My Favorite Albums of 2018

This is a simple overview of my favorite albums of 2018. Naturally I am only able to comment on those albums that I had the time to listen to and to find my way into. Many lists have albums from Mitski and others on there that I just didn’t totally get into. The list that follows is a mixture of albums that a lot of critics adored and others that just stood out to me. You probably won’t like all of these, but I’m pretty sure you can find something here that turns you on.

#13: Deafheaven, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. On ANTI-.

Deafheaven’s first record since 2015 sees the band moving into more melodic territory, sort of. Deafheaven is basically black metal mixed with a little Slowdive and a little Sigur Ros. The songs are often long–the opener “You Without End” runs 7 and a half minutes and the showstopper “Glint” runs over 10. The album is said to be based on Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair and you can certainly hear ordinary corrupt human love in the lyrics, or you can just sit back and bask in the sound. Basically, cool people like Deafheaven. Do you want to be cool? I thought so.

I’m by no means a black metal completist so the comparisons won’t be perfect but…

RIYL: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jesu, Pelican, Sigur Ros
Start With: You Without End, Glint, Honeycomb

#12: Metric, The Art of Doubt. On MMI/ Crystal Math Music.

I just love Metric and Emily Haines, so this is an easy one. Fantasies is a top 30 record of the millennium. The Art of Doubt doesn’t quite rise to that level, but it’s a kick-ass rocker through and through and “The Risk,” holy lord:

Was the risk I sent to you received?
All the words we say to be believed?
I’m already over the thrill of pursuit
Where can I take this risk I took with you?
Send this kiss to someone new?

Metric is historical high-level. I’m a Gemini sun with Mars in Leo in my 10th house. I am, basically speaking, not afraid of people. What you got? Yeah, color me impressed. However…there are three women I would be a bit daunted to meet. In order:

#1: Brit Marling, actress and creator of The OA.

#2: Emily Haines, lead singer of Metric.

#3: Kristin Stewart, actress in Personal Shopper.

RIYL: Chvrches, Broken Social Scene, Emily Haines, Lower Dens
Start With: The Risk, Dark Saturday

#11: Bad Moves, Tell No One. On Don Giovanni Records.

I wrote about Bad Moves extensively here: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/12/16/crushes-and-crushing-with-bad-moves-and-swearin/. Bad ass power pop with attitude, class, and sweetness. That’s quite a combination. And Emily Park is stunning. That’s my opinion, and I am correct.

RIYL: Dirty on Purpose, Daddy Issues, Swearin’
Start With: Crushed Out, Missing You

#10: Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer. On Bad Boy Records and Atlantic Records.

I really liked her last record, and her new one is a huge step forward. Janelle is a star, no question about it. This is a rollicking record with breadth and depth and takes multiple listens to plumb. Janelle is living in public with no apologies. The record is long and dense and encompass a range of moods. The best places to jump in are the fist-pumping tracks like “Django Jane,” which sees Monae spitting fire:

Yeah, yeah this is my palace, champagne in my chalice
I got is all covered like a wedding band
Wonderland, so my alias is Alice
We gon’ start a motherfuckin’ pussy riot
Or we gon’ have to put them on a pussy diet
Look at that, I guarantee I got ’em quiet
Look at that, I guarantee they all inspired

I can’t wait to see her live as soon as possible.

RIYL: Lykke Li, Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, Lady Gaga
Start With: Crazy Classic Life, Django Jane

#9: The Hold Steady, Confusion in the Marketplace/ The Stove and the Toaster b/w Star 18/ Eureka b/w Esther.

This one is a bit of a cheat as it is not actually an album. These are the three two-song releases from The Hold Steady in 2018. If you aren’t a hardcore fan you these might have slipped beneath your radar. That’s a shame because there are some classic Hold Steady songs and some killer Craig Finn lines in these songs.

“The Stove and the Toaster” details yet another bad deal gone down, a classic Finn theme.

Got some new information from the chef and the chauffeur
The put the stash in the stove they keep the cash in the toaster
Down in Las Cruces they don’t play with jokers
I hope I still know you when this is all over.

Needless to say, the narrator and crew get burned by the chef and the chauffeur in the end. Yeah, it’s sort of Finn-by-numbers, so, basically the kind of lines other songwriters would kill for.

My two favorites here are #2 “Esther,” and #1 “Star 18.” Esther is a great song about a week long romance. It remains totally remarkable how much detail and color Finn can get across in a 4 minute song.

The party ended suddenly, suddenly it’s over
That left me and Esther all along and getting older
All alone and getting older and smoking in the street
Now everything is Esther and it’s been that way all week

Esther follows the transcendent “Tangletown” from 2017’s We All Want the Same Things as a precisely executed x-ray of a complex adult relationship. I like it a lot.

Best of all is “Star 18,” a top 10 all time Hold Steady track. It’s an upbeat rocker that would fit on Stay Positive (still my favorite record by this great band.). A tongue-in-cheek commentary on the music scene and a come on song at the same time, Star 18 features lines that help make the case for Finn as the greatest living lyricist under 70.

Sorry I’m late, I got caught in the mosh
With this dude that said he used to play with Peter Tosh
But he never brought it up again once I said, man, I don’t believe you

And

Hold Steady at the Comfort Inn
Mick Jagger’s at the Mandarin
Once you get good, you can get it wherever you are.

The Hold Steady gets it wherever they are, believe me.

RIYL: Rock ‘n Roll
Start With: Star 18

#8: Snail Mail, Lush. On Matador Records.

This girl is like 19. Amazing. Snail Mail shreds. Lush is one of the most accomplished and poised debuts in a while. I would compare it to Courtney Barnett’s first record, which people love, but Snail Mail is younger and the guitar is better.

