The uncanny sensation of smelling Bojangle’s a/k/a Christmas ’09

January 7, 2010 - One Response

So, it’s a cold, grey winter’s day (well, as cold and gray as it gets in these parts) and I’m reflecting on my recent train ride to Figueres. 

“Figueres, you say?” Yes, I know, this destination may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you–being that, in light of the last few posts at this post one might expect that it’s changed its name from “Now Ain’t That Some Shit” to that other grand railway destination of mine (via Lorca and subsequent car ride of course):

Like the famous song by Manu Chao, "Welcome to El Valle/Tequila, sexo y marijuana"...no wait, that doesn't rhyme, does it...

 So I’ll start at the beginning.  A couple of weeks ago now, we did indeed go down south for Christmas with the folks down the country, a rather somber affair really, due to the circumstances (passing away of aged grandmother, other family health concerns), but there was no lack of logs on the fireplace and play time with the nephews, including walks down by the “crick”:

Victor and the mystery of fire

He so crazy...

It's hard to tell from this photo but I was wearing short sleeves like, two days before Christmas. Whatch'all know about that?

Thumbs up

At one point on one of these brief little excursions, I could have sworn that I’d detected the unmistakable aroma of a Bojangle’s picnic fries, or at least the seasoned salt that goes on it.  Mmmm…

No goat or burro sightings this year, but I did get a snap of the peacock they got cooped up around the corner.

Another big difference with Christmas in El Valle this year was that this was my first trip down there without my MP3 player (M.I.A.).  Apart from making the train ride down seem longer, this meant no all-night subliminal “hypnopaedia” via MP3’s of La Hora Chanante soundtracks or low-volume Spanish hip-hop.  Luckily, this time around there were almost no late-night/early-morning sessions of incessant dog-barking, so the MP3 player wasn’t strictly a necessity, in its capacity as a sleep aid.

Reading wise, I plowed through two books by Johnathan Coe, who I wasn’t familiar with and whose books were lent to me by our neighbor Eva (thanks Eva!)–The Accidental Woman and What a Carve-up!  The first I started and finished on the train ride, and the second (much thicker and with much smaller print, I might add) I devoured in three sitting more or less.  Recommended.

Ain't got shit to do with anything, but I really like this up-close and personal portrait taken by Fernando (age 6) of the annoying plastic duck that inexplicably sings "I'm a Barbie girl/in a Barbie world, etc.", over and over again.

The low point was getting off the train in Barcelona at Estació de Sants and forgetting my bag with the camera, cel phone charger, two books, and my house keys.  Uhhhhhh, whoops! 

Thankfully, when I realized the mistake and hurried back to the station to report the items missing, the train was then arriving to Figueres, and the helpful lady at Atenció al viatger  was able to get in touch with the people on the train to have someone at the station in Figueres pick up the bag there and hold it for me.  Very helpful, and look at that, for once someone has something good to say about the service at Renfe…

And hence, the train ride to Figueres on a cold winter’s afternoon.  There, finished.  Promise to write more about Spanish hip-hop, linguistic nationalism, and all that other, non ElValle-related stuff that I tend to write about sometime soon.  Happy 2010!

 

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Think happy thoughts

December 6, 2009 - Leave a Response

As the weather gets cold and life gets to be frankly a bit hard to deal with, the best thing I can think to do right about now would be to just post some photos (which I’ve had been meaning to do forever).  No travelogues, no witty commentary.  Look at how beautiful…

Notes from El Valle part 2, Electric Boogaloo

October 20, 2009 - 4 Responses

Hey! Wahoo! Yippie! I just got internet back at the house!  Never would I have thought that such a mundane occasion (my reinstatement as a drone in the info-tech beehive) would be such a source of joy.  Though I shouldn’t be surprised.  Such is life in this, our 21st century…

First things first, I should probably finish the travelogue promised many many weeks back now.  But instead, I would rather present some scribblings conserved in the notebook I took with me on my summer vacation.  For your approval, some amateurish observations on naming practices in la España profunda and intonation in L2. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from El Valle part one: Almería Dreamin’

