Insanely geeky jokes for web designers.
On March 8, I posted at some length about The High Sign, the newish and very fine movie review site. I also broke out my minimal journalistic skills to investigate the true identity of the site’s proprietor. (To summarize: The site’s author claims to be named Liz Penn and claims to write under the “bland WASP pseudonym” Dana Stevens. The preponderance of evidence, however, indicates her true name is Dana Stevens and that Liz Penn is the pseudonym.)
For the record, I don’t have a problem with the switcheroo. After all, on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog. Proud tradition, Lewis Carroll, O. Henry, authorial license, etc.
And heaven knows there are plenty of bloggers out there using false identities. For a long time, I didn’t put my full name on this site in false hopes that it wouldn’t show up on a Google search for my name. (Yeah, fat chance.)
Anyway, several other blogs linked to my findings, among them edrants.com. (We will forgive, without flogging, his reference to this web site as “Crabtree.”) While Dana/Liz chose not to comment directly on my original post, she did leave these words at Ed’s site:
remember that scene in ‘spartacus’ when the romans are trying to identify spartacus, the rebel leader, among a whole crowd of escaped slaves, so they can capture and kill him? in answer to the centurions’ questioning, one by one each and every member of the crowd stands up and says, “i’m spartacus.” “i’m spartacus!” “no, i’m spartacus!” in addition to being a great scene about loyalty and solidarity, it’s a great scene about names. are spartacus’ followers lying when they claim to be him (since, in some sense, they’re embodied, represented by him, part of the same cause)? at the moment that the “real” spartacus (kirk douglas) stands up and chimes in, “i’m spartacus,” is he lying or telling the truth? if he were to deny that he was spartacus, he would of course be revealed and delivered to the enemy. what does it mean to hide behind your own name?
there are a million reasons for a writer to use another name (to dissimulate her gender, like the brontes; to free his voice, like westlake/stark; to smuggle a script past the commie hunters, as in the movie; or, in the case of someone like the portuguese poet fernando pessoa, for the pure play of it.) but when literature’s innate propensity for lying meets up with the endless labyrinth of the
internet, what’s amazing to me is not that there are some names out there that seem to elude capture, but that there are any that don’t.
We’ve already established that Dana, from her previous academic life, is a Pessoa scholar, so I’m inclined to think the “pure play” example is at work here. (Last time I checked, there weren’t many commie hunters in Brooklyn.)
One Friend of Crabwalk.com runs a prominent blog under a false name. He/she prefers to use one name for his/her writing life and one for regular life. I can understand that. At least I can understand it better than splitting one’s self into Dana who reviews TV shows and Liz who reviews movies. But to each his/her own.
True confession: I have written under a pseudonym.
When I was an editor at the Herald, we’d occasionally be short of writers on production night. If some small bit of news broke near our production deadlines, I’d get stuck writing a short last-minute story. For some reason, I didn’t want to use my own name on those stories.
The Herald used three basic fonts for layout: HeraldHeadlines for headlines (a custom face created by none other than Glenn Fleishman), Times Roman for body text, and the wonderful Franklin Gothic for captions and subheads. I always liked the name Franklin Gothic. So I decided my pseudonym would be Franklin G. Othic.
Franklin’s work still survives: Here are six examples. (Later, a female colleague started using “Francesca Othic” as her pseudonym. But sadly, it appears none of Francesca’s work persists online.)
Eventually, my Herald editing days came to a close and Franklin died a little-noticed death. But in 1997, I got an email from a gentleman named Gene Othic:
Is Mr. FRANKLIN G. OTHIC, author of the article pertaining to the Khmer Rouge, still there? Found his name and article while searching for possible relatives. If he is still there, or if anyone knows how to contact him, please respond to…”
I explained the situation to Gene, who took the news well enough. “I honestly believe I can find a limb for the honored FRANKLIN G. OTHIC to perch upon in the family tree,” he wrote back. “It might be the one reserved for the notorious and such.”
And the Oscar for Best Use Of The Phrase “Furley Accuser” goes to: Fametracker.
Calling all Confederacy of Dunces fans! As longtime readers know, I name all of my computer equipment for characters in The Greatest Novel Of All Time. For instance: My desktop’s drives are Jones, Ignatius, and Gonzalez. My iPod is Myrna. My 60GB Firewire drive is named Claude.
