30 March 2009

In Vinyl

Reunited and it feels so good.

Some parts of moving are fun. We consolidated bits and pieces of our life from a few places around the globe including our house in Elko. After a seven year absence I'm happy to report that our house is once again filled with the warm sounds of the 33 1/3 rpm Long Play record album (and several 45s). So, while running around the house packing, unpacking, moving, and adjusting, all in our efforts to settle into Switzerland, I've been sometimes randomly and sometimes very strategically pulling out some albums to throw onto the turntable. Here are a few that have made me smile:


Les Baxter: Skins! (1957)

This is the first album I threw on to "test the system" after I set up the stereo. Not the most amazing album but the cover art is worth the price of admission. Plus, as the back liner notes say: Here's the album that young America has been asking for... Skins! a bongo party with Les Baxter.

Pell Mell: Flow (1991)

I thought I had this on white vinyl but I must'a been thinking about something else. I'll search for that, too. Great instrumental music and classic SST. Memories of my Music Directatorship at K-UTE.

The Church: Remote Luxury (1984)

I know the Go-Betweens are recognized as Australia's finest pop band (even when they moved to London) but, come on, this is great stuff. Forget the goofy goth dude on the cover, the shimmering and luminous songs will bring the Spring birds chirping to your window.

Traffic: The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971)

This was a Saturday night, post meal, post bottle of wine listen. Admittedly, I only listened to the title track but the twelve-minute song is better than many albums. It reeks of the '70s but the jazzy, jammy, rocky thing works like a charm. Bonus: the cover is the shape of the 3D cube, meaning the two white corners shown on the picture aren't really there. It's like art, man.

U2: The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

This was before I settled into twelve minutes of Traffic, which is just before I staggered off to bed. I don't care what anyone says, this, for me, is the best U2 album. Yea, sure, it's a bit pretentious but ever since War what U2 album isn't pretentious. I don't own The Joshua Tree and I don't think I've even listened to a full U2 album recorded after The Joshua Tree. Why would I? I own their best album already. On vinyl.

DJ Shadow: Endtroducing... (1996)

Though I also own this on CD, I bought the album first and it's probably best listened to on LP. It's a double LP with only two or three songs on each side. Thus, you participate in the music more--becoming your own personal DJ--because you have to flip the album over several times. Um. Exactly.

Bonus: I also own the "Stem" single, a 45 that features a different version (the Cops 'N' Robbers version) than the album, with cool Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino samples from the film Heat.

Calexico: Descamino (2000)

Vinyl-only single of remixes from the Black Light album. Very mellow and ambient, I think this was the Friday night, post meal, post bottle of wine selection.

The Band: The Band (1969)

I think this was the Saturday morning with coffee selection. In the sunroom. With Wendy. Iconoclastic Americana, from Canada!

The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy: Distressed Gentlefolk (1986)

Often hilarious, often heartbreaking and beautiful, the Jazz Butcher epitomizes the teenage years, of which they were a staple. Robyn Hitchcock is usually credited with the Eccentric or Quirky Brit title but when the Jazz Butcher were on they were madder than mad. Bonus: my version of the LP came with the Conspiracy EP 12", that is credited to The Jazz Butcher Vs. Max Eider and contains the swank "Peter Lorre".

Many more to follow. In fact, hundreds. Perhaps a thousand. Who needs to ski when you have beauty, scenery, romance, drama, and superstar action all in the confines of your very own basement? Who needs to ski when you have Herb?

Album images were swiped from The All Music Guide.

14 March 2009

At Forty (Again)

Dunno what happened. The post was here and now it's gone. The first one disappeared and it's totally annoying. Maybe the long arm of the law didn't like my music choices. I'll put the photos back up and if I ever find the time I'll try to replicate the narrative. At any rate, it was still a good weekend.

In Innsbruck, at forty.

Day 1:

Day 2:

Wolfi Stefan:

(Blurry photo courtesy of Silas. Thanks, Silas.)

Thanks to Silas, Lea, and Wolfi for the weekend.
Thanks to Wendy for encouraging the weekend.
No thanks to Blogger for deleting the first post. Boo!
Thanks to anyone and everyone who reads this stuff.

09 March 2009

The Lonesome Crowded Old Europe

Back to the Jura and back in the clouds. Yes, Saturday was splendid; clear and cool, the perfect day to be out and about. Instead, I chose to head up on Sunday. My plan was to climb up la Barilette, a peak adjacent to la Dôle. I wasn't sure where to start or how to get there but the nice thing about skiing in Europe is that there is probably a close road and someone has probably been there already. So after looking for about 77 seconds I found the end of the road and noticed the skin track heading into the forest. Voilà!

Who says skiing in Europe is crowded?

From the top of the ocean - Yeah!

To the bottom of the sky — Goddamn!

Yes, the higher up the hill the lighter the light, from a dull gray to a dull blue. From a dull blue to a blinding white until, finally, I skied into the absence of color, white light so bright that it disappeared (from sight). That's when I turned around. I don't know how close I was to the top. Probably 'pert near. I ran into a weather station and weather stations are always 'pert near close to the top. When sound and vision collapse above and below you, well, there just isn't much left to do.

Alone in the Jura, except for a snowshoer in the snowshoe fall-line weaving his way down through the trees as I weaved my way up. And another, near the top, also a distance away, that vanished like an apparition into the absence of light. Then there were these who deserved to be there and who probably appreciated the lack of most others.

Who says there is no wildlife in crowded Europe?

