Friday, October 28, 2011

We the People

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the infamous French philosopher, once said that “The body politic, like the body of a man, begins to die as soon as it is born. It contains the seeds of its own destruction.” Rousseau's metaphor is more spot on than he realized: biologists believe that living being are in the process of death via the shortening of their DNA. But regarding the political aspect of that statement, now seems like the time to talk apocalypse, since certainly between preachers having two miscalled apocalypses, pundits complaining about the end of capitalism, Linh Dinh writing an entire book about the twilight of America and even the release of the movie In Time, it seems obvious that suddenly, we have become obsessed with ends.
The poor economy has gone on so long now that I am terribly bored to bring it up once again, but it still stands true. Everyone feels like they are losing something if not everything and unsurprisingly, it is the least of us who are feeling it the worst.
Particularly today I find myself thinking about fallen states. When I was in college, I happened to look at the back of my roommate's copy of Margaret Atwood's beloved A Handmaid's Tale. There was a section detailing the fall of the United States written as a historical Q&A. I remember being totally shocked by this, which I realized almost immediately was because of the superiority rhetoric that Americans are so intimately familiar with. Among other things, these images and ideology lead us to believe that America will last forever. This has lead me to briefly consider other states now gone.
Which in itself is problematic, because it privileges the existence of a state, any state, over the existence of people. States encourage us, after all, to group people by national identity, even though there are many more identities out there, almost all of them being without nationalism or with only tedious ties to a nation. The study of the history of a polity or polities can easily turn into justifying the existence of governments without evidence.
And so, in turn, what we really need to be worried about, when we consider the end of the nation state or a particular country is the people. We should be worried not for the existence of the previous state or even for what possible future government that may come in but how these changes affect the people. Their history is the history that matters.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Suicide of a Superpower

Pat Buchanan has a new book coming out called Suicide of a Superpower, which explores America's future. Buchanan's view of the future is one in which the lack of white Americans destroys the nation. Several differing points of view are offered on Buchanan's ideas here, but disappointingly, few of them discuss the obvious racism inherent in this world view and none actually call him out as a racist, even though his ideas about people of color destroying America through sheer numbers is the most perfect example of how the fear of immigration is motivated by racism.
Furthermore, other ideas expressed in the above piece were problematic. Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff suggested that we need to quickly "enculturate" immigrants, even though this itself is an ethnocentric view, one that privileges American-born culture over that of any other non-native American culture. Hastings Wyman believes that immigrate labor should be exploited by American companies.
Unfortunately, what Ms. Bonoff and Mr. Wyman should have said was that Buchanan was motivated by a desire to inhibit the political, social and economic power of groups of people. His book is nothing more than an attempt to encourage further marginalization masked as somehow saving America.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Prose and Poetry Reading

This Wednesday, my former professor Anita Skeen will be hosting a reading for East Lansing/Michigan State's One Book, One Community program's annual writing workshop. Participants from that workshop will be reading poetry and prose. The reading is at 7 pm in the RCAH Theater (jn the basement) of Snyder-Phillips Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pearl Jam Twenty

This summer, I decided to run my own DIY class on Seattle music (which, considering how many Seattle-area bands have DIY ethics, is totally appropriate.) Obviously, this week marked the anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind, which might be the most famous album to ever make it out of the Pacific Northwest, though Death Cab for Cutie and other indie bands are giving them a run for their money.
If you are like me and have already read ten articles on these bands, then maybe it is time to check out Pearl Jam Twenty, the new documentary out by Cameron Crowe and reviewed here. This documentary sounds like a great addition to my little DIY class.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Hour Review

Yesterday, a review I wrote about the BBC miniseries The Hour was published on Clique Clack. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha on Tour

The lovely Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha has a new book of poetry coming out, Love Cake, and is going on tour. For those of you who unfortunately missed seeing Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha when she promoted The Revolution Starts at Home, this is a great opportunity to check her out. As of right now, she will be touring Ontario, New York, Connecticut and Vermont and Pennsylvania, hopefully adding on additional dates. If you in the area for one of her events, check her out.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Report Cards from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls

Slate has this wonderful ongoing series on report cards from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls. A journalist found a collection of postcards in 1996, and thirteen years later begins researching the women behind these records.
These stories are extraordinary. Many of them were poor and some had disabilities, yet many managed to provide for themselves and their families. They struggled with strange employers and low wages. Some of them got married and had children. Education for women was not always readily available, and so anything that allowed women to work as their own bosses made an impact on their lives. These are the sort of women who are often forgotten by history and their lives are harder to document because there are less primary sources, but this series of articles remind readers of their existence and realities, ones difficult and courageous.
In addition to this, seeing these report cards reminds readers how these were truly everyday people. Recently, I got to see my Grandmother's transcript and yearbook picture from when she was in college. It was striking to see her grades and classes, which were closer to mine than I realized. She had never mentioned how much music she had taken, or that her minor was in English (which was my major). Even her haircut managed to be both in style for the time and terrible embarrassing. I can imagine both the delight and surprise these report cards gave families, reminding them that even Mom or Grandma once had a class she just could not stand.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Poetry Chalking

The Center for Poetry, an organization I use to work for (and still tweet for) are having a poetry chalking next week on the 29th, from three to five, on the Lansing River Trail behind Shaw Hall.
Poetry chalkings are always fun. It is really satisfying to be able to write a poem down. You are welcome to bring your own poem, but poems will be provided, so do not let your uncertainty about poetry stop you from going.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Fashion and Feminsim

So I recently was reading this article on the beginnings of a new online magazine called Rookie, and they addressed a question that I've been wondering about for years now: are fashion and feminism inherently at odds with each other?
I ask this because there are so many magazines, online and in print, written towards young women that says yes. Jezebel, xojane, and (back in the day) Sassy feature both articles on fashion trends and feminism. At times, I really like this, since I would like to hope a young woman might get lured in by the fashion and come away with a little bit of feminist theory. Even if she is just more empowered in a practical way to be more assertive with men or to be proud of her body, then that is better than the alternative. But still, the models are so skinny. And the clothes they wear are often so expensive and so frequently come from suspect places with shady employers with no labor rights.
And yet, we all define ourselves through clothes, even in not caring about fashion. It is a choice, and like all choices, a political one. And like all choices, potentially influenced by outside sources, some liberating and some not. It would be stupid or naive to just assume that fashion is automatically bad. Fashion, like so many other aspects of life, has been co-opted by capitalist/misogynist/racist/homophobic/ableist and other oppressive forces, but that is all the more reason to find ways to combat it. The author of the above article rightly draws the comparison between straight women and queers using fashion as a way to define oneself which is just like so many other things within feminism: queers found a way to make it work first. For myself, I wish that women's magazines that were about both fashion and feminism would spend less energy trying to hammer the point home that fashion is not automatically anti-woman/anti-feminist but instead explore it as a complicated, multi-faceted issue (much like feminism is, natch), one that could be either oppressive or liberating, especially depending on context. I want to be informed about what I wear, even if that means that fashion does not get the best light it always wants to be in.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Bleed White