I recently sold Miss Trixie, my aging iBook, to a friend, replacing her with a Powerbook named Santa Battaglia. And now I’ve got a buyer for my 40GB Firewire drive, Mancuso. Today UPS brought me my Mancuso replacement, a sleek, lovely 250GB drive that should finally be large enough to hold all my MP3s.
So…what should I call it? Gus, for the long-suffering owner of Levy Pants? Lana, for the aging proprietor of the Night of Joy? Miss Annie, the neighbor who always complained about the noise coming from Ignatius’ room? Dorian, the gay French Quarter denizen/failed political activist? Mr. Clyde, Ignatius’ boss at Paradise hot dog vendors? Darlene, the bird-loving stripper? So many options!
CoD movie update: Variety tells us that filming could begin this spring in New Orleans. The principals attached to the project: Will Ferrell (Ignatius), Drew Barrymore (Darlene), Lily Tomlin (Mrs. Reilly), Mos Def (Jones), and Olympia Dukakis (Santa Battaglia). Steven Soderburgh and Scott Kramer are adapting the script, and David Gordon Green will direct. I like Ferrell, but I’m still not sold that he’s an ideal Ignatius. Time will tell.
I always suspected it: stretching is nothing more than a pack of communist lies.
Best thing about that story: It’s an excuse to quote the director of the Institute for Hockey Research, “the only organization in the world that has a dedicated research agenda for the scientific investigation of hockey.”
Here’s my story from Sunday’s front page, on the increasing age of kindergarten students. It features my first ever use of the words “Johnny Ramsbottom.”
The second photo in this photo gallery is one of the most disturbing images I’ve seen in an American newspaper. (The caption, to properly alert the squeamish: “UNCLAIMED: A worker, carrying the body of a baby, makes his way through corpses piling up at the General Hospital’s morgue in Port-au-Prince after weeks of political violence. PETER ANDREW BOSCH/HERALD STAFF.”)
Crabwalk.com readers with radically different body clocks than mine should tune into KVIL 103.7 Sunday morning at 7 a.m. You’ll get to hear me talk about my story on Sunday’s front page. Actually, you’ll get to hear me yawn a lot and mumble a bit, all the while cursing my level of alcohol consumption the night before.
Mark my words: At some point in the next 10 years, a magazine writer will write about how early Van Halen is cool again. A critical reappraisal will uncover the layers of social commentary within “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” (“I heard the news baby / All about your disease”). The lyrics of “Panama” (particularly the spoken-word section) will be parsed for references to Jimmy Carter’s 1977 signing of the Panama Canal Treaty. Scholars will argue the place “Ice Cream Man” should hold, deontologically speaking, among the anchoring classics of outsider music. Drummers from Brooklyn all the way to Queens will ape Alex Van Halen’s thunderous attack. David Lee Roth will stand proudly alongside Woody Allen, Andy Kaufman, and Shel Silverstein as preeminent Jewish artists.
Will the thievery never cease?
Now comes Crabwalk The Movie. No, it’s not a harrowing documentary of me surfing for Jason Bateman factoids. It’s a 17-minute short that apparently showed at SXSW while I was there. “When a 26-year-old college-educated deadbeat takes his freeloading too far, he’s forced by his parents to spend the day in search of gainful employment. After stealing a moped, losing his under shorts and getting into a fistfight, he finds much more.”
“Highly satisfying!” — Filmthreat.com.
The Onion AV Club has an interview up with Jason Bateman. It includes this exchange:
O: To this day, there are people out there who are fans of It’s Your Move.
JB: I get a lot of really nice comments about that show. I guess there were a lot more people watching TV back then, and there were only three networks, and we were all 14 or 15 and doing nothing but watching TV and staring at girls. It was a good time to be on TV.
I confess: I am one of those people.
When I was a kid, I loooooved It’s Your Move. Bateman played Matthew Burton, a 14-year-old kid with a hot single mom. Matthew wants to protect his mom from the steady stream of loser suitors, so he becomes something of a con artist. He was constantly playing pranks and assembling Rube Goldberg-esque schemes to sabotage the men who pursued his mom.
