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Sunday, April 11, 2010


  Confident advice from an accomplished opera-singer to an up-and-coming opera singer about the pacing of a song:
Make the conductor wait for you.
I'm pretty sure that only works if you 'win' some sort of cosmic ego battle. But one should aspire to being someone the conductor waits for.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:22 AM

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Classical robot army soundtrack

  NOT that I will actually attempt to take over the world with my robot army, but if I did, for the opening chase sequences involving people running or driving away from my efficient, high-speed robots (many of which are wheeled), I now wish to use the first movement of Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (Internet Archive - Free Download) ( Go listen. Imagine that the video will be high-contrast and tinted in a steely blue-gray.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 PM

Monday, December 07, 2009

The filter of memory

  I gush often about The Nation (Unconventional Wisdom Since 1865) (, my favorite newsweekly. It has a depth that corporate newspapers lack, includes opinions from people who aren't American (*gasp*!), and has had amazing cultural commentary, especially in the art and film criticism area.

The feature "Back Talk" includes short interviews with people working on a wide range of cultural products. Back Talk: Jarvis Cocker (, 9/14/09 edition) is a good example of a great, brief interview with the front man of the band Pulp. He is a musician, a curator, and dad with some interesting thoughts about things like the meaning of music, and whether some songs are too important to be randomly encountered on your mp3 player, whether music sampling can provide for the happy accidents and interpretations that would come from sampling from your memory instead of a digital source file, and involvement in creative culture. Excerpt:
Meltdown [a show Cocker curated] was about the fact that culture isn't something you consume. You can create it yourself; you can participate in it.... People have become spectators in their own life. The consumer ethos has infiltrated not just the way people live their lives but also the way they consume culture. I'm an old person, so I was brought up when punk rock happened, and the message was that you can do it yourself.
Making culture yourself is one of *the* major goals of life for me, so these short thoughts were inspiring.


Jarvis' commentary on the lack of bass in music now, due to the compressed mp3 file format and earbuds, led to a conversation about the digital age with my pals that was all that I love my friends for: with great faux-fortitude, we mocked the less-is-more of audio data compression, the lack of heat in digital fire, and my contention that it is much more difficult to steal souls in digital photography, since the file is too small and lossy to contain a soul.

I have GREAT friends.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Moby has a blog

  You likely know this. I get notifications of various sorts from him in Facebook - where in London he is DJing, where in New York he will drop by, all very glam stuff - but hadn't looked at the blog directly for a while.

His blog is fun, and reflects his ongoing concerns about the health of the planet. Of course! Here is an excerpt: just arrived in sweden. |
it's a concert to draw attention to and benefit the european union's climate change initiative. which i'm happy to talk about as long as no one minds me mentioning that 24% of climate change is the result of animal production (according to a united nations report a few years ago).

i asked al gore about why he didn't mention this in an 'inconvenient truth' (as animal production is responsible for more greenhouse gases than every car, bus, truck, bus, plane, boat on the planet COMBINED). he answered honestly, basically saying that getting people to drive a hybrid car isn't that difficult. getting people to give up animal products is almost impossible.
Right now you are likely thinking one of two things: either, 'golly, moby is not a fan of capitalization' or 'this really complicates my justifications for more of my heavily polluting lifestyle choices.' In both cases, you are correct!

In ten minutes, only one of these topics will be on your mind. Yes, you'll be ranting to someone about crimes against capitalization.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Addendum 1 to Bands I Have Seen Live (preliminary list)

  This is actually a slippery slope, coming up with lists like this. Because it only leads to more questions. Questions like... who opened for the Dead Milkmen? Who did Wire Train play with all those times I saw them at Wolfgang's? What did I eat for dinner last night? It frightens me that I am receiving answers.

Between my friends with their scary memories, band stalkers with pages on the Internet, and some notes in my calendar from last year (which demonstrate that, even if I was not paying any attention, I was at least keeping decent notes), I've come up with the following additions to my preliminary list of bands I have seen live.

Aisler Set (pained noises)
Bhi Bhiman
Bobbleheads, The (2009)
Brass Mafia
Carletta Sue Kay (2009)
Catholic Comb, The (2009)
Dead Science, The
Gliss (2009)
Julia Knowles (so I've been told, though I don't really recall)
Marginal Prophets
MC Honky
Minders, The
Mist & Mast
Mister Loveless
Pan American (this was the answer to my characterization about trip hop for whales)
Pigeons or Panthers
Prids, The (2009)
Rob Hall
Rogue Wave

I have tickets for three or four more shows over the next month or two, so I'll probably pretend I never started this list, before it becomes actual effort, rather than merely a mildly alarming amusement.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:41 PM

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sub-mothra class space flora

  Cunningham Place mural detail, San Francisco, CaliforniaSpring in the day, winter in the night...