My new favorite album right now is The Bleed White's self-titled album. It is a great combination of folk and garage songs, and there's something strangely mod and indie about it at the same time. "Posion" manages to be bluesy in the best retro sense, as if it fell out of its correct time without the least bit of polish. "Judge and Fool" takes "tropical" instruments and combines them with the banjo, giving a different, and lovely, sound. Every song feels like it would be perfect in a movie; the first song "Eat the Spurs" is the sort of song that is featured in every opening segment or montage. The one song I do have a problem with is "Just Tonight" which is a perfect example of the male gaze, but otherwise this is a great album to listen to on loop for an entire afternoon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Jam's "Going Underground"

This is a lovely bit of pop/punk/ska rock with a band wearing the most mod clothing around. It is hard not to compare this lyrically to "London Calling," which is also a weirdly similar in both its radical vision and call for rebellion.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beautiful Commutes

Recently there was a wonderful photo essay on the most beautiful subway stations. The photographs do a wonderful job of capturing the spaces, which all look like they could be somewhere else, if not for the trains. Public transit has often struggled in America, despite being effective and useful in so many other parts of the world, like Europe and China.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Doctor Who as an Anime Show

My friend Dan showed me this video, which is an anime interpretation of Doctor Who.
Where to begin with all the reasons that make this video impressive? At about twelve minutes, it manages to be a full story, complete with Cybermen, the Master, and other notorious Doctor Who villains. I love how the Doctor comments on the anime girl's lack of clothing, something anime is so notorious for doing. (I do love what a badass she is. If only we could have Liz 10 show up for this!) The depiction of the American military is exactly the sort of thing Russell T. Davies would do. The scenes set in above Earth were perfect blends of the show and anime; I half expected Spike from Cowboy Beebop to appear.
The anime is a little shaky and choppy, but this has the potential to be a great series in itself. The franchise already has books, radio programs and other things, so why not a whole anime series, one with the genre's tropes explored by Doctors? (It would be especially great if they managed to get some of the "retired" doctors to replay their cartoon selves.) Or, maybe something similar to what The Matrix did, making an entire series of cartoons, each with a different set of artists.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Beyond Earth

Flyer Design posted this amazing poster project called Beyond Earth. The art in these science posters are wonderful. The design is a great throwback to an older look, which conjures up those vintage images you can still see in old science textbooks. Definitely check them out.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Feminism and Disability Justice

Grrrl Style posted this nice essay on Sylvia Plath and how easy it is for people to dismiss her and her writing. The author does not use the words disability justice, but this is the word she might be searching for, since she is expressing how Plath's fierce depiction of her mental illness was revolutionary. Even today, mental illness is highly stigmatized, which discourages people from getting help and makes life for those who bravely do unnecessarily difficult. Disability justice and feminism are tied together, since both groups are marginalized and dismissed to maintain the status quo.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Worst States for the LBGT Community

My friend Erin wrote up this wonderful critique of Gawker's 50 Worst States as it concerns LBGT rights. Erin's thesis is that Gawker's analysis is simplistic because it does not take into account the myriad issues that are important to the LBGT community (which, as far as Gawker> is concerned, is all about gay marriage). I agree that gay marriage, while an important step for legal reasons, is not nearly as important as fighting discrimination in other ways. Erin was right to talk about how ugly the phrase "glittery, gay bandwagon" is.
I would also say, referring to the Gawker article in general, that it is unfair to judge an entire state by the things they are famous for and by googling their latest news. Places and the people connected to them are complex, and often generalizations do more to obfuscate than to enlighten, which unfortunately could also be said for how heteronormative society treats the LBGT community.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Packaging Girlhood

Packaging Girlhood is a really interesting blog that dissects the things that are advertised to girls, both in terms of the products themselves and the subtle messages those things send. I do not necessarily agree with everything that this blog highlights, but it is important that feminists think about the way young girls are taught certain ideas about their career opportunities, bodies and other issues, and that we combat the ideas that oppress women by offering positive, empowering images and ideas to girls at the beginning of their lives.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Tropics of New York

Claude McKay was an Afro-Caribbean poet and a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance and I recently found myself marveling at his "The Tropics of New York." You cannot tell from this work, but his writing was often in his native dialect, which was considering a lesser form of English. His work is similar to that of Robert Burns, who too wrote in a looked-down upon dialect. Unlike Burns, McKay had to deal with crippling racism, since so many white elites were not interested in the writing of a man of color.
"The Tropics of New York" begins describing "exotic" fruit, and the reader is lead to wonder if the speaker is in Jamaica, McKay's birth country. At the end of the first stanza, McKay reveals that this fruit is for sale for a high price, drawing the connection between the fetishistic aspects of American life on other places and people and capitalism. This poem may be about fruit, but the fruit stands in place of his island home that is misrepresented and exploited by racist and colonial cultural and economic forces. The second stanza of the poem is McKay's authentic version of Jamaica, one that is sacred, as obvious by his use of the words "benediction" and "nun-like." The third stanza expresses his homesickness and reminds readers that New York's version of the tropics is not the true tropics and will only make his or her longing worse.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cute Boys with Cats

I must admit that I really love cats. So I really love this sweethearted blog, Cute Boys with Cats. And its title is basically all you need to know: photographs of boys and cats. My current favorite picture is of these two, sleeping. I love how the cat is named after Oscar Wilde and they are both in the same position.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ghost Poet

One of my favorite recent music discoveries is Ghost Poet. He is a rapper, but the music he samples is far more soul, funk and techno than most of the samples of American rappers. He initially caught my attention because of his name, and I mistakenly thought he was just a poet. And then I fell in love with the name of his album, Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam. I also really love his songs "Gone" and "Love Confusion."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Amy Levy

