Saturday, February 07, 2009

Senate Republicans: We Like America Dumb.

From the list of items cut from the Senate version of the stimulus bill:

  • $1 billion for Head Start/Early Start
  • $600 million for Title I (No Child Left Behind)
  • $16 billion for school construction
  • $3.5 billion for higher education construction
  • $100 million for distance learning
  • $200 million for National Science Foundation
Apparently, at some point, some morons decided that education funding="pork." And besides, it's not like education has any tangible economic stimulus benefits. (Nor will I mention that undereducation has the added benefit of making most of the American public docile and easily governed... Well, I guess I just did mention it.)

Here's hoping some of that education funding makes it back into the bill in conference.

Saturday Story Hour: Millhauser On Language

This, my friends, is what we call "Saturday Story Hour."

This week, Fosco has a real treat for you: a story from one of the NYTimes's ten best books of 2008. The story collection is Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser and it's absolutely amazing. Fosco devoured this book last week and, in his estimation, it is second only to Bolaño's 2666 as the best book of last year.

You may be familiar with Millhauser, who has written several thrilling collections previously. You've probably heard of his story "Eisenheim the Illusionist," which served as the inspiration for the film The Illusionist. You may recall his 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer. And if you've never read Dressler's story "The Knife Thrower," you should find a way to read it ASAP.

The Times recommendation for Dangerous Laughter describes Millhauser as a

a master fabulist in the tradition of Poe and Nabo­kov [who] invents spookily plausible parallel universes in which the deepest human emotions and yearnings are transformed into their monstrous opposites.
Spooky is a good adjective here: I tend to read Millhauser short stories with a strange breathlessness.

It's hard to choose a story from Dangerous Laughter to recommend, because they're all so good. I love "The Disappearance of Elaine Coleman" and "The Tower" and "The Room in the Attic." The title story is also pretty amazing. But we are limited here, to an extent, by which stories are available in full text somewhere online. And so I'm linking you today to the story published in The New Yorker as "History of a Disturbance." It's a remarkable story about a businessman who begins to suspect the inadequacy of language in the face of actual experience. As the narrator notes, in an excellent line:
I began to wonder whether anything I had ever said was what I had wanted to say. I began to wonder whether anything I had ever written was what I had wanted to write, or whether what I had wanted to write was underneath, trying to push its way through.
Fosco often finds himself talking with his undergrads about the problems with language as a "medium." He is pleased to have this story to illustrate the point quite clearly.

Read the story and drop your comments here, if you like.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Foie Gras Sale: Everything Must Go

"Foodie Friday" continues...

Welcome to the upside of the recession: good tables at good restaurants at good times at good prices.

According to this piece by Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, NYC's fine restaurants are begging for your business (and yes, that is acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten wearing a sandwich board printed with "You Won't Believe Our Deals!" How humbling...).

As Bruni notes,

Battered hard already by the recession and petrified of what’s to come, restaurants are talking sweet and reaching out in ways they didn’t six or even three months ago. They’re cutting special deals, adding little perks, relaxing demands and making an extra effort to be accessible.

They’ve seldom wanted you so bad, so they’ve rarely treated you so good. If you can still afford to dine out, you’re likely finding yourself enfolded in what the restaurateur Stephen Hanson— who recently closed two Manhattan restaurants, including Fiamma — describes as a big, tight embrace.
This embrace takes many forms: lower prix fixe prices, a more solicitous staff, cheap wine, prime reservation times. It's like Christmas for foodies (assuming you still have a job that will let you dine out). Well, and except for the part where lots of great restaurants are closing...

Fosco and Oz, intrepid boy reporters, plan to do some research on this phenomenon in San Francisco over the next month. We'll let you know what we discover.

Food of Tomorrow... Today!

Welcome to "Foodie Friday" here at Fosco Lives!

Let's kick some things off today with a bit of gastroporn--both professional and amateur. Fosco remains fascinated by the work that Grant Achatz does at his Chicago temple of molecular gastronomy, Alinea. Achatz was born in both the same year and the same state as Fosco, so he feels a natural connection with the star chef. At some point, you should read about Achatz's battle with tongue cancer--it's an amazing story.

Here are some professional pictures of Achatz's creations. One of his guiding principles is to create entirely new ways of tasting familiar flavors. This is "rhubarb."

