cool hand bak

Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.

Friday, July 29, 2005

There Was A Child Went Forth

I'm barely back and already I'm hitting the road again. This time I'm heading out to a pair of Dylan shows, the final two nights of his summer tour, in Goldendale, WA and Bend, OR, respectively. Hoping for a "Visions Of Johanna" or a "Queen Jane Approximately", both of which were played within the last week. I'd really love to hear "To Ramona", but I'm not gonna hold my breath for that one.

I also picked up a book titled Scenic Driving Washington, so I'm hoping to make use of that. When I return, the road-trip bug should be out of my system for a little while (no promises though) and I should be able to get down to some serious writing.

In the meantime, here's one of my favorite poems of late for you to ponder. It's by a little-known American poet named Walt Whitman, and it's titled "There Was A Child Went Forth", just like this post.

There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day,
or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover,
and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow's pink-faint litter,
and the mare's foal, and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there —
and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads — all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn,
and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms, and the fruit afterward,
and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern,
whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass'd on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass'd — and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls — and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.

His own parents,
He that had father'd him, and she that had conceiv'd him in her womb,
and birth'd him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day — they became part of him.

The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words — clean her cap and gown,
a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture -
the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay'd — the sense of what is real —
the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time —
the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets —
if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses,
and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves —
the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset — the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs
and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide —
the little boat slack-tow'd astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint,
away solitary by itself — the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh
and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day,
and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

No Such Thing As Love

Reading this blog, you might get the impression that I go to a lot of shows. Unfortunately, very few of them are shows by local bands. That's something that I've been planning to change, but so far I've had little luck. I once, long ago, mentioned Encyclopedia Of Fun, a local band whose song "Hole In The Ground" was permanently lodged in my brain last January. Other than that though, there's been far too little local love 'round here.

I took my first step towards remedying the situation last week. A young Olympian band named Palisades were opening for Mount Eerie and Damien Jurado at a venue called Yes Yes. This was a show I had every intention of catching, but a lame-ass friend caused me to be late and miss Palisades' set. I did manage to snag a copy of their self-titled EP though, and I've been listening to it frequently since. At first I thought, "Okay, this is alright". Most of the songs fell short of being memorable the first few times through, but apparently they stealthily worked their way into the recesses of my mind because this afternoon I was listening to it and not only completely digging it, but singing along at points.

I first heard about Palisades from band-member Elijah Wood, whom I once took a class with. I snooped around online for more information about the band and saw that someone somewhere compared them to Modest Mouse. It's a convenient touchstone that I've used myself to explain them, but I regret it now because I think Palisades are significantly different overall. Mostly they're too tender and earnest to really fit that comparison, but I say that without having heard Modest Mouse's early work. Basically, Palisades have a very vulnerable sound that creates almost immediate intimacy within me as a listener, which is fucking cool. And if you do need an entry point, they say they want to sound like Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads, Will Oldham, Peter Gabriel and Sonic Youth, among others.

Anyway, small-talk aside, please lend an ear to Palisades. They're a band from my hood that I think have the potential to enrich your day, maybe even your life. Check it:

Palisades - "This Is How I Lay"

Palisades are at their best when they're at their catchiest, as they are on this song. The chorus is a perfect burst of ecstatic energy, pure pop goodness.

Palisades - "Consuming Fire Live On"

This appears to be either a demo or a live take on the EP's best song, "Consuming Fire". The version on the EP is a little more fleshed out, about as slow, and with the same heart-tugging melody better sung. This isn't bad though, and it was on their website so hopefully it'll make you want to hear the EP version.

Palisades - "Architecture"

If you're feeling these songs, stop by Radio Is Down and order the EP for a measly six dollars...that's a dollar per song, ya heard! Also visit their Myspace page, where the songs above came from. Their label's site, Masa Records, appears to be down at the moment, but I think there are more songs there. Put Palisades down on your bands to watch list, 'cause they should have a bright future ahead.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Guess Who Ain't Gon' Crack

Hip-hop has long been a sport for spectators as much as for players, and many of us on the sidelines have never been able to resist the temptation to compare its greatest figures, like any sport really. With that in mind, some time in the last month I realized that my own personal "Best Rapper Alive" ordination had changed. I was one of those who firmly believed that Eminem was the true, living God MC. Despite his disappointing efforts on Encore and his increasingly shitty guest verses, I maintained. Em, however, seems to have momentarily (if not permanently) lost interest in using his flow for the powers of good; case in point: "My Ballz" on The Longest Yard soundtrack. Em's decline is only part of the story though; if it weren't happening at the same time as Jay-Z's culmination, he'd still be sitting atop the throne. The truth is, Em and Jigga have been neck and neck for some time. That's not to say there aren't other contenders: Murs, Ghostface, Nas, Black Thought, 50 Cent, MF Doom, Royce Da 5'9", Joe Budden and others have all had their moments, but they don't manage to be as consistent as Eminem or Hov.

