Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good things about the last decade

1. Meeting my wife
2. Making some music I'm pretty proud of
3. Ear Candle Productions
4. Ear Candle Radio
5. The world didn't end, despite many people's best efforts
6. All in all, on a personal level my own life is infinitely better on Dec. 31, 2009 than it was on Jan. 1, 2000.

But out in the world, things sucked pretty bad in ways that I can't even go into because as usual, Doghouse Riley says it all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Put on that dress, I'm going out dancing

This is awesome in so many ways. Attempting to discredit and humiliate a male member of the Iranian resistance, the government publishes a picture of him dressed as a woman. The junior high tactic is less than successful:
Within hours of Tavakoli's photograph being published in the newspapers, hundreds of young Iranian men posted photographs of themselves dressed in headscarves, bed sheets and other forms of improvised hijab. This has spread online in chat rooms and websites and soon enough to the meetings of the opposition.

The message sent back to the men in charge in Iran is an invitation to wake up and smell the coffee. The contemporary opponents of the regime are not hampered by the symbolic language of oppression.
So much for the "ewwww! Icky girls!" approach to counter-revolution. A major turnaround in the ongoing struggle against misogyny.

Here's a song in these brave boys' honor. "Haystack" by the Granite Countertops is, on one level, simply a passionate and amusing love song; on another level, it's a wink in the direction of intellectual, cultural, and sexual freedom for the downtrodden citizens of Iran. Nice to see history taking place without our bombs getting in the way for a change.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

West Of Rome

Well-loved Southern singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, who, despite living with paralysis most of his life, had a long and distinguished career in the folk/indie-rock scene, died on Christmas Day, while struggling with a lawsuit from a Georgia hospital trying to recoup thousands of dollars worth of medical bills from him. Is this an indictment of our system or what? Will the new, watered down, mandated health care bill do anything to prevent furture tragedies of this kind? In the UK, Robert Wyatt is taken care of and given the respect he deserves. Our homegrown wheelchair-bound geniuses are not so lucky. This is a crime.

I admit I had not followed Chesnutt's career very closely, but I saw him perform and liked his records when I heard them. He was a big favorite of my old editors at Puncture mangazine, and my friends Flavio and Fabrizio Steinbach, later of Barbara Manning's Go-Luckys and their own instrumental combo Crashing Dreams, called their first teenage band West Of Rome after one of his songs. He was a gruff, gravel-voiced little guy with a dark sense of humor, but his songs were full of heart. He deserved better.

Filmmaker Jem Cohen writes on Chesnutt's record label's page this morning:
"The most important story to report now is not Vic’s death but a life and work overflowing with insight, humor, and yes, resilience. This, after all, was the man who wrote: “I thought I had a calling, anyway, I just kept dialing.” Sixteen extraordinary albums, five in the last couple of years; countless live shows so powerful and sublime they deeply altered the lives of those on the stage with Vic and those looking up, yes up, at him. The second most important story here has to do with a broken health care system depriving so many of the help they need to stay around and stay sane, and a society that never balks at providing more money for more wars but fights tooth and nail against decent care for its citizens. Vic’s death, just so you all know, did not come at the end of some cliché downward spiral. He was battling deep depression but also at the peak of his powers, and with the help of friends and family he was in the middle of a desperate search for help. The system failed to provide it. I miss him terribly."
Due to that broken system, Vic's family and friends are stuck with the bill for the death of their loved one that the system failed to save. Ex-Throwing Muses leader Kristin Hersh has put up a website for donations to help them, if anyone has resources and Christmas spirit to spare in these rough times.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas gift for you

The Granite Countertops album, Crashing Into The Future, is coming in the new year. Here is a sneak preview for all you loyal lurkers. Check it out, and tell us what you think in the comments.

A note to other musicians and/or labels: we are available to create Flash pages like this one for you as well. Contact us at earcandle at earcandleproductions dot com if you are inspired.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And I made sure my hand was holding the string

Vision Philms in Atlanta sent us this cute video which uses J Neo Marvin and the Content Providers' cover of Yoko Ono's "Kite Song". What a cool surprise.

Most of their other videos are soundtracked by local hip hop acts, so we're quite impressed that they saw fit to put us (and, by proxy, the inimitable Yoko Ono) in their mix. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Durian air freshener

For years, I have read references to the notorious durian, a Southeast Asian fruit rumored to be delicious, nutritious, and vile-smelling. The idea of it was always highly amusing, one of those oddities of nature that makes you wonder, who was the first brave caveman or cavewoman to chance upon one of these foul, thorny things and say, "gee, I wonder what that tastes like?" But even while living in a mostly-Vietnamese neighborhood in Oakland, I managed to miss out on the Durian Experience.

Yesterday at work, I came out of a meeting with two managers and something wasn't right in the air. I immediately announced, "I think there's a gas leak in the building. We might need to evacuate", and the two young Chinese girls in the billing department burst into uncontrollable giggling. "She brought it", one said, and the other started blushing. "Brought what?..." I started, then my memory for trivia kicked in. "Is that a DURIAN?" Turned out that they sell durian-flavored COOKIES too, which smell pretty strong in their own right. "Oh, I've always wanted to try them!" our Filipina CFO enthused, and took one. My coworker waved the package my way, asking if I wanted one too, but my nausea overpowered my curiosity. "Sorry, I can't handle it." "I'll cover it up", she said bashfully, wrapping her package in double plastic bags, while I felt like a xenophobic coward. (Multiculturalism FAIL, I thought to myself.) Another day and I might have gone for it, just for the experience, but phew. If that's how the cookies smell, I can only imagine what the real thing must be like.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thank you, Dennis

Purely fudge together a snowman in your affectation meadow!