[mural detail from Cunningham Place, off Valencia, in San Francisco]


I've been the worst fair-weather cyclist lately. I fantasize about biking, but ever since that hail storm on the Tierra Bella years ago, I just haven't had much enthusiasm for inclement weather. Even though the hail made INCREDIBLE sounds on my helmet. (It didn't make up for the STING of hail.) I know we need the rain. I know I need to bike. I just don't think of these ideas as compatible at the moment.


I posted a few photos of details of fuzzy protea up at Facebook (no login required). Just a few. They are from the UC Santa Cruz Botanical Garden, which is spectacular. I could spend many weeks of my life filling all of my memory cards and shooting very fine grain film there... The collections from South Africa and Australia are impressive. I am saving New Zealand for next time.

Now is a great time there for the 'smaller' (sub-mothra class) protea (some of the larger ones have already bloomed out) and banksia.

Closer to home, it is clear that the seasons are changing. The pink plum blossoms came and went; the cherry blossoms are out in force, and the white plums are barely making an appearance before they are hidden by fresh green leaves... My habits remain thrown off from recent life changes, as I haven't documented any signs of spring's arrival photographically. Not even CAMELLIAS. And you know how I am about camellias.


Gestalt Haus (my favorite cafe turned into my next favorite cafe turned into a German bar featuring beer I actually like and VEGAN sausages) removed most of the bike racks. I don't know what that is about. The weissbier is still perfect, however.


I caught a good show last week at Cafe du Nord ( It featured the Catholic Comb, Gliss, and the Prids (all three on While there isn't much point in YOU, dear reader, having a myspace page, it certainly is a handy place for a band to have a page, as music is one of the few forms of content that is effectively being facilitated... I pre-screened all three bands through CdN's links, which sold me on the show.

The show was really enjoyable: the audience was enthusiastic (there was even relatively gentle MOSHING during the Prids' set), and the music was... Well, now that I'm ancient, I'm catching more and more nuances of earlier sounds, of bands from the early 80s, influences I wouldn't necessarily expect in bands with members who weren't alive in the early 1980s. Each band had different early 80s influences, but they were certainly there. New music with old sounds. (All sounds are old, in some ways...)

In William Gibson's book Spook Country, the heroine had once been in a cult band, and is surprised in her fictional now at the increasingly atemporal nature of music consumption, of how people who were too young to have heard her band when they were touring initially are being introduced to her band so long after they folded, of how she was picking up new fans years later... Perhaps some of the sounds I enjoyed in the pre-digital age are finding their ways into young, musical ears and out through their shiny new amps.

I don't write about music often, so I'll just say that I will listen to all three of these bands again, and I hope to see them again live. Their sounds were like nostalgia, without the tedium of actual nostalgia.

This is an endorsement. No, really. I'm listening to Gliss as I type this. Though any and all incoherence is solely my own.


I've already come up with 13 more bands that I've seen live that belong on my 'bands I've seen live list,' and am hoping to have a few more revelations. Especially about who opened at some of those Sleater Kinney shows (other than Quasi and the Quails, and the A-- Set, who dawdled forever and thus earned my loathing), and for Elliot Smith.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:24 PM

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bands I Have Seen Live - Preliminary List

  I used to collect tour shirts, but that started to get out of hand. Then I saved ticket stubs, but after a while, I filled the little box I kept them in... And at some point, I started to lose track. So this is a preliminary list of concerts I have been to. If I have seen an act more than once, I'm indicating that with a plus symbol.

If you have attended a concert with me which is not on this list, drop me a note. (Aside from all of those classical music acts I went to see in junior college and college, which I frankly can't remember the names of. Though I was thrilled to see them at the time.) And now, in first name order, the second draft of the list:

