Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Old Recording of You Aren't My Mother

[flyer by Ben]

Here is an old recording of the pre-YSC musical project, a trio called YOU AREN'T MY MOTHER. It's from a show at Goodbye Blue Monday on June 22, 2006.

I just stumbled across the recording while cleaning up some old files and figured I'd share it (if you'll allow me the self-indulgence). Enough time has passed since that particular show that I feel separate enough to avoid embarrassment. In fact, the music is sort of exciting to hear now, and it makes me miss that trio big time.

I'm having fun trying to pick out who's doing what during this song, which was definitely about 90% improvisation. Here's what I can make out, in close to chronological order...
Ben Kupstas: wine glasses, screwdriver on guitar, contact microphones, melodica, glockenspiel
André Joel Paul: toy glockenspiel, guitar
Nicole Bogatitus: toy accordion, big glockenspiel, melodica, coughing
I love that space that opens up about 2 and a half minutes in, and then gradually gives over to little then bigger bursts—first of timid and inquisitive noise-ideas, then of more expressive sound struggling toward awkward harmony. And I gotta say, I can't imagine today doing something like that whining guitar stuff that begins around 6:20, and which Nicole and André bathed in twinkling, droning comfort blankets. Not to throw bouquets at our past selves, but the dynamic is pretty awesome. Makes me feel like I'm getting less gutsy with music.

Here are some photos (all by the marvelous Julie Staub) from the show at which this was recorded...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Kryptonite (or "The Problem With Waiting For Superman, From Someone Who Hasn't Seen It")

I haven't seen Waiting for Superman, the new documentary from Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim, though several friends have recommended it. I was a little worried by what I'd read about the movie and its presentation of the plight of US education... This article by Rick Ayers goes point by point through the flaws in the premises of the film, regrettably confirming my fears.

"No Child Left Behind" was an abominable failure. I'm not sure "Race to the Top" is all that better. "Business models" are "market forces" are cynical and scary solutions to our problems with education. Competition and bribery schemes have no place in the classroom.

As Ayers writes:
Reform must be guided by community empowerment and strong evidence, not by ideological warriors or romanticized images of leaders acting like they’re doing something, anything. Waiting for Superman has ignored deep historical and systemic problems in education such as segregation, property-tax based funding formulas, centralized textbook production, lack of local autonomy and shared governance, de-professionalization, inadequate special education supports, differential discipline patterns, and the list goes on and on.

This article from The Huffington Post is also worth a read before you give your $11 to a misguided cause, more about fear-mongering rhetoric than informed engagement with teachers and students...
The real crisis in American education isn't teachers' unions preventing incompetent teachers from getting fired (as awful as that may be), it's the single-minded focus on standardized test scores that underlies everything from Bush's No Child Left Behind to Obama's Race to the Top to the charter schools lionized in the film. Real education is about genuine understanding and the ability to figure things out on your own; not about making sure every 7th grader has memorized all the facts some bureaucrats have put in the 7th grade curriculum...

The film has other flaws. It insists all of America's problems would be solved if only poor kids would memorize more: Pittsburgh is falling apart not because of deindustrialization, but because its schools are filled with bad teachers. American inequality isn't caused by decades of Reaganite tax cuts and deregulation, but because of too many failing schools. Our trade deficit isn't a result of structural economic factors but simply because Chinese kids get a better education. Make no mistake, I desperately want every kid to go to a school they love, but it seems far-fetched to claim this would solve all our country's other problems. At the end of the day, we have an economy that works for the rich by cheating the poor and unequal schools are the result of that, not the cause.

Thoughts? Has anyone seen the movie? Are these criticisms apropos?

Our friend Jason Livingston points to another new film tackling education as a better alternative to Waiting for Superman. Chekhov for Children by Sasha Waters-Freyer "tells the inspiring story of an ambitious undertaking – the 1979 staging on Broadway of Uncle Vanya by New York City 5th & 6th graders, directed by the celebrated writer Phillip Lopate." (Interestingly, one movie's title—the more successful of the two—has a fictitious hero demanding futile patience like Godot; the other has one of the greatest storytellers of all time alongside the most important thing in this whole debate: children.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Storm King

Storm King
Storm King Museum Building

Kenneth Snelson: Free Ride Home (1974)
Kenneth Snelson
Free Ride Home, 1974
Aluminum and stainless steel
360" x 720" x 720"