Inarguably, Em's greatest gift as a lyricist has been his ability to bring the personal to the plate in a palatable way. Others before him, most notably 2Pac, also dealt in the personal, but none of them ever made it the focus the way Em does. Granted, on Encore, that gift appeared diminished, tending towards exaggeration and nearing parody, but there's no doubt Em's success has influenced other rappers to bring more of themselves into the picture. No one has had more success with this than Jay-Z. Beginning with The Blueprint, S-Dot's lyrics have become more and more personal, with ever more of the man behind the mic being revealed. Combine that with the most flexible flow in the game, his charisma and his superior wit and wordplay, and you might begin to understand why I believe hip-hop has a new king.

Kanye West & Jay-Z - "Diamonds From Sierra Leone [Remix]"

Jay's turn on the "Drop It Like It's Hot" remix was what first alerted me to the possibility that he was overtaking Em, but this the verse right here that pushed Hov over the edge. Kanye does Kanye, whatever, but the man of a million names hits hard in his new President Carter guise. Like I said above, it's all about the personal. Not many rappers could get away with airing out their friend's shortcomings on record, but even fewer could brush it aside with a line like "As long I'm alive he's a millionaire". One has to wonder how Bleek feels being told that "he don't even have to write rhymes". Something this styling isn't supposed to have such substance, but leave it to Mr. "Impossible Takes A Week" to work it out. Jay's obvious joy for the new ways he finds to flow seals the deal, as he delivers the verse in an intoxicating rush of rhythm and gleeful swagger. Shit, if I could count Corporate America and the English language among my harem, I'd be giddy too.

Jay-Z - "Dear Summer [Funkmaster Flex Version]"

Here's a revealing rough-draft of the 534 cut on Funkmaster Flex's Hot 97 radio show, from February of this year. From the fuck-up at the beginning to references to Peaches & Herb to his belated concern that the mic is catching feelings, the man is endlessly captivating. TRL, drunk uncles, advanced quotes, Suge, Superman - it's all here! How he still so good, and better? I guess in retirement he sits on his shit a little longer, honing it to perfection, but whatever the case may be he's accomplishing as much in his scant appearances these days as he used to over the course of an album. He clearly ain't lying about being in a good mood, nor about cats being lucky because of it. Hopefully both the game and Game were listening. 700%, y'all heard?

Jay-Z - "Dear Summer"

This has been around now for some time, so probably everyone who wanted it has it, but I thought it might be nice to post the two back to back for comparison's sake. I prefer the radio version, but that's just me.

Whether or not Em is down for the count remains to be seen, just letting y'all know where I stand today. Do you really need a link to Hov online? Probably not, but here goes: Jay-Z's website.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It's Been A Long Time...

I shouldn't have left you, at least not without a dope beat to step to. Fear not, after a successful and much needed tour of some European cities, the bakster is back.

My vacation is not what you came here to read about, no doubt. Unfortunately, for the purposes of this post, you need to hear a few more details about my personal life. My adventures had barely begun when a sort of tragedy struck. While sitting at gate N15 at the Sea-Tac airport my mp3 player, freshly loaded with a few thousand tracks specifically for this trip (including a few troubling and yet somehow still hilarious Bushisms) just stopped working. Just stopped working! I went into "Rescue Mode" and tried cleaning it up, but that didn't work. Resetting it a few dozen times didn't help either. So, an hour into a 17 day trip I found myself completely without music.

It wasn't until five days later that I found an old mixtape (a real mixtape, not a CD mix) buried at the bottom of my backpack. Thanks to a tape recorder I had brought with me to record my thoughts during the trip, I was able to enjoy exactly one cassette (front and back) worth of music during my travels.

Here are two songs I rediscovered thanks to a long forgotten "Westward Mix":

The Busy Signals - "The Freeway"

Electric Sound Of Joy - "Night And Day"

Nothing life changing here, but these quiet gems really fit well in the mix, which also included songs by Simon Joyner, Cat Power, Mercury Rev and The Only Ones. Besides, they were all the music I had, which made them, for those twelve days, the best songs in the world.

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