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The Friday Morning Listen: Bjork

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First posted on Mark Is Cranky:

The funny thing here is that, unlike just about everything else that I write, the Friday Morning Listen is almost always composed at the keyboard. Today (which, scout’s honor, is Friday October 28th, 2005) it’s being scratched out with a BIC #2, 0.7 millimeter mechanical pencil.

Over the past couple of days I have experienced a distinct lack of modern, functional, Internet-type technology. When the wife made the reservations at this inn, she was assured by the representative person that each room had Internet access. Well, turns out that that’s true…if you’re equipped for dial-up. Oops.

Oh, well. I figure that’ll give me more time to catch up with writing and that big stack ‘o New Yorkers that’s been taunting me recently (I’m up to the yearly food issue, September 5th). I supposed a solution to this would be to find a local Internet cafe, but since the wife takes the Jeep to the conference she’s attending (and since I’m too lazy to get up early and take her there myself), I’m sort of stuck here…which, honestly, is a good thing. I’m having a mini-vacation that’s full of what a friend of mine has referred to as ‘Mark-time’. So be it.

So last night, after the wife had gone to bed, I decided (fortified by a nice glass of Laphroaig & water) that the iPod needed to be loaded with the source material for this morning’s first encounter with moderately organized vibrating air molecules. I boot up the laptop (which seems to take forever since the latest Symanctec AntiVirus software was installed) and pop in Bjork’s soundtrack to the movie Drawing Restraint 9. After a minute’s worth of fighting with both iTunes and CDMax over which is going to play the disc (the answer is “Neither!! Now Just Go Away!”) I finally get down to importing the song data.

(OK, I have to admit that this late night computer stuff was a huge mistake. Earlier in the day I had a horrifying run-in with my portable speaker/subwoofer setup. For no apparent reason, the sub went berserk and started making an insanely loud and unnerving deep growl. Unplugging the input jack seemed to solve the problem. Hours later the thing freaked out again. I’m sitting in a chair reading an article about the unknown/overlooked composer Franz Schreker (and trying to not be annoyed at the author’s overuse of things like “fin-de-si&#232cle” and “cri de coeur”) when the devil’s subwoofer goes into mad jackhammer mode…shortly followed by my cell phone ringing. But….the sub wasn’t even powered on! I walked away from the desk and the vibrations stopped. Ah, the speaker system’s electronics are picking up on part of my cell signal. Sure enough, I move the phone to within six inches of the speaker and the electro-burp fires up again. Hmmmm…maybe I should have spent more than fifty bucks on these things).

Back to fun-with-iTunes…

I notice that, because there’s no Internet connection, iTunes has no information about the artist, song titles, etc. I right-click on the first track (so far known as “Track01”) and bring up the song info dialog. Here the song title, artist and other fun stuff can be entered. In quick succession I type in the song names, moving to the next track via the amazingly logically labeled “NEXT” button. After the last song is entered, I click “OK”.

By this time the CD import is about finished. Just then a dialog box pops up telling me that I’m running low on battery power. A quick rustle through my bag produces the power cable thingie. Ah, but guess what? This room, being part of a 200+ year old inn, doesn’t seem to have any three-pronged outlets.

Except for in the bathroom.

Now I’m sitting on the edge of the bathtub with the laptop balanced on my knees (at first the computer was on the toilet with me squatting down in front of the bowl…my knees lasted about a minute, plus, I felt kinda stupid). Finally the Bjork CD finishes. My scotch-enabled stupidity allows me to repeat this process with the Mountain Goats’ All Hail West Texas.

The last step. I plug in my iPod, wait the pathetic minute or so it takes clunky old Windows 2000 Professional to recognize this event, and the sync process goes on its merry way.

Hmmm…Drawing Restraint 9 seems to have ten songs titled “Track01” through “Track10”, followed by the last tune, “Antarctic Return”. That’s funny, All Hail West Texas has the same problem. This might be a) an unfortunate bug in iTunes b) a Microsoft ‘innovation’ or c) a bad mix of technology and single malt. Since I don’t have the answer (and really, what good would it do me?) I just retype the song information and perform an iPod resync. Halle-freaking-lujah, there’s Bjork and the Mountain Goats in my ‘Artists’ list!

Exhausted and bewildered, I slip into bed to read an essay by Elizabeth Spiers about how blogging is dead. The Mountain Goats provide the soundtrack (it was kind funny to hear Darnielle singing “Hail Satan!” with thoughts of this technology skirmish so fresh in my head).

So you better-danged-well believe that I listened to Drawing Restraint 9 this morning.

First of all, I know next to nothing about this film. Bjork is in it. The photo stills look ‘arty’ (Bjork nude in a metal tub full of water, two Geishas behind her, a bunch of either lemons or tennis balls floating in front of her). The music is pure Bjork. Very strange to hear Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) traversing a typically Bjorkish melody on the opening “Gratitude”. The rest of the disc makes use of Bjork’s recent fixation with the instrument of the human voice: there’s chanting, throat-singing and an amazing (if creepy) solo vocal performance by Shiro Nomura on “Holygraphic Entrypoint”. All of this is supported by layers and layers of percussion, harp (hello again Zeena Parkins), orchestration and blurpy noises. Very, very entrancing.

The men who built this inn surely could not have imagined how their world would progress over the centuries that followed their own. The beam above my head, sixteen inches wide and full of axe marks, is a still-solid product of their hard work. It also makes me wonder about the permanence of today’s technology. Will any of it be around in the year 2205? Is iTunes the hand-carved wooden peg of our time?

I sort of doubt it.

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About Mark Saleski

  • fantastic as ever, Sir Saleski. to the best of my knowledge the Bjork flick is directed by the fella who did all that Cremaster malakey, which lasts the guts a six or eight hours, but you can only get half an hour of it on DVD. she’s married to him, it seems. who knows what it’ll be like? maybe it’ll provide an answer to the highly perplexing question regarding why i get so, um, excited by that peculiar image on the cover of Medulla.

  • yea, i know what you mean about that pic.

    buy the way, i should have added that if you sit on the edge of a bathtub for 30 minutes, your ass will fall asleep.