The end of a sentence, of sorts

Wow, I really let this thing fall by the wayside over the past month or so. I guess I’ve just

"I know it's been a long time since I last rapped at ya, but..."

been too busy; real life has been pretty real lately, so to speak. Since I graduated last May, life has been a bizarre mix of fast paced and dramatic and incredibly dull. I’ve lived in six different places and I’ve held four different jobs (I know, right?!), culminating in a five-month bore-a-thon in my hometown. However, all of the pieces are finally coming into place, and (though my time at home was certainly regenerative and I’m sure I’ll look back on it fondly) I’m finally, finally moving out.

Destination: Pittsburgh.

The most exciting thing, I guess, is that I nabbed a part time correspondence job with a literary agency! I’ve been working for two weeks and I’m already targeting authors, pitching books, and moving toward my own list. Plus, the offsite nature of the job means I’ll never, ever have to make copies or get anyone coffee and I have so much freedom to get things done in the way I want. The downside is that it’s not full-time, but I LOVE the work I’m doing and the real responsibilities that I’m given.

The job is beyond portable, but I ended up being lured to Pittsburgh by absurdly, even confusingly cheap rents (the room I’m staying in from April through June is $150 per month), a couple of great friends who call the city their home. The fact that Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was my first favorite contemporary litfic book certainly didn’t hurt, either. Plans on visiting the Cloud Factory are already in the works. So yeah! I don’t know how long Pittsburgh will hold me, but the next year or so should be different and exciting. I’m happy with my life right now and the way the future looks, and this is the first time I’ve been able to say that without at least a couple reservations in a longer time than I’d like to admit.

I’m moving at the beginning of April, and I’m done with my current job on Friday, so I have two empty weeks. That means that if you’re in NY, Philly, DC or anywhere in between, I want to see you before I move out there. Yes, you. Let me know if you want to chill, because though Pittsburgh is in PA, it’s a heck of a drive and I realistically won’t be back here very often.

As far as this blog goes, I’m not going to feasibly be able to take that giant stack of old magazines to Pittsburgh with me, for concerns of both space and the preservation of the collection. Eh, I guess the whole magazine thing never really got off the ground anyway. So, I suppose this will become another borderline-narcissistic urban twenty-someething blog. But really, that’s what it has been all along (minus the whole urban thing, of course) so I hope you continue to check back once in a while! I’ll update more often, I promise.

Before I sign off, here are a couple videos from Kurt Vile. After finding his new album, his music is all I’ve listened to lately. I mean, it might be related to the fact that his discography is the only music currently on my computer (I’m a mac now wut wut) but it’s really, really good. I might be going to see him and J Mascis before I move. Here’s hoping.

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I don’t, I don’t know what that will be.

Fleet Foxes recently released “Helplessness Blues,” a song that’s going to be on their new album, which is due to be released in May. I liked their EP and first album, but I never really listened to them outside of with friends. However, when I heard this song, it just hit me in the gut. I love the music and it has the best lyrics of anything I’ve heard in a long time. Here it is:

Also, it may be a bit excessive, but I’m going to post all of the lyrics, as they’re just so great:

I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique,
like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes;
unique in each way you can see.

And now after some thinking,
I’d say I’d rather be
a functioning cog in some great machinery
serving something beyond me.

But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be.
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see.

What’s my name? What’s my station?
Oh, just tell me what I should do.
I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night
that would do such injustice to you.

Or bow down and be grateful
and say “Sure take all that you see”
to the men who move only in dimly-lit halls
and determine my future for me.

And I don’t, I don’t know who to believe
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing,
it’s that every thing that I see
of the world outside is so inconceivable,
often I barely can speak.

Yeah I’m tongue tied and dizzy
and I can’t keep it to myself.
What good is it to sing helplessness blues?
Why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf.
I’ll come back to you someday soon myself.

If I had an orchard,
I’d work till I’m raw.
If I had an orchard,
I’d work till I’m sore.

