Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On "Au Hazard Balthazar"

(Revised 1 Mar 06.)

I've been on a Robert Bresson jag of late, ripping through Lancelot du Lac , L'Argent, and Diary of a Country Priest. Each film is remarkable, but Au Hazard Balthazar... I'm stunned.

To say that the film - directed by Bresson in 1966 - is evocative, suggestive of universal truths, and profoundly poetic almost understates its essential cinematic character.

I've watched it almost continuously since it arrived (via Netflix) last week. I won't be returning it any time soon.

Admirers of Bresson are probably already familiar with this site. I admit to having been a little slow on the RB oeuvre uptake, but thanks to N'flix...

For an obsessive's take on the production of the Criterion edition of Balthazar, visit Gary Tooze's always compelling DVD Beaver web. (Yes, He's Canadian.) I purchased my all-region DVD player from Gary's site... Beauty envelopes the world.


Roger Ebert's essay on Bresson's uncanny creation:

Robert Bresson is one of the saints of the cinema, and "Au Hasard Balthazar" is his most heartbreaking prayer. The film follows the life of a donkey from birth to death, while all the time living it the dignity of being itself--a dumb beast, noble in its acceptance of a life over which it has no control. Balthazar is not one of those cartoon animals that can talk and sing and is a human with four legs. Balthazar is a donkey, and it is as simple as that.

We first see Balthazar as a newborn, taking its first unsteady steps, and there is a scene that provides a clue to the rest of the film; three children sprinkle water on its head and baptize it. What Bresson may be suggesting is that although the church teaches that only humans can enter into heaven, surely there is a place at God's side for all of his creatures.

Balthazar's early life is lived on a farm in the rural French district where all the action takes place; the donkey will be owned many of the locals, and return to some of them more than once. A few of them are good, but all of them are flawed, although there is a local drunk who is not cruel or thoughtless to the animal, despite his other crimes.

Balthazar's first owner is Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), who gives him his name.

(Anne Wiazemsky as Marie.)

Her father is the local schoolmaster, and her playmate is Jacques (Walter Green), who agrees with her that they will marry someday. Jacques' mother dies, and his grief-stricken father leaves the district, entrusting his farm to Marie's father (Philippe Asselin), in whom he has perfect trust. Marie loves Balthazar, and delights in decorating his bridle with wild-flowers, but she does nothing to protect him when local boys torment the beast. The leader of this gang is Gerard (Francois Lafarge), and when Marie glances up to the church choir during Mass as Gerard sings, he brings an evil even to the holy words.

Marie's father is a victim of the sin of pride. Although he has managed the farm with perfect honesty, he refuses to produce records or receipts to prove himself, after rumors are spread by jealous neighbors that he is stealing from the owner. To the despair of Marie's mother (Nathalie Joyaut), he follows his stubborness straight into bankruptcy. Balthazar becomes the possession of the local baker, and is used by the baker's boy (none other than Gerard) to deliver bread.


Gerard mistreats and abuses Balthazar, who eventually simply refuses to move. Gerard responds by tying a newspaper to its tail and setting it on fire. Eventually under Gerald's mistreatment thedonkey collapses and there is talk of putting it down.

But the town drunk, Arnold (Jean-Claude Guilbert), saves him and brings him back to life, and then there is Balthazar's brief moment of glory when he is hired out as a circus animal--the Mathematical Donkey, who can solve multiplication tables. This life is soon brought to an end, as Balthazar becomes the property of a recluse, and then finally wanders back on its own to the stable where it began its life, and where it finds Marie's father and even Marie.

But this is not a sentimental ending. Marie is a weak girl, who rejects the sincere Jacques when he returns as a young man, to say he still loves her. She prefers Gerard, who mistreats her but seems glamorous with his leather jacket and motor bike. What we see through Balthazar's eyes is a village filled with small, flawed, weak people, in a world where sweetness is uncommon and cruelty comes easily.

(Marie, betrayed...)

That is what we see--but what does Balthazar see? The genius of Bresson's approach is that he never gives us a single moment that could be described as one of Balthazar's "reaction shots." Other movie animals may roll their eyes or stomp their hooves, but Balthazar simply walks or waits, regarding everything with the clarity of a donkey who knows it is a beast of burden, and that its life consists of either bearing or not bearing, of feeling pain or not feeling pain, or even feeling pleasure. All of these things are equally beyond its control.

