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This space is where my delighted comments on seeing Konono no. 1 last night would have gone… if I hadn’t instead gotten so sick that I had to go home and sleep for 13 hours. I had a ticket and everything. Curses.

While missing the show last night, the only interesting thing I managed to think about was this: What if ‘being sick’ and ‘being well’ as states of being were exactly reversed, so that people spent most of their time feeling sick but then mysteriously ‘got well’ for a few days at a time? How would ‘being well’ then be perceived– would people eagerly capitalize on it, or instead treat it as some malign state to be avoided and waited out as harmlessly as possible?

This Week In Lego

As a parent, I feel it’s very important that my child understand and appreciate fully man’s dominion over the animal kingdom. So, over the weekend, I built this educational three-dimensional installation to help explain the concept to him:

Here’s how it works:

1. Wild animals— represented here as polar bear, elephant, and giraffe– are part of the scene, but demoted to the lowest plain, fenced in by man’s ingenuity and inanely distracted by a few plastic flowers placed in their midst.

2. Domestic animals— cat and dog– are one step closer to man’s likeness, and therefore get boosted up into ‘second place’, as it were, on the pedestal beside him.

3. At the top, exalted, and ruling over “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”, is man. Just to make it clear what his relationship is to the animals, he’s also a zoo keeper (as shown in rear view). If possible, I would have placed him in a leather overcoat, just to make the pecking order totally overt, but it seems that Lego doesn’t produce this piece.

In terms of my architectural influences, I would say I’m pretty close to Frank Lloyd Wright in terms of drawing inspiration from non-traditional forms such as pre-Columbian Mayan temples and Japanese concepts of space.

See also: Osama Bin Lego.

The Dissonant Triangle

The discourse highlight of my Twitter dabbling so far (and may I never write ‘Twitter dabbling’ ever again) happened in the wake of the Superbowl halftime show, when somebody wrote:

Next year, Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Nickelback and Maroon 5 to perform at Halftime of Super Bowl. Only way it could be worse.

This reminded me of an occasion when a bored co-worker and I were thumbing through the SF Weekly and noticed that Lionel Richie and Iron Maiden were playing reunion tour dates on the same night. That led us to briefly consider the following scenarios: (a) what if they were playing together on the same bill, and (b) what would be a potential third act that would be equidistant from the other two. “Phish!” my co-worker ingeniously offered. “Right!” I fantasized. “And as an encore, they could all jam on ‘Hello‘ together”:

Lo, the concept of the Dissonant Triangle was born: three bands that are all equally dissimilar from one another. When I offered this idea up on Twitter as a possible Superbowl halftime act for 2012, somebody fired back another proposal:

Joni Mitchell, Menudo, and KISS sing Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”

Having just posted my Hooters deconstruction, I had to add one more:

The Hooters, GWAR & Kenny G doing extended ‘And We Danced’

Unfortunately, this is as far as it got. Any one care to extend the concept?

(Top image: unrelated venn diagram of my own conception)

Statler and Waldorf

Around the corner from the studio where I work is a comfy old man bar called Trafika 67. Often, we’ll head over there after a long day of so-called visual communication. There was one thing missing a few nights ago, though:

See that empty table in the back? 9 out of every 10 times I’ve been there, there are two old regulars holding court there, whom we refer to as ‘The Mayors of Trafika’, or just ‘Statler and Waldorf’. On the rare occasion that they aren’t ensconced there, there’s a ‘Reserved’ sign sitting on the table. Sometimes, they forget to put up the ‘Reserved’ sign– it’s sort of a rite of passage when you first start going to Trafika to grab this nicely-situated empty table, only to be confronted by a displaced Statler or Waldorf a few minutes later bearing an expression of UTMOST DISDAIN.

Statler and Waldorf are on friendly terms with the barmaids there, and with a few other oldster regulars (Fozzie Bear and Bunsen, let’s say), but otherwise keep their own counsel.* What they mainly do is a consume VERY LARGE quantities of alcohol very slowly and methodically, with no visible change to their manner at all. Once, I accidently got a fascinating glimpse into what the rest of their day is like: Trafika, like all good bars, opens shortly after noon… one day I was heading to the office and decided to peek in the window to see what transpires there in the afternoon hours. There were Statler and Waldorf in an otherwise-empty bar, drinking espressos and reading newspapers… but sitting at separate tables. I can only guess that this is a kind of routine for them: hang out at separate tables during the day, then ‘meet up for a drink’ at their primary table in the evening.

