Friday, September 14, 2007

Cotton Candy + Pig Feces

[Partial Transcript from the Santa Cruz County Fair Planning Meeting, March 2007]

Board Member #1: Does anyone have suggestions for the Fair's theme this year?
Board Member #2: We need a pun.
Board Member #3: Let's pun on a song about the U.S. Government failure in Vietnam and its subsequent betrayal of its veterans. That would be both funny and appropriate.
Board Members (all): Hooray!

Ergo, we have...

Clearly, this Fair is going to be full of cool rocking daddies.

As much as you might think the Fair sounds lame, don't judge until you hear about the musical entertainment. From the Palo Alto Daily News:

Just off the main promenade, through a pair of dark doors, are the twanging replies of Big Mama Sue and the Banjo Man. Red-cheeked kids walking in from the afternoon sun pause and peer at the duo's strange instruments: a metal kazoo, a gravy whisk grating on a washboard, a skinny-necked banjo. Something about these strange sounds has them on the verge of dancing.

Sue Kroninger of Santa Cruz and Andy Norbin of San Jose say they have been getting this sort of attention from kids since they started playing the fair 20 years ago - even though "Americana" music, as Kroninger calls it, is no longer in style.

"Kids don't hear this kind of stuff in the schools anymore," Kroninger said. "There's nothing produced about it."

Right, because kids just don't have any experience with improvised musical instruments now that the schools are encouraging experimentation with Moogs. Kids just never see anyone playing a kazoo now that they just use the "electric kazoo" function in Pro Tools. Sigh. The world is changing. I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.

Any plans for the weekend? Want to meet me at the SC County Fair?

Self-Knowledge Can Be Troubling

But am I too boringly perfect? Apparently not.

Recent Discoveries in Loathsome

How's this for a new feature at Fosco Lives? Every week I do the legwork to find someone/something loathsome. Then I tell you about him/her/it. I call it "Recent Discoveries in Loathsome."

This week, let's give it up for the loathsome Norris Church Mailer. As per a review in the September 9th NYTimes Book Review,

Mailer, who was a Wilhelmina model for several years, also worked as a soap opera actress, and the plot is as sudsy as they come. (Mailer, the wife of Norman Mailer, is also from Arkansas.)
Great. As if Norman Mailer isn't loathsome enough, now the readers of the NYTBR have to deal with his former-model/actress wife and her novels about a model who grew up in Arkansas.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why We Were Scared of the 1980s

Fosco's boyfriend Oz had an eventful week at work. I can't tell you all the details, but I can reveal that it involved an angry and complaining phone call from an eighties celebuteen. Which one?

Here's a hint: her initials are D.G.

Here's another hint: she was an early supporter of teen electrification.

Here'a photographic hint:

That's right! Oz talked to Tiffany!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Living with Music: A Playlist by Count Fosco

In spite of himself, Fosco has been intrigued by the weekly NYTimes bookblog Paper Cuts. Especially fascinating is the Wednesday feature called "Living with Music," in which a "a writer or some other kind of book-world personage" is asked to provide a playlist of songs for that month. Sure, it's kinda annoying, like when Miranda July used it to establish her indie cred or when Daniel Handler decided to demonstrate his breadth of musical knowledge (settle down, Lemony... You've impressed us all. You have remarkably catholic taste. We get it.). But then you read a list like Tom Perrotta's and you think, "Those are some good songs. Good work, Book-World Personage!" I must say I like Tom Perrotta a lot more this evening than I did this morning (a fact that's already registered on my Tom Perrotta Q Meter).

Well, let's see if Count Fosco can get his Q Score a bit higher by providing his own September 2007 Playlist.

Count Fosco's September 2007 Playlist

September is that month when it's still kind of summer (especially here in California) and suddenly kind of not. The beaches are sunny, but almost empty. School is about to start, even though you didn't make a serious dent in your summer reading list. Hello September...

