SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Oh My Gawd!!!..The Flaming Lips (1987).
The cover of this disc makes a statement. And it should tell you everything you need to know about the music inside. It’s got skulls and psychedelic colors and Oh My Gawd!!! And yet, it doesn’t, exactly. It’s not quite as out there as the cover might make you think.
Because it’s funny how much this disc’s first song sounds like the Replacements (except where he starts singing about his brains falling out and everything exploding…not quite ‘Mats material). But Wayne sounds like early, sloppy Paul Westerberg, and the riffs are not too far off from some of the early ‘Mats records.
Even the wonderfully titled 9 minute epic “One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Afternoon” isn’t quite as much of a freak out as you might expect. In fact, the early instrumental part is one of the prettiest melodies they’ve done. It is particularly interesting given its sparse instrumentation. The song does eventually drift back into earlier Pink Floyd territory (“Astronomy Domine” etc). But it’s “The Ceiling is Bendin'” that is the freak out you’re looking for, with a fun drum fading and the chaos. “Maximum Dream for Evil Kenevil” on the other hand is a noisy mess (a fun noisy mess, but a noisy mess nonetheless).
It’s clear that they’re doing some good experimentation with audio effects. And yet “Can’t Exist” is a delicate little song with just a light touch of feedback.
The first half of “Prescription: Love” is a rocking instrumental that would not sound out of place as a Nirvana B-side (but since it came before Nirvana, let’s say maybe on an SST Records track. The second half returns to the garage rocking sound (with some funky deep vocals dubbed on…the first of many experiments with voice on future albums).
“Ode to C.C., Pt. 2” feels like it’s going to take of in an explosion but never does. But it has the excellent line “Hell’s got all the good bands anyway.” “Can’t Stop the Spring” is another fantastic riff rocking song, and it starts and end with a classical music sample. [Which I can’t place right now, sadly].
The disc ends with “Love Your Brain,” a 7 minute piano workout –which ultimately ends in the destruction of the room. It sounds like every instrument in the place is destroyed.
So this disc expands the sonic weirdness of the Flaming Lips’ first disc, and it also showcases their growth as musicians. It’s not a brilliant album by any means although it is quite good. The most interesting thing is seeing how much they are experimenting with sounds now, and how it will pay off for them later on.
[READ: Late 2006 & December 2008] Winkie
I read this book two years ago, and my memory of it is not that great. I’m only including it because I really enjoyed it at the time, and would like to make some record of having read it.
UPDATE: I have decided to re-read this book while on P breaks at work. I am now utterly unsure whether or not I read the book fully last time. I have just finished it again, and I was totally surprised by so many things (although one or two things did trigger my memory) that I really had to wonder if I finished it.
So, the story is about a stuffed bear named Winkie. Winkie was a beloved toy of the Chase family and most recently of Clifford Chase [see author’s name now]. As the story opens, Winkie, the stuffed bear, is being tackled by the FBI as they arrest him for terrorist activities. [You can re-read that sentence to see if your brain digested it.]
The story flashes back to Winkie’s life. Winkie was a gift to Clifford’s mother, Ruth. Ruth loved Winkie, although at the time, Ruth had named her Marie (to this day, Marie/Winkie is confused about her/his gender). Marie has recollections of coming home to Ruth, and of many incidents in which Ruth showered Marie with affections or abuse. From the very start Marie was easily offended, and tried ever so hard to move her limbs and show consciousness. She never managed it; however, all the while she learned and observed.
After she is injured by the FBI and placed in a hospital, Winkie/Marie befriends a a cleaning woman named Francoise. She is a lesbian immigrant who quite sensibly sees that Winkie is a stuffed bear, not a person. She stitches up Winkie’s wound (while the doctors just look at him in a baffled state) and is, naturally, arrested as an accomplice.
Winkie is assigned a lawyer with the rather obvious name of Unwin. It’s something of a poor joke but it slips past pretty quickly, and given Unwin’s characteristics, it’s not that bad. Plus, later in the story Unwin addresses his name directly, thereby letting us all know we’re in on the joke.
Back to flashback: as the Chase family grows, and Ruth forgets about Marie, Ruth’s children dig her out of the attic and play with her. Cliff Chase, Ruth’s youngest boy discovers Marie and rechristens her Winkie (so she is now a boy). Winkie finds this change thrilling, but she is internally tormented at being tossed around (literally and figuratively) from owner to owner. In a funny moment, later, when Winkie is on trial and the spectators discover this evidence of transgenderedness, they are outraged!
As Clifford gets older, he forgets about the bear. We see the loneliness that Winkie feels as he his neglected and only held once in a while. He is even ignored during a New Orleans hurricane. Having had enough, Winkie thinks about moving his limbs…and is able to. He jumps out a window and runs away. Just like that.
Part Two opens with a series of surprises. We finally meet the hermit who lives in the woods (in the shack where the FBI captured Winkie) and mails bombs to people. (He’s not the Unabomber…in fact, he was a classmate of the Unabomber). Then we see Winkie have a baby! Baby Winkie is a small version of him/herself. She is wise beyond her years, is made of stuffing and is irresistible to the crazy hermit bomber. In short order the bomber has captured Baby Winkie and is trying to learn more about her.
It is this incident that sets off the events of Winkie’s capture.
The bulk of the rest of the book is taken up with Winkie’s trial. The details of it are outrageous, frequently hilarious, and generally absurd. The trial lasts 18 months and Winkie is called a master of disguise, a terrorist and is accused of some 9,678 crimes. No one will stick up for the bear, except perhaps for one past owner.
And I’ll leave off there….
The book is surprisingly moving, as you really get into the emotions of this wholly innocent creature. It is also clearly meant to be a parallel to the post-September 11th overreaction and removal of civil liberties. The only problem is that the proceedings are so over the top that they almost overstep their usefulness as satire. The jury being curtained off so no one can see them is a good jab at corrupt trials, but having actors portraying the girls from the Salem Witch Trial saying how Winkie possessed them is funny fiction, but very broad satire.
Another unusual subplot is that five year old Cliff keeps, well, shitting his underpants. This has led me to to create a new category called “soiled underpants” because this is now the second book where a character (not a baby) does this. And I chose the word “underpants” because in a Futurama DVD commentary (“The Honking”), Matt Groening and Ken Keeler theorize that the word “underpants” is 20% funnier than the word “underwear.”
The story also has several pictures of Winkie, a rather horrific looking creature, to be honest.
Again, I’m not sure why I didn’t remember much of this book from the first time around. I definitely enjoyed it this time, although some sections were a bit too long (which is a shame for a 236 page book). It was still very funny and, again, it was surprisingly moving.