Archive for the ‘The Dead Milkmen’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE SULTANS OF PING FC-“Wheres Me Jumper?” (1992).

The Sultans of Ping were, of course, named after the Dire Straits song.  They were named when “it was sacrilege to say anything whatsoever funny or nasty about Dire Straits.”

This song (or 30 seconds of it) was used as the opening  to the TV show Moone Boy.

The song was an unexpected, presumably novelty, hit in 1992.  It’s stupidly catchy and amusingly nonsensical and your appreciation for it is pretty much entirely dependent on your appreciation for Niall O’Flaherty’s voice which is comical and rather shrill in this song.  The other songs on the record are somewhat less so, but are still delivered in his speak-singing style.

I get a sense of them being like Ireland’s answer to The Dead Milkmen with a sprinkle of John Lydon on vocals–a fun punk band that flaunted a silly side.  Of course, I wasn’t in Ireland at the time, so perhaps they’re more akin to the Ramones in punk legacy.

The Sultans of Ping (later named The Sultans) were (a subconscious at least) predecessor to bands like Fontaines D.C.

But whereas Fontaines D.C. tackles existential life in Dublin, this song tackles a more urgent and pressing concern:

Dancing in the disco, bumper to bumper
Wait a minute:
“Where’s me jumper?

It’s all right to say things can only get better
If you haven’t just lost your brand new sweater
I know I had it on when I had my tea
And I’m sure I had it on in the lavatory
Dancing in the disco, go go go
Dancing in the disco, oh no, oh no
Dancing in the disco, bumper to bumper
Wait a minute:
Where’s me jumper?…

[READ: Summer 2019] Moone Boy

Chris O’Dowd is an Irish actor (we love him from the IT Crowd, and he has since been all over the place).  In 2012, he created Moone Boy as a sitcom based on his own childhood growing up in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland.

The show was a hit and they made three six-episode seasons.  This book came out around the time of the second season.

The story focuses on Martin Moone, a 12 year-old boy growing up in Boyle.  His friend Pádraic has an imaginary friend and Pádraic encourages him to get an imaginary friend (IF) of his own.  The rest of the book follows the exploits of Martin and his first (and second) imaginary friend.

But the book begins with some absurdist comedy.  Turns out he book is written from the point of view of the imaginary friend (we don’t really learn that until later) and he starts off with this:

Before we begin, I need to carry out a quick survey,

Are you reading this book because:

A. You have a scientific interest in the moon.
B. You have a scientific interest in the misspelling of the word “moon.”
C. You want to find out how quick and easy it is to obtain an imaginary friend that you’ll cherish for life.
D. You’ll read anything  You’re just like that.

If your answer is A or B, then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.  There’s very little moon action in this story, apart from the brief appearance of a wrestler’s wrinkly bum.

If your answer is C, then you’ll be equally disappointed.  I suggest you pick up a copy of Imaginary Friends – The Quick and Easy Guide to Forever Friendship by a former colleague of mine, Customer Service Representative 263748.

If your answer is D, the good for you!  You’re my kind of reader.  I’m glad we got rid of that other bunch of idiots who picked A, B and C.


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[ATTENDED: November 18, 2019] Blushing

I hadn’t heard of Blushing before this show, but as soon as I found out they were a shoegazey type of band, their name made perfect sense.  Then I read a little bit more about them and was even more fascinated.

Here’s a little bio from For the Rabbits

Blushing are a band formed of two husband and wife pairs, although it didn’t start out that way. Back in 2015, singer and guitarist Michelle Soto plucked up the courage to share some songs she had been working on with friend Christina Carmona. From that friendship, a creative partnership was born, Christina adding her classically trained vocals and bass-playing to the mix, shifting Michelle’s rough sketches into fully formed compositions. Recruiting their spouses, they set about recording the songs that would become their debut EP, Tether.

Since that EP, the band has released another EP, Weak, and a full lengthg album, Blushing.  They played 7 songs during our show.  All of them were from the album except “Hidden Places” which came from Weak.

The band has a great classic shoegaze sound.  Waves of guitars with Christina Carmona’s beautiful voice often sounding more like an instrument than a voice.  But there was also some heaviness involved–some crashing guitars, big riffs and loud drums.