Passing phrases wear you thin/ same old world that you’ve been sleeping in
And I hope it never spends you up/ green eyes, what could ever be enough?

What indeed. Snail Mail may become massive. Scratch that, they already are.

RIYL: Daddy Issues, Courtney Barnett, Soccer Mommy, Chastity Belt
Start With: Heat Wave, Speaking Terms

#7: Big Red Machine, s/t. On Jagjaguwar.

A collaboration between Aaron Dessner of the The National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Big Red Machine is actually a collective–Dessner says that up to 30 musicians were involved in the making of this album. It sounds more like Bon Iver than the National, more or less, but is totally its own beast. Slow moving, sonically enveloping, even hypnotic, Vernon carries the album over a mixture of strings and synth beats. However, unlike 22 A Million where you feel the 80s throwback super directly, Big Red Machine sounds contemporary, or better yet, out of place and time. The lyrics are not what you would call linear precise–from the opener “Deep Green”:

Well, I met her at a hard grave
A heat-wave, handshake way
But the Carmex stayed
Come back, do not answer the door
And we met up like a ski team
Ten feet
With it came man’s clout

As with Deafheaven, you can try to follow along, or just surrender. I recommend the latter.

RIYL: Bon Iver, The National, The War on Drugs
Start With: Deep Green, Gratitude.

#6: Broncho, Bad Behavior. On Park the Van.

Broncho kicks ass. Period. I first got to know Broncho from 2014’s Just Hip Enough To Be a Woman. From “It’s On”:

If you show up in my room with no clothes on, it’s on
If you try to bust me out with your bail bonds on, it’s on
We could go to L.A., we could drink manhattans
We could go to Chez Jays, we could get old fashion
It’s on

This song is every bit as fun as it sounds. The band hails from Oklahoma and is fronted by Ryan Lindsey. Bad Behavior is a pretty capacious catalog of just that. Not a lot of great songs are about good behavior, after all. The songs are super infectious, upbeat indie-pop, and the record is the kind that after a full spin you want to pop it right back on. “Keep It In Line” for example is about an addictive a tune you would want.

You got caught and you gave it away
And then I cancelled on ya
It got hot, yeah, and you did okay
And then I cancelled on ya

On “Family Values” … starts with a super cheeky R&B style “oh, oh, oh, oh” before this lead:

I got a thing for your mother
I got a thing to teach your father
I got family values

The song is a minute 35 seconds. And it’s hysterical.

My favorite is “Big City Boys.” It’s one of those songs where you know what’s going on yet have no idea what’s going on.

I know they only take big trips, they only get the works
They throw a real tight fit all the way up in first
They only make big plans, you never get a cut
They do the runaround better than you do but

Uh huh. For sure. Oh, and the video is filled with Big City Girls. Go figure.

RIYL: Spoon, Parquet Courts, Death Cab for Cutie
Start With: Big City Boys, Keep It in Line

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The Thin Man, a Birthday Party, a Guardian Angel

Note: This is the final installment of the Thin Man in Singapore. You can read earlier installments here:

Chapter 1: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/10/16/the-thin-man-walks-into-a-bar-a-wee-legend/

Chapter 2: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/11/15/the-thin-man-on-assignment/

Chapter 3: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/12/05/the-thin-man-on-assignment-part-ii/

Chapter 4: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/12/30/the-thin-man-implements/

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You clean yourself to meet/ a man who isn’t me
You’re putting on a shirt/ a shirt I’ll never see
With letters in your coat/ and no one’s in your head
‘Cause you’re too smart to remember/ you’re too smart
Lucky you
The National

Dateline Singapore, Saturday 13:06 PM

The phone rings, jarring the Thin Man out of sleep. “Where the/ what the/ who the…” Images in shards–his grandmother’s house and he is six, sun streaming through a late afternoon window. He rolls over. No by god, a bed, an adult body within. He picks up the phone. “Uh huh?”

“It’s Alejandro. Your passport will be ready tomorrow morning and you’re on an Emirates flight to Rome via Dubai tomorrow at 9 PM. In the meantime Alice is having a birthday party and you’re invited.”

“Alice?”

“Miller’s secretary. You might have heard the rumors but she’s a cool cat and it’ll be fun. 17:00 at Chijmes. Be there.”

“Seriously? I don’t know Alice and, I’d rather just rest up you know.”

“Not an option. You’re not invited, more required. From Miller directly. Buck up man and see you at 5.”

Holy Jesus, another evening. The Thin Man rises, splashes cold water on his face and when this doesn’t do the trick, fills the sink with cold water and plunges his face into the water, eyes wide open. He exhales; water goes everywhere. He dabs at it with a hand towel. Breakfast is long over–lunch is a maybe. 20 minutes later he has showered and shaved and limps downstairs.

“Lunch is still open?”

The man’s smile masks a scowl. Rolling into a buffet that closes at 14:00 at 13:46 is no way to endear yourself to staff. He takes a seat by the window, wanders the buffet. Two bowls of mushroom soup, two watermelon juices, a roll with butter, salmon sashimi and an Americano. Vague feelings of humanity follow.

On his phone the Thin Man peruses “The Essentials of Casino Game Design” as he eats. This is more out of habit than interest–he has no desire to re-enter the gambling demi-monde. Reflex is a bitch. The waiter circles, pressing his point from 5 feet away. “I got you babe,” thinks the Thin Man. He makes marginal eye contact, figures he has another 20 minutes give or take. He resolves to relax into the spacetime as fully as possible before the waiter pulls rank. He has no desire to make trouble but at the same time, a customer is a customer and soup is soup. A game for two players. Eventually, he makes his move before the waiter is forced to make his.