There is however Balthazar's bray. It is not a beautiful sound, but it is the sound a donkey can make, and when Balthazar brays it might sound to some like a harsh complaint, but to me it sounds like a beast who has been given one noise to make in the world, and gains some satisfaction by making it. It is important to note that Balthazar never brays on cue to react to specific events; that would turn him into a cartoon animal.

Although the donkey has no way of revealing its thoughts, that doesn't prevent us from supplying them-quite the contrary; we regard that white-spotted furry face and those big eyes, and we feel sympathy with every experience the donkey undergoes. That is Bresson's civilizing and even spiritual purpose in most of his films; we must go to the characters, instead of passively letting them come to us. In the vast majority of movies, everything is done for the audience. We are cued to laugh or cry, be frightened or relieved; Hitchcock called the movies a machine for causing emotions in the audience.

Bresson (and Ozu) take a different approach. They regard, and ask us to regard along with them, and to arrive at conclusions about their characters that are our own. This is the cinema of empathy. It is worth noting that both Ozu and Bresson use severe stylistic limitations to avoid coaching our emotions. Ozu in his sound films almost never moves his camera; every shot is framed and held, and frequently it begins before the characters enter the scene and continues after they leave.

(The suggestion of empathy...)

Bresson's most intriguing limitation is to forbid his actors to act. He was known to shoot the same shot 10, 20, even 50 times, until all "acting" was drained from it, and the actors were simply performing the physical actions and speaking the words. There was no room in his cinema for De Niro or Penn. It might seem that the result would be a movie filled with zombies, but quite the contrary: By simplifying performance to the action and the word without permitting inflection or style, Bresson achieves a kind of purity that makes his movies remarkably emotional. The actors portray lives without informing us how to feel about them; forced to decide for ourselves how to feel, forced to empathize, we often have stronger feelings than if the actors were feeling them for us.

Given this philosophy, a donkey becomes the perfect Bresson character. Balthazar makes no attempt to communicate its emotions to us, and it comunicates its physical feelings only in universal terms: Covered ith snow, it is cold. Its tail set afire, it is frightened. Eating its dinner, it is content. Overworked, it is exhausted. Returning home, it is relieved to find a familiar place. Although some humans are kind to it and others are cruel, the motives of humans are beyond its understanding, and it accepts what they do because it must.

Now here is the essential part. Bresson suggests that we are all Balthazars. Despite our dreams, hopes and best plans, the world will eventually do with us whatever it does. Because we can think and reason, we believe we can figure a way out, find a solution, get the answer. But intelligence gives us the ability to comprehend our fate without the power to control it. Still, Bresson does not leave us empty-handed. He offers us the suggestion of empathy. If we will extend ourselves to sympathize with how others feel, we can find the consolation of sharing human experience, instead of the loneliness of enduring it alone.

The final scene of "Au Hasard Balthazar" makes that argument in a beautiful way. The donkey is old and near death, and wanders into a herd of sheep--as, indeed, it began its life in such a herd. The other animals come and go, sometimes nuzzling up against it, taking little notice, accepting this fellow animal, sharing the meadow and the sunshine. Balthazar lies down and eventually dies, as the sheep continue about their business. He has at last found a place where the other creatures think as he does.

(Balthazar, finally at rest...)


Until Later,


(Don't Go Back To) Collapsing Stars

UK pop scribe Rob Jovanovic recently contacted TLASILA HQ regarding a Michael Stipe tome he's researching. Can't imagine there would be much of a market for a bio of my erstwhile Athenian acquaintance after Up, Reveal, and Around the Sun, but there's no accounting for torpor.

Mr. Jovanovic launched the standard, expected fusillade of Stipe-centric Boat Of inquiries; in return I managed to maintain consciousness while crafting my responses.

Of course, when one considers that Nest (adj.) and Boat Of were likely witnessed by 500 souls, tops (23 concerts in three cities over a three-and-a-half year period), a stock larder of queries focused on a well-known, albeit short-term member of the collective should be expected.

I can only guess how Jovanovic will redact, reduce, subsume, or altogether expunge these recollections from his text, but I've no doubt a septic splinter of me will lodge itself into Shiny Happy's G.I. tract.

