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Out On a Lim (12.11.03 - 2.26.04) >>

EVERY HUMAN SOCIETY HAS HAD MUSIC OF SOME KIND: THE EMILY ROLPH INTERVIEW (copyright 2004 Henry Lim)

HL: So give me a little background on your musical upbringing.

ER: Well I started violin when I was 3, like a good little Asian--and I hated it.  Then I started piano when I was 5 and played all the way thru high school up to college.  In between there I played a little bit of flute, dabbled on the guitar--but nothing big really.  I went to a summer school for the arts called CSSSA.  There we were exposed to West African drumming, gamelan music, and a couple of other experimental music things that were really really fun.  So at that point, that's when I knew I wanted to do ethnomusicology.

HL: This was in high school?

ER: Summer of '99--between my junior and senior year of high school.  During that period I played a little bit of the zheng, which is a Chinese zither, that my mom also studied when she was in college with Lou Harrison, who is one of my favourite composers of all time.

HL: Are you Chinese?

ER: Yeah, half.  So I came to UCLA for ethno.  Since I've been here I've just kinda dabbled in everything--Bulgarian women's choir, gospel choir, both Javanese and Balinese gamelan, Ghanaian drumming.  I played shakuhachi for a little while.  I tried, but it's hard...

HL: It's nothing like the flute?

ER: No, a flute is really different actually.  I've picked up a lot of flutes, here and there--the penny whistle, the recorder, things like that I've played.  But the shakuhachi is really really hard.  It's a different embouchure.  But they canceled the program here, so I didn't get to continue that one.  So that's my background basically.  I don't say I'm proficient in anything.  I used to be on piano, but I haven't played in a long time. 

HL: But you have that foundation.

ER: Yeah, I could pick it up again.

HL: And you can play other instruments because you know how to read...

ER: Yeah, that's true.  Right now, I'm also playing guitar on my own.

HL: Really, what kind of guitar?  Classical?

ER: Actually slack key guitar.

HL: Really.

ER: Do you know what that is?

HL: The Hawaiian guitar.

ER: Yeah.  You're supposed to use a steel string guitar, but I like the sound of nylon better, so I have a classical guitar with nylon strings.

HL: What's the tuning on that?

ER: The basic tuning is called taro patch, it's D-G-D-G-B-D.  That's the main altered tuning, but there are hundreds of other ones and they're kinda family secrets that they passed down.  You're supposed to learn them sitting on the back porch with your grandfather kinda thing, but some of us don't have that so I'm learning from a book and listening. 

HL: Do you play Hawaiian music?

ER: Yeah.

HL: Have you been to Hawaii?

ER: Yeah.  My mom was born there and my dad is part Hawaiian.  We go back every couple of years.  The music that I'm really most interested in is actually Polynesian music, but I have very little access to it at UCLA

HL: Is there a relationship between the Hawaiian guitar and country music?

ER: Yes.  Slack key guitar is just a style of playing and then there's slide guitar.  And that's like they just took a guitar and laid it flat.  And that evolved into the dobro.

HL: And the pedal steel.

ER: Yeah.  But yeah, it originated in Hawaii actually.

HL: I was always wondering about that, cause they sound the same.

ER: They're pretty much the same [laughs].

HL: What is it about world music that interests you?

ER: Well, actually I didn't find this out until I was already going here, but apparently my mom had planned to go to UCLA to get a grad degree in ethno.  I think she just kinda played a lot of really different kinds of music while we were growing up, and I never really thought about it.  But because I had that really extensive, long classical background, I kinda got tired of it [laughs].  So when I started to hear all this other music, it was really really different, really exciting, real fun to play and I said "Oh I had to play this stuff".  And also, I think my ears are a lot better than my reading skills.  So when I found traditions that are taught orally, it is a lot easier for me to pick up.  Gamelan is written, but it's just a skeleton that's written.  The more elaborate parts, you just play by ear.  It's a little easier for me to do it that way [laughs].

HL: Do you go to other countries to study?

ER: I went to New Zealand for a year recently.  While I was there I got to study Polynesian music.  And I got to go to the Pacific Islands.  That was really fun.  I went to the Cook Islands and stayed in a village and they taught me beats every night and they took me to choir practice at an amazing amazing church--it was really powerful, really mystic, it had great acoustics.  It was fantastic.  They let me hear and learn everything and they made me get up on stage with them and dance.  They're really cute.  They sang in this thing called the Constitution Celebration, which is basically their celebration of their independence.  At that time, every year, they have this huge, massive cultural dance and song and music competition.  They get people from all the villages on Rarotonga, the main island, and one or two groups from all the other islands and they practice for months and months.  They let me go to some of the practices and join in.

HL: What do you think of the combination of dance and music? 

ER: A lot of times when I say "music", I actually mean "dance and music".

HL: Do you dance?

ER: Yeah.  I think it depends on the tradition.  When I say "music" in reference to Polynesian music or West African music, a lot times I mean both. 

HL: Cause they're connected.

ER: Yeah.  When I mean "classical music", I don't mean "classical music and dance" [laughs].  It depends on what kinda music I'm talking about.

HL: Do you understand the music better when you dance, and vice versa?

ER: Yeah.  Like in West African dancing you understand the language better.  The drums are talking to the dancers a lot of the time.  When we switch into a different rhythm and we're just drumming, I kind of just think, "Ok, I'm gonna switch into another rhythm now".  Then when you see the dancers, or when you're dancing yourself, I go "Oh, we're switching rhythms cause they're switching dance steps" or "They're switching dance steps cause we switched rhythms".  Yeah, you understand things better.  But that's because they're meant to be together.

HL: So are you concerned with the authenticity of traditions?

ER: No, not necessarily.

HL: Are you open to combine weird things?

ER: Actually, one of my favourite things is fusion.

HL: But having that tradition gives you a base to work from.

ER: Yeah.  You can take sounds and play with different sounds from different places.  But if you really know the music, then you have a lot more understanding and knowledge to work with.  I think in general, it's just better, instead of just taking random ideas, to really know more about something before you play with it.  Not that you can't.  But more knowledge always helps. 

HL: What's your favourite piece?

ER: "Vexations" by Erik Satie.  Have you heard it?

HL: I heard part of it when they performed it at UCSD.

ER: Yeah, it's my favourite pieces of all time.  It's just four lines repeated 180 times.  Played at the correct tempo it's supposed to take 20 hours.  We played it once.  We had a lot of people.  We took hour shifts throughout the day.  It's so almost like it's not there.  It's like ambient noise, you kinda almost don't notice it.  But it puts you in state where everything around you turns really still and silent and blues and dark blue and green.  It feels like it plucks all your blood vessels.  Most people I know when they first hear it, they're like "Oh, it's kinda weird".  And then they'll sit there and listen for a while and it'll start to get on their nerves and they're like "Uh, I just want it to stop, why won't it stop".  And then they'll sit there for a while and go "Oh wow, actually it's kinda cool".  So I think it's kinda an acquired taste, but that's cause I've played it.  It puts you in a trance.

HL: It stops time.

ER: Yeah, it totally stops time.  You're kinda just drifting.  And I played it for three hours, not straight.  The other thing is it's written really well--it's got all these enharmonic equivalents and double sharps and double naturals and all these weird things.  But you can't memorize it.  I think that's an intriguing thing about it.  We had one guy playing, he was really good at hearing music, but he wasn't very good at reading it.  So he tried to memorize it.  And he started out doing really well, and he played about four cycles or so ok.  But as he went on it started to fall apart.  And pretty soon he couldn't play any of it.  He couldn't remember any of it.  I took over for him at that point [laughs].  You have to rely on the music [laughs].

HL: Any advice for budding ethnomusicologists?

ER: I would say get a feel for everything.  You should get your hand on as much as you can, but also find something that you like and go with that and focus.  Cause I think that's one thing that I wish I had done sooner, is focus on something.  Cause I feel like I know a little bit about a lot of things.  And I think that's good cause that's a large and wide foundation.  But then I think you learn and get more into something if you can pick something to focus. 

HL: And you can branch out later.

ER: Yeah [laughs].

HL: What's your general philosophy on music?  What's its place in this world?

ER: I think it's essential.  I think there's something really interesting that every human society has had music of some kind.  I think that's really telling of humanity and the role that music plays--it's got a definite place in every human society.  I think it's really important as an alternate method of communication, and comming together, and community, and even solo communication.  The power of music to talk about things is really really powerful.  I've always used it as a way to get out something, to emote something.  There's also so many uses for music--for celebration, for mourning, for tribute.  Basically, I can't imagine a world without music, or even my life without music.

Read more about EmilyRolph’s adventures on her webpages:
www.kapakaheee.com and www.geocities.com/erolphus.

(2.27.04)

Back when I was getting educated, a TA requested that I see him during his office hours.  I really didn't see the point.  After all, I had gotten an A on my term paper.  I thought I had learned my lesson.  But whatever.  So I spoke with him after class.

"Uh, Henry," he observed, "you're doing well in class, but I've noticed that you never join in discussion."

Which was true.  If I wasn't sleeping, I kept to myself and let everyone else argue about the the symbolism of whatever camera angle whoever director used in whichever scene from who really cares about what movie. 

Nevertheless, I have a standard answer to his observation.  "I'm a shy person," I mumbled.

"Well," he lectured, "you've made some good points in your term paper.  I'd really like it if you shared your ideas with the rest of the class.  Would it help if I called on you and brought you into the discussions?"

"Yeah," I shrugged, "sure, but I really don't see the point."  Come on, I thought, this is a class on film analysis.  How important is this subject, let alone my opinion on the matter?

"You know, Henry," he continued, "you have to think of life as a classroom.  You enter it.  And there'll be people talking about things.  But you need to participate.  You need to leave your mark in life.  Do you want to leave this world without anyone knowing you were here?"

I nodded in faux agreement.  If there's anything I learned from school, it's don’t make a fuss, cause it ain't anything worth stressing over.  What's the point of that?  And honestly, it's not beyond me to say a few words here and there in class.  I can do that.  I can pretend to care.

But I really didn't agree with him.  Firstly, I don't think of life as a classroom.  Yeah, I can see the analogy, but my view on life ain't confined to just one analogy.  Life's a little more complicated than that.  Yet it's also simple enough to be meaningless in the face of such abstract correlations.  Secondly, I've never been one to worry about leaving my mark on this world.  I could care less if no one knew I was here.  As long as I know (or think) I was here, what does it matter--and even that's irrelevant.  Not that I'm condemning anyone who strives for recognition, especially when it's a benefit (arguably) to society, but I think if half the people trying to leave their mark (most of which are just cries for attention for attention's sake) would lose that notion, a lot of so-called problems caused by those who'll attain acknowledgment by any means would disappear.  Imagine if you didn't have to prove yourself to anybody, even yourself.  And then maybe you'll discover what's truly important to you whilst you're here in this world.  Cause in the end, when you leave, it ultimately doesn't matter either way if anyone remembers you or not.           

I might've missed the point, but there really wasn't one to begin with, other than the one that you thought you needed to make.

(3.1.04)

It just so happened that
Forrest Gump was being shown on television at the convenient moment that I tuned in and at the coincidental instant when I was thinking "Gee, I'd like to watch Forrest Gump tonight."  I'm not a huge fan of the film (otherwise I'd own a copy and've watched that instead of resorting to the edited and commercial interrupted broadcast), but it's a good way to kill three hours.

I can't believe the movie is ten years old.  I remember seeing it in the theatre and being mildly intrigued by the visual effects.  The Boomer nostalgia, which runs throughout and is probably more salient to that demographic, is cute if for a quick and slick Cliff Note's medley thru American pop history.  I really couldn't relate to or be inspired by any of the characters.

This changed upon later viewings.  I mean, when I was 22, I didn't have a sense of "destiny", predetermined or constructed, about my life.  I was just finding my options.  But with age came the ability to see the paths I've chosen.  Destiny, however perceived, became somewhat apparent, at least for me.  I didn't, obviously, relate to the character Forrest Gump, but Lt. Dan Taylor, with his questioning, challenge, and reconciliation with his destiny appealed to me.  Not that I can remotely understand what goes thru the mind of a disgruntled Vietnam veteran, but I can give my nod of approval for that calm after the storm, when peace is made with the powers that be. 

As well, Forrest's unwavering love for Jenny went over well during my "romantic" phase.  And that's about all I can say about that.

It's funny how times change and things catch up to you.  A decade later, whilst watching the movie, I couldn't help but notice not how I didn't relate to any of the characters any more, but how those characters and their experiences reflected those around me.  I could see my friends getting married, having children, and stricken by disease.  Life's ups and downs.  Everyone seems to go thru them and they don't only happen in the movies.  Thesedays, I suppose the only person I can relate to is myself as the viewer, watching other characters struggle and triumph.  I'm glad to be so lucky.     

(3.2.04)

I was licking your armpit.

As in real life, the crowds that pass thru my dreams are blurry.  They're just faceless avatars manifesting as backdrops, trails of intersecting identities, and personalities beyond my focus.  I can't seem to look at them long enough for me to log their memories into mine.

Likewise, you're pronounced, if not moreso, in my reveries.  Once I lost you at an international airport circa 1962.  If it wasn't for your white sweater, I'd've missed you standing out in a queue of darkly patterned passengers.  There was no mistaking missing you. 

Sometimes I wonder which came first.  The chicken or the dream?  The egg or reality?

We're sitting in a desolated bar decorated in futurisms.  Perspective lines, florescent reflections, and inversed arcs merge around us.  But they are nothing like the mazes of eternities that I see in your eyes.  If this is a dream, I'm gonna remember this when I wake.  If this is real, I'm gonna dream about this forever.  Either way, I'm experiencing it.

Well, here's a little clue: you didn't lose your glasses in my dreams. 

I woke up with a dry tongue.

(3.3.04)

My cousin over in Tokyo is getting married this weekend.  I'll be attending the wedding.  And no offense, dear reader, but I think I'd rather be traveling and partying than updating "Out On a Lim".  Besides, you deserve a well earned break from the tiresome chore of reading my journal.  Thanks for your kind patronage and I shall return in a week or so. 

Enjoy yourselves whilst I'm gone. 

(3.4.04)

This was my travel itinerary:    

Japan Air - Flight 69
LEAVE Los Angeles - March 4, 12:20
ARRIVE Osaka - March 5, 17:50

Shin Kansen - Nozomi 12
LEAVE Kyoto – March 6, 13:09
ARRIVE Tokyo – March 6, 15:30

Shin Kansen - Nozomi 25
LEAVE Tokyo - March 7, 15:30
ARRIVE Kyoto - March 7, 18:31

Japan Air - Flight 60
LEAVE Osaka - March 10, 17:30
ARRIVE Los Angeles - March 10, 10:25

I had a swell time, albeit I wish I could've stayed longer.  But ain't that always the case.  It was especially fun to hang out with my relatives and meet new friends.  Thanks to everyone who handled me. 

Hi Emiko.

And to my reader who wished me "happy trails and dance at the wedding", thanks.  Although, there wasn't any dancing at the wedding.  Even though the ceremony/reception was fashioned along Western traditions (the groom wore a suit, the bride wore a dress, the minister was Christian, there was a cake, bouquet toss, etc.), dancing is uncommon at a Japanese wedding.  Suposedly, everyone's "shy" over there.  However, there was a lot of bowing and polite filling of wine glasses.  And some of the elder ladies wore kimonoes.

Here are some other tidbits about Japanese culture that I picked up:

Hip youngsters refer to Hawaii anagrammatically as "Waiiha".  (My cousin (the groom's sister) went to Waiiha for her honeymoon).

The Shin Kansen (bullet train) travels at 300 kmp (186.42 mph).

On Valentine's Day, girls give gifts to boys.  On White Day (March 14), boys give gifts to girls.  These holidays are distinctly defined--whereas in America, all we got is Valentine's Day by which both sexes, at least in theory, are equally open to receive gifts.

The bar on the top floor of the Prince Hotel in Shinagawa has a romantic cityscape view, especially late at night.

Omizutori (Drawing of Holy Water) is a Buddhist festival that goes on during March at the Nigatsudo temple in Nara.  Water from the Wakasa Well is drawn and offered to the Eleven-Faced Kannon Bodhisattva.  At night, the monks run around with giant burning torches, spilling the sparks over the temple's balcony.  These symbolize purification and the beginning of spring.

Yamashina (where one of my cousins resides) is a wretched hive of Yakuza scum and villainy.

