SOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Diamond Eyes (2010).
Before releasing Diamond Eyes, Deftones had two band crises. The first was that they didn’t really seem to like each other anymore. The previous album was fraught with tension and they barely toured. After deciding that they wanted to remain as a band, they were invigorated and made an album called Eros. But during the recording, bassist Chi Cheng was in a car accident and was in a coma. As of yet he has not fully recovered. So they shelved Eros, hired a temporary bass player Sergio Vega and set about recording Diamond Eyes. And for whatever reason, it proved to be one of their best releases so far.
“Diamond Eyes” opens with a heavy down-tuned guitar–very abrasive–until the chorus come in and it’s their most beautiful ones yet–with soaring keyboards and harmonies. And then the heavy guitars come back–it’s what Deftones do so well–beauty and ugly together. Stephen Carpenter really shines, as always. “Royal” is a fast song with a great harmonizing chorus. “Cmnd/Ctrl” has a shocking low riff that explodes into a bright chorus. “You’ve Seen the Butcher” has guitars that seem almost untuned as the song starts. But it morphs into a kind of sexy butt-shaking chorus. And Abe Cunningham’s drums are, of course, fantastic.
“Beauty School” is the first that doesn’t really start out heavy, it’s a got a gentle guitar intro and the first song where Vega’s bass is really prominent as a separate instrument and it creates a beautiful alternative song–great vocals throughout. “Prince” brings in a lot of new textures to the album, including a clanging guitar sound and a great screamed chorus. “Rocket Skates” is one of my favorite songs on the record, it has a classic metal riff and the great screamed-beyond-comprehension chorus of Guns, Razors Knives and a weird little whoooo that ends the chorus.
“Sextape” is a surprisingly gentle song, opening with an echoed guitar riff and one of Chino’s most gentle choruses. “976-Evil” has an echoey guitar and voices not unlike the Cocteau Twins. “This Place is Death” has another great alt rock feel–a big song with bright guitars and dark lyrics. I haven’t really mentioned Frank Delgado on keyboards and samples. He’s been with the band since White Pony, and I feel like his presence was made notable on a few songs here and there. But it seems like on this disc he really comes to the fore, adding new textures and sounds to the album which really fill it out.
[READ: March 12, 2013] McSweeney’s #14
After the colorful extravaganza of the Comics Issue of McSweeney’s #13, this book settles down into something more somber The book is softcover and all white. The cover depicts a cartoon of George Bush with both legs blown off and the caption, “I Am So, So Sorry.” On the spine in small print: “We’re praying as fast as we can.” It is the most context-full cover they’ve done yet and, nearly a decade away it seems like a rather mean cover, but if I remember correctly at the time it seemed apt and delicious, especially in light of the upcoming election.
Yet despite the overtly political cover, the content inside is not political or even thematic (although it is pretty dark stuff). Nevertheless, the table of contents gives us a small joke when it says “To help you know which stories to read first, we have indicated with either a * or a † those that deserve special consideration from you, the reader. If you see either a * or a †, do not miss that story.” Of course every story has either a * or a † but they cleverly did not put any kind of pattern to the symbols.
The colophon explains that when they were in Ireland, they met an actual Timothy McSweeney. He had been given a copy of Issue #3 and then promptly forgot about the magazine. But when McSweeney’s was in Galway to do a reading at the Galway Arts Festival, Timothy (Ted) McSweeney traveled from Dublin to check it out (not a short trip). This also resulted in a letter from Mr McSweeney which is actually quite funny.
There are also illustrations in the book, although they are small illustrations and are placed on the title of each piece in the book. All of the illustrations are old, mostly coming from the 1800s, although one dates back to 1670. They illustrations are all technical scientific ones and don’t have anything to do with the stories.
The letters column states that most of the letters are actually to someone…not to the magazine.
TIMOTHY McSWEENEY [This letter is to the readers]
As Mentioned McSweeney writes a funny letter about his naiveté as a child (not getting a Master Bates joke until much older than he should have been) as well as a joke about Kerrymen.
A.G. PASQUALLA [letter to the author off “Why Not a Spider Monkey Jesus?”]
A quote from Smithsonian that I do not get
SARAH VOWELL [letter to Bennett about an upcoming trip for research There are three letters, each implying that Bennett may not be enticed by the trip].