My undergraduate thesis was on "forgotten" 19th century female poets. Although in the initial stages of research I worked on British women, I ended up focusing on American women, including Francis E.W. Harper. That said, I was shocked at how many women were writing and were known as writers. (I was unsurprised by the amount of poems published by "A Lady" or some other basically untraceable name.) One of these women happened to be Amy Levy.
Levy's life was fascinating. Her first novel, Romance of the Shop, focused on the conditions of the "new women," women who refrained from marriage and instead pursued careers. Her novel would make an excellent study, both from a literary and historical perspective, of how women grappled with a society that looked down on their choices. Other of Levy's writings are probably worth exploring, since her novel Reuben Sachs dealt with the Jewish community in London.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vintage Script

I really love literary magazines, especially all the new ones that are starting online or older ones that have now posted so much material on their websites. But in addition to loving literature I love history, and there is this lovely new website called Vintage Script that is dedicated to history.
Even better, it looks like they take submissions. Their next due date is September 12th.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Obama's Reading List

The Daily Beast recently published this really fascinating chart of all the books President Obama has read since his last campaign. Besides being a nice infographic, I was unsurprised and relatively pleased to see that Obama has been reading lots of Presidential biographies (Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, John Adams) and economic books (Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age and Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet). The only thing that I am a little sad about is that I have not had the time to read any of these books yet myself, which just means that I am going to have to get on it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I am hopeful about this new movie coming out about Winnie Mandela. Winnie Mandela is very famously the second wife of Nelson Mandela, who is more famous for his work on apartheid, even though Winnie herself was one of the three major leaders of the movement, doing more than Nelson was able to do while he was imprisoned.
The one thing that gives me pause is the possible depiction of Nelson's economic policies. Nelson was sentenced only to life in prison (and not death) because, unlike the other leaders of the movement, he supported capitalism and major businesses in South Africa. These business leaders wanted to keep him alive, and Nelson's loyalty to capitalism is part of the reason that South Africa still has such a large gap between the rich and the poor.
Also, I want to know how the third leader of the anti-apartheid movement, Chris Hani, is going to factor into this.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Walking Central Park in the Morning

Reading an article recently discussing what to do and not do in New York City I found myself reconsidering my recent time there. This particular article had many good suggestions worth hearing. One of my favorite suggestions was that you should walk Central Park in the morning, which I did. (Though I found that even the picture-taking on Sunday evenings were also lovely.)
Even though my pictures are mostly of the southern section of the park (which is also the part of the park that is the most touristy and most frequently depicted in movies and tv shows), my favorite part of the park was its northwest section, which is hilly and heavily forested. It is easy to forget there, especially in the mornings, that you are surrounded by a massive city. I walked for about a hour there one morning without seeing one other person, which, given how many people are living in Manhattan, seems unlikely and extraordinary. I went home that particular day feeling blissful.
If you need to get some nature when in New York City, I highly suggest Central Park, but also some of the other smaller parks, including The High Line (which is fascinatingly different from most parks), Washington Square, Union Square and The Brooklyn Garden. All of these spots offer surprisingly pleasant walks, especially if you go on a weekday. The beach at Coney Island is also a nice walk.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not Sexist, But

As a feminist, it is really frustrating to try to explain to people the way in which sexist ideology is part of so much of our lives. I'm Not Sexist, But website collects Facebook posts that use this exact phrase. Each individual post contains all sorts of problematic ideas, like implying that a woman's sexuality is morally wrong, that women are incompetent at their jobs, and that women's emotions are irrational or irritating. Collected together, this is a great site to point people to, since it shows the ways people are sexist in one of the forums that have become such a normal part of our modern lives.
The site also posts great feminist ideas every Friday, because not everyone is sexist.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quilts and Feminism

There is this lovely blog post from the National Museum of American History on their quilt collection. The posted video has some wonderful examples and talks about quilts. At one point, they even call quilts a kind of "sandwich," which is hilarious and cute. I also love the detail of how women rejected men, called "giving him the mitten."
Even though I am myself not a quilter, I am a feminist. In Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mother's Gardens, talks about how creative expression for women has been historically limited. Despite this obvious problem of this, Walker asks her readers to see things, including quilts, which she explicitly mentions, as a way for women to creatively expressed themselves, especially women of color. The blog post does not mention Walker, unfortunately, but it does note the use of quotes as a source of history, specifically a source of history of women.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Publishing Catcher in the Rye

Recently, berfrois published this really interesting story about the drama surrounding the publication of The Catcher in the Rye. There are some really interesting details that both shed light on publishing and Salinger.
Salinger was actually lucky that he caught the attention of Robert Giroux, who was later on part of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a massively influential publishing company. Giroux, like so many other good publishers, advocated for a work he believed in, even when people within his own company thought the work was about someone crazy.
This piece also notes, perhaps unintentionally, the strange and blurry line between publishers and writers. Salinger's comments about his own work, after all, prompt Giroux to ask him if Salinger should be a publisher, not a writer.
Salinger's reputation for being emotionally attached to the work is also confirmed in this piece, since the criticism of certain people clearly upset him. He did not want his picture to be included in the book jacket and he did not want to be sent any reviews or mentions in newspapers or magazines about his book. And even years earlier, he submitted his work stating that it would not be edited in any way. Salinger also apparently would not let them set review copies away to the press and refused to participate in its own promotion, which would probably be unheard of today for many writers. Most publishers would not even consider a book if the writer said they would not do any promotional work for it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sonic Youth

For what will probably be my last set of notes on the Seattle music scene, I wanted to write about Sonic Youth. Despite not being from Seattle (but New York), the band influenced many late eighties and early nineties bands. It is easy to see why, given that they practiced D.I.Y. ethics as part of hardcore punk and are often considered an important early indie band.

What surprised me most about Sonic Youth when I first started listening to them was how normal they sounded. Everyone had either loved them but conceded they were strange or they hated them because they were "just noise." I find neither true, but maybe after all the music I have been listening to lately, this is not all that surprising. If anything, I am struck by how much they chant in their music like other punk bands and like protopunk Patti Smith does in songs like "Gloria," and how generally amazing Sonic Youth are. I can see why someone would love them.
Below, perhaps the most famous song from the band, "Kool Thing." Chuck D from Public Enemy guested on this song, which completely threw me. The song mentions pulling away from corporate influence, even though the song was released on Geffen, which was itself a major corporate entity. (And would later, of course, be the label Nirvana was on.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Museum of One's Own

For those of you who regularly read this blog, I am a museum nerd. I love going and sometimes even review them. I also am a feminist, and I love the idea of a National Women's History Museum. Women's history is an essential part of history, but one that is often forgotten or marginalized. Men frequently wrote the primary sources that historians pull from and since most societies were patriarchies, this meant that women stories often went untold, and if they were, they were from a male view.
A museum is a great way to celebrate and educate museum-goers on the achievements and struggles of American women. Even though there are a few women-centic museums and homes, like the National Museum for Women in the Arts, women have made achievements in other fields too, and despite a few (male) senators beliefs women are all about reproduction and thus a museum is not necessary.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Congrats Philip Levine!