Japan is 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles.  I'm actually in sync with Japan time due to my late night sleep schedule (I go to bed at 6:00, which is 23:00 in Japan).  Thus jet lag ain’t a problem for me.      

The Sakura Lounge (for Executive Class passengers) at Kansai International Airport in Osaka is a cozy little den that offers free snacks and drinks as well as a spacious smoking section.

And here are some photos:

"Aki Yuuki"
My cousin (groom's sister) video taping the reception, her husband is seated by her side. 

"Balconies"
Balconies on a hotel in Tokyo. 

"Flower Toss"
My cousin (groom's sister) in the foreground, my aunt and my mom's brother in the background, about to toss flowers at the bride and groom as they leave the chapel.

"Guitar"
My cousin playing guitar at her apartment in Yamashina. 

"Hayami Henry Noe Yuki"

My uncle, me, my cousin, and my mom's sister before the wedding. 

"Moat"
A moat that surrounds the Noji castle in Kyoto. 

"Nao Aki Cake"
My cousin (groom) and his bride cutting the cake. 

"Nao Aki Reception"
My cousin (groom) and his bride make their entrance at the reception.

"Naoyasu Akiko"
My cousin (groom) and his bride after everyone tossed flowers at them.

"Nigatsudo"
Stairs that lead up to the temple--note the Omizutori torch leaning on the right.

"Prince Hotel"
The hotel I stayed at in Tokyo.

"Round Table"
The night before the wedding, the groom's side of the family ate at a Chinse restaurant--excuse my bad panoramic montage.

"Shinagawa"
A view of a city street and crosswalk in Tokyo, outside Shinagawa train station.

"Shinagawa Station"
Inside view of Shinagawa Station, where I got off the Shin Kansen.

"Ume"
My cousin taking photos of the ume (plum blossoms) in Kyoto.

"Vent and Steps"
I briefly wandered around before dinner (at the Chinese restaurant) and took this random shot in a Tokyo alley.

(3.15.04)

I got asked to be a Nielsen TV Ratings household.

Quoth the pamphlet:

Nielsen TV Ratings, also known as Nielsen Media Research, was established in 1950.  Located in Florida, Nielsen TV is best known as the leader in television research.  Nielsen TV gathers counts of adults, teenagers, and children watching or listening to TV programs across the US.  We use that viewing information to prepare reports that are used by the broadcast and cable TV networks and your local TV stations.


Now, anyone who's vaguely acquainted with me ought to be laughing, just as much as myself, at the very thought of me being a Nielsen TV Ratings household.  Cause I don't watch television...

But according to the pamphlet:

It doesn't matter if you watch or listen to TV just a little or a lot.  In fact, if we only used homes that viewed a lot, our TV information would be misleading.

I got randomly selected, per the statistical integrity of the research.  Hahaha, uh, excuse me while I swallow the irony of all this.  I mean, I've got friends who would kill for the opportunity to get paid to watch television--cause why not get compensated for what they already enjoy doing.  Not to mention Nielsen TV Ratings will contribute to the repair of my television set and VCR.  Hahaha.  I don't deserve such a chance.

Ahem, however, I'm not supposed to talk about all this, as the pamphlet insinuates:

As a professional research company, Nielsen TV keeps all information from your home strictly confidential.  We will not reveal to anyone any information given to us.  And, we ask you not to tell anyone in the television industry that your home is included in the panel.  We combine the information from each home with that from other homes across the US to produce TV viewing data used in the Nielsen TV reports.  The way we combine the information, no one home can ever be identified--but the information from each home becomes an essential part of the report.

HENCE, I MAY OR MAY NOT BE A NIELSEN TV RATINGS HOUSEHOLD.   

Hahahaha...

(3.16.04)

I have this fantasy of getting assigned a seat next to a pretty girl on an airplane.  Especially during a 10+ hour Trans Pacific flight wherein storytime with a stranger would make the journey go by faster.  All my life I've prayed for such luck.  Alas, I've never had the pleasure.  My latest trip to Japan was no exception.  In fact, the seat next to me was vacant.  Which was cool insofar as I got to stretch out my legs without obstructions, didn't have to hassle with getting up to let my neighbour go to the lavatory, or listen to someone snore.  And like the story of my life, I leaned on nobody.

"Are you married?" asked the ponytailed American fellow across the aisle during the inflight meal.

"Nope," I laughed.

"Yeah, I thought so," he conversed.  "You seem too content to be married."

"What do you mean?" I obliged.

"People who are married aren't so carefree," he observed.  "I was married once, but I found out my wife was cheating on me."

"I'm sorry," I polited.

"Thanks," he accepted.  "Be thankful that you're not married.  It's hell.  So why are you going to Japan?"

"I'm attending my cousin's wedding," I admitted.

"Oh," he backpedaled, "I wish him luck.  Yeah, the thing about marriage is you just gotta dive into it and hope for the best."

"What's your travel purpose?" I tried to change the subject.

"I'm visiting my girlfriend," he divulged.  "I met her on the internet three weeks ago.  She lives in Kyoto.  I just made a killing selling one of my domain names and thought I'd go meet her in person."

"Cool," I remarked.  "Good luck, man."

"Thanks," he semi-confidently nodded.

After dessert, he continued to chitchat about himself.  Turns out he's getting his PhD in mechanical engineering.  I told him that I was a musician and he gave me a lecture about the physics of sound waves, which I have a vague understanding of, but summoned the enthusasim to listen to him, cause I felt kinda sorry for him--he seemed to want to talk for the sake of talking, be it his nervousness about meeting his girlfriend for the first time or his need to prove his intelligence to me.  So he went off on the conundrums of quantum physics regarding spatial irregularities, the nonaveraged nonlinearity of time, and how, contrary to popular belief, nature isn't analog, but actually digital.  All the while, I kept wishing I was sitting next to a pretty girl...

I honestly thanked him when we disembarked for the fun little discourse.  And all scientific theories aside, I seriously wished him the best with his girlfriend.

Furthermore, I reminded myself that there's the return flight--another chance to live out my fantasy.  I mean, come on, the laws of the universe can give me a break and bend just for once towards my ideal seating arrangement.

Sigh.  On the trip back to Los Angeles, the seat next to mine was again empty.  Oh well, there's always next time.

(3.17.04)

I read two books on the flights to and from Japan:

The Rolling Stone interviews : the 1980s / the editors of Rolling Stone ; introduction by Kurt Loder. 
New York, N.Y. : St. Martin's Press/Rolling Stone Press, c1989.
ISBN 0-312-02973-X
UCLA Music Library ML 394 R65 1989

Playing from the heart : great musicians talk about their craft / edited by Robert L. Doerschuk.
San Francisco, Calif. : Backbeat Books, c2002.
ISBN 0-87930-704-8
UCLA Music Library ML 394 P58 2002

I'm currently fascinated with the interview form, especially with musicians as subjects.  Having conducted a few of my own, I thought it'd be good research to read up on some examples. 

Of course, I'm familiar with the infamous Rolling Stone benchmark, having been an avid reader of the magazine as a teenager.  They claim to have pioneered the pop musician interview, which nearly 40 years ago must've seemed like a novelty, if not a big joke.  However, their interviews are well structured, full of insightful and on target questions--at least within the bounds of rock stars trying to sound smart, politically aware, and all important. They've got access to the biggest stars: Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, et al.  And these interviews are nigh automatically interesting to read (at least to fans of these musicians) due to their names alone.  Although, most of them, which were interviewed in the 80s, blab on like a bunch of middle age crisis saps, all reflecting on their past glories and facing their (then) present career lulls.

As a counter perspective to the glamour of Rolling Stone, the other book I read featured interviews culled from Guitar Player, Bass Player, Keyboard, and Modern Drummer--interviews of musicians by musicians.  This is a distinction that I can relate to and find intriguing.  For example, Keith Richards' theories on his contributions to his band's groove, as opposed to what party he went to on New Year's.  Not that the latter ain't a good story, nor unrelated to Keith Richards as a musician.  It's just personally, I seem to be able to communicate more easily from the level of the craft.  Nevertheless, I'm aware that the average reader might be put off by the technical jargon.

Thus, what I learned from these two books is that I would like to aspire towards somewhere inbetween the fun fluff of Rolling Stone and the geeky shop talk of the musican rags.  I never plan any questions before doing an interview, rather I just dive into a topic and follow the subject's lead.  But having some "standards" to fall back on when topics die should be helpful, just in case--not that I've prepared a crib sheet, but having read these books has given me some safety net ideas.  And it's nice to know that both books uphold the "everybody's got a story to tell" credo.     

(3.18.04)

INSIGHTS INTO HIS SENSE OF HUMOUR AND OUTLOOK ON LIFE: THE REVEREND BRENDAN POWELL SMITH INTERVIEW (copyright 2004 Henry Lim)

Amongst LEGO artists, The Reverend Brendan Powell Smith is considered a god.  His
Brick Testament series is one of the most worshipped creations in the medium.  I was lucky enough to meet The Reverend at a LEGO convention back in 2002, whereupon I discovered that he's also a musician.  He's recorded two sparse yet ingenious solo albums Ideas For Songs and Life and Death.  And he's also in the indie pop band The Human Heads (along with his cohort Lila Tene).  So in my continuing "Out On a Lim" series, I interviewed this infamous internet character on the musical side of his multitalents.
   
HL: Are you a formally trained musician?

RBPS: I have no formal training as a musician.  But from an early age, I would listen to pop music and think "that's not so hard, I could do that".  I certainly don't think I was right about that, but it's a helpful attitude to have to get you started--a sort of crazy, unfounded confidence.

HL: Yeah, it sure is.  So recount some of the highlights in your musical history.

RBPS: In junior high school I felt compelled to form a band.  I couldn't sing or play any instruments, but these issues seemed like minor impediments on the way to superstardom.  Coming up with the band's name, logo, album titles and artwork a much more pressing matter.  But eventually, needing to fill some useful role in a band, I took up guitar.  Our band, GOF UGNUT, recorded two albums in high school (starting with
A GOF UGNUT Christmas in 1989), and sketched out its history/future to include a total of eight albums.  A "rockumentary" was filmed in 1991.  In college I continued collaboration with GOF UGNUT member Jonathan Anthony Field, and we recorded under the guise of several other "concept bands", such as 80's hair metal band Nighthawk, and the white rap outfit 3 Honkees.  It wasn't until I began writing and recording music on my own in 1998 that for the first time I was making as myself instead of a persona.  That was a new experience for me, and I guess that's when I felt like, OK, maybe I can call myself a actual musician.

HL: How many songs have you written?

RBPS: All told, I'd guess I've written something in the vicinity of 85-90 songs.  But some of them are very short.

HL: What's your definition of a "good" song?

RBPS: I think that for someone to say that a song is "good" is simply to express that they like the song.  So in some sense, that works as a definition--a "good" song is a song I like.  But it's hard to define exactly what it is about a song that makes me like it.  And it's hard to say what elements all the songs I like have in common.  I can do this to some extent--I know that I tend to like quirky pop songs that are clever, melodic, and emotionally expressive.  I appreciate experimentation within the amorphous bounds of the "pop song".  I like certain instruments and instrumentations more than others.  But even being aware of that, I still surprise myself sometimes by what I end up liking or disliking.

HL: Where do you get your inspiration? 

RBPS: I'm musically inspired by just about everything I listen to.  If it's music I like, I find things to emulate, or jumping-off points musically.  If it's music I don't like, I tend to think about how I would have written or recorded things differently.

HL: Who are your musical influences?  I hear some Beck, Tori Amos, Lisa Germano, and The Beatles.  What is it about your influences that you admire?

RBPS: You did a good job in picking out some of my bigger influences.  I guess I'd also mention They Might Be Giants and Elliott Smith.  I guess the main reason I admire these artists is that they've written a whole lot of songs that I like.  And they have all brought something new and interesting into the genre of pop music.

HL: What's with your constant references to death?

RBPS: Around the time of my two solo albums, I had this recurring paranoia about death.  My life at that point was going inexplicably well, and it seemed as though at some point my luck had to run out, and I began to fear that I might lose someone close to me, or would myself die in an untimely fashion.  It wasn't really a crippling paranoia, but it didn't seem particularly healthy either.  I would find myself worrying about death, imagining how I would feel or react if I lost someone close to me--as if doing so could somehow help lessen the blow when it actually happened.  I think expressing these thoughts and feelings in my songs was a way for me to deal with it in a compartmentalized way.  I'm not nearly so obsessed by the matter these days, and I think I've come away from it all with a heightened appreciation of life.

HL: Do you see (or hear) any connection between your music and your LEGO creations?

RBPS: I'd never thought about it, but I guess you could draw a few parallels.  Both are forms of creative expression where I'm working within certain strict boundaries--both pop songs and LEGO bricks have a certain set of structural elements that can only be combined in a finite number of ways and still be recognizable as a pop song or a coherent LEGO creation.  And with both I make a conscious effort to keep trying out new ideas and techniques, so as not to become creatively stagnant.  And you can likely find insights into my sense of humour and outlook on life from both.

HL: Describe the musical relationship between the members of your band.  How do you collaborate when writing, etc.?

RBPS: I generally prefer to come up with new material on my own, and work it into some sort of minimally presentable fashion before getting input on it from anyone else.  In the past, I've never really trusted "jamming" as a way of generating new songs, but our recent attempt at it has yielded some nice sounding stuff.  The danger of having me work out most of a song on my own is that I tend to become attached to it, and getting me to change it can be difficult.  Or that is to say, I can be difficult about it [laughs].  Our most collaborative song on the album is probably "We Tried", where Lila wrote and recorded the music, and then I came up with the melody and lyrics.

HL: I really like your vocal harmonies.  What is your philosophy behind those

RBPS: My main reason for adding harmonies is just to make songs more interesting, more intricate, and hopefully more pleasing to listen to.

HL: How do you go about constructing your vocal harmonies?  Do you map them out, go by ear, etc.?

RBPS: I never did learn how to read music, so there's no real technical theory behind my vocal harmonies.  Sometimes I'll come up with two or more distinct vocal melodies while I'm sketching out a song on guitar, and then when I start recording it I'll find out if the different parts work well together or not.  But most of the harmonies are things I just come up with during the recording process by trial and error.

HL: I was zoned out one day as I listened to your album
Here Come the Heads.  I actually got hypnotized by the song "Go To Sleep" and fell asleep.  I woke up at the end of "Heaven".  The rain sounds were especially cool--I thought it was raining outside.  It was a neat effect.  What made you decide on putting that texture into your song?

RBPS: I hope this wasn't while you were driving around [laughs].  I'm not sure what made me add the rain sound to "Heaven", but from pretty early on I knew that it sounded right to me.  I borrowed a bunch of sound effect CDs from the library and looked for just the right rain sound, but nothing I tried seemed quite right.  And then the day before I was going to show off our completed album to my family and friends, it happened to rain very heavily here in Silicon Valley, so I opened the window of our studio and put the microphone facing the window, and there it was.  Truth be told, I'm still not completely satisfied with the sound of it.  I think some people just mistake it for tape hiss [laughs]. 

HL: The other sound effects (birds in "Sunshine Day" and answering machine on "Not About This") were also nice. 

RBPS: The answering machine message is actually the genesis of the name for that song, and if you listen very closely, you will hear the voice say "I'll talk to you tomorrow...probably not about this...bye".  The lyrics to the song are written from the perspective of the person leaving the message.  In the track order for the album that I favored, "Heaven" was closer to the middle of the album, and was directly followed by "Sunshine Day", so the rain sounds were supposed to fade out as the chirping birds faded in.  Deciding on the best track order for the album was one of the bigger sources of friction in making our album.  The end result was a compromise that didn't really satisfy either of us.

HL: What are your thoughts on explorations to Mars?

RBPS: If you ain't ever been to Mars, don't ever go to Mars.  Know what I'm sayin'?

HL: What's in the future for The Human Heads?

RBPS: We both have interest in recording a second album.  I'm sure that if The Brick Testament project hadn't taken off like it did, we'd have more Human Heads material released by now.  I don't know when we'll get around to recording good versions of the songs and partial songs we have recorded demos of over the past three years, but I think it will happen eventually.  Maybe when we do, we'll just post-date our albums to 2002 and 2004 so it doesn't look like we took such an embarrassingly long time off.  And then I'm right back into being in a "concept band".  Oh well.

(3.19.04)

From here on thru we were alone. 