“On my room please, 727,” he says, with studied nonchalance. Everything takes all afternoon.

Alice’s Party:

It takes 123 drinks/ and now she’s not so frightened
It takes 4 and 5 and 6/ and then she’s sick
But in the hour in between/ she feels holy and redeemed
Blessed and blissful/ painless and serene
Craig Finn

The Thin Man has a lot of flaws but he does clean up well. That’s a skill, a blessing, a bonus. Re-showered, shaved, and an app-assisted breathing exercise later, he shows at Chijmes on time and on point. Miller himself greets him with a slap on the back.

“Mr. Bishop, your work is appreciated. Much appreciated. I heard that you will be staying with the firm. Rome is beautiful this time of year. You are a lucky man.”

“It is my pleasure to be of service.” The Thin Man is not serious, yet not unserious. The work is the work and he has no other. “Anyway, happy birthday to Alice hey?”

“Hehe, haha. Alice, yes,” salivates Miller.

Another day, another passport thinks the Thin Man. Several people he doesn’t know are there. The crew moves to an outdoor restaurant; the usual wrangling over orders ensues and Long Island Ice Teas appear. There is no drink more perfectly positioned to cause trouble than a Long Island Ice Tea. The Thin Man downs two before the Nachos arrive. A waitress circles. “White or red,” she asks. “Both please” replies the Thin Man. It’s early and he has no intention of sticking with this group after dinner. Why not make the most of the moment.

The food is a B- at best. The drinks are loaded. The sun shines in the late evening. The usual Singapore rain squall has not appeared today. 6 PM, the magical hour, and the Thin Man begins to fade into the perfect liminality that only occurs between drinks three and four.

Titters from Alice. Winks from Alejandro. Miller sits straight up, what a spine. The Thin Man is bored. Time passes; the sun sets.

“One more?” asks Miller.

“How about the hotel bar?” says the Thin Man. The sooner near home the better. Miller covers the bill and tracks are made.

The Hotel Bar, Circa 20:10:

The Thin Man and crew enter the bar and the mood is boisterous. The Thin Man feels as thin as paper. He needs an ally. As his party makes its way to a table, he approaches the barmaid. Her tag identifies her as “May.” Always approach service workers with kindness and respect–they get so little of it it goes a long way.

“Good evening May. My friends and I are looking to enjoy the bar tonight. Only, I have been on the road for weeks and I’m a little tired.” He slips her a $50 bill. “I know bars don’t love to serve water, but if you could keep an eye on me and refill my water glass I’d be in your debt.”

May looks him up and down. “No problem,” she says. “Rely on me.” The Thin Man makes it to the booth where Company X holds court. Miller and Alice’s hands dance a protracted duet. Alejandro sits a foot away, just keeping an eye on things.

A round of drinks, another. May keeps her end of things and the Thin Man hydrates, for a while. A woman called Marta had introduced herself at dinner and slides into the booth next to the Thin Man.

“How do you know Alice?” she asks.

“I don’t.”

“Oh. I have a bet with Jeffrey over there. He thinks you are on his team.”

“On his team?”

“You know,” she drops into a stage whisper, “Jeffrey likes men.”

“I see. I don’t have a team,” replies the Thin Man. “I’m a free agent.”

“Not so fast,” interjects Alejandro, who seems to register everything that is said at the table. “You are on our team. You have a contract.”

“A contract? I haven’t seen anything like that. And besides I don’t see how that would be possible. Text is dead, or that’s what I’ve heard.”

“Don’t mind him,” says Alejandro, “he likes being heavily humorous.”

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The Third Man (A Thin Man Story)

Dateline Singapore. Friday, 16:25:

The Thin Man met the accountants for an early drink at the Alligator Pear as promised. They drank Mojitos, a ridiculous drink that is invariably watered down. The Thin Man had a vodka and soda, a safe choice ahead of what could be a long night.

The mood of the men swung between giddy and glum. One of them was on an app, choosing an escort for later on. The men advised him on his choice with the surgical precision of serious professionals. The Thin Man hoped that he could be as precise in his own operation tonight.

“Did you folks get wristbands yet?” a waiter in his early 20s asked. They hadn’t, so they did. Yes, the event security is poor, but to be fair they all looked the part of party goers. And so they were. All going to the party.

The party must have been paid for weeks ago because all the stops were turned out. A full bar, lobster tails, sushi, fondue, steak tartare, champagne. Sometimes the best way to look prosperous is to look prosperous. The guests were high in no time. The future was unwritten, terrifying. All they had was tonight.

Nursing only his second vodka and soda, the Thin Man scoped out the scene. Anderson was not present, nor was Rink. The highest ranking Green Grouper seemed to be a regional vice-president called Lewis. It was he that gave the toast, “to a glorious future, the Green Group!” Salut. Lewis was in his early 40s, too young and too on the spot. The Thin Man needed someone older, someone with less to lose.

The Cigar Smokers:

Outside on the pool deck a group of three men had lit up cigars. This was surely against regulations, however a payment must have passed under the table, either that or tonight was one of those nights were regulations just weren’t in effect. Regulations are like that, even in Singapore. They are human created and human maintained. Or, in this case, not.

Cigar smokers, mused the Thin Man. Cigar smokers tend toward the genial and the venial. Toward the cynical and the amoral. Toward the reckless and the egotistical. In that moment, he loved cigar smokers. Cigar smokers were excellent. The only problem was he might have to have one too.

