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The Bookshelf

Doug's bookshelf: read

AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Time Since Reboot

  • 1011 days, 19 hours, 28 minutes, 15 seconds ago

Spice Bazaar

ISO 320, 1/60 sec @ f/4.5, 48mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED  
Mısır Çarşısı – Istanbul, Turkey
October 4, 2013  12:31 PM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

Creepy Little Bastards

ISO 100, 1/125 sec @ f/5.6, 58mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED  
Mercan Mahallesi – Istanbul, Turkey
October 4, 2013  12:14 PM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

Arasta Bazaar

Arasta Bazaar

_DRS0084

ISO 100, 1/100 sec @ f/5.0, 28mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED  
Sultanahmet District – Istanbul, Turkey
October 4, 2013  10:41 AM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

I have also tinkered a little more with my initial Sultan Ahmet Mosque photograph.  It had a little too much of a green cast to it on the first pass.  Here it is again.  Hopefully this will look a little more natural.  Still trying out the new editing software.

Blue Mosque

ISO 100, 1/320 sec @ f/9.0, 28mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED  
Sultan Ahmet Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey
October 4, 2013  10:23 AM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

All Secrets Sleep in Winter Clothes

I almost didn’t make it to the show of the season.  If not for Leslie noticing a friend’s facebook status and asking “hey – is the Neutral Milk Hotel show tonight?” I would have completely forgotten about it.  It has been a busy few weeks.  To miss this show, however, would have been a disaster.  Thankfully, we had enough time to finish our meal, run home and let the dogs out, and make it to Iron City as the doors were opening.  Grabbed a spot at the side of the stage where I had a level, clear view of the performance, leaned against the barrier, watched the people crowd into the sold-out theatre, and took in the opening act – fellow Elephant 6 artists, Elf Power.  Neutral Milk Hotel probably went on about 9:30 or so and played for a good 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

It’s difficult to convey how meaningful this show was to those of us who are familiar with and treasure Jeff Mangum’s music.  My wife stood by and observed, and could tell that people were very into what they were hearing, but she had no frame of reference.  To try and write about it in a way that would make the significance understood to someone who hadn’t spent the last fifteen years listening to NMH is a futile exercise.  The band name is ridiculous, and their definitive work is an Anne Frank themed concept album full of brassy, carnival-esque instrumentation and surreal, nonsensical lyrics.  How do you explain that to someone and have them not look at you like you’ve lost your mind and/or all musical taste?

There is not a way to do that, because the appeal is not a universal appeal.  It is personal.  All I can attempt to do (and I will only do it here, and very briefly, because it is pointless) is explain what it meant and means to me.  That at the tail end of the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s my musical tastes were expanding into new territories.  It was a time of long nighttime drives, alone, with music blaring on the radio for hours.  It was a time of private uncertainty.  Tragedies, some enormous and some extremely trivial.  Abrupt changes of life’s direction.  Intense longing; sometimes intense loneliness.  For some reason, that was the time that was the most influential on who I am now.  For better or worse.  And the only reason I mention any of this now is that during that time there was a soundtrack, and part of that soundtrack was Neutral Milk Hotel.

Jeff Mangum wrote and released two albums worth of material – On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.  Then Jeff disappeared.  (Slate had a great article in 2008 about the reasons behind Jeff’s breakdown and withdrawal from performing and recording… well worth a read.)  For nearly fifteen years, fans of his music were left to ponder the fact that they likely had as good a chance to hear John Lennon performing “Imagine” live at Radio City Music Hall as they did to hear Neutral Milk Hotel play again – let alone release any new material.  And so in their, and in my, radios, cd and mp3 players, Aeroplane spun over and over again.

There are very few albums that I’m willing to call “perfect” – records that you can just drop the needle anywhere and be blown away by the music, the lyrics, the originality, etc, etc.  In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of those albums.  Somehow the dark, deeply plaintive, unsettling vocals and the rollicking, almost recklessly amateurish rush of melody and noise, works – it all just works, and it is infectiously sing-along-able.  And it is all there is.  AeroplaneOn Avery Island, a couple of EPs and some b-quality live recordings are all we had for years upon years.  And what was meaningful and deep and/or fun became nostalgia – a reminder of a time gone by and ourselves as we were once.

And so, anyway, if you don’t have that perspective there’s no record or show review in the world that can impart those feelings to you.  But that made last night’s show meaningful too.  The damn thing sold out back in May in less than an hour.  A whole theatre space filled with people – my aging Gen X demographic, for the most part – who felt the same way about the band and about Jeff’s music as I did.  Who were here to experience something that we thought we’d never get to see in person:  Jeff Mangum, who for some reason decided he was ready to play some shows again, on stage playing songs we all knew by heart.  I quipped last night that it was like a religious experience.  That’s hyperbolic, but take a packed house dancing, cheering, and singing every word of every song at the top of their lungs along with the band they’ve been spinning for a decade and a half to themselves, and how would you describe it?  For a couple of hours, we were getting to experience a dialogue rather than a one-sided, closed conversation.  It was fantastic.

Jeff’s voice is as strong as it ever was (and it was the only way to tell it was really him – because he’s sporting shaggy hair and a beard that falls about mid-chest; he looks the part of someone who’s been in hiding for years), and the band was energetic and spot-on.  They played Aeroplane almost in its entirety (even the instrumentals, which were perfect… I think the only song they didn’t play was “Communist’s Daughter”).  The rest of the set was from Avery Island and a couple of b-side and EP tracks.  They closed the encore with “Engine.”  My longtime favorite song, “Holland, 1945,” was the second song of the night, but I think my favorite performance of the evening was “Oh, Comely.”  Jeff played and sang it mostly solo, and when he hit the chorus he had a couple thousand backing vocalists keeping perfect time with him.  There was something about that that was just amazing.  The crowd was stellar.  No catcalls or drunkenly yelled requests.  The only yelling from the audience were smatterings of “thank you” and “we missed you.”

Indeed.  Now is it too much to hope for Jeff getting the itch to write a new record?  Nah.  For now, this is enough.  I’m glad my wife checked her phone last night.  I would have been crushed had I missed out on this one.

The First Five

Galata Gastropub

ISO 1600, 1/50 sec @ f/1.4, 85mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF  
Serdar-ı Ekrem Cd – Istanbul, Turkey
October 3, 2013  7:54 PM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

Serdar-ı Ekrem Cd

ISO 1600, 1/30 sec @ f/1.4, 85mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF  
Serdar-ı Ekrem Cd – Istanbul, Turkey
October 3, 2013  8:50 PM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

çay

ISO 100, 1/60 sec @ f/5.3, 75mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED  
Hotel Georges Galata – Istanbul, Turkey
October 4, 2013  8:38 AM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

Bosphorus Through Glass

ISO 100, 1/250 sec @ f/8.0, 105mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED  
Hotel Georges Galata – Istanbul, Turkey
October 4, 2013  8:48 AM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

Blue Mosque

ISO 100, 1/320 sec @ f/9.0, 28mm 
Nikon D800  |  Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED  
Sultan Ahmet Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey
October 4, 2013  10:23 AM 
© DRS 2013, (cc) by-nc-nd

Cappa-D'oh!-cia

leslie-falls

My graceful wife.  I love her so much.

Expect non-comedy pictures to start coming through tomorrow.  It has been a week of getting re-acclimated, sorting through photographs, and bending the new software to my will (with mixed results).  Be safe out there!