She is talking about the shooting of President Garfield and Herman Melville working as a customs house inspector. She concludes that if every civil servant was as conscientious as Herman Melville, Garfield would not have been shot. Sounds like the beginning of a book.
CHARLIE [a proposition to Dan, Amity, Jeff and Susan from 1973]
Charlie proposes inventing a table with dishes and bowls already in it to save all the trouble of washing dishes–In this case you’d just have to wipe down the whole table. He imagines deluxe models and ones that have a washing machine built in. Not a bad idea although the cost would be outrageous I would think.
BRENT HOFF [a letter to Dr Thresher of the Hobart Marine Research Laboratory]
Hoff snidely wishes Thresher well on his success at breeding a carp incapable of producing offspring and potentially wiping out the entire Europeans carp population. He then explains that when he was doing he research on spider silk and goats (in issue 3), one of the scientists was not even aware of common goat diseases. He postulates that scientists are so specialized they do not have any general knowledge left, which can be pretty dangrous.
SIMON [letter to Eli]
Simon and his friend are leaving Annandale and will continue to pretend to be freelance reporters for a gay internet magazine called Notions.
LAURA JENSEN [writes to the magazine concerning the Gorilla Girl story from issue 12]
Jensen is drunk, trying to write something cohesive to convince McSweeney’s that Ryan Bradley is being honest about having written the story even though he is full of shit about so many details. Oh and they should never publish it because it probably sucks.
NICK HORNBY [writes to the coach of Arsensal]
Hornby praises the coach for his crazy decision about a player which proved to be perfectly right on and gave Arsenal the winningest season in forever.
JONATHAN AMES [writes to his five-year old son in 1991]
He apologizes for being a bad father and the fight they had. It’s a rather sad note. I wonder how Nathaniel is doing and what he thought of this note.
CHRIS ADRIAN-“A Child’s Book of Sickness and Death”
In this depressing piece, a girl with short gut (she had parts of her intestines removed) is a regular visitor the the hospital. She has few visitors but she does make friends on the floor. She even flirts with patients and doctors alike. But the main thing is that she is writing a book about sick animals–animals with horrifying diseases–that children with terminal diseases can relate to. Each snippet of the story ends with Suffer [insert animal] Suffer! It’s a pretty intense story and makes me wonder if this will be part of Adrian’s Children’s Hospital novel (which is likely much darker than I thought it was ).
JIM SHEPARD-“Hadrian’s Wall”
I’m mixed about t his story. It starts in the style of an olde epic: “Who hasn’t heard by now of that long chain of events, from the Invasion by the emperor Claudius to the revolt of the Boudicca….” And it is a tale of a less than stellar warrior and solider who is part of this company of men guarding Hadrain’s wall. In the middle, the story became about such mundane things that it was actually very funny. Like the single paragraph: “I have a cold in my nose” or the part where his father says “Your bowels never worked well.” As the story comes to an end there is a raid while he is guarding the wall and he fails to stop it. The story ends on a more serious note, once again. I just couldn’t really get into it.
KATE BRAVERMAN-“The Woman Who Sold Communion”
Amy (Amethyst) Cruz has just been denied tenure. She calls her mother Raven (after so many years of not speaking) to let her know. He mother is unsurprised and unsympathetic but invites her back home (as long as she leaves that AA shit at the border). I feel like the story is about Native Americans, but it also seems to not be exactly. Over the course of the story, we see Amy drop her new ways and revert back to her old self–several IQ points lower and with much alcohol in her. It’s about a return home, but it feels very unsatisfying.
I knew this story sounded familiar. It is in Boudinot’s The Littlest Hitler. What I said about it then is still accurate: “It’s similar to Logan’s Run in premise except that the children are tasked to kill their own parents as part of the civic duty. The narrator is reluctant even though everyone else (including the parents) is very encouraging.” I really enjoyed this story.
JESSICA ANTHONY-“The Death of Mustango Salvaje”
Anthony won the first Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award with this story. It’s a story about the most powerful and famous female bullfighter, Wild Mustang (I can’t believe how many story are still being written about bullfighting and how much I enjoy them). In this one Wild Mustang must deal with the pressures of being a female bullfighter in a pretty much male-only sport, but she is also extremely successful. So she has others coming at her to dethrone her. In the end, she is put into the ring with a bull who is no longer ring-worthy and she is put into a tough position on how to end the match. This was a really powerful and affecting story. Good stuff.