And you would wait tables
and soon run the store.

Gold hair in the sunlight;
my light in the dawn.
If I had an orchard,
I’d work till I’m sore.

If I had an orchard,
I’d work till I’m sore.

Someday I’ll be like the man on the screen.

I didn’t exaggerate when I said that these lyrics hit me like a punch to the gut. Of course we interpret lyrics through the lens of our own lives, but these seem to perfectly describe the confusion, ambiguity, and adjusted, managed expectations of the post-recession generation – almost an anthem. Our montessori school teachers and pbs television shows told us that we were all, each one of us, destined to be great and important. The advent of instant celebrity and viral stars has, of course, done very little to assuage this.

Of course that’s not possible, but we only thought that it wasn’t possible for everyone else. Now that we’re out of college and in an economic environment that looks much, much different than the one that we were raised in, our expectations are adjusting, and the question becomes somehow whether  become a cog in the machinery (as Robin Pecknold would say and initially seems to choose to do in the song) or to try to somehow opt out of this system entirely (as he seemingly ultimately chooses). If I were him  (and if the only thing that mattered were the lyrics) I probably would have left that last section section out. However, that last line about being like “the man on the screen” really ties the song together and leaves me thinking that even if Pecknold gets his orchard, it’s still settling. I’m kind of confused by some of the verses in the middle, so if anyone has any input or other interpretations, I’d love to hear them.

But speaking of opting out of the system, it’s my dad’s birthday today.  He is one of the only people I know who actually successfully did that- he makes his art and works his garden and orchard (until he’s sore). Granted, we never had the newest cars or whatever, but I’ll always respect him for going his own way and doing what he loves. Happy birthday, Dad.

On the more random side of things, can someone please, please explain this? I mean, I’m as addicted to the random side of the internet as anyone, but I’ve never seen anything that begs have at least some context as much as this does:


It’s been 5 or 6 years since I read To Kill A Mockingbird, but is there anything – ANYTHING – that could lead to the creation of this thing?

Last thing: listen to this song; it’s the guy from Why? and someone else and it’s GREAT.

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Winter Windows

I put my book down and come to the window
where curtains are fastened to the sides
so it is like looking out at the world
through the back of a teenage girl’s head

and my signature is drawn in magic marker
on the lower right hand corner of the window

so when something passes in the dark
it’s captured for a moment inside my work.

– From “World: Series” by David Berman
I really, really like that. I tried to get David Berman’s book republished/expanded/maybe new book while I was interning at a publishing house in an imprint that would absolutely never, ever do that. I said he could do illustrations. Ha! The pitch I made before that actually went to an agent so I thought I could do no wrong. If you didn’t know, he’s sings and writes the songs for Silver Jews (he’s Jewish so it’s okay).

I don’t know why that video works for that song, but it does! Here’s another:

And, as promised a while ago, here are a few scans from the first issue of Xero, the multimedia zine that my uncle Tony edited an age ago. Actually, I think compiled is a better word, as everything that was submitted made the final cut in some form. This is all from 1975.

The first cover

Aaaand that’s all for tonight.

Top image:


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Oceans never listen to us anyway

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They’re Hissing Radiator Tunes

So it seems like something that musicians (who can’t afford to do the pay-whatever-you-want thing) are doing to preempt album leaks and endless downloads is playing their whole album live as a teaser. Andrew posted a live performance of Iron & Wine’s forthcoming “Kiss Each Other Clean” from NPR about a week ago and I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with it.  Listen to it here.

This seems to follow the arc of Sam Beam’s last few albums: more expansive, more elements, etc. I always half-felt like one of those jerks who wished that he would strip back down to the guitar and voice of “The Creek Drank the Cradle,” but this is just great. My favorite track is “Half Moon” (16:20 in the video) but I love the whole thing: classic Iron & Wine (you know, biblical and pastoral imagery and great lines like “’Time isn’t kind or unkind,’ you like to say, but I wonder to who, and what it is you’re saying today.”) but with a totally realized live sound.

