It’s only Thursday and I already feel a bit fried (and not in the cannabis-enhanced sense, either.) Two days till’ my move, and I’m in a frenzy canceling utilities and dealing with a landlord who want talk to me because he only cares to deal with one of my other roommates, not all three of us.

I finally saw the video for the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” on MTV2 this morning over a bowl of frosted mini-wheats. It’s weird that they’ve become popular. Well, not that popular, top ten album and all. As cool and hum-worthy as it is, I doubt the song will become a radio staple on the order of “The Middle”. Still, although a part of me is ecstatic at their success (particularly in the UK, where “Elephant” has been hovering either on or near the top of the album chart since its release eight weeks ago), they seem like the least likely top of the pops band ever.

I think back to August 2001, when in my writing journal, I mused about who could be the next Nirvana, the next savior to rescue pop music from its tedious, generic state. All I could come up with was Alicia Keys, only knowing her song “Falling”, impressed by how it was splendidly out of time with what the rest of radio offered that summer. I still like “Falling” (even after hearing it 5,000 times), and ‘A Woman’s Worth”, “Girlfriend”, and the faithful cover of Prince’s “How Come You Don’t Call Me” were pleasant follow-ups, but the rest of the album was just OK. I have a feeling Keys’ impact will ultimately pale in comparison to Carole King’s, Donna Summer’s, definitely Madonna’s, even Sinead O’Connor’s. That is, unless she pulls off an unexpected, wicked transformation with her second record like Pink did. For now, Keys is little more that a talented but rather average musician who is a testament to Clive Davis’ chutzpah.

Weeks before 9/11, little did I know that it would not be a musical event on the order of “Nevermind” knocking “Dangerous” off the top of the charts but a severe tragedy that would shape this decade. However, I did say there probably wouldn’t be another band with a Nirvana-like impact that changes everything (although sucky music and antiquated genres still thrived in 1992, kids). The increasing volume of music available will make it more difficult for this to occur; also, there will simply never be another Nirvana or another Kurt Cobain, just like Kurt was not Elvis Presley, John Lennon, or Michael Jackson; he was Kurt. The next artist to have a similar changing-of-the-guard role will not be even remotely like Kurt. For all I know, it could be a rapper, although I don’t believe, popularity and ubiquity aside, Eminem has gotten there yet. It’ll happen if he grows artistically. Given his apparently increasing lack of a sense of humor (for Chrissakes, let Weird Al do a video for his “Lose Yourself’ parody!), I remain doubtful.

One day, will we look back on The White Stripes as vanguards that changed pop music or altered the climate significantly? I don’t think that will happen, even if music critics gush about their records for decades to come. In another ten years, we’ll probably reminisce about them (and I mean reminisce, ‘cause you just know they still won’t be together) the way we fondly look back at Pavement or “Exile In Guyville” now. As of this date, “Elephant” is my favorite record of 2003, because it’s endlessly repeatable, and one of the few new records I actually fervently wait in anticipation of the next time I’ll get to play it again… especially the moments when the signature guitar riff of “Ball and Biscuit” suddenly reappears after one of Jack’s messy solos.


I whipped out my writing notebook last night for the first time in three months. It was tough to write in longhand! I felt like such a freak. I need to get back into the natural rhythm of paper and pen. I refuse to believe that they’ll ever become extinct, just like CDs (or at least some kind of format that you have to go to a store to buy; the notion of downloading everything off the net seems as ridiculous as the space age food on “The Jetsons”.)

I loved “All The Real Girls”, director David Gordon Green’s second film so much that I’ll have to check out his first, “George Washington” again. I couldn’t connect with the latter, so maybe the former is just a superb leap. Many people are going to think this is pretentious, and indeed, the award Sundance gave it for “emotional truth” is dreadfully pretentious. But, there’s an honesty to it uncommon to most fiction film, the ‘Scope cinematography is incredible (particularly in a montage of multi-hued skies and factories following the film’s most severe, tragic, and invigorating scene) and the performances are all both subtle and unshakable—Paul Schneider as a small town lothario transformed by love and the need to evolve; Zooey Deschanel as a young woman perplexed and altered by love and the always interesting Patricia Clarkson as an older woman with almost too much love in her heart, yet world weary and wise enough to handle it. The film is leisurely paced, unconventionally construed, inconclusive and unresolved, and quietly thrilling in the effects it has on the head and the heart. It’s brimming with moments of grace that are not easily or obviously achieved.

Other recent raves:

The New Pornographers “Electric Version”, especially the spellbinding second half of “Testament To Youth In Verse” and every time Neko Case opens her mouth.

The final episode of “Buffy”. Less bloated than “MASH”, much funnier than “Seinfeld”, far more punchier than “Cheers”, it wraps everything up and leaves it all open to a sea of possibilities.