Philip Levine has just been named the new Poet Laureate. Levine, a Detroit-native who worked on automobile assembly lines and studied at Wayne State University, writes poetry that details the lives of the working class, often bringing attention to their backbreaking work and lack of personal power.
What is most lovely about Levine is his dedication to teaching poetry to whoever wants to learn. Levine has worked as a teacher at universities (most notably the University of California, Fresno.), but has always taught students who simply wanted to sit in at his classes and students who write to him and include their own work. This sort of behavior (which has gotten him into trouble with university officials on occasion) shows Levine's dedication to poetry, teaching, and his belief that those of us who had the least deserve attention and respect. Levine's appointment as a Poet Laureate could not have happened to a more deserving poet or person.
Levine's poetry famously centers around his experiences growing up in Detroit, and although he has been living elsewhere, hopefully he will use the "bully pulpit" to talk to a wider audience about class, truly hard work and the needs of Detroit, a city filled with exactly the sort of people he talks about.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Unwound is an indie rock band, described by some as "the most musically abrasive. For most other music, this would indicate that most people would find it unlistenable, but this is hardly the case here. Instead, they sound more like a pop-minded Sonic Youth. (Cue the usually accusation that Sonic Youth is "just noise.") Like Sonic Youth, there is something strangely compelling about their nontraditional songs.

Unwound was founded in Olympia, the town that was the center of so much punk music. The band released two singles early in their career with Kill Rock Stars, and later on started their own label, Punk in my Vitamins.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Downstairs Drama

Earlier this year I wrote a couple of reviews of Downton Abbey, the new miniseries that follows both the lives of the wealthy family (the upstairs) and their servants (the downstairs). One of the many issues I struggled with, and that I hinted at in my reviews, is the depiction of women and queer/non-heterosexual men.*
The show spent an exorbitant amount of time justifying the economic disadvantages that the three daughters were in. Mary, the eldest, spends the most time complaining about this and trying to manipulate the situation to her advantage, but to no avail. Nothing can apparently be done, as is said by various characters. There was something about this that struck me as entirely false. First, if this is such the case, why not try to show how incredibly unjustified and hurtful for the sisters this is? Second, why does it matter if on this issue one is historically accurate, especially when historical accuracy is thrown out the window any other time it serves the writer's needs?
The show also demonized the two male characters who had sex with men. One of them was a drunk, conniving, mean-spirited and selfish git. The other one of them manipulated a female character. There are so many homophobic depictions of gay people out there, this seemed entirely ridiculous. Just because a piece is set in a historical period does not mean it needs to be written in a regressed fashion.
I have not been terribly impressed with certain other dramas that copy from this basic format (which itself is clearly copied from a much older show, titled Upstairs Downstairs.) I kept finding myself wishing that someone would tell some story about this time period that dealt more honestly with non-dominant views and told a story from a voice or voices of people who our so frequently overlooked, which is why I was overjoyed at seeing news of a new movie called Albert Nobbs, which explores the life of a woman who dresses as a man as a way to beat the economic disadvantages women faced and is attracted to another woman. I realize that this might not be a perfect movie either, but I am hopefully that this will be a more realistic and sympathetic portrayal of someone who is usually either absent or depicted unfairly in media.

*I am unsure what to make of certain male character's sexuality, and in an attempt not to place them in the incorrect category, I have tried simply to indicate that their behavior indicates that they are not heterosexual. Since this was a time of mostly silence around the issue, and the characters themselves do not identify themselves explicitly, I wanted to acknowledge that it would be easy to interpret their behavior in multiple ways.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Heavy Metals

As part of my D.I.Y. study of Seattle music, I have obviously encountered metal and metal-influenced bands. I recently found this great chart that categorizes all sorts of metal music, including Seattle bands like Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and The Melvins. This chart does a great job of organizing the different types of metal in relation with one another. In reference to my recent Seattle study, it is easy to see how Seattle metal interacted with other non-Seattle bands. These types of charts really help a novice such as myself really pick apart at these important bands, sounds, subgenres and movements.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Of most of Malfunkshun's music, I have been really unimpressed. This song, "My Only Fan," is one of the few songs I like. The guitar rifts here are particularly compelling. Malfunkshun is an important band, because, along with Green River, Skin Yard, Soundgarden and U-Men, they are considered one of the proto-grunge bands of Seattle. Andrew Wood, the frontman for the group, died of heroin, effectively ending the band.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Soundgarden, along with Nirvana, the Melvins, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, are all considered seminal grunge bands. Soundgarden, maybe more than these other bands, more directly influenced later rock music, at least in terms of sound. This may be due to the fact they were more directly influenced by bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, who have themselves continued to influence music.
"Spoonman," above, is one of the most loved among critics. It is hard not to see why, since the song is an ode to someone who makes music using spoons, integrating the sound into a rock song. (And who writes a rock song about something that does not involve sex, drugs, angst or fame? Who would write a rock song about spoons? Soundgarden, that's who.)

Chris Cornell is probably still the most famous member of this band. After Soundgarden, he would go on to found Audioslave, and I am under the impression he does solo work. Soundgarden has also recently gone on a short reunion tour.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

From the Back Room

Considering my ongoing study of the Seattle music scene, I wanted to post this trailer for a documentary called From the Back Room, which is about women in the punk/D.I.Y. scene. Seattle was an important place for punk, particularly women in punk, and this documentary will have interviews with punk women from bands like Bikini Kill.
One of the things that makes me most hopefully about this documentary is that it immediately addresses the issue of women in punk (and their marginalization) but also racism, which is one of the other problems in punk. I cannot wait to see this.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Amazing Bookstores

Flavorwire recently posted this amazing-looking bookstores list. As a literary nerd, of course, I love lots of different bookstores, to the point where I have favorite bookstores for every city (Powell's for Portland, Curious for East Lansing, The Strand for New York). And looking at some of these amazing places, like Livraria da Vila in Sao Paulo, Poplar Kid's Republic Bookstore or The Montague Bookmill, I am tempted to plan a vacation to one of these cities just to have an excuse to go to one of these places. Given my love of Coney Island, I am heartbroken that I cannot hang out at their Bookstore and Barber Shop, which is charming in the same way Coney Island always is.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Charles Peterson

