Gut check

“It is my experience that music is more like water than a rhinoceros. It doesn’t charge madly down one path. It runs away in every direction.”

What I like about that Elvis Costello line, published in The New Yorker recently, is how not spontaneous it is. Few people figure a rhinoceros mid-thought, I’d argue. Costello might be one. But no one imagines a madly running rhinoceros mid-thought — comparatively or otherwise.

Not outside a zoo or safari territory. Why do I like the image’s lack of spontaneity? Because if there’s no spontaneity, there’s premeditation. Whether the line is a repeated toss-off for interested scribblers, who knows. I would Google, but I don’t feel like it. My point is the quote is there because the image has stuck in the poor man’s brain. Whether he wants the comparison active with him or not, and a toss-off you’d want to keep in your pockets and not your head if possible, he must find himself at times wondering, mid-creation, “Water or rhinoceros?”

You’ll never get to make a lampshade out of me

Elizabeth says Casey and I should read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad because it loves music and so do we. I’m also out there as loving a paragraph on the book. Reportedly, the title isn’t referencing Elvis Costello’s Goon Squad. But to get fired up for a Monday morn, with Welcome to the Working Week long in my playlist, this song does nicely.

And when the book hits paperback, I’m definitely reading it. This too.

Dear Elvis Costello, live at the Mocambo

I had to fucking look up where the Mocambo was.

It’s in Canada! Are you serious? Who releases a live Canada album? Unless you’re indie and taping in Montreal and all that lil’ restrained clapping is cool. But you are not indie. You’re Elvis Costello, and you spend half the show telling people to stand up. At one point, you tell the Canadians you’ve come to take their country back for England.

Good for you, my friend. You don’t want to go back to Chelsea? Don’t go. “She gave a little flirt, gave herself a little cuddle…” An angry young man has a job to do, and pissing off Canadians is apparently part of it.

Side note: I love Canada. Never had a bad time there, and I like every Canadian I’ve ever met. Anyway. The three best parts of the show?

1) Lipstick Vogue.

Select the control and then insert the token
You wanna throw me away but I’m not broken
You’ve got a lot to say, well I’m not joking
There are some words they don’t allow to be spoken
Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being

Drum roll, no. Rolling drums, yes. There’s this drum break in the middle of the song that gets practically Elizabethan play during this show. I don’t think the song was even released at this point. Elvis gets a first billing, but the drums get a quick second. Guitars and organ just help as they can. The drum break rolls for a good minute, alternating loud and soft. Because the lipstick vogue is, just as the song says, just a vogue, and you’re going to get replaced. Good luck to you, you fool.

2) The end. After a concluding Pump It Up, the live album ends with nearly two minutes of Canadians yelling for more. “MORE!” “MORE!” With nine seconds to go on the disc, an announcer tells the crowd there will be no more. The end. Back when you were cruel, man…

3) How when I listen to this album and your Live at Hollywood High album, I don’t think about anything else. Time passes more quickly, and I need it. Waitin’ for the end of the world, dear Lord. Go Friday!

Update, a few days later: My dad e-mails he’s glad I like Canadians, as he reminds me my great-grandmother and the four generations of Cryslers before her were all Canadian. In fact, in the War of 1812, a battle on the family farm was pretty much the reason the USA didn’t take over Canada. Why were we trying to take over Canada again?

Elvis Costello’s plan for wild dogs at his concerts

Talking ’89 Spike tour on Late Night. “On this coming tour, I’ve got a six-foot satin heart, like a big Valentine card, which is mounted on springs, so it undulates seductively when you clutch it. And instead of song titles, we’re going to have the 13 1/2 deadly sins, the seven original deadly sins and six and 1/2 new ones that we’re dreaming up. 

“We want to encourage people from the audience — now, sometimes, like in Los Angeles, you can’t keep the people off the stage, you know. Here, sort of on the East Coast, people are a little bit, kind of more reserved. So, originally I wanted to unleash a pack of wild dogs at the back of the theater, to chase the people. But you have the health regulations, you have a problem from different states, so it’s come down to ushers in wolf suits, so they’re going to bring and…”

(Letterman: “Well, that’s a nice touch.”)

“We get ’em up on the stage. We have a big turquoise velvet blindfold, and you know when you go to the — I know you often stay at the presidential suite in the hotels you travel…”

(Letterman: “Wherever I go. It’s part of the rider.”)

“Yes, well, you know you have those tasseled keys. Well, we’re going to give them a tasseled spike, and if you remember, the title of the record, if you remember pin the tail on the donkey from childhood, we’ll have these blindfolded people stab this heart. And whichever sin they pierce, they have the opportunity — they have a moral dilemma. They can either commit that sin live on stage, and we’ll have (people yell in the studio audience) … some sinners over there … we’ll have some, um, paraphernalia to assist with the sinning. Or you can elect a song which you think best represents that sin.”

(Letterman: “So, this will be very unique on this tour.”)

“I would think so. Yes, it hasn’t been done before. It was tried in Las Vegas a few years ago, but they took it off. They have regulations…”

Had no idea Napoleon Dynamite was Elvis Costello

I’ve still got a long way to go. Different album, we know. But I thank the Blood and Chocolate liner notes for introducing me to the painting, introducing me to the pseudonym, all in extra thanks to a earlier (and final?) intro from BMG Music Club. Still like the movie, but now I know.

