The garden on June 24, 2011

And boy oh boy did the squash take over:

Plus as ever some new photos:

Bush beans

Tomato goodness en route

Some mid-June AMG reviews

More or less:

Horseback — The Gorgon Tongue
Ryan Garbes — Sweet Hassle
Mist — House
Forma — Forma
Agnes Obel — Philharmonics
Arnaud Rebotini — Someone Gave Me Religion
When Saints Go Machine — Konkylie
Steve Roach — The Road Eternal
The Rosebuds — Loud Planes Fly Low
Hospital Ships — Lonely Twin

What we’ve been doing these past few days

…can be summed up this way:


A balcony view

The living room with the accent wall...

...and the new kitchen

The final step is when Sarina moves down in a few weeks with her stuff and we fully settle in (which is why I’m not showing all the rooms yet) — but we’re off to a good start. Thanks again to everyone who helped!

Farewell to (nearly) a decade

Boxes, boxes, boxes...

And it’s almost finally here. And yet here I am again.

I grew up moving. It’s been a defining feature of my life, thanks to my dad’s Navy background — grow up in a military family and you grow up with motion as a constant. I’ve written about it here and there before, including probably on this blog now that I think about it, and it’s one of those things that, like anything else in childhood that is repeated, represents a norm if it’s repeated enough. Whenever I’ve met people who essentially spent their entire young life in the same house — even in the same room, from infancy to high school graduation and/or beyond — I’m always a little amazed, even though I know that can be very common.

Maybe not as common as before — mobility and the housing market insanity of recent years seemed to encourage a much more dynamic approach to what family living meant in some corners — but still common enough, replicated among friends old and young. In turn my experience must seem a little strange to them, the idea of relocating every couple of years, sometimes back to a familiar place or town, or even the same house as before, sometimes to somewhere wholly different. I’ve always felt I lucked out, though, and I wouldn’t exchange that kind of experience for the world. Arguably I still missed out in some ways — I wonder what it would have been like to live for a couple of years overseas in Europe or Asia or elsewhere if my dad had been assigned there, for instance — but you don’t control those things, you just roll with it. Even if you do end up in upstate New York for a while, learning exactly what both snow and summer humidity are like (in a word, uh).

I think the core reason why I enjoy moving, whenever it happens — for all the planning and prep and grind of tasks that needs to be done — comes from that young experience, it’s always a little bit of an adventure. When you’re lucky enough to be in a family where the costs are paid for as well thanks to my dad’s employment, that didn’t hurt either; it wasn’t like we were losing anything familiar each time, it was just ending up in a new place and circumstance. As I’ve said before and will say again too, it emphasizes the sentiment that home is where the heart is, and that it is not necessarily the house, the physical building, that ever defines it.

Home was everything from a motel for a couple of days to a Quonset hut for a couple of months to a three-story duplex for a couple of years and back again. Home for much of my childhood was the old house in Coronado where I ended up spending most of my young life but ‘home’ in a family sense is now where my parents live in Carmel, where I’ve only spent all told something like ten or so weeks over a decade plus worth of time on visits from down south. It’s not where I grew up but it means more to me, now, than the Coronado house does — that’s just a physical location from another time.

Once I hit college the pace of moving slowed — two moves at UCLA, bracketing one last summer home, followed by a move to UCI for grad school, a move five years later to a shared house in Costa Mesa, then a move five years after that to the apartment on my own I’ve been in since late 2002, and will be in for one last evening tonight. An apartment decided on in a rush, after the shared house was sold and initial plans to split a place with one of the housemates fell through. An impulse decision to go for it on my own, regardless of the extra cost I accrued as a result, turned out to be the right one in the end just for peace of mind alone — for the first six months or so, when I wasn’t thinking how ridiculous and horrifying the Iraq invasion was going to be, I think I did little after I came back from work each day but have some wine and cheese, catch up with friends online and listen to either old Slowdive tracks or, quite honestly, the ambient hum of the area, from the freeways to the thermostat. It was a slow, slow decompressing.

