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Mad Captain Jack
15 July 2011 @ 11:31 am

Taking a skip week for Fiction Friday. Longtime readers (hello, both of you!) may remember that I've been pretty much dumping stuff straight from the longhand notebook into MS Word; but Chapter 55 — currently entitled "The Morning Brigades" — has undergone some offline tweaking, and I'm taking some time out from posting for transcription, reshuffling, and minor surgery to this chapter and the next two (to be called "Iron To Sharpen Iron" and "The Queen's Remedy").

(For my remaining LiveJournal readers — hi, both of you! — you may not have noticed that I am again putting up chunks of The Honeythief over at my Blogspot. I haven't been posting the updates here, because (a) for all its faults Blogger is a far more navigable platform for presenting fiction, allowing me to have links to all chapters in a handy sidebar so hypothetical new readers can start easily from the beginning of the story, (b)in order to make the most of my limited Internet-fucking-around time, I prefer to get a bunch of chapters into the posting queue at once, and LiveJournal seems to lacks any sort of provision for scheduling posts to publish in the future without dumping them onto your friend's aggregation pages all at once — at least, not one that I can figure out, and I can't be arsed to work very hard at doing so, frankly, because (c) who in their right mind reads serialized fiction on a fucking LiveJournal anyway, and (d) who still reads fucking LiveJournals, full stop?)

Anyway: absent any new writing content, enjoy a couple of fresh mixtapes, both themed, both kind of funny (IMHO) and both featuring some pretty rockin' tunes (IM incredibly subjective and easily-discreditable O).

Mad Captain Jack
03 July 2011 @ 08:23 pm

  1. An impromptu a cappella tear through “Bohemian Rhapsody” that starts in ragged three-part harmonies and collapses into helpless laughter on the kitchen floor.
  2. Tiny sidewise flick of the wrist answered by the hiss of fishing line on the reel and, much later, a faraway splash.
  3. The passage from full sun into leafy shade, and the incremental temperature drop.
  4. A tug on the starter rope yielding a finely-calibrated resistance and then the satisfying roar of a small gas engine.
  5. The thump and smack of baseball into mitt.
  6. An idea, then another, turning in your head like 3-D puzzle pieces, then locking together. Then another. And again.
  7. Cat’s sandpaper tongue against your thumb.
  8. Cottonwood tree’s leaves rippling in a stiff breeze like half a million little green flags, and banishing Cole Porter from your mind’s ear long enough to hear it for what it really is.
  9. First sip of shandygaff, mixed cold in a plastic cup on a hot day.
  10. Success against odds; virtue rewarded. The first and truest of pleasures.


Mad Captain Jack
23 June 2011 @ 09:57 am
(a play in one act)

 CURTAIN RISES on a gathering SCHOLARS of soul music. They are discussing the work and legacy of Michael Jackson.


…at this point, the contribution of Quincy Jones cannot be ignored. It really ties Michael’s music into the continuum of great American music.



Oh, agreed. Those vocal harmonies on the bridge—they’re arranged like the saxophones on an Ellington tune. Just sublime.


While the Scholars are conversing, a WHITE ROCK FANS enters.



How dare you discuss the legacy of Michael Jackson without mentioning Eddie’s solo on “Beat It”? That was a watershed moment! It was an unprecedented fusion of rock and R&B! It introduced hard rock to an entirely new demographic!


The WHITE ROCK FAN stands, pale and sweaty, as the SCHOLARS stare at him for a beat.



Well, yeah. But we’re talking about Off the Wall.



(a moment of dumbstruck silence: then suddenly shouts, throwing the horns)



Runs madly for the exit, leaving the SCHOLARS bemused.



Viz. (scroll down for the comments)

Mad Captain Jack
21 June 2011 @ 12:04 pm

Today is D’s birthday. The piece up at Popdose today does not mention that fact, though it does mention that it was she who gave the CD under review — Famille Nombreuse, by les Négresses Vertes, a record that looms improbably large in my personal pop pantheon.