We'd separated from our gang and split off on different trains.  Ours went subterranean.  When we arrived at our station, we emerged from the underground to taxi headlights and the neon illusion of motion.

Evening.

We had 20 minutes to kill as we waited for the next scheduled bus.  So we strolled the double tiered shopping center across from the subway station.

Sometimes I can see myself from a bird's eye view, circling above me.  I spy me and her walking closely, climbing the stairs, and immersed in dialogue.  But I don't always have a clear view--telephone poles and other obstructions make it difficult to see myself.  So the bird orbits for a better perspective.

We entered a CD store.  I followed her as she led me around the stacks, all the while keeping the ball rolling on some semi-serious discussion.  There was only one album I was particually looking for and waited for us to eventually lap around to where it was alphabetically filed.

"Oh," I declared, "I'm interested in hearing this CD."

"This one?" she clarified.

"Yeah," I confirmed.

"Hey," she offered, "I'll get it for you."

"Hey," I accepted, "thanks."

We estimated that we could return to the bus stop, with time to spare for a smokebreak.  I kept asking her what was special about her town--laudable landmarks, indigenous delicatessens, or noteable notorieties.  She shrugged and said that there wasn't anything cool about it.  In fact she hated it.  But it was only temporary.  She'd move away someday.

The bus arrived as we trashed our butts.  We sat in the back and continued our neverending conversation.

"I", I said, "don't really think of anywhere as my home.  I mean, I've been living at the same place for the last ten years.  And I've resided within the same general vicinity for my entire life.  Yet, I don't consider myself having a home, or at least one place I can depend on as home.  Actually, I'm not interested in such a concept.  I'm happy wherever I am.  Otherwise I wouldn't be wherever I am."

Sometimes I feel like everyone travels on their own little trajectories, going about their little lives.  Like the blood within us, we course around on personal paths.  And our intersections are at the heart of our journeys. 

I was glad to be with her again.

We got off the bus.  Stopping at the convenience store, we picked up some drinks to pick up the entertainment of the night ahead.

"While we're here," she remembered, "we should get something for breakfast tomorrow, too."

Somedays just feel perfect, as if the universe is aligned.  There's an effortlessness about it all.  Everything revolves in your direction and you can't help but admire it.  Just let it guide you and enjoy the ride.

En route.

Together.

In order to get to the other side of a busy street, we had to use a tunnel that went under it.  Our shadows passed under the artificial light and our voices echoed along the caved walls as we walked beneath the traffic.

Then we came upon the final stretch.  The last block before we reached her lamentable dwelling.  Up ahead, beyond the rooftops, was the dark outline of the mountains in the distance.  And above it all was the fullest and brightest moon we had ever seen.

(3.22.04)

Brenda kept smiling as she complained about this and that, like she was laughing off her bothers, when all she really was doing was being obviously annoyed with herself.  Cause if she really didn't care, she'd'nt complain in the first place, regardless if she's just making party conversation.  She'd be gracious instead.

I felt sorry for her.

But then again, as I notice her phoniness, am I any less of a sham if I don't say it to her face?  Yeah, I faked my interest in her problems, insofar as to listen without much involvement--I allow for talk hogs to dominate.  Whilst in the back of my mind I just wanted to leave her drowning in her drunken monologue.  I was just being gracious.

I think she felt sorry for me.

Cause you see I don't play the same game she plays.  You know, the "chase the money" game--get the job, get the house, get married, get more money cause you need more to live happy ever after, etc.  I know in my soul that that game is meaningless.  So I gave up a long time ago.  And I've got no complaints.

But I can see how she must think I'm a loser. 

I mean, just as I can't imagine living in her materialistic world, so must she be befuddled with how I can't imagine living in her materialistic world and have no complaints, other than complaining about her complaining.  And even then, I'm not really complaining, just pointing out how pointless complaining is.  She's the one that’s gotta live with herself.

I don't mind if she thinks I'm a loser.

(3.23.04)

My sister and her boyfriend recently moved into my zip code.  They live just nine blocks away, which is theoretically within walking distance, but me being the lazy bum that I am, prefer to visit them via car, or at the most physically strenuous, by bicycle. 

I like popping over whenever I feel like it, usually after work or on the weekend during a break from some project, if for a free meal, to watch some cable TV, or just be a bothersome big brother.  My sis and her b-friend are cool.  I mean, they seem to not mind me loafing around.  At least not yet.

I used to hang out in my sister's room when we were growing up.  I'd kick it on her bed and chat about lame kiddie stuff.  We're pretty tight despite being characteristically dissimilar in almost everything.  But I'm thankful that we can stand each other's company.  Having her in my neighbourhood is fun--it's like the old days.       

Now, their apartment has a decent backyard (enough space to accommodate a decent sized gathering, which they did a couple weeks ago for her birthday/housewarming party).  It's got grass and bushes and flowers and all sorts of plant stuff that I admit am ignorant of.  Needless, my sister is taking advantage of this gardening opportunity in spades.  The last time I was over, she was in the middle of putting seeds into the fertilized soil--tomatos, lettuce, basil, etc.

I don't know if it's the atavistic gatherer in her, but it seems that most chicks that I know go thru some gardening phase.  I've yet to meet a guy who's into horticulture (other than illegally).  And I've never had the urge to go hunting.  But yeah, it's almost epidemic.  My neighbour's wife can be found planting some leafy thing.  My mom keeps showing me the new additions to her garden and offering me this season's ripened fruit--which as of late has become increasingly often.  My boss gave me instructions to water her sprouting buds whilst she went on vacation.  My aunt's delicious cooking relies heavily on her homegrown vegetables.  And one of my main sources of summer income when I was a kid was watering some old lady's abundantly flowered garden.

Not that I object.  In fact, I admire gardeners.  However, I don't have the patience.  Looking at my sister as she squats down to shovel dirt, I see her focused determination which completely escapes me.  And to wait around for a seed to grow ain't gonna make my day, or however long it takes for them things to bloom. 

I'm no psychologist, but I've got a simple-minded suspicion that there's some nurturing metaphor going on in all this.  Most chicks probably need to disperse their procreative instint and gardening seems to give them some similar satisfaction.  My mom's most likely giving me hints that she'd like to see grandkids soon.  And that old lady (who was childless) seemed to comfort herself by having things growing around her.      

I've got two potted plants in my apartment.  One I got from my mom and is in my bathroom.  The other was a Xmas present from a co-worker and hangs above my kitchen counter.  I keep forgetting to water my poor plants.  Maybe my sister'll come over and take care of them.

(3.24.04)

Harold
Aaron
Edmund
Ernie
George
Albert
Buddy
Arthur
Larry

The above list is a sample of names people commonly mistake for mine upon introducing myself.  It's rare that anyone gets it right the first time, and three times out of ten they catch it the second time around.  There are two things that are usually working against me, if it ain't one it's the other, oftentimes it's both.  One, trying to make myself heard at loud venues--a party or a restaurant that has the music way too loud and crowds of people yelling away.  Two, I'm a mumbler.  It don't matter how quiet the room is, nine times out of nine, I'll still be misheard.

I don't know if my voice naturally mumbles or I do it on purpose to make myself difficult to talk to.  It's probably a combination of both.  When I was a kid my hormones kicked in early and my vocal range dropped nearly two octaves.  I'd scare my teachers and peers during roll call with a rumbling growl.  The choir director wanted me on bass.  Furthermore, it was difficult to control my voice during relaxed speech without it sounding beastly.  So I didn't talk much--cause it was way too much effort.  Which didn't help in that when I did speak, my classmates were so not used to hearing such a low sound from a kid that I'd get unwanted attention.  To which my reaction when someone said "Say something, I wanna hear your low voice" was to keep my mouth shut.

Mind you, I don't mind if someone doesn't know my name.  Eleven times out of ten, I really don't care if some dude is trying to strike a conversation with me.  (It's a different story when it's some crazy dame...)  So them getting my name wrong doesn't worry me.  Rather, I’m more concerned about ignoring them.  I talk to who I want to, not vice versa.

But it is funny to hear their guesses.

(3.25.04)

Ladies and gentlegirls,

Larry McFeurdy here to tell all readers and esteemed stalkers of "Out On a Lim" that your beloved Henry is in Waltham, MA for the weekend.  He got invited to attend the SKIN event at Brandeis University.  It's supposed to be some Asian American arts showcase thing.  I guess that's why I didn't get invited.  Anyways, I'm housesitting at his apartment right now, naked and listening to his Coldplay records.  After he makes a fool of himself at Brandeis, he's gonna be pubbing with some of his Boston buddies for a couple days.  He'll return next Tuesday, so I'm just letting y'all know that there won't be an "Out On a Lim" entry on Monday.  So on his behalf, don't miss him and have a cool weekend. 

Happy spring break (if you're on spring break)

Insincerely yours,

-Larry  

(3.26.04)

My toenails are long.  On average, I cut them about once or twice a year.  I grow them out til they curl like claws.  I figure no one really sees them hidden in my shoes and I'm too indolent to bust out the nail clippers.  They don't bother me so why not let them be.  I think they look cool.

I've kept long toenails ever since I was a kid.  My mom often got mad at me for neglecting them.  I proclaimed "If you hate them so much, you cut them."  Sometimes she did, pinning me to the ground as I tried to run away.

I remember seeing some Indian dude in the Guiness Book of Records with spiraling fingernails.  I thought that was the neatest thing in the world.  Unfortunately, playing the piano denied me long fingernails, they'll clack otherwise--I keep those trim, maintaining them every five days.  I wasn't a soccer player, hence I let my toenails go.

An ex-girlfriend once ordered me to cut them cause they were dangerous in bed--I'm no idiot, obviously I did.  She also warned me that she knew someone who grew his toenails long.  He accidentally ripped a whole nail off, root and all, when he was putting on his pants.  It was supposedly painful.  What an idiot.

I've never had any mishaps.  I always put my socks on first.  And they're not uncomfortable.  I don't notice them most of the time.  They don't hurt when I walk and it's not like I'm some tiptoeing ballerina.  However, ideally, I'd get them surgically removed cause the hassle of cutting them is the underlying problem here.

I can see why we have fingernails, as they protect the sensitive tips of our fingers.  Yeah, maybe before they invented footwear, our toes needed to be similarily protected.  According to what I've read, the growth rate of nails depends on their usage--the nails on the hand you use most grow faster than the other.  Summer, when you're scratching all those bug bites, is the season when your nails spurt.  And toenails on the average grow twice as slow as fingernails.

I previously painted my long toenails black.    

(3.30.04)

A couple years ago I learned Teil I of
Das Wohltemperierte Clavier.  It took about a year to get thru, and I played all 24 sets of preludes and fugues almost everyday.  It's one of my favourite compendiums--inexhaustively fun to perform.  But like most things that I obsess over, I got sick of it after a while.  So I took a break.  I haven't played it in the last year.

Recently, I've got the contrapuntal bug again.  My fingers have been itching to play fugues.  However, rather than dilly dally with what I've already learned, I decided to tackle the sequel.  I favour Teil I over Teil II--it's more, dare I say "catchy", the second series being a bit stuffy, at least as a listen.  But like all Bach, it's a different story once you actually play it.

My method of learning is to first and foremost memorize the pieces.  I like to observe my finger movements and "feel" the music when I play, so I absorb the score beforehand so I don't have to look at it.  I go one bar at a time.  My brain doesn't really process individual notes, rather I see chunks of phrases and the overall harmonic structure.  This way it's easier to remember (kinda like memorizing words and sentences as opposed to each and every letter).

Then I figure out the fingering based on the voicing.  I don't follow any expert numbering systems, I just guess.  But I use whatever helps to bring out and carry the voices without getting tangled.  I start off slow and gradually pick up the tempo til I stop thinking about what my fingers are doing (sorta like learning to walk, whereupon you eventually don't constantly acknowledge each and every step).

After these technicalities are overcome, I just play.  I don't set my interpretations in stone, preferring to go with whatever I'm feeling at the moment.  Anything goes.

And I've consistently found that once I learn how to play a fugue, it's always much more interesting than just listening to it.  There are inverted nooks and augmented crannies hidden in each intertwining line which I surprisingly discover, even after playing it for months.  I'd like to say that Bach is easy to play, cause the actual music can be broken down to such simple constructive elements.  But it's the multiple layerings that give it the illusion of complexity beyond the sum of the parts. 

Well, I gotta go practice...

(3.31.04)

I knew I was dreaming cause the clouds weren't moving. 

It was a sunny day.  I was outside walking in a park.  From under the trees I looked up at the sky.  I could see each leaf tremble in the wind, but the clouds looked odd--like a backdrop painting.  From that moment onwards I decided to take advantage of being in a dream.  I was gonna have fun.

The first thing I did was change the colour of the leaves from green to red.  In the real world I probably wouldn't notice the difference, me being deuteranopic.  So I made them bleed bright red.

Then I thought it'd be cool if I met the girl of my dreams.  Poof, she appeared behind me, sitting atop a tall step ladder.  I climbed up to her.  When I reached her feet, she commanded me to take one of her high heeled shoes off.  So I did.

Holding her shoe and looking at her bare foot made me think--how long was I dreaming before I noticed the still clouds?  I seem to remember being in the park...I had left someone's house...I was looking in a mirror...I even recalled getting up that day.  All of it was unconscious of being in a dream.  I was just going thru the motions. 

When did the dream begin?

"Close your eyes and think back," said the girl of my dreams.

I entered my memory.  I rewound to the moment I woke up in my house.  I was older--this dream takes place sometime in the future.  I'm married.  My wife cooks me breakfast.  I wash my hands in the bathroom.  I look at myself in the mirror.  I get in my car and drive along curved roads.  I'm going nowhere in particular.  Something tells me to stop at the park.  I walk around.  I look at the sky from under the trees.  The clouds aren't moving...

I opened my eyes.  I was still holding her shoe.  But the girl was gone.  The leaves were still red.  But now the clouds were moving.

(4.1.04)
CLASSICAL, POP, AND SURPRISES: THE CHARLES LAWRENCE GRAN INTERVIEW (copyright 2004 Henry Lim)

HL: What are some of your works that you're most proud of?

CLG: There are two big works I think that have really done a lot for me.  One was a dance piece I did about Waco called
Words and Deeds that Kim Vetter [the choreographer] and I worked on together.  I basically did the initial research and I came up with the script.  In many ways it was my piece in that sense--I did the script, I did the music, and all that.  But once Kim got involved, it really helped me give it shape in many ways.  She had, not requirements, but things she wanted to do, so the collaboration really influenced how it came out.  That piece was the first big piece that I did not as a student, but on my own, and also it was a different style of music for me.  Up til then my music had been, even though it was classical music, it had been dance based.  I had always referenced certain kinds of, not so much like social dancing, but music that's traditionally thought of as dance music, whether it's club dancing or ragtime.  So this was the first music where I really effectively used slow music.  That was kinda a big deal.  The other big piece [Hidden Places], which came along around the same time, was this piece I wrote for this early music specialist, a guy who plays the fortepiano, Tom Beghin.  I wrote a kind of a sonata--a big three movement piece.

HL: Yeah, that one's cool--that's my favourite.

CLG: [laughs] I incorporated a lot of the ideas that I had been working on in dance, but I think I did it in a way that had more depth than those other pieces.  Initially, when I first started doing it, you could still get away with a certain shock value that it was pop, but it was in this academic world of classical music.  But you know those days are comming to an end.  And frankly you just get better at it over time.  So that piece has that, but has a lot of other stuff, too.  Plus, that was the first piece that I ever tried quoting another composition.

HL: The Haydn sonata.

CLG: Yeah.

HL: Do you think you have a voice?  Style and characteristics that defines you?

CLG: Yeah.  Its reference to pop music.  I do a lot of things that are like pop music and it's still traditional harmonies, but the chord choices are different than a lot of pop musicians have used.  And then also, I take advantage of the fact that a lot of these classical players can play a certain way--they have this amazing technique and I exploit that.  I try not to write hard music for its own sake, but sometimes I'll write harder things.  I think the big difference between what I do and a lot of other contemporaries that I know is I write a lot of audience pleasing, faster music.  I try to think about what people are gonna like.  Even though it actually sounds all pretty dark, it's not dark and strident.  It's not just ugly, which is what a lot of people do.  I try to write stuff that's emotional.  It's funny because I'm actually a pretty happy guy, but I write a lot of plaintive, melodic material.

HL: Why do you think that is?  Are you going for some emotional reaction from the audience?