(Mr. Jovanovic's questions appear in bold. Sections in italics indicate omissions rectified. Lest you think me unnecessarily glib or flippant, let me now publicly acknowledge my gratitude to Rob for contacting me and posing these questions. Thanks very much.)


Initial impressions in response to your queries:

1) can you remember where / when / how you met carol levy?

My first recollection of Carol is one of her ducking into a shop on College Avenue, laughing with friends, early autumn '79. I took note of her - she had style, albeit of a rumpled sort, and she seemed far more intelligent than her companions. I followed her intently, but quickly lost sight of her within the shop. A good first impression...

(Carol Levy, 1979.)

We met formally in queue in front of the UGA cinema, early in 1980. Mike Green and I were waiting to purchase tickets, and as soon as Carol approached we asked her to join us in what was then Pre-Cave. She said "yes," and that was it. I've no recollection of the film we were waiting to view, or if Carol joined us in the theatre. Making her acquaintance effaced memory of the evening's subsequent events.

2) can you remember where / when / how you met michael stipe?

I first noticed Michael (we referred to him as "Mike" back in the day) standing on the sidewalk outside of the Cobb Institute (270 Cobb Street). He just sort of wandered up - he had a bit of green dye in his hair. Vic (Varney) seemed to know him, and as they engaged in conversation I listened for clues. Michael's responses were agreeably oblique.

(Stipe, doing the Gorton's of Gloucester red carpet thing, 2005.)

3) what were your previous bands, if any?

I was preternaturally disposed toward disruption. My first instrument was my parents' Sylvania hi-fi console, and throughout grade school I abused it with regularity. I loved putting the turntable in neutral and spinning albums off their axes. An uncle later gave me a shortwave receiver - such an extraordinary gift. It opened up a glorious universe of pure, oft-fractured sound.

I also sang in the local Baptist church choir (from the age eight until 12), played percussion in my high school's marching band, and joined my first group - an otherwise all-black ensemble called Mpinga - at 15. I played a few gigs with them (at Adel, Georgia's Ebony Club) as a percussionist, and through their delightful aegis drank my first beers and kissed my first women of color.

At university, I enrolled in an electronic music course, influenced primarily by Brian Eno and the album Outside the Dream Syndicate by Tony Conrad & Faust. After hearing Lee Perry's Superape album, I experienced a profound epiphany. Dub signified, epitomized, and encapsulated all sonic and aesthetic possibilities...

I signed on at the student radio station, and in between shifts (I hosted the jazz show, eschewing then-au courant fusion rubbish for Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, and as much Karlheinz Stockhausen as I could sneak into the mix) I would lock myself into the production studio on weekends and forge ersatz dub mixes from extant albums - Richard Hell and the Voidoids' Blank Generation, Television's Adventure, the Ramones' Leave Home, Giorgio Moroder's From Here to Eternity, many others - that I found to be under-produced. A year later (1979) I migrated to Athens.

4) i have notes that you played with stipe and levy under three different names: pre-cave, nest (adj), boat of

Pre-Cave was the second of four distinct developmental phases.

The first was Prepared Party - the John Cage reference (folded into the Athenian constant) was intentional. Each was commandeered by Mike Green and I. Prepared Party was the most overtly experimental of the quartet, and we entertained no aspirations of performance. From late '79 into early 1980 we made a few hours of recordings. Shortwave transmissions, taped sounds of tennis shoes tumbling inside a clothes dryer, manipulated turntable, Mike's stabbing bass guitar overlays, furtive vocalizations.

Pre-Cave was where Carol and Michael entered the scene, although Mike and I recorded at least a dozen hours of Pre-Cave recordings prior to their arrival. We rehearsed throughout the summer of 1980, recording hours of tape in the musty confines of the Cobb Institute basement. Its earthen walls made for an ideally soundproofed environment, and thus emboldened, we plied our trade with enthusiasm. As Mike Green was teaching English in Paris during that summer, the line-up was Carol, Michael and I. Carol and Michael played organ and sang backing vocals, and I played Mike Green's bass, sometimes played drums, sang the lead parts, and created the taped backdrops. We had a 40-Watt Club gig scheduled for July, but for reasons I've long forgotten we postponed our debut until the fall.

Mike returned to the States shortly thereafter, and we transmuted again into Nest (adj.). Mr. Green selected the moniker, and he and I fell out laughing for several days in brute response to its absurd fecundity.

