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Nov 30, 05 10:51 AM

The Bottle Was Dusty; But, the Liquor Was Clean.

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With this new Web/Dead debacle, I'm remembering this time I heard John Perry Barlow speak.

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We were both on this conference at Harvard, on digital media, about a year ago. I didn't meet the guy, but I would've liked to. He once said, brilliantly, "The Web sees censorship as damage, and routes around it."

At the end of his talk, he spoke about how people in the Dead camp were having misgivings about trying to sell recordings of shows on their website, when people could download them for free. It was startling to hear him speak so honestly about his mixed feelings.

Of course, this week, the Dead camp asked archive.org to stop letting people download their shows. (see this NYTimes piece, "Deadheads Outraged Over Web Crackdown", for more)

The host of The Grateful Dead Hour is quoted as saying, "...the idea that they could stop people from trading these files is absurd. It's no longer under anyone's control. People have gigabytes of this stuff."

Which is so true. I used to resent file-sharing, but then the resurrection of Skittish by Napster turned me around. (though what got onto Napster was experimental mixes with other instruments, which still kind of cheeses me) Maybe, though, I can afford to be cavalier; I'm still recording, while John Perry Barlow is not.

Posted by Mike at 10:51 AM

Porto.

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I got an email from Portugal this morning.

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Some Portuguese woman, who had seen Soul Coughing in the mid-90s. She wrote:

i think for the "good sanity" of the history of worl music ... you never had stop, even agaisn't your wish, yes it should be an obrigation ... ok, don't keep furious with me, i'm concious that i should not say that, but i have it, sorry!!!

I think all artists resent being saddled with their old work. The classic example being Picasso abandoning his blue period. (and I don't rate myself on his level, believe me) Shouldn't I just let it go? Let the nostalgists have their nostalgia? Shrug it off and just make the best records I can?

I'm so weary of Soul Coughing. I listen to it, and I just don't like it. I think: Fuck, I could've done this so much better, really served the songs. (it would probably have sounded a lot more like the Beasties' Check Your Head, or G. Love, or Beck) And I find my vocal style, and many of the lyrics, cringe-worthy. To bite her line: I'm conscious that I should not say that, but I have it, sorry.

Sometimes I think I should just give in and get the fucking band back together. Despite the misery of that relationship. What a funhouse mirror version of a sellout move that would be: to go back to this more avant-garde band, and give up this thing which is so much closer to classic rock tradition (not that I still don't have my weird voice and lyrics; I don't envision myself ever singing at the Super Bowl). And it really would be a sellout move: abandoning that which enthralls me as an artist, in favor of what some people expect.

I might even make more money in a reunion. Pixies-style. Fucking hell.

I listen to Haughty, and I think: I love this. In every way. It's very, very rare in my life as a recording artist, both within the old band and without, for me to listen to a two-year-old record and still feel proud of it. I think: this is what I've been trying to do for years. Here I am at last!

I love the guys in my new band; Scrap, McNeal, Chen.I love the way they play. The way they surprise me onstage. I love being with them on a bus, having coffee with them, joking, being a gang.

I love the freedom of this second life that the universe has so bafflingly chosen to bless me with.

I love being alive for the first time in a very, very long time. What an unusal development, that I should actually be happy and comfortable in my own skin!

I am so, so grateful.

Why should I have to justify this to myself? How strange.

Stick to your guns, stick to your guns, stick to your guns.

Posted by Mike at 10:19 AM

The People in my Mind.

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I was reading BT's blog this morning. I'm not sure if he'd want me to link to it. It was really emotional and personal; very moving. I'm not able to blog like that. There's a part of me that wishes I could.

Posted by Mike at 9:58 AM

Nov 29, 05 11:04 AM

A Hot Cup of Awesomeness.

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See Andrew Thompson's "There Must Be Some Kind of Misunderstanding". I ganked the link from Sasha Frere Jones' blog.

Posted by Mike at 11:04 AM

Nov 28, 05 02:21 PM

I Downloaded Some Pere Ubu Over the Weekend.

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Maybe love's a tune where you dance at night
And maybe sanctuary's an electric light

"Heart of Darkness"

Posted by Mike at 2:21 PM

Nov 27, 05 11:13 AM

Judgement Prior to Investigation = Bad.

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I saw Rent.

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My friend Aimee and I used to mock it--"I gotta pay my reeeeeeeeeeennnt!" we sang. Though neither of us had heard a note.

We should've checked it out before making fun of it. Cheesy, for sure, but I was enthralled in spite of myself.

I went with somebody who was absolutely galvanized by it as a teenager. So it was a moving experience just in that regard, to be in on someone's nostalgia, her long-dormant teen feelings being stirred up. But the movie was so fucking corny, it was difficult to keep a straight face and be respectful of her reverie.

