I wanna see your kitty*

dear friends,

first, the vitriol. having once been a slave at one of the smaller circles of hell, aka an upper east side establishment that a) catered to the rich & sometimes famous & b) shall remain nameless, I had the opportunity to assist james lipton on several occasions. he was exactly as you'd expect if you've ever been sucked into watching the fatuous & fawning inside the actor's studio. pretty f'in' dire folks.

anywho, back in the day, one of his lesser offenses was "name repeating". I refer to people who practice this as, quite logically, "name repeaters" (NR). NRs once read a book (about "getting to yes" or something that was supposed to make them seem like other human beings and not the soul sucking truffle eaters that they really are) which stated that if you call someone by their name in conversation, it creates a subconscious bond. hmmmm. while that may have some level of truth, especially if you're a narcissistic sociopath & need to be reminded that there are other human beings out there, usually just saying that name ONCE does the trick. otherwise you wind up having a conversation like this:

"oh thank you so much JANE, I really appreciate this JANE. one more thing JANE, do you think I can get this sent over immediately? oh. JANE. that's a pity. JANE, do you think you walk it over, JANE it's really quite a short walk...but JANE. no? (sudden change from soft, persuasive tones to chilling menace - this guy knows how to go after his objective!) do you you know who I am? this is for a very important show. JANE, a very important show. I'm very disappointed JANE. I thought you could help me." etc...

nevertheless, I may have to cut ole jimmy some slack, because this is hilarious.

see, there was some music content, after all. well...maybe not.

love, d

* sadly, his recitation does not include this line & the, uh, couplet it belongs to. for further fun, go find the rest of the lyrics.


Whole Lot of Blah Blah Blah

This week all the Niigata ALTs gathered in Niigata City to attend the mandatory "Mid-Year Seminar". Two days straight of blah blah blah. Many of us were accompanied by our JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) so that both teachers and pseudo-teachers alike could partake in the cornucopia of useless information.

My comrade in arms and I presented a workshop on "Music in the Classroom". When I brought this up with my Stateside friend, she scoffed. "Like, OMG Kirsten, what are your classes like? I mean, is it just a round of duck-duck-goose?" Her implication was that the ALT-led Oral Conversation classes in most Japanese schools are candy fluff. This is not totally inaccurate. These kids see foreigners only on TV. Before they are old enough for ALT classes, most of them have never even met anyone outside their own ken, let alone spoken with a gaijin. You're a Japanese high school kid. You study longer hours than your parents' workday. You have club activities and community service. You want to grow up to be doctor/lawyer/farmer/office drone. English is the last thing on your mind.

Except everytime you turn on the radio.


There's curiosity. There's envy, maybe. There's a whole lot of mispronunciation. We are ALTs. We are here to set the record straight because most Japanese teachers of English are tragically INEPT at the task.

Music breaks the ice. Even the most sullen, anti-English badass will perk once you start playing anything by WHAM!

Yes, WHAM!

The workshop was extremely successful. Music in the classroom will work for all curriculums in all grades. Low-level. Mid-level. High-level academic. Vocational school. Elementary school. Music will always get a response. Make them fill in the blanks while listening to Natasha Bedingfield (my kids ADORED her). If you wanna make 'em hurt, play some radio edited Green Day. Introduce them to some new music and the more ambitious ones may actually learn how to pronounce the word "lend".

We designed an activity like the "fill in the blank" except we used a Japanese pop song to stump the ALTs. The song was called SEISHUN AMIGO. (seishun=youth) by a band composed of two members of already existing boy pop bands. SHUJI & AKIRA. It was horrendous. It was poppy. It was effective. The 20-something ALTs were in rapt attention.

We did well.

We also advocated that ALTs attempt to learn at least one J-POP song, even if only to get closer to their coworkers. After the QUEEN and BEATLES rounds, your Japanese coworkers will probably not know how to sing anything you choose in English. So why not bat on their team for a second? They'll appreciate it.

By the by, there's been a trend of random Spanish in J-pop lately. I actually heard DRAGON ASH singing in Spanese on their latest album "Rio de Emocion". My Spanish skillz don't extend beyond a high school education but even I could tell the pronunciation was atrocious.*

Yet, despite the mangling, this sign is encouraging. Who says English is the end all and be all of foreign language? Some of my students don't give a damn about English but they approach me with questions about Spanish or French. The world is huuuuge, kids! Get out there and don't be afraid of looking like an asshole. Cuz you will. ^^

In other music news, TOKYO JIHEN will be playing Niigata City in April on a Friday night.

