April 17, 2008

don't you know the past is broken
don't you know there's no more scene

William Eggleston, from the Los Alamos Portfolio

* The Village Voice interviews David Berman. excerpt:

VV: Well, one second though, if you’re going to say that. I got some crib notes, that are about your lyrics on Lookout. And there are some obscure references. I definitely agree with you; if you’re not really listening to it—it does stand up as a whole, and you don’t need to 'get it.' But at the same time, this material that you’re drawing on, is so random. Speeches that Roosevelt did to young boys clubs. That Roger Miller-ism, 'country-restroom.' It’s a quick, quick reference…

David: Yeah, that’s the thing. There is a lot of content, and within the content, there is a way of reading the record just as a history of me and Cassie. There is a way to read it, and just like the year 1913—it brings up a lot of stuff, in terms of what I am saying about this time, and comparing it to 1913, before the world changed forever. This album is kind of me speaking to people born after 1980, people that are younger than me. It’s me saying that 'things are not going to be like this.' With Silver Jews music, you have to listen to it, and you have to make connections later down the line. Because you’re so used to making music that doesn’t have any meaning, that it’s really easy to listen to without that. And it should be able to do that, song by song. I try and make it narrative and pretty straight.

VV: Well the problem with someone like me, is that I listen to music while doing other things. Especially while writing, or even reading about other bands. Which is probably the worst thing you can do.

David: I know what you mean.

VV: Read about why a band is good, or sucks. And that’s how I listened to Lookout the first several times. I did listen to it on my CD player, while I was doing household chores. And that’s a different type of experience. But when I was on the subway, and no one was around to bother me, and my eyes weren’t fixating on anything. That’s how for me, with everyone of your records, you have to get, and realize they are so accessible. And then there’s the words, in which you start talking about Swedish Fish—which I have to buy for my wife every week.

David: So it builds a connection.

VV: Definitely with your tunes, it’s something you can’t be a background listener to. You’re not going to get it.

David: It’s inferior background music.

VV: It totally is!

David: My music has the ability to depend on that attention. Movies still demand that attention. You can’t watch a movie and do those kind of things. And a director is sure that these things will be examined, and compared to. In music, you’re pretty sure that these things won’t be paid attention to. Except to guys like you, who finally get alone with it.

VV: Can you imagine going into a movie, and reading a magazine, or watching another movie? It doesn’t make sense, in consuming another art form. Or like your thing the other day, I guess people could listen to tunes while they’re looking at your pictures.

David: Well I started to foresee something in the late 90’s, when instrumental music started becoming really popular, that started saying something to me…

VV: Like who?

David: Well, in general techno and the electronic movement that is less lyric oriented. That to me really became a part of the shopping culture that’s really come up. Because music like that really makes you the star, you’re in the forefront, and it’s the soundtrack to your life. That’s kind of the Night of the Roxbury guys. And that music means something else. And I think that is what music got to me. And that’s why the band, if they have the right style and the right form, then they are a lot closer to being finished. I think the background is the big issue now. When bands are doing lots of harmonies and reverb, I think it’s a drawing back from the foreground from having to say anything. The Flaming Lips sound was always about individuals, but they created a way out of putting mortal feeling into their songs, while seeming to still embrace the good. Which is all about the 'ahhhhhhh.' It’s like My Morning Jacket—love the way it sounds, until you have the opposite experience. Until you’re on the subway, and you can concentrate on what he’s saying, and all of a sudden, you’re like 'Oh my God, this guy had no idea what he was doing, and he was just hoping to get this stuff by without anyone really noticing.'” And he’s done a wonderful job of it, because if you don’t pay attention, you don’t notice these terribly embarrassing things. If my music doesn’t get heard or concentrated on, then its below the standards of regular people. If you put on a Silver Jews record at a regular office, this sort of dislike that is expressed, is not that this is egghead music. That this is other music performed with a more rudimentary singer, with not as thrilling of hooks or something. But if you put it in another context, and treat it like something that is throwing its weight, and needs to be listened to, and more interpreted . . . I need people to raise their standards, so I can have a chance. If you don’t raise your standards, then I lose. Left alone with regular people and the mainstream, then I fail, in that Venn diagram.

* Tom Shales. excerpt:

"When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates' debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news -- in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

"For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.

"The fact is, cable networks CNN and MSNBC both did better jobs with earlier candidate debates. Also, neither of those cable networks, if memory serves, rushed to a commercial break just five minutes into the proceedings, after giving each candidate a tiny, token moment to make an opening statement. Cable news is indeed taking over from network news, and merely by being competent.

"Gibson sat there peering down at the candidates over glasses perched on the end of his nose, looking prosecutorial and at times portraying himself as a spokesman for the working class. Blunderingly he addressed an early question, about whether each would be willing to serve as the other's running mate, 'to both of you,' which is simple ineptitude or bad manners. It was his job to indicate which candidate should answer first. When, understandably, both waited politely for the other to talk, Gibson said snidely, 'Don't all speak at once.'
"The boyish Stephanopoulos, who has done wonders with the network's Sunday morning hour, 'This Week' (as, indeed, has Gibson with the nightly 'World News'), looked like an overly ambitious intern helping out at a subcommittee hearing, digging through notes for something smart-alecky and slimy. He came up with such tired tripe as a charge that Obama once associated with a nutty bomb-throwing anarchist. That was '40 years ago, when I was 8 years old,' Obama said with exasperation.

"Obama was right on the money when he complained about the campaign being bogged down in media-driven inanities and obsessiveness over any misstatement a candidate might make along the way, whether in a speech or while being eavesdropped upon by the opposition. The tactic has been to 'take one statement and beat it to death,' he said.

"No sooner was that said than Gibson brought up, yet again, the controversial ravings of the pastor at a church attended by Obama. 'Charlie, I've discussed this,' he said, and indeed he has, ad infinitum. If he tried to avoid repeating himself when clarifying his position, the networks would accuse him of changing his story, or changing his tune, or some other baloney.

This is precisely what has happened with widely reported comments that Obama made about working-class people "clinging" to religion and guns during these times of cynicism about their federal government.

"It's not the first time I made a misstatement that was mangled up, and it won't be the last," said Obama, with refreshing candor. But candor is dangerous in a national campaign, what with network newsniks waiting for mistakes or foul-ups like dogs panting for treats after performing a trick. The networks' trick is covering an election with as little emphasis on issues as possible, then blaming everyone else for failing to focus on 'the issues.'"
"To this observer, ABC's coverage seemed slanted against Obama. The director cut several times to reaction shots of such Clinton supporters as her daughter, Chelsea, who sat in the audience at the Kimmel Theater in Philly's National Constitution Center. Obama supporters did not get equal screen time, giving the impression that there weren't any in the hall. The director also clumsily chose to pan the audience at the very start of the debate, when the candidates made their opening statements, so Obama and Clinton were barely seen before the first commercial break.

"At the end, Gibson pompously thanked the candidates -- or was he really patting himself on the back? -- for 'what I think has been a fascinating debate.' He's entitled to his opinion, but the most fascinating aspect was waiting to see how low he and Stephanopoulos would go, and then being appalled at the answer."

* "Things are not as bad as they seem. They are worse." -- Bill Press


Blogger The Bird Man said...

Is David trashing the Flaming Lips? It sounds like he is lumping them in with My Morning Jacket. Not so David, at the very least the major big difference is that the Lips don't take them selves seriously at all.

1:42 AM  

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