I basically spent the whole film unable to suspend my disbelief--The actors playing fresh-young-things were in their mid-to-late 30s? The junkies and HIV postives looked like they just stepped out of a spa? If these people are broke-ass squatters, how do they afford AZT? And what the fuck--in the East Village of Cop Shoot Cop, Missing Foundation, and the Reverb Motherfuckers--are these people doing, singing this corny Broadway music?

And the drug stuff. So the recovering addict is drinking vodka? (Big product placements for Bombay Sapphire and Stoli) And his friends encourage him to date a girl who's still getting fucked up? There were other details that bummed me out as a guy who did drugs in the East Village in 1990: heroin comes in little glassine bags, not tiny ziplocs. The heroin was really strong and pure at the time, us youngsters didn't use needles but sniffed it. (What better signifier for somebody on Bad Drugs--as opposed to weed and vodka--than needles and tourniquets?) Not that the filmmakers would touch this with a ten-foot pole, but the drug dealers were Latino kids named Flaco and black guys in Cross Colors suits, not some dude in a leather jacket from central casting.

(I realize that's hair-splitting, that no artist is beholden to anybody's memories, or bound to the absolute details and facts. I was one of those kids in the E.V. They're kind of telling my story--at least, the tale of my milieu--but they don't owe me anything.)

OK. And yet. I was totally moved by the music and the movie. I spent much of it on the verge of tears. The arrangements were so corny, but those big soaring notes sucked my heart out through my nose.

Posted by Mike at 11:13 AM

Nov 24, 05 12:45 PM

Chris Whitley, 1960 - 2005.

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Saddened to hear of his passing.

Posted by Mike at 12:45 PM

Today We Dine on Slaughtered Bird!

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Am I getting all PETA on that ass? I don't know what came over me. I certainly will dine on flesh. Perhaps the flesh of the swine, even.

Posted by Mike at 10:18 AM

Nov 23, 05 12:43 PM

Be Kind to the New Girl.

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I'm enthralled with this tune from Morningwood.

Posted by Mike at 12:43 PM

Nov 22, 05 10:10 AM

Steve Keene's New Steez.

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I went to S.K.'s Williamsburg store this past weekend and loaded up on art.

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I've been a fan of Steve Keene's for years; I had him paint Soul Coughing's road cases, which made a psychedelic/folk-art stage set that I loved. He's done a bunch of stuff with me, posters, t-shirts, all kinds of stuff. And I'm not the only guy; he did a Pavement album cover, an Apples in Stereo video, an Irvine Welsh book jacket.

He's so extremely well known for the painting, but he's got a new thing happening; this cut out stuff. I went over to his store and bought armloads of it.

I urge you to go and see for yourself. A big part of his aesthetic is the inexpensiveness of his art; I bought all this stuff for TWENTY THREE BUCKS--?!

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Posted by Mike at 10:10 AM

Nov 21, 05 11:43 AM

The Young Supple Nubile.

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Been listening to some teenage favorites.

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Principally, the Rolling Stones. "Moonlight Mile," "Gimme Shelter" (that bonechilling vocal, after the guitar solo, by Merry Clayton), "Dead Flowers," "Stupid Girl," the live version of "Midnight Rambler" (so menacing).

The trouble with being a recording artist is that you're just trying to make art, but so many of your listeners relate to you as a symbol of their memories. Weirdly, my memories of these late 60s recordings are of the dorm of a hippie school in the mid-1980s.

I loved Keith Richards and hated Mick Jagger. How strange, considering I went around singing the songs in my head without relating them directly to Mick. Just completely blanked him out as a creative force, which was absurd.

My room's wall was covered with pictures of the 60s-70s Keith. So I guess becoming a heroin addict was a teenage ambition.

Posted by Mike at 11:43 AM

Nov 18, 05 07:49 AM

Yaphet Kotto Fucking Crazy.

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More graffitti from Kate's Joint's wall: "Yaphet Kotto Fucking Crazy."

My friend Kelly Sue always liked to think that the guy was using Yaphet Kotto as an adjective. "Yo, that shit is like YAPHET KOTTO FUCKING CRAZY!"

Posted by Mike at 7:49 AM

To Amuse My Jaded Public.

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I'm in PDX over the weekend, went down to the Powell's on Hawthorne and was looking at books, this girl comes up and says she reads my blog. Ooh, I feel bad that I don't update more. Is that every blogger's lament or what? I promise you, interesting things will happen.

Posted by Mike at 7:38 AM

Go or Do Not Go or Go or Do Not Go or Go or Do Not Go or.

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Relatively stable in Eritrea. I may go. Relatively stable in Portland. Still, I may not go.

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I found this awesome, awesome pad walking distance from the Fresh Pot and Mississippi Records--I tell my New York friends about it and it's like real estate porn for us cramped Manhattanites--but I don't know if I can do it right now. Too much shit to do. Weird way to throw my life into turbulence in the middle of the life of Haughty.