At the series’ start, a journalist named Norman Lamb moves in across the hall from Matthew’s apartment. (Norman was played by David Garrison, later known as next-door neighbor Steve on Married…with Children. Actually, IYM shared a lot with MWC.) Norman’s cool, and he and Matthew’s mom dig each other. Of course, Matthew doesn’t approve and begins his usual sabotage campaign. But — and here’s the key — Norman is just as scheming and cunning as Matthew, and they spend the whole series trying to one-up each other with elaborate pranks and schemes.
It was awesome.
It’s Your Move gave hope to nine-year-olds like me that you could be a little awkward and a little dorky but still be cool — if you were smart and could think up cool pranks to play on people. (Remember, Jason Bateman had serious cool cred left over from Silver Spoons.) It was all about brains winning out over brawn. Hell, the cool adult was a journalist, for heaven’s sake.
Matthew’s idiot buddy Eli (Adam Jay Sadowsky) loses the money to hire the band Morning Breath for a school dance. Out of cash and bandless, they resort to a brilliant piece of chicanery: they dress up some science class skeletons in rock finery and manipulate them marionette style as prerecorded heavy metal blares through the sound system and careful smoke machine fog and lighting obscure the truth. [The band’s name: The Dregs of Humanity.] Not only do they get away with it, but the band is an instant hit! Too big of a hit, actually. Matthew pays the price for overexercising his promotional skills as new fans demand to know more. Matthew, in WAY over his head, agrees to an interview — conducted by his mom’s reporter boyfriend, Norman Lamb…Matthew sets up his skeletons again, Norman gets suspicious, and as tension mounts, it’s all to be continued next week!
This was real drama! Would Norman figure out the charade? We’d find out in part two, to be broadcast the next week, January 9, 1985. But…
Reagan decided to hold an evening press conference on January 9! Part two was preempted! I remember being enraged that Soviet arms talks would come before the fate of The Dregs of Humanity!
Remember, these were the days before the Internet, before TiVo, before cable reruns. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, I’d never find out what happened!
(I think this incident may have had a formative impact on my political views.)
For the record, I evidently wasn’t the only kid thrown into a Reagan-fueled fury that night. Examples picked from the Internet:
- “not even do I remember the Dregs of Humanity 2-parter, I remember that “It’s your Move” aired on Wednesday night, and that the week the second half of the two parter was scheduled to air, Reagan had some speech or press conference or something that pre-empted it. I was completely devestated, and it was years before I was able to see the second half of it when some loser friend of mine happened to have it on tape. And to think, until I thought about it today, I was under the impression that there was a time when I wasn’t a big loser. Guess not.”
We’re talking about a formative moment in my generation’s collective youth.
Anyway, the Internet has finally brought me closure, 19 years after the fact. Here’s what happens in part two:
The Dregs are no-shows at a sold-out concert, Norman gets wise, Matthew gets sued, and in a second stroke of brilliance, kills off The Dregs by having them drive off a cliff into the sea. And where did this teen con-man get a car? Well, Norman made enough money selling his interview to Rolling Stone to buy a used car. Presumably, he had something to lose if the band is revealed as a fraud, since he inadvertently perpetrated it with his interview. So he is convinced to donate his car to the cause. In a later episode, a newspaper shows the Dregs being posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I’m glad that China has gotten around to killing off one of its damnable Maoist lies, that the Great Wall is the only manmade object visible from space. The wall’s maybe 10, 20 feet across. If it’s visible, then I-35 is visible.
It certainly would have been the first Pulitzer winner to include the phrase “hollowed out and used as prophylactics by thorn-cocked Gulbuth The Rampant.”
My old college classmate and fellow Toledo Blade alum Vanessa Gezari is writing the Diary this week for Slate. (It’s just a little bit freaky that I know three Slate Diarists from the last four months.) Vanessa’s teaching journalism in Afghanistan right now, and no doubt kicking ass at it.
(I’m cableless back in Dallas, so my trips to Rayne are my only substantial doses of TV each year.)
So I’m punching through the remote and get to channel 50. And I just about have a heart attack.
Channel 50 is MTV.
