engineering.

– Read my lips: “no public funds or taxpayer’s money was used to fund this project.”

One dumb fact I keep pushing over and over. The grassy lawn slated to become Levitated Mass used to be a nice place to run the dogs. Just saying.

*why this water jug is genius: when you put it in water, it tilts and lets water in. As it fills up, it will straighten itself automatically. If you get tired as you carry it, you just jab the sharp end into the ground and take a break.

love thy neighbor

Our shiny-faced morning friend, the ever-cheerful chrome peacock, coming up on fifteen years, took a big dump the other morning.

This spawned all sorts of discussions (still underway) about getting a roaster PLUS a new espresso machine. In the meantime we discovered our neighbors just down the road had none other than the GS/3 Marzocco, and we actually like these neighbors, so, in the spirit of the right-wing debates going on we decided to covet our neighbor’s appliances.

Guess we’ll be going back and forth as easily as their kitty crosses over shoulders… and yes, I covet that cat.

here’s Joe doing the master technique, and he really is a master, as the whole reason they have a damn GS/3 in the first place is that he happens to be the freaking 2009 winner of “On the Rocks: The Search for America’s Top Bartender.” Like WTF.

The machine’s sort of a beast, and needs a good warm up time, or else you might have to toss the first few shots. we tasted 4, and that was enough to send us around the block a few times. (Sampling a few of his scotches didn’t help either.)

hipsters at the LA phil

In 2006 the Los Angeles Philharmonic put on a series called the Minimalist Jukebox, featuring music by Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, Avro Pärt, John Cage, etc. John Adams was the musical director, and I don’t know if he’s to credit for the outreach of the series but someone had the smarts to include enough electric instruments (100 electric guitars for Glenn Branca’s symphony #13), gamelan drumming, and $10 seats to bring in “the youth.” I watched as kids in hoodies and tennies gawked at the inside of the concert hall for the first time, made fun of the blue hairs sipping intermission champagne in their neck braces, and I swear you could hear a few of them say “SO that’s where ambient dub came from…”

Later on that year I was on the phone with someone in the Philharmonic marketing department who wanted to ask me about my series, seating choice, blah blah. I told her it was so exciting to see so many new people under the age of 40 attending the Jukebox program (many of whom shiver with disdain for “classical music”) and I wanted to know if they had any ideas for how to keep them coming. She told me that keeping “the youth” inside the walls of WDCH was a top priority and not to worry, if I donated some extra bucks they could actualize many of those exciting plans. Sorry lady.

What they ended up doing was getting Brian Wilson or Bob Mould to play concerts, which is fine and great and all that but they completely missed the point. In 2006 they had in their hands what I would call the “classically curious,” a younger generation willing (shitty-ass coffee notwithstanding) to come back to the concert hall to see more connections between Sonic Youth, György Ligeti, Brain Eno, and good old JS Bach. They missed out on a chance to do some really intelligent programming, to maybe help Alex Ross out a little, or, to do what European promoters are already doing.

But oh well. WDCH needs to keep the blue hairs donating, so they pretty much keep the classical classical and the minimal minimal, and everything else falls into “Additional Concerts.” That being said they can still put on some amazing programs. Last night Steve Reich himself performed his clapping piece, but here’s a good rendition of it performed by Angie Dickensen and Lee Marvin.

and here’s the Bang on a Can again with a part of Reich’s 2×5:

Xmas Weekend

as a child my family never really celebrated Xmas, though we did send cards (ideally without any mention of God or Jesus) and my Mom sewed some velvet stockings with our names on them for our white brick fireplace, and they occasionally grew fat with things like staple removers, pocket calculators, and… Hanukkah chocolate money (i didn’t realize how funny this was until a few years ago—child-appropriate and shiny representations of money—a great hit with the Chinese). i do have memories of a fake tree with a red metal stand and nice glass globe decorations but presents were optional, especially since my dad (starting on the day after Thanksgiving) stormed about the house ranting on how if everyone agreed to buy presents after December 25th then everyone would save a shitload of money.

