Sab Tab.

I’m obsessed with Black Sabbath. I picked up a copy of Never Say Die!, their last record with Ozzy. An actual physical CD. I was annoyed that I couldn’t find any classic Sabbath on iTunes–I’m all about instant-gratification-impulse purchases–but I imagine that when presented with iTunes, Black Sabbath replied: We don’t need your iTunes. We are Black fucking Sabbath.
I remember digging Never Say Die! as a 14 year old, and, unbelievably, it actually is awesome. Especially what one could quaintly call side one, and the track “Johnny Blade,” one of those typical Sabbath tunes that’s like three different songs jammed together, with sudden transitions and tempo changes. It’s also built around a synthesizer line, which is un-Sabbath-y, but great.
I dialed up the tab for “Paranoid,” too, which I maybe want to cover with the fellows. Maybe. My manager always says, “Your sensibility is more indie than your audience.” Which I’m not sure is true, but I understand what he’s saying. Even more so, I don’t know how many people would appreciate a brass-out Sabbath cover. I can imagine, though, some youngster coming up and saying, THAT NEW SONG WAS AMAZING!
(I’m happy to have any audience, and you guys have been very nice to me)
I was disappointed to find out that the lyric is not, as I’ve always thought, Can you help me? ARE YOU FROM MY BRAIN?! Oh yeah! Actually, it’s Can you help me occupy my brain? Which seems quotidian to me.
I got a book on Esperanto–a teach-yourself course. Esperanto is a completely invented language, devised in the late 19th century. You can read its Wikipedia entry here. It’s a goofy, geeky idea, but supposedly two million people speak it. There are clubs, conventions, plays written in Esperanto, Esperanto bands.
Its purpose was to to be an international language that’s easy to learn. And it really is. The grammar is ludicrously simple. No irregular verbs, no irregular anything. All the tenses have the same endings for every pronoun (as if you could say I am, you am, he am, we am…you learn one “am” and you’ve got the present tense dialed in). Everything is pronounced exactly as it’s spelled. It’s gorgeously elegant, too, with this ingenious system of suffixes and prefixes. It sounds something like Italian crossed with a Slavic language. It would be a great language to write an opera in.
I’ve been studying German for a little less than a year, and I’m loving it–it’s very precise, complex, and logical, and I find it beautiful. As difficult as it is, it’s shown me that English is the most difficult fucking language this side of Cantonese. Why is English the world’s common language? It’s great for us, but really, it’s ridiculous.
I learned Esperanto’s past, present, and future tenses in five minutes. Seriously!
Scrap has an obsession with Matt Damon that is at once a joke and not a joke. He falls asleep every night to either The Departed or The Good Shepherd on his laptop. I once was standing on the street with him and he turned to me, after two minutes of silence, and said, “I just pretended I was Matt Damon.”
Pete McNeal, my drummer, has a band called the Greasy Beats. He wrote a tune for the band called “Besus.” Rhymes with Jesus. It is righteous. Please to make the listening is here.

In Asbury Did Kubla Khan a Stately Pleasure Dome Decree.

Hey! So today at around 6 pm I’m playing at the Pone Stony in Asbury Park, in the great great state of New Jersey. It’s a big big big show, with the Drive-By Truckers, Fountains of Wayne, and other future legends of rock. Hope you groovy people come down.
Scrap was unexpectedly called back to Mississppi, so I rock alone on the National Reso-Lectric this evening. (trying it out, my first gig entirely on the Rezzy–let’s see if we can’t get some low end out of that fucker)

Sekou Sundiata, 1948-2007.

I was saddened to read in the Times this morning that my old poetry teacher Sekou Sundiata passed away. He taught a course at Eugene Lang called The Shape and Nature of Things to Come, in which he mercilessly cut his students’ poems and dispensed enigmatic, precise wisdom.
“You’re trying to build a house, and sometimes the poem says, ‘I’m not a house, I’m a bird.'” Meaning that you have to listen to it and make it what it wants to be.
He would sometimes take a mediocre poem and interrogate its poet, coaxing out a long description of whatever circumstances fed into it. It was usually fascinating. Then Sekou would say: “And why isn’t that in the poem?
He would gently chide poets that refused to edit their poems, lest informational aspects be altered. “You owe no allegiance to the facts,” he said.
“Do you talk to yourself?” he would sometimes ask. “You should.”
On the first day of his class, he asked every student where they were from. Outside Boston, one answered. “‘Outside Boston’? What does that mean?” The student eventually said she was from Braintree. Sekou wrote the name in giant letters on the blackboard and speculated in wonder what its origin might have been.
I appropriated his fascination with place names; I must have written two dozen songs with city names as titles. I wrote “Screenwriter’s Blues” as a poem in that class, and it was a huge moment in my creative development that Sekou raved about it.
He emphasized the importance of titles–half the class titled their poems Untitled–as a kind of small poem that existed on its own.
He had a band called dadahdoohdadah; I appropriated virtually everything about his phrasing. Which I’m sure he supported; he often talked about a poet’s ability–need–to take things and, by respeaking them, make them his/her own.
He also taught me not to try to be black, but to find something essential in my real background–and there’s Braintree again– that’s what made black artists compelling in the first place.
He taught a course on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, refracted through Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, framing Malcolm’s life in Campell’s idea of the hero’s journey.
I took the class with Ani DiFranco, who went on to release a few CDs by Sekou.
His obit in the Times is here.
Below is a YouTube of Sekou performing on Def Poetry Jam.

Best Of.

I’m looking to do a compilation-slash-archive of the most fun stuff on this blog. Regular readers–and interested browsers!–I’d appreciate it if you told me which of the old entries you like best. Send the link to me at

Our Debts and Misplaced Fortunes.

I’ve been reading Twenty Grand, and Other Tales of Love and Money by Rebecca Curtis. Some of the stories are relentlessly bleak, but I really dug “Monsters,” “The Alpine Slide,” and, uh, the one about the wolf, the name of which I can’t remember.
She does great surrealist/allegorical stories–viz., the ones about the wolf and the monsters–mixed in with realistic portraits of young girls with interior struggles. An impressive range. Personally, I’ve been rewriting the same single song since 1989.
She’s reading tonight at Mo Pitkin’s.

I Am Happy to Drink Tap Water.

I was heartbroken to discover that Scrap’s daughter Larry hates Kelly Clarkson. Scrap assures me that it’s an affectation she picked up from fellow middle-schoolers, but nonetheless.
I’m smitten with a couple of her new tunes: “Maybe” and “Never Again.” She’s righteously angry, she gives me chills. She makes Alanis seem mildly disgruntled.
Other than that, as I trudge around Brooklyn–trudge, trudge, trudge–I’m listening mostly to classic rock. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Foreigner, Steve Miller, Rush’s Moving Pictures.
And yet the music I’ve been working on sounds like rinkytink techno circa 1990.
It’s been really luxurious, working on music with an album nearly done, thus not having to think much about how any given piece fits into the overall, or will sound on the radio. I can work on whatever, and it’s cool to have a bunch of incomplete ideas laying around, to be picked up and messed around with if I feel like it.