Friday, May 15, 2009

It's Official: "Fair Game" is a Flop!

In what they call the film "specialty market" come two

new films this weekend in what they call "limited release":

the Valerie Plame story, starring Sean Penn ("Fair

Game"); and Danny Boyle's "127 Hours," in which

James Franco cuts his own arm off.

The numbers do not bode well at all for "Fair Game";

released initially in 46 theaters, it made a

pitiful $180,000 on its first day of release.

Compare that to Boyle's film, released in only

four -- count 'em, four!-- theaters. And it made

around $80,000, nearly half of what "Fair Game"

made with the advantage of being in almost

12 times the number of theaters.

Devastating to Penn & Co. But they should have seen the

failure coming. After all, nobody wants to see a flick

on the Iraq War. Period. Everyone agrees it was an

unnecessary conflict. Everyone agrees the U.S. went

in under false pretenses. Any dramatization of the Plame story

lends itself to very predictable outrage and very Manichean

moralizing. Juicing it up with fictional stuff just lowers

the value of the parts that are true. This is what

the folks at Summit should've been thinking before they

greenlighted the project.

* * * *

Speaking of failure, a publishing house (that will

remain nameless) just published a collection of the

newspaper writings of a former colleague (who shall

also remain nameless). When I heard the news, I thought:

there couldn't possibly be demand for this guy's

rather ordinary hack work. I looked it up

on Amazon and, sure enough, there's not. The book

has rocketed from number 167,125 to 167,127. Which

sounds about right. (And it even had the benefit

of a foreward by a bona fide genius, too!)

* * *

Barbara Boxer, 6 p.m., November 1st Here's Sen. Boxer, as she appeared a couple hours ago in
Oakland, Calif. [photo by Paul Iorio]

At the rally, Boxer looked and sounded confident of a

win tomorrow. Also at the gathering: Jerry Brown, Barbara

Lee and Kamala Harris (very charismatic in person). Missing

in action: Gavin Newsom.

Frankly, at this hour in the Bay Area, you wouldn't even know

there was an election tomorrow, what with all the mania about the

Giants winning the World Series. In fact, that's all anybody's

talking about right now. Local news broadcasts are devoting

the first fifteen minutes to the Giants. And people are out

in the streets with signs like "Fear the Beard."

Election? Voter anger? Republican wave? All swept away

by the Lincecum landslide.

But I digress. Paul

Exclusive new info about Nazi group to which a Tea Party candidate belonged
The Tea Hall Putsch

Rich Iott with fellow Tea Partyers? (Not pictured: former
marketing manager for the anti-Semitic film "The Passion of the
Christ," Christine O'Donnell.) [photo from The Atlantic]

U.S. House candidate Rich Iott, whose last name looks surprisingly

like a misspelling of the word idiot, has spent the last week claiming that the

Nazi military reenactment group to which he belonged for years was not

a pro-Nazi group at all. No, he says, it was just a historical society

with no Third Reich sympathies whatsoever.

That's a lie.

My own research shows that past editions of the group's website

express explicit support for the Nazis, portraying them (almost

unbelievably) as heroes of the eastern front and re-casting

the Nazi cause, nauseatingly, as a fight against communism,

which it surely was not.

I was able to unearth a long-vanished edition of the website of

the Wiking group, which stages the reenactments, and here's

how the group defined itself back on May 1, 2003, when Iott

was an active member:

"It is our aim to bring you a bit of actual history
behind the men who fought against the "Bolshevik
scourge"; volunteers who came from the various
Northern European countries allied with Hitler's
Germany who only had a desire to see an end to
Soviet Communism."

At another point on the site, it provides a link to

another re-enactment group and describes

them this way (I thought I was in the middle of a

Mel Brooks satire for a moment, but, alas, this is

for real):

"Czech "GroĆ¾deutschland" Reenactors: These guys get to play with all the cool stuff! Real, live Czechs in the Czech Republic actually reenacting, running T-34's and the whole 9 yards! "

Wow! Real live Czechs! See them run from the SS!

What's Iott gonna do for an encore? Rent an

airplane and crash into cardboard replicas

of the World Trade Center towers, re-enacting

the 9/11 attack by god-fearing militants against

infidels (as he might put it)?

Check it out for yourselves. Here's the May 1, 2003, edition of the Wiking site:


And here's the newly sanitized 2010 version of the site:


I wonder when a Tea Partyer is going to apologize and say

the following: "To the Russian people: we truly apologize for the

American scumbags who are distorting history and

denigrating the brave and noble sacrifices made by

Soviet soldiers to defeat the Nazis. To the Russian

vets of that era, we apologize. America couldn't

have won the war without you."

But I digress. Paul


On a much lighter note: a candidate for governor in Illinois,

Rich Whitney, has had his name misspelled on some ballots, and

he's pissed. You would be, too; he's been re-named "Rich Whitey."