Shiina Ringo live. I can now die.

And in OTHER Kirsten-thrilling news, Cocco is back!!!! She's coming out with a new single!!! Is it my birthday or something??? I don't care if it's shitty. I don't care if Cocco just sneezes into the mic for 4 minutes. I will attack.

Also, I never liked the Japanese rap group "m-flo" until I heard the song "HEY!" It reminds me of Cibo Matto with a bit less bite and tad more hmmm....actual Japanese. Come on. Come on. Come on. Kumon. eventually morphs into a heartbeat.

*On the subject of atrocious pronunciation, has anyone ever heard New Order's Japanese version of KRAFTY? My word.


HEY/m-flo, Palmas Rock/Dragon Ash, Seishun Amigo/ Shuji to Akira

And if you really wanna hear Dragon Ash murder Spanish....Los Lobos/Dragon Ash

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Purloined in Petrograd

Dear friends,

I've been trying to write this thing forever about a guy called Morgan. One chapter concerns his lifelong best friend, a caddish petty tyrant named Stanwix Stackless-Wells*. When people ask Morgan why he has remained friends with such an unrepentant scoundrel, stealer of comics, girlfriends and guitars, he can only think of one reason and a seemingly insubstantial one. That, when they were children, Stannie always played the best games of make believe. It was always French pirates stashing their loot in 18th century Cornwall or an heir to a large fortune traveling to Nepal to suss out the originator of a dastardly plot involving the Rothschild banking fortune and a very strange piece of jewelry. Those games, assisted by unused red velvet curtains acting as capes or a mother's yellow scarf as a swami's turban, were still vibrantly fresh in Morgan's mind. Even when, years later, he discovers that entire plots had been cribbed from various classic novels by Defoe, Sands, and Collins, nothing could diminish their exalted position in his memories and consequently, his life. The grown-up disaster was also the source of all that fantastical fun, how could he let that go?

Now, I'm not suggesting that Colin Meloy is a rake and a roue. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice guy, sitting at home on his comfy chair, writing his songs about teen hustlers and vengeful mariners. Nevertheless, when I listen to Picaresque by The Decemberists, I think of ole S.S.W. and his candle under the face shenanigans. Each song is another make believe game, another story too bizarre to be believed, too sad to recount, but behind it all you can see the artifice of the situation, the fake swords and drawn-on mustaches on baby faces. I adore that because it gives this album a sense of magic. You know that the title character of Eli the Barrow Boy isn't really haunting the lane, forever bemoaning the loss of his love or that the protagonist in (From My Own True Love) Lost at Sea only stalks her foggy Widow's Walk for a verse, chorus, verse but the belief which Meloy and his merry troupe of playmates invest in their performances makes you gladly go along for the ride. At least until someone's mother opens the door to ask if anyone's hungry.

While I enjoy listening to this album as a whole, because taken in sequence, it works like a serialized novel, currently I'm partial to The Bagman's Gambit, a tale of a Washington, DC patsy duped by a femme fatale into giving up important government information. Aided by a simple but hypnotic guitar line, the story involves torture, bribery, and near misses. The poor narrator/mark keeps surprising himself with his nerve, frantically trying to save his inammorata, even though he knows that his efforts will also ensure he'll never see her again. It's a far, far better thing that I have done and all of that. The curtains and lighting is supplied, by the triumphant entry of the rest of the band at the 2:04 mark, like lights suddenly shined on the guilty. The song continues to weave it's narrative, through hush and swell of sound, through a noise terror bridge (well, the nicest, most polite noise terror), into a final image that works like a bittersweet movie still.

The Bagman's Gambit/The Decemberists

Buy Picaresque on Amazon

J and I went to see Colin Meloy last night at The Town Hall. Laura Veirs (written about before here) opened and did some magic of her own by making a mini orchestra of herself through judicious use of loop pedals. Guitar and vocal line. STEP. Former stuff keeps playing. She harmonizes with herself. STEP. She plays another guitar line. STEP. Another harmony vocal line. STEP. And so on, and so on, slowly building a cathedral of song which hovered over the confused and leaning towards youthful audience**, +.