Aimee Mann
Amon Tobin
Ani DiFranco +
Anthony Braxton
Ben Folds
Book of Love
Branford Marsalis
Brass Liberation Orchestra
Bright Eyes
Bruce Springsteen (awful!)
California Guitar Trio
Call, The
Candy From Strangers +
Carmaig DeForest
Charlie Hunter +
Charming Hostess
Chris Isaak
Cure, The
Dave Matthews
Dead Milkmen
Death Cab for Cutie
Definite Articles, The +
Depeche Mode
Dizzy Balloon
Duran Duran
Echo & the Bunnymen
Eels, The +
Elliott Smith +
Emmylou Harris
Extra Action Marching Band +
Flock of Seagulls, A
Foxtails Brigade
Frank Black +
Franz Ferdinand
Gene Loves Jezebel
Genie, The
Giant Value
Hansi (see also Truxton)
Howard Jones
Incredible Moses Leroy, The
Infernal Noise Brigade, The
Jack's Mannequin
JK47 (featuring DJ Push)
Joe Lovano
Judgement Day (the e is intentional)
Katrina and the Waves
Killers, The
L7 +
Lords of the New Church
Los Mocosos
Lost Goat +
Low +
Maceo Parker
McCoy Tyner with Kenny Garrett
Michael Franti
Midnight Oil +
Mount Sims
Mr. T Experience, The +
Mucca Pazza +
Muffs, The
Neil Young
New Order +
Norah Jones
Offspring, The
Pointer Sisters, The
Power Station, The
Psychedelic Furs
Quails, The +
Quasi +
Rupa and the April Fishes +
Sandpit + *
Sangano + *
Saul Williams
Seu Jorge
Seven Year Bitch +
Shonen Knife
Simple Minds
Sleater-Kinney +
Slow Poisoners, The
Smithereens, The
Sugarcubes, The +
TalkDemonic +
They Might Be Giants +
Thompson Twins +
Trifles, The
Uni & the Ding String Trio
Veruca Salt
Violent Femmes, The
Voodoo Glow Skulls
Weather Girls, The (least probably opening act for A Flock Of Seagulls imaginable)
Wham! (as a favor to my kid sister, who will never admit to this now)
Wire Train +
Yanks, The

(* = dated bandmember (same individual in two bands), and thus was obligated to see hundreds of shows. Which really took the edge of my desire to see OTHER live music during that time period.)

This list might double in size easily if I kept better track of opening acts (which, despite what you may think, I usually DO show up for, and which some of these are), acts at benefit concerts I've been to, jazz shows at Yoshi's, and DJs. Only a few of these are festival shows, including one Bridge School Benefit (you can probably pick out the acts that otherwise wouldn't appear on this list). Some of the opening acts I didn't actually like, and so I am omitting them intentionally. And then there are the ones I can only remember as "that awful band that was pure industry product at Slim's," or "the one I described as trip-hop-for-whales." That doesn't exactly help, does it?

Drop me a line if you can think of acts you witnessed with me.

(This list was revised on Thursday to resequence the two bands whose names started with The.)


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 PM

Monday, February 23, 2009

Respected By All

  Ill Matik album cover artAnd now for something less serious... I use iTunes to load my iPhone with iAlbumArt for the iMusic I have iImported into the phone. Generally, iTumes has difficulty finding art for older music, which is fair, or for foreign releases, which is also quite fair. Until the current update to iTunes, it was a very easy matter to drag the correct art, or one's own art, onto the icon representing the album and fix this.

But iTunes does TRY to find art that fits your album. And when it thinks you just misspelled the title, it takes a few good guesses.

The art beside this text is a screen-grab of what is supposed to be the cover of The Matrix: The Motion Picture Soundtrack.

It reflects a creative guess on the part of iTunes.

It's so great, I'm tempted to leave it on the phone indefinitely.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:20 PM

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another round of 25 Most Played on my iPhone

  Yes, I posted my top 25 back in June, and am pretending that it's time to pretend you care what I listen to yet again! Here's the semi-current list. (I typed this up... recently.) Note that there must be some kind of tie, because the phone will only admit to 23 songs. I'm putting new arrivals in bold, while asterisks designate songs that were here in June.

Pictures of Me (Elliott Smith, Either/Or)

Speed Trials (Elliott Smith, Either/Or)
. There are now three songs from Either/Or on this list, which is some sort of attempt to subvert the fact that XO is my favorite Elliot album. I think I just listened to E/O less in the past. XO is still my fave. Despite my total lack of proof.

Elixirs (The Definite Articles, Boy Wonder)* Maybe this one really is 'representing' now. It's no longer just a song in between other songs I prefer.

Doors of Perception (Thievery Corporation, The Cosmic Game). Nice for bobbing your head on BART.

Holographic Universe (Thievery Corporation, The Cosmic Game). I don't like this album as much as I loved the Mirror Conspiracy, but I really loved The Mirror Conspiracy. Which I listened to plenty before acquiring this phone.

