Monday, January 30, 2006

Time Is On My Side

Hey Googlers: so I'm the #1 search result when you search the terms "bandleader winding." It's always nice to be number one at something. But why, on today of all days, are so many of you searching "bandleader winding?" It's sending my traffic to the moon, and while I'm thrilled, I'm really curious. Please let me know in the comments section -- I'm dying to know what's up.

Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.
Everybody knows that the Stones are the greatest band in rock music, hands-down. Their ability to write songs of universal joy, sadness, and badassery is almost incomprehensible, considering that they started out as a couple of privileged, possibly prissy ponces from England.

The Rolling Stones' ability to write astonishing rock songs is only exceeded by their ability to cover even more astounding songs by actual black people and brand them forever in the public consciousness. Case in point: Time Is On My Side, a rock radio staple since the Stones covered it in 1964.

Charlie Watts and the boys (you never read that phrase, do you) may have thought that they were covering Irma Thomas's rendition of the tune, released a month or so prior. However, Thomas herself was covering a tune orginally released in October 1963 by Kai Winding and his Orchestra.

Winding was a bandleader and trombone player extraordinaire. You don't usually think the of the trombone as a buttery, elegant, tear-jerking instrument, especially in the hands of a cracker like the vanilla pillar you see on the right, above, next to a young Miles Davis. And it's not, at least on this track.


Winding's trombone would etch a cosmic pattern kissed by silver-tongued angels straight onto your eardrums if it were not for The Enchanters' soaring, ecstatic vocals. The lead singer (whose name I can't find at the moment) teeters on the brink of screaming in righteous, ecstatic agony without ever quite slipping into a maudlin trench of self-pity. The lyrics themselves are incredibly minimal, simply "Time is on my side ... you'll come running back to me."

The song doesn't need anything else. Winding's trombone provides the melody that Ron Wood and his gang of louts smeared over with words in their more famous release.

I've listened to this song at least fifteen times today, and it has not stopped sending tiny electric ripples over the surface of my skin. As I recline here at my desk, alone, on the sixteenth listening, I feel the same way I did at the first: I am exhilarated and sweetly exhausted, as though I'm laughing after a tremendous cry and resolving that things will be different as the tear-tracks fade into the rest of my face. The world is brighter, like a particularly nasty storm has just moved away and the sunlight seems so sweet. Wilson Pickett's version of the same song plays immediately after and it feels like a tepid exercise from a brokedown hack.

Males are not allowed to cry in contemporary American cultures, and I think that's exactly why the obsessive love of pop music is largely the dominion of dudes: it allows us to feel what our culture does not. We don't have the necessary emotional safety valve that women have, and so we bottle everything up, drink too much and fall in love with pop music. I'm not saying it's healthy or good, but it's gotten us this far.

So after all that hot balloon juice, here's the song itself:

Time Is On My Side, by Kai Winding and The Enchanters

This song will be available for seven days, or until 25 people download it, whichever comes first. If you do go to download it and it's no longer there, please leave me a message in the comments section. This will both let me know that it's time to re-upload it, and give me some idea of how many people are actually paying attention out there...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

You Can't Have 'Blogs' Without 'Logs'

Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.
As I am gently bringing this blog out of cryogenic hibernation, I'm really beginning to take a look at the blogosphere at large, with special attention focused on the D.C. blogging scene. Blogs are everywhere in this town and the world at large -- everyone's got such a robust blogroll, they're quoted in the news, on TV, everywhere.

I work for a super-huge new media company, and my God, it's all we talk about, blogs and blogging. Everyone has a blog. The popular ones aren't even necessarily that good ... they're just regular as hell. Among a particular demographic, blogging has become an excretory function.

Think about it.

We are toddlers fascinated with the funkiest, most primal act of creation. "Look, world," we shout excitedly, "look what we made, all by ourselves! And we even found a place for it!"

Some posts are loose, messy rambling things that stink to high heaven. Others are tight, compact and terse, revealing a high-fiber diet and a real understanding of grammar. Sometimes I've got to clench real hard just to get a half-decent post out, and sometimes nothing comes for days on end.