CLG: I think so.  Especially when it's just instrumental music, by itself in a kinda classical world, they're going for something very specific.  Because there are so many reasons not to be in classical music.  So the reasons you're gonna be in it are you get to write long-form pieces.  You're gonna write for instrumentalists in a way where you control a lot more of the architecture--they're not improvising, you're providing them with the material they're gonna play, even though, of course, they interpret it.  And I think there's a certain depth to the music.  Not that pop music doesn't have it, cause I think a lot of pop music definitely has it.  But I think that because of the fact that it's hard that people of a certain mindset are gonna go after it.  It's like writers who write hard books.

HL: What do you think about when you compose?  Do you think about what's going on in the world today?

CLG: No.  The Waco piece is my only overtly political piece.  In terms of purely instrumental pieces, I like to imagine what it's like to actually watch it as it's happening.  I imagine the audience going "Oh wow, that's amazing."  Or sometimes I've done, and this is kinda traditional with composers in history, where you have this fake narrative that you tell.  For instance in
Hidden Places, the first movement starts with these crashes.  He kinda lays into the keyboard and then there's this very soft after effect--little arpeggios.  Now that one I actually visualized something.  I visualized explosions.  And kinda what happens after that as they get closer.  That particular movement especially, I had a very specific mental image of the way Tom as a performer does research--based on these historical documents and these historical performance practices.  So not only is there music that sounds like practicing, but there's a lot of library time in there.  And I really like that idea of the researcher, too, cause I'm part of that world, so of course I appreciate that to some degree--of the academic who's exploring something that they're after specifically, but it's like this internal exploration thru text and imagination and all that.  So the explosions are like explosions of synapses in the brain, regardless of how accurate that is medically.  They're sorta comming closer...

HL: It's symbolic.

CLG: It's a metaphor.  But usually, I just like to think of it in terms of the performance--"Oh, we're gonna have this groove here and it's gonna go for a while, and this comes out and it's surprising."  I like the idea of surprises.  One of the things that I work hard at, and I can't say that I'm always very successful at it, is pacing.  Because when you compose, you're looking at this piece of paper and you're writing.  Each note is being written out so of course it takes a lot of time.  It's hard to keep track of the pacing.

HL: Even with mock-ups?

CLG: Yeah.  I've done mock-ups on some things before.  I've actually started getting away from that again.  I did it briefly.  In fact, the third movement of
Hidden Places I used a mock-up heavily and what I found is that sometimes you hear something and you want to change it up--it's too much of a pain.  Cause you're faced with technology.  There's one other layer of stuff you have to do.  But also, if you listen to something four times, you kinda know it.  You just have a different experience already than the audience having to hear it for the first time.  Because you've heard it several times it's not this particularly odd thematic move, harmonic move, or rhythmic move that seems awkward to the audience.

HL: In an ideal world, where does music fit in?

CLG: I think in the ideal world, people would try more stuff, try new things.  I think the thing that we're finding right now as a culture is that everyone goes off in their little corner and does their things.  You have all these people that are so deeply into these specific things--a certain kind of electronic dance music, or a certain kind of pop music, or whatever.  You're gonna find internet radio stations that play only that.  You're gonna find fanzines that cover only that.  It's very easy to just dive into those worlds.  I think it's especially true in the United States which increasingly becomes a suburban country where so many people access music thru recordings more than ever.  I mean, very few people now play an instrument.  A lot of people do not see live music with any regularity.  So that continues to lessen the chances of comming across something surprising.  And corporations, I think, have a real negative effect on the arts in general.  You know, because you have these pop songs, but they might as well be tires--it's just money.  Of course that has nothing to do with music at all.  It's like the Super Bowl thing.  This whole reaction about Janet Jackson and her nipple wasn't about that.  I think what it was about was you watch these guys get up there, one act after the other.  And the whole thing is just so, kinda spiritually even, empty.  It's just about these people and their money.  There's these rappers just laid down in gold.  You see these guys in their fancy cars.  Not that rock'n'roll has had any virtues maybe.  But when you think of all these great American musics of the past and that's what we had to watch.  I think people just focused on the nipple because they were freaked out by how ridiculous the whole thing was.

HL: Well, our society has become more overtly commercial and capitalistic over the years.  It's just a reflection of that.

CLG: Yeah, it's a consumer society.  The interesting thing is that the internet has almost no impact.  Five years ago it's been now, when the internet kinda exploded and everyone thought this is gonna change everything.  This whole baloney that we keep telling ourselves if we download our mp3s and copy our CDs that we're doing this cause we're transforming the culture.  And I do that and you do that--we have our things on the internet and hope that somebody wanders by.  But mostly people use it as a cheap and easy way to pirate stuff.  What the internet has done is fragmented people a lot.  And I just think that the music world in general is really fragmented.  If you follow the Billboard charts, every week there's a new person at the top, and they're like wildly different genres--it's a country music star, now it's a rapper, now it's a pop diva.  What it really is is their particular following rises up and buys that album the first week and then kinda disappears.  These albums sell, but they don't sell like they used to.  None of them are universally huge smashes like say
Thriller, which was one of those kind of events that took over our culture.  Now it's a different world now.  Music has a smaller place in the world than it did then not only because it was before the internet, I mean come on, it was before the VCR.  That's how people, kids especially, escaped.  That was their Game Boy.

HL: Do you have a message for your audience?  What are you trying to say to them?  "Enjoy"?

CLG: Yeah, I think that would be it.  I've always had a real affection for pop in that aspect of it—"We're just gonna have fun."  Even though I like hard stuff, I have to say.  I like hard books and difficult art.  I like that.  And there's a lot of people who do, too.  But I also like to have a good time.  And I think there are a lot of people that are really successful at doing both those things.  That's one of the things that has changed a lot.  I would say I want people who experience my music to come in hoping for something new that's gonna excite them, but also to have a really good time.

Visit Charles Lawrence Gran's website: www.campdeadly.com

(4.2.04)

My flight arrived ten minutes late into Logan.  Todd met me at the airport--it was cool to catch up with him again, it was about a year ago when I showed him around LA.  It was kind of him to return the favour.  We took the shuttle to the subway.  We changed to the Green Line at
Government Center.  I always get a kick out of public transportation, being so dependent on my car back home.  But it's even cooler when there are street musicians taking advantage of the underground acoustics.  On this night, a guitarist played a sweet version of "A Day In the Life".

Todd lives in Brookline.  He lives on the top floor of a quaint apartment building--he said it was built sometime in the '40s.  We met up with his roommate, Cheri, and some NELUG members, who were waiting in the living room.  Soon we were in a pub within walking distance, drinking Guiness and laughing at nerdy stories.  Afterwards, we returned to Todd's place and had a few more beers.  Before I went to bed I checked my email to see what the call time was for the next day's event at Brandeis.  

The next day, I had a smokebreak on Todd's balcony, which had a
tree lined view of Brookline.  I had to report to Brandeis at 15:00.  My crew took a taxi cab to Waltham, about half an hour from Brookline.  We got dropped off on the northeast side of the campus, where there's a castle--which was kinda eccentric, since the rest of the buildings were of your standard college variety, or at least a bit more modern.  Anyways, I found the site where I was to meet my contact.  I gave him a ring (using Todd's phone) and he came to welcome me.  I was led into the auditorium where SKIN 2004 (an Asian American fashion, music, and art showcase) was gonna be held.  Stagehands were setting up the lights, a band was doing a sound check, projectionists were testing out the images to be flashed on a screen, and models were rehearsing on the runway.  I met the organizers and they gave me my cues.  I wasn't half as anxious as everyone else--my part seemed easy, just get up and talk about myself, play a tune on the piano, and answer questions.

The show started at 19:00.  There was a decent crowd of about 400 people.  The lights went down and everything went smoothly.  For a college production, it was well done--I enjoyed watching and participating. 
Todd took a bunch of photos of the event.

It was over around 21:30.  My entourage went to The Construction Site, a nifty store dedicated to building toys.  And then we ate bison burgers across the street.  With Guiness, of course.

We took the bus back to Brookline.  There was some confusion about the train schedules (none were posted, a gripe amongst Bostonians).  We ended up hiking the last nine blocks or so.  It was slightly chilly, but it was nice to walk thru the neighbourhood, not to mention seeing the cute Boston College girls partying along the way.

The following day, I met up with
Amanda over at Harvard.  Todd gave me instructions on how to get over to Cambridge via the subway.  I changed to the Red Line at Park Street.  Amanda told me to meet her at the famous Harvard Square newsstand at 13:00.  I got there about a minute earlier than she did.  We happily greeted each other (she had ditched her choral practice--they were rehearsing some Schoenberg, blah).  She took me to a tasty Indian buffet and we chatted about what we've been up to lately.

Amanda showed me around Harvard.  I felt dumb walking around the prestigious campus.  She pointed out
Memorial Hall where her choir gave a performance.  And the Divinity School where she studied.  We also went to the Natural History Museum (courtesy of her staff status) where they've got a massive kronosaur skeleton and an extensive mineral collection.  After a cup of yummy hot chocolate, we walked along the river to her apartment, where we kicked back and listened to her CDs as I solved her fiance's Rubik's cube.  Before I left, she took me to a cozy pub down the street where I had another Guiness.  We parted and I took the subway back to Brookline.

The next day, before going to the airport (my flight was at 17:00), I wandered around downtown Boston. 
Above ground at the Park Street station, I sat by a fountain, ate a hotdog, and watched as a bum got bugged for sleeping on a bench by two horse riding cops.  I walked down the streets and looked up at the buildings.  I was amused at the mixture of old and new architecture, especially the historic sites, like the Old Town Hall, amongst skyscrapers.  Eventually I made it to the airport.  My flight arrived ten minutes early into LAX.

Thanks to Todd, Amanda, and the folks at Brandeis for making my trip to Boston fun.

(4.5.04)

Ted called me on the ten year anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide.  He said that he'd been listening to
Nevermind, In Utero, and Incesticide, and was blown away by how great Nirvana was.  We talked about those days of yore, the shock of the news, and how we've managed since.  Ted remembered that I'd be aware of what happened on this day a decade ago, and I'm glad he called.

It seems like it was just yesterday...

Ten years ago, I was a senior in college.  Everytime I hear Nirvana I'm instantly reliving those days.  I'm aware that I'm being subjectively biased here, as all generations embrace their own as the "best", but the "alternative" music scene that bloomed during the early '90s was an exciting time.  For better and worse, "college" music went mainstream--perfectly timed when I was a student.  It was like you could feel pop culture getting grungier.  There was an angry yet slacker idealism going around.  Everyone was afraid of "selling out". 

Kurt Cobain, whether he wanted to or not, symbolized those times.

When I was in a band, we all listened to different stuff, with a few overlaps between some of us, but there was only one CD that each member owned: Nirvana's
Unplugged.

Attempting to be objective, I can look back and see that we were all just young and confused.  It ain't like other generations don't go thru the same shit, it just gets expressed differently.  But you see, if Kurt Cobain was the voice of my generation, and he shot himself, what does that say about my generation? 

I'll never forget the day.

It was an overcast April afternoon.  I went to work.  A co-worker told me that she’d just read the news--Kurt killed himself.  I went to the roof and tried to believe that he'd gone and done it.  I don't remember working much that day.  When I got home, the first person I called was Ted.

(4.6.04)

THE JUANITA AND MIGUEL LETTERS: CHAPTER THIRTY ONE (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

Dear Juanita,

Yesterday was the 1,234,567,889th day since I wrote to you.  I figured hey, I might as well write to you today, the 1,234,567,890th day.  Just to show you I still care...

Let's see.  I just got back from a drinking binge Boston style.  Me and Guadalupe went on a lost weekend.  And the darndest thing--I kept thinking of you.  How fun it could've been had you tagged along.  Instead, I played that little game that I play, in which I pray to the horndog god for a pretty girl to sit next to me on the plane.  Alas, I sat next to pretty girl, who was accompanied by her boyfriend.  Sadly, I didn't say a word to her during the flight, even though I got turned on when she accidentally spilled her pineapple juice on her pants, prompting her vainly to dry herself off, which gave way to her needing to go to the lavatory to change into a sexy small skirt.

"Is that made out of LEGO?" she wondered as I pulled my Audrey Hepburn mosaic down from the overhead compartment after our bird parked.  "Yeah," I mumbled.  "Wow, that's the coolest thing I've seen all night," she enthused.  "Thanks," I grumbled, not only wishing she didn't have a boyfriend, but also wishing she was you.

On the return trip, I sat next to an old man and his wife, or at least I'm guessing were a married couple.  They read their little books the entire five hours that we were up in the air.  They didn't say a word to each other.  They were lost in their pages.

Don't lose me.

Tonight I ate Mexican.  I thought about getting the taco combo, but opted for the enchiladas.  As I waited for my order, I got the shiny idea that I'd write you a letter.  I hope you didn't think that I'd deserted you.

Last week, I had a dream where I was in a dream and gained consciousness.  Naturally, I picked you as my dream girl, sitting atop a step ladder wearing high healed shoes.  Reality merged with my imagination.  I don't think I ever woke up.  I'm bunkered in my own dimension, drinking Coke and smoking cigarettes, and watching the rest of the world blast off on their tangential timeline.  I don't mind being left behind.  Or ahead.

Or never here in the first place.

I was having a smokebreak with my drug dealer.  "My mom only wanted two kids," he spoke, "but she had two miscarriages, I mean, if you think about it, if those kids survived, I wouldn't be here, cause she got her tubes tied after my brother and I were born--I was supposed to be here, man."  I agreed and said "There are no accidents."

Whilst in Boston, someone asked me if I knew Larry McFeurdy.  I just had to laugh.

Muchos funny,

-Miguel

PS: hahahahaha

(4.7.04)

When my grandfather died, everyone was surprised to discover that in his will he accounted for a mysterious daughter.  It turned out that before he met my grandmother, he had been previously married.  However, his first wife died during childbirth, and as the story goes, he relinquished his daughter to other caretakers.  He then remarried and had three kids, the oldest of whom is my mother.  Apparently he kept in touch with his first daughter throughout his life, but kept her a secret from everyone.

Nevertheless, my mother's half sister later had a family of her own in Japan, where she had a daughter and a son.  After a divorce, she moved to Norway, where she currently lives.  She remarried and has two sons, one of whom just recently got married in Miami.  I've got half cousins that I never knew I had.

My mother contacted her half sister and kept in touch thru the years.  This past week, they arranged to meet in Los Angeles--her and her husband were in town, and stayed at my parents' house.  I went over to greet her.

She's a jolly lady, constantly smiling and laughing--with a slight resemblance to my mom.  Since I can't speak Norwegian and she can't speak English, we spoke in Japanese.  We shared photographs--I showed her pictures of my cousin's wedding in Tokyo and she showed me pictures of her children.  But when she showed me a photo of my grandfather, my heart sunk.  It was at that moment that I realized that had her mother not died, I would never have been born.  We are connected in the delicate balance of life.

Anyways, I now have an open invitation to visit Norway.

(4.8.04)

EXCRETING GOOD MUSIC: THE KITE OPERATIONS INTERVIEW (copyright 2004 Henry Lim)

I heard the indie rock band Kite Operations play at Brandeis during SKIN 2004.  They tore into a thrashing, yet lithe set of impressionistic distortion intersected with exigent lyrics.  I was lucky to have been in the audience. 

Based in New York, the quartet is made up of Joe Kim (vocals, guitar), Dave Yang (guitar, vocals), Jie Whoon Kang (bass), and Sung Shin (drums).  As the story goes, Joe and Dave were formerly in the group Theselah, but when that band was put on hold, Joe enlisted his childhood friend, Jie on bass.  Jie brought along Sung.  And thus Kite Operations got off the ground.  Check out their website:
www.kiteoperations.com

HL:
Describe the current New York indie rock scene.

JOE: I define "scene" as a network of bands who help each other out via promoting, sharing, attending one another's shows, musically influencing one another, etc.  I'm certain that they do exist, but Kite Operations unfortunately is not part of any such scene.  We'd like to find some bands in New York we could consider friends, but if we can't, I suppose it's no big loss.  Ultimately, it wouldn't amount to much more than a whole lot of mutual ass-kissing. In New York, there are a million places to play, and a million more bands than there are places to play, and everyone is just trying to do their own thing.  On one hand, it's really great how much live music is happening, but on the other hand, you're really just part of the collective static.

DAVE: Yeah, simply put, it's too many bands, but not enough room.  I'd love to befriend other bands, though the ones whose music I enjoy are mostly on the west coast.