You see, Rayne is not an MTV-friendly community. When cable came to town in the 1980s, the city’s government asked the (then locally owned) cable company not to carry MTV. 1980s-era MTV was, of course, the work of Satan, and young minds needed to be protected from its ways.
It wasn’t the art of music video that was sinful — we had two country-music video networks. But no MTV.
A few years back, the local operator sold out to Cox. And evidently they decided that MTV was a healthy part of any child’s media diet. Hence the revolution.
And maybe I’m getting old, but — geez, I wouldn’t want my kids to be watching MTV all day. At the moment, Usher and two people named La La and Lil Jon are hosting an instructional show on “how to be a playa” and have lots of anonymous sex at spring break. (Is it just me, or is MTV Spring Break among the more villainous forces in American popular culture?)
Readers of my Zambia adventures may remember my aborted story list: Zambia stories I just didn’t have time to fully report while I was there. No. 3 on that list: The migration of Zimbabwe’s white farmers to Zambia.
I’d like to think the New York Times read that entry on zambiastories.com and was inspired to write today’s story on that very topic.
Plans for the crabwalk.com West Coast Listening Tour 2004 are shaping up. I will be in:
* Seattle from April 2-5.
* San Francisco from April 13-20.
While my schedules are not exactly clear during those stretches (visiting Fiona in Seattle and attending a seminar in S.F.), I’d love to meet up with any interested crabwalk.com readers. San Franciscans in particular, since I should be roaming the city free of responsibility all day on the 14th, 18th, and 19th. (In addition, all offers for couches to crash on would be appreciated. I’ve got company-paid hotels for the 14th through 17th, but I’m currently abodeless for the other evenings.)
As always, the first drink is on me. Drinks two through 19 are on you. (Joke!)
Get the world’s longest email address. “Do not settle for something ordinary…sign up for something extraordinary!”
Ask Crutchy McGee, Trotskyite relationship advice from Chris Funk, lap slide guitarist for The Decemberists.
You see, I got up the guts to ask a fellow student for her email after we sat through my testimony against trustee pay raises for my schools admins. Turns out, she friendsters me before I get to write. We then email each other for five days straight, and we have an intense study dinner over rice and beans and Das Capital. After a week, she mentions a boyfriend, yet her friendster testimonial makes passing mention of “an open relationship.” I don’t want to mess with the budding friendship, but, she emails me everyday, with like ‘where are you, I want to procrastinate.’ How do I proceed? She goes to Chiapas on Monday and the time is nigh, and she is so delectably revolutionary.
Reticent in Revolutionville
Bonus Chris Funk knowledge: Along with playing tasteful slide guitar in the neo-Victorian Decemberists, Chris manages underground hip-hop acts like Lyrics Born and the Coup. I’m having trouble imagining two less similar musical philosophies than those of the Decemberists and the Coup. (Although actually they both have a sort of Marxist bent.)
Two of my primary interests, together at last: Give your Mac to a Zambian school.
I had to go pick up a package at DHL last night. At the front counter were a stack of blank job applications for potential employees to fill out. Across the form’s top were these words:
“The Company does not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex or ancestry; nor on the basis of age against persons whose ages are 40 or above…”
I love that! We won’t discriminate against you — as long as you’re over 40? 39-year-olds — you’re screwed!
I know, I know, age discrimination in the workplace is primarily a matter of shuffling off old people. But if you’re not going to discriminate on the basis of age, how can you get away with discriminating on the basis of age in your own non-discrimination policy?
“We won’t discriminate on the basis of religion — unless you’re one of them damned Unitarians! We hate Unitarians!” “We won’t discriminate on the basis of national origin — except for Belgians! Belgians can kiss our ass!”
Best Savage Love column ever. I’ll never look at a parakeet the same way again.
Tom Corvin has had quite a life: playing in March Madness, cofounding Social Distortion, “spiritual probation” at Bob Jones (!), and now a mild-mannered TV reporter. Seems like a cool guy.
Well, I’m back. I think I had more fun at this year’s SXSW than at the last two. That probably derives from the fact that I know everybody by now and don’t have to play the awkward introductions game any more. It was wonderful seeing everyone again, even if it means being photographed far too often (evidence: me with my coat on inside out, me after running through a downpour.)