It was also evident right from the start was how much fun this band was having.  They told us they were excited to be in Philly for the first time.  Michele Soto on guitar was wearing a Dead Milkmen shirt (Big Lizard in My Backyard) just for the occasion. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 17, 2018] DJ Jester

I was pretty excited to experience Kid Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville: Floor Kids Edition, even if I didn’t really know what I was going to experience.

The traffic and parking situation was terrible around Johnny Brenda’s and I was sure that I missed the opener, DJ Jester.  He was supposed to go on at 8, and I didn’t get into the club until about 8:45.

Well, imagine my surprise to discover that he had not even gone on yet.

Kid Koala came out and told us that DJ Jester was the DJ at his little brother’s wedding and after that night, Koala knew that he’d have to bring this Texas-based DJ along on an opening slot.

So DJ Jester got behind the turntables and basically DJ’d a 45 minute set of music. (more…)

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assclassSOUNDTRACK: OUGHT-More Than Any Other Day [CST103] (2014).

oughtmoreOught might just be the most straightforward band every released by Constellation Records. They are a rock/punk band with some spoken word singing that sound at times like Mark E. Smith.  However, the music is a bit catchier than The Fall’s with fast moments and really slow almost ambient stretches.

“Pleasant Heart” opens with a raw echoing guitar riff and chords that sound like nothing else on the album.   The song lurches through some great sounds and Beeler’s unusual chanting style of singing.  There’s also a cool bass line rumbling throughout the song built with lots of drum fills and chaos.

About half way through this six-minute song the bass and drums drop out leaving just a squeaky violin and harmonic guitar (this squeaky violin is possibly the only thing that makes this record sound like a Constellation release).  The bass comes back in slowly.  But it’s not until almost two minutes of this instrumental that the song resumes with a crunch and the lurching melody and verses continue until the end.

“Today More Than Any Other Day” was the first Ought song that really grabbed me.  It starts out slowly with some spare drums and meandering bass.  It doesn’t really feel like its going to resolve into anything.  By a minute and a half it’s finally starting to sound like something–a slow meandering song perhaps.  Around 2 minutes Beeler starts whispering “we’re sinking deeper, and sinking deeper.”  And then the song starts building and turning into something else .  We’re now half way through this 5 minutes song when the guitar starts chiming and he states “The name of this song is ‘Today more than any other day Parts 4-43.  So open up your textbooks … or any kind of reading material.”  And as the guitar plays the verses he recites various things that have happened today more than any other day (making a “decision between 2% and whole milk.”  A cool bass line starts playing as else drops away and he starts chanting a rather laconic “dah dah dah dah dah” following the bass.  It reminds me, strangely enough of the Dead Milkmen as its kind of not exactly out of tune but almost as if  not really caring.  But when the song resumes, it’s all right on again.  It’s a weird and wonderful, strangely catchy song.

“Habit” opens with a nice slow bass riff and chiming guitars.  It brings the intensity of the previous song down some.  And the vocals sound a little different, especially in the chorus, where the whole song take on a kind of Talking Heads vibe (the falsetto singing in particular).  It slows down toward the end with some scraping violins. The song is quite pretty in an alt-sorta way.

I love “The Weather Song” from the opening harmonics and intriguing bass line to the way the song suddenly ramps up for the chorus.  In addition to the catchy spoken opening there’s a great chorus of “I …. just wanna revel in your lies.”

“Forgiveness” is a relatively short 4 and a half minutes and opens with almost an organ sound.  A scraping violin sound joins the drones. After 2 minutes he sings in a very slow drawl “forgiveness is a drug that you take with a shrug.”  It has echoes of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” although it never changes tempo or intensity.

“Around Again” has a very 1980s guitar riff and whispered vocals until the whole band kicks in and it grows in intensity.  And then the whispered “go slow” returns the song to the beginning.  After 3 minutes, the song builds and then drops out with a spoken: “It’s coming. Why is it you can’t stand under the sun but you can stick your head into a bucket of water and breathe in deep” and then a whole new sound of dissonant guitar and thudded bass and drums “we have reached the intermission.”  But it’s not an intermission it goes through to the end of the song like this.