September 8, 2009 - 4 Responses

Of the many and various differences that I could enumerate between the tiny enclave known as El Valle (the hamlet where my girlfriend’s folks live) and the rest of the known world, the one I most recently discovered was this one: that in El Valle, I actually remember my dreams.  So, as a prelude to all the scribbling about what I did during my summer vacation, I thought I’d start by sharing a couple, to maybe shed some light on the workings of my subconscious.  Or something. Read the rest of this entry »

Shameless self-promotion with boring non-anecdote free of charge

August 13, 2009 - Leave a Response

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time for another trip down South.  You know what that means more or less.  This year we’ll be headed to Tarifa, in Cádiz, you know, to totally like hang out with, like, the surfers and stuff.  So you can be pretty sure that there will be some sort of travelogue appearing in this blog in the near future.

 In the meantime, I want to take this opportunity to do something that I haven’t done much of here—what’s commonly referred to as “shameless self-promotion”.

 I’ve decided to make an album compiling the output of my electronic-music-composer alter ego Young Nickels the Great.

Who is Young Nickels the Great?  Well, the name first appeared as just a silly user-name on my Myspace account.  (Reason Myspace is cooler than Facebook #4071: You can call yourself “**PHUKK U!!!**” or “Captain Serve-a-Ho” or whatever retarded moniker floats your boat that day.)

 It got serious though with the arrival of my friend B—- to my apartment in Barcelona.  My roommate J—– was a bit hard-up for cash, so he decided to live with his girlfriend for a couple of months and rent out his room. 

 B—-, a Portugese guy about my age who speaks quite good, very funny English, was the one who took the room…or took the bait I should say.  It turns out J—– had sold B—- on the room telling him that it was all his, for as long as he liked, not a sub-let or anything like that.  Just the normal set-up in this kind of informal “Craig’s List” (or “LoQuo” in this case) rental agreement.   But in fact, the plan was, fleece him for a couple months worth of rent, kick him out, and move back in.  Which is exactly what he ended up doing.  Kind of ugly.

 In any case, before this happened, B—- got J—– to install on his laptop two programs, SoundForge and Cubase.  A sound editor and a music engine, and fairly decent ones.  Evidently, they had gotten started talking about music while J—– was showing B—- the apartment and etc., etc. 

 Now, I was more or less familiar with these, from my days dicking around with my friend Max, making beats and recording the Nicky Album.   So I showed B—- the ropes more or less, how to take sample and screw around with the effects and so forth in Cubase.

 From there it was only a matter of time until I started creating stupid little songs, mixing Ñico Saquito and Camarón with the theme music from Dragonball Z or whatever the hell else I happened to have on hand.  B—- would leave his computer on the table in the living room, with speakers hooked up and everything, to listen to music in the morning before he went to work.  When he was gone I would mess around with SoundForge and Cubase, creating my humble little monstrosities.

 Sometimes you could pick up free wireless from the neighbors, which led me then to the next step: creating a Myspace page to put up some of the songs I’d made.  They were mostly crap.  Except for one, the first track on the “album”, which is “(I Drink a Lot of) Thunderbird”, which dates from this period and which I’ll stand behind as being listenable.   (Yes, I know, really going out on a limb here.)

When B—- left, there was a long pause in YNG’s recording career.  They had taken my toys away and I had nothing left to play around with.  This forced hiatus ended when I bought my own computer.  One of the first things I did when I got my lovely white Dell Inspiron 1520 was download two free music programs from the internet, Audacity (a well-known shareware sound editor similar to SoundForge) and Kristal (like a very primitive version of Cubase).

 With these two programs I was able to almost all of the things I could do with their more advanced cousins.  And they were free.

 The album is entitled “Travellin’ Music (Bustin’ Ya Ass Style)” (taken from a quote by Ol’ Dirty Bastard a/k/a Big Baby Jesus [R.I.P] at the end of his song “I Can’t Wait” which I subsequently sampled in my song “Yo Miami Yo California” (see below)).  Yes, I know, it’s goofy as hell.

 I’ll be posting it in its entirety for free at some point when I figure the best place or way to do so.  In the meantime, listen to the snippet tape I made, and watch these videos.