Anyway, I was so tired on the drive back to Dallas Tuesday afternoon that I pulled over for fear I would fall asleep at the wheel. (SXSW is a full-body workout, let me tell you. My liver got a good workout, at least.) I ended up napping for 40 minutes in a Shell station parking lot north of Waco. I probably would have gone longer had a nice trucker not knocked on my window and asked if I needed any help.
One thing I miss about the demise of the CD Mix of the Month Club is my lost ability to proselytize for my favorite bands. And I’m not sure there’s a band I’ve listened to more in the last six months than the Decemberists. If I’d remembered to name a crabwalk.com Album of the Year for 2003, Castaways and Cutouts was the likely winner. (Ignore, for a moment, the fact that it was originally released in 2002.) The followup, Her Majesty The Decemberists, wouldn’t be far behind. As I put it back in September: “Highly recommended, particularly if you’ve ever found yourself thinking, ‘Wow, if only Belle & Sebastian had a nautical/Dickensian thing going on and had Eef Barzelay singing lead!’”
Anyway, they were terrific live — a bit more earnest then I’d suspected, but instrumentally strong and quite the rockers at times. They played their new EP The Tain in its entirety (that would be their 18-minute, five-movement interpretation of 8th-century Celtic mythology), and drummer Rachel Blumberg proved to be an able spot vocalist. (One other note: lead singer Colin Meloy, while a talented singer, songwriter, and bandleader, is perhaps the world’s most silly-looking drummer. He switched back to the kit for one Tain movement. Dude looked like a rusted toy soldier come to awkward life.)
Decemberists trivia: Their song “Billy Liar” is based on the 1963 Julie Christie film of the same name.
Then last night came the followup, long-time favorites Calexico. I missed the first opener (Earlimart) but did get there in time for The Sleepy Jackson. They were awful — big, dumb rock unredeemed by the slightest charm. Not to mention ear-piercingly LOUD — I could feel individual hairs being shaken loose from my scalp by the sheer force of the sound.
Luckily, Calexico came through in top form. They played less of their quiet stuff than normal, but the louder, more mariachi-influenced songs were terrificly buoyant. John Contreras (of Calexico fellow travellers Mariachi Luz de Luna) guested on a few songs, and lead singer Joey Burns was his usual bon vivant self. (His raw animal magnetism was such that one of my companions — a woman whose taste in men runs almost exclusively to Latinos — was moved to say: “Wow, even I’d date him.” Of course, at night’s end, she ended up flirting not with Joey but instead with Calexico’s one Hispanic member, Jacob Valenzuela.) Truly one of the finer shows I’ve seen in a long while.
Best press release headline of the day: Bronx School Wins Visit From Humanoid Robot.
I say this as someone who tries my best to musically all-embracing, someone who can find much to like in even the most commercial music: The Vines suck ass. So much vacant posturing, so little talent. Just watch that video and tell me you don’t have the urge to kick the lead singer’s ass.
I’m going to do a quickie TXCN appearance, then I’m off to Austin. If all goes according to plan, I’ll have a long (and pretty interesting) story on Sunday’s front page, so watch for it.
It’s that time of year again. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for SXSW Interactive in Austin. (Or, as the cool kids call it, South By.) If all goes well (read: if I can finish these two stories in time), I’ll be there in time to break bread with Brad. From there, the fun doesn’t stop until I head back to Dallas Tuesday afternoon.
If by chance you’re a SXSW-attending crabwalk.com reader I haven’t yet met, please track me down and say hello.
If anyone needs to reach me to propose particular Austin galavanting, the identification code for my cellular telephone unit is 214-914-9998.
For all you irrational Starbucks haters out there: There are four times as many Tim Hortons per capita in Canada as there are Starbucks in the U.S.
Yet no one talks about Tim Hortons as a sign of corporate greed/social arrogance/creeping conformity/blah blah blah.
Geaux Cajuns! They’re a high-powered, defensively active team this year. They won’t be an easy out for the No. 3 (or so) seed that draws them.
Back at my college paper, Nye Wright used to draw an amazing, vaguely sick comic called “Toad.” It was, alongside the wondrous “Wide Gauge” and its weekly tales of sex-starved dung beetles, an anchor of the paper’s comics pages.