It heralded what’s also turned out to be the longest stay in any one place in my life, even counting the stop/start stays at the main house in Coronado — eight and a half years all told. The 2002 me isn’t the 2007 me or the current one but they all had that apartment as a point of continuity — not a studio, thankfully, but pretty snug, especially given all the CDs and books and things. It was the kind of place designed for one person, though, and I honestly never felt cramped, it seemed just right for me in the end, more than I ever would have realized when I first set a box in there and wondered where I was going to put everything.

I always idly wondered when I was going to eventually leave — sure, I could have left at the end of any particular lease, but the location turned out to be good and convenient for me and work, there was and is plenty to do in the area if I was ever feeling bored and the management always did right by me. They still do, as it happens, which is why this move isn’t a major one in the grand scheme of things — I’m just moving a couple of buildings down in the same complex, heck, along the same stretch of parking. Compared to two transcontinental moves this is a walk in the park, though it still means all the trappings of a move, packing, sorting, purging.

A lot of purging, as it happens. Long overdue too — over time, I looked at the various shelves of everything I had in my place — one wall of the main room being nothing but crammed full bookshelves, CD racks literally ringing my bed in the bedroom since there was nowhere else to put them all — and began wishing almost all of it away. Sure, the impulse for collecting is a strong one in humanity or at least among many of its members and some things I just hold on to and hold on to — I have books I first got when I was eight, records when I was four. Heck, one of the bookcases I think I’ve had since I was two. But after what could be called a peak in 2001/2002 things had to give — I already knew I had to reduce my book collection at that time when I moved into my apartment and so a lot of things were sold or donated then. This time around was no different — from seven crammed bookcases I’m now down to four, with a little spillover, with books going to local libraries or friends, bags and boxes at a time.

As for the CDs? The Raggettstacks, as friends jokingly called them on ILX, are essentially gone, because the CDs are mostly gone too. Not all of them, by any means — a large number are packed away into binders, others are kept as is due to unique packaging or sentimental reasons or more, they still fill a couple of small racks. Everything else was donated over this weekend, to my old radio station and the campus’s arts and media center. How I viewed music and the necessity of keeping things changed slowly but surely over the years and now here I am, collection ripped, discs donated, all the old huge racks given to friends in LA.

It’s a purging, also a freeing, a letting go — obviously not completely, you can see the boxes up there in the photo, there’s always going to be something. But I like the idea of a steady reduction now, keeping only a core nub of books, of physical music and so forth. The necessity for possession is less important now than the basic ones, of food, shelter and physical comfort, and it is a literal weight lifted, or passed on if you like. It’ll make my new place different and distinct in turn once I’m settled in.

Yet — very importantly, and at the core of it all — it’s not because that my new place will be larger yet emptier. Quite the contrary. This hasn’t been a rushed move done in a couple of weeks but something long thought out, long planned — and not something done just by me. I’d enjoyed my solitude over the years, the idea of a space all my own — even when I had a room of my own nearly everywhere, it was always part of shared space, with family first, with college roommates, with friends. Only when I had this apartment did I finally have something all my own, and I think I needed that, some time alone, though always figuring it could someday pass as a phase because there’d be a reason to move in with someone again.

And there is. Plenty of reasons, really!

We’re looking forward to it, and it’ll be another phase of my life, another one now shared, not so solitary though we have our quiet moments in our own ways. Nearly a year back we realized it felt right, and we just had to wait for it all to time itself given our commitments — and ultimately we have to wait a little longer in the end; I’m moving tomorrow but Sarina won’t be heading down permanently until mid-July. But then it’ll be our home and we’ll take it from there.

So farewell to the old place, another stretch of time ended, a housing unit but soon no longer home. It was home, though, and I’ll always remember it for being that.

The garden on June 10, 2011

Due to busy times this week, as I’ll talk about more in the next post, this’ll be my last visit here until next Friday but as you can see it’s been a crazy time for the squash in particular:

Meanwhile, from the photo collection:

Bush beans!


An example of the results

Good times…

Three random photos and why I’m showing them

Which may sound a little random but.