HL:
What were some of your more memorable gigs?

JOE: The Brandeis gig we met you at was definitely memorable for the stage setup. We'd never ever played as part of a fashion show before.  Playing in the middle of the catwalk felt very "VH1 Music-Awardish".  (Now here's Metallica!)  The little moonlights on the floor were really cool.  The spotlight was blinding.  And as one reviewer put it, the "obviously i-Tunes background" being projected behind us was a nice touch.  In terms of crowd response, the best we've gotten so far was the 2004 Lunar New Year show put on by this organization called Teabag in Chinatown NYC.  There were maybe like 200 people in there going crazy for us. I signed my first ever autographs that night.  Trippy.

DAVE: Brandeis was a great gig to play because of all the reasons Joe listed, but also because it was so short and simple.  The first four songs we played were sped up from their recorded or intended versions that they only amounted to something like ten minutes!  In fact I prefer the live versions precisely because they're faster.  Playing those songs was pure joy to me, it was very satisfying.  Teabag was also a great scene to play because of the crowd response.  In fact the places we have played where the core audiences weren't into rock seemed to give the most enthusiastic applause.  Our first show was like that and I'm thankful because it gave us such a big boost mentally after only a month of being together.

JIE: Our first gig at Yabe's.  Drunk hip-hop crowd were very supportive.

HL:
What band (past or present) would be a dream for you to be the opening act for? 

JOE: I once literally had a dream we were opening for Radiohead.  Ironically it also turned out to be a nightmare.  Johnny Greenwood had emailed me two days before the show from his hotmail account, which was "DRUMNBASS@hotmail.com".  (Why on earth would he use hotmail?)  Not only were we to open for them, but I was to learn these tabs he sent me to some song and play it with them.  Needless to say, I was totally excited, but then all these awful things started to happen.  I lost my wallet, my phone, my jacket, and my guitar and I spent all my time running around trying to find these things, so I never did get to learn that song!  I woke up soaked in sweat from running in my sleep.

DAVE: I would have loved to open for U2's ZooTV and Zooropa tours.  Those tours, in my mind, were the pinnacle of big rock shows.  Utilizing some of the same stage props and sets would have been reason enough, not to mention the tens of thousands people out in the audience.  And anyway, the members of U2 seem like fun guys to hang out with for a tour.

HL:
What's your musical background?  Do you have any tips and tricks that you''ve picked up over the years?

JOE: My mom is an excellent pianist.  She taught me from when i was 6 until 11.  I consider it invaluable training although I do not read or write music with Kite Operations.  I played clarinet from 3rd grade until 12th grade, and got pretty good at that.  But it was hurting my teeth, and I didn't enjoy the repertoire much, so I retired early.  Taught myself guitar starting from when I was 14.  And I didn't seriously start training my voice until I started this band last year actually.  Yknow, singing from the gut and all that.  The trick with that, as with all things, is to learn to relax.

DAVE: I was given violin lessons for five years as a child, but I really didn't take to that.  Besides the stints in school and church choirs as a youngster, that was it as far as formal musical training.  Like everyone else though I got into rock and roll as a teenager and picked up the guitar to play bad music with a bunch of other friends that didn't know how to play their instruments.  I'm glad it worked out in the end.  As far as tips go, the best thing you can do by yourself is home recording.  After I learned how to work a multi-track program I was able hear the mistakes I was making that I didn't notice while I was playing.

JIE: To be honest, I am pretty new to the rock scene.  I started my rock education through Dave and Joe when I joined the band.  Growing up, I mainly played and listened to classical and little bit of jazz.  At that time, I thought rock was too loud and crazy for me.  I still think it's too loud but ear-plugs take care of that problem. =) Now, I enjoy creating good music no matter what genre or style.  As with everything, I think well-rounded experience is the key for being a great musician.  As a classically trained musician, I depended a lot on conductor's direction, using my sight more than ears.  Right now, I am working on opening my ears and concentrating more on what others members are playing.  

HL:
I like your track "Green-Blue Deathray".  It’s got a great floating sound to it.  What's the story behind that track?

JOE: That song was originally on the second Theselah album
No Sleep, More Fun, under the name "Green-Blue Crayon" and was much more mellow, with only guitars and a bit of humming vocals.  It's based on some music I had heard in a dream.  In this dream, I found this CD with murky green-blue aqueducts at dawn on the back cover, so i popped it in and was blown away by song after song.  It's too bad I couldn't memorize how all those songs went or else we'd be made.  "Green-Blue Deathray" is the death-metallized version of the same tune as performed by Kite Operations.

DAVE: Joe's original version is really beautiful.  Our version simply amped it up.

HL:
How do you record your music?  What equipment do you use?

JOE: We record everything for free at my house.  I'm a big recording buff.  With the previous band, everything was done on 4-track initially, so we sorta got stuck with the "lo-fi" label.  By the time we did the Theselah album
Nice International, I was doing a hybrid 4-track/computer method which I thought sounded pretty hi-fi.  But now with Kite Operations, we do everything directly to computer and use a ton of tracks, and I don't think we'll ever need to set foot in a real studio.  Dave also has a recording setup at his house, and he has developed his own great style of production.  With some of our new stuff, he'd take home a mix that I did and come back with gorgeous fugues of guitar layered on and blow us away.  It's just a great, flexible way of working. I'm proud of how comfortable we are with the recording process, and that we have the know-how to do it ourselves.

DAVE: While Theselah was put on hold indefinitely I dabbled with home computer recording on my own for a while.  Since Joe starting recording directly through a PC, interesting possibilities became apparent.  Since everything is done with wav files and shared software, swapping mixes and adding parts at home are easily accomplished.  It opened up a lot of possibilities that weren't available back in the days of 4-track recorders.

HL:
What songs and/or albums do you listen to for inspiration and why?

JOE: U2's
Achtung Baby because it's my first favorite album. The production is amazing. So many layers to listen to and appreciate.  My current favorite band is Deerhoof.  I really believe that they are musical geniuses.  They blend avant-garde, punk, classic rock, romanticism, and pop so tastefully.  I'm not even sure if they know what they're doing, but that makes them even more charming.  A lot of these fusionist type groups who have yknow so-called "vast-knowledge-of-all-different-styles-of-music" make music that sounds totally disgusting.  Like a vomit-plate special that some virtuoso with a music performance degree jizzed his cock into.  But Deerhoof are so unpretentious, and their music seems to be a pure expression of their inspiration.  And that in turn inspires me a lot right now.

DAVE: Elliott Smith's self titled album is a great inspiration for me.  The quality of the recording is pretty bad, but you can hear how honest he was in everything he recorded.  His harmonies and the subtle left/right mixing techniques are really wonderful.  There is nothing about this album I don't love.  My Bloody Valentine is providing some great ideas for me lately.  I'm currently obsessed on how to sound like "Sometimes" on the
Loveless album.  What a great sound, the drones, the fuzz, the quiet voice, not to mention that I now associate it with the movie Lost In Translation, probably my favorite movie next to Rushmore.  Very influential to me right now are visual stimulants though.  Mark Rothko's paintings have inspired me to look at music a different way.  I like the fact that art doesn't need structure or linearity or a story and incorporating that into music is a fun creative challenge.  I guess it's a very abstract expressionist way of thought.

HL:
If you could legalize anything that's currently illegal, what would legalize?

JOE: Pot, I guess. Free Tommy Chong!

DAVE: Since Joe already said pot, I'd like to say same sex marriage.

HL:
Why is music important to you?

JOE: I consider it a biological, physical necessity like sleeping, eating, breathing, shitting. I need to consume good music like nourishment, and I need to excrete (hopefully) good music like... well, excrement.

DAVE: Ditto.  I'm not sure what percentage of the population feels this way though.  I moved as a teenager and couldn't borrow friends' guitars for a while.  For months all I did was draw guitars in my notebooks and write songs in my head which I couldn't play.  I'd strum picks against my knuckles to practice my strumming.  It was all pretty ridiculous, but there was nothing more I wanted to do than make music.  I'm still like that, constantly consuming music, constantly making music.

HL:
What's next for Kite Operations?

JOE: We're taking our time and recording our first full-length album.  We wanna make sure that it is the very best and inspired it can be before dropping the bomb.  We'd love to play on the west coast sometime in the near future. I guess those are reasonable goals.

DAVE: We also have a show coming up in May called Asian Rock Fest that will be held in New York which we're looking forward to.  Reaching a new audience is always nice.

JIE: Finishing our LP.  Everything starts from there.

(4.9.04)

One day at work I listened to Simon and Garfunkel's entire discography.  I thought, why not, I hadn't really heard their albums before, I mean, I'm familiar with their standard hits, having listened to plenty of classic rock when I was a teenager, so I was curious to hear what else they had to offer.

The first thing that comes to my mind upon hearing their early stuff is, man they sound like they'd fit well on the
Mighty Wind bill--all sugary folkisms with the likes of  "Go Tell It On the Mountain".  But there's something cool about their harmonies, gentle as they are, that is dare I say, pleasing to the ear, moreso than their material.  I'm not too fond of their Dylan cover ("The Times They Are A'Changin'"), of course I'm kinda biased towards the original's simple raggedness, so any prettifications seem to remove the subversive bite.  And that one song ("Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.") where harmless Simon holds up a drug store just don't sound plausible to me, unless it was for comedic effect.
 
Nevertheless, as they progressed thru their albums, and the '60s, they developed their craft, songwritingwise and productionwise, creating a catchy (re: marketable) blend of folk and rock.  Their best work sounds effortlessly inspired ("Sounds of Silence", "Homeward Bound", "America").  However, most of their catalog, to me, feels too strained, as if they were trying too hard to be smart for smartness' sake, and worse, hoping to be hip thereof.

Hence, I opted to get their greatest hits LP for my personal collection.

My favourite track is "Scarborough Fair/Canticle", even though the lyrics are a bit academic for my tastes ("Tell her to make me a cambric shirt"?).  But the melodic and countermelodic buildup is creepy, in a deliriously restrained manner--I keep waiting for it to explode in canonic abandon.  I knew a girl who played me the lick on her acoustic guitar.  Needless, her memory accompanies this song. 

"She once was a true love of mine..."

(4.12.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER ONE (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

I don't drink coffee cause I like to guzzle my fluids, rather than sip them.  Cause coffee's just too damn hot to throw down my throat.  And I ain't got the patience to wait around for it to cool down.

From the depths of her purse, a muffled, yet clearly two-bit impression of a ring rang.

Yet, I was sitting in a crowded coffee shop with her.  However, I'm drinking a hot chocolate--I've already got enough addictions to include coffee.  But yeah, I'll do anything stupid just to hang with her.

She doesn't acknowledge her cellphone's ringtone for a good ten seconds.

I'm looking into her eyes and the last thing on my mind is feeling any shame for letting her drag me into a coffee shop.  Thus our visual zone was broken by her silly cellphone.  Slowly she retrieved it, flipped it open, and telecommunicated with her caller.

I stirred my hot chocolate and took a careful slurp.

It was her mom who called. 

"We're at a coffee shop," she answered--I take it her mom was concerned about our whereabouts.

"No," she continued, "he's drinking hot chocolate...ok, I'll be home in about an hour...bye."

We returned to our privacy. 

An hour later, we finished our drinks.  After I stubbed my cigarette, we decided to commemorate our little moment together by taking photographs of ourselves with our nifty digital cameras.  So she got her camera from her purse and I pulled mine out of my pocket--thank modern technology for being so convenient.  She shot me first as I smirkingly slung back on my chair.  Before I could snap her, she told me to wait as she brushed her hair back with her hands, straightened her posture, and figured out her smile.  I turned off my camera's display screen, cause I didn't want to waste my batteries.

She was ready.  I took her picture.

I didn't leave a tip--cause you don't leave tips in Kyoto.

We took the escalator up a floor, to my train's terminal, as she gave me directions on how to get to the airport on my own.  I pretended I was dumb and repeated them back to her scrambled.  She slapped me on the arm and scolded me for fooling around with her. 

Then I got all serious and said aloud whatever farewell emotional words I had subtitled in my brain.  I mean, I didn't think about it, I just spoke--without any over analytical hesitation.  Cause I don't care what she thinks, other than that I care.  I was honest.

She agreed with a tearful hug.

The turnstile ate my ticket, the padded mechanical gates flipped open, I walked thru, and I snagged my ticket as the turnstile spat it out on the other side.  I turned around and waved to her.  She waved back.  I headed for my train without glancing her way.

(4.13.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER TWO (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

In the late-'90s, junior high and high school girls in Japan started to wear baggy socks--which were wrinkled down to the shin, sorta like leg warmers.  They accompanied the standard sailor uniforms and short skirts (some being altered to be shorter).  And when worn seductively, drew the eye up and down the illusion of long skinny legs.

Obviously this fad was a hit.

However, some strict school officials decreed that loose socks were "too obscene for the classroom" and banned them.  This didn't stop crafty girls from wearing them outside of school--they'd wear them before and after class, keeping them in their backpacks, and changing in and out of them in restrooms (or if you're lucky, in public).

So what I'm wondering is, who started this popular fad?  I mean, was there some girl who was too poor to afford new socks, all she had were old stretched out suckers, and one day decided to go to school with the first ever pair of loose socks?  I can imagine the attention she got, not to mention the snowball effect it had on student fashion, til it swept the nation.  Or was there some marketing genius who capitalized on both the flock mentality of young Japanese girls and the sex appeal of such a brilliant product?  Or worse, say it was a manufactured fad, but falsely promoted as an invention by some fictional poor girl who couldn't afford socks...

I've been lucky enough to have'd the personal pleasure of seeing loose socks in action--waiting on train platforms, walking in the alleys, and followed by perverts.  It was heavenly.

However, that was a few years ago.  The fad's dying.  Thesedays it's rare that you'll find a school girl sporting loose socks, and if she is, she'll be mocked for being behind the times.  Conformity is part of the culture.

The way I look at it, though, is like any movement, you'll have those that'll jump on the bandwagon just to be trendy.  It'll peak out and be displaced by some newer idea.  But the true practioners will remain steadfast.  Like in the '60s, when hippies were cool--most of them probably later moved on to get respectful jobs, whilst those who got stuck in that frame of mind are still keeping the spirit alive.

Thus, any leftover loose socked girl is presumably hardcore, or if anything, she's projecting that image.

As I sat on the docked train bound for the airport, a gum chewing school girl entered my car just as the doors slid closed.  She held a camcorder in her hand as she adjusted her backpack.

She wore loose socks.

(4.14.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER THREE (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

And she moved towards me as the train rolled down the tracks. 
And she moved towards me as the train rolled down the tracks. 
And she moved towards me as the train rolled down the tracks.  All sly and innocent, gum chewing, long straight bandanaed hair, mole on her sweet baby cheeks, theromin antenna thin body, and slanty crescent moon eyes that weren't looking into mine. 

I employ several methods of staring.  One involves my peripheral vision so that I spy out of the corners of my eyes.  Another method is I observe reflective surfaces, such as windows, that are bouncing her image from different angles.  There's always the stretch and peek tactic.  If I'm inspired, I'll fractalize her into mobius loops that repeat in incrementally slower motion.  And sometimes, if I'm blessed, she'll pass by me again.  

The object is to look like I'm not staring directly at my object, when in fact I'm almost going blind from the radiating ultra cuteness thats thowing me to the brink of breaking reality into unimagined multiple dimensions.

I do this cause I've got a conscience--I ain't gonna break the law, much less in a foreign country.  This particular school girl looked barely 13 years old.  And even though they say Japanese girls look younger than they really are, I ain't gonna take a chance.

So all I've got are my stares.  If she doesn't notice me rejoicing in her presence, then there's no harm done.  My hands are clean.

But damn, seeing her loose socks knocked me out hard.  Indeed, they are vulgar to the max.  They destroyed the civilization living in me and set the zoo free.  I wasn't cognitive of anything but her captive nastiness.

Nevertheless, I saved myself.

What is it about certain girls that drive me bananas?  I mean, not everyone can do such, regardless of loose socks.  There's just certain looks that are proportional to my delirium--body types, facial expressions, walking movements, hair flow, carriage quirks, and divine demeanour.  And when they all check off on my checklist, I just lose my balance.

Luckily, I don't lose it completely, but I can see how easily it is to fall off the ledge.  It's not that I'm afraid to die, it's just not the way I'd prefer to kill myself, me being aware of the consequences in violating moral codes (whether or not I agree with them).

