gordonzola: (Default)
All my cheese entries are now over at my website: Gordonzola Dot Net. If you're an LJer there is a feed set up you can subscribe to here: [livejournal.com profile] gordon_edgar. See you there! If you are more into facebook, you can follow my cheese entries here.


Oh, and if you're looking for my book, It's available here
cover pic

(This is dated 2019 so it stays on top of my journal.)
gordonzola: (Default)
Ok, I am officially dumping my LJ after 15 years. I know I haven't used LJ a lot recently, but am looking to friend folks over here. Friend me or link your journal in the comments!


Apr. 10th, 2017 09:12 am
gordonzola: (terroir)
Yeah, this is too much. I'll be over on Dreamwidth, same user name. I haven't posted much lately but I do read. I've actually still been using the RSS feed as an aggregator here but less and less of those sites 1. exist and 2. are continuing to work.

gordonzola: (terroir)
I see that there is going to be a 33 1/3 for Young Marble Giants “Colossal Youth” album. I love this album but don't know if I want to read this book. The minimalist mystery of this album is what always intrigued me. When I first heard it, I just couldn't understand where it came from or how it existed. I hear it now and even though its filled with anachronisms in detail and a societal outlook that is hard to explain to anyone born after 1980, I still love it.

Sometimes art needs an explanation, to put it in context, to understand how it came about or how it was a stepping stone to something else. But I prefer this album how I found it, obscure and open-ended. I’m not trying to sound like an old man but the fact that I think most of us teen Americans who heard Young Marble Giants in the ‘80s, first heard them as a song in a mix tape or from than one haunting song on the classic Rough Trade comp “Wanna Buy a Bridge?” Additionally most of us heard them after they broke up, when early punk was become hardcore in the USA, when our music was becoming faster, louder, shorter and more dude-centric.

Kind of the opposite of this:

Young Marble Giants influenced many of the bands I loved in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s but when I first heard them – in the early mid ‘80s -- they sounded like they were from another world. Even more than the non-generic bands that I listened to at the time (Flipper, Arkansaw Man, The Residents… later Tragic Mulatto etc.) I didn’t get them, but I always wanted more. I didn’t really get the subtle differences in English punk/post-punk/new wave etc, but I’ve always liked a good art band. One of any art band’s greatest assets though, is not giving up their influences… to sound like they just came into your head from somewhere where you not only had never been, but a place you couldn’t find on your own.

“Colossal Youth” is haunting, sparse, hinting, political but non-dogmatic, emotional, oddly affecting, and catchy. Somehow it manages to be somehow familiar yet inexplicable at the same time. I love quoting the Big Boys song “Fun, Fun, Fun” at this point of music entries to show how limited the expectation of range punks had in the ‘80s: “I’m a punk and I like Sham./Cockney Rejects are the world’s greatest band./ But I like Joy Division, Public Image too/even though that’s not what I’m supposed to do.” Young Marble Giants were even more outside that realm. Still their songs made it on to mix tapes and were listened to in quieter moments.

I think “Colossal Youth” is a great subject for a 33 1/3 book, I just don’t know what I could possibly learn about the album or the folks who made it that could make “Colossal Youth” any better. On the other hand, I could think of a lot of things that could make it worse.

“Colossal Youth” is simply one of my favorite records of the whole post-punk era:

(You know, I never was a Hole fan so I didn’t realize until right now that they did a cover of “Credit in the Straight World,” -- my anthem of the last month -- that, imho, really missed the whole point. )

Young Marble Giants:

gordonzola: (making cheese)
We saw two documentaries yesterday, both unsatisfying for different reasons.

“Bronies” –

I still don’t get it. The creator of the edition of “My Little Pony” that seems to have started this craze says something very smart. Basically that boys being ridiculed for liking something that is aimed at little girls devalues all girls and that the Brony world is super positive in fighting this societal problem. I am totally with her there. A documentary working this theme could have been awesome.

Instead we get a mostly unimaginative documentary following a bunch of Bronies – many of whom seem on the spectrum – that doesn’t really go anywhere. There’s a bit of bait and switch: adult male Bronies are talked about but not really examined.