I seem to have been lucky with some photos of myself of late — not all the time but hey, when you’re in the middle of a good run, no complaints. And they’re all of different sorts, so.

One was the other night and shows that when I’m bored late at night, tired but not quite asleep and killing time on the computer I can sometimes let my hair down:

Not quite Phil Oakey and yet

One shows that even when I’m invited to a wedding all it takes is the right context and person to be sitting next to to be as metal as one needs to be:


And finally, related to the previous photo, I was at the wedding in question because the brother of the fellow next to me was getting married. These two brothers I happen to know because of their other sibling:


There’s a very good reason why we’re smooshed together in that photo. Most everyone already knows why but I just thought I’d like to clarify that for those who don’t, and I still consider myself beyond fortunate that Sarina thinks I’m worth it.

And there you go.

And some early June AMG reviews…

For your reading pleasure. Or listening. Kinda.

Robag Wruhme — Thora Vukk
Oneida — Absolute II
Mount Moriah — Mount Moriah
Dakota Suite — The Hearts of Empty
Dos — Dos y Dos
Eleanoora Rosenholm — Hyväile Minua Pimeä Tähti
Dead Rider — The Raw Dents
Chateau Marmont — 2008-2009-2010
Smoosh — She Like Electric

Frittata with roasted peppers, potatoes and zucchini


Making this up on Sunday proved to be very handy — it’s a very busy work week for me with the end of the quarter and school year happening, so I wanted to make sure whatever the main dish was was something I could make and store for a bit in the fridge or freezer. This turned out to be perfect for that, using potatoes, zucchini and parsley from my basket along with some other items. There are a slew of such recipes out there — I ended up using this one, only substituting roasted red peppers for the poblano chiles. Worked my way through a good amount of it already and should polish off the rest tonight or tomorrow.

The garden on June 3, 2011

Annnnnd we’re back. Or at least I’m back, everyone else has been working away, bless their hearts! So this was the scene of things on Friday:

Meanwhile some new photos are up in my rolling set for the year — a sample or two:


Bush beans


RIP Martin Rushent

Some moments I can just perfectly remember, just perfectly. Here’s one for you:

It’s 1982, my family are moving out from Coronado, California on a cross country trip to upstate New York, where my dad will work overseeing a Navy training base for three years. I’m eleven years old, a mixture of excitement and anticipation and dread running through my head at this all, it’s all a bit fun and weird at the same time. I’m sitting in the back seat of our new blue Volvo station wagon, luggage, a dog and a hamster in the back, my sis next to me, my parents up front. One nice thing about the Volvo is that the sound system includes speakers in the back seat doors, so we can hear whatever’s on the radio better than we could in the old car. Top 40 is the logical soundtrack of our trip; it’s about the one thing we can all agree on, so the radio is tuned to whatever San Diego-area station is doing best at it at the moment, quite likely the Mighty 690.

We’re going over the San Diego/Coronado Bay Bridge, the first big step in a long road, and the radio’s on, and as we crest the bridge a song comes on that I’ve never heard before:

And my god was my world turned upside down a little, right there and then.

It was one of many such songs to do that to me that year, 1982; it’ll always remain a touchstone for me. “Tainted Love,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” more besides. “Don’t You Want Me” was just WEIRD and strange, I’d never heard anyone quite singing like that before, the subject matter seemed unsettling to my young mind, something just kind of ‘ew, what?’, the main synth part after the opening beats, themselves a bit out of the ordinary, was grim and yet compelling. Sure I’d heard bits of ‘new wave’ and “Cars” had been huge and so forth but this just didn’t quite make sense to me. It was in the end a smash hit, number one in the charts, as it had been back in the UK some months previously.

The news of Martin Rushent’s death brings this moment back in a rush. As time went on and I learned more about music and the past and Rushent, seeing his name crop up seemingly everywhere for a time on a lot of bands I grew to love made more sense — a classic go-to guy, someone who had gone up the established route working in the industry and was in the right place and right time to make a mark on his own when the late seventies rolled around in the UK. For a while there I almost confused Martin Hannett with Martin Rushent, not surprising given the timeframe and the fact that they sometimes worked with the same group at different points, but they each had their own clear stamp; one was not the other.