(Mike Green, co-founder and chief theorist of all things Nest/Pre/Boat-esque.)

Nest (adj.) made its debut at the 40-Watt Club in October, 1980. The line-up was Carol, Michael, my then-girlfriend Mary Rockwell (on turntables, played offstage), and I. Mike Green was unable to make the gig, but as we were at heart a collective ensemble, there were seldom hard feelings. Nest (adj.) had a second performance at the Cobb Institute Valentine's Day party (Mike Green, Carol Levy, myself, and guests Craig Woodall and David Gamble comprised the group), but thereafter we decided against further name changes.

"Boat of Three" was the title of an unused Nest (adj.) piece; I altered it and we had our CB handle. Boat Of's debut gig was in May, 1981 at the 40-Watt. The line-up was Mike Green (bass, vocals), Carol Levy (guitar, vocals), and I (vocals, percussion, Vic Varney's purloined Hawaiian guitar, and tapes). Michael performed with us (Mike, Carol and I) for a second and final time in June at Tyrone's O.C. Boat Of continued until March 1983, when Carol was killed in a dreadful automobile accident.

In her honor, I then changed the name of the group to Peach of Immortality.

Peach transmogrified into To Live and Shave in L.A. in 1991. The fifteenth TLASILA album (Noon and Eternity) will be issued by New York's Menlo Park Recordings in May, 2006.

Considering the 1979-1983 timeline, Boat Of primarily comprised Mike Green, Carol Levy, David Gamble, and me.

(Boat Of, summer 1982: David Gamble, Carol Levy, Sandie Phipps, some other dude. Mike Green was probably in Paris. He was always the sensible one...)

Secondary members were Sandra-Lee Phipps, Jim Walker III, Dominique Amet, Davey Stevenson, and Mr. Stipe.

(Dominique and Davey, as well as Craig Woodall, referenced earlier, were members of Limbo District, the only other Athens group we held in serious regard.)

Michael was involved from 1980 to 1981. Carol, from 1980 to 1983.

5) did you name all of these? why the change in name?

See above.

6) what were your musical influences?

Initial influences: environmental sound, manipulation of home entertainment equipment, shortwave radio, Velvet Underground, King Crimson (through 1973), Krautrock, pre-punk (Stooges, MC5, Electric Eels), glam (Roxy Music, David Bowie, T. Rex, Jobriath, etc.), punk (Sex Pistols, Slits, The Saints, The Damned, Patti Smith, Ramones - though only their first two albums), post-punk/no-wave exemplars (Public Image, The Pop Group, Joy Division, The Fall, Mars, Teenage Jesus), the avant-garde (Stockhausen, Xenakis, etc.), funk, then-nascent hip-hop, and George Jones (but nothing after 1965).

7) how would you describe the three bands listed above?

1) Prepared Party (1979-80) was overtly experimental, private, very much a delineation of strategy and intent.

2) Pre-Cave (1980) was a transitional vehicle. Theory transformed slowly into performance praxis.

3) Nest (adj.) (1980-81) explored the earliest of our ideas. We had good songs, but we were also interested in disrupting tropes, expectations, etc.

4) Boat Of (1981-83) primarily localized within the realm of performance, a corrective affront not only to Athens but to contemporary scenes in general.

8) how did you fit in to the athens scene musically (if at all)?

We wanted everyone (save Limbo District) to die. We found all the other groups insipid beyond reckoning...

Twenty-six years on, people claim to have attended our gigs, cite performance specifics I can't even begin to remember, etc. I find this oddly comforting.

All but two of our concerts were recorded. A two-disc retrospective compilation will be released on Smack Shire in late 2006. It will include material recoded by each of the four entities.


hope thats ok for now

many thanks, rob

Hope this sheds light on your inquiry.



Monday, February 27, 2006

Village Voice: "E-thics"

(Revised slightly on 28 Feb 06.)

Mike Green (Her Hair Jelly, Prepared Party, Pre-Cave, Nest (adj.), Boat Of, Peach of Immortality, Wÿfe, Miss High Heel, &c.) only twenty minutes ago forwarded the link to Nick Sylvester's "E-thics" piece in the most recent Village Voice. Very interesting...