And this is a "tomato" caterpillar:

And now here are three "amateur" photos of dishes that Fosco had on his visit to Alinea in December 2007. I don't know who took this (found it on image search; my own pic didn't really turn out), but the dish is called "Lamb in Cubism." There are two preparations of lamb plated onto colorful panes of sauce--each pane is a different sauce, focusing primarily on Mediterranean flavors (yogurt, mint, pomegranate, saffron, &c.). The idea is to mix and match.

The next two photos were taken by Fosco. This is a dish called "venison." Achatz is also very interested in the ways in which scents can impact flavor--so yes, that is an inedible juniper branch. Nestled inside the juniper is a super-heated river rock. On top of the river rock, a small venison roll is being seared. The roll contains marinated Japanese plum and is topped with candy cane shards. You eat it in one bite with chopsticks. (And in case you think this looks like too small a portion, recall that the Alinea tasting menu has something like twelve courses. Fosco was very full.)

This dish was one of the desserts. It's a tempura-battered fried pumpkin pie popsicle (frozen with liquid nitrogen) on a cinnamon stick that is set aflame (look at the tip).

And you see that Achatz custom-designed wire holder? They've been popping up at other restaurants recently (including Jean-Georges, where Fosco saw them last December). That's called influence.

UCSC on Colbert Report

UC Santa Cruz researchers have named a local elephant seal after Stephen Colbert. You can read all about "Stelephant Colbert" in this UCSC press release--humorously titled "I am elephant seals (and so can you!)" Well, the shameless bid for publicity paid off because last night on "The Colbert Report," Stephen led off the show by acknowledging UCSC (sort of) and his eponymous elephant seal:

True, Stephen does actually call us the "University of Santa Cruz"; but that's close enough, right? And how about the graphical shoutout to the Santa Cruz Sentinel? This may be the most national exposure Santa Cruz has had since it was "Murder Capital of the World" back in the 1970s.

You know, last year Fosco had tickets for the hike to the beach at Año Nuevo State Natural Reserve to see the mating elephant seals. Sadly, it was pouring rain on that day and Fosco just let the ticket go to waste (as if he would hike two miles in the rain!). Maybe he should try again this year--especially since it no longer seems to rain in Santa Cruz. Imagine the great pix of Stelephant Colbert that he could get (because I'm sure that elephant seals all look very different from each other--just like Jonas Brothers...).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fosco Reads What Your Nieces Are Reading

Succumbing to the pestering of several people in his life, Fosco finally read YA lit juggernaut Twilight this week. In case you've been living in Wasilla, Alaska for the past year, Twilight was a genuine pop culture phenomenon in 2008--and not just for teens and tweens. Apparently, there is a large group of Americans who want(ed) to date a vampire in high school. Or, as frequent Fosco Lives! commenter The BeeMistress put it: "everyone needs a boyfriend that sparkles." True enough: Fosco regularly sprinkles Oz with glitter while he sleeps.

So what can Fosco say about Twilight? Well, the short answer is that it's not as bad as he thought it would be (although it's not "good" by any means). It's even appealing enough for Fosco to read the next book in the series (he'll keep you updated with that project). And there are some interesting innovations that Mormon authoress Stephenie Meyer makes in the standard vampire lore, like the aforementioned sparkliness of vampires (but only in direct sunlight).

And yet, at the same time, most of the book is a big ol' mess--from the standpoints of originality, consistency, narrative, and politics. Here are some of Fosco's observations:

