It took me four years to see Magnolia Electric Company (MECo). I had bought What Comes After the Blues (Secretly Canadian, 2005) and Didn’t It Rain (Filed under “Songs:Ohia” with Secretly Canadian, 2002) in the Summer of 2005 before heading off to Columbus. Both albums struck deep chords in me, and since that introduction, I have laid hands on just about everything in the MECo/Songs:Ohia catalog. My chance to see MECo finally arrived whilst they have set about their most ambitious tour since 2007, fast on the release of their new LP Josephine(Secretly Canadian, 2009). Having got to spend a little bit of time before the show at soundcheck, little did I imagine I would hear MECo. launch into the hot Austin night with the high lonesome “An Arrow in the Gale”, swan song on the Josephine LP ending with the lines—“Which of us is free Josephine? Now in the time I have become a MECo fan, I have seen school days come and go, seen separation, buried family, handled an estate, lost all my property to vandals, been shot, moved three times, only to get a divorce and move cross country—which goes to say, as Molina puts it in “Leave The City” (What Comes After the Blues, 2005) —it was a hard time that I’ve come through…it’s made me thankful for the blues.” These are hard words to listen to if you dont know what it means, and difficult earn—if you can know it. Altogether, impossible to fathom the dignity of—without hearing it in Molina’s soulful iambic tremelo vocals. I get it that people think MECo are Americana/Blues aspirants, but two distinctions must be made—Americana is American roots, not just delta and chicago blues, but Ohio/Virginian and Kentucky too. Molina being an Ohia expatriate, its honest, and the man is direct and sincere off stage as much as on stage. Second, MECo aint genre bluesand testament to this fact—is keyboardist Mike Brenner’s funky carny fingering on “Little Sad Eyes” —which sent a visible wiggle through the crowd while stashed bottles began to appear and people pushed forward to the stage until they were 3 feet from the MECo guitar strings. At this point two more questions came to mind—one, how would MECo manage the handheld-radio engineered sax laid down on “O’Grace” sans a sax section? Second, what, if anything would we hear from the back catalog, between the sheets of MECo and Molina’s solo work? The answer to the first question came with Brenner’s keyboarding on “O’Grace” which filled the composition so well, it must have been an alternate take at some point. The answer to the second question began to unfold as MECo took right away into a searing rendition of “The Dark Don’t Hide” —which in all the live versions I have heard—cannot be matched by seeing it in person—“Something held me down and made me make a promise/ That I wouldnt tell if the truth forgets about us”.  Forward, when in Texas—2-step, so hot off the rails of “The Dark Don’t Hide It” MECo  laid down a beautiful version of the mournful “Shenandoah”, and I did 2-step, if only for a few bars, with a beautful dark haired spanish woman who had already had had too much to drink barely five songs in—“There’s just so much a man can miss/And just no end to what he can regret”. Shifting pace again,  MECo moved into “Leave the City”, aforementioned favorite—and a Spanish flavored honky-tonk rambler that live, left me and the crowd howling as Molina finished “Baby both of us have had enough.” Now to the quasi-arcane material—”Hard to Love a Man” recorded with Jennie Benford on the What Comes After the Blues LP highlighted what MECo are capable of vocally as they delivered it without leaving any unintended space in rendition, no small feet, the track full of quiet. If you don’t own the Sojouner Box Set (Secretly Canadian, 2007), then two tracks from the set might have left you wondering—a track entitled “What Comes after the Blues” a country/waltz driver from the Nashville Moon LP that presses so hard into the dirt, Molina’s gospel roots show right through—“Now Noah must have had a lot of room on the ark/ For all of them broken hearts/Stay with me now old crimson pal / Pain like this will even outlive the dark.” “Shiloh” from Josephine followed, itself a re-working of “Shiloh Temple Bell” from the Shahola LP of the Sojourner Box Set— another gem that lends credence to the fact that MECo aren’t playing from their musical heroes, but playing alongside them. Jason cursing Austin’s condo curtained noise ordinance before saying goodbye, MECo ended the night with a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers Guns and Money” and played it with sass  that easily makes it a choice for a future live compilation.  10 songs, 5 new, 4 older and re-imagined and one cover worthy of a live cut.  All, worth the wait.