As part of my exploration of Seattle music, I have inevitably learned about other things, like record labels like Sub Pop and K, the popular places to perform, like the Crocodile Cafe, and the cool university to be at, Evergreen State.
One of the other interesting things I have discovered is the photography from the era, particularly Charles Peterson, who use to work for Sub Pop. Through Sub Pop, he had access to some incredible musicians, many before they were famous.
Peterson's website is here, and there's pictures of more current stars, like Andre 300, LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jane Austen as a Musical

Taking a break from the indie and rock music, this video has been going around the Internet, featuring music from Pride and Prejudice as a musical.
I really like what I have heard so far. I like all the violin being used. The music perfectly captured both the feel of Austen's world and musicals, which, considering how different these things can sometimes be, is impressive.
The above song appears to be when Elizabeth goes to Darcy's home and realizes that maybe her initial decision when it came to Darcy's proposal. Later in the song, Darcy confesses that he is embarrassed that he behaved the way he did in front of Elizabeth.
I would love to see this.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

King Dude

The first time I heard King Dude, the first thing I thought of was how he had taken the emo, goth, and metal lyrics and added relatively low-fi folk. This turned out to be relatively close to how King Dude sees themselves, as I have read their genre as "death folk" and they list themselves on their myspace as combining folk and gothic.

They also conjure up the late work of Johnny Cash, especially his version of "Hurt." Their is something primial about their music that creates a world where people live alone in crushing rural poverty, praying for God to save them, and end up dying alone in the field where there was once a garden.

I particularly love the video of "The Black Triangle." The falling snow is so beautiful. His videos seem to include a lot of women with pixie-cuts. There is also both a fair amount of blood and Wiccan-style magic involved.

Friday, August 5, 2011


During this project to get me to listen to, research and write about new music, I have generally liked what I have discovered. Some of it I have fallen love in, but none of it has rubbed me the wrong way like Yacht.
I'm not sure what it is about this band, but it makes my stomach curl up on itself in pain. Maybe it is the strange electronic stuff happening in the background, like the Skype-esque noises near the end of "Psychic City (Voodoo City)," which is above. Maybe it is the simplicity of their music. But I suspect it is the singing. Or at least mostly the singing, which seems just slightly off to me, and possibly off key. I dislike pretty much all of it, and I think it is the combination of the parts being less than the sum.
I would be curious to see what this band sounds like remixed because maybe that could improve it. But for the most part listening to this band makes me unhappy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pearly Gates Music

Pearly Gates Music is the creation of Zack Tillman, the younger brother of Fleet Foxes's J. Tillman, and unfortunately, that is probably what this band is most famous for. That is really too bad, because Fleet Foxes is far more slow folk, there is something more fun about Pearly Gates. "Big Escape," below, is the perfect driving music; it easily sounds like something the Beatles could have written around the time they were working on Abbey Road. Not until the end of the song they descend into the kind of distorted guitar that rock music loves so much.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The History of the Dead

Recently I was reading this article discussing mortuary issues. Among other things, it touches on the history of interning the dead, which is morbidly fascinated. In 19th century Britain, the London cemeteries got so bad that coffins were stacked on top of each other without much earth in between, and there was also a stench. I was recently reading Mary Olivier, a novel about 19th century Britain, and much of the novel takes place in cemeteries because (spoiler alert) almost everyone in the main character's family dies. And they allude, briefly, to this problem. There is also information about medieval burial practices. The poor, unsurprisingly, were buried in mass graves.
The article also talks about the recent problems. Apparently 70 to 80 percent of U.K. citizens are cremated and they still have problems with not enough space. Greece only allows people to buried in the ground for three years.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Fastbacks were a punk band. They had a wonderful lo-fi sound, the sort of thing that any Ramones-listening punk band would have loved. I particularly like this song. There are not many great rock songs out there concerning birthdays, the only other good one being the Beatles's "Birthday."
Fastbacks have had famous drummers, and because of they have had so many, they have connections to bands like Mudhoney, Presidents of the United States, Dharma Bubs, and The Decembrists.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Downton Abbey's Emmy Nominations

Downton Abbey, the miniseries that debuted in America in January (which I reviewed here and here), has been nominated for a smashing eleven nominations.

The biggest award, for Outstanding Movie or Miniseries, will be tough only because Downton will have to beat out Mildred Pierce. Most of the other nominations were much more serious works, or in the case of The Kennedys, totally maligned by critics. Downton will also have to beat Mildred Pierce for Outstanding Art Direction for a Movie or Miniseries, Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special, Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or Special and Outstanding Casting for a Movie or Miniseries, along with Downton's obvious rival, the new version of Upstairs Downstairs. The three miniseries are also up against each other in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress and Outstanding Supporting Actress, with Kate Winsley for Mildred Pierce and Jean Marsh as Rose Black for Upstairs Downstairs squaring off with Elizabeth McGovern as Countess Cora, the Crawley matriarch for the Lead Actress award and three different actresses for Mildred Pierce and Eileen Atkins as Lady Maud Upstairs Downstairs against Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, the past matriarch for the Supporting Actress award. Whew! That cinches it: this is the year for early 20th century dramas.

The casting of Downton Abbey was impressive, particularly with Dan Stevens playing Matthew and Michelle Dockery as Mary, who, as a couple, managed to be both antagonistic and clearly in love with each other in a way that was not put-on like every screwball romantic comedy. (It is a pity neither of them achieved a nomination.) That said, it is going to be a hard push for Downton, jut because it is going up against some great shows and other talented people.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground

Out of much of the music I have been listening to in the last month or so, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground's "Bowie the Desert Pea" is one of my favorites. There is something very 70s pop rock about this particularly song. And given the promotional photos of them, this sound is very much on purpose. The song "Birds (On A Day Like Today)" has a Paul McCartney feel to it, but not so much his work with the Beatles as his later band, Wings. Their songs are often very lush, especially in "Oh Lord, I Hate You California," and they employ a large number of musicians in their live shows to achieve that sound.
Kay Kay is associated with Gatsby's American Dream (they share a member), another band that is polyretro, drawing from a wide variety of genres for inspiration.