WELLS TOWER-“Executors of Important Energies”
I was confused by this because I knew I had read this story in Everything Ravaged Everything Burned. And yet I didn’t recognize it at all. So the front of EREB says that this story has been extensively reworked. And no kidding.
In this version, a man is living in a house rent free. The reason is because his “friend” allows him to stay there because the “friend” has always been such a burden to be around, he felt compelled to give the narrator a gift in return (or so the narrator says). He is supposed to go visit his sister in Virginia, but he keeps blowing it off (and pissing her off). But he has been set up to go on a date with a woman named Wendy and he doesn’t want to miss it as he hasn’t been with a woman in a long time. It goes nowhere, and on the way out he meets a guy named Jarmoos who claims to have played sax with Kenny Loggins. The narrator invited him back to his squat, not forgetting that the real landlord threw all of his stuff out this morning. The two men crash for the night and despite a lot of hard feelings, agree that maybe they’re take a road trip together. It’s a pretty weird story and doesn’t really seem to go anywhere.
In the new version in EREB I wrote: “Burt’s father got remarried when Burt was quite young. And the woman he married, Lucy, was just a couple years older than Burt; in fact, Burt was young enough at the time that he had this strange fantasy that when his father was “done” with Lucy, he would let Burt date her. But that didn’t transpire and now they are long married. But now his father is losing his mind and Lucy believes that she should bring him to Burt to deal with. Burt wants nothing to do with it–he is busy trying to sell the Icepresto (a gadget that I didn’t understand). But he agrees to the visit.” The only thing the two stories seems to have in common are the Icepresto, which in the older story I learned is a machine for brewing coffee or tea but serving it cold for iced teas. I think the rewrite was a good one, but again, the stories are so different it’s hard to even believe they are from the same kernel.
JOSHUAH BEARMAN-“Rodent Disaster in Xinjiang: An Investigation into Xinjang’s Growing Swarm of Great Gerbils which may or may not be Locked in a Death-Struggle with the Golden Eagle…”
Bearman investigates the state of oversized gerbils running rampant in China. He tries to investigate from the Unites States and has a very hard time getting through (the phone calls to China are rather amusing). This nonfiction piece was great (I really enjoy Bearman’s work and must look for more). It included a picture showing that these are not your pet gerbils) as well as a history of gerbils as pets and the potential problems with using Golden Eagles to eradicate the gerbils. This article also included one of my favorite comments ever. In discussing an infestation of koala on Kangaroo Island near Adelaide which has happened so suddenly and is so serious that they are considering letting residents shoot the koalas, he observes, “This of course raises the philosophical question: can there be too many koalas? To which my answer would be no, since when I imagine even an infinity of koalas, what I am really imagining is heaven, as I dive amongst them and snuggle and kiss and hug them and sing how very much I love them! In fact, I hereby declare that I would pay a thousand dollars to snuggle with a room full of koalas for one hour.”
PIA Z. EHRHARDT-“How It Floods”
This is the story of a woman who has serious commitment issues. She ended a relationship with her husband for another man and as she is telling her new fellow about her past she is already looking over her shoulder to the next guy–and each guy brings more challenges to herself.
JESSICA LAMB-SHAPIRO-“The Animal Kingdom”
I didn’t really get this story either, it seems like a phantasmagorical childhood of abuse from both parents and friends.
T.C. BOYLE-“The Doubtfulness of Water: Madam Knight’s Journey to New York, 1702”
This is a very lengthy story about a journey. In it, Sarah Knight must ride on horseback from Boston to New York (which women never did). She rides through the night, with various men who accompany her, staying in unappetizing locations. The problem is that she is terrified of water and there are dozens of rivers to cross. What’s offputting about the story is that it’s nearly 30 pages long and it’s all about the journey. One dirty resting place after another, more and more exhausting travel, fear of the water over and over. It’s not that compelling. And by the time you get to the end, there’s no reward.