If you’ve waited, dont read the critics, just take this as notice of what to prepare before arriving. Buy and listen to, Jospehine. Repeatedly, you’ll be rewarded by being able to appreciate the little things. Stash your flask and be sure to bring enough to share. Hit the ATM for $50 cash so you can buy a MECo poster designed by a local artist just for tour stop ($10) and to purchase the Sojourner Box set($40)—which, you can get signed on the spot. Plan on being three feet from MECo and the band members saying hello. Get there early enough to see The Donkeys and The Monohans, they play their hearts out. Leave ready to check back over the catalog, and last but not least, between now and when you go, make a donation to the Evan Farrell Memorial Fund, former MECo. bassist who died in December 2007 —and whose influence and spirit loom large on the Josephine LP, the intense tours schedule and Magnolia Electric Co’s live show.

For a complete listing of Magnolia Electric Company 2009/2010 tour dates, Click here

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Initially I was going to rant about how impulsive, desperate, career-clinging decisions both destroyed the world economy and squashed the Guantanamo vote, but hopefully this message, delivered by more learned sources than I, is sinking in. My short word on the subject: Get a backbone, everybody! This herd instinct sociopolitical theory in practice is getting way outta hand!
Instead I’d like to share my experimental website with you. It’s a global, streaming, viral imagebase called visionstream. If you don’t know what that admittedly crappy site description means, it’s ok, you can still visit the site.
I launched visionstream last year with the intent of imagining Jean Baudrillard’s The Ecstasy of Communication in visual form. It’s a non-commercial, non-curated flow of imagery that anyone can add to. So far, I’ve only gotten about a dozen submissions, so I’m desperate for more.
Please, submit to the stream! If the trickle increases to a flow I promise to spend more time tweaking the site to make it uber slick and sultry. Dig up all your visual experiments and click here!

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And no, it’s not about his dog. 

People here are getting geared up for President Obama’s speech at the ASU Commencement. Granted, it pretty exciting, but the most interesting thing for me isn’t the “historical moment” but the fact there are some people who will find a way to take a big ol’ shit on anything.

Case in point:  a couple of months before the official announcement of the President’s visit, I received an email on the official ASU listserv that asked me to take a brief survey about Obama’s visit.  The focus of said “survey” was to find out how the ASU community felt about the possibility of  awarding an honorary degree to the sitting President. In his usual johnny-come-lately fashion, ASU Il Duce Michael Crow stated in a press release that while it was always the intention of the university to recognize and honor the President’s achievements, they had “not yet determined the best or most appropriate way to do so.”  In the end, ASU opted to establish a scholarship in his name — which I think is probably the what they intended to do from the beginning, since scholarship programs don’t just appear like a bad David Blane illusion.

What was telling, though, was the fact that somebody thought this question ought to have been raised in the first place.  I hate to throw words around without provocation (ok… that’s a lie) — words like bigot, racist, inbred dumb ass — and I don’t want to speculate about people’s intentions. I WOULD like to point out, however, that when President George Dubya “I’m the decider” Bush gave the Commencement Speech at Notre Dame in 2001, no one batted an eye when that paragon of academic mediocrity received an honorary degree.

Hmmmm.  I have to tell ya… it makes me leery to drink the water around here. Me thinks stupidity is more of pandemic than the swine flu.

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1 A-DOOR-ableI love a good documentary. In order to be good it has to be heartfelt propaganda or utterly objective, and since most are some mish mash between those two criteria, I’m usually disappointed and end up watching reality TV.
Reality TV doesn’t have to be good. At its best it’s like a documentary before the edit and overdubbed narration: raw footage of someone’s ordinary or extraordinary life. So, some thoughts:
How the hell did Annie Duke lose to that crazy biatch Joan Rivers?
I want to poke Coach’s eyeballs out with two sharp sticks.
According to the tabloids Jon of Jon & Kate Plus 8 is having an affair. If it’s true he’ll end up regretting it just because of the ensuing press harassment, but at the same time I understand. Kate’s just a wee bit too critical, dontcha think? And actually, the press harassment will go unchecked whether Jon did anything unusual or not.
The Kardashians don’t amount to much and they know it.
To all the guys out there I advise you to NOT date Kelly, the divorcee from The Real Housewives of New York City. You’ll regret it.
My current faves are The Girls Next Door on E and the MTV skateboarding samaritan that lets a tiny horse live in his LA condo.
So, you ask, what does this have to do with the image I posted? It’s part of the package that housed my cat Poofer’s stocking stuffer, the A-DOOR-able catnip toy. I hang it on the door and she goes bat, bat, bat. A-DOOR-able, huh?
The cat on that package is just like the reality TV celebs. It’s nothing like my real cat Poofer or the loud-talking, know-it-all next door neighbor. I have to deal with them, and as such they elicit a series of complex emotions from me.
The A-DOOR-able toy package and Reality TV are the same: pure Baudrillard-esque seduction, utter fascination, a flat one-way transmission, disposable.
Rest in peace Anna Nicole.