Risingson (Massive Attack, Collected)
. This song should be in my top 5. I can...not...listen...enough. Despite some of the silly lyrics. Toy like people make me boy-like, toy like people make me boy-like...
Alameda (Elliott Smith, Either/Or). More overrepresentation.

The Rip (Portishead, Third)* I could listen to this album all day. Oh, wait, I do. (Moby, Last Night)* This is catching up to the other two. It is my favorite song to listen to on the Emery-go-round while trying to drown out the easy listening being played in the bus.

All My Ghosts (Frank Black, 93-03). This is one of those incredibly pure rock tunes that Frank Black cranks out, which makes me wonder why he is not universally worshipped.

Black Cat (Ladytron, Velocifero)*

Plastic (Portishead, Third)*

Hunter (Portishead, Third)*

Silence (Portishead, Third)*

Alice (Moby, Last Night)*

Ooh Yeah (Moby, Last Night)*

Information (The Definite Articles, Boy Wonder)*

Sea Things (The Definite Articles, Boy Wonder)*

Weekend (Ladytron, Witching Hour)*

Lullaby (The Cure, Distintegration)*

All Mine (Portishead, Portishead)*

Between The Bars (Elliott Smith, Either/Or)*

La città nuda (The Dining Rooms, Tre)*


posted by Arlene (Beth)12:01 AM

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Turns of Phrase

  I'm on the mailing list for the Uptown Nightclub ( in Oakland. It's fun to be on the Uptown's mailing list. They will write about shows featuring a "pioneering gothic strip group," or about events such as "Knocktoberfest: Knockers & Beer for a Good Cause" (a burlesque breast cancer benefit). I also had a good laugh knowing that the Voodoo Glow Skulls are coming next month in concert.

(Old age reverie, presented here in black and white, with a ska/punk/retro soundtrack and in an exaggerated old lady voice: I last saw the Voodoo Glow Skulls at the no longer extant Trocadero!! Which is where I learned about the directionality of mosh pits! (Wow.))

Amazingly enough, even though the Uptown's most recent mailing had me laughing out loud, it could not top a simple discography on my favorite reference site on the web. I wanted to know more about experimental electronica act Venetian Snares (, and so obviously Wikipedia's entry on Venetian Snares was the essential place to go.

Highlights of the discography: "Winnipeg Is a Frozen Sh*thole" (2005: described on the separate Wikipedia page devoted to the album as "one of his harshest, angriest releases"), "A Giant Alien Force More Violent & Sick Than Anything You Can Imagine" (2002), and, just to show you his range, "Songs About My Cats" (2001; Wikipedia claims there are photos of the artist's cats "embedded" in one track, which can be directly viewed "with a spectrum analyzer").

This is how the Internet can steal away all the waking hours of your life. All this because the song Szerencsétlen was interesting.

In other news, iTunes taught me that I know entirely too much about late 1900s industrial music ("Oh look, I have that one, too!"), and that I want to know even more about experimental electronica ("Oh look, more Boards of Canada!"). Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)6:00 AM

Monday, September 15, 2008

"He Kills Me Singing"

  Ever since my employer relocated headquarters to Eville (a.k.a. Emeryville, California), I have been talking about Eville's natural soundtrack. That is, whatever the radio station of choice is for the Emery-Go-Round ( shuttle bus system, free buses which haul workers from MacArthur BART to the various reaches of Emeryville's office spaces.

2007 felt dominated by easy listening, but 2008 marked a change to KBLX, which led to... Well, okay, more easy listening. And the amusement of my most regular shuttle driver that I know all the words to Michael Jackson's 1979 album Off The Wall. The problem with so many of the tunes KBLX plays is that I know the lyrics to the songs they play. (Yes, because I am old.) And often, those lyrics stick in my head.

One morning, they played Let's Get It On. Imagine spending your day writing dry legal documents with Let's Get It On on endless loop in your head. It's just not pretty.

The source of recent mental-loop torment was the rather lovely, painfully sticky song Killing Me Softly with His Song ( by Roberta Flack. Which is a really, really persistent... [sound of struggle] Anyway, it's actually a very good song. I wanted to know more about it.

After downloading a version of it and listening to it a few times, all roads led to Wikipedia. Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia's many obsessive-compulsive contributors have outdone themselves: in addition to information about the song writers, performers, covers, and information about the hits that preceded and succeeded Roberta Flack's version on Billboard's charts, there is a relentlessly fabulous chart listing versions of this song in other languages. With the title translated.

Oh! Oh oh oh oh oh! This is the internet at it's best.


"He kills me singing" from Italy. (This covers most Italian operas.)

