Valley Girls

26 01 2008

The song “San Fernando Valley,” made famous by Bing Crosby late in War II, has been on my mind since breakfast today (chocolate chip pancakes). A highlight of living alone is you can sing anywhere, not just the shower. The song’s blithe and merry 40s jauntiness is given a whole new subtext both pointed and poignant by that titular farmland’s transformation into suburb and subsequent porn capital. For instance,

I’ll forget my sins (yes yes), I’ll be makin’ new friends (yes yes),
where the West begins
(yes yes) and the sunset ends
Cause I’ve decided where yours truly should be
and it’s the San Fernando Valley for me.

Somewhere, some latter-day Wildean soul is delighting in the facile subversion of this very song played over footage of a footloose woman, young and buxom, westward bound in pink halter top and tough jean cut-offs with a jacket over her shoulder, clicking the heels on the very kind of boots Nancy Sinatra claimed were made for walkin’. It’s the kind of wink wink nudge nudge on the simple past we wised-up postmods so enjoy. More fun than reviewing old Scooby episodes for Mary Jane in-jokes.

In my curiosity, I got hold of the radio episode of Autry’s Melody Ranch featuring his rendition of the song. I’ve always wanted, as a nod to the naked geriatric trampoline philosophizing in Ninety Two in the Shade (one of my favorites—not the movie), to score a sex scene with Autry’s genial warbling of his signature “Back in the Saddle Again,” only to have the lady involved call a screeching halt to the proceedings because fucking to this music is just too weird—more ludicrous than naked men in socks. It’s hard to tell, listening to the delivery on Melody Ranch—two cigar store Indians could not give more wooden readings—whether the bland songs are an excuse for the inept Wrigley gum pitches, or vice versa, for the two alternate with leaden regularity. Avis à tous ces littérateurs qui aiment tant proclamer que la condition humaine n’a changé en rien depuis Tolstoy : oh yes it has. Take advertising—please.

Notes toward a revelation, Part II

21 10 2007

Do you know, you go along for years thinking nobody’s onto you, and then… I mean, you think because you’ve had a thought but never mentioned it to anyone, even in passing, that no one knows what you’re talking about, and you’re one of the few to have thought it. Then, there it is in print. Listen to this: “By a back-derivation typical of pop revivals, the fantasy glamour of the original songs is translated into a description of the era in which they originated: in the case of the old-new Bacharach craze, as if life in the early Sixties had been a live-action Dionne Warwick song, with deft periodic accentuation by oboe, xylophone, or celeste.” A Geoffrey O’Brien piece from the NY Review of Books, which unfortunately you can’t read without paying. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes toward a revelation, Part I

17 10 2007

I’ve begun listening to these lectures from The Teaching Company, on Kierkegaard and existentialism, which drastically lower the monotony quotient of 45 biking minutes. They even manage to lend the cardio eternity a certain joy, less from their distraction value than from a sense of time cannily reclaimed through judicious multitasking, some minor, even nominal mental self-improvement smuggled into that mirrored arena of physical preening, with the nonstop industry of its weights and pulleys (the gym might do well to evolve toward some synthesis with that other roomful of machines, the arcade: somehow maximizing pleasure and distraction without loss in fitness benefit). Time feels better spent on learning than on the disposable music with which I tend to pack the mp3 folder marked Exercise, since while sweating and grunting I can give only half a soul to songs I like, and thus avoid them (I’d rather travel with music than have it be a greenscreen of pretended travels behind me). I’m happy to sop up whatever philosophy I can, while conveniently filling in potentially embarrassing gaps in an autodidact’s education (or the series of prejudices, misconceptions, and surmises masquerading thereas)—y’know, dots connected out of order or numbered shapes mismatched to colors. Read the rest of this entry »

Since I Still Tell You My Everything

31 08 2007

Though I have all the Innocence Mission albums from Glow to the present inclusive, I’ve only really listened to the latest, We Walked in Song, and to the much earlier Birds of My Neighborhood, drawn as I had been to them after hearing a single from the former, posted at a Pitchfork review that concluded they were still going strong: pursuing in their ambling way, along paths only they might see, a by-now distinctive sound into the further reaches of an aesthetic woods where, though few but fans might follow, their artistry continued subtly to refine itself—that is, vanishing from the scene, they had less and less to do with the world and more to do with their private muses, which is I imagine what happens to most artists, or at least how it looks from the outside, once the world is content to drop them and go nosing off somewhere else. Sights from these woods, as I imagine them when listening: birches, leaves that crackle underfoot, loons, sudden clearings like small meadows, still ponds full of sky where mist gathers by morning. In spare, limpid folk dispatches they report on this, back to the rest of us.