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I’m taking a break from my morning writing routine to post my first blog on semantikon.  A break wasn’t so much warranted as it was necessary; even for a chunky fella like myself, it’s good to get up out of the chair. Even if it’s only to walk upstairs and sit down in another chair, at another key board. I’ll get out later.. maybe take a walk to the park that’s right down the road and try to scare the ducks. 

I’m at home writing because my job has come to end. When I’m not writing or trying to scare water fowl, I teach college writing… which, for many writers, is as antithetical to writing as a Mensa membership would be for George W. Bush.  But that’s how I earn bread and beer money most of the time. Since I wasn’t offered any summer classes, I am spending my time writing, looking for a job, and occupying a stool at the sports bar down the street.  Yes, it’s a little further walk than the park, but the pay off is significantly better. I mean, I like nature and all, but after all, it’s technically NOT nature when it’s a man made park… right? When I think of nature, I think of those parts of the world that we haven’t managed to screw up yet.  This makes the area that actually IS nature fairly limited. But that’s the nature of langauge I guess… trying to be as specific as possible only to find that the word isn’t quite correct.

It’s true. I’m almost always dissatisifed with my writing. The language doesn’t always communicate what I want it to communicate; the words don’t always do what I hope they will do. I suppose that’s part of the inclination to keep writing… and part of me hopes (in that respect) that I never find the right words. Otherwise, how else would I spend my days? At least writing serves one very important function: it allows me to justify my lack of worldy career ambitions.

Even when I’m teaching, I’m not keeping an eye on upward mobility. I’ve worked with people who do… I call them administrative weasels… and these people, while not freaks of nature, are, I think, a product of nature run amok. I have trouble even calling them people, and weasel, while a pleasant metaphor, still falls short. I don’t want to call them aliens, either… just in case those little green men cutting geometric designs in corn fields are actually friendly.  

I suspect that part of the reason I’m not upwardly mobile is because I would end up being a the kind of critter (neither person nor animal… think cockroach.. something you can squish and not have to worry if it’ll mess up your tires) I despise. At least, that’s what I tell myself. That and the fact that a more affluent job would suck energy I need for writing. And so, I’m back to those words that are never quite specific enough.

You’d think with over 500,000 words (not including names and other random proper nouns) I could find something. But then I have to consider that the average adult only uses about 10,000 words. (Sometimes I think this estimate is on the generous side.) That leaves 490,000 words that most people don’t know, don’t care to know, and wouldn’t look up simply because it takes time to dig out a dictionary… or at the very least visit dictionary.com.  Besides, as much as I like to think I have a respectable vocabulary, it’s nowhere near the six digit range. And I hate to have to spend the time to stop writing and look up a word in the dicitonary. Come to think of it, I don’t think I even own a dictionary anymore. Or a Thesarus. I think I have a book of crossword puzzles somewhere….

The only other thing I’ve done since school ended was get a hair cut. I get around to it once every 4 or 5 months or until my wife mistakes me for a sheepdog. The good news — if you can call it that — is that because my hairline is gradually receeding as my brain gets bigger, it takes a little longer for her to confuse me with the afore mentioned canine. When I get it cut, I have it cut short… mostly so I won’t have to mess with it. I may get it cut again before the next school year begins. Or I may not. There’s an outside chance I won’t be teaching next year, so anything’s possible.

On the other hand, wearing my hair shorter is also more of a comfort consideration — those of you not familiar with Phoenix in the summer time, turn your oven on and stick your head in. No suicides, now. Just enough to get that rush of unrelenting and humid free heat.  I also really like the woman who cuts my hair… mostly because she used to be my bartender.  Which reminds me: I may not have all the words to say what I mean, but this rule is pretty clear. Never, ever piss off the people who pour drinks or who know how to mangle your head with a sharp object.  That’s up there with Don’t Feed the Bears and Give a Hoot. Don’t Pollute.  And, no, I haven’t been the victim of a vindictive barkeep or a disturbed Edward Scissorhands imitator… but I don’t feed bears either, and I try not to pollute.

I like my hair cut. It makes the summer more comfortable.  It just feels good. And accept for the wonder of my incredible shrinking funds, I like that I spend my morning writing, only to take a break and write some more. It doesn’t pay… but damn, it feels good.

But, for some reason, it does make it more difficult to scare the ducks.

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Random House worked with Lessig to release this book via creative commons. Great primer on rights, copyright and the relationship between innovation and analytical endeavors, what is ours and what is theirs.