He approaches the group a little gingerly. The move here is a little different than cozying up to the accountants. There he wanted to be taken in as a peer and forgotten about. Here, his role is of the acolyte, the younger man. Now which one is our mark? Individual one appears in his mid-sixties, and sports a brown jacket that is at least three years past its prime. His feet are shuffling an alcoholics’ shuffle. No thank you. Individual two is in his 50s dressed in a tux. Hair slicked back with pomade, a little glassy eyed. A greaser who got lucky. No.

The third man, however, is of a different type. Also in his 60s, he wears a pale red sweater over a tieless pink shirt. He is handsome for his age, white hair adding a touch of distinction. He is slightly overweight but in a way that suggests ease not sloth. The Thin Man cages a cigar from brown jacket, lights it, and stares into the middle distance. A few puffs later he casually turns to the man in the red sweater.

“Jack,” he says, “quite a view eh?”

“Marcus,” says the man, “view of the end of the world if you ask me.”

“The company? The rumors?”

“Rumors? Boy, ain’t no rumors about it. We’ve got a ringside seat on the Titanic.” His laugh was actually merry. The Thin Man was elated, an emotion he subsumed into wide-eyed curiosity. He willed himself to look 10 years younger, like we said, an acolyte.

“I heard Rink is making his move by Monday,” said the Thin Man. He had heard no such thing, it just made sense in context.

“Made his move already. Anderson is bleeding like a stuck pig. Rink will announce the coup on Monday at the latest. The wires may have it before then.”

The Thin Man was getting warm. He gently turned to face Marcus, cutting off communication lines with the other men. Drink in his right, he stretched his left arm out part way as if he was about to put his arm around the older man. But not quite. It’s all in the mechanics. Marcus took a few steps away from the edge of the pool and toward a padded bench for two.

“Can I get you another drink, sir?” asked the Thin Man.

“You sit with me boy,” said Marcus. “Drinks are his job.” He gestured to the young waiter. “Two Gibsons, and make ’em strong.” They sat, and the Thin Man channeled “boy.”

“So Rink will really pull it off eh? That should get us right back on track.” Fishing.

“Balls boy. Back on track! Anderson siphoned so much money out of the company that Rink will have to go hat in hand to Company X. Won’t have a choice.”

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Her Arm Ached

Editor’s Note: Today we are honored to have our first guest post on thekyotokibbitzer. “Her Arm Ached” is an exciting entry from a young writer who has chosen to go by “Mrs. T.” No relation, I assure you. The piece is a close reading of the push and pull that takes place in any intimate relationship, and it is honest, dead honest. I like it, and wouldn’t publish it otherwise.

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Her arm ached. She tried to switch positions but couldn’t find comfort. Then it occurred to her why. She opened her eyes. The windows were fogged over, hazy white light shown on the synthetic red sleeping bag surface, red snow, red clouds. It looked so comfortable on the surface. Alex wasn’t awake yet but she felt Gorgias shift. He lifted his chin and nodded at her.

Beyond his head, his eyes now closed, chin resting on his paws, she saw the sparkle of the lake’s surface. The sun made a glittered effect on the rippled edges. The windshield was clear, though the side windows stayed hemmed in. Trying not to disturb too much, she moved her arm under her head to prop herself up and blinked in the light. Beauty could be such a simple thing.

The rhythm of life breathing in and out of the two boys in the car was the only sound. The water looked so active, the water and the sun rays, and yet she couldn’t hear their movement. Her mouth was dry. Her tongue felt wanting, and the inside of her lips were rough against her teeth. What was the beauty for? She understood the breath inside the truck, but what of the beauty that filled her sight?

It had been dark last night when they stopped. The road had been bumpy and her tired body in its limp state felt each bump rather than absorbing them. Had Alex known how close they were to driving into the lake? What trickery had the cloudy night sky played on the view? It was foggy, she remembered that, and dark. The headlights had only illuminated the clouds in front of them. No street lights, no moon, no other cars. Rather than face the uncertainty as she would have in the past, she relaxed against it. He would have control. Her fear would have only been a hindrance.

The lake filled the entire lower edge of the windshield. About halfway up, the other shore swiped across like a fat paintbrush stroke, a dark dull contrast to the glimmering water. Above, along the top of the window, light blue, no evidence of fog, waited. The sky seemed to her utterly distant, further than usual, and though the entire picture was beautiful, she wondered at the sheer difference of the nature in front of her. The water was active, irregular and begging for attention. The shore was stagnant, uninteresting, but in charge.

She relaxed back down into the pillow, closed her eyes. The question ran through her head again, incessant questions.

Would she rather do something bad or suffer the consequences of it? It was so strange. She had only ever viewed her choices in light of avoiding suffering by choosing right. Why would someone have to suffer if they had not chosen wrong? Or was it that you suffered because you chose to do what is right? If so, it was awfully pessimistic and suggested that what we have decided is “right” is not what is right for the individual, only what is right for the group. No, not right. There must be two “rights.” What is right for the individual and what is right for the group. These needed their own terms or there would be no making sense of it. So what could she call right for herself? Desire? And what then would be right for the group? Justice? If so, then there are four readings of the question.

i) Would she rather do something she doesn’t desire or suffer the consequences of not following her desire?

ii) Would she rather do something she doesn’t desire or suffer the consequences of injustice?

iii) Would she rather do something unjust or suffer the consequences of the injustice?

iv) Would she do something unjust or suffer the consequences of not following her desire?

The above assumes that the individual and the group cannot want the same thing. Since the group is simply a lot of individuals, then the more important question, surely, is at what number of individuals does the idea of “right” change? And why? It seems that, at least temporarily, her idea of “right” could match his. And does she need his similarity to justify her idea of “right”? Could he believe that his individual desires are weakened if she shares them? She may corrupt the authenticity of his unique “right”—if she agrees with him, then it is not his individual belief system, unique and correct for the fact that no one but he decides it.