The four-hour Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of Zadie Smith’s novel “White Teeth”, which I’ve taped and hope to start watching tonight.

Swedish alterna-popster Marit Bergman’s four song sampler “It Would Have Been Good”. Especially the heartbreaking, Mary Lou Lord meets Belle and Sebastian title track.

The Belle and Sebastian mix CD I made, featuring all of the tracks on the transplendent singles “Jonathan David”, “I’m Waking Up To Us”, and “This Is Just A Modern Rock Song”.

The lilacs and Elizabeth, the magnolia tree at the Arnold Arboretum.

Smoothies made with bananas, milk, and frozen mixed tropical fruit (mango, pineapple, kiwi, grape).

I lusted after Ewan Mcgregor in “Down With Love”, but David Hyde Pierce gave the key performance in the neutered fey best friend Tony Randall role.

Luke’s brief dream at the end of the “Gilmore Girls” season finale.

Bart’s 40-year-old Beatles soda hallucination (with a uproarious recreation of Annie Leibowitz’s John and Yoko “Rolling Stone” cover, featuring Millhouse) on “The Simpsons”.


Man, I’ve been a very bad blogger lately. I thought having my own computer would encourage me to write more, not to mention blog more. I haven’t even touched my writing notebook since, like, February 23. But as much as I love using paper n’ pen, I’ve got to get used to doing most of my writing this way. I paged through a few writing notebooks on friday night, and I could barely make out my chicken scratch in a few of them.

I actually love the new Blur CD. I’ve been so disappointed so often with them in the past that I never even bought 13 (or bothered to listen to it all the way through more than once.) With the shining exception of Parklife, their albums are so maddeningly inconsistent. Yet, I’m such a skinflint that I wouldn’t get their sterling greatest hits CD because I own everything on it except for the obligatory new track.

So, is Think Thank their best since Parklife? Possibly. I never thought they’d carry on without Graham Coxon, but his absence is liberating for them. Shorn of his creative but often murky and cacophonous guitar pyrotechnics, they’re left to focus on the rhythm section. And it’s all so melodic, in a sort of gaining-resonance-over-time way. “Out of Time”, for instance, sounds pleasant and understated enough the first time through. I’ve heard it about five times now, and everything in it is beginning to click. And although it sounds like a “Song 2” sequel, “Crazy Beat” is so much fun—the Donald Duck intonation of the song’s title; the Bay City Rollers turn the chorus takes when the music drops out and Damon sings, ‘I love my brothers on a Saturday night”; those “yeah yeah yeah’s”… and the rest of the album sounds nothing like it. They’ve mostly shorn the glibness that mars so much of their stuff, and the result is remarkably quiet, intense, and mature.

It’s also great walking-alone-at-night music. I listened to it as I strolled down Brattle Street Saturday night after going to see Japon at the Brattle. I went into this film knowing it was going to be difficult and Tarkovsky-like, and it definitely was. Although, fixated on death and desire and various absurd touches (such as a drunken sing-along scene), it seemed closer in spirit to Herzog. Director Carlos Reygaldas certainly has a strong sense of humor like Tarkovsky rarely had… the Russian master, for instance, would have never fixated on a portly pre-teen boy picking his nose for well over a minute. The opening shots are rapturous—point of view shots of driving on roads that regress from urban tunnels and superhighways to secluded dirt and gravel trails. The last five minutes are also genuinely shocking, with an extended shot that swerves around the landscape with the direction, tenacity and curiosity of a fruit fly.

I also saw Laurel Canyon. Not as compelling or as interesting a film as Lisa Cholodenko’s first (the Ally Sheedy/Radha Mitchell lesbo/drugs/photography flick High Art), but that film didn’t have a performance as wondrous as Frances McDormand’s here. In many ways, she’s the polar opposite of her character in Almost Famous, although they could’ve been separated at birth, as both are equally brash, quick-witted, and full of life. The rest of the cast isn’t bad either; Kate Beckinsale is much more enjoyable than she was in the stupid Serendipity; Alessandro Nivola makes one hot/cute/funny Coldplay-esque Brit rocker, and Christian Bale is good as always, even though he still sounds a little funny with an American accent. It’s a lightweight tale about East Coast repression coming to terms/rebelling against West Coast hedonism, and the desire to hold on to which ideology you subscribe to and dabble your little toe in the other. If that assessment sounds simplistic, well, so is the film.

And I walked through what will be my new neighborhood yesterday afternoon, taking in all the sights and changes since I was last their in 2000, getting beers with Julie, March and her father after going to see March in the Footlights production of To Kill A Mockingbird. I went in and out of a few CD stores (I was a good boy and spent my money on a fruittata from JP Licks instead), went down to the Pond, and walked past my new apartment. Ah, I can’t wait to get out of Watertown…