Friday, January 25, 2008

puzzling

I just got a phone call. Not all that puzzling you might say? But you would be wrong. Firstly, it was a phone call to my home phone number in the middle of the day. Secondly, I was already on the phone to Andrew at the time. Now, sad to say, I very rarely get phone calls from people other than Andrew, and everyone seems to call my mobile anyway, particularly in the middle of the day when I might reasonably be expected to be out and about. So I expected telemarketers or a wrong number.

What I got was a lack of response when I said hello, and then an elderly voice saying "yes?". I had answered the phone, and at that unhelpful response gave my name, so that they could determine whether it was a wrong number. If I could remember word for word the conversation that followed I would write it down, but all I can remember is my growing conviction that this old lady was waiting for me to give my reason for calling her. She sounded quite confused. I asked her who she wanted to talk to, and who she was, repeatedly, but she seemed baffled by this line of questioning. At one point she said she couldn't hear me. So I'm not sure if she heard none of what I was saying, or whether she was suffering from dementia, or what was going on. Eventually I managed to communicate:
"Who is this?"
"Mrs May"
"Who would you like to speak to?"
"Don't worry love, it doesn't matter"
Pause for me to be confused in, then I said
"I think you have the wrong number"
and was left with the beep of the telephone line.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

is it ironic?

So writing a post about fear of death and how I wasn't generally scared, and what happens to me but I get into an accident. Worst car crash I've ever been in, but no-one was hurt apart from the cars.
What happened was, Andrew was driving me home to Maroubra, and then this car came through an intersection, we just saw the lights and Andrew braked then it hit us on the side and we spun round, not really knowing where we'd end up. We ended up halfway up on the kerb, facing almost the way we'd come, with the car door smashed in and the rear wheel out of place. We both got out the passenger door. Then it was just a two hour or so wait until the police arrived, they were tied up with a bigger crash in which someone was trapped. So we were lucky, and only scared, but I'm still not sure how much fear of death generally affects me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

don delillo, whiskey, and a blinking midnight clock

I recently read 'White Noise' by Don DeLillo. Every time I would go to pick up the book, that line from 'Gold Mine Gutted' by Bright Eyes would pop into my head. Funnily enough, I always thought of it as "Don DeLillo whiskey", it just recently occured to me that it might be "DonDelillo, whiskey". I thought Don DeLillo liked to include whiskey in his books, or maybe was an alcoholic, and that his name was used as some sort of associative descriptor. Then it dawned on me that this was just a list. Commas make a difference people, but it's hard to hear them sometimes.
If Don DeLillo and whiskey did not prove to have any great connections, then Don DeLillo and Bright Eyes certainly seem to. I was listening to the album 'Digital Ash in a Digital Urn', on which 'Gold Mine Gutted' is found while reading 'White Noise', because getting the song in my head was bugging me, and for a sense of symmetry. Doing this was like a revelation, things clicked and fell into place. Something in the style of the lyrics reminded me of Don DeLillo, but they remained distinct. The interesting thing was the themes. I recall I once wrote a post mentioning that almost every song on this album mentions death. 'White Noise' is about death, and the fear of death, in America. Mostly fear of death I guess, expectations of death. The main characters are preoccupied with it. 'Arc of Time', from 'Digital Ash' has the lines:

To the deepest part of the human heart
The fear of death expands
Until we crack the code we have always known
But could never understand

The fear of death, the talk about code, things that are preoccupations of 'White Noise'. The reference to Don DeLillo makes me believe that Conor Oberst has read 'White Noise', and is in some way influenced. There are several small points of similarity. Reading one while listening to the other creates pleasant resonances, like standing between two mirrors, an accumulation of meaning.

There is something there of the weirdness of America, the gothic, the "sorrowful midwest" to use some lyrics from Bright Eyes, that is found in Don DeLillo's supermarket. Watching a documentary on Mormons on the SBS last night recalled this to me. Because they were making the point that Mormonism is an American religion, made in America, transferring religiously significant events to the land of America. Their chosen land is found in America. And the conflict and the politics and the slaughter of people in log houses- the old timey photos of Mormons from a hundred or more years ago- just created in me a sense of wonder at the weirdness of American history and landscape. The thought that we all comfort ourselves with: "only in America". This is the most interesting thing about America, I think. The gothic underneath.