As he lays there, awake now, she believes for the inhale and exhale are not as pronounced, she desires his concurrence. His body beside her is evidence of their shared purpose. But he chooses to preserve the solitude not yet broken by acknowledging her existence. He chooses to exist for a few more moments alone. He will perpetually try to convey the beauty of independence while she will repeatedly try to persuade him of the necessity of shared experiences, even if they are not always sharing a life. She will try to persuade him of the beauty of love, he will point out how love imposes unnecessary boundaries on his personal potential and hers. She will be the land and he will be the sky, and Gorgias, now scooching up towards Alex’s face, also knowing that he is awake, will be the lake moving easily between them, needing them, and leaving them.

Pain is Deeper

Pain they say is deeper than the grave

I’ve heard that too, and if it’s pain you crave

Six feet under won’t do the trick

Sixty, six-hundred, six-thousand feet thick

Might be more your style

Don’t mind me; I’ll be here a while

Pain is a palliative for the soul

They told you different but the toll’s the toll

Pain is deeper than the grave

There’s only one soul you’re trying to save

Good luck I say, through the veils of tears

I know you’ve been at it for thousands of years

Quick Thoughts on Some Airports

I spend too much time in airplanes
Eating peanuts and getting high.
Dean Wareham

Generally speaking, airports are more pleasant than airplanes. I don’t mind airports. And despite my once upon a time claim that all airports are essentially the same space, well, that’s more of a metaphysical than a practical contention. Practically speaking the experience of airports does differ. What follows is a totally unsystematic, entirely anecdotal, non-ranking of some airports I’ve been to.

I am currently in LaGuardia (LGA) in New York. Pleasantly surprised. Clean, minimal but sufficient food options, phone chargers in the seats, proximal to Manhattan. The folks at the coffee stand messed up like 15 orders in a row, but that’s OK. I forgive them.

Verdict: LGA is fine.

Newark Airport (EWR), on the other hand, is terrible. If I had the choice of sleeping in an outhouse or spending a day at EWR, I’d take EWR. But not by much. It’s a pit.

Verdict: EWR is terrible.

Seattle Airport (SEA) is poorly run. There’s been news about it. Compared to Portland (PDX), and admittedly smaller airport that is solid, or even SFO, an operation of greater complexity, SEA struggles. Maybe they’ve turned things around, but I doubt it.

Verdict: SEA sucks. PDX is solid. SFO is decent but could be cleaner.

The best experience I’ve had at a U.S. airport is Tampa (TPA). Now this is not a major hub, however I found it super convenient. I stayed in a hotel right in the terminal, security was a breeze, everything was efficient and sound. When folks say that U.S. airports suck, relatively speaking they are correct. Omit TPA from the list though. I like it.

Verdict: TPA is excellent.

O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago exemplifies the fall of the U.S. Basically. It’s not BAD, it’s just faded. Faded glory. U.S. public infrastructure is weak and everyone knows this. ORD is a case in point, but it’s survivable.

Verdict: ORD is OK.

The Los Angeles Airport (LAX) was under construction for like two decades. It’s probably still under construction. LAX is far from everything. It is not a destination airport, although it is major.

Verdict: LAX is f***ing far.

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Airports Outside the U.S.

Let’s get out of Milwaukee and we’ll talk about it.
Michael Clayton

The Singapore Airport (SIN) is everything it is cracked up to be. Singaporeans have an inordinate about of pride in their airport, but it’s totally justified. I find SIN tranquil in the extreme. They’ve got butterflies. The’ve got Indian food. They’ve got a great attached hotel. They’ve got nap rooms, showers, a gym. Security is omnipresent and unfelt. Sure you can call Singapore a soft-authoritarian state if you like. I could care.

Verdict: SIN is the best.

The Bangkok Airport (DMK), on the other hand, is not pleasant. Sinage is bad. Information is thin. Food options are minimal. It’s simultaneously packed and cavernous. I have not enjoyed my time here.

Verdict: DMK is bad.

The Dubai Airport (DXB) is strange. It’s a serious hub and runs 24/7 (as does DMK). Unlike DMK however, DXB has ample food and drink options and is pretty comfortable. The customs staff moves at their own pace, to say the least. The dichotomy between an (apparently) efficient and gleaming modern airport and a snail’s pace customs experience is interesting. DXB is lit and feels kind of like a casino in the sense that 3:30 AM feels like mid-afternoon. I have found DXB to be disconcerting in this respect, but otherwise perfectly pleasant.

Verdict: DXB is big and better than most.

Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX) is decent before security and weak after. My friend loathes the neon lighting of the airport–this bothers me less. My issue is the food options after security leave a lot to be desired. Since this is my home airport, I am not in a position to give an objective reading. Security lines can get super long in peak hours, but usually it’s fine.

Verdict: KIX is so-so.

Osaka’s Itami Airport (ITM) has recently had a facelift. It’s marginally improved. Just because you have a Wolfgang Puck’s pizza place doesn’t mean you’ve got it made, baby. Wolfgang Puck is overrated. Also, you almost have to take a bus to get anywhere from ITM. Buses sucks.

Verdict: ITM is fair.

I’ve been to the airport in Kuala Lumpur (KUL) several times but I forget everything about it.

Verdict: KUL is unmemorable.

The Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) has super high ceilings. Obviously a lot of money has gone into it. There is a super long train ride from customs to the gates. And, you are most likely to get delayed or re-routed because of weather or something. The airport itself is fine.

Verdict: Prepare to be delayed from PVG.

The Adelaide Airport (ADL) is in Adelaide, Australia. I went there once. The restaurants in my hotel were closed because it was a Sunday. There was no where to eat and only stoner kids on the street. The next morning the streets were packed. Adelaide is strange. I have no idea what the airport was like.

