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When Jamie came home from school yesterday, he pointed to a cardboard box on our stoop and said, “hey Michael, what’s in there?” “I don’t know, Jamie,” I replied.  “I didn’t see it until just now.” Imagine my surprise when I opened it up and found five copies of this!

“Jamie, check it out,” I said.  “People in Italy will read about you in Italian, and they will learn that you are un bambino speciale.” “Cool,” he said.  And it is cool, too.  Not to mention the fact that it’s the first time anything of mine has been translated into anything.

Jamie and I were gone five days for our Colorado/ New Mexico swing, but it was worth it: we have faked out the McCain campaign something terrible.  Apparently they are so upset at our claiming these two states as Obama-Bérubé territory that they are going to spend the next two weeks pretending they can take Pennsylvania away from us.  Win!!

We have a bunch of photos, of course. I’m particularly fond of this one:

We got away from the American Studies Association conference on Saturday and drove up to Santa Fe, which, for some reason, had tourists in it.  But we took the back roads, because that’s the only way to get to what I believe may be the world’s only turquoise mining museum and petting zoo.  I think this was the highlight of the trip for Jamie, even better than swimming in the hotel pools:

Jamie also met a very pleasant llama.  But it wasn’t just about feeding the animals.  For some reason, Jamie decided upon entering the “museum” that he wanted to get one of these as a present for his French teacher.  (You can see in the photo that they’re “priced as marked,” and actually the prices were pretty reasonable.  But I told Jamie there was just no way we’d ever be able to get such a thing back on the plane and home in one piece.) Anyway, here’s the museum and here’s its scenic view.

We got around a bit in Boulder, too.  We drove up around the Flatiron Mountains, so named because they look like giant pieces of shale sticking a few thousand feet into the air, as in the background of this picture.  First we looked east, and then we looked west.  Not that I’d expect you to know this, but I grew up in New York, mostly in Queens, and except for one plane trip to LA to visit a friend in 1983, never saw any part of the United States west of Blacksburg, VA until I got a job at the University of Illinois when I was 28.  So this Rocky Mountain and southwest-desert stuff is always thrilling to me.  And then we took a canyon road through those mountains: here I am in Nederland, Colorado, sixteen miles west of Boulder, getting dizzy at the altitude while Jamie takes a very competent picture.

Of course, when we travel, we listen to lots and lots of music.  Jamie brings his iPod, and I brought some tapes (yes, tapes!  I have a car with a tape deck) for the drive down to Harrisburg (we flew out of Harrisburg in order to save a bunch of $ on Jamie’s ticket).  And the rental car in Albuquerque came equipped with Sirius XM radio, so we listened to Fred (“the history of alternative rock”) all through the desert.  Two thoughts about our listening experiences:

One: time is accelerating with each passing year, proportionally to the square of its distance from my youth.  R.E.M.’s Murmur and the Replacements’ Hootenanny, two records about which everyone in my cohort was required to Have An Opinion, were released twenty-five years ago. Which means that if it were still 1983 today, those albums would have been released in 1958.  Whereas if the Beatles were just breaking up today, they would have made their Ed Sullivan debut sometime around July 2002.  The time-compression of the past 25-35 years can be calculated by means of Kid Rock’s single, “All Summer Long,” which made a pretty obvious (and annoyingly successful) bid to become this summer’s summer song all summer long, and which asks us to get all nostalgic about the summer of 1989, when we were apparently singing along all summer long to a song released in 1974.  OK, now my head hurts.

Two: I was listening to De La Soul’s Buhloone Mindstate, which is a mere fifteen years old, and I began to wonder: who killed “alternative” hip-hop?  Was it those nasty boys from the West Coast, with their chronic and their doggie style and their thug life?  Or was it an inside job, perpetrated by Arrested Development’s “Mr. Wendal” and PM Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”?  Not that this is an either/or kind of blog.

Posted by on 10/21 at 10:28 AM
  1. Re: the music, tell me about it.  When I’m rooting around on iTunes I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that it’s not illegal to buy music less than 20 years old.

    Also, why isn’t Lou Reed’s “New York” available, not even on iTunes?

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  12:19 PM
  2. re: alt hip-hop: inside job, definitely—i blame “tennessee”—way too earnest.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  12:34 PM
  3. Kurzleg, “New York” is not available because it was tied for first place in the list of greatest records of the 1980s. There is logic to this that requires Alan Turing to unravel. Fortunately the record it was tied with—Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs,” of course—can be had (at least in the very popular CD format).