Now Nye has published a new graphic novel called Lex Talionis. Check out the sample pages on his site — it’s gorgeous.
For those interested in this site’s namesake band, American Music Club has a new compilation/rarities disc out. Ten bucks. The demos and b-sides are great for superfans like me, but I’d quibble with some of the song selections if this is meant as an introduction to the band. You’re probably better off just buying Mercury or Everclear instead.
Compilation trivia: “I Always Knew” (here in demo form) later resurfaced as the tremendous “Cape Canaveral” on San Francisco. “LA Is My Woman” (another demo) later became that album’s “In The Shadow Of The Valley.”
Recommended: The High Sign, the movie crit site of one Liz Penn. Normally, she writes straight (if slightly more literate than the norm) movie reviews. But here she veers into the personal, writing about a date with a man she nicknames Polevault. Why “Polevault”?
If you must know, the image springs from that moment at the height of a pole-vaulter’s jump when it looks like the athlete could go either way, suspended midway between falling and flying on that weirdly springy stick, and you just know he’s thinking, “How did this ever become a sport?” I’ve spent most of my dating career at that mid-vault moment, flexing indecisively in midair before falling backwards, and I thought this might be the guy who finally sent me sailing forward into that nice soft sandbox.
I’m feelin’ ya, Liz.
Liz Penn claims that her name is, well, Liz Penn. But is it really? A little detective work may hold the answer. First, an examination of the available evidence.
Her web site bio: “Liz Penn has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in New York City and writes on television for Slate.com under the name Dana Stevens.”
Her Slate stories have this tagline: “Dana Stevens, aka Liz Penn, lives in New York and writes on film and culture for the High Sign.”
In November, she wrote this at the end of a column: “Note to readers: For those of you who haven’t gotten quite enough for the week, I just published a TV review on Slate.com, under the bland WASP pseudonym Dana Stevens.”
In this review, she writes: “So some bitch named Dana Stevens is going around claiming she’s me, giving interviews on the radio and writing on television for Slate.com. It would be one thing if she was just laying claim to my intellectual property — this is the Internet, after all — but since the New Year began, jockeying for space with this WASP no-goodnik has taken up so much of my time that I’ve taken to posting the High Sign late or (in last week’s sad case) not at all.”
In the comments to that entry, she writes: “dana stevens is me, or possibly vice versa. that’s the pseudonym under which i review television at slate.com. the playful joke about the ethnicity of the name was more a comment on my (again, playful) jewish self-hatred than anything else.”
So…what’s her name? Is it Dana Stevens or Liz Penn? Some points to consider:
- She claims to have chosen Dana Stevens because it is so stereotypically WASPy, as opposed to the playful Jewish self-hatred she associated with Liz Penn.
Now, I’m not Jewish (although I’ve always secretly wished it), but is “Liz Penn” such a stereotypically Jewish name? I suppose Sean Penn is from a half-Jewish home. But William Penn was a Quaker, right?
In a pinch, I can buy “Dana Stevens” as WASPy (if only because it sounds like the name of Elizabeth Montgomery’s sister-in-law on Bewitched). But I don’t immediately think “Jewish!” when I see the name Liz Penn. So it’s a strange choice to use the pseudonym.
(A guy I knew in college did something similar — he didn’t want to appear Jewish in his articles for the school newspaper, so he used a pseudonym. [Why this was needed at a school that’s one-third Jewish has always been beyond me.] But in any case, his last name was Weinberger — a clearly Semitic surname if ever there was one.)
- Liz Penn, by its very nature, is an excellent choice for a pen name. (Get it — pen name, Penn name? Good.)
- In whose name is the thehighsign.net domain name registered? Dana Stevens. And the address in the domain registry matches one of the Dana Stevenses in the phone book. Giving a fake name to a domain registrar isn’t hard at all, but this would seem to indicate D.S. is the name she used with the phone company. And the telecommunications industry generally likes to see some I.D., no?
- If she really is Liz Penn and really has a Ph.D. from Berkeley, there’s probably a Google trail from her time there, right? Nope — not a hit.