  • The story is about a high school girl who falls in love with a vampire who resists his natural urges to feed on humans. Yet, they can never consummate their love physically. In the end, he takes her to prom. You know, I actually liked that story quite a bit when I heard it the first time--when it was called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
  • This is less a fantasy novel than a romance novel. If you're looking for Harry Potter or The Golden Compass, you'll be disappointed. There is the skeleton of an adventure story in the book, but it is downplayed (even at its climax) by the romance. One might suggest that the "suspenseful" preface is misleading, as it suggests a much more eventful novel. I think Meyer was pretty careless there.
  • Speaking of careless: on page 97, our heroine Bella gets nauseous and almost faints at the sight of blood. Forty pages earlier, in the emergency room, she watches as classmate Tyler is treated for cuts:
    I recognized Tyler Crowley from my Government class beneath the bloodstained bandages wrapped tightly around his head.
    As we spoke, nurses began unwinding his soiled bandages, exposing a myriad of shallow slices all over his forehead and left cheek.
    Hmmm. It makes you wonder if anyone edited this book at all.
  • Why does Bella, who is apparently a good student, have to hate math? Could we maybe someday find a girl in fiction who likes math? Or who doesn't really care either way? Some parts of this novel read like they were written by Larry Summers.
  • Maybe I will sound like a teen boy here, but shouldn't there be some fighting in a novel about vampires? And if you are going to describe the one very specific way that vampires can be killed, shouldn't that actually happen somewhere in the novel? It's not that I need violence; it's just that there was an implicit promise of maybe just a little...
  • Here's a weird little sentence:
    I concentrated on the news, watching out for stories about Florida, or about [baseball] spring training--strikes or hurricanes or terrorist attacks--anything that might send them home early. (421)
    Why would anyone think to include "terrorist attacks" on a list of things that might cancel baseball spring training? It just seems like a ludicrous thought. If I'd been editing this novel (and somebody should have been), I would have crossed that out immediately.
  • Is it possible that the whole novel is just religious propaganda for sexual abstinence?
  • And speaking of propaganda, can you imagine a Creationist vampire? Vampire Edward:
    "Or, if you don't believe that all this world could have just happened on its own, which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both our kinds together?" (308)
    I'm not sure what Edward has been doing with his time since he became a vampire in 1918, but apparently college hasn't been part of it.
  • You know what this book is? It's tween girl p*rn. I use the word p*rn here in the sense of material that is designed to evoke comforting yet unrealistic fantasies on the part of specific consumers. (And I don't use the actual word here because I don't really fancy either Google or the FBI coming across a phrase like "tween girl p*rn" on this website.) And what tween girl fantasy is in play here? Think about this:
    While he walked me to English, when he met me after Spanish, all through the lunch hour, he questioned me relentlessly about every insignificant detail of my existence. Movies I'd liked and hated, the few places I'd been and the many places I wanted to go, and books--endlessly books.
    I couldn't remember the last time I'd talked so much. More often than not, I felt self-conscious, certain I must be boring him. But the absolute absorption of his face, and his never-ending stream of questions, compelled me to continue. (229)
    (I'll note here in passing that, despite their shared interest in "books--endlessly books," never do we see Edward reading one and we certainly never see him and Bella discussing one. Books just aren't sexy enough to make it into this narrative.) So what tween girl fantasy is being served here? Clearly, it's the fantasy of a (gorgeous) boy who wants to know everything about them--and who finds it all totally fascinating. Our culture has spent the better part of the last few decades convincing our children that each and every one of them is a precious unique snowflake; naturally, the next logical step is for these snowflake children to want to talk (endlessly) about what makes them so precious and unique.

    Now I'm not saying that each child isn't genetically unique and morally precious; however, I am saying that there is no tween girl (or boy) in this country that has anything interesting to say about their interests, their thoughts, or their lives. They all like the Jonas Brothers, they all wish their parents would treat them more like adults, and they all want to go to the beach for summer vacation. More or less. But before you think I'm being unfair to tweens, let me note that there are very few adults who are more interesting. Most of us like Coldplay, wish we didn't have to work, and want a new flat-screen television (I know I do). My point here is that "every insignificant detail of [our] existence" is just not interesting. Ever. And you just aren't going to find someone (especially someone as gorgeous as Edward) who is actually that interested in it. Either that person is faking or brain-damaged.

    But wait, you say, what's wrong with reading a book that plays to this fantasy? Isn't YA lit all about fantasy? I guess. There is certainly something to be said for escapism. But isn't YA lit also about finding ways to negotiate the adult world? And in the same way that gay porn is a pretty bad guide to the real world of sex (the pizza delivery boy is never hot in real life and, even if he were, he would never join Fosco and Oz for a threesome), books like Twilight are not going to be very helpful when it comes to crafting a meaningful romantic relationship.
As you probably know from reading this blog, Fosco is not above trashy books (does Gossip Girl ring a bell?). And so, even with all these flaws, Fosco isn't going to advocate burning Twilight in a giant Sarah Palin-inspired bonfire. However, he can still wish it were a better, less silly book. And he can also wish for a more thoughtful, more intelligent heir to the Harry Potter "tweentertainment" throne.