“Clarity!” opens with what sound to me like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” but with guitar chunks played over the top.  Slow harmonics and whispered vocals move the song forward.  After 2 minutes it rocks out, with a returning ringing high note and interesting sound effects.  And by the end the song comes to a plunging conclusion

“Gemini” opens with some low rumbling notes and then a sprinkling of keyboards.  There’s some scratchy guitars and a rumbling bass.  After 2 and a half minutes, the song’s punky parts take over with jagged guitars and screamed vocals.  The end of the song is mostly just two-note thumping while he screams “you wanted … wanted … wanted … wanted.”

I really like this album a lot.

I noticed that the lead singer changes his name on each release.  So, to help keep it straight:

Matt May: Keys
Ben Stidworthy: Bass
Tim Keen: Drums, Violin
Tim Beeler: Vocals, Guitar

[READ: September 20, 2016] Assassination Classroom 1

Assassination Classroom has a very strange and unsettling premise–the students of this classroom are being taught to assassinate their teacher.  Given the current climate of guns in the US, that’s probably not a comfortable position to take.  However, Matsui alters the premise to make it more palatable, and frankly more fun. The students’ teacher is actually an alien (or maybe not, but it is certainly not human).  He (I guess) is a multi-tentacled creature who can move at Mach 20, is exceptionally perceptive and can’t be harmed by most conventional weapons.  But wait, there’s more.  The students are sent to assassinate this particular creature because he blew a huge chunk out of the moon (it’s now a permanent crescent) and is planning to do the same to the earth in a year’s time.  But wait, there’s more.  One of his conditions for not blowing up the Earth sooner is that he be allowed to teach this particular classroom.  Although no one is sure why yet.

The class is 3-E, the lowest of the low, the worst students in the very prestigious Kunugigaoka Junior High.  The 3-E class are misfits–they were smart enough to get into the school, but they have done something wrong and they are treated very poorly because of it.  In fact, 3-E is used as a kind of cautionary tale for the other students–act up and you could wind up like them.  (Why they don’t just leave the school is not addressed).

The kids call the creature Koro Sensi (which is a pun on the Japanese “Koro senai” which means “can’t kill”), and it turns out he is actually a pretty great teacher.  He really seems to care about the kids.  So why would they want to kill him?  Well, aside from the destruction of the planet, there is also a ten billion yen reward (the amount seems to change some in the book, but it’s roughly 100 million dollars).  Of course, as the name implies, this guy is really hard to kill.  And when they try to kill him in a way he finds beneath them (they are training to be great assassins after all), his own revenge will be swift.  At the same time, he heartily encourages them to try their best to kill him–and he applauds their most creative efforts. (more…)

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empireSOUNDTRACK: THE DEAD MILKMEN-“Anderson, Walkman, Buttholes and How!” (1990).

deadmYesterday’s album could only be followed by this song.  The Dead Milkmen, always willing to mock, wrote this song with that hilarious title.  Interestingly, the “buttholes” part is a reference to Gibby Haynes, singer for the Butthole Surfers, on lead vocals.

Despite the title, the song itself sounds nothing like a progressive rock song.  It’s only 3 and a half minutes.  On the other hand it is almost entirely instrumental and changes style about 3/4 of the way through.

But check out the topical lyrics:

We’ve got to get together
And we’ve got to save the snails
Let’s board the purple spaceships
Before they set sail

I want a Yes reunion
And you know I want one now
No more Anderson
Walkman, Butthole Surfers and How!

Listening to the opera
And smoking angels’ dust
You can’t get more fucking
Progressive than us

The guitar riff is pretty interesting and angular.  And it’s sloppy in a wonderful Dead Milkmen way with stupid sound effects at the end of each line.  And of course, it’s just funny.

[READ: April 12, 2015] Empire State

I was delighted to see this book at the library.  I have really enjoyed the four other books by Shiga that I’ve read (I was sure I’d read more, but I guess they were all close together).  This one comes before his mind bending Meanwhile.  While it is a pretty straightforward narrative, he does play with time a bit to make the story a little more interesting.

One of the great things about Shiga’s art is how simplistic (I would almost say childish, but that’s not right or fair) his drawings look.  His characters are pretty much round-headed with round eyes and oval mouth.  They could be done on a computer but I hope they’re not.