Let me put it this way, I get a kick out of blindsighting school girls, and that's pure ecstacy.  I'm not greedy.  I don't need anything more than that.  Knowing that there's a higher level of pleasure just beyond my stares ain't worth attaining if it'll cost me agony upon my soul.  I'm just glad to have gotten within reach.

My imagination can fill in the blanks.

She walked over to me and flirtingly kicked my foot.
She walked over to me and flirtingly kicked my foot.
She walked over to me and flirtingly kicked my foot.

(4.15.04)

WHAT'S UP WITH LARRY: THE LARRY McFEURDY INTERVIEW (copyright 2004 Henry Lim)

HL: Hey man, thanks for housesitting for me when I was in Boston.

LM: No prob.

HL: What did you do while I was gone?

LM: I got high and listened to your vinyl.

HL: No really, what did you do?

LM: I got high and listened to your vinyl.  Oh, and I might've written a short novelette called
Loose Socks.

HL: Is that that crap that you gave me to post on "Out On a Lim"?  I've read the first three chapters and it looks like it's gonna be sick and perverted. 

LM: Yeah, that one.  But dude, read it with an open mind.  It's not as bad as you're led to think.  It's got redemptive qualities to it, too.  Yes, it's at times a graphic journey thru temptation, but that's just me keeping it real.  The reader should get a sense of what it must be like to live within the protagonist's fragile mental state.  But stick with his runoff sentences.  I think he does the right thing in the end.

HL: Whatever.  Dude your last book [
The Juanita and Miguel Letters] sucked.  It had no point.  No resolution.  What did the critics say about it?

LM: Yeah, they hated it.  The LA Times said "What the fuck is this self reflexive shit?"  But I mean, hey, I thought it had some funny ideas, not to mention, it ain't finished yet.  Those idiot reviewers didn't understand that it's still being written.  And how can you tell if a book is good or not without reading the ending?  Everything could change with a few simple words from Juanita, but she's too chicken to write them down and send them to me.

HL: Hahaha.  Dude, give it up already.  So what's up with your album
Hacienda Heights

LM: I'm taking a midpoint break.  I've also got some side gigs that I need to dedicate my attention to, after which I'll be able to resume work on
Hacienda Heights, cause working on my own songs is an intense production--writing, arranging, recording, editing, mixing, listening, etc.  I don't sleep when I'm in that zone.  Well, anyways, I've got a film to score pretty soon, so that's gonna be craziness, what with working to beat the clock.  And I've also been hired to play some jazz with my old Meanwhilers drummer, Zaggs.  I'll be playing the piano, which I haven't done in some time, played jazz that is, so I'm gonna be woodshedding.

HL: Cool.  Oh, by the way, what vinyl of mine did you dig?

LM: Hmm, Coldplay was mesmerizing.  I thought the Cardigan's
Long Gone Before Daylight was brilliant.  I think it’s got some great core guitar, bass, and drum textures.  I like how it can sound like it was recorded thirty years ago--there aren't many contemporary gimmick sounds.  Well other than the clarity of the recording (which sounds awesome on vinyl, by the way), it's pretty timeless, in terms of late 20th century popl.  And damn, Nina's got a cool voice.  She's got some fucked up stories, but they're sweet.  Oh and your Beatles selections--Let It Be...Naked, the Anthology, and 1.  I think listening to these on vinyl is the closest thing to hearing them playing live, studio tricks notwithstanding.  I had a blast "sitting in at their session", so to speak.  And I listened to your killer Puffy albums.  Why the hell do you have all those crappy '80s albums on vinyl, you know, the Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Howard Jones, Don Henley, Peter Gabriel, and Police shit?

HL: Cause they remind me of my teenage years.

LM: Are you going thru some mid-life crisis?

HL: Probably.  But hey, leave me alone with my memories.  They're mine.

LM: Whatever dude.  Hey, do you read Hilary Hahn's online journal?

HL: Sometimes, why.

LM: Did you notice that she's conducting interviews with musicians?  I think she ripped you off, man.

HL: I didn't invent the idea of interviewing musicians.  It's just a coincidence that she's doing that, too.  Besides, she had a web journal before I did.

LM: I think she's a lonely girl.

HL: Shut up, man.  What if she's reading this? 

LM: Boo.

HL: Very funny.  Why do you always have to be a prankster?  Anyways, so back to you.  Have you seen any cool movies lately?

LM: Um, I saw
The Girl Next Door on the recommendation of my friend, Dancing Mandy.  And she was right, it's a very funny movie.  I rented Slackers.  That's a cute college flick.  I rented it cause I'm in my Jaime King phase right now.  The psycho character is a little scary, though--very sick humour.  I mean the guy has a hair doll made from the chick's hair, for goodness sake.  Not all psychotics are like that, hahahaha.

HL: You're nuts.

LM: Hey, it cracks me up...                         

(4.16.04)

Puffy's back with a new EP.  It's called
59.  On the cover, the duo Ami and Yumi are decked in flower patterned long coats posing in some kinda tropical jungle.  A prismatic reflection glares from between them.

The mini-album opens with their theme song from the American kid's show
Teen Titans.  This track appeared on their Stateside edition of Nice.  It's a fun song—evoking cheeseball '60s spy music with Japanese girls trying to sing in English.

"Sunrise" (their latest single) is the highlight of the collection.  It rocks.  I like the pounding drums and the giant sized chorus.  It gives me a grin.  I was talking to my Hakata cousin on the phone the other day and he said that he dug this song--it reminded him of Puffy's earlier hits.  He's right, although I think their current sound is better than their old stuff.

"Kokoro Ni Hana O" has a neat melody, very J-pop.  Sorta feels like summer in Japan...

The rest of the album consistently showcases the cool craftsmanship and retro production stylings that have made Puffy my current favourite band.  They're just too damn cute to disappoint me.

My only complaint is there's too much English.  Four out of the eight tracks are in English ("Forever" has one verse  in Japanese, "So Long Zero" being an English version of "Invisible Tomorrow").  I'm all for them singing unshamefully goofy, but I prefer my Puffy to be in Japanese. 

I'm glad the last track is "Teen Titans" (Japanese version). 

(4.19.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER FOUR (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

"Who's that girl you were talking with?" the school girl giggled as she started to step on my shoes, her eyes to the floor.

"What?" I mumbled twice.

"That girl," she smacked her gum, "the one you were talking with at the station, she hugged you and waved to you, you know, that girl, was she your girlfriend?"

"Uh no," I straightened my glasses.  "She's my cousin."

She popped her bubble, slowly removed her bandana with one hand, and let her hair drop over her eyes.  Then she flipped her black waves backwards, briefly made eye contact with me, and said in a spoiled brat voice "No way."

She slid off her backpack and plopped her teeny butt onto the seat next to me.  She wiggled her legs like a bored girl who was too old to play with toys.  She put her camcorder, which she was carrying, upon the skirt that covered her lap.  She cracked her knuckles.  Suddenly she stopped moving and rapid upper body twisted towards my direction.

"Where are you going?" she coyed.

"To the airport," is what I should've said, but her question stretched out like rubber bands in my mind, pulling my brain in a cat's cradle of possible linear answers, none of which seemed appropriate for this situation.  I mean, I could've lied and gave her some scam artist sketch of myself as a spy investigating the subliminal messages emitting from her loose socks.  But she looked too smart to fall for that.  The allure was definitely there to plain forget where I was going and surrender myself to her.  To let her drain me of my being.  To let the revolving lifeforce within me go down the tube.  And to go blind and deaf to reality as I know it.

But I returned to my senses.  "To the airport," I crumbled.

"Me, too," she gasped, paused, and corrected, "Oops, I lied--I'm really going home, but I really don't want to go home right now, so can I follow you to the airport?"

"What?"

"You heard me," she got all bossy, but quietly, "you're gonna do exactly what I say, Mister, cause my daddy's in the Yakuza and he'll do whatever I ask him to do, like say, kill stupid American gaigin who raped his sweet princess school girl daughter..."

She made me look straight into her eyes.  In life and death situations, I try to gather all the data in my favour--such as checking the validity of this girl's statements via the laughing dialation of her pupils.  I can tell if she's bullshitting.

"No way," I taunted.  "You shouldn't follow me to the airport, you should go home." 

She sighed a "tss" sound.  "Aw come on buddy, I'm bored, let me ride with you to the airport station."

"Hey Miss," I patronized, "you can do whatever you want in this world, I'm not stopping you from getting off wherever you get off--go ahead and waste your time with me."

"Where are you going?" she repeated.

"I told you already," I sniffed, "the airport."

"No," she knudged, "I mean, where are you going from the airport?"

"Oh," I shifted away from her, "I'm going to Los Angeles."

"Is that where you live?" she resumed wiggling her legs.

"Yeah," I tried in vain to divert my eyes from her loose socks.

"No way," she blurted.  "Now, ask me a question."

"Uh," I played along, "uh, where are you going?"

"To the airport, silly," she made a silly face.

"No," I knudged, "I mean, where are you going from the airport?"

"Oh," she shifted closer, "I wanna go to Los Angeles, I wanna follow you to where you live, to see your bedroom and how you organize all your stuff, I mean, are you messy or clean?  I want to wait for you to come home from work and make you happy with my delicious cooking.  Wouldn't that be fun?"

"Yes, dear," I dreamed, "that would be very very fun."   

Who knows, if the train hadn't made a stop and woke me from my fantasy, I might not've put on my brakes. 

(4.20.04)

A few friends have been telling me about their convenient experiences with Netflix.  Here's what I gather.  You pay $20 a month to check out as many DVDs you want (three at a time), and you send them back whenever you're done (free postage).  They've got a pretty good selection, no lines, no late fees, and you can cancel your service anytime.  (Plus, according to a friend with a DVD burner, it's a cheap way to copy movies).

All of which sounds good, at least on paper.  I mean, I think that's a handy system they've got set up there.  I don't doubt the advantages over driving to the video store, paying nearly $5 to rent a movie, and rushing it back at midnight on its due date.  So far, my friends've got nothing but praises.

However, I don't think it'll work for me.  Yeah, I like kicking back and watching a DVD at home every now and then.  But I've never, and I don't think I could, go on monthly movie fests whereby I watch enough to make it worth subscribing to such a service.  I've rented about five movies tops last year.  I usually see the movies I want to see in the theatre, and if I liked something, I'll buy it (and watch it til I get sick of it).  Obviously, there's a bunch of older movies that I've'nt seen, and ought to, but I'm too lazy.  And getting them mailed to me'd make me even more lazier as I'd sit in my apartment watching movie after movie.  I could see myself having too much fun.

Also, I'm usually suspicious of "free trial" offers--that's how people get hooked.

Addendum: Yes, I heard that subscription rates are gonna be raised.

(4.21.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER FIVE (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

The train continued along.  The school girl was still sitting next to me. 

"Ok," I conceded, "let me ask you another question."

"Ok," she put her head on my lap.

"What do you have on your video camera?" I didn't move a muscle.

"Oh, this?" she showed me her camcorder.

"Yeah," I cleared my throat.

"This?" she shoved the camcorder in my face.

"Yeah," I closed my eyes.

"Oh, this," she sat up and turned her little gadget on, "what do I have on it, hmm?...hmm, let me see...uh...oh yeah, I've got this."

She pushed play.

Cheap sound crinkled and echoed out of the low quality speakers--the sound of a crowd.  And on the view screen, a two shot of me and my cousin at the coffee shop.

Initially, I didn't recognize myself, those moving images being the last thing I had expected to see, and let my curiousity open my eyes.  Yup, this school girl had spied on us.

"That's cute," was my benign reaction.

"Oh wait," she giggled, "you're not supposed to see that."  She fumbled with her camcorder and either fast forwarded or rewound.  "Here, this is what I really wanted to show you..."

A porno.

Clearly, this girl is too young to be watching such filth.  General logic would assume that if she's broken one rule and hasn't got caught, she's probably prone to break more--she's a bad girl.

"Uh," I drew the line, "you shouldn't be watching stuff like that."

"What?" she acted all innocent.  "You mean, you and your cousin?"

"Yeah," I caught her slip.  "That's none of your business."

"Aw, why not?" she whined.  "Do you like her?"

"Of course," I dignified, "she's my cousin."

"No," she got all serious, "I mean, do your really like her?"

"Of course not," I sighed, "she's my cousin."

I looked at the reflection of me and the school girl staring back at us from one of the windows on the train.  Behind the glass were cityscapes with streams of evening illuminations rhythmically passing in and out of view.  There was life going on outside, behind the closed drapes and disguised repressions.

We were just riding by--nothing more, nothing less.

(4.22.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER SIX (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

I actually have a paranoid theory about myself being videotaped.  Well not literally, but in the spiritual sense.  That everything about me is being recorded and stored in some cosmic library, to be accessed later for judgment.

Everything--movements, actions, dialogue, backdrops, character roles, soundtrack, nudity, thoughts, dreams, etc.

As the common assumption goes, during those final seconds before you die, you see your entire life flash by--well, that's the "videotape" of your life being replayed in fast forward speed. 

I'm fairly certain that during those final seconds, time'll be kind enough to stretch for you, making each milli-fraction of a second seem like an eternity.  In other words, you'll relive your life.  Everything'll happen again.

Including those final seconds before you die, whereby you get to see your life flash by again, but this time in ultra slow mo.  I mean, it'll go so slow, it'll magnify all the tiniest mistakes you've made in life, and force you to finely appreciate the guilt.

And as it infinitely loops, it'll get progressively slower until it's frozen in timelessness.  You'll be so familiar with the essence of your life, I mean you'll've seen it more than a million times.  Every cause and effect that you've experienced is not only accounted for, but sublimely mapped out in all possible trajectories--you'll be aware of each and every consequence.

Some say that if you're videotaped life sucks, then it'll be hell to watch it over and over again.

And if you dig your life, you'll be in heaven.

Others say that as you relive your life, you can change your evaluation by consciously following different paths--you can control everything, cause it's all in your mind anyways.  Ultimately, we will all submit to eternal bliss...

I suppose it's likely that I'm on a repeat viewing of my videotaped life.  Cause I'm subliminally aware of what hell is like, and will do anything to avert that fate yet again.  And I can feel a tingle telling me that I'm heading towards heaven.

I felt the urge to give the school girl a kiss.  The quiet moment seemed right--nonverbal expression beckoned.  I could smell the gates of heaven in her hair...

But I didn't go there.

(4.23.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER SEVEN (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

And she said "Have you ever chased the dragon?"

"Which one?" I humbled.

"Well, which ones have you chased?" she clarified.

"Oh, I've chased a few in my day," I pitch shifted my voice dowards.

"Did you ever catch one?" she puzzled.

"Well," I interrupted, "that's the whole point--you ain't supposed to catch a dragon.  You're forever condemned to chase it.  I mean, you'll get super close.  Like within striking distance.  And you might even get delusions of slaying it.  Alas, you'll go insane remembering if you really did or not."

"Who said anything about killing a dragon?" she extended.  "I asked if you ever caught one, not if you'd killed one.  If I caught a dragon, I'd ride it.  Yeah, I'd make it take me wherever I wanted to go."

"Hmm," I took a deep breath, "interesting--tell me more..."

"Well there was this old man," she wiped her nose, "well, not that old...uh, he was about your age--thirtysomething.  I had this big crush on him, yeah.  I'd follow him around and videotape him.  But I thought, 'oh, he doesn't like me', cause he never talked to me.  So that got me more curious.  But one day, I sat next to him on a train and I finally got to talk to him.  We got off at a random stop and checked in at a love hotel.  And I rode him."

"Nope," I rebutted, "you killed him."

"What?" she wheezed.  "I didn't kill him--we had fun and all.  He's still alive."

"Well," I metaphored, "not really, but in the bigger picture, yes, you killed him.  Because you destroyed his self control, his humanity, and his innocence.  He will pay for his sin, if not with remorse brought on by man made laws, with the suffering of figuring out his karmic error."

"You're weird," she laughed.

"But wait," I added, "I think you've got something there with 'riding' instead of 'killing' the dragon.  I've been so focused on killing my dragons that I'd forgotten that you can ride one.  For instance, everyone's got a dragon their chasing--be it money, drugs, love, or whatever.  It's that ultimate success beyond success, high beyond highes, heart tug beyond heart tugs.  It's that push over the edge, that break into another dimension, that answer to everything."