I’ve seriously listened to this thing 20 times in the last week. But it is an unhealthy obsession, because I think I’m going to hate the actual album. Listen to the NPR version of “Biting Your Tail” (12:20) and then put the studio version on:

I know that this mostly personal preference, but for me, the organic sound of the studio version, the kind of awkwardly hesitant backing vocals, and falsetto improv are infinitely preferable to the chilly, processed beat from the studio. Seriously, there are enough people doing that. And you know, maybe if I picked up the album I could learn to like it, but after playing the NPR concert over and over again and growing to adore these versions of the songs, I really can’t imagine appreciating the official versions of these songs. And it’s all because of MUSIC PIRACY!

The underrated album that I referenced in my last post is Wolf Parade’s “Expo 86.”

Here’s my favorite track from the album, joining Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” as a great song that at least obliquely references the Soviet space program.

This album got absolutely no love when it came out and was essentially ignored on all of the best-of lists that I saw this year. Aaaaand somewhere in between getting ignored and getting ignored, the band went on indefinite hiatus. Great job, guys. I mean, it’s no “Apologies to the Queen Mary,” but it only has one real clunker and most of the songs are very, very good.

Strangely enough, I generally like Dan Boeckner’s Wolf Parade songs slightly better than Spencer Krug’s, though I definitely prefer Sunset Rubdown (Krug’s side project) to Handsome Furs (Boeckner’s). I think it may have something to do with lyrical juxtaposition – Krug’s lyrics have always been awfully (knowingly) obtuse (with the possible exception of “Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings,” which is just sublime and really resonated with me at the point I was listening to the album it appears on a lot – like “Magic Bus” but more complex, confused, and ambiguous). Though they work, when lined up next to Boeckner’s on Wolf Parade records, they just seem like too much.

Speaking of underrated albums, if you like The National and haven’t listened to their back catalog, DO IT. “Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers” stands up to anything they released after it (maybe not as subtle, but more cohesive and absolutely devastating) and “Cherry Tree” is just incredible.

I don’t know who that girl is or what she has to do with this song, but such is YouTube.

So as promised, here’s a photo of the ostrich steaks I made about a week ago:

God, that photo does not make them look appetizing. Bad camera! Bad lighting! Bad plate!

They apparently ordered too many of these at work so I was able to get them cheap. Yeah, I cooked them on a Foreman grill. So crucify me – I know how to cook steaks on it. I also made a balsamic raspberry reduction to put on it. So good.

Also, last night, the Republican National Committee elected its new chair. His name is Reince Priebus. Seriously. Tell me that doesn’t sound like something from “Check It Out!” with Dr. Steve Brule and you would be a liar and a bad one. His name sounds like what Steve Brule would call an interviewee named Reese Priebe or something like that. To top it off, the third Google result for his name is his personal Facebook page. Amateur, Priebus.

Aaaand I’m running out of words again. I’ll get back to the magazines soon, I swear.

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Blue, Blue Windows Behind the Stars

“January 17”

Drinking wine this afternoon
I realize that the days are getting

That’s by Richard Brautigan, from 1970’s (see how I subtly and marginally tie what I’m writing about to my nominal blog topic?) Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt. Though

Richard Brautigan

poetry was never really my thing (with the exception of Bukowski and David Berman), I was recently introduced to Brautigan and I like his work a lot. His poems are short, relatively straightforward, and to the point, though quite a few contain metaphors that I can’t really wrap my head around. Many, like the one I quoted above, have hysterical subtexts. And how topical.