In researching his article, Mr. Sylvester contacted Marc Weitz at Menlo Park Recordings. He received my email address from Mr. Weitz.

(Note: To Live and Shave in L.A. have enjoyed an eleven-year relationship with Menlo Park. The label will soon release Noon and Eternity, TLASILA's forthcoming album. Constant readers are only too familiar with (im)pertinent background details...

I thought it might be illustrative to trace this still-esteemed alt-tabloid's (arguably) perfervid machinations... From initial contact to the Voice art department's last-minute panic (no photo was run, although I can't blame them for choosing the Cage pic) to flubbed publication, "E-thics" was a queer (f*cking) bird.

Here is the full text of email #1, a response by Menlo Marc to Nick Sylvester's opening query. Out of regard for Marc's privacy, I have deleted his comments (save for his thoughtful introduction). Nick's inquiry may be found beneath.

The email was sent 2/15/06; Nick's original dated from 2/14:

nick, let me introduce tom.. tom, this is nick.... tom's probably the best person to ask about this...

On Feb 14, 2006, at 1:27 PM, Sylvester, Nick wrote:

hi menlo park,

we're looking to run a piece on the new TLASILA, specifically how it fit into that hilarious mothers against noise website bit. hoping you might have a hi-res photo and maybe a few minutes in the next day or so to talk? lemme know what you think--hope to hear from you soon.



Nick Sylvester
Senior Associate Editor
The Village Voice


Here is the full text of email #2, wherein I responded to Mr. Sylvester's inquiry. It was also sent 2/15/06:

Hello Nick,

(Hi Marc!)

If you should need to contact me about the new album, email is best. As we have no relation to the site you mentioned (apart from our apparently being listed on one or more of its pages), you'd likely do best to contact its creator(s). I won't be able to help you.





Email #3: to insure that I would not be misunderstood, I sent a second missive to Mr. Sylvester. Full text, dated 2/15/06, follows:

Hi Nick,

To clarify, if you're indeed "looking to run a piece on the new TLASILA, specifically how it fit(s) into that hilarious mothers against noise website bit," then I've nothing to give you. Neither the group nor the new album "fit" into that or any other website "bit," any more than Nam June Paik could have given you an objective comment about sales flyers emanating from Rudy's TV and Carpet Outlet in Albuquerque. It's almost heartening that someone's fumbling about with context, but ultimately, it's of little interest to us.

Limited scope, inaccurate characterization.

Hope this finds you well.




Email #4, written 2/15/06. It's Nick's response to my second letter. (I've again deleted Mr. Sylvester's VV phone extension.) He evidences a flair for the risible...

lets leave rudys tv and carpet outlet out of this ok

thanks for the clarification. here's mine: several people have confirmed menlo park and/or TLASILA were involved in the mothersagainstnoise site. beyond just wanting to get my facts straight, i want to write how brilliant i found the whole ordeal, talk to you about some of the ideas i had and hear your own. to me this is parody, meta-guerilla, democratic in design (the website had something of a take back the internet feel to it, when everyone had a personal homepage and those little icons like under construction or netscape 2.0, etc.), representative of how i've always understood TLASILA, and indicative of much more in terms of music industry type stuff, artist/audience relationships, etc. i don't think you're giving yourself enough credit. when you have a moment, let me know if you'd like to talk (212 475 3333 x12xxx), and whether you can send a press photo of the band over here.

all best,



Here's email #5, again from 2/15/06. My exasperation was palpable:


Honestly, I have nothing to do with the site. I've only seen it once; Aida Ruilova sent a link, I looked around, and that was it. Rat Bastard claims to know who created it (some noise dude in WI or MN), but I've no idea. That was November. Chris Grier forwarded a later VV blog link in which someone maintained we'd been signed to Universal Vivendi (now THAT was funny), but since then, I've been otherwise occupied.

Re Menlo Mark's alleged involvement: again, no clue.

Hate to blow your lead, but those are the facts.

I don't mind chatting about other stuff, but I really can't help you re MAN. I'm not being disingenuous, Nick - it's another person's effort. (Besides, my musings on genre are well documented; my interest in noise is zilch. You should already know this about me. Why further flail a dead mule?)

If you wish to contact Rat, go to squelchers.com and click on the email link. He seems to have a bead on the author of the MAN site...