One of the other fascinating things about this band is how often they release their work on non-modern forms, like cassette tapes and vinyl records. Given their retro sound, this is all too fitting and is evocative of McLuhan's ideas of "the medium is the message" mantra, though in a way McLuhan may not have anticipated.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fleet Foxes

So, Dan, my friend-who-was-not-interested-in-talking-about-music, mentioned during the same conversation that everyone had been telling him to check out Fleet Foxes. And it was one of those bands that I myself had been hearing snatches of things about. So finally, I gave in and gave them a listen.
They are good. They are clearly influenced not so much by indie music but by folk, and their music is simple, pure, and peaceful. The band members were apparently influenced by Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and Neil Young, and there is something of those two musicians in Fleet Foxes, though there's a delicacy in this band that Dylan, Williams and Young lack. They were also influenced by Brian Wilson, and the harmonies of "Mykonos" could easily be described as Beach Boy-esque.

One of the most surprising things about Fleet Foxes is that they are on Sub Pop. Sub Pop is so famous for its connection to the early 90s grunge scene (and the related riot grrrl and punk scenes in the Seattle area at the same time.) I would never guess Fleet Foxes, just at a listen, would be on this band.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stockhausen's "Gesang der Junglinge"

Taking a break from the current Seattle band series, today I listened to Stockhausen's "Gesang der Junglinge."
There's something strangely powerful about what is mostly a collection of voices, and, from the sound of it, mostly adolescent boys' voices. There's something Dada like in the repetition of sounds, which, since I do not speak German, mostly have no meaning to me, though I suspect that at least part of this has the children counting.
I can also hear the connection between this piece and the Beatle's "Revolution Number 9." The Beatles had to have been aware of Stockhausen, since his image appears on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The voices and other noises that come in and out of this piece are similar to Ringo's voice coming in and out of the Beatles infamous piece.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Veils

Finn Andrews is The Veils, or at least is the most famous member. An aspiring painter, he eventually changed over to music, and moved from New Zealand to London to start his band.
The band is famously influenced from a wide variety of artists and bands, including David Bowie, Joy Division, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits. The above song, "The Letter," does sound lyrically like something Bowie would write and it has a distinctly New Romantic/general 80s feel to it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Women of Color Fashion

One of the saddest aspects of studying history is how it is mostly told from a white point of view. Sources, throughout history, were far more likely to be written by white people, and they were more likely to survive. But far more depressing is how history is frequently taught from a white point of view.
There are historians, professional and amateur, whose work is changing this, and the Internet has become a great place for the forgotten, often-untaught histories to find new life. My newest favorite is Of Another Fashion, a blog covering the fashion choices (and the related life issues) of women of color. The tumblr has tons of pictures and personal testimonies as to the sartorial choices of women of color. A recent great post discussed the cultural history of the lunch counter.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Despite Mirah being on K Records and attending Evergreen State University, she is actually based in San Francisco. She has collaborated with Seattle-based musicians, such as Lori Goldstein and Phil Elverum from The Microphones.

Her music is lo-fi indie rock. There are often these moments where her music becomes dissonant. In the song "Nobody Has to Stay," (below) her voice actually pushes so far higher than her range that it breaks. There's something particularly charming in this simplicity in the song "Engine Heart." In that song, she uses the phrase "carbonated thighs" which is delightful.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Halo Benders

What makes the Halo Benders so famous is actually one of their members, Calvin Johnson. After forming this band and his more famous band, Beat Happening, he went on to found K Records, one of the most famous indie record labels and the home of many of Seattle's best bands. (Johnson is the one singing the low backup in the above song, "Snowfall.") All three of The Halo Bender's albums were released through K.
The Halo Benders are what would happen if the lyrics of the Hollies were combined with the melodies of the mellower Beach Boys songs, and this is what I love about them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kandi Coded

Despite the name, Kandi Coded has a hard rock and metal sound. The band is made up of Jamie Lynn, a skateboarder and artist. Considering the band is associated with Volcom, the extreme sports connection makes sense.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Foo Fighters

Looking back on 1994, no one ever expected the drummer from Nirvana to emerge with a band that might actually rival the success of his former band.

Dave Grohl is not the only one from the band that has an impressive C.V. Two members of the band, Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith, were formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate who would later form The Fire Theft, a 90s rock band. One of their guitarists played with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, a pop punk band. Pat Smear ofter toured with Nirvana and had been part of the first hardcore punk Grohl had been in, Scream. And the drummer for Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins, once toured with Alanis Morissette.

What is surprising about Foo Fighters is how they were and were not influenced by Nirvana. They sound nothing like Nirvana, since Foo Fighters do not have any of the punk, metal or grunge sound that Nirvana was so infamous for. Foo Fighters famously has connections to Led Zepplin, Queens of the Stone Age, and Queen, and they are much more similar in sound to these bands than Nirvana. However, many of the songs sound lyrically, like they could be love letters to Cobain, who Grohl had a close relationship with, even though Grohl only claims that "Friend of a Friend" is about Cobain. In addition to being in a band, they were roommates and dated, at the same time, two of the members of Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna and Tobi Vail.
The band also has a wonderful sense of humor, seen in videos like "Everlong" and "Learn to Fly." These videos often combine Saturday Night Live-like sketches with their music.
I am so happy to read that Novoselic will be part of Foo Fighters. Grohl choose not to have Novoselic as part of the band originally because it would have encouraged people to view Foo Fighters as "Nirvana without Cobain," even though the band's sound is far more arena rock and less punk than Nirvana ever was.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Las Hermanas

History that focuses on lesser-known groups of people is important. Enter Lost Womyn Spaces, which gives mini-histories of important womyn-centered spaces.
Their recent post on Las Hermanas, a Californian cafe that catered to women and lesbians, is wonderful. The stories, of insane-asylum-escaping-cowgirls, biker chicks, and students from San Diego State's women's department, are a reminder both of the incredible ignorance non-heterosexual people face and their victories.
What I like about this place (which is unfortunately closed), is that it served as a place for multiple events and groups. There was a regular meeting place for lesbians but also a performance space for politically-conscious bands like Amazon Spice.
Also, I wonder if it is possible to get some recipes from the place. I am curious as to what Joy Balls are like.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Them Crooked Vultures

Them Crooked Vultures are a lovely bit of classic, blusey rock. The band is a supergroup, with members of Led Zepplin, Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age, all amazing rock bands with blues influences in their own right. The band has won Grammays, appeared on Saturday Night Live and Austin City Limits and has played with other well-loved bands like the Arctic Monkets

I particularly love their song "Caligulove," which is one of those lovely rock portmandeus.