The next thing that recalled it to me was an item on the news about suicide chatrooms. These are not 'only in America', originating there perhaps but being used world-wide. Where does the fear of death fit in here though? Teenagers on suicide chat rooms. Which brings me back to Bright Eyes, and the lyrics "sometimes I pray I don't die / I'm a goddamned hypocrite". How different is the perspective on the fear of death of a twenty something songwriter from the middle aged academic in 'White Noise'? Is fear of death essential to the human condition? As a twenty-one year old student type I have to say I don't think I think about it that much.
Another thought, that in 'White Noise' the questionable idea is suggested by another professor of killing as a way to stave off death. I thought, maybe that's what all the gun ownership in America is about. The fear that Michael Moore talked about in 'Bowling for Columbine' is deeper than burglers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

music of 2007

So, hte beginning of the new year, time to reflect on the old year... Haven't gotten around to posting up books of 2007 yet, but I was voting for the Triple J Hottest 100 today and it made me reflect on the music that I liked so I think I'll try my hand at some music reviewing. Here are some top picks and new discoveries, in no particular order-

Bright Eyes- Cassadaga
The CD that I have been waiting for ever since I first heard Bright Eyes, since it contains the song 'I Must Belong Somewhere'. This CD did not let me down, it had some awesome songs, and continued the great Bright Eyes tradition while at the same time sounding different to all the other albums. What can I say, Conor Oberst is a genius. That said this probably isn't my favourite Bright Eyes album, it's very good, but I'm not sure if I liked the swirly new age sounds as much as the countrified 'I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning'. Still a great buy.

Cloud Control- Cloud Control (EP)
I must admit, I'm a bit biased with this one, as I have some connections with the band and that always makes me excited about a band. But I can honestly say that they play some very good music. Their song 'Vintage Books', which I just found out is nominated for this years Triple J Hottest 100, is a stand out. But that does not make the other songs filler, they are consistently very good and I enjoy them heartily. I think I first heard them described as 'folk-influenced', and they do have a folky mellowness to them, with also a cheerful party vibe to tracks such as 'She's Crazy But She Doesn't Care'. But when I say 'party', maybe it is best to think of an afternoon party, with a BBQ perhaps, and some sitting around sipping beer with friends. Also good for listening to alone.

Once- Soundtrack
I loved the movie, and I think it was about ten minutes in that I turned to Andrew and whispered, "I want to buy this soundtrack". Took me a couple of months to do it, in fact I just bought it two days ago. So it's a buy of 2008, but since I first heard it in 2007 I will count it here. This has some beautiful music. Fairly sparse, and not overly produced I guess, it's just lovely and honest and did I say beautiful? I left the movie with 'Falling Softly' stuck in my head, it had this really simple melody played out on the keyboard at the beginning that just catches you. Andrew was a big admirer of the 5/4 drumbeat in, I think, 'When Your Mind's Made Up', another great track. I think, after a couple of listens, that the first half of this album is stronger than the second, but maybe I should listen to it a few more times to see... :)

Amy Winehouse- Back to Black
Now a bit of a change of pace from those quiet alternative albums, this one is jazz and funky. A kind of poppy, funky jazz. Amy Winehouse has an awesome old school jazz voice, in the way that she sounds like a world-weary singer in a smoky bar, but she also sounds very modern. This album makes me want to dance, excpet in the sad songs. It is an album for dancing to in a slinky dress. Favourites are the single, 'Rehab' and the so-funky-you-hardly-notice-it's-sad 'Tears Dry on Their Own'. Great for dancing or just listening to, or even for doing the washing up (provided you can dance while washing up). Would be good at parties I think.

The Cat Empire- So Many Nights
Speaking of parties, this CD makes me want to throw parties, it is so perfect for anything from a BBQ to wild and crazy dancing. I don't own it, but I want to. Because how can I throw a party without it? I saw Cat Empire in concert earlier this year, at the Metro, and they were awesome. The place was packed and moving and I got a bit of a crush on Felix. I think my favourite song on this album has to be 'Fishies', it's awesome and fun and cheeky and makes you dance. Oh, if I didn't mention it before, this album is also pretty jazzy and funky, but I think more Latin influenced than say Amy Winehouse. Back to the songs, I also have to mention 'So Many Nights', mostly because it has the awesome line "put your waistcoat on". In a slightly different tempo, 'Til the Ocean Takes Us All' is slower, a love song with less razzamatazz but still so good.

Honourable Mentions: Lily Allen, Gotye- Like Drawing Blood, The Audreys- Between Last Night and Us

I would throw in some dishonourable mentions, but I don't listen to music I dislike enough for it to be memorable for me... Except perhaps for 'Stronger' by Kanye West, which I dislike mostly for the lyrics. But that's just one song. I'm sure I could think of some others if I switched my radio on...

CDs/Artists I've heard about and now would like to hear:
Radiohead- In Rainbows
Ok, I have heard this one but I'd like to hear it again. It had something. Sounds like a good CD for lying around listening to, perhaps while reading.
The Decembrists
The Howling Bells
The White Stripes- Icky Thump