“One year of ‘some shit'”, or OT 2009

July 20, 2009 - One Response

Funny how time flies. Not much more than a year or so ago, my dad got the idea in my head to start writing a blog. Which is, as you can see, just what I did.

I suppose that in theory the idea was, first and foremost, for me to record my life and my experiences and share them with family and friends. And also, in passing, sharpen up an instrument, the pen (metaphorically speaking, seeing as how we’re in the Digital World and all) which, if it were ever at all sharp, had long since fallen into disuse.

Looking back at the sporadic entries made here since then, I’ve done a lot of the second (sharpening up the ol’ instrument, as it were) and very little of the first.

More than life experiences and poignant anecdotes and the like, what we find here are mostly observations and commentaries on Spanish pop culture–ranging from Toteking to Pe Cruz—and overlong ruminations on geopolitical, sociolinguistic, and parapsychological themes. Ah yes, and the odd travelogue, and one or two anecdotes of varying poignancy.

That must be a sign of how “uneventful” my life has been this past year. Now, “uneventful” is a word saddled with an uncomfortable connotation of tedium and dullness, so it may not be totally appropriate for me to use in this case. I mean “uneventful” in the simple sense of “without events”. Truth is I kind of prefer it that way.

To wit, here I am, one year later, in the exact same situation as last year doing, doing the exact same thing: at home alone while my girlfriend’s visiting her sister, watching Operación Triunfo. (Anybody gotta problem with that? Huh? What? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Bitches.) (Just playin’, y’all. Ha. Ha ha.)

Whereas last year the main interest to this American Idol knock-off was the phenomenon of Virginia—beloved by judge Risto Mejide and object of scorn by her colleagues and the other judges—this year the big story has been the “mal rollo” between the above-mentioned Sr. Mejide and the other jury members, his repeated attacks on the presenter of the program (Jesús Vázquez), the professors of the academ, and Gestmusic, the production company responsible for the program. All resulting finally in his being unceremoniously relieved of his duties and sent home.

Imagine Simon Powell getting thrown off American Idol for incessantly shit-talking to Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. That’s basically what we’re looking at here.

The root of all this “mal rollo” has been I think the fact that this year more than ever it’s been obvious that OT is rigged. Really, really rigged. Being that the producers make all their cash from the text messages and phone calls of the voting public, it’s in their interest to maintain the most popular contestants (in this edition, all Tiger Beat-style boy band candidates) as long as possible, setting them up in duels against their theoretically less popular colleagues and milking the SMS cow.

At one point in this edition, it seems one night live on stage in the tense closing moments of the show, the judge’s panel got a message in their little earpiece (how do you say “pinganillo” in English? Shit…) from the producers, prohibiting them from nominating Jon, a mediocre-to-shitty singer (especially popular with a certain sector of female viewers middle-aged and older) for expulsion from the academy.

Also, I think that apart from the hanky panky with the nominations, etc., your boy Risto got miffed when his particular pet project, a Gitano from Extremadura by the name of Elias—who at first was a particularly easy target for Mr. Mejide’s verbal darts (basically calling him retarded to his face on one occasion) but then ended up winning him over with his work ethic and poise. Although more than for his singing he will most likely be remembered for his clamorous failures in learning English pronunciation.

Also worthy of mention is the phenomenon Púa, a young kid from a small town in Barcelona who was clearly born to sing lead in a popular Spanish pop-punk band (tipo El Canto del Loco, ya sabes)—he was thrown off in the very first show, and then, inexplicably returned weeks later as a special guest artist to perform his new single, like he was Paulina Rubio or one of these people. I guess the producers realized they had a finished product on their hands and that there was no need for putting him through the paces of OT. Kind of weird.