over the years my Dad has had a lot of ideas of “getting a pact together,” and though they all have good intentions, they somehow don’t resonate well in a world where not everyone (thank God) thinks like him: in Los Alamos where i grew up in there was only one supermarket, and one day he found green plums for sale, his favorite, a total rarity in that town. he bought several bags worth and then came home and called all his friends to go get them, in order to send a message to the manager that there was great demand for these plums. instead what happened was that after a few days the store ran out of green plums. more often than not his call to arms are political, usually to “clobber” the Republicans, teach the Communist pigs a lesson, or elevate the political power of Chinese Americans (the majority of which—to his dismay—tend to be in the Republican camp).

this year my Xmas weekend started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Mid-morning Xmas Eve i got a call from a client and after a few comments about the holiday and the weather, he asked if “we” had an offsite backup of his computer files. i asked if this was a “if someone were to firebomb the office” type of question and he responded, “actually, more like if the Feds come and raid the office.” he was serious, by the way.

the whimper came Xmas day just as the sun was setting and we were lounging on the deck. Something scrambled up a tree which startled both dogs and even Bing-Bing the cat, otherwise known as Bing-Bing the Brave, who had ventured on the deck to view the farolito lighting,

stepping outside for only the second time since her accidental procedure several years ago which turned her into a Manx, despite knowing that one dog is convinced she morphs from “tolerable roommate” to “prey” the second she crosses the threshold. anyway, if you were a small thing, say a baby possum, and you were in a tree, and down below were two dogs with four front paws on the trunk and it was dang close to dinnertime you wouldn’t go DOWN the tree, would you? would you?

a little about our client. i don’t know what happened and apparently it’s an innocent mistake, (not like the two-year sting operation on rawesome, who did have their computers confiscated) and i certainly hope so. these people are the coolest people on the planet. they have their holiday dinners at places with this kind of art on the wall (faces blackened to protect the innocent, but gawd that world map! that flag! those paintings! and the photos aren’t showing the bowl full of non-dairy creamer, the Sutter Home red or white option, or the other carafe filled with what tasted like bong water)

but i wouldn’t miss their holiday party for ANYTHING in the world. and i am dead serious. if you know me, that means a hell of a lot. plus, how can the Feds bust a company where the Office Manager has to remove this from under her desk, in order to stash things, like…

dead body parts?

in-between dealing with the off-site backup system, i went on a good hike, ate a bucket of latkes with lox and homemade applesauce, became addicted to a fudge called Fungus Amongus, converted a Scotch naysayer into an Islay lover, painted bookshelves, talked to both parents, one of which couldn’t believe you could just email some blogger to ask him what Chinese writing software he used (“i DON’T know him personally!”) and the other said “Guess where i am calling from?” before revealing that she was sitting at L’Atelier at the MGM about to eat a soufflé with a scoop of pistachio ice cream dropped in the middle (“It’s falling into the center of the Earth”), pulled weeds (while on the phone), brined a pheasant, took a recipe for butterscotch budino seriously when it said to finish everything within three days, figured out our New Year’s card (late this year – holler, or rather, send us your address, if you want one), and best of all, got to see the Star of Beeflehem.


when you have a Scottish dog, it’s easy to—say—get into drinking Scotch, speaking “Come by” as if you’ve swallowed a golf ball, and over-romanticizing fog. but to really get it right, you’d have to eat Steak n’ Kidney pie, and when your Scottish dog comes by way of Texas, you have to add that extra Texas oomph.

and what exactly is that Lone Star pizzazz?
well, along with the meat there’s BACON that’s browned to a crisp, a token carrot or two, and the while thing is stewed in broth and red wine. But you must have peas in order to get that authentic dump truck green.

then, before you seal it up with the top crust you pile on a LOAD of buttery mashed potatoes. YES INDEED.

then and only then do you get to simulate a Neil Jenney painting.

