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Monthly Archives: March 2012

WE TRIED RESURRECTING some clattertrap projectors that haven’t been fired up in years and—with patience and careful tending—they roll. Last night we screened a triple-stack of 16-millimeter films from the archive (“Multiple Tube Bender,” “Springtime,” “Eureka Graduation,” “Canoeing Manitoba,” and others cycled in). Featuring Lucas Alm on bass. Playing both vids at once is a surprisingly good re-creation.

I’d love to emulate an installation at the Tate Modern, called simply “Film” (reviewed with good images here, though this New Yorker profile of the artist, Tacita Dean, was what hooked me). Maybe in a park or back alley this summer? We have operational gear. Now to find more footage, which is too rare to stumble upon anymore, alas.

MY STATION PRESETS ARE SYNCED across my car, clock radio and home stereo. I have more feedback for pledge-drive volunteers than they can politely absorb. I’m known to plan road trips around FM schedules.

That is to say I care about radio—that most public of media, mobile before we demanded everything be, and democratic in ways TV never was. “The medium for surprise, for connection with people you might have nothing else in common with, for creating strange social alliances,” as Simon Reynolds put it. I might add: the medium for obsessives, daydreamers, and misfits (proudly!).

In the vast territory between 88 and 108 MHz, I’m tuned to a fairly narrow band: local/public/community/analog-broadcast (don’t get me started about Satellite and Pandora, no friend to real FM). Here are my dial highlights. Listen on actual radios during scheduled timeslots for best results.

Good ‘N Country / KFAI 90.3 FM / Saturdays 3 – 5 PM

I’ll put my bias out there: I thought Country-Western music was all crap. But G’n’C has made me a fan. While the era of Hank and Patsy and Cash is easy to warm to, such is Ken Hippler’s impeccable taste that even post-classic-era artists go down easy (it’s like Buck Owens is a gateway drug to Bonnie Raitt). Not the first time my judgments have proven unreliable (litany of stuff I was wrong about = fodder for another post).

Classic Hip Hop w/ DJ Divine / KMOJ 89.9 FM / Saturdays 12 – 2 PM

I blogged this once before, so psyched was I to find a jam-filled gem amid Saturday’s FM doldrums (when Prairie Home stalks you down the dial all damn weekend). KMOJ’s DJ Divine is deep in 1987-’94, my golden age of hip-hop listening, with a playlist bumpin’ enough to get me over the odd R&B detour. Growing up a mall-fed rap fan in Des Moines, this is as much education as nostalgia for me (Whodini? Nice N Smooth? Who knew?).

On The Media / KNOW 91.1 FM / Sundays 3 – 4 PM

Like a lot of folks, I have a crippling cynicism hangover from the Bush Era. So I need a show that clarifies the messy mechanics of newsmaking and the biases that shape the conversation about politics and corporatism and war. The more I listen to OTM, the less it seems like “inside baseball” for journalists and more like a guidebook for conscience consumption. I’ll also give props here to Counterspin, the other media gadfly in our market that’s just as vigilant as On The Media (if comparitively humorless).

Off The Record / Radio K 104.5 FM or 770 AM / Fridays 3 – 5 PM

Minneapolis is lousy with bands, many of which are good, and none of which I drag myself out to see at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday. So a program like Off The Record is essential. I get a compact rundown of uncompromising local music, including experimental and unhinged stuff. Local Sound Department on KFAI used to do a similar thing—with a subversive acronym, to boot—but in this arena I prefer Radio K’s student DJs who aren’t as in thrall of Minneapolis’s musical glory days. They’re all over Right Now so I don’t have to be.

RSE Radio / KFAI 90.3 FM / Saturdays 9 – 11 PM

Another rap show on the list? The second of the day, in fact. RSE Radio is like a “chef’s choice” taster’s menu to DJ Divine’s backyard BBQ. A live hip-hop mix spanning 3+ decades, the show eschews crowd-pleasers in favor of underground B-sides, remixes and deep cuts. I used to hate that they don’t say what they play. Now I’ve found it makes me a more careful listener. It’s a proper schooling in independent ‘00s rap, a decade I mostly tuned out; shame on me.