Verdict: Pack a lunch.

That’s all the airports I have off the top of my head. Obviously there are more. If you agree or disagree or want to pitch an airport for my consideration, please leave a comment!

Andrea Turns Out the Lights, e.g. a Mix-Up

Dateline Seoul, Wednesday 10:17 AM:

As Andrea luxuriated on the 17th floor of the Lotte, the opening banalities of the industry conference wafted through the hotel. The organizers had gotten at cross-purposes with talent; one Lord Duncan, some kind of a minor royal somebody or something, had been promised a major speaking slot at the conference opening, which was rescinded on account of his financial ties to one of the sponsors. Someone saw a conflict of interest, and the Lord’s press agent is seriously pissed. He’s been relegated to a couple of introductions, reduced to a laugh line. No less than three conference people had tried to explain the situation to the agent, three poor souls, three different stories. The agent is chewing her nails, chewing her nicorette. The Lord is putting a brave face on things, puffing and posing, Lord this and Lord that. Blah blah blah. Andrea’s in bed.

Now there are a number of other people from her firm at the conference, and a name list, so she’s going to have to put in an appearance at some point. She decides to roll down about 40 minutes before lunch. This way she can drop into a session, stroll the floor for a bit, and beat the lunch line. Eat some SOUP.

Area man’s plan to stay home all weekend and play video games goes off without a hitch.

Like the area man, Andrea’s plan is foolproof in its simplicity. Before leaving her room she tucks the key in her valise, just in case.

=====

Lexical Interlude:
A valise is a small suitcase. If you’re carrying a valise as you climb onto a train, you’re probably heading off on a short vacation or a weekend trip to visit a friend. The noun valise sounds a little old-fashioned these days, but it’s still a good way to talk about a satchel or overnight bag.
In other words, a valise is a suitcase. Andrea carries a valise.

=====

She puts on a black dress, tasteful but not demure, and black heels. Dressed to kill and ready for soup, she takes the elevator.

Wednesday, 15:45:

The soup was pumpkin, of course. Pumpkin soup is the staple of international hotels everywhere. Most pumpkin soup is so-so; today’s was at least decent. Her hunger is sated, but that’s about the only thing about her that is. She’s bowed and scraped to a dozen industry veterans and talked trade with the guys from her firm. She’s been seen.

Today’s closing remarks are underway and the conference, 1100 strong, is packed into the main ballroom. Andrea circles to the back to the sound and light booth. This is the nerve center of the room and the man with his finger on the buttons is Mouse. Mouse is a known quantity–he is sound man to the world and works events just like this one 280 days a year around the world. He used to work full time for Bausch and Lomb before going freelance. A total pro, but he has a weakness. A weakness for Andrea.

She slides her arm under his; it’s a hello.

“How’s it going Mouse?”

“Same old same old. Drinks at 16:30. We’ll see how we are in a few hours.”

Were you dear reader in the medical tubing industry you’d want to tie one on as well. In tumult lies opportunity, thought Andrea.

Andrea hangs with Mouse for half an hour or so, asking various questions about the boards. She’s a quick study, obviously; she’s got the hang of things.

Bathroom break and the press agent. “They stitched us up, the bastards,” she rails to Andrea at the mirror. It could be anybody. Andrea makes sympathetic murmurs.

“How much were you paid?”

“17,000 pounds, bloody hell. And all he gets are two lousy introductions. It’s a total embarrassment.”

Good work if you can get it thinks Andrea. A couple more murmurs and she exits.

Wednesday, 17:10:

White wine, red wine, crab cakes, an item on a Saltine. Conference drink hours are designed for maximum intoxication with minimum calories. Andrea takes two whites back to Mouse.

“Baby I can’t drink on duty.”

“Sure you can–everything’s under control right?”

Mouse looks around, a tic. A tip for you Mouse my man, no one cares. I’m straight up telling you brother. People don’t give a shit.

He takes a couple sips and turns to Andrea. “Bingo is next–I gotta go up front and set the mic up.” Andrea smiles, “I got ya” she says, “I’ll watch the boards.” Famous last words. Mouse heads off and Andrea puts her game face on.

10 minutes later and we are bingoing. A bingo master has been trotted out, and it’s… Lord Duncan. He lets rip with a call of “let’s biiiiiiiingo” and the first number is called. There is nothing quite as captivating for a mixed audience as bingo. Bingo works baby.

The Moment of Truth:

Character Analysis: What do we think? I mean Andrea is a gainfully employed professional. She has a rep. And she’s not, normally, an anarchist. But there’s something in the air, some combination of boredom, stasis, jet leg, and 2018 that adds up. Press that button/ your ass gonna go.

The tension mounts; the room can FEEL that first bingo coming. Big time action. Mouse is still up front; Lord Duncan is ripping and running. Andrea takes a deep breath and hits the light switch. The room is plunged into darkness. The conference giggles. Titters before tatters. Phase two, Andrea activates the spotlight and turns it full force on Lord Duncan. He does a little pirouette, making the most of the moment. “Lights please” he calls. Not so fast. He steps back out the spotlight and Andrea follows him. “And the next number is…” he jokes, gamely. Spotlight off. Spotlight on. His head is on a swivel, beads of sweat turning to rivults. Andrea leans into the microphone and in her deepest and sultriest voice intones: “in the event of an emergency, the nearest exit may be behind you.” Then she throws the light back on and takes four lateral steps to her right. Grabs a white from the sideboard and surges into the conference space, sidling up right next to Duncan’s press agent.

“When it rains it pours eh?” she asks?