I might have made more of that fact, though. Because it occurs to me that my takeaway from Famille Nombreuse — the joyous spirit of collaboration, the raucous democracy of voices, above all the marvelous, terrifying feeling of Us vs. The World, the feeling that all life is a bloody gang war and that your survival is primarily a function of who you’ve got in your gang — lines up pretty clearly with the lessons of 25+ years of knowing her.

Happy birthday, darlin’. This is a pretty grand adventure wherein we find ourselves, after all.

Mad Captain Jack
06 June 2011 @ 12:28 pm

My review of Simon Pegg's memoir Nerd Do Well is now live at Kirkus Reviews. I have nothing witty to say about it right now, but I do have some thoughts on British TV comedy and the nature of the collaborative process that will (I hope) soon form the basis of a substantial post. So, y'know, there's that.

Mad Captain Jack
01 June 2011 @ 11:37 am

I am weirdly fascinated by the current crop of singing shows, mostly because they don’t map onto my own musical approach at all. I think a song interpreter needs to be guided by two maxims simultaneously:
  1. Make it your own, and

  2. First, do no harm.
Occasionally, of course, these two guidelines will contradict each other. But that’s the fun part; that’s where the creative tension of interpretation comes in.

For most of the singers on American Idol and The Voice, the second rule never seems to occur to them. Part of that comes down to a cultural difference; most of the interpreters I love best come out of the traditions of folk and jazz, where the central creative activity is the writing and collection of songs, and the performer is generally conscious of his or her role as a keeper of the canon. (This is true also in rock, though to a lesser extent.)
Cut for old-man rambling and media embedsCollapse )


Mad Captain Jack
29 May 2011 @ 04:13 pm

So I'm standing at the self-service bottle return, feeding empties into the machine one by one to the satisfying crunch and cymbal-splash of broken glass. I'm reaching down into the cardboard box that of late held a double dozen of Sam Adams longnecks, and I see at the bottom of the box there's some loose change. Two dimes and a nickel, in fact. And God help me, the first thought that occurs: Holy shit, they've been redeeming themselves while I'm not looking.

Which is pretty much how it should be, isn't it?

Mad Captain Jack
28 May 2011 @ 11:09 pm

The big planting bed has become so overrun with dill weed that the only thing for it is to turn the earth — plow everything under, and start again. Only we haven’t got a plow. We have shovels.

D has got the job mostly-done by the time I manage to set heel to spade; but after even my brief stint of digging, the aroma is so mighty that I’m left feeling rather like I’ve just worked second shift at the pickle factory.

Mad Captain Jack
27 May 2011 @ 11:39 pm

Gil Scott-Heron, dead at 62.

Peace go with you, Brother.

Mad Captain Jack
26 May 2011 @ 09:54 pm

Rummaging through some old mix CDs last night unexpectedly heard, for the first time in years, Milla Jovovich’s improbably excellent 1994 single “The Gentleman Who Fell.” I say improbably because we don’t expect our celebrities to be, not do we as a rule reward them for being, good at more than one thing. When you first heard that Viggo Mortensen gives readings of his poetry, admit it—you rolled your eyes. And the mere mention of the band Dogstar will still elicit involuntary snickers from rock fans of a certain age.

And God forfend you should be a hyphenated talent if you are a beautiful woman. Milla is and was a supermodel. The cognoscenti looked askance when she made the jump to acting. But to be a singer-songwriter as well—that was beyond the pale. And when Scarlett Johansson put out that album where she sang those Tom Waits songs, and when Zooey Deschanel sang with She & Him, the rock press lined up to proclaim their hate in often ugly and personal terms.

I was thinking about all this, I was remembering a picture. Shortly before I suspended How Bad Can It Be?, I was toying with the idea of writing a column about this stuff, using Minnie Driver’s album Everything I’ve Got In My Pocket as a springboard. But it never got further than a few miscellaneous notes, and an image knocked together in Photoshop. I’m never going to write that column now, but I still think the picture is funny:

Minnie Driver

If How Bad had a dirty secret, it is precisely this: that on occasion (as in this case) the jokes came first, and from there I worked backwards towards my thesis.