"Yeah, why'd you want to kill that?" she huffed.

"Cause dragons don't exist," my eyes rolled down her chest.  "They're only in our heads.  There is no such thing as a 'greater' anything--and if there is, it ain't gonna be yours to have.  You can chase these illusions of seemingly attainable greatness, but you'll only be searching for yourself searching for nothing.  I wanted to kill these deceptions that have blinded me from seeing what's truly real--to, in effect, find a 'greater' reality.  In other words, killing the idea of dragons became my dragon to kill.  And that's impossible.  But if, like you say, I 'ride' my dragon...if I channel the violent energy that I've got pent up from killing my dragon towards ignoring it...let it come to me...and just ride it...hmm, just let the illusions tempt me, let them try to take me away, and leave me out of boredom cause I ain't playing along...it'll just go away."

"Are you trying to get rid of me?" she got mad.

"Have I confused you?" I smiled as she made a sad face.  "Good.  You probably don't understand my point of view, cause you're young, and that's cool.  I don't expect anything from you.  Ok, I'll be honest, I think you're hot.  I want to take you to a love hotel and let you have your way.  And I've been fighting all my natural instincts--they're telling me to snatch your bait.  But you've given me hope.  I won't respond to your invitation, cause I feel it in my bones that that'll be wrong--it may be right at this moment, but down the line, I'll admit that it's completely wrong.  I am responsible for all my actions.  Now all I have to do is wait for you to leave me."

"I thought you can't catch a dragon," she bluffed.

(4.26.04)
LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER EIGHT (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

My only response to her was to go insane.

I couldn't tell if she really was there next to me on the train.  For all I knew she was a hallucination--the other people on the train turning their eyes away from me (the blabbering idiot talking to himself).  But wait...maybe she is real--living and believing like a living bee.  I could hold her hand.  Where's the harm in that?  I don't have to penetrate her dreams, just listen to them (holding her hand).  Or maybe she's a holographic transmission from the future.  She's not really in front of me, rather she's my soulmate disguised as a school girl.  And she's telling me a code.  If I can crack it I'll be allowed into her heart.  But it's all scrambled.  Maybe she's sending me clues.  Like when she leaves behind her loose socks for me when we finally part ways.  I'll be trained to recognize her scent from the imprinting of its young and fresh dirtiness into my olfactory long term memory banks.  So when I return here, say when I estimate she'll be of legal age (give or take ten years), I'll track her down with my nose.  Y'know, I can wait til she gets older.  I could be faithful.  I'll lose track of everything else, except that I'm holding her hand.  I can feel her skinny bones and rings.  Hey, I mean, if I've come to the conclusion that she's just in my imagination, why not have some fun?  I wonder if they'll let us rearrange the furniture at the love hotel.  Cause that's one of the things I like to do on a date--be silly (harmless fun).  (Yup, I've gone insane).  (The time has come to change the music).  (Cause you gotta change the music or it'll lose its vitality, its message, and its endurance).  (It shouldn't be squeezed to death by commercial interest groups, who've sodomized its hypnotic powers to sucker people into buying soda pop).  When was the moment that I realized not to trust my gut?  Was it when I found out that writing is easier to do than speaking?  Cause when I speak, I can't think, most especially in the presence of cute school girls.  (I know I'm talking nonsense).  My gut's just gonna feed me stupidty.  However, when I write, I can flow with the words, and edit my text if it don't make any sense.  I can appear to be smart.  But honestly, what really is "smart".  It don't do nothing for you when you're smart enough to see the difference between right and wrong.  I think it's more important to just be nice.  I don't have to fuck her brains out.  I can be nice to her--let her bother me, joke with her jokes, and be a pal.  Not that some love hotel action wouldn't be rad...arrrgh...gee, our knees are touching...oh yeah...that feels nice...Now I'm pissing her off.  Most older dudes would've gotten arrested by now for advancing upon a simple first move on her.  Now I'm a challenge to her.  She can't lose, cause all men ought to be her slaves, otherwise she's not pretty enough.  That one dude (me) wasn't too impressed enough with her cheap tricks to love her.  She had overestimated her beauty.  Ah, but little does she know that I think she's the mostest beautiful girl in the whole wide world.  All signs point to her.  Which is all the more reason to restrain myself.  I can be patient.  Wouldn't it be worthwhile if on some white lighnting whim, fate decides to bring us back together again, and we do things right from a less controversial vantage?  I have feelings for you.  But I've denied them to keep you near.  You're sitting next to me.  There's nothing wrong with that.

(4.27.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER NINE (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

I believe, in my heart, that that little school girl read my mind.  She's gifted in that way, whereby she has an extrasensory ability to pick up on my residual brain wave patterns.  In those moments of silence between us, whilst I drifted into insanity, she must've gotten shaken by my neural roller coaster thru multiple upside down loops.

Cause she began to cry.

When I heard her sniff, I snapped back to reality.  I collected my derailed thoughts and remembered that yes, I was still riding a train to the aiport and I was still sitting next to a painfully cute little school girl wearing loose socks.  And I had done nothing to violate any laws.

She wiped away her tears.

Ever since I was a kid, I've been turned on by being within proximity of a crying girl.  There's something about seeing a girl lose her emotional grip on social decorum and let her tear ducts spill.  The vulnerability is prime.  Thus, I've always purposefully drove, with my lascivious sense of humour, my girlfriends to cry in front of me.  I'm nearly conditioned by association to get horny when a girl wells up and bursts.

Maybe she already knew my weakness.  Maybe she was just trying to get my attention.  Maybe she actually was feeling lonely and defeated.

I'll never know for sure.  Cause I didn't ask her.  Nor did I console her.  I just swallowed my opportunity and quietly rode onwards.  I knew that if I said one more word, I'd trip on her trap and be spending the night in jail.

She didn't speak either.

And in that long and final stretch to my destination, I felt peace. 

I say it was akin to passing a difficult test--one that's complicated beyond your comprehension despite all that you've boned up for.  Yet, by the grace of graceness, you somehow manage to successfully complete the exam.  Yeah, I don't doubt that there's been some luck involved.  And that made me even more content with my soul.  That I had chosen the correct path determined by a benevolent yonder.

Or it's like narrowly escaping an accident.  The slightest false move and you'd've gotten smashed.  However, you make it thru alive, with the only damage being a missed heart beat and a wink from death.

Life becomes a rush.  And you're glad thereof.

Such peaceful feelings are deceptively obvious, but once it takes over, there is no self conscious confusion or doubt.  It's a release from the immortal confines of immoral conflict. 

I was free to leave.

We arrived at the airport station.  She was all drenched and worn out when I looked at her and smiled.

"It's ok," I told her.

She stayed on the train as I got off.

(4.28.04)

i don't want to be  h e r e
without you  d e a r
i just want you  n e a r  me when i dream

you know that you're the one  w h o
i wanna make love  t o
if only you  k n e w  how much you mean to me

it's getting kinda late  n o w
but i can still wait  a r o u n d
until you take that train  b o u n d  to where you belong

yeah i could wait  f o r e v e r
we'll meet again  w h e n e v e r
i'll never say  n e v e r  but i could be wrong

you should've been there
my fair FRAULEIN

(4.29.04)

LOOSE SOCKS: CHAPTER TEN (copyright 2004 Larry McFeurdy)

"Hey Mr. Crazy Chinaman," my neighbour Miguel welcomed me back to Los Angeles, "how was your trip to Japan, man?"

"It was cool," I cigarette mouthed as I opened my door, put my backpack down, and relaxed on my futon couch--my flight on the verge of expiration.

"Did you meet any cute geishas?" always the pervert Miguel querried.

I like to manipulate my digital photographs.  Cause they're my memories and when I look at one of my photos, I want to remember my past in the way I prefer, namely manipulated--but not so much that it's a total distortion, rather it's subtle, yet obvious (contrast enhancements, blur filters, lighting effects, colour saturation, and selective sharpening).  These are done to frame and focus my footing down memory lane.

"Dude, I wish I did," I lied.  "Yeah, man, there's tons of hotties over there."

"Are the school girls still wearing loose socks?" asked Miguel.

But you see, I don't manipulate the central subject (however defined) of my photographs.  I mean, I try to avoid erasing signposts that are obstructing good clean views of architecture.  And I definitely don't place objects into my settings.  I don't warp my images to the point of complete abstraction--at least to me, I could be wrong, as everyone else can trace the insanity of my photographs.  But I think that I'm still grounded in my perspective of reality.

"Nah," I told the truth, "the fad's dying, man.  I only saw one girl wearing loose socks on the train back to the airport."

"Did you make a move on her?" Miguel politely tried not to be impolite.

The look on my face revealed my negative answer.

"Hey dude," Miguel switched topics, "thanks for sending me that digital pic.  It was all trippy and warped."

"I don't warp my digital photographs," I reminded him.

"Nah," he disbelieved, "it's totally all stretched out and twisted like."

"Look closely at it," I explained.  "It's a reflection on a tuba--it's a natural warp.  The only manipulation I did was to adjust the brightness and contrast, place a slight blur to the background, add a yellow hue, sharpen the scratches on the brass, and shine a faux spotlight on the central characters of the photograph."

"Are you sure?" Miguel still was skeptical.  "I'll check it out again.  Anyways, hey, welcome back....I gotta go eat.  Are you hungry?  Cause I've got tacos..."

"Hmm," I impolitely tried to be polite, "nah, I'm cool."

"Ok," he kindly offered, "but if you get hungry later, come on over to my place.  Yeah, you're probably all tired from your trip and all.  Well, see you laters."

I take hundreds of photos.  With a digital camera, it really don't matter how many I take, cause there's no film to waste.  The flipside to this luxury is that I gotta wade thru hundreds of crappy photos.  Cause there's only a handful of shots that are worth keeping.  That are worth reliving.

I took a shower and ordered a pizza.  The first thing I usually do when I get back from a vacation is go thru my photos.

There's something innate about my selection process.  I don't spend too much thought on picking out the best images that evoke my emotions.  I kinda instantly know, just thru quick browsing, which are my favourite memories.  However, this process does take considerable time due to the amount of photos which my camera can store.

I took 713 photos on my latest trip to Japan.

After selection, I proceed to edit the worthwile photos in my fashion.  I like to draw rough grained black edges around my finalized digital photographs as a nod to the slight manipulation that I've applied--sorta as my signature.

The following week, my cousin sent me an email:

Henry

I was very glad to meet you again .
And I have gotten CD  you had given me.
Arigatou !Now,I am listening to it and drinking Cocoa .I like this .Her voice is really beautiful.
And I enjoyed  to go around with you in KYOTO.I am sorry your staying was very short.
I am looking forward to meet you next time.

I'll try to send you the photos.
chotto mattene.
 
                         noe


And sure enough, in the mail, a few days later, I received some photos that she had taken of me during my stay.  She printed them out.  They were nice--I was transported back to Japan again.  Included was that snapshot she took of me at the train station coffee shop, minutes before we said goodbye.  Off in the distant, over my shoulder, I could make out that school girl wearing her loose socks.

THE END

Note from Henry: I'm gonna be at Coachella this Sunday.  I might not be in the right frame of mind to update "Out On a Lim" on Monday, so please excuse the absence of an entry next Monday.  'Til then, have a swell weekend.

(4.30.04)

I forgot how I found out about
The Internet Archive.  Did a friend tell me about it, did I read about it somewhere, or did I find a link online?

Anyways, it's the coolest site.  It's literally an archive of the internet.  Since 1996, it's been crawling the web, collecting sites, preserving them, and providing access to them.  Essentially, it's making copies of the internet.  So you can see how your favourite sites looked like eight years ago.  Even sites that have dropped off the net are there.  And yes, it's massive--it contains over 300 terabytes of data, growing at 12 terabytes per month. 

Being a librarian, I can understand why the internet is being archived--to maintain a collection of our cultural artifacts for future generations.  Cause as you know, the internet changes everyday.  Keeping copies of how it looked yesterday preserves that historical aspect of our civilization.  And it helps us remember so we can learn from our mistakes and get all nostalgic for the past.

Naturally, I looked up my own webpage. 

Here's what www.henrylim.org looked like when it first launched three years ago.
Ah, look how simple it all once was (note, not all of it was archived, so you'll get broken links to files and such).  I hadn't made the LEGO harpsichord yet.  I didn't have any digital photographs to post, cause I didn't have a camera (the "Photographs" section comprised of snapshots that I took with disposable cameras).  And I had a "Songs" section--I took that down cause based on my stats, no one was downloading my songs.    

Here's the very first "Out On a Lim" entry and how it looked on my front page. Has it really been over a year since I started this web journal?  Notice the "PLURR" link--that goes to a currently dead site.

Hmm, I suppose this entry is being stored in the archive.  And if all goes accordingly, it'll still be there after I'm gone from this world (and unable to pay the fees to run my webpage).  To the reader reading this in the archive someday in the future: "Hi".

(5.4.04)

So I was invited to the wrap party for a movie I'm gonna score.  I didn't go, even though there could've been some cute crew chicks that might've caught my attention in attendance.  My only excuse for being absent was that I didn't want to wake up from a dream I was having.

It wasn't just any dream, mind you--it was a very cool dream.  There was no way reality could compare...

I met an angel with orange wings.  And one day after work, she took me to the roof of a multi-storied parking structure to get an elevated view of the world.  From that perspective everything became clearer than I'd've ever imagined.  Especially her laughter.  Yeah, she was near enough for me to hear her laughing.  And that made me smile ridiculously.

We got in my car and drove downtown.  The ride felt more like a glide down from the clouds than wheels on asphalt.

"I'm hungry," she whispered in my ear.

I filled a parking spot and we headed for the corner sushi bar.  Entering the establishment was akin to stepping into another dimension--everything was vibrant and alive.  A geisha waitress seated us at the counter.  Behind us were obnoxious guests conducting themselves in LA party style mode.  But I tuned them out and concentrated on the angel sitting next to me.

I borrowed the chef's pen and gave it to her.  She checked off her selection from the fill-in the blanks menu.  I ordered the same--a rainbow roll.  Her pick was an excellent choice.  It tasted like heaven.

I think she agreed.  "Look how happy I am," she grinned.

Afterwards I drove her home.  I pleaded to see where she lived.  And she didn't slap me.

This angel lived at the end of a maze.  If she didn't lead me, I'd've surely gotten lost--yeah, I doubt that I could retrace my steps back to the entrance.  I was stuck.

We kicked it in her living room.  She guided my eyes to her paintings.  She let me browse thru photographs of her as she did the dishes.  I got comfy...

Now, can you blame me for not waking up?

(5.5.04)

One of the first things I did when I moved to Redondo Beach ten years ago was go to Home Depot and spend 79 cents on a small section of copper piping--short enough to fit and cover the entire length of my ring finger.  I've used this little pipe as my guitar slide.  I like how it makes a rusty, yet smooth sound.  I mean, I could've spent ten bucks on a specially crafted glass slide, but those, in my opinion, sound too generic.  Not to mention they're expensive.

My favourite slide guitarist of all time is George Harrison.  He had such a, for lack of a better work, classy sound.  And he got better at it thru the years--his playing alone made the Beatles "reunion" songs worth listening to.  He doesn't do anything wild.  He keeps it simple, coupled with an impeccable intonation.

There's no way I'll ever sound like George, nor do I want to even try.  When I play slide, I like to add a ton of delay, which makes it sound like it's being followed by a ghostly trail.  And it's gotta have that ethereal high lonesome whine.  I like it when it sounds simultaneously silly and sad.  Like a good country song--I can't figure out whether to laugh or cry.  But most importantly, it should sound like the sweet scent of a fair fraulein...

(5.6.04)

I remember when I was in junior high and volunteered to sell popsicles at school after class.  I sold "Big Sticks"--some were red with orange tips, others were white with green tips.  Kids paid 50 cents to suck on these, which were especially popular during those days before summer, with the weather hot and sweaty.  My only payment was I got a free popsicle after my shift.

But I really didn't care about my free popsicles.  Nor did I need the extra credit some teachers were offering for volunteering.  I didn't mind staying all afternoon either, when I could've been playing Dungeons & Dragons with my nerd friends.  No, I did it cause there was a cute girl selling popsicles.  All I wanted was to work with her.

We kept it professional, though.  She'd get the key to popsicle room, check the inventory, count the money, and tell me what to do.  I liked having her as a boss.

I never made a move on her.

