Phantom Power

  Valentine Strasser seized power in Sierra Leone when he was twenty-five years old. At that age I ruled nowhere, perhaps because I was busy listening to Super Furry Animals’ Radiator. Its track “Placid Casual” discusses the coup: Freetown rocked in Sierra Leone / When Valentine Strasser danced his way to the throne / Gunpowder […]

Rock of Ages

I saw a kid in the hallway wearing a t-shirt with a c. 1983 Def Leppard graphic. I got such a kick out of this I told her I love the band (not exactly true, but also considerably distant from untrue). It later occurred to me that her wearing a Def Leppard t-shirt would be […]

Gardening at Night

If you offered me a free ticket to the Beatles – and Frank Sinatra were opening, after which Abraham Lincoln would deliver a brief address – only three words could prompt me to refuse: Madison Square Garden. MSG the Dread (per my friend Jeff’s excellent epithet) is not improved by sitting atop an even worse abomination, Penn […]

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

  Leibniz remarked about his enemy Newton: “Taking mathematics from the beginning of the world to the time when Newton lived, what he had done was much the better half.” The same could be said of Bach. Compared with the entire body of music before his time, his own was the finer half.   My […]

Riddle Me This

  What’s the difference between a bridge and a middle eight? Andy Smarick’s recent State of the Bridge Address (“bridges are generally—there’s no graceful way around this—simply godawful”) made me realize: I didn’t know the difference between the aforementioned song components. The NME helped me out, kind of: The middle eight is the eight-bar B […]

Commercial Break

  A few years ago I attended a panel discussion on booking bands. It was at the Bell House, a venue around the corner from where I lived in Brooklyn. Two things I remember: 1. In New York, the days of the week matter less for clubs. I.e. Monday might spell low ticket sales in a provincial backwater like […]

All Together Now

1. Irony 101 (Author’s note: this is the earnest, teacher-y part of the post.) Irony is one of the literary devices I teach my 6th graders, and I keep it to pretty obvious examples: a “no smoking” sign in a cigarette factory, getting run over by an ambulance, etc. Last year I added to our […]

Mimic Men

  I went to see a Bee Gees tribute band recently. Pardon? Did they play “Massachusetts”? Well yes, because we’re in… Ah! You were starting a joke. There was a time in my life when I’d have considered going to see a tribute act indicative of Error, and said time may, in fact, include the present, but let me tell you: […]