Saturday, January 30, 2010

thought for the day

Do kids in the US play with little plastic colored beads that can be fused together into elaborate shapes with a common household clothes iron? Do you know the German for "common household clothes iron?" It is "b├╝geleisen." Now you know how I'm spending my Saturday with my girls.

I wonder if Captain Beefheart knew this. Then he could have changed the words to one of his songs every time he played Dusseldorf: "I'm gonna b├╝geleisen ya, baby!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Girls and Boys

What the hell happened to the rock?

So I'm sitting there last night, glazing over in front of GoTV (our MTV), and it's all whiny boys singing within the lines, thinking inside the box. Vampire Weekend (channeling the Feelies), Tocotronic (aping Bryan Ferry, sort of) and Girls (conjuring up the ghost of Evan Dando, for gawd's sake!)--who gives a rat's ass?! It doesn't seem to matter where they're from--Austria, the US or England--a creeping suckieness has attacked all the dudes with guitars.

The only video and song I liked was Florence + the Machine's "You've Got the Love." It's pretty retro too, but at least she's got the voice. A leggy "hottie," hanging off of a giant glittering moon and belting out an old fashioned disco anthem. And I mean, belting it way out. She sings like she can't keep that big voice inside her for one minute more.

There's a trend here. I haven't heard a male band or singer that I cared about in forever. All the new music I've really liked in the last two years is made by women. Cat Power, Amy Winehouse, LaRoux, Lady GaGa, etc. etc.

In short,

Boys with Attitude and Three Chords--0
Women with Guts and Ideas--5

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Hunkpapa in Vienna

Sitting Bull has been appearing all over town. A late period photograph of him--red eyes burning through the viewer--adorns a poster for a new exhibit at the Museum of Ethnology Vienna. The show is called Sitting Bull and His World. A few weeks ago, we decided we would like to see it. Then our friends Andy and Ursula, who also adopted their daughters, Teresa and Emily, from Ethiopia, decided to join us.

The other day, I mentioned our plan to Rosa, our radical history student babysitter, and she shook her head. "You know that's a bad museum, right?" she asked. She told me that this Museum of Ethnology possesses an Inca headdress which was stolen from its last Peruvian owner. The government of Peru has asked for its return, and the Museum said...Nope.

We went to see the show anyway. Man, that was some squeaky clean American a-history right there. The text placards of the show made frequent mention of the Lakota and the Sioux moving to reservations, and of their "awareness of the need to adapt," but scant mention of the betrayal, germ warfare and murder which forced them to those places. The exhibit named no causes, only effects. White people, if mentioned at all, were portrayed as the ones who gave the Indians horses, as patient negotiators, as brave initiators of "police actions," like the one which killed Sitting Bull at last.

In other words, bullshit.

Many Europeans are ignorant of some of the basic facts of American history; others tend to regard Native Americans as an exotic species. And a museum here is just as unlikely as any in the world to use the word "genocide" in an exhibition, even when it's appropriate. (Part of a near-universal unspoken agreement to avoid that word, lest we mistakenly tell the truth about something.)

I grew up with a different view of the Native American experience. My father was a social worker on a Sioux reservation in North Dakota, and he often told us stories about Woody, a WWII veteran he met there. My father (and mother) told me as much of the truth as they knew about what happened between Native Americans and the Great White Father. But I think they also taught me to be proud of these amazing people who lived in North America so long ago. They made me feel like Sioux people were part of our heritage as Americans, our story. Crazy, right? What a concept!

Once, when my father visited me in New York City, I took him down to the National Museum of the American Indian. After walking through it, my dad couldn't stop talking about the Comanche. He insisted, with no little admiration, that Comanche horsemen were so skilled that nineteenth century European horse soldiers began to study and imitate Comanche strategies and maneuvers.

I wonder if the Lippizaner trainers over at the Spanish Riding School know that....