I wish I weren't so scrupulous, for I next erred. I rang up Nick at his Voice cubicle. As he seemed not to be able to understand that I had nothing to do with the site in question (nothing, twits), I felt an obligation to convey the information in a more immediate fashion. We spoke - amiably enough - for approximately fifteen minutes. The bulk of our conversation centered on TLASILA, Noon, aesthetics, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, genre, the various noise scenes, university, the supposed culprits behind MAD, etc.

Nick dashed off handwritten notes during our chat. (I heard what I took to be the sounds of pages being flung from their moorings. I'm uncertain if he recorded our talk, however.)

His Voice piece includes quotes rather rudely excerpted from our conversation, posited within slabs of not terribly subtle, innuendo-laden text:

"They also pointed out that, on the actual M.A.N. site, the only noise offender to have out-links was To Live and Shave in L.A. Universal Music, they concluded, had invented the M.A.N. website to create buzz for the band's upcoming spring release."

"Except that, according to Tom Smith, leader of To Live and Shave in L.A. and a 30-year veteran who famously played with Pussy Galore, Universal is not putting out the next TLASILA album; small indie Menlo Park is."

(Note: this information appeared on the Voice's blog pages well in advance of Nick's article. The steely-eyed among you will recall I refreshed NS's memory re the Universal claim just a few lines above...)

"It's really not me, I gotta tell you," says Smith over the phone. "But we deserve to be on a fucking major label. Fuck yeah. Give me the cash. If anybody needs to be on a major it's us."

(Note: these quotes - not entirely exact in themselves - did not abut consecutively. Sylvester employed a generous dollop of narrative compression. No big deal - it's standard for the industry - but it should be pointed out to you nonetheless.)

"So who's responsible? And for what? Smith denied a role in the spoof (though he does share a last name with M.A.N.'s founder), so did Menlo Park. Perhaps the mothersagainstnoise.org founders themselves just created this pass-the-buck drama to drum up interest in their own product: a free noise compilation, currently entering its second volume. Either way, when the agency disappears into the background, the product still remains, and that's the goal—even if Smith, currently an ethics grad student, insists, "I'm not at a point where I want to lie about this shit.""


Anyhow, we'll save the best, most incriminating bits for last. Nick sent a later email (dated 2/23/06) in which he asked for clarification regarding the school I attend:

thanks again for your help with the piece; just had one fact-checkingquestion--you said you're studying ethics, but at where? just wanted tosqueeze that in. hope all's well, nick

Please note my reply (also from 2/23):

Hello Nick,

I'm well, thanks. Hope you're doing well too.

Re education: I've taken a circuitous route. I dropped out of Valdosta State University (in Georgia) in 1976 when punk came a-calling; moved to NYC, then Athens, then DC, then Miami, plying various (anti)-musical trades. While living in South Florida (where we assembled TLASILA ca. '91), I was invited to teach a course on B- and Z-cinema at Miami-Dade Community College. The bug took hold. I lectured on film (sans degree) until '94, and really enjoyed the experience. (That's how I became friends with Doris Wishman.) Anyhow, TLASILA began to take off around then, so I put everything on hold. Finally, after the OHNE tour in 2002, I returned to my alma mater. (It would have been stupid to start again as a frosh after having earned enough credits back in the 1670s to be a junior at VSU.) Got my degree (Mass Media) in 2003; began the Ethics degree in January 2004. I'll wrap that up in May. I'm post-grad, and I've done the student teaching thing for a while. Want to go to grad school in NYC...

That's the long version. Valdosta State University. It ain't Oxford (or even Oxford, MS), but they've got an excellent philosophy faculty.




I explicitly informed NS that I was post-grad, but not yet in graduate school. (I've taken the GRE, and I did quite well, at least for one with such a poor grasp of algebraic concepts, but I still haven't decided on my final ports of call. I've multiple disicplinary interests, and many options available.)

He ends his piece by fudging the facts on my university status (no big deal for some of you, perhaps, but why not get things right?), and implies prior to his wholly unnecessary lie (mis-statement, benign omission, unintended fib, whatever) that my (moral) agency is perhaps questionable. Ladies and gents, we call this a logical fallacy. An author establishes false premises, holds someone with no relation to the premise accountable to said premise, and then assails them for violating the precepts of the premise.