So many questions that could be asked: “Is this just simple, unremarkablke escapism?” “Is this part of the trend that sees so many adults reading y/a instead of other novels or even genre fiction?” “What is Hasbro’s role in all this?” “Is there something about MLP that attracts people with Asbergers?” “Didn’t this whole thing start on 4Chan?”

But hey, during the credits I realized that this is a Kickstartered documentary with – as far as I can tell – no theatrical release and no professional reviews so I’ve probably spent enough time thinking about it already.

If you want more, this is a pretty good feminist blog review here.

We also watched “The Institute” which, I have to say, I knew nothing about despite the fact it was centered around Bay Area artists. Starting with absurdist flyers put up on poles around town, this secret art project was part RPG, part self-help group, part social experiment. I am not necesairly the intended audience. I am aging out of these demographics for hip art, but I saw some of these flyers around town and I thought they were dumb, not intriguing.

I am a huge fan of fake flyers and political art projects. The anarchist fake campaign that “ran” a particularly authoritarian sectarian for Sheriff? Hillarious. The fake “Legalize PCP” rally mocking pot smoke-ins (“as safe as blue-green algae”)? Funny? Official looking advertisements that weren’t? Awesome. These though, just seemed de-politicized and boring. The blunt-knife mocking of self-help gurus? A little more timely in the ‘80s than the ‘10s and I never thought about pulling the tab and calling the number.

Don’t get me wrong though. I enjoyed the movie.

There were times, especially in the first half hour/45 minutes where they really had me going. I like the crypto-vison of an alternative world, the pirate radio broadcasts, the street demonstration. At it’s best, it had a Craig Baldwin* feel, re-purposing popular culture to make clear its contradictions and hidden meanings. I was willing to buy into the artistic vision.I was willing to examine "Elsewhere", certainly a more intellectually stimulating endeavor than the My Little Pony friendship tenets. I was willing to buy into the emotions the participants were feeling. I was willing to buy into their buy in, whereas -- if described to me before I started watching -- I would have remained distanced. In these ways, the filmmakers succeeded.

It’s certainly well done and – at times – though-provoking but in the end I just kept thinking, “I can’t believe how much time and money went into this.” That, to me, is a sign that the art didn’t work, at least as documentary. Also, I was left feeling punished by my buy-in, which leads me to question the point of this piece as a work of interactive, experimental art. Perhaps it was different for actual participants (if there were actual participants) who had time and physical experiences to reflect upon. In the shorter time frame of a movie, instead of having enough time to soak in the wonderment of the alternative societal vision -- and exchange cynicism for exploration, the more heavy-handed aspects of scripted actors made me feel like the message was less "open yourself up to the possibility of a better or different world" then, "You should have been more guarded and closed yourself off more."

The first half of this movie intrigued me but the more “interviewees” that were clearly actors, the less involved I became. In the end—it’s hard to understand how much – both documented here, and in the documunentary itself – is “real” or “fake”. Which is, I guess, the point. This documentary turns documentary against itself, making you question whether, actually, this entire thing is just fiction.

Here’s the trailer:

Also, here’s a review. You know a reviewer is in trouble when they hedge their bets with an I-don’t-get-it-but-I-think-the-kids-will ending.

Also, this Rumpus review is actually a much more interesting take than what I've written, written by someone who participated and then watched the documentary.

*Tribulation 99
gordonzola: (making cheese)
Some of you may remember that I was systematically going through my 7" records, listening to them, and reviewing them. This is -- to me -- one of the most fun LJ practices: an ongoing project done for fun that --theoretically -- some other folks may enjoy reading about. Maybe it's a throwback to zines, but those are always my favorite type of entries.

Life circumstances made me abandon it. It's not worth mourning, it wasn't really that important, but I thought I would acknowledge it for the one or two of you who cared.

What I was trying to get at with those entries, besides cleaning out my record collection of junk I hadn't listened to for a decade, was the meaning of an ephemeral and outdated technology. The 7" in the punk world was very different from the 7" of the early '70s. It was the mark of being DIY and low budget instead of generating a secondary revenue stream. There was/is something so immediate and communal about the punk 7''. Often bought at a show, they bring back memories of time and place with more pinpoint precision than longer albums. Even the artwork is often more, well, arty.