and here’s the really insulting part. i just couldn’t cram all those mashed potatoes into the pie. i just couldn’t do it. gratuitous leftover mash.

all creatures drunk and sober

it’s said you can learn a lot from animals, but you can also learn a lot from animal shows, especially if they’re produced by the BBC.

it’s been a flu and cough ridden season so far at our house, so we’ve been streaming endless episodes of All Creatures Great and Small, full of great animals, lots of practical jokes and “lashings” of scones, tea, bacon and whisky. (and please – Tintin fans: Captain Haddock’s favorite brown drink was Loch Lomond, which is Scotch, which lacks the “e,” as in “whisky,” Steven Spielberg couldn’t even get that right. so sad.)
anyway, ACG&S is set just before WWII and features James Herriot, the veterinarian who wrote the original books (amazing) and his co-vets, Siegfried and Tristan. on this episode, oh, the best out of the lot! we meet Roddy, a hobo with longish Occupy LA hair, who roams the shire with his dog and a pram, does odd jobs and moves as the wind blows. both James and Siegfried romanticize this life, and they ask him how nice it must be to be without a care in the world, and Roddy always answers with an “Aye,” and says that it’s just him and Jake, the dog. Roddy helps James innoculate a bunch of sheep and when James offers to buy Roddy a drink he says he never touches the stuff. James decides then that he’s going to live the life of Roddy and decides to refrain from drinking. Siegfried and Tristan support his decision with a toast.

the next day Siegfried and James are invited to a fellow vet’s house for lunch. the vet is a big drinker and in trying to be polite James takes a drink and he gets full on loaded. blitzed! they try driving to a restaurant for lunch and end up not being able to leave the driveway. oh the expanse of the English countryside! they have gin and tonics, then champagne cocktails, then beers, and James is so drunk he goes home and almost pukes in the dinner Tristan has made, a stew made mistakenly out of dog food, and passes out, while Siegfried has to perform an emergency surgery on Roddy’s dog who has a pebble lodged in his esophagus.

this is crazy. and this would never have been made in the US. basically there’s an overromaticization of the hobo life, and an attempt to equate a free-willed life with a non-alcoholic one, and then they make fun of drinking, and then they make fun of not drinking, then the guy who doesn’t want to drink gets drunk out of his mind, only to miss being able to help out the man without a care in the world as he swallows his hobo pride to accept the services of the man who would never give up drinking to save his actual one care in the world.

it’s just so awesome. it’s all about not allowing something negative to have power over you. this is a weak paraphrasing of something a wise man named Cormel West said, and, skeptical as i am usually of these guys with two first names: Bryan Adams, Bruce Wayne, etc. Cornel West isn’t so much two first names as it’s two geographical points/directions, so he’s well worth listening to. anyway, he says to be careful giving something negative too much power and control over one’s life. like some people who decide not to drink, or some Chinese people’s over-obsession with not buying Japanese cars and cameras. OK, so don’t buy one, but don’t covet a Lexus and then feel ashamed at wanting one and then deny that you’re coveting one and then falsely feel good about denying yourself of something you want but know you shouldn’t have and so on. this negativity will own you, and pretty much eat you alive. you are giving it exactly what it feeds off of: attention, negativity, power.

please don’t get me wrong, i’m not talking about alcoholism and other serious issues of wanting what you can’t have. i’m talking about people who make a private lifestyle decision but make it everybody’s business. they don’t give it a rest. it’s the people who go to restaurants and insist—since you do drink—that you order a drink. oh, but no, not for them. no no no, they don’t drink. but they will pore over the wine list or say specifically that this restaurant has a great bar, and so on. i’m talking mental health here. them basically forcing you to order a drink is pretty much denying you of your choice as to whether you actually want a freaking drink or not. it’s like, they have to see you drink in order to feel satisfied. on top of that it’s annoying as hell.