I love how in "Elephant" the introduction is typical blues and then picks up with faster guitar playing, similar to that you would hear in hard rock and metal. The lyrics to this song are particularly impressive because they use imagery and implications instead of most modern lyrics, which simply make direct statements.
Something tells me that seeing this band in person would be fun in part because of the intense talent of these musicians.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The End of Harry Potter

This past weekend, the last Harry Potter film came out. And considering it broke box office records, I would say the world is still Potter crazy.

While reading this little personal retrospective of Harry Potter, I was struck by the idea that maybe this is one of (and maybe the last) time that people will line up at night to get books, that everyone will insist on reading it immediately. I really hope that kids and adults will fall so in love with books, authors, and series that these sorts of things will continue to happen, but, given that books are now buyable online and can be sent immediately to devices like a Kindle, maybe people will not need to get together to celebrate the books coming out. I loved those parties when I was a teenager. I would get dressed up, drink Butterbeer, play trivia games and hang with other fans. I am so glad that Quidditch is around because that seems like a nice way for Harry's world to live on, but I will miss those late nights where I hung with fans at a bookstore, went home and read rabidly on my bed, catching an hour or two of sleep, and then getting up the next morning for a party at the library. Those were good times. I love the books because they were about Harry discovering a community of people who were different than him, sometimes quirky, but always loving and well-meaning. The books let me find a community that was the same, and I am glad I did.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer at the Beach

I love National Geographic, especially old ones. It is fun to read the old articles, often knowing what happens after the story was written. And the photos, especially of people, are always strangely intimate. They easily could be shots of people that your parents or grandparents once knew, if someone in your family was a professional photographer.
This great beach shot from Vintage National Geographic Scans is beautiful too.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Le Tigre

One of my disappointments with Bikini Kill was that members of the band got married and became comfortable with mainstream work, so much so two years ago they were reportedly in the studio with Christina Aguilera (how is that radical feminism, the major influence on their lyrics?) So I avoided Le Tigre, Kathleen Hanna's other band.

I like the music, though the politics are not nearly as overt. I like the combination of electrobeat with the delivery of the lyrics, which reminds me of the yelling quality of so much punk music. That said, they are not nearly as fascinating as Bikini Kill, but it would be hard for any band to beat that band in that way.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Favianna's New Graphic Novel

Favianna Rodriguez, one of my favorite artists, is now in the process of working on a graphic novel talking about immigration. She recently received a grant from a foundation, but to receive it, she has to raise the same amount of money. For her, this means ten thousand dollars. Yikes.
I would love to see Rodriguez get this comic book out. She is a talented artist and her work has always been about telling stories about the oppressed and forgotten. Also, comic books rock.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Homophobia and Religion

One of my friends recently pointed me to this article in Time Out London that discussed a mosque putting a ban on homophobic rhetoric and speakers. This is a great victory for the LBGT Muslim community, one that should be celebrated. It is particularly important to note since an unfortunate number of hate crimes has been recently committed against LBGT Muslims, and this is one way to discourage the kind of hatred and fear that Islam works against.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mother Love Bone

Mother Love Bone was the band that most of Pearl Jam cut their teeth on before becoming one of the most popular bands of the 90s. The band included two former members of the band Green River (a great band in their own right) and a future member of the band Mudhoney. This band had been founded to make more arena-styled rock, which you can certainly hear in "This is Shangrila," which could easily pass as a Guns and Roses single.
Mother Love Bone is a perfect bridge of 80s pop metal and 90s grunge pop, even though most of the descriptions of the band list it as glam and/or punk. The band seems to be a perfect encapsulation of the kind of rock music that was popular in the late 80s in other parts of the country in addition to Seattle.

The band had a tragic end: the singer, Wood, died of an overdose. Later on, when interest in Pearl Jam peaked, there was a resurgence of interest in Mother Love Bone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys are a great punk band because they were so politically-oriented. Many of their songs deals explicitly with oppression and power. "Kill the Poor," one of their more famous songs, has them ironically calling for the death of poor people. Their polticial critiques often incorporated darker humor, like when the band stopped midway through a song to adjust their wardrobe, making each of them look like they were wearing dollars signs on their shirt.

The person that interests me most from the Dead Kennedys is not the infamous Jello Biafra (though he is his own fascinating person) but East Bay Ray. Looking at Ray's life, it seems as if he was destined to be a punk. His parents participated in the Civil Rights Movement. He went to Berkeley, a notoriously liberal school. In addition to that and playing guitar for the band, Ray was D.I.Y., mixing numerous Dead Kennedy's material and later setting up a record company when they could not find anyone else to distribute their music.
Listening to them now feels just as relevent today as it probably did in the 80s. Politically, little as changed. Instead of talking about Cambodia, we would simply talk about Iraq or Afghanistan, but very little of their music needs to change. Problems with power still exist, and many of The Dead Kennedy's thoughts on the subject are as relevant as ever.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dead Low Tide

In that time before myspace and Wikipedia, finding information about bands was hard. Often, the only sources of information about them was what their labels put out or what a zine said about them, if they said anything at all.
Researching some of these bands, which were before Web 2.0's time, I found myself running into those difficulties. This band, Dead Low Time, which was actually right before Web 2.0, is one of them.
Some of the sources I read have said the band was breaking up as their debut album was wrapping up, others claim earlier. In any case, someone seems to have put an album out under their name.

Out of all the bands I have researched so far, these have been the most unabashedly punk, with the half-screamed lyrics. The singer has this quality to this voice which makes it sound as if the band is going to fall apart at any minute.

I love the title to this song: "Lazer Lazer Lazer Love." I love the lyrics "The past is none of our business now."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Temple of the Dog

Everytime I turn around, it seems like Chris Cornell is founding another band or project. This one was created as an homage to a friend of Cornell's, Andrew Wood, who died of an overdose. In addition to having Cornell (most famous from his band Soundgarden), the band also featured current and future members of Pearl Jam.
One of the things that is interesting about the one and only Temple of the Dog album (self-titled) is that it was recorded before Soundgarden or Pearl Jam became such mainstream hits. The album was actually re-released after both bands had achieved mainstream success, since it functioned as a collaboration between members of the two bands. Later on, Cornell would join Audioslave because of how positive his collaboration with Temple of the Dog was.
Their song "Hunger Strike" is a good 90s rock anthem. It is accessible and enjoyable and just rock enough. This song could easily be playing in the background during an episode of My So-Called Life.
The combination of Cornell's and Vedder's voices here are strangely perfect. They need to do more duets with each other.