"Of what you live and breathe" from Estonia. (Possibly a song about oxygen and nitrogen.)

"Two little wings are not here" from the Czech Republic. (A song about... the birds that are NOT evoked in the song.)

"Every day is too much" from Finland. ("Please send anti-depressants.")

And, possibly the best translation of them all, "Something inside me became sad" from Germany.

I LOVE Wikipedia!!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:07 PM

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Leaving the house now and then.

I have been out eating and drinking entirely too much lately, and it is beginning to show in the way my pants (fail to) fit. I would whine and carry on about how cruel life is... but good food is not exactly a curse, so it's not like I will earn your sympathy.


My efforts to reclaim my nightlife have been reasonably successful, especially with regard to live music. The first week of July I was able to enjoy the Charlie Hunter Trio ( at the Great American Music Hall ( It has been a few years since I've been able to see CH, and his show was excellent. I was wary at the beginning of the first set for no particular reason, but as the set became more intense, I remembered how fabulous a musician he is...

The first set, strangely enough, featured an arrangement of Blondie's Heart of Glass, which was done so cleverly that it took a while to identify itself, since it came through as pure jazz... And the second set was even better than the first.


The following week was the stellar Black Francis show, which I wrote about previously.


The Definite Articles at the Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, July 17, 2008This past week brought me back to the Rickshaw Stop for The Definite Articles (who have a new song!), the Brass Liberation Orchestra (who gave themselves a longer-than-scheduled set, from what I understand), and Mucca Pazza (, who were fun fun fun fun fun.

Mucca Pazza at the Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, July 17, 2008Who can I compare Mucca Pazza to? ("Your band is like a summer's day...")

They are like... The Extra Action Marching Band, except they all keep their clothes on!

They are like... The Infernal Noise Brigade, except they are still together and they wear mismatched costumes!

They are like... people I might have hung out with in school, if I had actually signed up for band/orchestra, which I did not, but those of you who were in band/orchestra who I do hang out with could have turned out to be these people if you had been... significantly less sedate and more inclined to grow facial hair?? Maybe?

MP is extremely fun. Talented musicians! Energetic peformers! They dominated the Rickshaw Stop. The show was enthralling, and audience bounced out merrily into the streets at the end of the encore.

Mucca Pazza at the Tour de Fat, San Francisco, July 19, 2008Little did I know that I would be able to enjoy Mucca Pazza live TWICE in the same week, for they were also the headliners at the Tour de Fat ( The Tour de Fat is New Belgium Brewing's fabulous summer festival series dedicated to raising money for biking and open-space causes in the localities where they put up their tents. Which means that people can come out for a day of free entertainment, show off their fancy custom bikes, and buy delicious, 16 ounce New Beligum beers with all of the proceeds going to organizations I love dearly, especially the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The weather was terrible for an outdoor festival, but the festival was a blast, and I was there from 8:30 until it shut down.

Have I mentioned that I love bike people? I love bike people.

Visit the bands' websites to hear their great stuff.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:37 PM

Sunday, July 13, 2008



The thing I like about calling an artwork "untitled" is that it really isn't possible. By pulling a label on it that says "untitled," you are, in fact, titling it.

This is like when a colleague of mine cleaned off his marker board at his cube to make a sort of statement about his last few days in the office. I went over while he was away and wrote, "[This space left intentionally blank.]" It achieved the same purpose, but more directly, I thought. (For this, he told me that I am brilliant. :-))

Black Francis at the Uptown Nightclub, Oakland, California, in the early hours of July 10, 2008I have been tired most of this week, and the best thing that made me tired was seeing Black Francis at the Uptown Nightclub in Oakland on Wednesday night through Thursday morning. The Uptown is a great little club near 19th Street BART station in Oakland, with a divided layout so that the bar is separate from the main performance space. The stage was projected onto a fabric screen over the bar near the front entrance, so you could keep track of what was happening while getting an iced drink. (The club also has immaculate bathrooms and good service at the bar.)

I missed the first act entirely. The second act was a children's band, and I wonder even now if their parents had to explain the significance of the act they were opening for. They were so young, ("How young were they?" They were so young that...) they had a dedication to 'all you over 21s out there,' which was unique in my historical concert attendance experience. They also had a song about how annoying it is to go home and have your parents hassle you. This was the subject of amused commentary between myself and the other audience members born in the late 60s and early 70s who appeared to be in the majority. (In another era, 'in the majority' would be a joke about age, but no one uses 'majority' to talk about coming of age anymore, do they?)