Guess Who's Poor Now! (Besides Fosco)

The list of victims in Bernard Madoff's evil Fonzie scheme was released late yesterday. The client list is 162 pages long(!) and (oddly) organized by first name. However, Fosco knows that you, the Fosco Lives! reader, count on him to break news for you. And so, Fosco spent almost a half hour last evening skimming various random pages of this list, looking for famous or notable names.

Here are a couple of semi-notable names that Fosco found (and yes, he has already contacted the proper media outlets):

You can find the complete list here, along with a slideshow of some other famous victims (including, sadly, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Gay Books Just As Unwanted As Straight Books

As bookstores not named Barnes & Noble or Borders go out of business across our post-literate nation, gay bookstores are not immune. As reported in the Times (by homosexual Harvard alum Sewell Chan), the first gay bookstore in this country, the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in Greenwich Village, will close.

I guess it's no surprise that gay literature isn't popular enough to keep a store afloat, even in Manhattan (I mean, have you talked to a gay man lately? Most of them can't read a greeting card, much less an Edmund White novel). But apparently, gay men don't even buy porn on paper anymore (thanks for nothing, internet!). Even so, I thought lesbians read books; but maybe they prefer to buy from the aptly-named Amazon.

Toys of the Day

Fosco has mentioned before that Oz has caught something of a collection bug right now. And it's only getting worse, as Hasbro expands its Mighty Muggs line to include Transformers and GI Joe (yes, we're pretty much getting them all). No word yet on Battle of the Planets, but it's surely only a matter of time.

But Oz isn't the only one in this relationship who enjoys a nice plastic toy. Fosco has been smitten as of late by the creations of Miami art collaborative Friends With You. They've imported something of the Japanese toy aesthetic to the US, while playing up the sheer absurdity of it all by creating an accompanying bizarre metaphysics and cosmogony (think Hello Kitty crossed with Hinduism). Whatever it is, it's a hit at the international art fairs.

Fosco own a few of their plush creations (which are strangely cuddly; plus they have the added benefit of being completely inexplicable). But even better (and easier on the wallet) are their smaller plastic figures called "Wish Come True." Here's part of the lineup:

Each "Wish" figure is approx. 2-3" high and has a nice heft to it (we are not talking Happy Meal toys here--these are satisfying to touch and to hold). Each one has a bell embedded inside to make a variety of pleasing tinkling sounds. Each one also comes with a sticker!

Remember the part about weird metaphysics and cosmogony? Here are some samples:

POPA: Popa is little and he holds the key to your wishing potential and human ancestry.

MR. TTT: Mr. TTT is a shape shifting mystery! From wormholes to black holes he keeps making history. This cute little Mister is always a hit, whether shaped like a burger or a galactic peppermint.

COCO: Zozo is the universe and Coco is too. With all that power, what will you do?
This may seem annoying, but then again: what if it's charming?

The best part (especially for "Friends With You") is that the "Wish Come True" toys are sold "blind box"--meaning that you have to keep ordering to get complete your full set (and you will end up with some duplicates). There are also some secret figures that are not pictured anywhere. However, that's all part of the metaphysics of luck that reigns in the land of "Friends With You."

Wasillans Welcome

Fosco mentioned early last week that he was proud and excited to log his first Fosco Lives! visitors from China. Well, he's had one more Chinese hit since then (so much for his strategy to get blocked by Chinese censors). But, this excitement pales in comparison to Fosco's absolute thrill to see a visit last week from Governor MooseMunch's illustrious hometown, Wasilla, Alaska! It's true! Here's the relevant portion of Fosco's site traffic report:

To tell the truth, Fosco is a bit obsessed with Wasilla. After all, it's the location of so many important sites in recent political history, such as

But Wasilla isn't just great for its tour of Palin idiocy. Apparently, they have some other idiots as well. The town was the 2003 Duct Tape Capital of the World, after the Wasilla WalMart sold more duct tape in 2002 than any other WalMart in the world. I would hate to speculate why a town of seven thousand people would need so much duct tape, but I suspect it has something to do with meth labs, taxidermy, and incest.

Oh, and did I mention that Wasilla is beautiful? I didn't? That's because it's not. Here is the splash page of the official City of Wasilla website:

Go ahead, click on the picture and look at it full size. And then tell me what you see. As far as Fosco can tell from this picture, Wasilla is a traffic light, a Burger King sign, and some sort of factory.