In the introduction to "Say Hello 2 Heaven," there is a small moment where the notes are slighly dissonant. Usually 90s rock would never do something like that, but here it is perfect. When the song is meant to break into an uplifting chorus, it fakes you out by thinking it is about to explore, but then pulls back, instead going for a slow walking beat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Melvins

The Melvins, outside of Seattle, are remembered as the band that "created" Nirvana. Kurt Cobain famously tried out for the band, but was so nervous he forgot everything. Cobain was a friend and groupie of the band for most of his life.
Listening to them now, it is easy to hear the similiarities between them and Nirvana. On "Honey Bucket," the song has the fast metal that grunge famously co-opted.

The video for "Talking Horse," in addition to having a great song, also has a wonderful combination of live action and cartoon elements. The image of a woman who has a mouth for an eye is particularly striking.

The Melvins are one of those lucky bands that inspires cult-like fidelity among their fans. This song, "Boris," became the name of a band that does covers of the Melvins.
It is too bad in some ways that the Melvins are remembered so frequently in connection to Nirvana, because they are their own great band.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Music Series

A few months ago, my friend Dan complained that he could never find anyone to talk to about music. Since I sometimes feel the same way, I suggested he talked to me about music, suggesting Radiohead's recent album, The King of Limbs, as the first bit of music we could talk about. For whatever reason, Dan was not interested, and the album went undiscussed. As my recent photography has illustrated, I recently spent some time in the Pacific Northwest, including the lovely city of Seattle. While there, I found myself wanting to learn more about Seattle bands.
Seattle has a strange relationship with music. Unlike most major American cities, up until the last twenty to thirty years, it did not have much of a music tradition. New York City was infamous for jazz, as being where Bob Dylan recorded some of his best material, and as the first place punk could be heard in the U.S. Los Angeles has pop music and its Sunset Strip is the home of 80s metal. Detroit is a the home of Motown Records and techno. New Orleans has blues, Chicago has more jazz, Nashville has country. Seattle had...the high school of Jimi Hendrix? "Louie, Louie?" Because of their relative geographical isolation, a small but important, and, eventually, influential independent music scene formed. In the coming weeks, I'm hoping to explore the bands of Seattle through watching their music and reading up on their history.
By Seattle bands, I do not just mean bands that started within the city limits, but bands that were part of the larger area, in Washington towns like Bellevue, Aberdeen, and Olympia, and even farther away from Seattle-proper in towns like Portland, Oregon. I will also be including bands with no geographic connection but a musical one: bands that influenced Seattle area bands in a notable way.
One of the great traditions in Seattle music is D.I.Y. ethics. In doing my own research and writing my own notes on their music, not being an "expert" in any sense of the word, I will be working in the same spirit of D.I.Y. ethics. I am not expecting my notes to be particularly revolutionary or perfect, but just a collection of thoughts concerning these bands, especially as it adheres to politics, one of the things Seattle bands (especially those connecting to punk, riot grrrl and queercore) have been connected to.
Do not worry: there will still be posts regarding other art and generally nerdiness throughout the coming weeks.
We start tomorrow with the band The Melvins, possibly the most influential and least remembered, Seattle area bands.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Karp was a 90s band located in Washington State.  Like many other bands in the Seattle area, they were associated with K Records and influenced by the Melvins.

Listening to their music, it is easy to compare them with Nirvana, Seattle's most famous band.  Like Nirvana, they were clearly influenced by punk and metal, but their songs were more pop-like than bands like the Melvins.  This song, "Bacon Industry" comes from their Self-Titled Ep, which, yes, is the actual name of their EP. This song is clearly very metal.

Their song "Connect 5" is far more pop, but you can clearly hear grunge and punk influences.
And, finally, their song "Lorch-Miller" reminds me of the slow, meancing rock of Nirvana's Insecticide.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Painting and Poetry

Rob Miller is this incredible artist, usually making beautiful nature pieces, like he did last week.  What I like most about this painting is that he said he was inspired by the poetry of Coleridge. 
Looking at this painting, I can think of a couple of Coleridge's poems and lines that conjure up this image, including his "Fears in Solitude."  That poem mentions a special green spot, and this is how a reader might imagine that spot. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Olallie State Park

Olallie State Park is located near Seattle, Washington, and I decided to practice taking nature photographs, since most of my recent work has been in cities. 

Twin Falls, as park of the park, is forty-one meters high.&

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Women-Only Subway Cars

As a recent New Yorker, I'm interested in the history of the city, which is why I loved this mini-history of women-only subway cars, which were tested briefly for about six months. The subway never struck me as a dangerous place, but I am saddened to see women report that men are the best protection. (Gender roles being reinforced all over again.)
The mini-history also discusses other women-only transportation systems in other parts of the world.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Victoria, Canada

Recently, I went out on the town to photograph Victoria, Canada, a lovely city. Here's some of my favorite photos.

This is the Legislative Body of British Columbia from across the nearby harbor. The lighting done on the building is similar to the Eiffel Tower.

There was a fair amount of sidewalk chalk art in the downtown area. Here's a Mona Lisa.

In addition to the sidewalk chalk art, there were lovely pieces of art just on the corners. This piece was one of my favorites. It has a poem ("You who/lift a penny/from the gutter/with the same hand/point out stars/find me.") has part of the art. I wish there was more poetry-art decorating the world.

Victoria has many chocolate shops. This was a white chocolate Hello Kitty. How cute.

Despite how upscale the city is, there is a fair amount of punk music and bohemian culture here. This was one of my favorite band posters. I love the bright colors and the use of Alf. (Also, the TransAm Burnouts are a great name for a band.)

Victoria even has its own Chinatown.

Chinatown has two lions guarding the neighborhood. Legend holds that if an honest politican crosses between the two lions, they will spring to life. Here's one of those lions. Looks like no one could find an honest politican. Shocker.

This lion is even a little crabby about it.

Chinatown is decorated with all sorts of fun art like this.

I love the way the lights behind the clock turned out in this photo.

A part of a mural map. Here is obviously Victoria, on the British Columbia/Canada side, and Port Angeles, on the Washington/U.S. side.

Another bit of the same mural map.

I love this little bit of graffiti, which depicts a panda bear with two guns. (A commentary on animal rights and violence perhaps?) If it's not Banksy, it sure looks a lot like his work.

People are really into Killer Whales in the Pacific Northwest.

The Empress at night. I really love that I captured someone looking up at it.

The Empress. This might be one of their conference rooms.

This last photos are the inside of the Empress.

I have other photos of the Empress on my Flikr page.