LAWRENCE WESCHLER-“Convergence: ‘Thumb in Eye’ & ‘Torso as Face'”
These two pieces also appeared in Weschler’s Everything That Rises. The first compares Cesar Baldaccini’s gigantic sculpture of his own thumb (like 6 foot high) to the sculpted arch that Saddam Hussein had erected of his own arms holding swords aloft (amusingly since he would only hold a sword in his right hand, both arms are his right arm). These are then compared to an oversized sculpture of hands holding a picture in China frame which you would then presumably take snapshots through. The second one compares a cover of the New York Times Magazine (of a woman with a giant face on her shirt) to Magritte’s Le Viol (which is of a “face” whose features are a woman’s torso). I love these. And I also learned that Weschler created a journal called Omnivore, but only one issue was published. I wonder if I can find it.
SILVIA DiPIERDOMENICO-“That Which I Am”
I did not like this piece which was a personal reflection on the author’s life as she is diagnosed with cancer. I get it, and it has a certain amount of power, but I didn’t need to read it.
SUSAN STRAIGHT-“What It Ain’t”
This was an odd little piece in which unnamed narrators address each other about their lives. There are family connections and mistakes and criticisms of said mistakes and it all pays off nicely but it was a little hard to follow.
MALINDA McCOLLUM-“Good Monks”
This is the story of woman who is broke. She is in a diner nursing a cup of coffee when a drunk man starts shouting in the corner. She offers to take him out if he pays for her. He’s too drunk to object. She scams a cab ride and is about to rob the man when a couple of guys drive up to where she’s hiding out in the park. They start to cook up drugs in the park, and she has to talk to them so they don’t stumble upon her victim. It’s a very unsavory story. Oh and the drunk man may or may have been a monk.
ROBERT OLEN BUTLER-“Three Pieces of Severance”
This is an interesting concept based on the 1883 idea that heads stay conscious for 90 seconds after decapitation. And the 1975 study that in a heightened state we speak at 160 words per minute. So he creates short (presumably 240 word) last stories of three beheading victims Thomas More, Dave Rudabaugh and Benita von Berg. Which I probably would have enjoyed more if I knew more about them.
CHRIS BACHELDER-“Deep Wells, USA”
This was a very strangely created story. It was done in 21 sections with characters overlapping in sections. The basic premise is the idea of babies trapped in wells. And how a town responds to the crisis–from the mayor to the police to the citizens The plot comes around to there not being a baby in a well at all, but rather an older guy fallen into a hole or a toddler locked in a closet and how this impacts everyone (they’re all kind of bummed). There was a lot of extraneous “noise” in this story which I found very confusing and unless it was supposed to show a heightened state of awareness, I didn’t quite get it.
CLAIRE LIGHT-“Pigs in Space”
Giving the name of your story a skit from The Muppet Show is strange. Especially when the story is not lighthearted at all. In this, two scientists are floating in space farming pigs. They “point” of the farming is explained at some point but I missed it. But they are floating around using the excrement to somehow power the ship. The interaction between the two crew embers is minimal and they have clearly grown tired of each other. Pigs are naturally volatile and when something happens to the leader, another leader takes her place. But what if something happens to her and their excrement diminishes? This was a peculiar piece which I liked pretty well despite all of the questions it raised.
LINDSAY CARLETON-“The People”
This story predated the Occupy movement by years. In it, the 99% crash the parties of the 1% (not using those terms at all, naturally). But the things is…so what? There was no emotion behind this, it was simply one statement after another–seeing the wealth of the rich and the lack of wealth for the people. And yes they get into the parties of the rich who are disgusted, but so what. There was no payoff. Perhaps in 2004 this was more revolutionary than it seems in 2013.
DENIS JOHNSON-“Soul of a Whore: Act III”
I feel bad that I didn’t enjoy this more. I didn’t realize way back in Issue 11 that they were going to publish all three acts over the course of four volumes (and a couple of years), so I don’t have enough recollection of this piece to know if it hung together well. This final act sees the execution of one of the characters but I have to say by now I was so confused by who was who and who was the preacher and by all of the nonsense and doubletalk that was spewed that I didn’t give a lot of effort to understanding it. The story also seemed less about something than just trying to be difficult. Again, maybe if I rad all three acts together (which I won’t do), I would have gotten more out of it.
So overall, this may have been my least favorite issue so far. Reading through the reviews, my satisfaction level was pretty low and I did in fact put the book down for several weeks because I grew weary of it. There were a few really good and enjoyable pieces, but overall, I was disappointed.