Meloy performed Decemberists numbers and new songs next to a table decorated with a small sheep doll named Erick, a human skull dubbed Cheryl and a tiny ship called Maya Angelou. He jokingly said the skull was there to remind us all of our eventual demise and as he sang away his novelettes, I kept looking at Cheryl, wondering what she thought of the whole affair and the fact that, here she was, still employed. Meloy was affable and charming throughout, insisting he wanted a campfire feel and asking people to sing along which proved to be hilarious on a snap-happy rendition of Los Angeles, I'm Yours (from 2003's Her Majesty) as the audience tried to vocally approximate the extended string passage. Later, he invited John Wesley Harding and his 12-string acoustic to join him on a couple of Shirley Collins numbers which were great but seemed to go WAY over the more Emo-ly inclined well-coiffed heads. Too bad, I love those British folk revivalists and personally, given Meloy's performing style, don't see much of a difference between him covering them or Morrissey. Which he did later, after teasing with tiny bits of Pink Floyd's Fearless and The Replacements' Can't Hardly Wait, with a slowed down, reverential take on Ask by The Smiths.

Well, Mr. Meloy, I had a fun time. Please say thank you to your mom for the snacks. Next time, invite your friends!

Love, D

NB: Contributor Mike wrote a post on This Sporting Life here on Soft Communication. Do read, if you missed it the first time.

* I wanted an appropriately ridiculous archaic sounding name. The kind of name given by parents who are into Melville and taxidermy.

** 'Cept for Lou Reed, standing in the back, arms crossed, by the doors, where you couldn't miss him. His primate etched in mahogany visage scowling in...concentration? Hunger? I had to fight the most intense urge to run over and kick him in the balls and run out cackling, dolphin-style. Man, I love living in the city. It affords me these fantasies.

+ Just to be clear, like anyone with ears and sense, I love Reed's contribution to music. Still, I daydream about pummeling him. I can't imagine I'm alone here.

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I imagine you just like you're real

dear friends,

lotsa work this week at ye olde job that requires math which means that I've been listening to music as wallpaper. must. concentrate. on. numbers. 2. +. 2. =. 5. NOOOOO! damn those bad math songs!

nevertheless, because I have a quota, here's a short, important list of 5 coming atcha:

1. the duke spirit (also at my space) is a feral blues meets indie rock band from the uk.

2. their album cuts across the land played & played in my ears this year. in fact, I've written about the duke spirit here & here on soft communication.

3. they are fronted by liela moss, who sings like she's coming down with cat scratch fever. she's the nails, you're the eyes & ouch! nevermind the pain, you'll want more of that, right quick. what on earth does that mean? well, there's an element of understated menace to her vocal contributions that's more disquieting than soothing yet somehow terribly...seductive. it's the texture of her voice, I think, somewhere between sandpaper & velvet, & her presence in the songs. while guitarists, luke ford & dan higgins, create walls & wails of rising guitars to counterpoint the serious as cancer, almost tribal, rhythm section of toby butler (bass) & olly betts (drums), she stands still in the center of the music, haughtily commanding your attention with precision, swagger, & narrowed eyes. eyes icily focused right on you.

4. I've never seen the duke spirit live so I'm imagining the swagger & narrowed eyes. she might just stand there comatose for all I know...bear with me, I'm coming to the point.

5. SO because I have to know & because the live duke spirit tracks I have heard make the album sound like overcooked rotini (& these are GOOD album performances) I will confirm or deny my fevered flights of fancy when I go see the duke spirit open up for ted leo & the pharmacists at the hook in brooklyn on thursday, march 2. tickets are on sale now here. it's $15. you really should go. it will be so, so worth it.

c'mon, don't cha trust me?

(insert your favorite photo of me smiling like a shark)

love, d

band to see live: the duke spirit

songs to seek: love is an unfamiliar name, drinking you in, cuts across the land, nine and scramble


Point and Stare

These dudes are Japanese?




Download some Ellegarden. Tell me if I'm crazy?

Oh yeah, when I start my future gurl rawk band, I'm gonna name it Ewan Twat Army. We will sing only in Japanese and the country will say "Maji de, Amerkajin??"

Dir en Grey is going to SXSW. Vis kei in Texas. Jesus. FREEEEEAKS!

Want to hear something disgusting? Get Ai Ootsuka's "Sakuranbo".

My kids bounce to this like they were made outta rubba. Good for hauling selves to train stations in the middle of holyshitfuck blizzards and fantasies of carnage. Thanks, Japan. You shouldn't have.

Song to Prod: Autumn Song/Ellegarden, Under Control/Ellegarden, Sakuranbo/Ai Ootsua

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waiting for some action

dear friends,

1. in an awesome bit of "wait for it...wait for it", contributor jeremiah has revived lists list, which is his excellent year end re-cap culled from the public i.e. YOU. this is GREAT, because I feel like taking a looooooong break from bombarding people with emails about deadlines. so please ignore my last post. here is his bulletin:

What are your favorite albums of 2005?