When I don't write I feel all thick, listless, and poisoned. Ultimately, in an era where media washes over through us like tachyons or dark matter traveling in time, it's all we can do to say "I like this and dislike that for these reasons," in a public forum, asserting to the world that we are who we are and we stand for some serious shit.

It doesn't matter that you hunker down and push out a big fat blog every day, just the same as me, that you, too like Lost and we both hate the Dave Matthews Band. No matter what you read or how much you write, the corn in this piece of shit is gonna cut a different constellation, and one day that constellation's going to take the shape of an oracle that can see the fucking future.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Show Must Go On

"It's come down to this," I muttered to myself, gently prying toddler fingers off the giant false raisins sewn to my chest. The kids swarmed around my ratty gingerbread man costume like a horde of tiny zombies, grabbing everything in sight. They had to get out of my way before Mean Mister Fox found me and I sprinted for my life. I didn't give a flying fuck about the costume, but I'd trampled some midget-digits up in Towson and still heard the shrieks in my dreams.

"I'm 22 years old with a Bachelor's degree in art, and I feed myself by dressing up in a Gingerbread Boy costume and escaping from a large, sweaty woman wearing fake fur ears and a long fox tail."

The kids' gleeful shrieks gave me away to Mean Mister Fox the same way they had at the one o'clock show in Baltimore, the ten o'clock in Georgetown, and the way they would at the six-thirty in Mechanicsville. She huffed her way over to me, and I took off. No matter how impressionable a kid is, they know that the Gingerbread Boy is always faster than Mean Mister Fox, and that meant a good running start for me. I'd cleared most of the little guys out of the way and bolted for the crumbling plywood set.

Most of the little guys were out of the way, but one was not. He lunged at the last second, just in time for my knee to connect squarely with his soft little skull, sending him spinning like a puppet into a heap of his friends. If the impact hurt my knee, which toted 220 pounds of dude around all day, it must have given that little guy a freaking learning disability.

As a professional children's entertainer, I knew that the show must go on. No matter how loud the audience, how huge the emergency, the kids were usually just fine in my book. I just had to get from one line to the next, keep moving towards my partner's cues so she could say her lines, giving me the chance to say mine, and we would march briskly through the play and into the relative comfort of the drafty tour van in the parking lot. The play was meant to take an hour. Some days the costumes were off and the grimy props back in the basket in forty-five minutes.

That's what professionals do. They look at a dirty, nasty, soul-sucking job and go into it with a stiff upper lip, completing the task with ruthless efficiency. I performed that play like I dug ditches that winter: badly, but with a frantic energy.

The kid's initial shock gave way to enormous keening moans. In another context, the sound could be the relaxing moans of distant whales...but this just meant that the kid was warming up.

I told myself that the show had to go on, and I must be professional at all costs. The only thing that scared me more than seeing an angry teacher was seeing that screaming, injured child, looking him in the eyes while I failed to calm him down. "The show must go on, the show must go on, the show must go on," I chanted to myself as I rocked back and forth.

I waited and waited for my next cue. The moans faded to receding snuffles, meaning that some qualified adult had picked up the child whose brainpan I had dented and spirited him away. My cues came. Things were normal again.

We whistled through the play together, Mister Fox and I, a tandem Japanese bullet train of children's theater. Punch lines faded into setups which blurred into the singalong number that closed the show. We were taking our bows before the throbbing in my knee subsided. During the curtain call I saw my victim in the front row, clutching a blanket and gaping up at me, wide-eyed, his mouth the off-center hole in what looked like a glazed doughnut. Tears and mucus commingled, neglected bullet casings in a murder scene that had long been cleared away.

"Are you okay? I am so so sorry," I said, lamely. I offered him a hug. He didn't take it. The teacher smiled at me, saying "he's fine, he's going to be fine. They always have a big reaction at this age. Don't you know that?"

"I'm so sorry, ma'am," I burbled, stammering and stumbling. "It's okay, I promise," she said. "You had to keep going, and he was fine anyway...I understand, and it's not a big deal."

I tried to apologize to him more and shake his little hand, which he reluctantly gave me. As soon as I grasped it, he turned and crawled away to join some friends that were hugging Mean Mister Fox.