The Elvis record comes in maybe my last order from the long-running-but-soon-to-be-dead underrated musical deal spectacular. Others in the possibly closing buy: U2, Zooropa; U2 again, Wide Awake in America; The Smithereens, Meet the Smithereens; John Mellencamp, Words and Music (have come a long way there); and Costello again, Get Happy!!.

Ain’t it poison to know you still care

They’re your hired doctor and your hired nurse, putting the meds in your lines when you can’t do the injection yourself, something to kill the pain but more precisely kill what’s causing the pain, the presence in the pipes you want to let go of, right, and that’s why they talk trash when you cater to the pain, bound to their halfway-Hippocratic swears and their needs for insurance. Let the medicine drip when you know it’s the poison that works first, before you can get better and eat real food again, not any fake excuse for a meal, and they can hang another bag when this one’s done. At least that’s what they tell you, dripping.

Not on or about this week’s Roxicet or the weekend’s water, morphine, Phenergan, contrast, iodine, and whatever else was in me, I just need two metaphors to sedate tonight and your buzzes aren’t helping me. 

15 albums

Jeremy gave the following preamble on Facebook, and I liked it: “I dutifully ignore most of these Facebook lists, in which you get tagged in someone else’s and are therefore obligated to make your own, but this one sounded kinda fun. So the challenge is to list 15 albums that changed your life, most impacted you or whatever …  I’m limiting mine to officially released material only because otherwise this would be a list of 15 Bruce Springsteen recordings unavailable in stores.” My list:

1. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
2. Darkness of the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen
3. Kids in Philly, Marah
4. A Legendary Performer Vol. 2, Elvis Presley
5. Gold, CCR
6. Tunnel of Love, Bruce Springsteen
7. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco
8. Summerteeth, Wilco
9. Pneumonia, Whiskeytown
10. Get Lifted, John Legend
11. Greatest Hits, John Denver
12. Joshua Tree, U2
13. My Aim Is True, Elvis Costello
14. Pet Sounds, Beach Boys
15. West Side Story soundtrack

If you want to fight, each one is easily explainable, and I know karate.

Most difficult cuts: Demolition, The River (but you know The River is fine without you), James Brown 20 All-Time Greatest Hits, Chronicle, The ’59 Sound (I’m guessing it’ll stick), Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall, Let’s Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later on Tonight.

That I’m not obsessing about the Oreo shows how good it is

Yes, the reviewers say the end of Colbert Christmas is moving. Yes, I can say after a belated TiVo watching, this is actually true. If for some reason you’ve lost your mind, want to skip the show and jump straight to the end, the Elvis-laden finale is here. But don’t do that. The close is better if you work your way there. Comedy Central’s video clip archive generously shows most of the program. And Colbert loves you, baby.

Feist: I’m here to grant your most heartfelt wish.
Colbert: You mean that God creates an Oreo with a cookie in the middle?
Feist: No! And He wants you to stop asking for that!

Elvis, skinny fat, TiVo priest, free delivery, Beyonce

–If I were to buy the best of Elvis Costello, filling a need for introduction beyond what 94.7 The Globe has offered, which albums would I buy? This month’s re-issues don’t seem to hit the spot.

–“Thin people may be fat inside, some doctors say.” What if that’s me? Says the story: “Without a clear warning signal — like a rounder middle — doctors worry that thin people may be lulled into falsely assuming that because they’re not overweight, they’re healthy.” What I need are clearer warning signals. Maybe my belly button could switch directions when it’s concerned.

–From the close of this month’s TiVo newletter:

Here’s a positively divine story from Amy M. in Atlanta, GA: “While my husband and I were going through premarital counseling with our very Irish Catholic priest, we had to take a test with questions about our future spouse. When it came to the question, ‘Do you feel your future spouse watches too much TV?,’ our priest was surprised when we had both answered ‘no.’

We then explained TiVo and how much it had changed our television habits, and how much crap we no longer watched! He was so impressed, we decided he needed TiVo, too.

Now let me explain my priest: He is over 65, and from Ireland and one of the most tech-savvy people we know! When he opened the TiVo [box], he got super excited, as he is a big golfer and most tournaments end on Sundays, so he can’t really watch them when they’re on! Now whenever he sees us, he says in his thick Irish accent, ‘What a lovely couple! I love my TiVo!’ So even Catholic priests can be converted!”

Was this the Irish priest who presided at the Atlanta-area parish I briefly attended? The one who wrote the homily for the wrong readings, realized his mistake on Saturday night, ran out of time to write when his sister visited for dinner, and then gave the congregation the choice of hearing next week’s homily or a canned one? The newsletter confirmed nothing, but I wondered.

–This e-mail has been sitting in my inbox for a month, awaiting blogging. “New RedEye Weekend Edition” announces to subscribers that the free youth rag is going weekends, still for free. But the huge news is how you can get the weekend edition: free delivery.

Maybe my Chicago friends are already receiving the paper this way, I don’t know. The kids today, whether we’re in journalism or not, we don’t talk about newspaper subscriptions. (The only person with whom I discuss newspaper subscriptions is my brother. He fights his Wall Street Journal pile like I fight my New Yorkers. We share the fight.)

The D.C. Examiner — a general read, not a youth rag, if you’re unfamilair — has pursued the free/free model here in Washington with mixed results. People have complained they can’t make the papers stop, even as they stack up noticeably and dangerously over vacations. If you could combine the solid youth rag model with the accurately free delivery model, I would totally subscribe.

–Why hasn’t Beyonce’s Get Me Bodied crossed to Top 40 yet?