This year the three finalists are Brenda, Mario and the aforementioned Jon. These three, it must be said, bear a striking resemblance to the three finalists in the first edition of OT. Clearly, I think it was totally intentional on the part of the producers of OT to try to recreate the magic of the first one, especially after the sullying effect on their brand by all the hubbub about it being rigged and yadda yadda yadda.

l-r. Bisbal, Rosa, Bustamante

l-r. Bisbal, Rosa, Bustamante

l-r. Mario (i.e. Bisbal) Jon (Bustamante), Brenda (Rosa)

l-r. Mario (i.e. "Bisbal") Jon ("Bustamante"), Brenda ("Rosa")

First you have Brenda, by far the most talented of the three, not a slim, slender cutie like some of the others in this year’s edition. She’s like the Peruvian incarnation of Rosa, the winner of the first OT, another big-boned girl who sang the hell out of some soul. Brenda’s crowning moment I think was singing “Listen” by Beyonce (from the Dreamgirls soundtrack) and kind of killing that shit.

Then there’s Mario, who corresponds to David Bisbal in the original OT—the perfect student, always applied and dedicated, very serious in his study and preparation and extremely correct in his performances. Like Bisbal, he will probably come in second. Unlike Bisbal, he will probably not go on to become super-super-hyper-famous living in a mansion in Miami despite coming in second.

And Jon. Uy, Jon, Jon, Jon. Obviously the David Bustamante of this edition. Meaning, a shitty singer, but who appeals to a certain sector of the feminine audience, as I mentioned before. He definitely has a not-at-all-slim chance of pulling off the upset and winning it all—apart from his core supporters (teenagers in the Basque Country and women going through menopause?), he has the advantage of being totally and irrevocably mediocre.

Come again? What’s that you say? The advantage of being mediocre? Yes, because people tend to go with the underdog in these things, and because the other two are so obviously superior to him in every facet of singing and performing, Jon could easily reap the benefits of that pity vote—“aw, poor thing, he tries so hard and it just doesn’t work out for him, aww, I think I’ll spend a euro fifty on a text message to vote for him.”

The final is tomorrow night. In case anyone cares.

And after this overly exhaustive overview of OT 2009, I’ll follow this up with some Young Nickels the Great shit. Just like last year. (You’ve been warned!)

Special Request III: The return of N.A.T.S.S.

June 19, 2009 - 6 Responses

(in case you missed it, N.A.T.S.S stands for “Now ain’t that some shit.”)

The months and months of delay in posting here can be blamed on various factors–being busy, moving to a new apartment, cutting off the internet at the house etc., etc.  The main problem though has been utter lack of inspiration.  Really wasn’t feelin’ the need to type type type away about my mundane bullshit.

That is until I got a request, again from Kate (thanks, Kate), to talk about football.

Barcelona football, to be specific. Read the rest of this entry »

Worst film ever?

March 25, 2009 - 3 Responses

At the risk of beating the proverbial dead horse, I thought it would be good to give some closure to the recent spat of Spanish-film-related entries here.

Not too long ago now, I finally saw the dreaded Vicky Cristina Barcelona. We watched it via one of these free movie watching sites they have, “peliculasyonkis.com” or some crap like that.  (It was the first time I’d watched a movie on one of these sites and I tell ya, it’s a royal pain in the ass.  I don’t see how people are so into this.  I mean, yeah, it’s free, but it’s fucking annoying–aside from the huge advertising banner we had at the bottom of the screen the whole time, there’s the whole time-limit thing: if you watch more than fifty-two minutes you have to unplug your router and restart your computer to get a new IP address or some shit.  Yeah, a real gratifying cinematic experience, that.  We won’t be canceling our membership at the video club anytime soon.)

Point being, the latest Woody Allen film.  Worst.  Movie.  Ever. Read the rest of this entry »

The unique turkey that stays fresh

March 12, 2009 - Leave a Response

For anyone who might conceivably give a shit, this was posted on the Del Palo Records Myspace page a couple of weeks ago: Read the rest of this entry »

Drinking haterade

March 2, 2009 - 3 Responses

Yes, I know.  In a previous post, I was hating viciously on some Woody Allen and some Pe Cruz.  In fact, regarding the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, my exact words were: “There’s no way in hell I’m gonna go see that shit.”

But now, your girl Pene has won herself an Oscar.  Is she really that good?  Did any of y’all actually see the film?  Help me out here. Read the rest of this entry »