I have been usuing this text for a OSU course on technology and education, quick read, brings copyright, copyleft and copy-less issues into context. More on the class, other works we are usuing sometime soon. So—hit this link to get the PDF e-book(1.25MB). Yours to share and attribute according to Creative Commons License.

Larry Lessig

Larry Lessig

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February 2008 edition will launch on Sunday Feb 8 when we will continue and expand our feature of Scot Kaplan’s film and visual works and present a selection of writings from Poet Jerry Judge. Look for more news as we work along this week and on the features…

until…
lo

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Shepard Fairey's Obama PosterIn the bustle of news coverage over the past four days one thing struck me me as I listened to Obama before the inauguration—that artists arts education —and are vital to civic life and social renewal. I cannot find the actual quote or the actual video —but I would encourage you to try cable news sites, perhaps Hulu looking for reels from early Monday evning. Regardless of source, as I have it—Obama was reiterating a commitment to the arts along the lines of three key priorities:

1. Expanding public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations
2. Creating an Artists Corps
3. Publicly championing the importance of arts education

Now, we have to go back to Kennedy to hear someone in Obama’s position explicitly define and champion the idea that artists and the arts play an indispensable role in civic life.  Backwards from there—we have to go back to the 40’s and 50’s to see anything approaching Obama’s open armed welcome to creators and authenticators of the human experience. In my time as an educator, a student, an artist, a publisher and a public servant—I have never heard such a fearless affirmation of the arts from without the arts community—and it never made sense to me as my grandparents home, and the theater in my home town featured works from that long ago era. It neither made sense why a dialogue has not been maintained in my time as our greatest national artifacts are the words of poets, cloth cut by designers, halls chiseled by masons imagined by architects—not to mention the phonograph, the microchip and the transformation of an arid godforsaken place called California. I believe anyone would be hard pressed to find a society that more so requires creativity and determination—to advance its ideals and meet its greatest challenges. Personally, I applaud President Obama’s willingness to assert a vision and an appreciation for the arts in civic life—not as it was the easy thing to say—or the right thing to want to do, but, because the wisdom is discrete and its merit, affordable.

The  image that help mobilize the history brought about today—was crafted by Shepard Fairey, a geurilla artist who required little more than paper, ink, gluten and a venue in unclaimed spaces to execute its delivery. The message is simple and powerful —”Hope”. I have heard many denigrate its simplicity by claiming its appeal is emotional while lacking  substance, but I beg to differ understanding a the history of political art this work arrives after. Fairey’s work transcends the affective to strike a chord—as the use of colors red and blue simplifies the face of a man inspired to transcend a treacherous and virulent national dialogue by aiming to chart a new course with all his worth. How fitting it is then, that our feature at this moment in history is Scot Kaplan, an artist who agitates discussion about the location of the commons—and asking us to evaluate space. Indeed, Fairey and Kaplan both renew confidence that artists can satisfy more than those with a for anomie and its spectacle, in sharp contrast, can in fact, nourish purpose and meaning. It is my hope, that when we awake tomorrow—we will do so with a confidence seemingly lost generations ago—that we are rightful custodians and heirs to the idea that civic life is void without the efforts of innovators. That there is no greater canvas or venue we could aspire to—than to secure the story of this time to speak for ourselves and our world—as history has always required—and now insist, we must.

lo

Publisher, semantikon.com/Three Fools Press

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I don’t consider myself a political person.

Today I woke up the same time as any other day: noon. I grabbed my two boys, my parrotlets Ernie and Louie, and ventured downstairs. Once in the TV room, where their food and water is, I noticed the DVR was recording. Somewhat groggy still, I wondered what the hell my girlfriend was recording now, fearing that her scheduled recordings of Run’s House were getting out of hand.

I turned on the TV and was immediately reminded that it was Inauguration Day.

I took a seat and listened to our freshly minted President orate, amazed by the scene surrounding the Mall. I was reminded of the swath King, among many others, had cut, and of the power and possibility of the spoken word. I was given pause when I was asked to consider giving up some of my hours at work to help someone else whose hours was being cut. I wondered how I could do that.

I was also thrilled to hear my religious denomination—non-believer—included in this particular Address.

When our new President finished, I smiled.

Like the many others who fled the Mall then, I went into the next room to fill my boys’ bowls. I was standing by the refrigerator when, inexplicably, I started to weep. I was overwhelmed by, not just the long shadow of slavery and inequality and cruelty to men and women, but also by an almost alien pride. Yes, for the first time in a long, long time, I was just so goddamn proud of my country. And filled with something approaching optimism.