the same story goes for a friend of ours who thought she would apply for citizenship in Europe and leave the US rather than pay her student loans back. we told her she was letting her student loans determine where she was going to live, which was giving the idea of money an awful lot of power over her life. needless to say she exited the house and has never spoken with us again. (but wait – blog post on dinner parties, narcissus, psychosis and Puer Aeternus (Latin for Eternal Boy) due to be posted any day)

somehow this applies to the Occupy Movement. for example, i feel if they get too focused on the police, or the beatings, or rioting or fight over a tent stake, then they are letting the negative have power. it’s a tight spot they’re in, and endlessly fascinating. since on one hand if they do come up with specific demands, chances are those ideas will be nicely appropriated and pick up some sort of corporate sponsorship, and on the other side is obsessing over concrete, negative things. staying in the abstract is very hard indeed.

new mexican Tarkovsky

happy thanksgiving everyone… here’s a little ode to Tarkovsky, New Mexico style!

müsic + loud = Mould

last night i went to see a tribute to Bob Mould at, of all places, the Walt Disney Hall. ahem. that would be a celebration of Hüsker Dü’s main man, at the venue where an usher wearing a forest green blazer and gold vest + lapel pin will tsk you for snapping gum too loud. to show just how weird that choice of venue was, i wanted to take a picture of the stage, with the illustrious organ in the background. instead, my camera was switched on video, so here’s me getting busted by Philharmonic staff. ” Ohhhh…”

to be totally honest i was not a huge Hüsker Dü fan, perhaps because they broke up too early, or maybe because they were slightly too hard core, and if i just waited it out a few years (like some dog owners do), age will do its thing and create a perfect companion called Sugar.

i was a little sad Best Coast did a no show, because the Bobb with two B’s is to be seen at ANY venue, but it might have been for the best. in events like these where there’s one master and many followers and the master is scheduled to play the second half (with the freaking drummer from Nirvana), you know the first half is going to be only slightly tolerable, and then the master will come and show there’s really none other. (ok it’s not fair, but i guess in my opinion if you do a cover, you have to do it a different way, not the same old way, because then you’re sunk. and even Bob Mould doing a cover of his own song is genius)

a good twelve hours later, i am still disturbed by the venue. as we arrived, the ushers greeted us with a “good evening” and handed me a program with, you guessed it, Salonen on the cover. during the concert they crossed their arms and stood in front of the doors with the same blasé look they have waiting for a Messiaen piece to wind down. at intermission the crowd traipsed over the carpet (a orange-brown floral pattern designed to please Mrs. Disney, who apparently didn’t like the building’s exterior, said “she didn’t get it.”) as the ushers looked eager as ever to point the blue hairs to the bathroom. i refrained, for some odd reason, from stealing my usual cup of really bad coffee, and just watched everyone, a lot of BM lookalikes, actually, as they stood in pristine lines waiting for pay top dollar for their drinks.

thank god the two guys sitting next to me were boozed up, which made our row smell like The Smell*, and they had some good pre-concert banter regarding how many times they saw Bob, and how many times in a row they saw him, and how many times at the Roxie they saw him. they also head-banged in good way, although because this is the Concert Hall, the seats are all conjoined so the rocking was almost strong enough to knock the chest cold out of David’s nose. it was only when they pulled out their phones and started tweeting that i was really ready to start a mosh pit fight.

one thing i will say about the Concert Hall is that the acoustics are tremendous. the noise was noise, the howling was howling, and every single note engineered to perfection. plus Bob Mould + Dave Grohl + Jon Wurster is to die for. plus Bob was wearing a sticker that first appeared on his pants, then moved to his shirt, making me think it was the play list. this guy’s old for god’s sake. made me think of the Steve Reich tribute for his 70th birthday at this same wonderful venue, where some concertgoers walked out on his new piece. walked out. 70th birthday. classical music. how avant-garde can you be on your 70th birthday? avant-garde enough i suppose.

*i wanted to link to the The Smell, pretty much the last place i saw a non classical music concert, but i’ll post the google page instead. The Smell is in true form as always.