“Jesus Christ what next?” replies the agent.

The Aftermath:

Mouse is back at the booth, wondering what in the world happened. But on some level he knows. Andrea’s a handful. He’ll cover for her–has no choice. It’s Day 1 and all will be forgotten. Ces’t La Vie partner. Price of doing business.

The bingo has been short-circuited after the disruption. Lord Duncan is guzzling wine with the agent. Andrea approaches.

“Are you some kind of somebody?” she asks.

“I’m the jester at this here party,” says the Lord, “apparently.”

“Are you in the tubing industry,” she asks, innocently.

“Good god no, I give speeches for a living.”

“Speeches about what?”

“Well, about being me dear. I talk about being me.”

“He’s the best in the business, and they treat him like this,” says the agent. “It’s intolerable.”

“Ginny is a little bent out of shape,” says the Lord, “there was a mix-up.”

“A mix-up or a muddle-up?” asks Andrea.

“Bit of both,” says the Lord. “Bit of both.”

To be continued…

Works Cited/ Referenced:

The Onion

Sun Ra. “Nuclear War.”

Vocabulary.com. https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/valise.

Poem for a Friend

Ann belle princess of the isles

The orbs whisper your name

Even if you’ve gotten piles

Of if you’re on the game

Buxom barmaid or bellicose barfly

Begs the inevitable question

Booze improves the poet’s eye

But ruins her digestion

Her uncle made a fortune

Cold calling clogs

And swamped a shocked surburbia

With plasticine polywogs

Downstream from the trust fund

You wile away your day

On alert for the bloke in the cummerbund

Who’ll provide the perfect lay

We desire to be known, desire to be seen

It’s the deepest human condition

I don’t know where you are, much less where you’ve been

All that’s left, babe, is volition

Crushes and Crushing with Bad Moves and Swearin’

She said what do you do
I said get specific
In the long run I grow old
Elliot Murphy

What am I doing? Get specific. OK, basically I’m on east coast of the United States seeing bands. I am connecting with my roots and connecting with my heart. I love live music; I love live music fans; I love the whole scene. So that’s what’s going on.

This piece is about two young bands making waves this year. First is Bad Moves, who I saw open for The Hold Steady last weekend at the Brooklyn Bowl. Their record is Tell No One (2018, Don Giovanni). Second is Swearin’ who a music geek introduced to me as a top five record of the year. Their record is Fall Into the Sun. (Swearin’ is not actually a new band, just new to me. Their 2018 release is the first in five years.) For some reason listening to both bands brings to mind Dirty on Purpose. Their best record is Hallelujah Sirens (2006, North Street Records, for some reason not on Spotify). What happens to a band like Dirty on Purpose? Does anyone remember them? I do–they are way underrated. Huge props go out to Dirty on Purpose and here’s “No Radio” for you (super low-rent video btw!):

Let’s play a game that we live in a world where a great record by a band like Bad Moves or Swearin’ would produce radio hits. I want to live in that world. So the first single from Fall Into the Sun, and perhaps the standout track on either album we are looking at, is Swearin’s “Big Change”. Check this out:

The best years of our lives
Were spent in some stranger’s basement
Medley made of empty cans and ex’s
And that radical romantic conversation
And how we are like mutants
Who found each other by chance through rock n roll music
Clenched fist, eyes wild
Scream over the records, you artfully complied
While I put my bad faith into practice
Sit at home on Saturday night
Ease into my false sense of superiority
No art degree, no conservatory
Just Katie and me
And whatever we are drinking
To diminish our diplomacy
If you can’t appreciate the art
Appreciate the air conditioning

That’s high-level awesome. “No art degree, no conservatory/ Just Katie and me”–“who’s better than us” is the refrain of DiLillo’s Underworld. If they can do it, why not us? Fuck ’em, and if you don’t that it, appreciate the air conditioning. That’s what attitude looks like kids, take notes.

So “Big Change” is my single from Fall Into the Sun. Any record worth it’s salt will have at least two singles; three is a bonus. And, we’ll do a “sneaky favorite.” I’m all about sneaky favorites, on all levels.

For Swearin’s second single I’ll go with “Grow into a Ghost.” It opens with a chugging guitar riff with an almost Krautrock drum line. The song is a perfect 3:10–in and out. Do you know anything about lost love? Swearin’ does–here’s verse 2:

I write you ceaselessly and abstracted
I hang our with old friends
And they unknowingly remind me
Of who I was before we met
You were somewhere out in the desert
You frame the natural light perfectly
Will you come back soon and
Let me love you completely

and the chorus: “I watch you/ I watch you grow into a ghost.”

I’ll save the sneaky favorite for later.

Bad Moves I gotta say rocked my world. First, the star of the band (and I know they are a collective, I get it, but my world is my world baby) is Katie Park.

Before the show Katie was at the merch table selling…magic eye! Magic eye! That she made by hand. And what did it say? The magic eye said “Bad Moves.” Obviously. 20 minutes later she and the band were crushing it. It’s only a snippet, but check this out:

The single here is pretty easy. It’s “Crushed Out.” The band released “Spirit FM” as the single, which is also excellent. But for me, “Crushed Out” is the single. Maybe “Spirit FM” is more immediately catchy? Possible. So maybe it is the single. But “Crushed Out” has more lasting power in my opinion. I’ll bow to the band and take “Spirit FM” as single two. “Crushed Out” is about exactly what it sounds like. It has a basically perfect power pop structure with a killer hook, a classic bridge, and a theme at once super obvious and super deep–the power of a crush.