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Just before the Christmas holidays, I was looking forward to a spring trip to the US and a couple of nice professional opportunities. Now, a month later, the US trip is off, and one of those professional opportunities seems to have been a wash. Plus, I've been thrown an additional, heretofore unseen setback, and Anette got dealt a nasty financial body blow. So I'm, uh, off my heels a bit.

What to do?

I suppose the manly, 30-something answer would be that I should go out and get stinking drunk, howl at the moon and have my knuckles pierced.


But I was never very good at getting drunk, even when I was 30-something. It didn't, and doesn't, feel cathartic, or even pleasurable.

I mean, I like beer. And the occasional gin martooni. But...I'm just saying.

I'm a big believer in the healing powers of listening to a really loud rock band. And sticking your head inside their speaker cabinets for at least part of the set. But I'm still a bit of a novice when it comes to nightclubbing in Wien. I don't know where to find a good Kiss tribute band when I need one.

Some people like to scream at them that done 'em wrong. Or engage in sabotage or pranksterism. I recognize the value of such strategies. But again, I've never been very good at actually performing personal smackdowns. I've always enjoyed hearing about the Flaming Doo stunt. You know-- you place a paper bag full of dog poo on the doorstep of your enemy, set it on fire, ring the door bell, then run away. In theory, the victim is meant to come to the door, try to stomp the fire out, and end up with crap all over their loafers. But I'm sure I'd just set myself on fire.

Oh well.

Somehow I think I'm going to steer a middle course tonight. Prolly end up drinking one beer at the Fluc while listening to medium loud techno.

This is exactly the fate described in many of your great punk rock songs. I'm either very boring, or just bad at being bad.

[Late night postscript: I actually ended up going to a museum show about 1989 and the end of the USSR. I really enjoyed it. Sad.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday night dinner conversation

One record that I have only just recently discovered is John Martyn's Solid Air. Astonishing. But I'll save the review for another post. I was listening to it tonight as I fixed dinner for myself and the smaller girls in my life. I must have been feeling chatty (or fragile). Just before Martyn sang the lyric "I don't wanna know about evil, only wanna know about love," Adinah spoke up. V., as usual, mostly let Adinah do the talking.

Adinah: Is this still La Roux?

Me: No, this is a different record. This is a guy named John Martyn.

Me: Do you know what he's singing about?

Adinah: No.

Me: Well, he's singing about good and evil. And love. You know what love is, right?

Adinah: YES. I know what love is. What is e-?

Me: Evil? Well, that's when people do bad things. When they hurt each other.

Adinah: Do you know anyone who did e-vil?

Me: I don't know. I guess I've known people who've done bad things, yes.

Adinah: Did your papa do bad things?

Me: Yes. I mean, my papa made some mistakes. But that's not the same thing as evil. Everyone makes mistakes.


Adinah: Good thing my papa is not drunk.

Me: (smiling and starting to tear up) Yes.

(longer pause)

V.: (looking at me with big eyes) Bist du traurig? (Are you sad?)

Me: No, V., I'm not sad, it''s just not easy talking about stuff like this. Talking about people you love.


Me: But Adinah, even though I've told you that my father got drunk or that he was a drunk, that doesn't mean he was bad. He was a good man. He did the best he could. But he was sick. It was hard work to love him sometimes. Even though love isn't like work. You either love someone or you don't.

Adinah: Yeah, I love you because you're my papa.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pulp Fiction

No, I still have not finished that huge book about the history of Europe after WW II. Yes, I intend to finish it, and yes, it did start to get better (after a long sleepy stretch) when we got to Solidarnosc and the fall of the Wall. But, no I don’t feel required to finish it quick.