South Fields, Storm King Art Center (4 Sculptures by Mark di Suvero)
South Fields
4 pieces by Mark di Suvero, (l to r):
Pyramidian, 1986/1998; Steel; 56' x 46' x 46'
Beethoven's Quartet, 2003; Steel, stainless steel; 24' 7"x 30' x 23' 3"
Mon Père, Mon Père, 1973-75; Steel; 35' x 40' x 40' 4"
Mother Peace, 1969-70; Steel painted orange; 41' x 49' 5" x 44' 3"

Five Swords
Alexander Calder
Five Swords, 1976
Sheet metal, bolts and paint
213" x 264" x 348"

Andy Goldsworthy's Wall
Andy Goldsworthy
Storm King Wall, 1997-98
Field stone
Approximately 5' x 2,278' overall

Mother Peace
Mark di Suvero
Mother Peace, 1969-70
Steel painted orange
41' x 49' 5" x 44' 3"

Lone Tree

[All photos by BJK, shot on my dad's old Canon AE-1 with, I think, Kodak Gold film...]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Photo of the Day: Pixie Cups


(by NLB)

This is most likely Cladonia chlorophaea, sometimes known as "Pixie Cups" or "Trumpet Lichens." Like many lichens, it usually lives symbiotically with moss, as this batch is. These were growing on a wall at Opus 40 in the Catskills.

"Quickly forgotten was this forgetful way of life"

Seven New Songs of "Mount Eerie" (from the Internet Archive—props to Jon!):

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"What I have is nothing that you want..."

I've gotten to a point in my music consumption where the filters are thicker, the trusted sources fewer, and I basically ignore the endless stream of band names I hear getting hyped. This gradual narrowing of the net I cast to absorb new music has coincided with a return to older (tried and true) classics, perhaps out of nostalgia or maybe a retreat from the inundation of all the "now" stuff clogging the cultural pores. I'm all for the democratization of creative channels; I fully support the idea of every kid having a garage band, all of us putting out our own 7 inches and chap books and blogs and videos and... And all this is to say: it's still nice when some band I've been ignoring—some trendy duo with a goofy name and one-trick gimmick—turns out to have a pretty excellent song...

There's always more room for songs like that.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"And I can't sleep, cuz you got strange powers.."

Strange Powers, the documentary about Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, opens at Film Forum next Wednesday, October 27. There will be two screenings with special appearances by the band. There will also be an exhibit of TMF-related photography at Other Music. Info is below:
An exhibition in conjunction with the theatrical release of the documentary film Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, featuring photographs by Gail O'Hara, Emma Straub for M+E and TMF's guitarist-banjoist John Woo, among others. All Magnetic Fields-related items will be on sale.

OTHER MUSIC: 15 East 4th Street NYC

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"It Gets Better" (We ♥ Joel Burns)

I'm sure you've all already seen this, but it's worth watching again (get some tissues ready)...

And props to Google for this...

And many kudos to Dan Savage for starting this viral/vital project. Visit the It Gets Better Project to see more videos.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"The greatest danger to our future is apathy."

Gombe: 50 Years of Research and Inspiration from The Jane Goodall Institute on Vimeo.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jane Goodall's groundbreaking research in Tanzania. I attended a lecture by Goodall at Cornell years ago, and she was one of the most inspiring people I've ever seen.

Visit the Jane Goodall Institute HERE.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Mirages Are Real": Tom McCarthy's C

[Click HERE to skip the below ramblings and musings and just read my review of C for The L Magazine.]

As anyone who's spoken to me in the past few months surely already knows, C is a book that's catalyzed a bit of an obsession in me. It's a startling triumph of a novel, a punch in the gut. It was nearly impossible to condense my thoughts into the 500 words that made it to print, or even into the longer version that appears online.

I think it was the Time Out New York review that aptly compared the book to a Swiss lock, and the pieces keep falling into place well after the last page. The book and all its transmissions linger and haunt beyond the reading, frequencies bouncing around and triggering streams of association. It's funny: I'm finishing that Lost City of Z book now, and all over I catch traces of C (in the mentions of early Marconi-grams, Percy Fawcett's forays into spiritualism, and elsewhere), McCarthy's tropes and philosophies embroidering themselves onto my reading and observation of news articles and internet ephemera and radio broadcasts. In other words, this one stays with you.

There is so much I couldn't touch on in my allotted space, and I'll ramble on here since no one's stopping me. Lately, I've been thinking more about the twin themes of channeling and tunneling in the novel. Clearly, there's a whole lot of interesting convergent meaning between these words...