John Robb’s note I’ve linked there will capture how many of his own time and place will remember him, firmly rooted not just in post-punk but punk as such, especially when and where it intersected with the charts and the radio — the Buzzcocks, Generation X, the Stranglers and much more. He knew how to make what was supposed to be noise work as an immediate dynamic that sounded like something you could hum, brought out the focus in performances. On that level alone his influence lingers — the past near-twenty years of pop/punk as such in the States arguably exists because he was one of the producers, in combination with a slew of notable bands, to provide an example of how it could and did work. Some examples:

And much more could be named and played and argued about and etc.

But I was too young and too far away to know about any of that at the time — or to learn that Rushent was far too open-minded a listener just to do that for the rest of his time. As interest among many fronts quickly shifted to what synthesizers could do on the pop charts in punk’s wake, Rushent was right there with it all, opening up his own Genetic Sound Studios for work and plunging into another wave of recordings that transferred his ear for focus and arrangement into another realm. It wasn’t a rejection of his past, merely a further exploration — if not x, why not y? Some of the results, whether synth or rock or whatever you want to call it:

And as a little bonus, a recording done at Genetic; even though Rushent didn’t specifically produce it, it probably couldn’t’ve been done anywhere else:

Then, of course, the Human League connection, a producer/collaborator/performer combination as emblematic of the time as anything Trevor Horn did in the same moment. Dare remains the remarkable album it is for just how well all the pieces come together — Phil Oakey and Ian Craig Marsh’s desire to play out the hopes they had had from the earlier incarnation of the group, the accidentally perfect charisma of Susan Anne Sulley and Joanne Catherall, Jo Callis’s circuitous route via the Rezillos and Bob Last and above all else Rushent, who got the group into Genetic and away from their Sheffield home base, recorded “The Sound of the Crowd” and watched with everyone else as it became their pop breakthrough.

Virgin Records kicked down the cash for a full album and now thirty years later Dare is like Rumours or Nevermind or There’s a Riot Going On or Kind of Blue or The Chronic or Thriller. Hell, even Born This Way, probably. It’s a moment album, something that seems to capture a time just so, just right, you can almost feel fingers pointing in awe and urgency, “Here! Here, here it is, it’s right HERE!” That’s the romance of the pop music construct, that’s precisely why it works. It doesn’t cover everything, it can’t and won’t, it’s not the ultimate immediacy of a standalone single or a one-off track, but it works on impact and it lingers, it’s something easy to refer to and seems almost too obvious as a result but that’s because it WORKS.

For each of the albums I named the producer or producers are as important as the performers, if they’re not one and the same. Hearing Rushent throughout the album, his engineering ears clearly being brought to bear, is to hear someone knowing the difference between “That keyboard sounds nice” and “What that keyboard is playing would sound really fantastic like THIS.” And it’s not just keyboards, of course, it’s everything, all that goes into the performances, vocals, beats, ‘atmosphere,’ however you want to call it.

Never, ever underestimate the impact the great popularizers have, and that was Rushent by default, a popularizer who was also a technical wiz, someone who never claimed to be avant garde per se but figured out ways to use and imprint the avant garde into the wider world. That he then nearly one-upped himself with the spin-off/remix League Unlimited Orchestra project, Love and Dancing, shows how much of a creative roll he was on; if he wasn’t the first remixer, he again helped by being a massive popularizer, spelling out some implications, giving a demonstration by default.

After his most famous days, Rushent — rather admirably to my mind — retreated to focus on family more, working more casually in the industry rather than trying to break his back obsessively keeping up with it, most recently having produced some work by the Pipettes among others. If that meant being associated with a time and place in the end, then hey — if you’re going to make a mark, make it a huge one. Rest well indeed — it took more than seconds and it’s lasted lifetimes.

(And I will say this — I wasn’t necessarily planning to resemble Phil Oakey in this random photo from last night but I wonder if there wasn’t something in the air.)