Why You're Here:

You've said to yourself, "beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine."

You've often thought about what it would have been like to drop acid with Groucho Marx.

You know that until you measure it, an electron is everywhere, and your mind reels at the implications.

You'd like to get drunk on the wine from my sweet, sweet mind grapes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Two pieces on a great topic, the second made me think of the first.

Great monologue on fame and integrity from Basquiat:

Writer and ex-CIA Barry Eisler from a piece on maintaining integrity as a journalist:
The first compromise will likely be the hardest (and maybe this one was for Hayes), because you've never made one before, or at least not one of this magnitude, and the contrast with your relative purity will be strong. But they'll get easier over time, just as impurities are harder to notice when added to water that's already turbid.  The danger of this increasing ease is part of the reason I blurb so few books.  I won't claim absolute purity when it comes to the abysmally corrupt practice of blurbing; I've found myself (rarely, for what that's worth) in situations where I felt the cost of a no was too high, and I tried to square the circle by saying good things about a book that, while not exactly untrue, weren't exactly from the heart, either.  But I've also said no many times where the no was uncomfortable and a yes would have done me a lot of good.  From the beginning, I've sensed that once you start saying positive things about books you didn't really enjoy (or that you haven't even read), it gets easier and easier, and that the increased commercial success you might enjoy as a result of all those increasingly easy blurbs will be purchased with your own integrity.  The best way out of that trap is not to get into it in the first place.
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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Grateful Dead: A Primer

So I finally had an opportunity, after waiting about three years, to drop the following on somebody I know.

And to think he was just gonna dive in without any guidance!

Crazy, right?

Start with the historic contributions 

American Beauty

Workingman's Dead

While they had been pioneering the San Francisco psychedelic jam thing in 67, 68 and 69, when they came with these two albums in 70 and laid down two American country rock masterpieces people were all "What?!"

Trust me, nobody will ever deliver something so radically different from what they were doing--and were getting famous for. It came from their early roots and what they were getting into at the time, as they moved out of the city, were living on a farm, riding horses and shit. Also, they met up with lyricist Robert Hunter, and boom! Delivered two classics.

Then you'll take a step back to where it all began

Two From the Vault

This is live from 1968. In those early days they never could capture their sound in the studio. All you really need to listen to here are Dark Star > Saint Stephen > The Eleven, Turn On Your Love Light, and Morning Dew. Listen to this, then reflect on what they pulled off two years later. Stupid.

Listen to them integrate that country feel into the never ending tours

Europe '72

Live, but sweetened in the studio, supposedly. The post-70 country-ish stuff is here. Songs to dig: Cumberland Blues, Jack Straw, You Win Again (a Hank Williams cover), Ramble On Rose, Sugar Magnolia, Truckin', Looks Like Rain. The ladies love Looks Like Rain. Well, mine does anyway.

Lineup changes - a bit of subtraction sends them into orbit

This was the next step from the country stuff. They had been playing with two drummers, which is where that heavy polyrhythmic sound comes from, but in late 72 one drummer leaves. They get more precise and go to some crazy places.

Best appreciated through bootlegs or live albums. Their concerts at this time included about 1 hour of the country-ish stuff and 2 hours of the the space funk jam freak show.

I'd go for Dick's Picks Vol. 12, and focus on China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Truckin' > Jam > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia, Eyes of the World, Weather Report Suite > Jam > US Blues. Find a song called Playin' in the Band, that's a monster, too.

Behold the ferocious seven-headed chrome-plated, flame-spewing space dragon avatar of peace and love

A few years later the second drummer reappears, and in 1977 they go on a fucking tear the likes of which no one has seen except John Hughes.
They didn't capture this in the studio either (notice a pattern?)

The May 8, 1977 Barton Hall concert is the pinnacle. But also check out the songs from discs 2 and 3 of Dicks' Picks Vol. 10. Any deeper and you'll need to hit me up for bootlegs.

An unexpected late 80's resurgence

There's lots of good live shit from 78-85, but then Jerry goes into a coma from years of smoking heroin, and living off of Hagen Daas and M&Ms. He recovers, re-learns the guitar, and by 87 they are shredding again. The run of shows at Madison Square Garden in September 87 is stellar (they took a night off in the middle which let Jerry and Bobby visit Dave Letterman), and all through 1989 they lay it down something fierce;  bassist Phil Lesh is just unbelievable.