  1. For The Actor, Mates of State. I'm digging the Mates of State right now. There's no guitar, but I don't really miss it. The imperfect harmony is ridiculously appealing. This is a good end-of-summer song: not too fluffy, but still upbeat and optimistic. When it slows down for the coda, you can feel autumn in the air.
  2. Don't Stop Believin', Petra Haden. The original version of this song is one of the five best songs ever. EVER. This cover is thrilling, even though it's like a capella (which is evil). She sings all the parts herself, including the guitar solos... Is it good? Is it funny? It's both.
  3. Racing in the Street / I'll Work for Your Love, Bruce Springsteen. A double-header from Uncle Bruce. "Racing in the Street" is probably my favorite Bruce song. It's full of regrets and recriminations--just like September. "I'll Work for Your Love" is brand new. It's from Bruce's album "Magic" (due out October 2). There's kind of a "Thunder Road" vibe going on here in the piano line. The first line, "Pour me a drink Theresa / in one of the glasses you dust off," takes us exactly where we need to be for September. Let's pour a drink and think about stuff.
  4. Yours to Keep, Teddybears (featuring Neneh Cherry and Annie). Just because summer is over, it doesn't mean we can't listen to one more great road trip song. This song is perfect for driving in a convertible (Psst Todd). And yes, that is Neneh Cherry singing! The Neneh Cherry. Her voice is so damn shmoove.
  5. This Woman's Work, Kate Bush. Hmmm. It's harder than it looks to write a paragraph about each of these songs. This is the only Kate Bush song I like, but I really like it. I'm pretty sure she's not related to the Connecticut Bushes, but I can't guarantee that. The best part of the song is when she hesitates before singing "hand" (as in "Give me your... hand.")--that's gold, baby. I just wish they weren't using this song in the new CSI: promos. Is crime scene investigation women's work? Huh? That doesn't make any sense.
  6. Big Casino / If You Don't, Don't, Jimmy Eat World. A twofer by one of Fosco's five favorite bands. "Big Casino" is the first single from their upcoming album. This lyric is irresistible: "I'll accept with poise, with grace / When they draw my name from the lottery / And they'll say, 'All the sun in the world couldn't melt that ice.'" Who hasn't had that fantasy? "If You Don't, Don't" is a ridiculously good song that relies on a strange stuttered chorus. Whenever I hear this song I think of driving home alone late at night on empty streets at the end of summer; it's starting to get cool and there's condensation on the rear window. I just hooked up with someone I want to love me and I'm singing (to that person): "Would you mean this please if it happens?" At least that's how I imagine it.
  7. The Only Moment We Were Alone, Explosions in the Sky. Lyrics are totally unnecessary when you write songs like this. Chiming guitars manage to be plenty expressive here. This song still gives me chills every time I hear it. It's the most beautiful song I've heard this year.
  8. Something More, Aly & AJ. I've already admitted that I'm a tween at heart. But this song is such a (guilty) pleasure. Who doesn't love remembering the beginning of a summer romance? "And I remember the night you said / 'Lets go for a ride.' I didn't want the night to end. / Would we be more than friends?" It totally takes you back to your youth, doesn't it? Excuse me, I have to go put on eyeliner and lip gloss.
  9. The Trapeze Swinger, Iron & Wine. Reasons to love this song: the vulnerability in Sam Beam's voice, the regular addition/subtraction of instruments in an essentially repetitive musical structure, the heart-breaking incantation to "please remember me," the makeout session at the circus, the sense that the entire history of a life-long relationship has been condensed into a ten minute song.
  10. Ocean Breathes Salty, Sun Kil Moon. It's originally a song by Modest Mouse, but their version always leaves me cold; it's like they (purposefully?) refused to express the emotional resonance of the lyrics. Mark Kozelek performs this song as it was meant to be performed: with a sad earnestness that makes the wry lyrics all the more dangerous. "I hope heaven and hell are really there, but I wouldn't hold my breath. / You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death?" And the earnest lyrics? Oh yeah, those are good too. "Your body may be gone / I'm gonna carry you in / In my head, in my heart, in my soul." Summer is over, my friends, but we can still carry it in our head, heart, and soul.

Suck It, Jesus.

Fosco is one gin and tonic away from renaming this whole damn blog... Seriously, by tomorrow, you may find yourself reading "Suck It, Jesus!"

In related news, did you hear that the HI-larious Kathy Griffin won an Emmy and then said something wonderful? As per Reuters:

"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus," an exultant Griffin said, holding up her statuette. "Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now."