This omission - in and of itself not a David Irving-level falsehood - was crucial for the advancement of Syl's syllogism, his poisoned well, his inherently flawed argument.

Nick, you're a sniveling little cunt.

You have as much right to blather about ethics as I do to rave with "authority" about, hmm, The Killers.

(I could have gone with Arctic Monkeys, but I actually quite like them, Oasis/Franz Ferdinand/Strokes dullards that they perhaps privately are...)

Granted, your piece didn't inflict harm on anyone (least of all TLASILA - we received free press, etc.), and your assertions, while arguably snarky and insipid, were scarcely libelous.

I'm pissed because you appealed to our better nature, then fucked us for an idiotic punchline. You can't get much lower.

Why should I care?

I have an obligation to take you to task for not truthfully following through on the specifics of our discourse. I had nothing to do with the MAN site. I didn't find it relevatory, transgressive, or in any way eye-opening. Rather, I saw through it, and immediately discarded it.

Instead, you inferred an antipodal stance. Is "slack-ass" a required human resources determinate at Village Voice?

My comments on being signed to a major label were predicated with the absurd proviso that we receive "a billion dollar, non-refundable advance," and that we tour with U2. You rather conveniently failed to print this, seeing to blunt what I thought to be a throwaway remark and shift its significance into an altogether desperate realm. Yes, I do feel that our work is of sufficient originality, quality and nascent appeal such that any company insane enough to ink us to a deal would ultimately benefit from the relationship. My exact words were: "more so than those other idiots," meaning I feel that TLASILA would be a far more interesting mass media proposition than Fall Out Boy, James Blunt, or Joss Stone. Alas, I live in a dream. My band is but a blip, and no matter how good our next fifty albums might be, we will likely remain a sub-cult at best.

You, on the other hand, seem to have been huffing Pam from a brown paper bag when you slipped and fell on your keypad. Ethics demands more of us than an AskJeeves search.


Tom Smith

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Last Call for Syrupy Sweetness...

Jesus, enough with the downloading! We thank you for sucking down the warmth, but as a result of your avarice our bandwidth has taken quite a beating.

(Always with the sucking and beating, eh, pervs?)

Sooooooo, we'll give everyone until Monday to grab the three sets of files recently posted, and then we'll get to the... main course.

Memories of mp3s past will be transferred to our gangly, self-conscious sister bl*g. (We're not exactly enamored of her moniker... Expect identity to be effaced again, and soon.)

(Oh, wait! That's it! Done...)

With Love (Exceeding All Levels of Comfort and Decorum),


Monday, February 20, 2006

TLASILA Rarities, Part 2

To Live and Shave in L.A. -
Live Studio Session, WFMU, Jersey City, NJ, September 19, 2004.


This was the final date of our God and Country Rally! trek, and although a certain vocalist's pipes were fairly corroded, we made it through the session intact.

(Pristine windows recall the mimetic purity of TLASILA's glorious texts.)

These tracks weren't ripped from the broadcast feed of the 21st, nor were they snagged from WFMU's archival stream.

No, what we're vomiting up for you here are the original studio takes, remastered to an obsidian sheen. (More or less.)

(The interview segments aired were recorded hours after the session, so you won't find any of that stuff here. Those of you desirous of our golden gab must make do with the b'cast version.)

(Rat's patented come-thither leer never fails...)

Gruppe: Rat Bastard, Ben Wolcott, Mark Morgan, Don Fleming, Andrew W.K., Chris Grier (in his 2004 capacity as majordomo), and T. Smith.

(Fucked-out, disoriented, the band pass a motion to NONETHELESS TAKE IT TO THE STREETS! Or, fly home and weep.)

(CG in repose... You'll be privvy to his departure for the Crack City Express should you elect to download.)

Session engineered by Gil Shuster. Your WFMU host for the September 21st broadcast? Mr. Brian Turner.

Performances are shambolic throughout, but we didn't expect to turn prog between Providence and Greenwich. Our ebullience was stoked by fata morganas of impending rest and 6th Street curry... We managed to record the live set, thereafter deigning to let it lie. That seemed more than sufficient. Internal verdict? We dug the wreckage.


(Note: the download period for these files expired February 26, 2006. We thank you for your participation.)