The arrival of adult roadies on stage marked the arrival of the grown-ups' portion of the program. Frank's/Francis'/Charles' roadies spent a great deal of time dealing with a problem with the drummer's microphone. I have never seen so many frowny, sulky facial expressions on a group of roadies, only in part because the club is very intimate (perhaps as intimate as Cafe du Nord, but with much higher ceilings) and I could see every nuance of facial expression made. I had found a spot against the stage in the corner where I could catch a hint of breeze from the backstage door and had spectacular views of the show. I'm rarely standing in a spot where I can exchange looks with the drummer (for no particular reason), so this was novel.

Frank came on stage in the early hours of the morning, and was stellar in every respect. He played a range of songs from different albums, despite his stated intent of emphasizing Bluefinger, and mesmerized the audience.

It was the best show I have been to in ages. I was thrilled to the core, and he didn't even play my most favorite songs from his early solo albums - it was such a remarkably high quality show, and the energy of the audience was just so good...


Black Francis at the Uptown Nightclub, Oakland, California, in the early hours of July 10, 2008I'd had a long, overheated work day before the show, a mediocre dinner at a Cambodian place I had once loved, and a difficult time finding a place I could feel comfortable waiting for the club to open; I was somewhat discouraged that I had no friends who were also late-night fans who could attend the show with me; and by the time I returned to Oakland from a cafe in Berkeley, I had feared that I wouldn't be able to stay awake. But I liked the club, and wound up initiating friendly conversation with other fans around me, who were quite pleasant, and provided commentary while we watched the roadies frown. As soon as Frank's set started, I was internally electrified. I left the show completed elated at about 1:40 a.m. (only the slightest bit disappointed at the lack of encores), and thus barely missed the hourly All-Nighter AC Transit 800 bus that was going to take me back into SF for a mere $3.50.

I considered drinking until 2 and then waiting an additional half hour for the next bus, but decided that I lacked the patience to do that, so I pulled out my iPhone and got a cab company directory. The first company didn't answer. The second answered only to tell me that its last driver had just gone off shift. Mind you, this was at 1:45 a.m., and I began to worry that I would not be able to return to the City easily. Nearby was a handsome young man who was on his cell phone, and I could hear his conversation: he had just advised a taxi company that he needed a cab back to SF, and that he could wait a few minutes. There was a time, in my distant youth, when I would have just stood around, and then approached his cabbie about sending another taxi for me, but that time is very distant. I walked over to him asked him if he'd be willing to share the cab back to SF, since I'd had no luck in raising so much as a possibility of a taxi. He agreed. We got to watch Frank and his crew load their equipment bus (and fuss over the lack of hard cases for the beautiful Vox amps), and had a pleasant chat on the way across the bridge, during which it was revealed that he is new to SF, and pretty much just finished college.

I did not pinch his cheek.

We had several things in common: he had friends who don't stay out late, who aren't as enthusiastic about live music as he/we are, and who leave shows early rather than staying through to the (glorious, encore-filled) end of them. We came to be fans of Frank Black late, after having loved the Pixies for a long time. We hadn't been interested in the Pixies reunion tour, partly due to the lack of new music being released by the band. We both LOVED the show.

It worked out delightfully for me: the nice young man paid for his own full fare over, and so I only paid for my own ride across town, which was worth every minute that it saved me in trying to return by other means. The cabbie was pleasant and just as chatty as works at that hour of morning. I was in bed by 2:45 a.m., and slept until after 7 so that I would be able to stay awake through a social dinner planned for the evening. I went to Peet's, and was reinforced by a large cup of their deceptively delicious, remarkably powerful soy chai, which kept me up chatting with friends late the next evening.

Even now, days later, I remain giddy just thinking of the show.

I'm so very glad I went.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:10 AM

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Most Played Songs on my iPhone/iPod.

There are about 517,000 Google results for iPod 25 most played. Which means that I am being completely unoriginal in posting this list. To the point I care about such things. Which I donít.

On the bright side, Iím NOT posting my entire record collection (yet), my massive audiocassette collection (which Iíll never do, because I lost/dumped it while moving at some point), or CD collection (which seems to be the least representative of all formats Iíve owned so far). I will tell you whatís on my iPhone, however, because it is a very short, very selective list. Iíll do that as a "featurette" here: music (albums) on my iPhone.

