Went to the Gypsy Tea Room last night to see Wilco for the third time. At one point on stage, Jeff Tweedy said something about how this was a historic night in the band’s existence, and I suppose it was: it was the first time the new lineup (sadly, sans Jay Bennett) played live, and it was the world premiere of most of the songs from their new, as-yet-unreleased album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
(Wilco was summarily bounced from their silly label, Reprise, a couple of months ago because higher-ups deemed the new album “too uncommercial.” While it won’t be out through the normal channels until early 2002, you can find it online in the usual illegal places, and it’s streaming at the band’s web site.)
While it was a dumb move on Reprise’s part, I have no trouble understanding why a scared label exec might not get the new stuff; it’s much more shambolic and found-sound-y than earlier Wilco. Several of the songs devolve into quiet, collapsing structures. (The closest analog I can think of is some of Big Star’s third record, like “Kanga Roo.”) It was a much more subdued Wilco show than the others I’ve gone to; instead of the usual rave-up on “Casino Queen,” the last half of the show was quiet stuff like “Sunken Treasure.” But I’m more than willing to follow Tweedy on whatever path he takes the band down. He’s got a touch of artistry about him not many folks do.
One other story from Thursday’s paper: the local school district is announcing a new initiative to get area residents to serve as mentors to at-risk ninth-graders. Sounds like a good idea.
There’s currently a debate going on at dfwblogs about the patriotic color scheme on the group’s web site. (If you can’t see what I’m talking about at that link, it’s probably because the site is scheduled to be redesigned today.) Some members of the group have expressed dismay at the idea of having a neutral community site take on a partisan air.
I tend to agree, although in the end it’s not my site and the owner should have final say. But the whole incident did call to mind one of my fears during times like this: that refusing to give over one’s life entirely to all things patriotic ends up being accused of being a Fifth Columnist or anti-American or whatever epithet someone can come up with. (It used to be “Communist,” of course.)
On Tuesday, I interviewed Pat Snuffer, owner of Snuffer’s, a two-restaurant chain here in Dallas. He has a longstanding policy at his restaurants that employees can’t wear ribbons, buttons, or any other sort of adornment on their uniforms. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Korn button or an American flag ribbon — no dice. Some people are mad and say he’s somehow being un-American. He’s gotten emails saying “Snuffer’s supports Bin Laden.” Whatever you think about the man’s actions (he willingly labels himself “controlling”), it says something that uniform policy at a restaurant best know for its cheese fries has become a point of patriotic argument. (Snuffer says he’s having small American flag sewn onto all employee aprons in response to last week’s events.)
Well, I’ll be damned: both my wishes came true. Bush did a hell of a job, sounding more confident than any other time I’ve heard him, even if he did look to be on the brink of tears throughout the whole thing. I don’t know who’s writing the speeches for him nowadays, but he’s got a winner.
Asides: Rumsfeld looks like a minor Dick Tracy character — what, is that jaw soldered on? Hillary needs to understand the camera is going to go to her at least a few times there’s a speech at the Capitol, and that if she’s clapping lackadaisically and looking sour, it’s not helping her image. There was a moment early on in the speech when Bush looked like he was imitating Bill Clinton: that upturned clinched fist, combined with the lean-in, is sooo Bill. And poor Bob Byrd, he looked like he was about to collapse from having to stand so long at Cheney’s seat.
And Bonds went deep. (Okay, just once, not four times, but one is plenty. I think he’s gonna do it.)
If, like me, you get tired of hitting reload on CNN.com, take a look at the San Jose Mercury News’ weblog on the ongoing crisis. Here’s hoping Bush knocks one out of the park tonight. (And actually, here’s hoping Barry Bonds knocks four out of the park tonight.)
Probably my favorite song on Stephen Malkmus’ recent album is “Pink India,” a sad, strangely adult-sounding song set in the first time the West was interested in Afghanistan: the battle for colonial control then termed, in a show of arrogance strangely appropriate for colonialism, “The Great Game.” Some lyrics: As the news comes across the air today: / “Tension grows in Afghanistan / Carbine bullets could settle the score” / I had a crap gin tonic, it wounded me.
I’m certainly not nearly important to have a window view at the office, but I do at least have a view of the people who have a window view. On a normal day, the flag outside is too high up for it to be visible to those of us on the third floor. But when it’s at half-staff, it’s right there in your face.
Just got off the phone with Dr. David Lesch, professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in San Antonio. He wrote 1979: The Year that Shaped the Modern Middle East, a book about, among other things, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Certainly, the Soviet example is not particularly encouraging, even though our goals (grabbing Bin Laden) are less difficult to achieve than the Soviets’ (propping up a puppet regime, control of the countryside, etc.) But his explanation of the myriad coalitions, connections, and confusions among the region’s countries did make it clear that any involvement in the region will be neither brief or without risk of rapid escalation. (Look for a story in Sunday’s DMN. Until then, David Plotz’s piece at Slate does a good job of outlining the regional issues.)
In other news, the storm outside is looking mighty threatening: the sky’s all bruise-purple and the lightning’s spiking down quick. A couple of weeks ago, the word “apocalyptic” might have been appropriate; less so now.
After yesterday’s item, I’ve gotten thousands — nay, millions — of emails requesting what follows, a brief history of my lifelong love-hate relationship with change:
Very young age: Enjoyed putting pennies in my mouth; tasted good.
Junior high: Was allotted four quarters daily by my loving grandmother; kept them in a little rubbery football-shaped container that had the LSU football schedule on it; still a slight jingle when I walked.
High school: No relationship with change whatsoever, except for occasional mocking comments about the failed Susan B. Anthony dollar.
College: A near-clinical obsession with quarters, which I determined to have an actual worth of 32.4 cents because of their utility in campus laundry machines. (There must have been a New England-wide quarter shortage in the mid-1990s; that’s the only way I can explain my alarming lack of clothes laundering in those days.)
First job after college: Anal qualities begin to show. One large cup holds all my useless pennies. Another, smaller, squarer cup holds nickels and dimes, useful for the vending machine on the ninth floor of my building. An Altoids tin holds the quarters necessary for laundry, which must be done more in the professional world than in the collegiate one, evidently. In many ways, a perfect system.
(Its one flaw: Leo, owner of Leo’s, the newsstand/porn shop I frequented on my block [for magazines, not porn, silly]. Leo is an older fellow, and for what ever reason, he decided long ago that giving someone a half-dollar coin as change would make his or her day. He was wrong, of course — getting a half-dollar would only make me scowl. What use is it? Not good for laundry, not good for candy bars, not good for anything. By default, the half-dollars ended up in the dime-and-nickel container, but trust me when I say I wasn’t happy about it.)
Today: My apartment building here in Dallas has laundry machines operated by credit cards, not coins. There’s something oddly Dallas-y about that. But quarters, while still desired, have much less of an impact on my life than before. I’d say I miss them, but that’s hard to do when you have 173 quarters all neatly stacked on your desk in front of you.