Silje Nes - Crystals from One Little Indian Records on Vimeo.

Read about Silje's last album HERE.

Get her new album HERE.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"To Be Young"

I saw David Rawlings a bunch of months ago, and my oh my was he good. I could try to explain why, but see for yourself (and bear in mind that these videos do no justice to the energy and good ol' showmanship of the live show):

Friday, October 8, 2010

Drowning in Nostalgia: Grant Lee Buffalo

I think there was a period in high school when I would have said that Grant Lee Buffalo was among my top 5 favorite bands. I haven't listened to them much in recent years, but Mighty Joe Moon still sounds pretty exceptional even now, 16 years later (it really is nuts, isn't it?).

The band has apparently been swept up in all the 90s nostalgia. They'll be joining the wave of last decade's alt-rock heroes and have-beens reuniting in recent years—Pixies, Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, umm... Hole. Some tour dates are already scheduled, including a Bowery Ballroom show on February 5.

They really are one of those underrated bands that doesn't quite get the credit they deserve. Grant Lee Phillips had such a distinctive voice and songwriting sensibility amidst an otherwise bland period of grunge hucksterism. I imagine they'd have been more acknowledged had they not been caught up in the major-label usurpation of indie music post-Nirvana. I know Phillips has gone on to a respected solo career, but it's nice to see the band having another go at it.

"Rock of Ages" (from Captains Dead)

How completely 90s is this video?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"epic" (Sharon Van Etten's New Album, and Some Thoughts)

The new album from Sharon Van Etten, our favorite Brooklyn chanteuse, is out today. It's (called) epic, with a lowercase 'e'. Initially, I was a bit put off by the new full-band sound. I missed the starkness of the previous recordings, craving more minimal accompaniments that didn't distract from or compete with that voice that can silence any rowdy room. But I'm happy to say it's growing on me. The voice is still there at the center: it's a bit more confident, but just as stirringly vulnerable.

Walking back from her show at the Rock Shop a couple months ago, my friend Max and I vented our frustrations about the inevitable trajectory of solo musicians becoming more confident, bigger, louder, less vulnerable. For those of us who like our music raw and flawed, the development of too much polish and proficiency can be cause for alarm. We want sad musicians to stay sad, for timid performers to resist assuredness. We value insecurities and don't want them chipped away by encouragement and success. Cat Power, someone always brought up in reviews of SVE, is a classic example. Will Oldham could arguably serve as a more bearded case. Some of this, I'm sure, is that unfortunate possessiveness we feel for our favorite artists, the paradoxical desire for them to stay small and niche—personal to you and the initiated few. We hope broader attention won't corrupt what we discovered, plundering the personal, severing the intimate connection we have when it's just a guitar and a voice and a dimly lit room full of lucky souls. It can be tough letting our favorite singers surround their voices with more sound, filling up the once lonely spaces. It can be tough just letting them grow...

At the last YSC show, I began to play Sharon's (still unreleased) "Give Out"—probably my favorite song of hers for its brutal emotional simplicity and heartbreaking encapsulation of a relationship's fate—at the end of the set. It was a particularly rough show. I stopped playing as soon as I opened my mouth. I gave up, not out, because I knew I wouldn't make it through those lyrics in the state I was in. It says a lot that I'd have a tougher time overcoming the weight of someone else's words than my own. I sang a song about moths and flashlights instead.

Two songs:

"One Day" (from Said the Gramophone)

"Don't Do It" (from Jonk Music)

(You can also find the breathtaking "Love More," my favorite song from the album, HERE.)

And here is Sharon playing on the radio and talking a bit about her newfound confidence:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Other People's Lives, Pt. 2: Beg


I feel like an entire book could be written about this photograph. There are so many fantastic details: the hand descending with what looks like a Communion wafer; the dog awaiting eagerly, lip-lickingly; the odd seating arrangement; those (dirty but amazingly patterned) floor tiles!; those paws!; those pants! ... Is that gum on his shoe?

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Ethnomusicologist Hugo Zemp documented this mesmerizing performance of traditional 'Are'are bamboo music.

From Britannica:
The ‘Are‘are people of Malaita, in the Solomon Islands, distinguish four types of panpipe ensemble and more than 20 musical types. The music of panpipe ensembles enjoys the highest prestige among the ‘Are‘are. They have an extensive system of thought about music that centres on ‘au, their word for bamboo, the material of which panpipes are made.