My current top 25, presented as "song (band, album)," as reported by my iPhone:

High Rise (Ladytron, Witching Hour)
Plastic (Portishead, Third)
Hunter (Portishead, Third)
Silence (Portishead, Third)
Headhunter v1.0 (Front 242, Front By Front) (Moby, Last Night)
I Love to Move In Here (Moby, Last Night)
Alice (Moby, Last Night)
Ooh Yeah (Moby, Last Night)
Information (The Definite Articles, Boy Wonder)
Elixirs (The Definite Articles, Boy Wonder)
Sea Things (The Definite Articles, Boy Wonder)
Weekend (Ladytron, Witching Hour)
Destroy Everything You Touch (Ladytron, Witching Hour)
The Beginning Of The End (Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero)
Lullaby (The Cure, Distintegration)
All Mine (Portishead, Portishead)
Between The Bars (Elliott Smith, Either/Or)
Holographic Universe (Thievery Corporation, The Cosmic Game)
Li citta nuda (The Dining Rooms, Tre)
The Nasty (Amon Tobin, Bricolage)
Easy Muffin (Amon Tobin, Bricolage)
Yasawas (Amon Tobin, Bricolage)
Beauty *2 (Ladytron, Witching Hour)
Black Cat (Ladytron, Velocifero).

Notes: Portishead's Third has displaced several Pixies songs. Bricolage and Tre were the first albums I loaded onto the iPhone, but I'm still impressed at their placement. I don't think I listen to Elixirs as much as is represented, but I do listen to the songs on either side of it very frequently. My actual hours of listening to Elliott Smith are surely underrepresented; however, I also listen to him on Steven's iPod, and that may be the cause of his lower figures here.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:26 PM

Monday, May 26, 2008


Fun at the Rickshaw Stop

The Definite Articles at the Rickshaw Stop, May 21, 2008I'd posted one of my invitations to see The Definite Articles ( at their CD release party in San Francisco this past week. The cellist and main force behind the band is an especially clever office colleague of mine, and I was very excited for him when he announced his intention to take a sabbatical to record a CD and polish the band's performance. His sabbatical will be ending next month, now that he has made remarkable progress in his planned projects.

The show was excellent: it was a great room, their performance was tight, the sound was stellar, and their show was very, very well received. They also had swag at this show, and I was able to buy their CD on a little USB thumb drive with their logo on it. (Did I mention that the force behind the band is a geek? Is this obvious now?) It is just SO CUTE.

As I noted on The Definite Articles page on Facebook,
AMAZING show last night! All that, and I am the first kid on my block to have the USB version of Boy Wonder! The sizzling sound you hear is the sh*t hotness of this item lighting the fires of jealousy in all those around me.
It was pleasant to note this in Facebook, since most Facebook users are slackers, and only use the wall feature to send regrets for events that they never intended to attend anyway. (I am delighted that many people I know are decidedly NON-slackers in Facebook. Nearly all such people also have their own websites, I notice.) I also learned that the wall function in Facebook has CHARACTER LIMITS, which really rained on my parade while attempting to post book-length commentary on the common experiences among serious musicians. Dammit.

I'm posting an iPhone photo from the show here. You know that I have a 1971 Nikon F with a powerful flash rig that can effectively light a band from the Paradise Lounge's balcony and produce brilliant, sharp band images... And that I take lovely medium-format black and white portraits. But I am resisting imposing my aesthetic on this particular band. Which is an amusing exercise in photographic self-restraint. Which I don't know much about, really.


posted by Arlene (Beth)4:48 PM

Monday, May 19, 2008


This Wednesday, attend a special evening of musical entertainment in SF with The Definite Articles

[A message I distributed to selected office colleagues today.]

Yes, there is a SPECIAL treat in store for you on Wednesday night!

"What could it be?" you ask.

"Is it... a violent riot caused by the Ridiculous Moustache Liberation Front?" No!

"Is it... an attempt at the Guinness World Record for the largest drag queen/king undergarment raid at Civic Center, with the Honorable Gavin Newsom serving as Undergarment Master of Ceremonies?" You wish! NO!

"Is it... the surreal filming of a Björk video, in which she proves yet again that she is merely visiting this planet to make us wonder what other worlds are like?" No!

"Is it... oh, this is hard. Is it... Kind of like an offsite social event organized by some really tall guy who used to work [at My Employer], but executed in a less suave manner?" No. Not at all. This is TOTALLY suave.

"Is it a drunken ruckus caused by dozens of current and former [My Employer's Employees] spending their economic stimulus checks in one little nightclub?" You're getting warmer!

"What, pray tell, could this mysterious event that you are teasing us about unnecessarily be?" you ask.

"Say please," I say, haughtily.