Why in the world would any city choose that picture to represent itself on its official website? Fosco has lived in (or near) some hellholes in his peripatetic life, but even the worst of them have (misleadingly) beautiful pictures on their official websites. Even if your town isn't beautiful and you don't want to lie, you could still put up pictures of snowmobiles or something. Or the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex. I mean, hasn't Wasilla learned the most important lesson of Sarah Palin? You can polish a turd.

And to think, this is the town that Governor MooseMunch proudly claims as the "real America." [Fosco shudders.]

Of course, Wasilla residents are always welcome here at Fosco Lives! Maybe this site can provide a public service by offering a window into the world of books, art, and urban life. Fosco would also like to extend a special welcome to the queer youth of Wasilla: there is a world outside of Wasilla. Come join us.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Two Armies Clash in the Mushroom Kingdom...

Oz's flatmate has an eleven-year-old daughter who comes by on weekends. This past weekend, she was working on a project (for junior high) that required her to create her own chess set (Fosco's junior high never assigned creative projects like that; and I'm not sure any of the teachers knew what "chess" is.). She came up with the idea to make an all Super Mario chess set. She and her dad spent much of last week sculpting the characters out of clay. Oz pitched in and sculpted one of the Yoshi figurines. Fosco's contribution was to doubt from afar that the whole thing would work (he's an eternal pessimist).

It turns out Fosco was wrong, because it came out totally cool. Here are the "good guys":

The "bad guys" are a little trickier: who would you pair up as the King and Queen? Oddly enough, L chose to make a cross-species evil romance between Bowser and Donkey Kong. And no, I'm not sure who's the top and who's the bottom. But it's still cool.

The Bishops there are Mario and Luigi's evil doppelgangers, Wario and Waluigi (for those of you who stopped following all of this sometime around Super Mario World). Here's the detail:

Remember: this is done entirely with clay and poster paints (no molds or models)! Impressive, no?

Zombies are the new vampires

As Fosco noted in an earlier post, the city of Austin was overrun by zombies last weekend. The news was even reported (oddly enough) in the China Daily, which led with this bizarre sentence:

Computer-controlled road signs in the US warned that zombies were ahead after being hacked by pranksters, it has been revealed.
The "it has been revealed" is a very puzzling yet appealing clause, yes? I bet that pretty much sums up news in China: news doesn't happen, it gets revealed.

But anyway, yesterday we learned that there are zombies in yet another Austin: Jane (Austen). According to this piece in the Times, Quirk Books is releasing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:
the book includes the original text of the Regency classic, juiced up with “all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.”
The Times article notes that the famous first line of Austen's classic has been re-written quite well:
We at the Book Review strive to drive a stake through the heart of all reincarnations of Austen’s most famous opening line, but the version in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is actually pretty good: “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
Which means that, if you're a literature person, you're already thinking of other famous lines from novels that could be zombified...

Here are Fosco's contributions:
  • "Reader, I ate him." (Zombie Jane Eyre)
  • "It is a far, far better brain that I eat, than I have ever eaten." (A Tale of Two Zombies)
  • "Mrs. Dalloway said she would eat the brains herself." (Zombie Mrs. Dalloway)
  • "My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my zombie tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Rrrrgh. So, I called myself Rrrrgh, and came to be called Rrrrgh." (Great Zombie Expectations)
  • "Since Bovary's death three doctors have followed one another at Yonville without any success, so severely did Zombie Homais eat their brains. He has an enormous practice; the authorities treat him with consideration, and public opinion protects him. He has just received the cross of the Zombie Legion of Honour." (Zombie Madame Bovary)
  • "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling
    faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of
    their last end, upon all the dead and the undead." (Joyce's "The Un-Dead")
  • "Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Or is there? The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Except that he wasn't." (A Zombie Christmas Carol)
Try your own--it's fun!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Being Patti Scialfa

Music Monday concludes...

Fosco hopes you watched the rollicking Super Bowl halftime concert featuring the (apparently) ageless Bruce Springsteen (that man has more energy at age 60 than Fosco had at 16). It's a fun set, with smart art direction (the low "video wall" in the background is pure genius--Bruce should use that at all of his live shows). The highlight, however, is when Bruce does one of his trademark knee slides and plants his, er, crotch firmly into the lens of the camera. It happens in this video at 3:19:

Perhaps we have a candidate for a new definition in the Urban Dictionary: "Springsteen Super Bowl Slide: teabagging with a running start." Yes?