We get a lot of guestbook spam on our various websites, most of which is just a couple garbled sentences. This morning, however, the anonymous Russians or Seychellesians or whoever they are outdid themselves with this deathless prose. These boots are made for spammin'!

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Babelfish or Janusnode? You decide. The Mad-libbiness of this entry rivals even the delicious recipes Substance McGravitas occasionally deigns to share on Sadly No!

(UPDATE: Upon re-reading, it looks like it may actually be a badly translated version of a rant by a misogynistic curmudgeon bemoaning the appropriation of a respectable workboot by pretty fashion-conscious girls at the mall. Boo-effin-hoo, grandpa.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

E-mails don't change the weather

For our friends who must visit their agitated Fox-head relatives in Texas and other similar states of mind for the holidays, here's a quick rundown of everything you need to know about the so-called "Climategate scandal", which should be renamed Swifthack.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And here I was, naively thinking that there was no point to this whole thing and people are dying for no good reason...

Why we fight, according to Fafblog:

Let us never forget just what's at stake in the war in Afghanistan: nothing less than the success of the war in Afghanistan. This war may be a mistake, a blood-soaked blunder, an unholy charnel house mindlessly consuming the bodies and souls of untold thousands, an open sore on the pockmarked face of history and an abomination before the sight of God and men, but it is first and foremost a war, and wars must be won. If the United States doesn't win this war, then will it not lose it? And if the United States loses this war, then won't the United States have lost it? And if the United States has lost this war, will that not then make the United States a kind of thing that loses wars? And then where would we be?
It goes on from there. Read it all. Funny, but mainly in the "keep laughing to ease the pain of all the mindless, senseless, stupid waste of human life" sense.

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20, November 2009

And the theme for this month appears to be comedy, what with the Firesign Theatre, the Bonzos, Eddie Izzard, the Coasters, and those wags in the Mod-Est Lads (in their alter-ego band, Danger Can, who show that they should have been commissioned to score the new Astro Boy movie), as well as reggae DJ star Trinity, who brings a whole battalion of chipmunks with him to pay tribute to Ali, and Zal Yanovsky, who infuses an old doo-wop great with a touch of Spike Jones looniness.

Topping the chart is the stately, stomping "Baby Come Rock" by the Wailing Souls, followed by an early T-Rex hit that shows yet more evidence that Marc Bolan copped his whole sound and persona from "Barabajagal" by the ever-underrated Donovan. From the astounding Eccentric Soul series comes a heartfelt piece of community criticism from Marion Black. We get the sole single by 1978 Canadian Patti Smith fans the Poles, who salute the tallest manmade structure of their day to a rocking groove. The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle emerges from the low-fi fuzz to ask the musical question, "Is that the most delicious thing you ever tasted in your life?" Hell yeah.

Neo recalls hearing, on 70s FM radio, a very rough, primal-sounding record of the old spiritual, "Travelin' Shoes". We never found that, but we did find a much sweeter and propulsive version by the great a capella gospel group the Golden Gate Quartet. Remember, the Devil can't take you if you're not wearing the right shoes. We hit a manic vein with the 13th Floor Elevators and the Cramps, Chris and Cosey throb and coo sexily, Chumbawamba bring back the a capella with one of their English Rebel Songs, and Bill Callahan returns to continue meditating on his void of faith and faith in the void.

As always, we tip our hat to non-dour multiculturalism, this time out with Joe Strummer's ballad of world cuisine on the high road and finally, with the mighty virtuoso warble of Yma Sumac.

20 more reasons to keep listening! We also have a widget on this very blog, so you don't need to stop reading.

1. Wailing Souls - Baby Come Rock - Inchpinchers
2. Tyrannosaurus Rex - Elemental Child - A Beard of Stars
3. Marion Black - Listen Black Brother - Eccentric Soul: The Prix Label
4. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - By A Waterfall - Tadpoles
5. The Poles - CN TOWER - CN Tower / Prime Time 7-inch
6. The Mountain Goats - Orange Ball Of Pain - Nothing for Juice
7. Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet - Travellin' Shoes - Rock My Soul
8. Firesign Theatre - W.C. Fields Forever - Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him
9. Eddie Izzard - Great Escape - Dress To Kill
10. Danger Can - Jet Turbo Theme - Let's Get Clecky!
11. The Coasters - Shoppin' For Clothes - The Very Best Of The Coasters
12. 13th Floor Elevators - (I've Got) Levitation - Easter Everywhere
13. The Cramps - I Was A Teenage Werewolf (With False Start) (Original Mix) - Songs The Lord Taught Us
14. Trinity - Mohammed Ali - Three Piece Suit
15. Chris & Cosey - This Is Me - Heartbeat
16. Chumbawamba - Poverty Knock - English Rebel Songs 1381-1984
17. Bill Callahan - Faith/Void - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
18. Zal Yanovsky - Little Bitty Pretty One - Alive And Well In Argentina
19. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Bindhi Bhagee - Global A Go Go
20. Yma Sumac - Chicken Talk - Mambo!