I don't know exactly what she thought of the gig.  I mean, she seemed kinda determined to sell popsicles for some reason.  She always volunteered.  She kept the chit chat minimal and focused on the job at hand.  She probably grew up to be a good little worker bee.

I doubt she had any clue as to why I volunteered.  Nevertheless, I did my job--the kids got their popsicles.  But I didn't enjoy the work.  Let me put it this way, I was just as lazy then as I am now.  If she didn't work there, I definitely wouldn't've either.  And I've maintained that philosophy.  I think it's more important to work with cool people than to do important work.

(5.7.04)

I got a copy of the Pixies'
Live in Winnipeg, MB - 04.14.04.  And I think it's gonna be hard for anybody to record anything better anytime soon.  It's currently my favourite album--I've been listening to it constantly.  Understandably, the live performance circumstances didn't warrant much fidelity (I wish I could hear the kick drum better).  It's a slight notch above my other Pixies live bootlegs.  But this recording more than makes up for its audio quality in the charm of hearing them play together again.

I'm always suspicious of reunions, having been disappointed by so many bands trying to relive their past glories.  The Pixies (who broke up 12 years ago) were no different.  When I heard they were regrouping, I was at first in disbelief, cause they were stubbornly never interested in themselves.  Rumours weren't abound.  But after cross checking the facts and the reunion was set to go, I got my usual worries--they were cool back in their day, how were they gonna sound now, and might they tarnish their legend if they flop.

They were booked to play Coachella.  I wasn't keen on seeing them in an outdoor festival setting--ideally I'd love to see them in a small indoor theatre, where acoustics make for better rocking out.  I wasn't gonna go.  However, they then announced that they were gonna do a series of warm up gigs in small indoor theatres.  I was excited about these.  Unfortunately, the closest stop was at UC Davis.  I considered going, but decided not to on the gamble that they'll eventually come to Los Angeles on some future tour.  I'll catch them the next time around.

After The Beatles, the Pixies are my favourite rock quartet.  The saying goes (paraphrased from the Velvet Undergound tagline) that "not many people listened to the Pixies, but those who did formed their own bands" applies to me.  Because of them I turned up the distortion on my guitar.  They laid down the foundation from which 90 percent of all '90s alternative bands cribbed, built off of, and owe thanks.  Admittedly, the Pixies were a little too wacky (odd bar phrasing, off kilter lyrics), but that made them cooler than the rest, not to mention they had a kick ass sound (dynamics, yelling, yet melodic).  They rocked.

I remember when they opened for U2's Zoo TV tour and thinking I'll wait til they have their own show.  I'll catch them the next time around.  They disbanded after that tour.  In the years that followed, I saw the Pixies perform in their various solo incarnations (Frank Black, The Martinis, The Amps)--I even managed to get all of them to sign my copy of
Bossanova.  I never dreamed they'd reunite.

Anyways, soon after the warm up gigs were announced, they set up a nice little opportunity for people to purchase limited edition recordings of their shows.  Right away I signed up (the first show in Minneapolis was sold out, so I ordered a copy of their second date in Winnipeg).  And looking at the posted playlists, I'm glad I got the Winnipeg show, as it had a quirky set songs (kicking off with "Winterlong"), some of which they didn't feature too often during their warm up tour ("Head On" and "Blown Away").

In my book, Frank and Kim rank up there as one of the best vocal duets, right behind Lennon and McCartney, Emmylou and Gram, and Ami and Yumi.  The Pixies' cover of Neil Young's "Winterlong" is their pinnacle of harmonies.  As well, I like the fitting reunion theme of the tune.

Overall, the band still rocks.  Kim's a bit sloppy, but she's such a cute personality that it really doesn't matter--I dig her laughing during the coda to "Here Comes Your Man".  Frank's voice is sounding good and his rhythm guitar playing is tight.  David's still got the beat.  And Joey's Joey.  Listening to the recording has given me hope that not all reunions are futile.  I'll catch them the next time around.

Addendum: Yes, I did go to Coachella, but not on the day the Pixies played.  I don't think I would've survived two days in the desert, even though it just so happened that I got stuck there overnight, but that's another story...


(5.10.04)

My fair fraulein was wearing a pretty, blue, and day old dress when we decided to solve our indecision with a traditional coin toss.  Heads, we head east.  Tails, we tail west.

Remember, I'm holding a plastic 16 oz. bottle of soda pop which I purchased from the snack section of the automotive parts shop.

She had a quarter.

Cause I've gots to have my soda pop, as it was a hot noon (which was way too early for me).  I need to smoke cigarettes and drink soda pop or else I get headaches.  And I rarely get headaches.

She flipped her 25 cents.

She wasn't holding any soda pop.  For she only drinks diet drinks due to her experiences with bad sugar rushes.  And they didn't have diet drinks at the snack section of the automotive parts shop.  Perchance which ever direction we set forth upon will yield an establishment that sells her mode of beverage.

I called her toss.

She protected her eyes from the desert sun with some cute sunglasses.  I don't own a pair cause I'm too lazy to get some fitted with my prescription.  Plus, my vision never really feels any pain in bright sunlight.  Thus I really don't see the need to shade my view.

"Heads."

So we're out in the desert at an automotive parts shop cause she wrecked her car and we're waiting to see if they can locate the necessary part to fix it.  In the meantime, she was getting hungry, so we decided to go exploring the area by foot.

The coin landed on heads.  The ball was in my court.  The game was on.  And we headed east.

The first building we came across was an abandoned orange packing factory.  We snuck around back, out of sight from the cars on the road.  We found empty bins and metal drums collecting dust in a secluded corner.  There were incriminating messages defaced on the walls telling us that we weren't the first to find sanctuary here.

She took digital photographs of the cursed words.

"I wonder what the heat'll do to us," she questioned.

"We'll find out," I answered.

The next stop on our adventure excited her enough to show her grinning teeth to me.  It was a shopping cul-de-sac which had as its central point of interest, a major chain grocery store.  However, we didn't head straight for it, across the parking lot.   Instead, we followed the shaded route, along the covered sidewalk that aligned the row of small shops.

They can't prove that I stole the soda pop, cause they've got it on surveillance video that I entered the grocery store with my own plastic 16 oz. bottle.  I'm innocent.

Behind the aisles, next to the meat section, at the grocery store's delicatessen, she ordered a veggie sandwich. 

We hadn't changed our clothes since the day before.  We kinda were stuck out in the desert on the possibility that her car could get fixed.  We must've looked like drugged out ravers who forgot to go home from the previous night's party.  All the food in the store looked so munchy.

And then I remembered that I had my plastic 16 oz. bottle of soda pop.  I wanted to take a swig.  But then I got all paranoid that the grocery store gestapo were going to harass me on suspicion of stealing.  With some slight of hand, I made the object of my heightened sense of delirius incrimination disappear into my short's pocket--just to be safe.

I mean, come on, how hard would it be to assume that a drugged out raver stupidly stole some soda pop?  I imagined the worst.  I'd get tackled by a bagger before I exit--the soda pop ripped out of my pants.  I'd get arrested for being chemically intoxicated in public.  I'd get persecuted for my blood test.

Luckily, having her near me killed my fears.  She was safe.

Nevertheless, her veggie sandwich was taking an unusal amount of preparation.  Even though she was getting impatient, I was secretly glad that we could spend more time together.  Alone.

"We got the coin toss right," I reminded her.

"We sure did," she agreed.

Her cellphone rang.  It was the automotive parts shop.  The mechanic wanted to check her car.  He wanted to put it up on a lift.  But he needed her keys.

"I'd better go and give them my keys," she smirked.  "Can you wait here for my sandwich?  And bring it to me at the automotive parts shop?  Oh and get me some diet soda pop."

"Oh ok," I got scared--she was leaving me.  I don't think I was in the right frame of mind to handle the situation by myself.  But my bravery won over and did her beckoning.

Not to say it wasn't an ordeal.  Her presence had stretched my perception of time.  When she left, I was lost in a vacuum of confusion.  For a moment, I couldn't remember anything--who I was, why I was in a grocery store, nor where she went.   

And then I remembered that I had a plastic 16 oz. bottle of soda pop in my pocket.  The deli lady finally wrapped up the veggie sandwich.  My soda pop stealing nightmare returned.  I was sure I'd get caught, if not at the least kindly questioned, to which I'd refer them to the video surveillance tapes for my defence.  At the checkout, as I waited in line, I could hear the staff whispering to each other:

"There he is...yeah, he stole a plastic 16 oz. bottle of soda pop...it's in his pocket...I think he's a drugged out raver...he's gonna pay...nab him..."

I came to the conclusion that the desert heat made people crazy.  Besides myself losing my mind, I swear the other customers were insane.  I might as well've been in an asylum, with the inmates mocking the conventions of grocery store etiquette.  An old man kept repeatedly yelping "hey, hey, hey..."  Two old ladies exchanged eavesdroppings.  And the fucking adult contemporary music was neverending.

All I had to do was pay for the veggie sandwich and diet soda pop.  Don't look at the cashier.  Don't draw attention to myself.  Don't get caught.  If I make it thru the door, I'll be ok...

Surprisingly, I made it.

I retraced my steps back to the automotive parts shop--including the shaded sidewalk and passing the abandoned orange packing factory.  It was hot. 

When I entered the air conditioned mechanic's waiting room, my fair fraulein hopped in her chair with glee.  I was glad to've returned, too.  I presented her with her food.  I sat next to her and drank my soda pop.

(5.11.04)

Mandy suggested that I get a cellphone (or as they call it in Japan,
keitai).  But instead of getting hooked into the wireless network, I opted to borrow my mom's for a week.  She's got a simple, little, no fliptop and no frills phone.  Nevertheless, I was all thumbs trying to navigate thru the menus.  And I'm not accustomed to holding the screen of a little device next to my ear--it feels awkward.  Call me old fashioned, but I like to talk into a mouthpiece rather than into the air.  Hence, I spent seven days with it in my experimental possession--just to test it out and see if indeed I really need one.

The first person I called was Mandy.  It was from the backseat of my sister's car, at the intersection of the 60 and 605 freeways, heading back to Redondo Beach--her boyfriend was driving my sister and I from a birthday dinner that my parents held in my honour over in Hacienda Heights.  Well, my mom's cellphone wasn't getting a good signal.  I couldn't get thru, other than intermittently.  I gave up.  And I programmed Mandy's number into the internal phonebook.

My experience with the cellphone didn't elaborate for the better.  Uh, actually, I forgot to bring it with me every other day of the week--I kept forgetting that I, of all people, had one.  But on the days that I did have it, I decided to pull a prank on my friends.  I'd call them up and ask them to guess, cause they'll never guess in a million years, where I was calling from.  To which I'd reply, "In my car, on a fucking cellphone."  I made them laugh in their disbelief. 

So the verdict is, I'm gonna return my mom's cellphone, not get one for myself, and enjoy my freedom from the rest of the world.  Although, the only reason I'd go cellular is if I had someone to call...

(5.12.04)

My parents have a dog named Ivy.  She's a half Akita, half mutt.  They've had her for at least the last ten years.  She hangs out in their backyard.

Whenever I visit my parents, I try to play with her.  And give her a walk 'round the neighbourhood.  What I dig about her is how quiet she is--she rarely barks.  I remember when she was younger and figuring she was mute cause she never made a sound.  But she does, defeating my theory.  However, on the average, she's like me--a creature of few utterances.

She gets kinda jumpy when I try to put her walking chain on, cause she doesn't get out much.  But once we're out the gate and strolling, she's a well behaved dog.  She keeps to the sidewalk, sniffs the edges of lawns, avoids other people and dogs, and most importantly, she never poops.  Low maintenance. 

I like walking with her cause one, it gives me an opportunity to have a smokebreak (my parents won't let me smoke in their house), and two, her company is soothing.  I like how I don't have to say anything to her, we just simply trudge along.  Sometimes I let her lead, but if she gets too preoccupied with some scent in someone's driveway for too long, I tug her onwards.  It's never a struggle with her.  She follows obediently.

I'm not really a pet person--it's already a chore taking care of myself, having a pet would be too much work.  And I have no preference between dogs or cats, as they've both got their own pluses and minuses as pets.  But I suppose if I had to choose between the two, I'd say I like dogs.

(5.13.04)

LM: Hello?
HL: Hey Larry, you'll never guess where I'm calling from.
LM: I don't know, man, some cheap payphone at some cheap motel on Sunset Blvd.  
HL: No dude.  I'm in my car, on a fucking cellphone.
LM: Hahahaha...no, seriously, where're you calling from?
HL: I'm fucking serious.  I'm driving back from some cheap motel on Sunset Blvd and calling you from a cellphone.
LM: Damn, man, I don't want to know the details.
HL: Oh ok.  Hey, where's where you're at?  You gave me your latest phone number, but you forgot to tell me where in the world you're at right now.
LM: I'm in Vegas.
HL: Oh really.  What're you doing in Vegas?
LM: I'm shooting a music video for the first  single off of my album
Hacienda Heights.
HL: Oh yeah?  What's the song?  Is is "Kung Fu Girl"?
LM: Nah, that's gonna be the second single.  The video's for
"My Fair Fraulein".
HL: I don't think I've heard that one yet.
LM: Yeah, and you won't get to, cause I'm pissed off that you've been putting my mp3s on your website.  I told you before, if you keep ripping me off, I'm gonna sue your sorry ass.
HL: Aw, come on, man.  I swear I won't post it on my website.  Just let me hear it.  At least describe it to me...
LM: Well, it's gonna be the first single cause my record label thought that it best sums up my current sound, namely the throwback to my garage music roots.
HL: So it sounds like your old band, The Meanwhilers?
LM: Sorta.  But in an updated sorta way--like an approximated projection of what The Meanwhilers might sound like today.  It's got a simple drums, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar arrangement.  Plus some time stretched backwards slide guitar going thru delay feedback.  Oh, and it's got a "so basic it's stupidly cool" structure--it just repeats a I-V-VI pattern over and over again.  The melody traces my fair fraulein's cute little face.
HL: What's a "fraulein"?
LM: It's German for "little girl".
HL: Oh.  Yeah, well, I can't wait to hear the song.  I've dug each one you've recorded so far.
LM: Thanks.  Maybe I'll email it to you.  But you've got to fucking promise me that you won't post it on your website.
HL: Promise.
LM: Yeah, it's a cool ditty.
HL: So what's the video gonna be like?
LM: Uh, it's gonna be set in Vegas.  It's lame.  I mean, I don't plan these stupid promotional videos crap.  Anyways, they've got me in some lame cowboy hat, cause the director thinks the song's got some country influences.  And I'm supposed to lip sync the song as I cavort with whores.  The chorus is "You should've been there my fair fraulein".  So the theme of the video, I guess, is me singing to my darling whilst on some lost weekend.  Like I'm supoosed to be having fun, but really deep inside, I'm sad.  It's not what I had in mind when I wrote the song, but whatever--I have no clue on how to manage my image.
HL: What did you have in mind when you wrote the song?
LM: Well, there were multiple meanings intersecting in my mind when I wrote the song.  But I liked that line "You should've been there."  I stole that from John Lennon.  In the liner notes to his
Rock'n'Roll album, he put that as a quote from his alter ego, Dr. Winston O'Boogie.  I've always thought that that was his little message to Yoko.  Cause he recorded that album on his "lost weekend", when they were separated--she was in New York and he was partying in LA.  That's probably what he was thinking all the while--"You should've been there".  But personally, that line applies to my fair fraulein.  She should've been there.
HL: Who's your fair fraulein?
LM: Well, for me, she's everything--my angel, my drug, my soul, my reason for being.
HL: Aw, how sad...
LM: Hey, that's just the way I hear it...uh, they're calling me to be on the set right now.  I've gotta go.
HL: Ok, laters.
LM: Lates.

(5.14.04)

i COME ON when you COME ON so COME ON be my girlfriend
i won't FIND a better FIND if i FIND you're my girlfriend
don't  h e s i t a t e
i hate to  w a i t
for my memories

i'll LET GO if you LET GO so LET's GO to the moon
i WILL LEAVE if you WILL LEAVE so WILL we LEAVE real soon
don't be  a f r a i d
i'll keep you  s a f e
from your memories

i PRETEND that you PRETEND that we PRETEND together
PLAY with me i'll PLAY with you and we can PLAY forever
don't  f o r g e t
how we  m e t
dig those memories

i'll get on my knees
begging please  p l e a s e  PLEASE
let me love you
i want to love you
let me love you  n o w

(5.17.04)

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