In 1990 their keyboard player (the third onethe first one died of alcoholism, the second left and then died a few months later in a car crash) dies of a heroin/cocaine overdose. In steps Bruce Hornsby, who plays piano, and is a great singer in his own right. 1991 kicks all kinds of ass, on par in its own way with 1970, 1974, 1977. The highlight among many is Madison Square Garden, 9-10-91, as saxman Branford Marsalis plays with them for the whole show. For a taste of Branford from the year before, listen to Eyes of the World from the live compilation Without a Net.

They hit the Top 40 in 1987, and even had a video on the MTV.

The grim march to the grave

Hornsby left in late 1991 to get back to his own career. The replacement sucked (he's dead, too). Also, Jerry started getting back into heroin, and the performances were spotty. Great song performances, but no great shows. I saw all of my shows between 1993 and 1995. Jerry died at 53 in 1995.

Nota Bene

Bob Weir

He sings about half the songs, plays rhythm guitar. He's a consummate showman. People who think they know the Dead sleep on him (or even think he's wack), but they only have an incomplete appreciation and can fuck right off. I revere him as god-like. He physically resembles Robert Pires a bit, and his contributions are just as important as Thierry Henry/Jerry Garcia.

Extra credit

Jerry just had to play, man. From about 1972 til the end, he always has a side project, the Jerry Garcia Band. Lots of cover songs, a stripped down line up, often two soul sisters singing backup, mostly electric, sometimes acoustic. The self-titled Jerry Garcia Band album from 1991 is the best example of this work. Highly recommended.

So, uh, yeah…this should get you started. The bus came by and you got on...


Monday, July 11, 2011

So Massive, Part 1

So massive I couldn't see its contours because it was everywhere, all the time. Took it for granted AND knew how lucky we were.

What could "it" be?

The Los Angeles Lakers.

Speaking casually about them last night with a friend of a friend (rather than seriously, as is the norm), she remarked that this year's loss in the Western Conference Finals seemed like the end of things, and how could it be like this again?

Well, I thought, I know it can be--it took 9 years last time. Nine years from a loss to the Bulls in the 1991 Finals to a title in 2000, the first of 5, after 5 in the '80s. I can handle another 9 years, believe me. Because 9 years, or 19, even 59 can't diminish what I got to see, feel, think about, read about, daydream about from '83 (age 9) through '88 (age 14).  And what those years came to mean to me after '89-'91, and then '91-'99.

Now, a Laker fan recounting those glory years is uninteresting, and probably kind of a dick move, if not downright lame after how Dallas did us this year, I know. So it surprises me too that I'm writing about it what it means to me, because really, in my mind, for all these years, I thought I was a Dodger fan first, a Laker fan second. If you'd asked me then, that's what I'd've told you without hesitation.

I can see why, now. First, I played baseball. So while I enjoyed watching it--and listening to it--baseball was a seriously big part of my life then. But basketball? I stunk, but I liked playing at school in p.e., after school with friends, shooting by myself in the backyard. I practiced baseball but I played basketball.

Second, the basketball season tracked the school year. Starts in the fall, ends in the summer. That's how years passed when you're a kid: not January to December but September to June. So when the Lakers were building that momentum at the end of April, and into May, and then June? Shiiiiit. You were already getting ready to jump out of your skin with excitement for the school year to be over. It was almost too much.

Third, the Lakers were Los Angeles. Showtime was a nickname earned. Yes they won, which is what you want your sports team to do, but they entertained, which is what Los Angeles does, and that's important because no matter how good the Dodgers were, no matter how much I loved baseball, they were just a baseball team. Ain't no showtime in baseball.

No look behind the back passes? No baseball equivalent. Magic's smile? No Hollywood equivalent. AC Green's ability to not have sex during all of this? No earthly equivalent.

And those freebie Laker calendars, with the Lakers all on a boat with sunglasses? The promos with the Laker Girls in bathing suits? C'mon, man, that's gonna leave a mark.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Real American Hero

On this day in 1926, Sergeant Stubby passed away. He was a WWI hero and the only dog to receive a combat promotion to sergeant. He received that promotion for identifying and capturing a German spy, and he had other even more dangerous adventures in aid of the men of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division. Read more about this kick-ass pooch on Wikipedia.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

For the First Time in Years, I'm in Love

[Ignore "Read more"]