The story starts in Oakland, CA, where Jimmy is talking to his best friend, Sara.  They talk about her date last night and the creepy Craigslist date she went on recently.  All the guy’s profile said was looking for a nice Jewish girl.  And Jimmy (who is Chinese) says that he may have to use that line next time. (more…)

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toiletsSOUNDTRACK: CAPTAIN BOGG & SALTY-“Scurvy” (1999).

saltyFor the first Captain Underpants book I used “The Puking Song” as a soundtrack.  Turns out that would have been better suited for this book as the are a lot of puking  toilets in this story.

Captain Bogg & Salty scored the number 4 slot in this year’s WXPN/Kid’s Corner vote for best song of the year.  I’m always confused when a song makes their Ton Ten list and I had never heard it (we listen a lot, but not all the time; however there are some songs that we hear constantly .

The song is thirteen years old and comes from their debut album.   But before I get into the song I need to copy this line from Wikipedia: Captain Bogg and Salty is a pirate-themed rock band from Portland, Oregon, and a representative member of the subgenre of pirate rock.

Subgenre of pirate rock.  I love it.

So “Scurvy” is a fast-paced shanty with the sensible lyrical precaution: “when there is scurvy on your pirate ship…eat a lime.  EAT A LIME!”  What else is on the pirate ship?  Cannonballs, peglegs, rum and er…rabbits?  This song is fun and rocking and very silly.    I really hope to hear it on the radio some night.

So the band performs for both children and adults.   And, amusingly they perform the same songs (in full costume) for both audiences

Turns out members of this band also write music for Jake and the Never Land Pirates, which my daughter loves.  A nice circle.   Now I’m off to uncover this pirate rock subgenre.

[READ: January 22, 2013] The Adventures of Captain Underpants

I enjoyed the first Captain Underpants book and Clark has been digesting them very quickly.  So I thought I’d check out the sequel.  And it does not disappoint.

The book opens with a recap of the first book, in hilarious comic book form (drawn by the kids).  The short book ends with the warning from George and Harold (who deny responsibility) not to snap your fingers around Principal Krupp because it will make him turn back into Captain Underpants (which was in the instructions for the HypnoRing that they discarded).

But before we even see the Captain, we see George and Harold in school.  They are very excited to read that the upcoming Invention Convention features a grand prize of being Principal for a Day.  They immediately decide to win it.  Then we get a flashback to last year’s convention where not only did they not wind, they put glue on everyone’s seat and got in huge trouble.  But this year, Krupp is ready for them and has not only banned then from submitting, he has banned them from even attending.

This doesn’t stop them of course, in fact, it just makes them sneak into the auditorium the night before to play tricks on everyone’s projects.  I have great respect for Pilkey for a) the crazy inventions he has the kids make and b) the clever way he pranks them.  But before they can do any damage they see that Melvin Sneedly has created the PATSY 2000 from a photocopier.  The boys mock the name until he explains that it’s an acronym for Photo-Atomic Trans-Somgobulating Yectofantriplutoniczanziptomiser.  Which is an absurd way of saying that it photocopies pictures and makes them come to life. (more…)

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capnSOUNDTRACK: THE DEAD MILKMEN-“The Puking Song” (1989).

smokin_banana150I usually try to pair kids books with kids music.  And this song might be a little inappropriate for kids, but it’s in the spirit of Captain Underpants, right?

“The Puking Song” is, yes all about puking (How I love to sleep in vomit, you don’t know the joy I get from it, waking up to the smell of puke…makes me shout I love you!).  It’s doesn’t get any more vulgar than that, although it is of course, pretty gross.

It’s sung by Joe Jack Talcum, with his rather whiny/slightly out of tune/childish voice.  It comes from a B-Side (really??) on the Smoking Banana Peels EP.  Yes, it is pretty gross, but I’ll bet it’s fun to sing along to in a crowded theater.

[READ: January 14, 2013] The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants is perpetually on the list of banned books, which is really quite funny (except that banned books are not funny), because honestly how bad could it be.  I had never read the book before, but Clark has been reading them all lately so I thought it would be interesting to read it as both a librarian (anti-banning) and as a parent (pro-ensuring-that-it-is-appropriate).  And what I learned is that I understand why people want to ban the book, but I think it’s utterly foolish and wrongheaded to do so.