For years I have wanted to have a "semi-soft 7 inch" party where I served semi-soft cheeses and played 7" records. But honestly, it's not super workable. I find the user un-friendliness of the 7" format -- getting up to change the record every 2-5 minutes -- endearing and even lovable, but still annoying.

I thought about proposing a 33 1/3 book at one point called something like "My 7" collection" but I don't think it would ever be accepted and, honestly, the more I read those 33 1/3 books the less I like them. And also, in this new world of immediate accessibility and obsession fulfillment, it feels good to speak softly about certain things I love.

As I was writing this I grabbed an old record at random. It's amazing how certain things are undisputed classics among a certain subset, and unknown outside that circle. Time and place, time and place. This is Led Zeppelin to me. (even if at the time I thought the beginning was a Jim Carroll "People Who Died" rip-off.)
gordonzola: (making cheese)
1. Downton Abbey may have been watchable in its first season or so but degenerated into mindless Aristocrat porn long ago.

2. “Top Chef” is anticlimactic year after year. Still fun to watch, but the announcement of the winner is beside the point.

3. There is really nothing one can say about this interview with Chris Brown about CRASS.

4. There has not been a punk song with as much intelligent bitterness as “Lubbock or Leave It” since “Lubbock or Leave It" was recorded.

5. Points 3 and 4 above might be evidence that punk really is dead this time. Or is just a slightly more lively equivalent of rockabilly or the Society of Creative Anachronisms.
gordonzola: (making cheese)
Some folks who are still active on LJ are trying a "friending frenzy" to try and resuscitate this place and clear out some of the tumbleweeds. If you are interested, check it out or start your own.


This has been a public service announcement for the 20-30 of you left out there.


Oct. 13th, 2012 10:16 am
gordonzola: (Default)
Here are some pictures from my visit to the Parthenon (in Nashville)

In all its glory:

Crazy statue inside:

Stop skate harassment!

I love stuff like this.


Aug. 25th, 2012 02:07 pm
gordonzola: (Default)
Even the punks loved him...

gordonzola: (Default)
I figured this was of little interest to my LJ folks, but I just posted my "Humble guide to getting the most out of the cheese conference" over on my non-lj blog.
gordonzola: (Default)
I had a productive day today. I approved the edits on a short piece for “Canteen Magazine.” I drafted blurbs for two new cheese books coming out this year. I handled a difficult wedding special order even though it was my day off. I have some time to kill before Stagey gets home so I thought I’d write an LJ post.

Rather than write another half-informed internet opinion about health care reform or discuss how cute my dog is, I figured I would write another entry in my ongoing “Gordon Reviews his 7”s series.” The small vinyl I picked out for today:

Flamingo 50 -- “Go Betsy Go!” (2002)

I saw this band in London in 2003 at some queer punk show I saw advertised in Time Out or something. I loved them. There was a novelty to be seeing a show where I knew no one but my ex-wife, yet everyone looked like people I should know. But mostly it was a great show because they totally rocked!

I bought their CD (a split with Lack of Reason) and still listen to it today. Melodic female vocals with lots of stop-and-start punk rock. Flamingo 50 is a totally underrated band from this era.

Here is my favorite song of theirs. It’s not on this 7”, but I don’t own (and didn’t even know about) this J Church split so what the heck?

I was super excited to listen to this record because I love the band’s other songs. I couldn’t remember this 7” at all and that was really the whole point of this exercise anyway, right?

Unfortunately, this record is really bad. The songs may be good – one catches glimpses of excitement in “Dump Yr Dumper” and “Told Ya So” -- but the mix is so fuzzy and vocals so murky that I can’t really recommend this one. I am sure that as a teen I listened and still love some records mixed worse than this but at age 46 it just makes me feel like I need a hearing aid. I put on a Nation of Ulysses record right after this just to check my needle. That still sounded like awesome.

Rating: Buy this awesome CD instead!
gordonzola: (Default)
The exact day I became a fan of (Two-Tone) ska was April 19, 1980. That was the night the Specials played on Saturday Night Live.* I was enthralled. I went out and found the record the very next day.