    Michael, I’m a tad troubled by the front cover of the Italian version of your wonderful book. This is a book about your family, and those people in the picture seem to be complete and utter strangers.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  12:36 PM
  4. ps--I know—just know—that your metion of Mr Wendal was an insidious attempt to plant an earworm, but it’s my lucky day! I’m stuck with Wendell Gee instead. Whew!

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  12:39 PM
  5. Oh, the weirdness of the jacket design doesn’t end there, Chris.  On the inside back flap, it says that I teach at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the author photo dates from 1996.  All I can say is that I didn’t have much communication with the publisher—that is to say, none.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  12:42 PM
  6. "Alternative” hip-hop never really went away, it just had a fallow period after Arrested Development’s one-hit-wonderdom.  These days, it’s a little less radio-friendly but a lot smarter and more lyrically interesting.  Artists to check out: Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, El-P, Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox.  (Really, anyone on the Quannum or Definitive Jux labels.)

    Posted by Doctor Memory  on  10/21  at  12:42 PM
  7. And Shannon, wasn’t the problem with Arrested Development that all their material was too earnest?  You know, in a “let’s be positive rappers!” kind of way?

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  12:43 PM
  8. Bill Ayers killed alternative hip-hop. Nothing worse than those domestic terrorists and their front Barack Obama. That’s why Colin Powell endorsed him, after all--they’ve both done all they could to destroy rap.

    Posted by George  on  10/21  at  12:46 PM
  9. captcha: bill. The tentacle of Rove touches all. I’m starting to feel very angry about Chappaquiddick.

    Posted by black dog barking  on  10/21  at  01:04 PM
  10. Yup, Michael—‘round these parts we call them (well, *called*, since I haven’t even thought of Arrested Development in years) “Up With People” rappers…

    BTW, is the American Studies Association “pro-America”? Just askin’…

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  01:09 PM
  11. Regarding time compression with age, for me it was glaring during the season of the home run battle between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa. It’s almost ancient history already, being ten years ago and the record having been eclipsed by Barry Bonds. Anyway, at the time I thought back to when I was a kid and kept a scrap book on the home run race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. 61 in 61. The articles of the day of course compared the competitors to Babe Ruth. But to me, a kid, Ruth was mythology. He might as well have been an ancient Greek God or part of Odysseus’s crew. Then I realized that 1961 was 34 years after Ruth’s 1927 home run record year and 1998, the McGuire-Sosa year, was 37 years later. One gap might as well have been eons while the other seemed more defined by the Michelin Tire man characteristics of McGuire and Sosa than the passage of time.

    In a similar vein I remember when I was teaching a college programming class - Pascal. For some reason the topic strayed to the first moon walk. I began to describe the wonder of seeing people walk on the moon and then noticed the glazed eyes of all the students. It might have been a wonder to me but it was ancient history to them. Newsreel stuff. Before their time.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  01:32 PM
  12. Oops!

    Sorry about that giant image. I didn’t realize that the image url would be automatically embedded as the image.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  01:33 PM
  13. Seeing Blacksburg mentioned here kind of took me by surprise.

    There’s still alternative hip-hop, it’s just been silenced on the radio by Clear Channel. Looking through my iTunes collection, I see Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Jean Grae, Jurrasic 5, MF Doom (used to be in KMD and rap with 3rd Bass), Talib Kweli, & Mos Def. Some of those are more mainstream than others, but certainly better than the constant odes-to-strippers that Top Forty tries to force-feed us.

    Posted by Thud  on  10/21  at  01:42 PM
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    Posted by paul  on  10/21  at  01:47 PM
  15. Many years ago taking the back road (Madrid/Cerillos) from ABQ to Santa Fe, I came across what I realized was the old mine and pile of tailings that David Bowie came down at the beginning of The Man Who Fell to Earth (from about 1:30 to 2:00 in this video). Driving it some number of years later I recall it being harder to recognize (I think the building had fallen down).

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  02:02 PM
  16. I completely agree about the awesome enormous pink highway overpasses in Albuquerque.  They’re highly photogenic. 

    As for the passage of time, you appear to have inmperceptibly descended into that vast featureless twilit plain of middle age where nothing happens until one day you wake up and realize that you’re old. Here’s a tip from someone who has no idea what he did for the last ten years:  it takes conscious effort to prevent this from happening.

    And tell your buddy Farley over at Lawyers Guns and Money that if he’s going to talk about you the least he could do is put you on his blogroll.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  02:29 PM
  17. Oh, good lord, it’s the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and he’s come to destroy my blog!