So what’s so bad about the book?  Well, it’s silly and vulgar (and full of pictures of a superhero in his underpants, gasp), but the thing that I assume bugs authority figures is that it totally mocks and abuses authority figures–which is exactly what makes kids laugh and exactly what humorless authority figures hate.

So the story is about George Beard and Harold Hutchins, two mischievous kids.  Within the first two pages, they pass by a sign that says Pick Your Own Roses and they rearrange the letters to spell Pick Our Noses.  [I have to say that the other day Clark drew a comic in which a storefront said Come Visit Our Awfully Good Store.  A boulder smashed through it which left the result: Come Visit Our Awful Store.  And I was very proud of his creativity and thanked Pilkey for that direction of his comedy].  But that’s the level of mischief we’re talking about: putting soap bubbles in the band instruments and putting helium in the football. (more…)

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I had a CD planned for this week, but when I searched for Imipolex G online to see if it was real or based on anything, I can across this song by a band I’ve never heard of.  How could I pass it up (at least it wasn’t a song about coprophagia).

I listened to the whole album (only once, so this isn’t a fair criticism) and it’s all in a similar vein–lo-fi sounding.  Like maybe it was recorded on a two-track. The vocals are slightly whiny–not bad whiny–90s indie rock whiny.

And I see that Joe Jack Talcum from the Dead Milkmen has a solo album on the same label, so that makes sense.  I probably would have lived this album back in college.  And I would have wondered what Imipolex G was and then I would have found out about Gravity’s Rainbow and tried to read it.  And given up.

So this song is just over three minutes and opens with feedback squalls, but that noise is undermined by the jangly guitar that takes over the song. It’s quite catchy (in a noisy indie rock kind of way that almost dares you to think it’s catchy.

I’ve tried to determine any lyrics I could “plans etched on the wall… target for my head…I’ve got to go away.”

I’ve embedded the song below, although clicking on the button will take you to their My Space page, rather than playing it directly.

Imipolex G

The album appears to still be available (original pressings came with a bug).

[READ: Week of March 12] Gravity’s Rainbow 2.4-2.8

This was a conveniently short read this week (I had a lot going on, so those 30 fewer pages were a nice breather).  Section 2 continued mostly with Slothrop, although it was also an extrapolation of the people who were impacted by him in the beginning of the section.

For those with weak stomachs, we saw what I have to assume is the most disgusting section of the book.  And there was also a reverie (and the use of the word reverie) that had me a little confused. (more…)

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One of the other Rock en Español bands I bought in the 90s was Aterciopelados (the hardest to pronounce).  Aterciopelados come from Colombia and they play a variety of styles of music.  They also feature a female vocalist (Andrea Echeverri) who has a great voice in a variety of styles.

The opening song “Florecita Rockera” is a heavy blast of punk.  “Suenos del 95” is a kind of a lite pop song.  “Candela” is a latin-infused song that sounds not unlike a more psychedelic Santana track.  And “Bolero Falaz” is a winning acoustic ballad.  Meanwhile “Las Estaca” is a sort of county/cowboy song that breaks into a fun rocking chorus.

“No Futuro” starts as a slow balald and builds and builds to a heavy rocker.  I would have liked this song to go a bout a minute longer to get really crazy.  The rest of the disc works within this broad framework: ballads that turn into heavy rockers (“De Tripas Corazón”), hints of punk and latin accents.  And then there’s a song like “Colombia Conexión” which reminds me a bit of The Dead Milkmen: simple sparse verses with heavy punk choruses.  Meanwhile “Pilas!” is straight ahead punk.  The final song “Mujer Gala” has some ska-lite aspects as well (and I have to say that it seems like No Doubt may have been inspired by them).

Although for all of the different styles of music, the disc is really a venue for Echeverri’s voice.  She’s not a rocker or a screamer and she could easily sing pop ballads, but because she chooses to sing over so many styles, she really showcases the multifacted nature of her voice.  She can hold a note for quite a while and although she never really shows off, it’s clear that she’s got a powerful voice.  She even sings beautifully over the punkier tracks, never devolving into a scream, but never losing her edge either.