I would like for you to participate in a friendly survey.

And it doesn't matter how many you listened to, as long as you liked them. If you listened to a lot of albums that you liked, maybe you'll be able to list 20. Or maybe you only listened to one single album that came out in 2005 -- if you liked it, you should list it. The purpose of the survey is to see what the people I know like, not to force people to list twenty albums when they may have only really liked a few.

I did this last year and it ended up being fun -- and a good way to find out what else we might enjoy. You can check out the results of last year's survey here:


The scoring will be a little different this time around, so please don't go by the rules listed on the site.

There will also be surveys for Movies and TV Programs, but you don't have to participate in all of them.

Below the survey form is a list of albums that came out in 2005. This is not a complete list, so feel free to vote for albums not on the list as long as they were released in the US in 2005. Last year, quite a few people made revisions to their lists as they remembered albums, so this is just a way to remind you of some major releases in hopes of cutting down on revisions and making the tallying go more smoothly. However, if you do want to revise your list, just let me know, and I'll do my best.

Some additional notes:
1. Please do not list EPs. This is for full-length albums only. If you're unsure whether an album you'd like to include is an EP or not, feel free to ask, or just include it and I'll let you know.
2. Imports are tricky. Go ahead and include them, or ask, and we'll figure it out on a case-by-case basis.
3. As of right now, NO RUSH. Take your time, listen to more albums, and I'll let you know when I'd like to start tallying. But if you already know what you'd like to include, feel free to send your list.

Take care,
~ Jeremiah

2. I've been going through a too much music overload. this usually leads me to run & hug my nearest worn old yeller type cd (only without rabies & eh, death) & cling to it as if the 21st century never hit. so you'll excuse me as I ignore the latest wave of blog (descriptive noun used often in early psychology) over (plural proclamation of profession), (slang term for male wake-up excitement) & (what I used to make mixes on). I'll get to these bands eventually, you know? I hate crowds. especially in elevators. with too much perfume. the kind that smells like those pine tree cardboard thingies dangling in cabs, but I digress...

3. speaking of la haine, people hate the strokes because they're, well, the strokes. & skinny guys in studied hipster casual who don't wash their hair & squire very attractive women* are hated. so room on fire didn't immolate my pants but that's ok, 'cause is this it? rocked the freakin' house when it came out. it was short, concise & catchy like the measles, & I loved-ded it. so let's advance a few years, another new record, & words from the wise(masses) say there's no depth. it don't matter to me though. I don't look to these boys for rocket science. I look to them for singalong hooks & tidy guitar solos. & guess what? new single juicebox is a go-go good time. with its surfin spy guitar hook & julian casablancas' clearly heard(!) bellowing about having cities to burn, when it comes on, I immediately start doing that 60's v-fingers to eyes dance. frenetically. without eyeliner! that's advanced shit. don't try this at home without proper training.

4. when I first came to this country at the tender age of 7, my "cover" to get past immigration was saying that me & my auntie were going to disneyworld. by way of nyc? no, really, this is a SHORT visit. anywho, years later, thanks to the kindness of my much loved gringo simian, it's time to fulfill my american destiny & hit the home of el raton mickey & friends. since I've never been, please feel free to recommend your favorite areas.

love, d

song to seek: juicebox/the strokes

* & yes, I count drew, because d secret here: I LOVE DREW B! I would invite her to my sleepover. we'd watch the a&e pride & prejudice & giggle over the inexplicable going for a dip in a ruffly white shirt moment all whilst wearing avocado face masks. seriously, I'd let her see me like that. that's how much I dig her.


the times we never even thought to speak

dear friends,

1. 2006 did not begin in tears thank god but rather with a kiss*, some dancing, & an early-ish walk home that was amusing & sweet. thanks to contributors phil & tina for throwing a new year's eve bash where pump up the volume was played & contributor stephanie could show us her serious power moves. & shoeless! man, I wish there was footage of that...

anywho, I've been waiting for contributor jeremiah to do his top ten list ballots but I'm not sure that's gonna happen...& since contributor christina v's asked me where on earth the soft communication best of '05 list was, I thought I'd fish for your thoughts & selections & put it up as one big best of post. as you know I'm not even particularly concerned whether it came out in '06 (I'm inaccurate & therefore, BAAAAAD) but whether or not you liked it in '05. dig? dig. that is why we are small, but potent, fry.

so please let me know any or all of the following, along with your relevant asides either by emailing soft communication at gmail OR by babbling in the comments:

best song(s)
best albums
best shows
best films
(I know we do music, but why the heck not? we have eyes too!)
best tv shows (ditto)
best ? (insert random category such as: liver, billboard, feline, kitchen aid, crutch, drug etc...)