Can we just say that once more? Suck it, Jesus. Suck it, Jesus! SUCK. IT. JESUS.

It's like a beautiful dream.

[No matter what my boyfriend Oz thinks, I think KG is grand. GRAND.]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I've settled into a tradition for dealing with today. I plan to spend today with my favorite artistic responses to the tragedy. Art may not be an adequate response to something like this, but it's better than any of the other options. There are three works of art that I find most meaningful:

  • John Adams, On the Transmigration of Souls. If you haven't listened to this requiem, you should do so today. It's amazing. John Adams is our greatest living American composer and this is one of his masterpieces (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize). The last four minutes are completely heartbreaking. Unfortunately, it's so powerful that I can only listen to it a few times a year.
  • Deborah Eisenberg, "Twilight of the Superheroes." The title story in her collection of the same name. Eisenberg chronicles the aftermath of the disaster in New York through the lives of four privileged twenty-somethings and an older gallery owner. Her voice is light and sad and right on:
    Oh, that day! One kept waiting--as if a morning would arrive from before that day to take them all along a different track. One kept waiting for that shattering day to unhappen, so that the real--the intended--future, the one that had been implied by the past, could unfold. Hour after hour, month after month, waiting for that day to not have happened. But it had happened. And now it was always going to have happened.
  • Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising." A remarkable achievement in popular music. Watching the shows on the "Rising" tour, raising my hands in the air along with Bruce and thousands of other people while singing "Rise Up!"--that is the closest I've come to a communal healing experience.

And of course art isn't just about consolation. Allow me to leave you today with a blistering poem by one of my favorite poets, Frank Bidart. Below is his curse on the terrorists. Take care of yourself on this day, my friends.


May breath for a dead moment cease as jerking your

head upward you hear as if in slow motion floor

collapse evenly upon floor as one hundred and ten

floors descend upon you.

May what you have made descend upon you.
May the listening ears of your victims    their eyes    their


enter you, and eat like acid
the bubble of rectitude that allowed you breath.

May their breath now, in eternity, be your breath.


Now, as you wished, you cannot for us
not be. May this be your single profit.

Of your rectitude at last disenthralled, you
seek the dead. Each time you enter them

they spit you out. The dead find you are not food.

Out of the great secret of morals, the imagination to enter
the skin of another
, what I have made is a curse.

[from Frank Bidart, Stardust, 2005]

Monday, September 10, 2007

Life. Art. So on.

The NYTimes ramped up its 9/11 coverage today with an article about the photo at the right. It was taken by a woman from her Shanksville, PA farm after Flight 93 crashed into the field. Fosco had never seen this photograph, but apparently it's quite (in)famous. The main point of the article is that the unfortunate photographer is being harassed by 9/11 conspiracy theorists and general internet wackos. People are indeed annoying, but that's not the point of this post.

What's interesting for our purposes is that barn. It's owned by Mr. Robert Musser. According to the article:

To accommodate visitors who will show up on Sept. 11 to recreate the picture, and who eventually find their way to the Mussers’ 94-year-old barn, they’ve tried to spruce it up this past week, adding a touch of paint. They plan to spend thousands in the near future to shore up the foundation on one side so the barn will endure for years to come.

“Here this barn could fall down, and it’s in the picture that’s so famous,” said Mr. Musser’s wife, Phyllis. “We have to do something.”

And there it is. That tingling in your groin means we have now entered Don DeLillo territory. In DeLillo's best novel, White Noise, we find the "Most Photographed Barn in America":

Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides--pictures of the barn taken from an elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.
   "No one sees the barn," he said finally.
   A long silence followed.
   "Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."
   He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced at once by others.
   "We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."
   There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
   "Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."
   Another silence ensued.
   "They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.
   He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.
   "What was the barn like before it was photographed?" he said. "What did it look like, how was it different from other barns, how was it similar to other barns? We can't answer these questions because we've read the signs, seen the people snapping the pictures. We can't get outside the aura. We're part of the aura. We're here, we're now."
   He seemed immensely pleased by this.

And now, in Shanksville, PA, we have the actual Most Photographed Barn in America. Up for a road trip?

Denouement: 9/2-9/9

Last week, while you were celebrating Ann Beattie's 60th birthday, Fosco was