I stood in the open refrigerator door holding a bottle of mineral water in my hand, thinking: OK, ladies and gentlemen, we got a good thing going here, let’s not fuck it up….

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The thing about blogging is that to do it successfully you must have one or more motivations for engaging the activity with some degree of regularity.  The list of these motives could be brief but must include a grudge, annoyance, anger, shock, Munchausen’s syndrome, an obsessive compulsive interest in the mundane or inane, a long prison sentence or a delusional belief that one is an unrecognized genius and simultaneously that people are interested in the expression of that till now unrecognized genius. At one time or another I believe that I would have been an excellent blogger but as of late the generous blogging opportunity provided me by Semantikon I have been unable to capitalize on.  This is not to say that I have resolved all past disagreements, have subscribed to Taoist mantras, found my bliss, been pardoned, nor been contacted by the Macarthur foundation, however I do feel even in this time of economic disarray, middle east strife and frigid weather I find myself oddly glass half full.  As today is the last day of the rest of George W. Bush’s life I feel as though any carping pales in comparison to the brightness that the future seems to hold.  So as one may view the lack of blog posts as negative I would suggest that one should rather take pleasure in the presence of the absence.

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semantikon is pleased to announce that cara walz will be out March/April 2009 visual art feature, more news on cara and her work coming soon, until, be sure to check out her online gallery at www.carawalz.com

to keep up on site news, post from blog authors and more, subscribe to our blog or grab our RSS feed.

until…

lo

publisher at semantikon.com

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Watch: Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have  Dream Speech

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Semantikon is happy to announce we have made plans to schedule another visual artist for 2009, Hilary Hilario. Look for more news as we develop this feature…

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Truth to power…

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So, I gathered together the works for the edition, and waiting for me is Mark Flanigan’s new piece, “Self Portrait (Out of the Emptiness)” . Reading and formatting at the same time, I moved across nearly two decades of keeping up with Flangian—author, editor, performance artist, journalist, poet, musician, VOLK and semantikon organizer—and now, when semantikon would seem disarrayed and crestfallen, Flanigan is delivering a new moment—drawing a connection with the spaces between them. a song shared, a mirror clear.

Self Portrait…echoes the breadth of 17 years as I have read, heard and seen Flanigan move— “On the Bus” (the early 90’s) a surealistic dreamscape flourescent lit and flickering across the city as he travels honest, situated by his own best and worst intentions in ways—few others i know are able to summon. I have traveled along side him in the time since “Out of the Nest“, agitated him to convert his laundry day poetic meditations—what he calls “minute poems”, to shape them into book form and have also danced the salmon dance with him. In the time since we have started, I have listened as he has kept his own counsel—-and good council about the scope of journalism for his own generation while iot has been no small matter he has done so, having medicated himself with self-help indiscretions to forge Exile /d across the longitude of two publications, and now it seems clear, as Exile/d moves into its fourth epoch. Linking Flangian’s work on the site, you can find the gristle and see where he moves and how he moves more easily now— two features (one, two), his guest editor slot , his eBook “Minute Poems” all spoken for in Self Portrait(Out of the Emptiness). Presence and negotiations with, damnation, stories of empty barstools where he seats wrinkled ghost and wrinkled sheets instead of lonely nights, intrigues, promises and their  hangovers, stock and movement, a bright empty warehouses full of scrap paper, chalk and packet of bic pens. A seat at the second floor window—taunting anyone to ask him to fall out to join the story’s arc.

Common criticism of Flanigan’s work that there are too many names, places and interlopers for all of it make sense—it’s “self-loathing” and “it’s about the drugs”, I disagree and I am sure no one will notice I emphasize, isn’t that what good publishers are supposed to do? There remains a difference between what you are entitled to and what is entitlement. The Flanigan I know, never had any sense someone owes him an audience, so, leave when you need to. The Flanigan I know is no good at controversy, though sometimes he is its counselor— listen or don’t. I wonder when I hear such things—-what is i–t-that a good writer should not know with their body, their meditations and their lives? Who was that I seen leave? Wisdom—-Good writers leave with their audiences.

Flanigan by our numbers…(in lieu of vitae we cant publish as it belongs to someone else)
Nxt to 0 (said: Next to Nothing)
VOLK/c.s.p.i
Exile on Main Street
Semantikon
Fringe Fest
Performance Art series
Exiled From Main Street
Minute Poems
Self Portrait (Out of the Emptiness)…

yesterday we promised some magnolia electric company linkage related to this post…see below for complete lyrics to Blue Chicago Moon…

lo
Publisher
Semantikon.com/Three Fools Press

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