That's the thing about being a professional -- sometimes you have to move your personal feelings out of the way to get the job done right.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Electronic Mistress Deigns to Tickle My Nipples

I spend all damn day and night in front of a glowing electronic rectangle. It feeds me, entertains me, makes me feel close to my friends and alienates me from my neighbors. Here's why:

The Great Zucchini

Gene Weingarten is a humor columnist at the Washington Post. He writes a weekly column, hosts an online chat, and occasionally coughs out feature-length pieces so brilliant that I consider having them tattooed on my face in bold, bold letters.

The Peekaboo Paradox is, frankly, a work of immersive journalistic genius. It's a profile of Eric Knaus, bka The Great Zucchini, an insanely popular children's entertainer here in D.C. He pulls in over 100 grand a year by making kids wet their pants with laughter at birthday parties. He owes almost all of this money to bookies, and is in the grips of a terrible, terrific gambling problem. He's warm, sensitive, demented, and fucked up like all great artists. Weingarten really communes with him in this piece and gives us a loving, sensitive portrait of an unlikely artist and hero. For real.


But once you read that, make sure and read the today's transcript of Gene's online chat. He fields a lot of negative comments and criticism, gives us outtakes and a look behind the scenes. The story gets multi-dimensional when Knaus himself and several friends post, and at one point an available mom hits on Knaus right there in front of everyone. It's the new new electronically enabled journalism at its greatest.

Stairwell 1

Mr. Babylon is an ESL teacher in the Bronx somewhere. His kids are immigrants, thugs, ADD cases and general misfits, and sometimes he hates them. Underneath that frustrated veneer is the loving passion of a man who is on a righteous path. Mr. Babylon chronicles his temptations, frustrations, failures and successes in such a raw, honest and real way that I keep high-fiving my screen at work and leaking silent tears of laughter. It's true. Until I get through his archives, I'm not gonna get a damn thing done.

Forgiven Onesheet

My man Eric Bryant was the art director on Forgiven, which is now screening at Sundance. He made that poster you see up there. Nice, huh?

The film itself is a lean, indie film about a black man on death row who is pardoned as the attorney who wrongly prosecuted him runs for public office. It's written, directed by, and stars Paul Fitzgerald, a friendly, funny, and insanely gifted man in his late thirties who has worn midriff-baring sweaters to New Year's Day parties in Brooklyn for at least two years in a row. Clearly this man knows the meaning of risk. He's got the skills (and the abs) to pull off all these stunts and land on both feet smiling.

Here's a link to a trailer for the film...and here's Eric's Sundance blog, featuring occasional posts by Paul Fitzgerald.

That's all I got for now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

'Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal'

2001: Corporate Headquarters

My socks gave up the ghost just after lunch. They had been valiantly resisting a the descent from wearable to nasty all morning. Their little sock immune systems shut down at about 1:30 and the sock bodies slumped, giving way to the partially decomposed, paste-like state that all socks pushed a day past their breaking point eventually assume.

By two p.m. it hit me: I have not been out from under a roof for over 24 hours. I have not felt sun hit my skin or the wind on my face for an entire earth's cycle. If the atmosphere outside my office window had completely converted to methane, I would have had no idea until someone emailed me and told me to start holding my breath.

I go from a feral little apartment down to a parking garage, into a car, which eventually parks in another parking garage that connects to my office. My office has 2 gyms and 2 cafeterias and a convenience store in it. At night i reverse the process, moving through chilly concrete airlocks to the safety of my coworkers' SUV, and then back to my slightly more feral apartment.

I am convinced that the forces of mold, decomposition, and kipple enjoy a heightened sense of reproductive power inside my apartment. The kipple seems strong and happy each night, and my sock's immune systems are becoming more pathetic with each passing day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Who Cares How Big they Are



This is a great story about Jack White from the Sydney Morning Herald...his steez and yours, at least rock and roll philosophy-wise, are frighteningly similar.

I could kiss this man. The White Stripes are IMPORTANT, dude, important like Led Zeppelin and if the play it right they could even rattle the Stones. Hunter S. Thompson once described the Grateful Dead's first album as "the heaviest album in the world." I don't agree with that assessment of that album, but I feel it like he feels it every time I hear the White Stripes. They're so perfect and mainstream to boot and they deserve every second they get in the limelight.