The truth is that many bars in Prague have their own version of Statler and Waldorf. There is another oldster place right nearby Trafika where my wife and I used to go for lunch sometimes (‘bar’ and ‘restaurant’ often sort of overlap here, so its not uncommon to have some guys getting totally wasted next to you while you’re eating lunch). In the corner of the lunch place were two Statler and Waldorf-like regulars… once, I noticed that there were actually two framed photos of these guys on the wall right over their seats. Wow! That’s better than having your initials stitched into a bar stool. I can only assume that when those two guys eventually die, they’ll be stuffed and mounted over their customary seats like prize bucks.

Anyway, on the night when that photo was taken, I actually got it from the bartender that Statler and Waldorf would not be coming… and we were cleared to sit at their table! It’s truly a comfortable perch, situated in the corner against the wood-paneled walls and commanding a view of the door and other tables. The chairs seemed conspicuously creakier and more worn in than other chairs. A vague odor of B.O. lingered in the corner… but not too bad. For one night, I could lay claim to being the Mayor (Mayer) of Trafika 67.

* Unfortunately, they don’t act like the real Statler and Waldorf and sit around saying things like ‘That fried cheese was what you call ‘medium’: it wasn’t rare and it certainly wasn’t well done… HA HA HA HA!” That would be great.

Something About King Tubby

There’s a third article for Smashing Magazine that I’m currently doing research on and kind of poking around and mulling over. Just to be clear: the first article was on type– that one’s done; the second one is the thing about the unicorns– that one’s almost done. This third one is about typography and design in Jamaican album covers: the conceit is that you can track two dueling tendencies of colonialism and exploitation vs. black nationalism in the visual themes and type forms of albums associated with ska, rocksteady, dub and reggae. In a sense, it’s an eighteen-times-more-serious counterpart to the Showcase of Hideous Xmas-Themed Reggae Covers I did for the blog a few months back.

The nice thing about this is that its been a good excuse to pore over Lloyd Bradley’s This Is Reggae Music again and other favorite sources, and get a not-really-necessary-but-self-indulgently-pleasant update on all my favorite pet issues. There’s the legend of Earl ‘Ska’ Campbell, who reportedly killed himself by soloing too vigorously. There’s the fact that King Tubby was, of all incongruous things, a clean freak who didn’t smoke pot. But there’s one detail that I came across tonight that I was particularly happy to recover, because I read about it more than ten years ago in the liner notes to a dub compilation but couldn’t remember all the details or exactly where I’d read it (has that ever happened to you? It’s maddening). It’s an eye witness account of the first time dub was played to a live crowd:

The crowd did a quick double take and then went wild, pushing down the fence until it was flattened, and then rushed in, knocking the speaker boxes flying.

It turns out to be music historian Steve Barrow (the same guy who started Blood And Fire Records), describing King Tubby’s first public airing of dub. I love the idea of a herd of listeners spontaneously rioting in response to the invention of producer-oriented music. In a less specific sense, I love any account of an overwhelming, uncalculated mass reaction to a piece of pop music. It comes from the same place as the first time that Elvis Presley’s ‘That’s Alright Mama’ was played on some pokey Memphis radio station and the entire surrounding county area was seized with a collective mania, jamming the station’s phone lines for hours on end (recounted in Last Train to Memphis). It can come in less dramatic but more pervasive ways, too– remember when ‘Hey Ya!’ came out in 2003 and it seemed that Outkast had cracked some code for getting white and black people to go nuts over the same music. (Note: I ripped off that phrase about ‘cracking the code’ from some Pitchfork writer, but I’m too lazy to add yet another link to this post).

That’s what’s great about pop music: it’s the only thing on earth that can suddenly make a large group of people (hundreds, thousands, millions even) urgently experience some common sensation that they had no idea they had in common with tons of other people. Not even politics can do that. Sure, what’s going on in Egypt right now is important than ‘Hey Ya!’…  but everyone in Egypt already knew they hated Mubarak. That’s the difference.

Twitter Time

Here’s a real resolution, for once: I promised JohnnyO in this space that I would belatedly get on Twitter and take it for a spin, despite my longstanding resistance. So, today, I created an account – http://twitter.com/m0ckduck – and promise to jump in with both feet, tweet avidly, take advantage of it as much as possible, etc… for the span of one month. At the end of February, I will cast judgement on whether it’s actually bringing anything to the table that Facebook, this blog, et all don’t already.

One special caveat is that is that the service must in some small way add something to my tangible, non-online existence. I don’t know what that might be exactly, but it might be along the lines of ‘informing me about cool stuff that’s going on in Prague that I wouldn’t otherwise know about.” Doesn’t have to be anything earthshaking… just something besides beyond ‘another senseless source of online banter.”

(Image: Don Knotts, for no reason in particular).