An Afternoon Tango

Music Monday continues...

Composer John Mackey is making this "Music Monday" afternoon very easy on Fosco. With perfect timing, he just posted on his blog a streaming recording of his excellent "Redline Tango." It's a hell of a showpiece and this recording (by the BBC Orchestra) is exceptional (they make it almost lurid). You can read John's introduction and listen to the streaming audio here. I recommend you do so.

Super Bowl Memories

Well, it's been almost a day since the Arizona Cardinals won Super Bowl XLIII. Well, at least they should have won: Warner's final "fumble" was not even close to a fumble. But hey, the fix was in. Anyway, for what it's worth, Fosco refuses to recognize the Steelers' victory.

However, at least we've finally settled which quarterback God loves more (don't cry, Kurt and Brenda--you've still got each other. And seven kids.).

Fosco and Oz watched the game with Oz's close friends and their children (Oz's godchildren, incidentally). Fosco's favorite line of the day was from Amanda, age 9:

AMANDA: "I'm in a play at school."
FOSCO: "What play?"
AMANDA: "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
FOSCO: [thinking to himself: Are you an Oompa-Loompa?] "What do you play?"
AMANDA: "I'm an Oompa-Loompa!"
FOSCO: "Yes. Yes you are."

We got to see her dance and everything. Some elementary school music teacher has a very good sense of humor.

"The Dyke Who Will Give It To You"

Bienvenue à "Music Monday" here at Fosco Lives!

On Friday night, Fosco and Oz saw the Amy Ray show at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz. Amy is the butch-er half of the Indigo Girls, probably the most important band for Fosco in college. During those college years (think early to mid-nineties), the Indigo Girls were especially popular (particularly within Fosco's specific peer group at Harvard). And this popularity led inevitably to the one essential question that Fosco debated numerous times: who is your favorite Indigo Girl (and what does that say about you)?

At the time, Fosco was a solid Emily Saliers partisan. Fosco preferred her prettier songs, her smoother voice, her gentleness. Amy, in contrast, wrote raucous tracks (like "Chickenman"), had a rougher voice, and just seemed too... prickly (of course, in person and in concert, they were both equally gracious). If you think this commitment was trivial at the time, then you've forgotten what college was like. During freshman year, Fosco was actually told by the (female) object of his affection that their relationship couldn't last because she loved Amy and Fosco loved Emily. Of course, the object of Fosco's affection was right about the relationship, although it wasn't Indigo incompatibility that doomed it (rather, it had something to do with Fosco's interest in sex with men). Regardless, Fosco's preference for Emily was an important part of his musical identity for many years after.

But it turns out that one's favorite Indigo Girl is not as stable as one's sexual orientation, because at some point in his late twenties, Fosco came to appreciate and to prefer Amy Ray. Most of this has been due to her three solo albums:

Stag (2001): At first, Fosco didn't quite know what to make of this CD. It was a lot more raw and a lot darker than her Indigo Girls work; it was also much more like rock than folk. And he was turned off by songs like "Johnny Rottentail" and song titles like "Hey Castrator." But when he returned to it several years later, he was surprised to discover some totally excellent songs like "Measure Of Me" and, believe it or not, "Hey Castrator" (a really good song if you can overlook the title). From "Measure Of Me":

The boy he thinks I'm damaged goods.
I know he does and I guess he should.
I dress like him, I take him down.
He gets embarrassed when his friends come around.

I want to take him to the show,
I'm crossing over what you know.
Is it the boy you need in me,
or the girl that you could be?
Amy has something of an obsession with high school; however, this is the kind of truth about high school that very few singers tell. This is queer high school, baby!

Prom (2005): Fosco listened to this CD at the behest of Todd, and it immediately became one of Fosco's favorite CDs of that year. It's Amy's most extended meditation on high school. Fosco still listens to several tracks regularly (like the perfect teenage anthem "Put It Out For Good" and the surprisingly moving "Rural Faggot"). "Put It Out For Good" has an infectious rhythm, as well as this impossibly catchy stanza:
The stadium lights were breaking through the bleachers
I spent all day pushing tissue roses into chicken wire
Hey S.G.A., I’m an overachiever of the wrong persuasion
A pep rally kid, a new gender nation with a new desire
The compression of meaning in those lines is really amazing.

