Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mitch Hedberg 1968 - 2005

Comedian Mitch Hedberg also died today.

I know that in a larger scheme of things, this will probably be unnoticed, especially since the Pope just got last rites and the political and moral gloves are off now that Terri Schiavo is "dead" dead. On a slower news day, Mitch might have gotten a quick blurb on CNN. He occupied a special place, in that he was a stand-up comic who was simply too weird to base a sitcom on. Lewis Black (1) is in the same vein, but of a different blood. Funny, but not people funny.

What bothers me about Mitch dying is that he was 37 and as far as anyone knows died of a heart attack in his hotel room. If you've never seen him perform, Mitch's style was to stare at the floor and rattle off observations. An escalator can never be broken. It can only become stairs. This shirt is dry clean only, which means it's dirty. To a straight-laced person, he would appear to be on drugs. People who have actually been on drugs know that he probably wrote down his jokes while on drugs, but was probably performing them with a beer or three in him.

This leads to the main problem. Drugs were professional equipment to him. He could have written them off on his taxes but he used to perform sober. I saw him two months ago with some friends and my girlfriend, caring woman that she is, was visibly concerned for him. Mitch spent a good part of an hour just lying down on the stage, mumbling into the microphone. Not everyone, but a large portion of the crowd was clapping for him. They would shout out old jokes, and he would rattle them off in response before sinking back into himself. That's Mitch, we supposed. That's what we came to see. He could have spat blood across the stage and it would have been five minutes of applauding before someone thought to call an ambulance.

That show bothered me. We were applauding his drug use and not his brilliance. We were applauding, because we've all either been or seen that guy who would say the funniest shit when he was stoned. He was better than some drowsy sage at a party, though. He was actually brilliant, with the doors of perception blasted open or safely shut; a much better comic than a simple stoner hero. I almost wished that he had died in a bacchanalian drug rut, but I caught myself. I'd rather have him still making jokes.

"Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only disease that you can get yelled at for having. Dammit Otto, you're an alcoholic. Dammit Otto, you have Lupus. One of those two doesn't sound right."

(1) Lewis Black will be reading from his new book at the Court House Olsson's Monday the 4th at 7.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Extraordinary Machine

It's been a while between postings, which is a thing related supremely and completely to school starting to wrap up and all those promises I made to myself in the beginning of the semester starting to ring oh.... so hollow...

However, when I'm meant to be writing papers one of my favorite things to do is look around for new music. I normally have a 'net radio station on and when something catches my ear I'll download it, legally or otherwise. One of my favorite radio streams is Radio Paradise, which broadcasts raw eclecticism out of Paradise, CA, and features some of the snarkiest, Warhol-channeling people on the discussion boards (there's a different board for each song) that you'll see outside of a $7 Black Cat show. (1)

In the midst of studying for a vocabulary test (ayna al-ustadh? = Where is the professor? Al-ustadh tahta al-taawila. = The professor is under the desk) a catchy tune came on, which sounded vaguely like Fiona Apple playing with Bjork's band. Turns out it was Ms. Apple, who I haven't heard from in a while (musically, as she's not the sort to return calls) and have fond high school memories of. It would appear that she's had a new album complete, called Extraordinary Machine, since 2003, but Sony has kept it shelved because it's not, in the words of many a Fiona fansite, "playable" according to Sony's unspoken critique. There is even a petition you can sign if your blood is up.

While it's certainly not marketable, short of pulling a Liz Phair and adding some tween appeal, it actually sounds pretty good. Jazz/bluegrass piano fusion, plus a cartoony oboe, aren't going to end up on the radio, but I think that people like me, who were of a sullen age but coming upon Tori Amos right when she went into the batshit breathless lyrics phase and found Fiona fit nicely, would really enjoy some of the songs. I recommend Better Version of Me, Red, Red, Red, and Extraordinary Machine

The problem being, however, how to listen to it. Members of her backup band leaked the album, either to pressure Sony to release it or just to get their work heard. The files posted online, sadly, are mostly put out by Sony and assault you with hiss and static. For fifteen minutes. You can click forever and not find one that works and you probably have a paper you should be doing. However, I know a guy... wink wink winkety wink. Leave me a message in the comments or email me if you already know who fronts this masked blog.

(1) The Black Cat is a bar/concert venue in Washington D.C. that will play up-and-comers at $7 shows, so you can finally say, "I saw them BEFORE they sold out" and "Are you going to finish ALL of that blow?" or "That guy gave Steph the flaky CROTCH bumps."