How about for Dana Stevens? Tons of hits! We learn that she was winning poetry prizes as Dana, writing scholarly articles as Dana, leading discussions on Portugal’s role in modernity as Dana, translating Portuguese poetry as Dana, speaking about cinema as Dana, and getting published in The Atlantic as Dana. I doubt someone would use a pseudonym on all her academic and literary work and then write movie criticism under her own name.
- Finally, until recently, this image was her author photo on the site. What’s the file name? DanaPortrait.jpg. If she’s really Liz Penn and just uses the Dana name on non-High Sign projects, that’s an interesting choice for a file name.
I wouldn’t say the case is yet cinched. But the evidence is quite strong that it’s Dana pretending to be Liz rather than the other way around.
Why do I care? Well, I think issues of pseudonyms and anonymity are extremely interesting, particularly In These Internet Days. Why choose an alter-ego? And what of the ethnic/religious issue — why does she consider her given name too WASP? Particularly if, as she mentions elsewhere on the site, she’s Jewish?
No, really, why do I care? Well, other than the fact I have an ever so slight blog crush on Dana/Liz? Um…I’m not sure.
It appears that I’ve spoken too soon — my employer apparently does have a Pulitzer finalist this year, in breaking news photography. No names attached to it, but I presume it’s for David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer. They’re both tremendous shooters, and I think they’ve got a strong shot.
Anyway, here’s my story from today’s front page, on the controversial (?) practice of adding fish oil to school lunches.
Not to repeat myself, but do you realize the scope of the calvalcade of rawk descending on Dallas soon?
3/15: The Walkmen/The French Kicks at Hailey’s in Denton.
3/16: Alaska! at Gypsy Tea Room. The Decemberists at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton. Modest Mouse at the Ridglea in Fort Worth. The Crystal Method at Gypsy Tea Room. The Unicorns in-store at Good Records.
3/17: Broken Social Scene at Club Clearview. Calexico at Gypsy Tea Room. Pedro the Lion at the Ridglea. The Polyphonic Spree at Curtain Club. The Unicorns at Dan’s Silverleaf.
3/18: Sonic Youth at Gypsy Tea Room. International Noise Conspiracy at Trees. Trans Am/The Von Bondies at Gypsy Tea Room.
3/19: Mike Doughty at Trees.
3/20: stellastarr* at Trees.
(In case you didn’t know, there are two performance spaces at Gypsy Tea Room. Hence the apparent overlap.)
It’s just not fair. March 17 is just brutal. The bolded shows indicate where I think I’ll be — but turning down Broken Social Scene? And the Spree? It’s just not fair.
My story from today’s front page, on the state’s new school ratings system.
As predicted in this space months ago, my old Toledo Blade colleagues Mike Sallah and Mitch Weiss appear to be finalists for a Pulitzer Prize this year. And judging by the competition (a WaPo piece on the Nature Conservancy [!] and a NYT series on workplace safety [!]), I think it’s got a good shot. Rock on, brothers.
If I were feeling self-loathing, I’d point out that The Blade, of dinky Toledo, Ohio, has had two Pulitzer finalists in the last four years. In the last eight years, my current employer, much larger and more prestigious in every way, has had…never mind.
I don’t think it’s online, but my dull story about rainfall is on page B6 of today’s paper. Woo hoo — nothing more exciting than a “it rained yesterday” story. Featuring my first use of the phrase “intense aquatic assault” in a published piece.
Why do bands always do this? The Tindersticks, a truly great band at moments, is reissuing much of their recorded output with better sound and (for most of the albums) a bonus disc of outtakes, demos, alternate versions, etc.
I’m all for reissues, but what about we loyal ‘Stickers who paid good money for the original versions of these CDs back in the day? I’m torn between the horror of paying for the same CDs twice and the horror of missing out on Tindersticks songs circa 1992-1996, when they were really on top of their game.