Aterciopelados is a hard band to pin down (especially with this one disc).  Of the rock en Español bands, Aterciopelados had one of the longer lifespans.  They released several albums with very different styles.

El Dorado suffers from weak production, some more highs and lows would really makes the listening experience better, but it’s a solid disc overall.

[READ: December 10, 2010] The Insufferable Gaucho

This is a collection of five short stories and two essays.  Two of the short stories appeared elsewhere (which I read previously).  This is the first time I’ve seen the essays translated into English.  The fabulous translation is once again by Chris Andrews, who really brings Bolaño’s shorter books to life.  They are vibrant and (in light of The Savage Detectives, this is funny) visceral.

“Jim” is a four page story which focuses very specifically on a man named Jim.  As the story ends, we see Jim locked in an existential struggle.  For such a short work, it’s very powerful.

“The Insufferable Gaucho” (which I had read in The New Yorker) was even better after a second read.  I find this to be true for much of Bolaño’s work.  He tends to write in a nontraditional, nonlinear fashion so you can’t always anticipate what is going to happen (quite often, nothing happens).  In this story, a man in Buenos Aires, feeling that the city is sinking, heads out to his long neglected ranch in the country.  He spends several years there, slowly morphing from a cosmopolitan man to a weather-beaten gaucho who doesn’t shave and carries a knife.  But there is much more to the story.  The countryside is virtually dead: barren, wasted and overrun by feral rabbits.  The rabbits offer an interesting metaphor for the wilderness as well.  His interactions with the few other people he encounters are wonderfully weird, and the ending is thought-provoking.  It’s a wonderfully realized world he has created.

“Police Rat,” is that strangest of Bolaño stories: a straight ahead narrative that works like a police procedural.  I assumed from the title that it would be something about a metaphorical rat in the police force.  Rather, this is a story about an actual rat who works on the rat police force.  Bolaño spends a lot of time setting up the story (details are abundant) making it seem like perhaps there would be no plot.  But soon enough, a plot unfurls itself.  And although the story is basically a police story, the underlying reality behind it is fantastic and quite profound.  The story is beyond metaphor.

“Álvaro Rousselot’s Journey” was published in The New Yorker.  This story was also better on a second reading.  In many ways this story is a microcosm of Bolaño’s stories: a man goes on a quest for an elusive man.  Unlike the other stories, he actually catches up to the elusive guy.  But, as if Bolaño were commenting on his other stories, actually catching the guy doesn’t really solve the crisis.

This basic premise is that a writer believes that a filmmaker is stealing his ideas for his films (even though he is from a different country).  But more than just the simple plot, when Álvaro Rousselot leaves the comfort of his homeland things change fundamentally within him.

“Two Catholic Tales” is, indeed, two tales.  I had to read this piece twice before I really “got” the whole thing.  There are two separate stories (each story is a solid block of text but there are 30 numbered sections (which don’t seem to correspond to anything so I’m not sure why they are there).  The first tale is of a young boy who desires to be like St. Vincent, with designs for the priesthood.  As the story ends, he is inspired by a monk who he sees walking barefoot in the snow.  The second tale (we don’t realize until later) is about the monk himself.  It rather undermines the piousness that the boy sees.  On the second reading I realized just how dark of a tale this turned out to be.  It’s very good.

“Literature + Illness = Illness”
This is the first non-fiction by Bolaño that I have read.  It is a meditation about his terminal illness.  The essay is broken down into 12 sections about Illness. They range in attitude from the realization that when you are gravely ill you simply want to fuck everything to the fear that grips you when you finally accept your illness.  Despite the concreteness of the subject, the essay retains Bolaño’s metaphorical style.  Each subdivision is “about” an aspect of illness.  “Illness and Freedom,” “Illness and Height,” “Illness and Apollo,” “Illness and French Poetry.”  But it’s when he nears the end and he’s in a tiny elevator with a tiny Japanese doctor (who he wants to fuck right there on the gurney but can’t bring himself to say anything), and she runs him through his tests showing how far advanced his liver failure is, that the reality of his illness really sinks in.

“The Myths of Cthulhu” is the other essay in the book and I have to say it’s the only thing in the book that I’m a little frustrated by.  About midway through, he reveals that this is a speech and I wish that an introductory note would have given context for this speech, or indeed, indicated whether it was really a speech or not.