    Another quarter-century-old cultural reference brought to you by Advancing Middle Age®.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/21  at  02:36 PM
  18. For some recent alternative hip-hop, check out Tim Fite’s “Over the Counterculture” (free download from his site) and Saul Williams’s “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust”.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  02:48 PM
  19. CR - Ah, I see.  It’s the “We can’t sell it - it’s too popular!” logic.  I guess I’ll have to scrounge up a tape deck then if I want to listen to it.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  03:08 PM
  20. I submit that William Shatner’s music career took the shine off of “alternative” everything. It’s a big black hole of alternativity™ that sucks the life out of anything and everything that aspires to alternativity.™

    captcha: th’ th’ th’ thats all folks

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  03:12 PM
  21. Yay for the llama picture! My uncle was herd manager at a llama farm for a long time, so I got lots of face time with nice llamas. (If you’ve never noticed, they have disproportionately long eyelashes.)

    I love dual-purpose businesses like the petting zoo/ turquoise mine. My favorite is a taxidermy and cheese place in rural Wisconsin: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/3718

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  03:40 PM
  22. The time-contraction thing is something I often reflect on. When I was a kid in the mid-’60s, the US military was fighting in Vietnam, but when we “played guns” it was always Americans vs. Germans, ancient history from 20 years before. That’s only half as long as from those days to now. Fuck, I’m old. Get off the damn lawn.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  03:54 PM
  23. A couple other alternative* hip hop endorsements:

    Brother Ali

    *For whatever reason, the word “alternative” always conjures mental impressions of Collective Soul’s song “Gel,” and I want to vomit all over again.

    Posted by Jason B  on  10/21  at  04:11 PM
  24. Just yesterday Queen Jane Approximately came up on my iPod and I thought, we’re perilously near the point where that song is 50 years old.  Shudder.  I think there was some research a little while ago (OK, it was probably 15 years ago) about how mental impressions solidify at a certain age.  Thus those of us who were in college when Murmur came out are forever stuck thinking that it’s the hip new album. 

    Favorite stupid college one-liner:  “Yes, I knew several guys who used to be in the Replacements.”

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  04:20 PM
  25. By the way, why do I feel this sudden compulsion to buy new tires?

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  04:22 PM
  26. Re: Lou Reed. I just read that as little as possible from Frank Zappa has been released on iTunes. Apparently Zappa knew about MP3 technology and decided that digital compression compromised his sound, and before he died he asked his wife never to allow his music to be sold like that. Maybe Lou Reed feels the same way.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  04:33 PM
  27. ”...first place in the list of greatest records of the 1980s.”

    Not to get all ABF Friday on your ass, but first place goes to Remain in Light.

    And I can’t believe it is 28 years old this month.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  04:45 PM
  28. I second the vote for Remain in Light.  In fact, we just saw David Byrne perform a lot of that music a couple weeks ago.  I tried not to think about the fact that it was almost 30 years ago.  But a local DJ (here in beautiful Boulder) describes RiL as “an album so far ahead of its time that we still haven’t caught up to it.” So that was my excuse for dancing like a fool to “Crosseyed and Painless.”

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  05:22 PM
  29. Actually, everything was better when you were twelve.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  05:41 PM
  30. Ah, Ruben Bolling!  I have loved that man’s work ever since I read this thoroughly stoned item way back in 1999.  God, already nine years ago.  I could have sworn it was published in 2003 or 2004.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/21  at  06:08 PM
  31. Oh, right, and Remain in Light is totally the best record of the 1980s.  The rest of the decade, including the rest of the Talking Heads’ career, basically said, “shit, might as well give up now—it’s not gonna get any better than this.” And why was the record so good, you ask?  Well, there were the polyrhythms and the backups and the beauty of “Listening Wind” and Adrian Belew’s WTF solos on “Crosseyed and Painless” and “The Great Curve.” But most of all, I credit the band-plus-Eno’s brilliant decision to put “The Overload” at the end of the record, thereby putting all the album’s ponderous suckitude in one incredibly turgid, unlistenable song and allowing the other seven compositions to kick butt.

    And I can’t believe it was 28 years ago.  28 years back from 1980 is 1952, and in 1952 humans didn’t even have fire.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/21  at  06:15 PM
  32. Me? I was born in 1987, which means that if this were 1987 I would’ve been born in 1966. Which would make Remain in Light the best album of the ‘50s. Whoa.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  06:59 PM
  33. Great pics - I used to live right by that overpass you photographed.  ABQ is a crazy town - glad Colorado/New Mexico was a major success for you and Jamie.