I moved to London in the middle of working a record once, and it was madness.

In Portland, I was drinking coffee and walking around and looking at books, like, Ooh, I'll read more Chekhov in Portland! I'll buy a turntable!

Can't I read Chekhov in New York? It's funny.

Living on the Lower East Side, of course, I have NO FUCKING ROOM FOR A TURNTABLE.

Posted by Mike at 7:34 AM

Nov 16, 05 04:30 PM

This Was Written on the Wall of the Bathroom at Kate's Joint on Avenue B A While Ago.

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Graffitti No. 1: Robot is a Czech word. It means 'Worker'.

Under that, a dis: Did you learn that at NYU?

And under that, in shaky writing: NO LARRY TOLD ME.

Posted by Mike at 4:30 PM

Nov 13, 05 01:25 PM

Window Shopping for a Place to Live.

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I'm in Portland right now.

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I spent yesterday wandering around Northwest--Nob Hill, they call it, fancifully--and decided: I don't dig it. Too yupped-out for me.

McGonigal took me down to the North Mississippi area--Fresh Pot and Mississippi Records--I love it over there. A guy at the counter of the record store knew somebody showing an apartment near there, and we looked at it, and it was just the most macked-out pad I have ever seen with my own two eyes. Two levels, spiral staircase. But--too expensive. I think. The place was so fantastic my breathing gets shallow when I think about it.

Then we went to Belmont and Hawthorne, also amazing areas. Basically, I just want to live walking distance from a Stumptown or a Fresh Pot.

I'm not moving just yet--in fact, I'm not completely sure that I'm gonna do it--but it sure is great around here.

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Posted by Mike at 1:25 PM

Africa.

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It looks like I'm not going to Eritrea. Very sad.

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It's a stupid, stupid nightmare, but Ethiopian and Eritrean troops are once again facing off over the tiny village of Badme, on their mutual border. Ethiopia is being cagey about it, but they hate the border that the UN set after the previous war ended in 2000. It's all about this little village. 70,000 guys died in the last war, and it was all about this little village.

But maybe calling that futile is kind of like saying, "Dude, it's only Burlington, Vermont, let the Canadians have it, what's the big deal?"

Remembering what my friend Genanew told me in Bahar Dar. "Eritrea are like Germany, they think they are master race of the horn of Africa. Eritrea think you can make a country with blood and iron," he said, "But Ethiopia know you can only make a country with loving."

A crazily biased view, of course. But it was the Eritreans who began the initial tensions by kicking out UN observers in the area.

And speaking of Bahar Dar--a couple of weeks ago dudes attacked a bus full of German tourists. Bahar Dar is where I had this joyful experience. I wonder if these were the same guys I danced to R. Kelly and Aster Aweke with in the John Bar, the Africa Bar? These little holes-in-the-wall that I felt privileged to be taken to.

A kid--eighteen, maybe--came up to me at the Africa Bar and said, "I HATE MOTHERFUCKING WHITES. But--I like you."

That's very nice of you to say, I said.

It sounded like he was trying on a role. Imitating some cartoonish version of supposed Black American attitude. It was kind of surreally adorable.

(The French rioters, they too are enacting a conception of American gangsta pose, aren't they? I do know a little about the angst of North Africans in France; I remember the Zebda album Le Bruit et L'Odeur--the noise and the smell--named after the comment of a French politician on the Parisian suburbs.)

Ethiopia is pretty chaotic. Violence over a contested election. News of slain students every week or so. Very, very sad.

Posted by Mike at 1:16 PM

Nov 10, 05 10:02 PM

Oh!

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Where the hell have I been? The ole iBook was at Tek Serve getting beefed up in the hard-drivage region. No bloggy for Mikey.

Posted by Mike at 10:02 PM

Nov 1, 05 06:11 PM

I Found Out That My Tattoo Does in Fact Say 'Musician' in both Amharic and Tigrinya--Whew!

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(Incidentally, I'm blogging to you from TekServe, the redoubtable old Mac repair joint on 23rd Street)

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Tigrinya is the predominant Eritrean language, and they've been on and off at war with Ethiopia more or less since World War 2. So I'd be kind of fucked if I walked into Eritrean customs when I landed there with a big ass piece of Ethiopiana on my forearm.

I was emailing hotels in Asmara when I decided to be completely weird and email all these reservations ladies JPEGs of my arm. Also the guy who seems to design every website in the Horn of Africa. I was coy about it, like, "Uh, I have this friend with this tattoo, and I was wondering, uh..."

So the reservations lady at the Crystal Hotel, near Harnet Avenue in the heart of Asmara, wrote me back. Thank you, reservations lady.

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Posted by Mike at 6:11 PM
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