One of things that struck me about it (and also about “Literature +Illness=Illness” is how frequently he is unspecific about his research (and just never bothered to go back and fix it).  For instance:

For books about theology, there’s no one to match Sánchez Dragó.  For books about popular science, there’s no one to match some guy whose name escapes me for the moment, a specialist in UFOs.

Because I don’t know his non-fiction and I don’t have context (and I’ve no idea who Sánchez Dragó is) I don’t know what to make of that unspecific recommendation.  As for Sánchez Dragó, in the speech he’s noted as a TV presenter (Wikipedia confirms this).  But why the uncertainty in a written piece?  Laziness or deliberate commentary?

This essay has many elements of local information that are completely lost on me.  However, by the end, he brings it back to folklore and literature.  He also makes some biting criticisms of George Bush, Fidel Castro, Penelope Cruz (!) and Mother Teresa. Actually, I’m not sure if he’s mocking Penelope Cruz, although he is definitely mocking Mother Teresa.

The ending is general moaning about the state of Latin American fiction.  Even though I didn’t follow all of what he was talking about, there’s something about his delivery which is so different from his fiction. It’s honest and fast and kind of funny and enjoyable to read.


This may be something of a minor work, and yet the stories are really wonderful and are certainly a treat to read.  The essays definitely need more context, but it is interesting to finally have a chance to read the “real” Bolaño.

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DEAD MILKMEN-Chaos Rules: Live at the Trocadero (1994).

It wouldn’t be a complete look at the Dead Milkmen without mentioning their one live release.

Chaos Rules is a surprisingly good live set (taken from two separate concerts).  They had to leave all of the songs from their Hollywood Records discs off this collection, so this comes across more as a classic concert rather than a comprehensive one.

The band sounds great and the songs sound pretty close to the originals.  Not that the originals were hard but it wasn’t always obvious whether the Milkmen were doing what they were doing on purpose.  This set suggests that they were.

As any good live band, they play around with their songs, being surprisingly angry about local politics and changing the (by then twenty year old) “Bitchin Camaro” intro to reflect that.

The only reason it would have been nice if they had been allowed to include some of the Hollywood Records songs (they do sneak one in under a different name) would be to see if they played them any differently.  Since the early tracks are pretty chaotic, I wonder what would happen to the latter, more mellow songs.  Did they stand up under the weight of the nonsense or did they become more ramshackle as well?

I guess I’ll never know.  This is not essential by any means, but it is an interesting artifact for the curious and is totally enjoyable for DM fans.

[READ: April 23, 2010] Distant Star

Because Bolaño never does anything typical, this novella is a spin-off of sorts to Nazi Literature in America.  The introduction states that “in the final chapter of my novel Nazi Literature in America I recounted, in less than twenty pages and perhaps too schematically, the story of Lieutenant Ramirez Hoffman…which I heard from Arturo B.  He was not satisfied with my version…So we took that final chapter and shut ourselves up for a month a half in my house in Blanes, … where we composed the present novel.  My role was limited to preparing refreshments, consulting a few books and discussing the rest of numerous paragraphs with Artuto…”

Okay, there is so much wonderful deception in just this introduction to this book it totally cracks me up.  (Arturo B has long been a stand in for Bolaño himself). In the original, the narrator is named Bolaño (he is the narrator in jail who eventually helps the detective locate the poet).

For yes, the story is the life of a poet who is also a murderer.  And, the story is pretty much the same as the 20 or so pages of Nazi Literature.  It is now an extended meditation on this particular poet.  All of the events that were present in the short version are here, they are all just fleshed out with Bolaño’s wonderful details and full biographies of other characters.

The big, weird thing though is that almost all of the names have been changed (to protect the guilty?).  So even though the poet of this book has the same exact  life story as Lieutenant Ramirez Hoffman, he never has that name in Distant Star (and he goes through several pseudonyms).  There are twins in the short version who now get new names.  Even the poetry teachers have different names.  However, the detective who hunts him down at the end has the same name.  Weird.

The book works as a critical assessment of the Allende administration (which is why the real Bolaño was imprisoned).  But on to the story. (more…)

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