So instead, I’ve started inhaling my third page turner in a month. First, I burned through Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister. Which confirmed my thing for bookish babes with something to hide, and which changed up so many times in the last fifty pages that I’m still not sure who killed the big brother or the gangster. Then I polished off Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, otherwise known as the first James Bond book. That included a torture scene which was incomprehensible to me beyond the fact that Bond’s private parts took quite a beating. I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Last night, I went to Vienna’s only late night bookstore (it stays open until 9 pm), and had almost decided to leave sans purchase, when I thought I could at least sit down and look at some picture books. I ended up sitting down with my old friend Stephen King. Got sucked (ouch) into Salem’s Lot, most probably because it starts off with a premise which must be very appealing to me: a man on the run with a child. It totally got me a year ago when I snorted Firestarter (which is much better than the movie) (though George C. Scott as a Native American assassin with a pony tail does have to be seen to be believed.) In Salem’s Lot, the prologue focuses on a man and a boy who is not his son, but then it switches to (I think) their back story. We’ll see.

But even though the legions of movies based on his books mostly all suck, I think Stephen King must be the happiest guy on the planet. He rolls over in bed, and presto-chango, he’s written another best-seller. And when you read it, you can tell he had a ball writing it. He reminds me of something Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers once told me about their music. He said, ‘Well, our music is like Jiffy Pop—it’s a lot more fun to make than it is to eat.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

25 Songs with "Love" in their Title

1) "Bad Love on the Highway"-Moniker

2) "Love is like Oxygen"-The Sweet

3) "Love Shack"-The B-52's

4) "Love is the Drug"-Roxy Music

5) "Can't Buy Me Love"-the Beatles

6) "Love Me Do"-the Beatles

7) "Love Stinks"-J Geils Band

8) "The Love Bug"-George Jones

9) "Love Goes Down the Drain"-The Monochrome Set

10) "I Love a Man in a Uniform"-Gang of Four

11) "Love to Love You Baby"-Donna Summer

12) "I Never Loved a Man (the Way That I Love You)"-Aretha Franklin

13) "Stoned Love"-The Supremes

14) "Let me Put My Love into You" -AC/DC

15) "True Love Weighs"-Buddy Holly

16) "Love Train"-The O'Jays

17) "Love Comes in Spurts"-Richard Hell and the Voidoids

18) "Love is a Rose"-Neil Young

19) "Love Rollercoaster" -Ohio Players

20) "Endless Love"-Lionel Richie

21) "Love Hurts"-Nazareth

22) "When our Love Passed Out on the Couch"-X

23) "Love Will Tear Us Apart"-Joy Division

24) "Whole Lotta Love"-Led Zeppelin

25) "I'm Not in Love"-10cc

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Sensation

So anyway, I've got a new thing. And now it's infected the whole family.

Her name is La Roux. And seeing as I'm a bit pop retarded these days, I've only just heard her music in the last few months. I will honor the slick magazine tradition, and also avoid assuming that everyone out there has as much time for pop junk as I do, and explain that La Roux appears to be about 23, styles herself like a new wave cross between K.D. Laing and Tilda Swinton, and sounds like Jimmy Sommerville (as a girl?) singing for Depeche Mode, with a very sight 21st century twist.

Don't know if the same can be said for US radio, but during our ski-town holiday, La Roux could be heard bouncing off of every wall. Particularly her single "Bulletproof," which is snap-crackle-bleep genius.

Now Adinah, V., Anette and I are all singing it as we put on our snow boots, or cook dinner, or do anything else involving locomotion.

A few years from now, my daughters will probably be into Austrian hip hop, or some other god awful thing. So, for now, I enjoy our shared interest in the new wave of new wave.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dear John

It's not you, it's me.

No, honestly, the truth is, I was washing my hair. Really.

I certainly would have posted in the last week, except that, well, look, I'd really rather just be friends with you.

I...I think we should see other people.

It's funny but I've imagined this moment for so long and thought of all the things I might say and now that it's here, I just don't know what I think.

I'm so confused.

You're too good for me.

I like blogging with you, really I do, but it's just that lately, you seem so......distant.

(PS: In other words, I really will post something new again soon, but tonight I'm too pooped to pontificate. I'm going to watch some movie I've seen five times, then pass out on the couch.)