    Posted by Mr. Trend  on  10/21  at  07:02 PM
  34. I was wondering the same thing about alternative hip hop just the other day. perhaps somewhere in the infinite Internet is an underground movement of alt hip hoppers, swapping mp3s and making great new music that is the complete antithesis if the consumer driven gangsta rap model, which is of course why it is an underground movement. Mr Wendel was never going to be a mogul like P Diddy and so alas, was unable to swing the massive PR budget that would have kept the movement afloat.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  07:28 PM
  35. My favorite is a taxidermy and cheese place in rural Wisconsin

    Kewl!  Sorry I missed this the last time around, Rachel.  It’s right up there with the now-defunct Jean-Pierre’s, which, iirc, was a French restaurant and bowling alley in rural central Illinois.

    I was born in 1987, which means that if this were 1987 I would’ve been born in 1966. Which would make Remain in Light the best album of the ‘50s. Whoa.

    It gets worse:  my son Nick was born in 1986, which means that he is older now than I was when I met his mother, which means that I am proportionally older than my grandfather and Remain in Light thus becomes the best album of the 1920s.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/21  at  08:44 PM
  36. Remain in Light thus becomes the best album of the 1920s

    Problem with that scenario: competition from L. Armstrong and his Hot 5. Sorry, but those recordings are in contention for the Best “Album” of the 20th Century. Talking Heads, not so much.
    Even relativistically speaking. As I think we were.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  10:27 PM
  37. I recall also that it was the Ruth to Maris to McGwire/Sosa one that really brought this technique home to me. Also the last Browns’ and Indians’ championships are closer to the time their respective leagues started than they are to today.

    Oh, and McCain born closer to Appomattox than to today. Of course it would be wrong to point out such a trivial piece of information in the middle of a Presidential campaign.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  11:00 PM
  38. Until this blog entry I thought I was the only person who did the “that was 27 years ago, and 27 years before that was ____!” thing.  Here’s my newest entry:  My grandfather was born in 1903 and 105 years before that John Adams was President.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  11:02 PM
  39. If you two find yourselves in CO during June, you might want to check out the Estes Park Sheep and Wool Fair featuring an alpaca show, sheepdog demonstrations, and fleece competitions.

    Cute animals abound.  Not to mention the elk hanging around town.

    Posted by  on  10/21  at  11:51 PM
  40. Nederland, CO, wow.  I have at least a dozen friends in Nederland, most of whom are musicians and/or producers of concerts and festivals (Sonic Bloom, Rockygrass, Northwest String Summit, etc.).  I would think that Nederland’s per capita musical quotient must be extraordinarily high and high.  Just being there puts amazingly beautiful music in your head. 

    As for time space relativism, i am already older than: rock-n-roll, color television, jet airplanes, hydrogen bombs, and nearly all the members of bands i enjoy.  Thus i can’t begin to process how all that would play out back in the late 1800s??? What? Tin Pan Alley?…

    Posted by  on  10/22  at  12:50 AM
  41. I just like saying “quotidianamente.”

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  10/22  at  03:32 AM
  42. Please don’t tell me you left Santa Fake (as we call it hereabouts) and drove right up I-25 to Boulder. Next time take Hwy 285, so you can stop at the UFO Watchtower!

    Posted by  on  10/22  at  09:50 AM
  43. I can’t pronounce “quotidianamente.”

    Posted by  on  10/22  at  09:52 AM
  44. Hey Edward!  I suggest you try to say it fast, much like Fredrick when he goes all the way in.

    Posted by  on  10/22  at  05:50 PM
  45. I was just thinking that the other day—the 70’s music I grew up listening to as a kid is as far away from my children as 1940’s swing was to me when I was a kid.  Yikes!.

    And speaking of time getting away from you—I was gobsmacked by the picture of Jamie at the zoo.  Damn, that kid has grown up all of a sudden.  When you took your hiatus from blogging I thought of him as being a little kid, but now look at him—he’s a teenager.

    Capcha = “really”, as in “I’m feeling really old right now”

    Posted by  on  10/23  at  04:40 PM
  46. Most of the hiphop I listen to these days is Nerdcore Hiphop, headed up by its crown prince, MC Frontalot. He’s got some mp3s here, but I’d recommend getting his latest album for a real taste. Highlights of his career include the classic “Indier Than Thou”, “Goth Girls”, “Tongue-Clucking Grammarian”… oh, he’s got a million of ‘em.

    There are plenty more in the Nerdcore pantheon, but the main one I’d single out other than Frontalot is Andy Metz, aka the Mixmaster, and his masterpiece of the genre, Oedipus at Colonus.

    Posted by Fafner  on  10/23  at  11:45 PM





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