When I found it, I actually thought it was a little dull in comparison with the live songs I heard the night before. I learned to love it, but I really do think, unlike a lot of genres, that the live recordings of this short period of time capture it in a way that the vinyl never did. The Specials “Ghost Town”** may be the only song better in the studio, but that’s because it’s a brutal, bitter announcement that not only was the two-tone era dead -- such a short life! -- but so was everything progressive people had worked for, including hope.

I just read Pauline Black’s autobiography “Black by Design” so I’ve been thinking about that era a lot this week. Pauline Black was the singer for The Selecter, probably the most famous woman in that era of music. The book itself is an adoption memoir sandwiched around a musician memoir. Black, adopted at birth, was raised in a white working class English community with very few non-white influences available to her. The provocative title of the book shows her battle with being black, but not being raised black. The surname she grew up with was actually Vickers, but she took on the last name Black as a way of 1. Truly identifying as black and 2. Having a performer name so she wouldn’t get fired from her day job in case the whole band thing didn’t work out.

Here’s the first incarnation of The Selecter so we can all have a clear starting point:

The weird thing about The Selecter -- the blackest band in Two Tone -- was that they were started by the white guy. He had written an instrumental with one of the folks who was in the Specials and The Specials, not having enough money to record a second song for their first single, put that song on the other side of the record. It became a top ten hit and the guy who wrote it figured he better form a band to capitalize on its success. He basically found a Coventry reggae band, added Pauline Black, and The Selecter was born.

Unlike most musician memoirs, “Black by Design” doesn’t have many bad things to say about anyone, including the members who left the band angry when they kind of disintegrated after the first album. About as snide as Black gets is when she – proud of her band – talks about how they were they only band on the label that was truly all working class. At first it was maddening that Black would only hint at the real personalities of the more famous people around her, but I started to respect it after awhile. It may have been unsatisfying, but she must have resisted a lot of pressure from her publisher to not trash her bandmates and more famous Two-Tone artists. A typically understated sentence, (discussing the reunion version of The Selecter) “Neol Davies and I found that some wounds are too difficult to heal and went our separate ways in 1993.” Yes, that is the only sentence about the guy who wrote all the band’s hit songs, and who formed the band originally, deciding to leave.

What is fascinating, and again also maddening, is that it’s a memoir of a small-scale star who never really got rich. She talked about the day – a decade or so after their one big album was released – when she finally had enough money to open a savings account. Her husband of 30 years or so is pretty absent from the narrative except it’s clear that he worked 40 hours a week his whole life at some job. The memoir of a star who isn’t rich: that’s a book I want to read! This could have been that book, but it’s only hinted at, not really explored.

Other things have a way of just being dropped in… Black became an actor after leaving The Selecter and it turns out she’s friends with Vanessa Redgrave because they are in the same Marxist party. Hi! I’d like to know more about that please. In fact that mention was only there at all because she was talking about her working class brothers’ homophobia and inability to interact with her black, queer, or arty friends.

Still, like I said, the book is an adoption memoir sandwich. I am – for obvious reasons – much more fascinated by adoption stories than I used to be and this has a lot of the usual adoptee narrative, with some extra transracial abductee intensity: adoptive mother who didn’t want her to hang out with black people, adoptive mother who views Black’s (also adopted, but white) brother’s search for his birth parents as a betrayal, the search for grounding, community, and place. She almost never mentions her adoptive family and unknown birth family during her fame years (was she not in contact? doing too many drugs? too busy? We don’t know.) but after her adoptive mother’s death (her adoptive dad dies before that, though it is only mentioned after the fact and in passing) she searches for her birth family. It’s the last 60 pages of the book, but it’s – to me – the most gripping –even tearjearking – part.

Still, after thinking about it for a week, I don’t know whether to recommend this book to folks or not. I found the whole thing fascinating, but I was already a big fan of her music and intrigued by her story which I had no idea of before the press for this book came out.

Anyways, here’s a great live version of “Three Minute Hero” to end this post with:

*embedding is unfortunately disabled. But go check it out and try and remember yourself at age 12. Why wouldn’t you love this?

**further studies )
gordonzola: (Default)
Living in San Francisco means you don’t need to get cable if you are not TV obsessed. With just an antenna you can get all the major networks, PBS, and a few indie stations. Occasionally at my parents’ house, on vacation, or at a motel I will watch something and my mind will get blown. This is really on TV?