I’ve actually used quite a bit of the free time I have here to catch up on my reading, and I have three books going right now. I read the Golden Compass trilogy a couple of months ago as sort of a rebellion against the strict diet of literary fiction that I had been feeding myself for the past couple of years, and though I’ll be reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom with one of my friends soon, I haven’t really moved back into it yet. I’m currently in the middle of Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon by Patrick Tierney. I hate that title because it gives cover-judgers an anti-intellectual impression that really, really isn’t there. I could write a whole blog post about this book, but boiled down to its essentials, it’s arguing that Napoleon Chagnon’s “discovery” of the Yanomami in the Amazon was essentially a reenactment of what Spanish conquistadors did on the same continent hundreds of years before. White people with impure motives self-transmogrifying into self-styled tribal deities, wanton disease spreading, sponsorship by shady organizations…it’s all there according to Tierney. It’s incredibly disturbing for someone who studied anthropology and I’m looking forward to seeing where Tierney goes from here. Also will have to check out responses to these allegations.

But speaking of transmogrification (what is wrong with me?) I’ve also been reading the Lovecraft anthology that was my last purchase at Barnes & Noble before my discount ran out. Oh, how I miss that discount. I’m reading it essentially as escapism, and it is quite enjoyable as such, though Lovecraft’s barely veiled racism (e.g. “swarthy” marauders, cats with racially charged names (for real!)) is aaaawkward. However, each story or novella reveals a little more of his world, and with each one I read, parts of others that seemed way

One weird dude...

out there while I was reading them start to make more sense. This gradual revelation seems to be where the satisfaction in reading Lovecraft can be found. And just in phrases like “toad-like lunar abominations”. Makes me want to start a sludge metal band and do a concept album. Anyone?

The last thing I’m working on right now is Gig, a book of 3-6 page vignettes of Americans talking about their jobs, edited by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter. Everything from chicken separator to transvestite prostitute to CEO to U.S. Congressman (Barney Frank D-MA reppin’) is here, and at least nominally in the words of the worker. The thing that really struck me about the in-their-own-words thing, though, is punctuation choice. Yes, I am one of “those people” about grammar, but when talking about work, the editorial decision to end everything someone says with –in’ rather than –ing or to make everything an Eastern European immigrant says in the present tense is an important one. I mean, the book doesn’t feel contrived at all, and I suppose it’s quite possible that everything was transcribed exactly as said, but there is an undeniable reproduction of norms implicit in the grammar of the speakers. Regardless, this book is enlightening, humanizing, and highly recommended.

Speaking of grammar, I saw quite possibly the best billboard error EVER when I was on a bus back from Philly for Andrew and Jacqui’s engagement party (and congrats to them!). The billboard had a picture of the virgin de Guadalupe and a caption that said: “Blessed are the fruits of thy womb Jesus.” Read that again. So I guess there should have been a colon after “womb” (ಠ_ಠ), but in the way it appears right now, Jesus is clearly the possessor of the womb. Also, since Mary in the virgin de Guadalupe style seems to be coming out of this yonic sunburst, it looks like hermaphro-Jesus is giving divine birth to a fully clothed Mary right on the billboard. Yep. What I wouldn’t give to go back with a camera ready.

Andrew and Jacqui’s engagement party (which was so much fun) was part of a New Years weekend in which I bused to NYC, Philly, and Scranton, and had such a great time in the process. On New Year’s Eve, Andrew, Jacqui, Breanne, and I went to Radegast Hall and Biergarten ( The place was packed, but once we got seats it was just a blast. There aren’t any picture of all four of us, so here’s one of Andrew and Jacqui:

And one of Breanne and me

On the way back to the L, we made the ritual stop at Oasis. Best falafel sandwich I’ve ever had for a measly three bucks.

Can you tell I'm enjoying it?

So, I thought I’d get to write about music this post, but I’m closing in on 1000 words already! How does that happen? It’ll have to wait until next post. In the mean time, here’s some stuff I’ve been listening to:

A Place to Bury Strangers: “Ego Death”

‘80s revival dance sludge whaaaa?

And on a completely different note…

Nick Cave – “Helpless”

The version of this that Neil Young backed by The Band did in “The Last Waltz” really got me hooked when I watched that movie a million years ago. Cave’s cover really does it justice.