Okay. I'll tell you. This very Wednesday, May 21st, [My Employer]'s past and future Shawn Alpay is having a CD Release Party for The Definite Articles' newest CD, Boy Wonder, at the always delightful Rickshaw Stop at 155 Fell Street in San Francisco (near Van Ness).

You must attend! Really. No, I mean you REALLY must attend. Or thugs from the Ridiculous Moustache Liberation Front will come to your house and, um, "deface" you with a ridiculous moustache. And other punishments too horrifying to be described in a genteel e-mail such as this one.

The Definite Articles perform at 8 p.m. sharp, early enough for even the weakest, sleepiest among you to have a good time, yet still be in your Winnie the Pooh jammies (with feet!) at a reasonable hour.

Bring cash!

Details at The Definite Articles' MySpace Page and

Please share this information with all potentially interested parties.

See you there!


Disclaimer: I wrote this freely and of my own volition on my own behalf and on behalf of all those who are sentimental about Pooh jammies with feet. This is not a [My Employer] event, nor a [My Employer's Parent Company] event. Duh. Attend at your own risk. Also, donít take my word that the passionfruit cocktails at the Rickshaw Stop are as good as I say they are. Your mileage really may vary on that one.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:23 PM

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Naked Eye by Luscious Jackson??

Is there any reason I've had this song playing in my head over the last few mornings?

Okay, is there any GOOD reason??


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:05 PM

Monday, April 07, 2008


Things my partner/spouse of eight years, who is turning 40 this month, did NOT say during Saturday's night's Autechre Concert

[The show started at 9, with DJ Rob Hall (who was very good); there was an electronic solo act, the DJ again. Autechre, as promised by the schedule posted above the door, started their set at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday.]
"Let's dance!"

"This is fun!"

"This [solo act] is quite interesting."

"People here really know how to dance."

"What a cool way to spend an evening."

"I am enjoying myself."

"Let's do this again very soon."


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:37 PM

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Poems are organized into books; pictures are organized into portfolios; songs are organized into albums.

I'm not sure I approve of the random feature on digital music players. Perhaps it is my own fault, for listening to electronic instrumental music and not always being certain which band I'm listening to when I have several new albums loaded. But I liked the way songs were grouped, often very logically, into albums.

The length of the albums was technology based: vinyl records could only hold so much music, and so sets of songs were chosen that worked out to about the right amount of time. Yet... If you look at albums from bands like Radiohead, or Nine Inch Nails, it's clear that there are relationships between the songs on an album. They work together, or they are from the same era, or they share certain patterns... Some of those relationships are quite well designed to give an album a particular quality. The Fragile has songs that flow into one another, where sounds from one song continue into the beginning of the next track, and that flow only makes sense when they are played in a particular sequence.

If I don't listen to the album a few times in the provided sequence, I think I might be missing something that I was intended to notice.

It's not clear that the entire concept of an "album" will continue to be relevant, if you download the songs you want - there's no longer a structural framework created by the limitations on technology (on how much music fits in uncompressed form on a long playing record, or an audio cassette, or a compact disk), and so there isn't necessarily a reason to release music in batches/collections/albums. I'm curious as to whether or not musicians will continue to release "albums," or if they will draw other relationships between their songs. ('This one goes with the other 'blue' music I did three years ago - listen to this song with those pieces. This one, on the other hand, starts a new set...')


posted by Arlene (Beth)6:47 PM


Hold On, I'm Coming

Do any of my readers have this album by Art Blakey? Either the 1966 (or 1967) release, or the re-release in 2003-ish?

In July of 1993, I began subscribing to CMJ New Music Monthly (, a pop music magazine that comes with a CD full of music. It may be hard to imagine this, but getting a promotional CD in the mail every month seemed like a really great thing in the ancient days when radio was becoming miserable, but before you could just download songs from the Internet onto all the mobile devices that hadn't yet been invented... Anyway, during the decade or so that I subscribed, they had music by all sorts of groups that inspired me to buy their albums, from pop, to electronic, to jazz, to hip hop. On one disk, they had a version of Hold On, I'm Coming, entirely instrumental, from Art Blakey. It was a promo for the re-release.

I LOVE this version of this song. I can't find it anywhere, of course - the song or that particular issue of the CD. All I really want to hear is that one song (though it sounds like the album was fine), and so I'm not really willing to order 'collectors edition' original LPs from great distances. No, it's not available on iTunes.

If you don't have it, (I can't believe I'm about to write this) check to see if your parents have it (if they are, you know, cool). And find out if they might be willing to loan it to me. Or record it for me. Or find some other way to share it.


posted by Arlene (Beth)5:03 PM

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