Saturday, June 03, 2006

Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

I have a couple of longer pieces, or at least a bit more thought-out than usual, that I want to write but I can't seem to get it together at the moment. I blame the onset of winter in these parts. (Others might blame Google Earth. I found the farm I grew up on!)

I have another one of my personal-reminiscence-type pieces ready to go, and another playlist (already?), both of which will get posted very shortly. But for now just let me say this:

1. During the week there were many tears in our house, on account of one of the two guinea pigs we have been minding for friends for almost three years now, name of Cuddles, passed away quietly in his sleep. The owners of Cuddles, and his good friend Pepper, are due back in a matter of weeks and it is a shame, having come so far, that we are unable to deliver up two healthy guinea pigs. Jules, aged six, appeared to have some trouble understanding his own emotions and, consequently, they manifested themselves as anger (the following morning he had sorted himself out and began asking questions like, "Are you sure he was really dead?"). Carl, aged eight, was the more distraught of the two, but still managed to find the silver lining: "I really miss Cuddles, even though I couldn't tell which one was which; at least now I will know which one is Pepper."

2. I might have mentioned that I received a large shipment of comic books from my Canadian pusher-man recently. A large proportion of them consisted of work by Kevin Huizenga. The more I read of this fellow, whose name I wouldn't have even recognised a year or two ago, the more impressed I am. He is a very gifted and surprisingly wide-ranging storyteller, a fine observer of human behaviour, and he draws like a treat, too. Don't you just hate people like that?

3. Also buried withing the aforesaid comics shipment: the final issue of Charles Burns's "Black Hole". Upon finishing, at long last, this beautifully drawn but frequently distressing saga of 1970s teen angst and plague, one's first response is, perhaps, envy addressed towards all the people who are able, now, to buy it off the shelf as a single publication and read it through from start to finish in one go. What they won't ever have, though, is the experience of living with the accumulated sense of anticipation every time another issue loomed. An ongoing, self-contained story, stretched out over, what, is-it-really-ten years? That's something I don't think we have seen the likes of since the days of the serialised novel a la Charles Dickens, and even they were churned out well inside a decade. It seems kind of strange not to have to wait for the next issue any more. And, even if the story might perhaps turn out to be just a bit less than meets the eye, that's really neither here nor there, given how well it all holds together, how gorgeous it is, and how amazingly consistent the drawing, writing, and tone have been over all of those ten years and twelve issues. How did he do it?

4. I have resisted most fancy-pants CD reissues of "classic" albums with their barrel-scraping extra tracks and typo-infested liner notes (exceptions: Television's "Marquee Moon" and "World of Echo" by Arthur Russell). But the floodgates may have opened with my recent purchase of not one but two of the Greatest Records Of All Time ("groats" for short), remastered and expanded, and gorgeously packaged. I am speaking, obviously, of "Remain In Light" by Talking Heads and "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" by David Byrne and Brian Eno. These two records were staging-posts in my life. I would never need to listen to either of them ever again, on account of their being so much a part of me, but it is a pleasure to hear them as I have never heard them before: no pops, no clicks, nothing muffled, just pure joyful sound. It's a shame that "Qu'ran" couldn't be given a run, but understandable too, given the times in which we live, and anyway I can always crank up the turntable whenever I want to listen to it.

5. A big Internet hello to the human being behind Voltage Controlled Technicolor, who has gone to the trouble to offer us mere mortals an astounding collection of complete albums, most of which none of us will ever have even heard of, for download. There is very little here that you can imagine would be troubling the copyright police, on account of obscurity and presumed out-of-printness, which is a very welcome change from the seemingly endless parade of "mp3 blogs" that offer the latest "hip" "indie" records for complete download, a dubious enterprise at best, but even worse when (a) they boast about how many copies of things they have put up have been downloaded and/or (b) they have the temerity to request that users click on a banner ad on the site, which I can only assume results in some small amount of revenue to the person behind the site. This is like saying, "It's fine to deprive the musicians of what little they would have made if you had bought the record, but, hey, I'm giving it to you for free, so pay me instead." I don't think it's meant to work that way.

6. I'm going to shut up now. It's late.