01 Row Houses

02 Dignity Overnight

03 studio palaver

04 Black Girl

05 more studio blather

06 Pictures at an Exhibition

07 Eco Village Woman


Share and share alike. TT: 45:23. Ripped at 320 kbps, total file size approx. 103 MB. You can take it from here...



Sunday, February 19, 2006

TLASILA Rarities, Part 1

It's Fan Appreciation Month at TLASILA HQ, and for the approx. 2.864 of you, treats are a-poppin'!

We begin with a mega-obscure transmission from Eastern Europe...


"To Live and Shave in L.A.," from episode 30 of Radio Belarus' Free Agency of Electron program, created and hosted by Dmitri Kolesnik. It aired April 18, 2002 in advance of OHNE's brief but memorable tour of Belarus.

(Your host, Dimitri Kolesnik, is pictured above introducing OHNE at Minsk's Buddah Bar in May, 2002. Reto Mader and Dave Philips can be seen in the background, left to right.)


The program is in Belarusian (very similar to Russian), and is here divided into three segments. The total running time is just under an hour. Files were ripped at 320 kbps; total file size is 136 MB.


To Live and Shave in L.A. documentary, Free Agency of Electron, Radio Belarus, April 18, 2002.

(Note: the download period for these files expired February 26, 2006. We thank you for your participation.)

01 Part 1 (17:06)

02 Part 2 (19:41)

03 Part 3 (22:43)


Feel free to share. These files might possibly appear on a later TLASILA compilation, so apologies in advance, etc.

More to Come,


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Salut à Delon

After all those dreary (messy, reality-based) Abu Gh-rape snapz, I reckoned you HQ watchers might be desirous of a gallery grounded in 70s-80s flic/policier narrative conventions...

How 'bout some Alain Delon trailer framegrabs? D'accord?

(From Jacques Deray's rousing 1975 Flic Story. I recommend it avec le grand enthousiasme. )

(Delon directed himself - and co-star Anne Parillaud, caressed above - in 1981's Pour la Peau d'un Flic -- For a Cop's Hide, For a Pig's Ass, etc.)

(From the Sicilian Clan trailer, 1975. "Two hours of dazzling suspense." Mais oui!)

(From the American trailer for Henri Verneuil's 1969 Le Clan des Siciliens.)

(Pour la Peau d'un Flic, 1981. Delon's yeux convey everything. He should work with Nick Roeg!)

(Delon directed 1982's tripped-out, mega-violent heist/revenge caper Le Battant; it was known in Francophobic redoubts as The Cache.)

(A cool dissolve from Le Battant.)

(Director José Pinheiro slathered 1985's Parole de Flic with then de rigeur Death Wish-like violence, but Delon knew he was veering into self-parodic straits. His 20-year flic cycle ended soon after.)

(Delon's policier streak concluded with José Pinheiro's 1988 Ne Reveillez Pas Un Flic Qui Dort. Here, a police vigilante fires an incendiary charge at an, er, individual of interest...)

(An nicely mimetic composition from Flic Story. Fans of nuance won't be disappointed. Lots of blood and profanity to boot!)

(Obviously, from Ne Reveillez Pas Un Flic Qui Dort - aka Let Sleeping Cops Lie. Always a good idea. I suspect Delon learned épuisement - weariness - from the master, Jean Gabin.)

(Awesome title graphic from Georges Lautner's 1977 Mort d'un Pourri - the US grindhouse title was Death of a Rat. One of its many supporting players was Klaus Kinski...)

(A fantastic sequence from Parole De Flic. While Delon straddles a ledge, a stunt dummy takes a serious header... One of the best splats in cinema history.)

(A pair from Pour la Peau d'un Flic. In the first, Delon's "Choucas" character, a much put-upon private dick, recieves a hammer to the knee from a bandaged felon.)

In the second, a title card proclaims that Delon is "super cool." Mostly, yes. Only in the late 80s did he veer into overt Americanisms...)

(From Ne Reveillez Pas Un Flic Qui Dort. The target ignites... I love pre-CGI opticals.)


Okay, TLASILA rarities are up next. Until then,


Thursday, February 16, 2006

No Xmas for Jill Carroll? (The Salon Abu Ghraib Portfolio)

Salon has just posted an additional eighteen of the thousand-plus newly acquired Abu Ghraib photos. You may view them below. The accompanying explanatory text may be found at salon.com.

Proud to be an American!




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