A quick crabwalk.com guide to the reissues:
- On their overall sound (quoth the prolific Stephen Thomas Erlewine): “Tindersticks were one of the most original and distinctive British acts of the ’90s, standing apart from both the British indie scene and the rash of Brit-pop guitar combos that dominated the UK charts. Where their contemporaries were often direct and to-the-point, Tindersticks were obtuse and leisurely, crafting dense, difficult songs layered with literary lyrics, intertwining melodies, mumbling vocals and gently melancholy orchestrations. Essentially, the group filtered the dark romanticism of Leonard Cohen, Ian Curtis and Scott Walker as filtered through the bizarre pop songcraft of Lee Hazlewood and the aesthetics of indie-rock. Though their music was far from casual listening, Tindersticks gained a dedicated cult following in the mid-’90s, beginning with their eponymous 1993 debut album, which was named Album of the Year by the Melody Maker.”
- If you don’t have the first album (dancing woman on cover) or the second (black-and-white tailoring photo on cover), the decision’s easy — buy them. (Both albums are called simply “Tindersticks” — hence the cover photo information.)
Popular opinion generally gives the first one the edge in quality. I think they’re both brilliant, but I’ll take the second. It’s got a sinewy, dark edge that is absolutely perfect for drinking alone. Plus, the bonus disc for the second album is the rare and much sought-out “Live at the Bloomsbury” show.
- The third album (“Curtains”) didn’t thrill me, although the promise of cleaned-up sound (the original was a bit muddy) is intriguing. And the bonus disc of b-sides looks promising.
- Album No. 4 is the Nenette et Boni soundtrack, which is hard to find in this country. Haven’t heard it, but Tindersticks are perfect for soundtrack work. (I’ve got another score of theirs, for Trouble Every Day, and it’s gorgeous.)
- The fifth album is Simple Pleasure, which I’ve never been able to find — I don’t know if it was ever released here or not.
The band also plans a best-of called “Working For The Man,” which, judging from the track listing, appears to be a good introduction. (For what it’s worth, there are two more recent Tindersticks LPs — the misdirectedly R&B-vibed Can Our Love… and the slight-return-to-form Waiting For The Moon.)
I have a soft spot for guys like Cooke, the old model of foreign correspondence — a dapper European soberly chronicling the day’s events without so much as scuffing his shoes. (I wrote a lengthy profile of a somewhat analogous figure, Fernand Auberjonois.) Cooke’s audio “Letter From America” (the last one’s here) was a lovely, calming (if occasionally in need of a good editing) respite from standard radio. I had a few fond midnights in Zambia listening to Cooke on the shortwave.
For the record: “pro-life” doesn’t always mean “anti-abortion.” Particularly when you’re writing about opera. One of the more humiliating copy desk mistakes I’ve seen.
I’m in computer training today (and was yesterday). Hence the sparsity of posts. Back tomorrow.
While I’m posting about bands whose names start with T and end with 80, Chicago “straight experimental/techno/pink floydish stuff” band TRS-80 shows a lot of promise. (Although I’d term them more a “jazz-drumming/analog-electronics-loving/hip-hop-beat-having/more-DJ-Shadow-influenced-than-Pink-Floydish” band.)
Now that basically every band in the world posts MP3s on their web sites, I’m considering bringing back a completely virtual form of the old CD Mix of the Month Club. Instead of actual CDs being burnt and mailed, it’d involve me pointing to about 80 minutes of good MP3s available for legal download. Would you be interested, loyal readers?
I have a very strict policy of never posting to this site on February 29. Thank heavens I was able to muster up the restraint to meet that policy. Now I can relax until 2008.
A brief video teaser for the new Tahiti 80 album. As Air has become more boring over time, Tahiti 80 have undeniably become The Most Important French Band. I’ve been a fan since ‘00, when their first album was the last CD I reviewed for my old job as Toledo rock critic. A lot of pop, a little frizzy Eurodisco, a little friendly juvenilia, and Xavier Boyer’s great, childlike voice. They’re the French Beach Boys, I tell you. (I mean, look at their web site. Look at those goofy, lovable poses. Half Monkee, half Brian Wilson on the cover of Pet Sounds.) Some random T80 things:
A Tahiti 80 video press kit (good stuff there, big download)
Click on media here to see several videos. (“1,000 Times” is a favorite of mine.)
An earlier MBE show from 2000.
It’s down now (for “maintenance,” allegedly), but there used to be a live show streaming here.
Joshua Benton is the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, among other things. Before that, he was a staff writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. (More.)
Any opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of my employer. In many cases, they may not even be mine.