The Takeaway / KFAI 90.3 FM / Weekdays 5 – 8 AM

Am I the only person who finds AM drive time on Minnesota Public Radio insufferable? Listening to Cathy Wurzer for me is like drowning in marshmallow schmutz. So when WNYC’s The Takeaway started on KFAI last year, I rejoiced. Contrasted with MPR’s lulling banalities, The Takeaway pulses with curiosity and Real Talk. Even the audience-response segments feel fresh and insightful. It’s a perfect segue in to Democracy Now! at 9 (with possibly my favorite tagline: “The Exception to the Rulers”), which completes my power morning of gritty truthtelling. My day’s concerns can’t possibly compete.

To be continued.

>> David Bowie – Station to Station

JOHANNA WILL TALK TO HER GRANDPARENTS only if she can spend the conversation in a laundry basket. She’ll also ask me to carry the basket around the house while she chats, though this I decline to do. Peculiar demands are popping up daily as her Negotiator Gene manifests. I remember wearing my mom out with outlandish requests until she made concessions—things I surely didn’t desire beyond winning her permission—like mixing milk with orange juice or sleeping on the hallway floor.

I admire Jo’s pluck, though my life really needs fewer hoops to jump, not more. Aside from the usual, I’m dogged at the moment by IRS deadlines, mortgage lenders in need of data, and an unholy health care triad that turns every medical transaction into three-dimensional chess. Something as simple as switching to a credit union snarled my routine for weeks. Is this maturity? Entropy? Social decline?

No wonder we end up sick and tired. I awoke last Tuesday with strep throat. With no time or patience to seek treatment, I took some old antibiotics and worked from bed for a day. Just as I was rallying, I got a mysterious case of head-to-toe hives. They didn’t impair me physically or mentally but I looked like a leper (clients I met with were startled and concerned, not reactions I’m going for). I had narrowed the list of causes to synthetic shirts, green peppers or stress before my sister—who spends a large share of her waking hours catering to her own health issues, real and invented—diagnosed it as photosensitivity due to antibiotics.

Those hours spent in my backyard working in the unseasonable March warmth, so peaceful at the time, were inducing a massive auto-immune backlash. It’s mostly cleared up now. But which innocent action will vex me next?

As an enthusiast of obsolete technology, the fake-vintage Instagram photography thing was something I was ready to hate, like neo-antique furniture or retro Ts at Urban Outfitters. But given the lack of settings built into the iPhone camera, the ability to add some filters and flavor to your image is welcome, no matter how faux. Extra irony in these shots I took in Guttenberg, Iowa last weekend with Jo and my grandfather—the site of many childhood memories I know from faded Kodaks.

Scenes from a farm house outside Albert Lea, Minnesota. My pal Lucas’s grandparents, one recently deceased and the other in a nursing home, have left their home on the prairie. But every detail of their existence since 1970 has been immaculately preserved by their descendents down to the glass knickknacks and old-school tool calendars. We wandered the grounds and numerous out-buildings looking for treasure.

Like his grandpa’s vast trove of beer signage, full of bygone logos I drew while Jo embellished.

The Make Sh!t confab is doing paintings with projections in an abandoned gallery space. We clean the squat up at the end of each session and it’s workable for now. As our crew grows and the projects get more ambitious, it’s clear we need permanent space. Fortunately summer’s come a few months early and we can take the party outdoors for a while.

Craig Phillips never lifts a brush yet stays right up in this thing, dispensing sage praise over mugs of bourbon.

I made this poker cheat sheet years ago. Now it’s back for more laughs. In T we trust.

>> P.R.O.; The Identicals – Blacky Joe
>> Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Ballad of the Sin Eater