Alright, so next time I’ll be doing more magazine stuff, ranting about an underappreciated album, and posting photos of the ostrich steaks I made.

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Old Magazines and Old Clothes

I spoke to my blog-savvy sister ( and instead of these long, multi-topic posts that I’ve been writing up until this point, I’m going to try to keep entries (slightly) more focused and more frequent. Today’s is dedicated to old stuff: my first magazine read-through and the vintage clothes that I picked up from my aunt’s warehouse. I’ll cover the books I’ve been reading (I’ve been stepping outside of my comfort zone lately) and the music I’ve been listening to (meh, not quite as much) in a couple of days.

So after cataloging covers and browsing and picking through these magazines, I’m actually going to take an in-depth look at one: Crawdaddy! Nine, May 1967. Crawdaddy! began in a Swarthmore dorm room in 1967 and is considered a testing ground for the form of rock criticism that eventually permeated all of the rock magazines on the newsstand today. The magazine went through quite a few publication stops and starts over the years and currently exists as a bloggy webzine that covers bands that are a bit to the heavier side of the type of contemporary college rock that makes up the majority of my current music library. The writing retains the extremely personal feel that characterizes the Crawdaddies from 40 years ago, and I actually really enjoyed browsing it (The National got #2 on their Best Songs of 2010 list!). Check it out:


The first article in the magazine (Sandy Perlman’s “Younger by Far”) opens up with a monologue about how old The Rolling Stones are looking and how the camera suddenly and brutally ended its love affair with them: “At one time the Stones were mean and never lost their dignity”  Ha! This was written in 1967. If only they could see them now, still chugging along even as their faces move further and further down their heads. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that – Richards’s autobiography is on my extended read-if-I-can-get-it-for-free-somehow list. Seriously though, read that first paragraph – Sandy Perlman must feel vindicated, horrified, or both as time brought the conclusions he draws to their logical extremes.

His statement is awfully generalizing (and god forbid I segue into a discussion about the nature of art here), but in this case, at least, I’d argue that it’s proven to be at least mostly true. Really, could the first article I read in one of these magazines offer something easier to blog about than how The Rolling Stones look old? In 1967?! Jeez. The rest of the article is a painfully in-depth track-by-track of Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow”, which is considered by whoever wrote the Wikipedia article about them to be their seminal album. The focus of the criticism leans heavily on the music itself and descriptions of tracks are same-y for such a long piece. Also, the unifying element of each song’s relation to the concept of rock cliché feels a bit forced. Yeah, the writing leans toward heavy-handed (art lends itself to cliché, blah blah blah) and some of the turns of phrase reek of the pot cloud that certainly obscured the ceiling in the dorm room in which the article was written, but for kids feeling their way through the incipient art of rock criticism, it’s readable. Like I said, I don’t want these entries to get even lengthier than they already are, so I’ll be covering a few more articles in this issue of Crawdaddy! at a later date.

Okay, so as promised, here are the fruits of a visit to my aunt’s vintage clothes warehouse. The best thing I got is probably a Mad Men-esque cashmere overcoat from the early 1960s. So warm and comfortable and it looks great with the tuxedo I have to wear to work every day. Classy like yeeeuh. Also, really happy with these two pairs of shoes:

Blue and cream saddle shoes

Vintage White Bucks






Some sweet shirts (the checkered one actually belonged to my gramps, though I can’t see him ever wearing it) and a jacket from the late ‘50s to early ‘60s:









Aaaand of course some skinny ties (and Scottish wool Burberry ties from my parents):

My favorite of the bunch






She has a TON of these ties and whoever is costuming Men in Black III is making a big purchase. But I got the first pick what what.

So that’s that. One more thing I want to share is that I found one of those ridiculous fundamentalist cartoon pamphlets in NYC when I was helping Julie move out of her dorm for winter break. I wonder if the majority of these things are picked up by kids who find them to be hysterical. I hate to promote this crap in any way, but here’s a panel that actually made me laugh:






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