Well, do you need a lot of what you've got to survive?

I would have said goodbye to me, too. And they did. Their high-pitched wheezing make it clear that they'd rather be alone with their own kind. So I was left to my own to make a few decent turns through the trees as well as even more not-so-decent turns through a snowpack trying to transition itself into Spring.

Fog or not, the day shined. In fact, I was so inspired that I drove back home to pick up the family, returned back to the Jura and the town of Saint-Cergue just in time for an early dinner of fondue and a bottle of Chasselas at Hôtel de la Poste. Perfect and dreamy.

Oh! If you could compact your conscience —

Oh! And you might...

(If you can't see a small, blue square and triangle that resembles a play button, go here and follow directions. Installing this will allow you to read and listen to music at the same time--like a real live multitasker!)

02 March 2009

On the Borderline

Through the kindness of a couple Telemarktips luminaries I had the opportunity to head to Chamonix for my first taste of European ski-touring in the French and Italian Alps. I haven't had much time to do research about this area and the overwhelming selection of peaks, couloirs, chutes, and routes. This one, however, seems a classic. The idea was to take the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car up to the summit of the Aiguille. From there any specific names of places garbled together and all sounded the same. I knew the plan was to skin across a giant glacier into Italy, ski some slopes down to a mid-mountain chalet and eat lunch, then head back up to France and ski the giant glacier back down to Chamonix. I didn't ask questions; I was a passenger so I followed.

The first thing I noticed about touring in this part of the world was Mont Blanc.

The second thing I noticed about touring in this part of the world were all the other people that basically had the same idea for the day. The third thing I noticed was all the cables and ropes--that were set up to insure that all the people and buildings that should have never been there in the first place didn't fall off the mountain--kept interfering with my picture taking experiences.

So this nice, safe cable car takes you to the precipitous summit of the Aiguille du Midi where space is a serious premium. The summit station includes not only a walking bridge and tunnels between the two parts of the station but also a café and a souvenir shop. Then, for further exploration, you and a thousand other people are released onto the main ridge off the Aiguille to slip and slide your way down to the first real flat area in about 3000 meters above Chamonix. It's a carnival of sorts and, like driving, I was more fearful of the other people slipping and sliding and bumping me off the side of the mountain than I was for my own abilities and self control.

Other than the possibility of falling through a snow bridge and into a crevasse, the second stage is considerably less exciting. You skin across the wide Vallée Blanche (or, Glacier du Géant?) and up toward the Hellbrunner, basically the Italian border. Benvenuti in Italia! The Aosta Valley and the town of Courmayeur some 3000 meters below:

Skinning across the Vallée Blanche, staring up at the peaks, I thought to myself, "Wow, this is a lot like the Andes." Then we reached the ridgeline that separates Italy from the rest of civilization. I looked down and the forth thing I noticed about touring in this part of the world was the giant staircase that helped you off the ridge and onto the more gentle 40-degree slopes. "Wow, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the Andes!"

No, this is entirely different.

Liters of Moretti, Ragù alla Bolognese, antipasti and cheese plates (before and after the meal respectively), and espresso replaced for lunch my more familiar bags of peanuts and raisins, water, and any leftover scraps from the meal the night before.

Alas, the day was waning so we had to forgo the grappa digestivo and think about getting back to France. The "climb" out was a series of two more cable cars with a quick stop at the 3800 meter top for another espresso. More views of Mont Blanc, er Monte Bianco, more cables and ropes, then back to France for another 2000 meters or so of skiing.

The end of the day was a bit of a circus. If you miss the last train (we did) that comes all the way to the foot of the glacier and takes you back to town, you and the thousand other people who also missed the train have to take the long way on skis. This means skiing down the valley as it becomes increasingly more narrow, bumpy, and icy. Then you carry or fasten your skis to your pack and hike it out of the gully toward a piste-side ridgeline. There is no other choice and this mule train includes alpinists, backcountry skiers, tourists, locals, snowboarders, children, seniors, men with one piece purple suits, and women with white rear-entry Nordicas and fur hats. Have you ever tried to kick-step your way up an icy 30-degree slope with rear-entry white Nordicas? Me either. Luckily at the top of the ridgeline a bar was conveniently placed where you could restore yourself with espresso or a vin chaud before heading back down.

Then it was another 400 meter bobsled run down to the valley floor complete with more ice, rocks, and the same mule train we tried to pass on the way up. We resisted the urge for a vin chaud and so were able to beat many of the mules down.

An interesting and fabulously entertaining day. It's hard, though, for me to call this a ski tour, at least in the same sense that heretofore I knew ski tours in Chile, Kazakhstan, and parts of the Great Basin. In fact, this was the 180-degree exact opposite of what I knew. Instead of spending six hours climbing up a mountain to earn yourself an hour of descending, this was about an hour of climbing (cable cars and skinning included) and somewhere in the neighborhood of six hours of descents. And it wasn't cheap. And the snow? Horrible. Wet and heavy on the Italian side, hardpacked sastrugi on the French side. But, oh, that Italian coffee. I imagine I'll be back for more very soon.

Edited on 04 March: And now, you too can follow and even participate in the silly controversy generated from the silly report on Telemarktips! Enjoy.

(*Thanks, Lea, for some of the first new music I've heard in a couple months.)

(If you can't see a small, blue square and triangle that resembles a play button, go here and follow directions. Installing this will allow you to read and listen to music at the same time--like a real live multitasker!)