I’m looking at you, Dance Moms.

But we got ROKU for x-mas and I have been checking out those reality shows* that seem so intriguing when I’ve seen them advertised on my TV holidays. OMG. Most of them are so bad that they trigger my depression. I realize these things are subjective. I’m not judging anyone who likes these shows. I’m just saying I’m glad I didn’t waste money on cable all these years.**

Here’s what I have been watching. Anything I should check out that I haven’t found yet?

Old episodes of Top Chef
These are great. The only Top Chef I had ever watched was the one season that is on DVD and a few episodes of Season 3 that I watched while stranded on the tarmac on a two hour flight delay on the way to Seattle to sign a contract with my agent. I had no idea there was no Padma in season 1. They have made some really smart moves over the years… getting rid of the caterers and home chefs, making better challenges with better food etc. We watched the current season as well and I just wanted to say, again, that all of you who had sympathy for Beverly and hated on Sara were just wrong, wrong, wrong. The thing about this show, which differs from the horrible “Hell’s Kitchen”, is that the contestants are talented and the judges, for the most part, seem legit.

Storage Wars
It took me a bit to get over the horrible premise of the show. People bidding on the possessions of others left behind in storage lockers is not something that would be allowed in a just society. But, on the other hand, I find it fascinating to see how things get to thrift stores. Except for maybe Brandi and Laura, no one is really likable on this show, but I have to admit that the buried treasure aspect of the storage lockers carries this for me. I really do want to know what’s in there and what it’s “worth”. I got kind of addicted to this show.

Pawn Stars
This show, on the other hand, is just awful. It combines the unlikeable aspects of Storage Wars with a scripted arrogance that made it unwatchable. The only episode that I saw, the main dude bought a cannon for $30,000. At least on Storage Wars you get the feeling – with a couple thousand being about the biggest bid– that the folks making the money on the lockers are not too far above – and sometimes clearly below – the people they are making money off of. If you have $30,000 for a cannon, my sympathy is gone. Plus they mock people who come in with things of no value. Whatever dudes.

Work of Art
This show is actually pretty awesome even though Stagey and I only half way through season one. Reality show of artists? It makes no sense! Here’s one day – MAKE ART! An acquaintance was on Season One and didn’t do very well – and some of the “artists” are terrible – but hey, Top Chef had some real terrible cooks in season one as well. [livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid wrote about these episodes when they came on and I really wished he tagged his entries.

Project Runway All-Stars
Just not the same without Heidi, Tim, and Nina.

RuPaul’s Drag Race
I know lots of you love this, but I was bored. It owes a lot to America’s Next Top Model for sure, and maybe I just watched too many episodes of that show, but it has all the fake drama and arbitrary rules that I began to hate about ANTM. I’d probably need to watch more episodes to have a coherent analysis – or come to like it.

American Pickers
After about five minutes I wanted to punch these assholes in the face. Two dudes self-importantly drive around the country looking for poor people to exploit. They strategically bother people until they give in, lowballing them despite the fact that some appear senile or unaware of where their next meal will come from. After the Rev, these folks definitely have a date with the firing squad for crimes against the People. Plus they have a goth-y gal back at home base who seems to be trying to be that goth girl on that military cop show or that quirky computer girl on that serial killer show.*** The only thing of value in this show is that it could inspire hatred of the entire capitalist system based on the ruthless actions of two Randian douchebags in a van.

*I consider Project Runway and Top Chef to be the crowning achievements of this genre, btw.
**Being able to watch Giants games would certainly be a mitigating factor, however.
***The difference between punks and Goths in a nutshell? Punks hate representations of themselves on TV and view all such fictional representations as sell outs. The Goths think it’s cool to have one of their own working for 1. The military and 2. The cops. That may be a lot of things, but cool will never be one of them.
gordonzola: (Default)
I loved “We Need to Talk About Kevin” as a novel. Lionel Shriver did the near-impossible with this book. She situated being the parent of a teen murderer as part of the continuum of motherhood, rather than a freakish aberration. Without sugarcoating the mother’s character, mistakes, or motivations, Shriver manages to get at a lot of the ways that mothers (not fathers) are blamed for things their children do. Without minimizing the horror of the killings in this story, it is a very delicate and constructed balance of compassion and realism for everyone involved.