It was a strange infatuation
I couldn’t place it at the time
But now it seems as if my mind
Was all stopped up with you
I had no sense of aspiration
I didn’t know, I guess it’s fine
But now it seems so obvious
Did it seem so obvious?
Through all my fits of desperation
Sharing looks and passing notes
What did you make of what I wrote?
What could I ask of you?
The weeks of strained communication
Could you read between the lines
Or was it just so obvious?
It was a strange infatuation
I didn’t have the words to say yet, to be fair
Crushing out that way
It would be years before I’d face it
But it was just so obvious

Baby, if you are crush-prone that power never goes away. Bad Moves knows this–it’s kind of what the record is about. Crushing out that way can be pretty obvious–do you think I’m, crushing out on Katie at all? Nah, this is just a piece of music appreciation.

Read more

The Thin Man on Assignment, Part II

Read The Thin Man on Assignment, Part I here: https://thekyotokibbitzer.com/2018/11/15/the-thin-man-on-assignment

Dateline Singapore, 17:08.

Groups of male drinkers are highly permeable. Groups of female drinkers are also basically permeable, however, for various reasons that you will be aware of, somewhat less so than their more devolved counterparts. With these truisms in mind, the Thin Man prepared his cover.

He selects the largest of the group, ruddy complexion running to seed through a noxious combination of hotel living, corporate ineptitude, and nature, and opens with the most anodyne possible comment. “That’s a tough one,” he says extending his hand. “I’m Jack from marketing, over here from London. You wouldn’t believe what happened to me today.”

The men give him a quick once over. This is more than enough. “You wouldn’t believe what happened to US today” says the big man. “Jesus what a day.” He sits down and “Jack” is established. Just like that.

=====

Three hours later and the Thin Man has learned the following:

i) “Bill” is Bill Wetherington, Head of Accounting for the Green Group Asia. Aristocratic name, upper-middle class title, garden variety courage.

ii) The drinkers are also in accounting.

iii) Green Group is under internal pressure based on intensifying rumors of shady financial action at the very top. The current CEO, Anderson, is being challenged by a new board member, Rink. The rumors are rampant yet unproven, and the three men know relatively little about what is going on.

iv) Bill’s absence means that the men have no one to take their cue from re their stance on the firm’s political climate. Predictably they have been drinking for days. They are easy marks, too easy, but they don’t know enough. The Thin Man will have to attend the party tomorrow and scout an insider.

v) The men drank whisky alternated with beers and the occasional shot, tequila or vodka, which always came with roars of achievement and slaps on the back. The Thin Man gave himself to the role; he slapped back.

Eventually one of the men did circle back to Jack’s role in the firm. The Thin Man kept it vague, of course, claiming to be a kind of internal consultant and using a lot of words. A small amount of information communicated verbosely is a sure recipe for boredom and soon enough the men moved back to their own woes. It was a quarter after midnight when the Thin Man had heard enough and he bid them goodnight. By this time they were fast friends, and had agreed to meet for a pre-event drink the best day. The event space is pre-permeated; the reception folks don’t stand a chance.

Dateline The Thin Man’s Room. Friday, 0:32:

The elevator was a padded cell/ for the socially insane/ and the chronically unwell
Up three flights of stairs/ to the girl I knew/ she wore skin on skin/ with amphetamine/ on the hair of her lip
The key doesn’t fit the lock no more.
Happyness

Now we have a little confession to make. While the Thin Man may appear the picture of competence in the events depicted above, competence is a) relative; and b) often pretty narrow. He can ply information from drinkers in a company on the brink, sure, and this is a skill that pays. And while his severance pay was still running some women were around the general lifespace. Which was all good. However while the Thin Man may spend his days in a blur of undirected motion, he does have specific tastes in certain matters. The Thin Man, for instance, likes women to tell him what to do from a distance. More precisely he enjoys instruction from the non-copresent muse.

Underwater he and his crew didn’t have the ability to live partially on the internet as the modern human is wont to do, however since washing ashore in Singapore the Thin Man has established contact with some women he has never met. Of course there are plenty of guys who pay for the privilege of being under the thumb of a woman, there is apparently a whole industry around it. Good for them. This particular industry is on the overt side, and the Thin Man is not of it. He may, however, be quasi-adjacent. In any case after a shower the Thin Man texts Desiree. Right away.

What he wants here is, basically, for Desiree, who is 23 half French and half Romanian, to give him feedback in the form of some word, action, or idea to integrate into his espionage performance. A whisperer stage right, who can introduce the element, the thrilling frisson, of the random. A stylist, a sequencer, a psychically co-present muse. Desiree plays this role only moderately well; she is studying to be a dancer, goes to auditions, and generally alternates between attention and absence. Are you familiar, dear reader, with the interplay of attention and absence? I thought as much.

Anyway, tonight Desiree comes through. Fear, she says, fear is the operating mood of the Green Group employees. Young she may be, but she is smart our Desiree. Ingratiating oneself with the fearful is easy she says. And she is right, if the instability runs all the way to the top so will the fear. He just has to find the right mark and he’ll get what he needs to know. The idea of pocketing the $20,000 is appealing, 100%. He thanks her and tries to keep her on but she is done. Oh well, you get what you get. Some form of sleep and wake up as Jack. No problemo senor.


Note on Authorial Intent: Andrea, the Thin Man, the barely developed Mitchell Grey, the Azeri border guard, Desiree, the yet to be introduced Daniella, additional Azeris, these characters need to begin to cross paths, soon. This involves moving them between locations, which is a issue of logistics. And the logistics, they needn’t be watertight but they do kind of need to be semi-believable. So that’s to say, I’m working on it. I know you all like Andrea.

Works Cited/ Referenced

Happyness, “Lofts”

Featured Image:

Yves Tanguy, “Neither Legends nor Figures,” 1930.