2. amerie may or may not be a hot pants clad cutie. I have no idea because I have never seen the video to 1 thing & I'm glad. this song definitely belongs on my top ten of 2005. this is r&b as it should be; a vital declaration of intent that makes you want to move. whenever I hear this tune, I get this mini-movie in my head where I'm going down the stairs into the herald square subway station after fruitless weekend shopping & I'm hit with this blast of sound. standing there is a young woman wearing a pink scarf singing her melismatic heart out. no 808 for her though; her companion is a big bad drummer who is going buck nutty hitting things HARD. & a guy with a guitar & a tiny practice amp, playing a chord now & again. bliss on the beat. yeah, yeah, I know. some of you are r&b hataz. still. I think even you'd stop in confusion & then, delight. it's like a heatwave burning in your heart. throw in your dollar. give it a shot.

3. colin meloy from the decemberists sells an ep of covers entitled colin meloy sings morrissey on his tours. on it he does a tune that used to bring a tear to my teenage eye back in the day, a little ditty called I know very well how I got my name. unfortunately, unlike the original, there's no weaving cello in meloy's take on this tune of teenage lost love. but that's ok. the feeling of being all dressed up with nowhere to go, totally alone is still palpably there. a kicking the cans, watching the cars go by on a friendless friday night type of number. highly recommended to all of you with a penchant for sad bastardry. & yes, I know very well that that's not a word. but I got a feeling you know what I mean.

4. special soft communication shout out to contributor mike, who along with his partner callie, took turns passing an egg back & forth in a lonely valley in antarctica & were rewarded for their efforts with baby girl named abigail (7 lbs., 2 oz.) born 12/29/2005. congratulations!

love, d

songs to seek: 1 thing/amerie, I know very well how I got my name/colin meloy

* photo courtesy of contributor jenny who seems to be the only person capable of taking a photo of me & the monkey where I don't look like a swarthy, three-chinned landmark-climbing beastie with a lithe blond in hand. she's got magical photo powers!



The other day I picked up a copy of Esquire to read in the tub, because although I have no penis, I do appreciate decent writing, which is pretty rare in them-there mags designed for the ladies. A reader had written in to suggest this method for making scrambled eggs, which I have to say is pretty genius: you take a skillet, throw in a couple slices of bacon (I imagine you can use any specie of bacon you like), and when it's done you take it out and put the eggs in the pan, in the delicious bacony pan, and that way they don't stick and they also taste like bacon. And presto, a hearty egg breakfast is served!

As it happened, my favorite male escort had called that day to say that he had found a copy of Eggs' Bruiser in the used bin at the record store in Brooklyn, and did I want it? Yes, I did want it, as part of my record collection rebuilding project! I have Eggs' other full-length, Teenbeat Exploder 96 on CD, and since they only recorded two full-lengths that catches me up nicely.

For those of you who don't know, Eggs existed in the mid-nineties in the Arlington/DC area and they put out records on Mark Robinson's excellent Teenbeat label. Their first single included a song called "Ocelot." When Teenbeat released the cassette/CD version of Exploder, they included 45-second silences where the vinyl sides were, so you could pantomime getting up and flipping the record, even if you were listening on Walkman or Discman. More? Do you need more? They have a song that includes the lyric "I don't want to be / part of your Marshall Plan" ("Rebuilding Europe"). When it came time to release a greatest hits album, it was titled How Do You Like Your Lobster.

All this cleverness aside, if you listen you'll find an endearingly warped sound, the result of jazz influences mashing up with early-90s indie-rock influences; the fact that recordings were done quick and cheap just adds to their charm. French horns and trombones kick in, but no one's wearing a porkpie hat, and several members lacked significant training - which, as we all know, can either result in awesome experiments and happy accidents, or in total suck. In Eggs' case, it was the former.

Eggs are no more, but it's never too late to get to know them. Former frontman Andrew Beaujon's name may be familiar to those of you who read Spin and the Washington Post. I've seen the full-lengths on Ebay, and, of course, you should always check the used bin at your friendly local record store.

Go get: Eggs Bruiser, Teenbeat Exploder 96. Andrew's written up a history of the band here.

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