Didn't It Feel Kinder (2009): Amy's third solo album is more polished in some ways, and even more guitar heavy. Her songwriting remains relentlessly autobiographical and often political. There are some powerful tunes here, although the lyrics aren't always up to her earlier standards. For pure "rock out with your socks out" fun, you can't go wrong with "Bus Bus." And "Out On The Farm" is easily one of the most beautiful songs she's ever written.

The show at the Rio turned out to be a really good showcase for Amy's music. The Rio is a strange venue--it's a former movie theater, and it retains the rippled velvet curtains on the walls and the gently sloping theater rows. The seats are excellently comfy, though. The sound is good, but the lighting is terrible (all of Fosco's pictures turned out badly). The crowd was a good size (approx. 150) and the vibe was something like "lesbian speed dating." Fosco and Oz were the only gay male couple there; however, Fosco has always been secretly lesbian-identified, so he felt right at home.

Amy looked good. She was snazzy in black jeans with a black shirt and gray tie (with a shiny tie clip). She's touring with a rocking band, especially guitarist Kaia Wilson (who is also a member of the lesbian punk band The Butchies). Oz was particularly impressed with Kaia's guitar-work (he may have a little guitar-crush on her, actually). The drummer is also from The Butchies and she has a particularly theatrical style (Fosco notes this because he is now, thanks to Rock Band, and expert)--probably because she sits too low behind the kit.

Some highlights of the show:
  • Amy joined the opening act Arizona for a spot-on "Out On The Farm." The lead singer of Arizona nailed the harmony.
  • Amy jokingly played the intro bars of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" when she joined Arizona on stage.
  • A great mix of Amy's three CDs: at least three songs from each. She also played for ninety minutes!
  • Kaia's guitar strap broke during "Sober Girl" and she played most of the song trying to balance on one leg (while the other held up her guitar). She rocked, of course.
  • "Bus Bus" broke immediately into "Blender" for a seriously punk rock combination.
  • Amy broke a string on "SLC Radio" and while she was restringing, Kaia and the drummer did a great cover (by audience request) of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." Seriously.
  • A fan yelled out "Rodeo" and Amy picked up her acoustic guitar and said "Okay." It was one of the most powerful songs of the evening (Oz liked it particularly).
  • Fosco finally got to hear "Put It Out For Good" live!
  • "Who Sold The Gun" is a much better song live than on the new CD.
  • The performance of "Rural Faggot" was really powerful. Fosco actually got a little teary during the last verse:
    I know you want to know the truth
    And I’m the dyke who will give it to you.
    By this time next year
    you’ll know you’re queer
    It’ll all be okay
    It’ll all be clear
    And you’ll run away from home
    But not to be alone
    And you’ll go down to the city
    Where the boys are pretty
  • Encore: a long jam version of "Laramie." Absolutely searing.
On the whole, this was a really satisfying show. Even Oz enjoyed it (and he tends not to like the whole "women songwriters with guitars" thing). Fosco's transition to an Amy fan is now complete.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sunday Times: Brioche, Football, Zombies, &c.

Ever since his visit to Bouchon Bakery, Fosco has been obsessed with brioche. Rich, slightly sweet, with a whiff of lemony goodness... Ah, brioche! What you are looking at below is the loaf of brioche that Fosco baked himself(!) on Friday:
This morning, Fosco and Oz had brioche French toast. And all Fosco can say is... "Good. God." How did I live this long without learning to make brioche French toast? And how much longer could I possibly live if I were to make it every morning from now on? (The answer to the second question is probably somewhere around 5-8 years. Tops.).

You know what else is special about today? It's the Super Bowl (Go Roughriders!) We'll be watching the game, of course, but Fosco recognizes that not all Fosco Lives! readers will be doing so as well. And so, to help you kill some time while the rest of America is ogling Brenda Warner, here are some suggestions:

Have fun today. And be careful out there: a safe Sunday is a happy Sunday. See you tomorrow for "Music Monday"!


This post marks the five hundredth here at Fosco Lives! It feels like just two months ago, Fosco was celebrating his 300th post. Oh wait. Wow, Fosco's been on a hell of a blogging jag recently.

Just as Fosco did for his three hundredth post, he would like to call attention to some notable five hundreds:

Thanks again for your continued support, Fosconians.