The movie, not so much.

It wasn’t bad, mind you, just not as ambitious or interesting. While it certainly makes you feel the mother’s pain, for whatever reason it is unable to make Kevin and his killings a horrible part of a bigger picture. The result is a much shallower and more easily forgettable work.

The movie version certainly leaves an impression. The first half hour reminded me more of the incredible but hard to endure “Killer of Sheep” than anything else. Immersed in the life of the mother during a few interspersed time periods with very little dialogue, it’s agonizing to watch; but not in a bad way. In the way that makes you feel like you are experiencing a small portion of what a woman in that position must be feeling. So far, so good.

Making a work of art where a mother of a mass murderer is even a semi-sympathetic character is a hard job. How can that character ever feel any happiness? Any laugh or smile is an insult to the families of the dead. It’s hard to tell what seeing the movie would be like if I hadn’t read the book, but one pivotal scene really limited the movie’s possibilities.

In the book, the mother, Eva, often sits in the prison waiting room -- always alone, never talking to the other women who are almost all, if not exclusively, women of color. She uses her son’s name as a way of not having to interact because bringing him up usually shuts up anyone trying to talk to her. But one day another woman does not allow her to shut down the conversation. She tells Eva that Eva is a good mother because, even after everything her son has done, she still comes to jail regularly, trying to do what she can. It’s a brief conversation – one not examined thoroughly by the mother narrator -- but it brings up so many issues that – to me – it was the most weight-bearing few pages of the book.

What is motherhood? How much ability does a mother really have in shaping a child? What is the responsibility of a parent for the horrible things a child can do? How is the experience of black mothers different from white mothers in a society that imprisons black youth at a much higher rate than white youth? Are the incarcerated deserving of attention and support, even if unremorseful?

Additionally, it shows that while having a murderer in the family will certainly get you thrown out of the respectable upper-middle class, there are other communities in this world, other people who you may never have interacted with before who may actually have things to offer, in fact may have a richer, more complex view of life than you previously thought possible.

In the movie, the whole scene is reduced to a sobbing black woman sitting next to Eva. After some delay, Eva reaches out and holds her hand. Neither woman says a word. End scene.

The biggest failing of the movie is that it just left me with nothing to discuss. It was a two hour wallow in the misery of the mother of a teen school murderer. After I read the book [livejournal.com profile] smallstages and I talked about it on-and-off for days. It’s a pretentious cliché to advise people to read the book rather than see a movie based on one (Hello “Hunger Games,”)* but in this case it’s really the truth. The book was the best novel I have read in years. The movie is forgettable.

*The “Hunger Games” movie is better than the book (which I have never read) for one undeniable reason: outing racists.
gordonzola: (Default)
Canadian new wave! I will admit I forgot all about this record. I had to clean the needle three times there was so much dust on it. And there are only 4 songs!

I was going to just dismiss this as generic, overly enunciated new wave. But after the second listen it really started growing on me. It is New Wave with capital NW. Everything takes Eff-ort! and clever E-NUN-c-ation!

OMG there’s a vid for “Flat Tire”!

Smash that radio! Shoot out that tire! Burn that gas station!

Heck, this 7” is even kinda catchy. You could have danced to it with stripes and a skinny tie back in the day. “I’m a SPONGE! I SOAK up every-THING!” C’mon it was 1979. Things were out-of-sorts back then and the future looked bleak. Slightly detached, almost ironic dance music was what folks needed to feel better.

Rating: An ear fungus that grows a little with every listen

(It's been awhile so I will remind you all, dear readers, that this is part of a series. You can click the tag below to read them all)
gordonzola: (Default)
In the various online communities devoted to schnauzers, you rarely see one 1. dirty, 2. at the beach or 3. having fun. Here's your white schnauzer splosh porn that others won't post.

1. Dirty

2. At the beach
Pacific Ocean Schnauzer

3. Having fun (Schnauzers are faster than you think!)
fast schnitz

4. All three together!
mud-eating schnauser
gordonzola: (Default)
Dancing a jig at the beach
Fort funston


gordonzola: (Default)

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