Read all about it in the NYT at this link:


But I digress. Paul



* * * *

Just back from the Berkeley (Calif.) Art Museum (BAM)

and am really jazzed by the photos in the Marjolijn Dijkman

exhibition. Dozens of pics, each one fresher than he

next. Here're a couple:

* * * *

Now for a couple recent pics of my own. Here's a shot

of a bison that I ran into on my way to the Hardly

Strictly fest in Golden Gate Park last Friday.

And here's a shot of a highway leading into Berkeley:


Is the Rev. Fred Phelps Gay?
Phelps might well be gay. Psychologists often note that
those who protest too much about something are trying
to hide their true tendences. [photo by unknown

Last Saturday's Arcade Fire Show Win Butler of the Arcade Fire, at an
earlier concert. [photographer unknown]

"It may be chilly for you, but for us it's fuckin' summer,"

said Win Butler of the Arcade Fire from the stage last

Saturday night in Berkeley, Calif. "Pardon my French. I have

to learn how to watch my language onstage."

Butler was referring to the fact that he and his band are

based in cold Montreal (though, truth be told, he grew up

in Texas, which is way hotter than Berkeley!).

Whatever the weather, and it was a bit brisk that night,

the band sure warmed the place up, playing half of its new

album, the superb "The Suburbs"; half of its '04 debut, "Funeral";

as well as a few tracks from "Neon Bible."

Some of the new material held its own with the classics,

particularly set opener "Ready to Start," which had an

otherworldly magic, "We Used to Wait" and the title track.

But the band's trump cards are still the vintage stuff from

the debut -- the "Neighborhood" songs (especially

the first one), "Rebellion" and the Bowie-meets-Motown finale

"Wake Up" -- plus the second album's "Intervention," almost

all saved for the encores.

In concert, with thousands of fans singing along, those tunes

have a heroic, rousing quality, like the sound of victorious

warriors who have just won a major battle. By the end of

"Neighborhood #2," I almost thought I was in "Invictus," what

with all the mass singing (even in the hills above the Greek

Theater, where I heard the show).

And the unison vocalizing by the female singers is one of

the most attractive sounds in pop music today (even if it

does sound a bit like "brrr, this is Montreal!").

The Arcade Fire may well be the most evocative and stirring

band of the early 21st century, a group for whom symphonic

grandeur is not a pretension but a natural way of singing

and composing. They approach complex and intricate

musical ideas with the fluidity of the Ramones.

Truly great stuff, on and off stage.

But I digress. Paul


Hardly Strictly Fest Tops Itself -- Again!
Golden Gate Park Turns Into a Vast Dancefloor

Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, aka
The Dukes of September, performing last night.
[photo by Paul Iorio]

The Friday evening kick-off performances of the Hardly Strictly

Bluegrass music festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate

Park, always at twilight, are almost infallibly magical. But

even past concerts by Alison Krauss/Robert Plant and Jeff

Tweedy, great as they were, were either equaled or outshone

by last night's gig by supergroup the Dukes of September

(featuring Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs).

It was, in effect, a concert by Steely Dan, McDonald's

Doobie Brothers and Scaggs, with all three playing

their very best (and best-known) material, plus covers

that almost eclipsed the songs most came to hear.

I mean, to hear Fagen sing Thunderclap Newman's "Something

in the Air" is to experience the best version of that song you've

ever heard. The tune fits Fagen's vocal range and style

perfectly, as if it had been written for him. And when the band

hit that brilliant key change, the whole crowd was lifted to the

clouds (or would have been, had there been clouds in the sky

last night).

But the audience was there to dance, and thousands did

and had plenty to dance about: namely, "Reeling in

the Years" followed by "Peg"; a soulful "Takin' It

to the Streets" and "What a Fool Believe"; and

Scaggs biggest hit "Lowdown," not to mention a cover

of the O'Jay's "Love Train" that probably had even the

nearby bison bouncing around the paddock. I can't

remember the last time I saw a concert at which so many

people were smiling and dancing.

And we all have entrepreneur Warren Hellman to thank

for this three-day fest, which continues through Sunday.

Because of his generosity, admission is free.

Boz Scaggs wows the crowd with "Lowdown" last night [photo by Paul Iorio]

But I digress. Paul

Sailing to Byzantium

my trip to Islam

The border stamp that got me into Islam from behind the Iron Curtain (above).

Hey, I can boast what many Muslims can't:

I've actually glimpsed the Muslim Prophet

Muhammad first-hand. No joke.

Well, I've seen parts of him -- a lock of his

beard hair (he had dark hair), one of his teeth and his

footprint (he had an average-to-large shoe size), all on

display (along with his sword -- I guess he was a

violent guy, too) in one of the most sacred spots in all

of Islam: the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle in Istanbul.

(And no less than the Topkapi claims the artifacts

are authentic!)

It's amazing they allow non-Muslims like me in there.

I bet even supposed Muslims like bin Laden and al-Awlaki

haven't been there. (And if they haven't, they certainly

never will in the future. Those two have clearly haj-ed

their last haj!)

You see, Muhammad arguably belongs to me more than

he belongs to Muslims who have never bothered to take the

journey to Istanbul to see the parts of him on display there.

And I'm a non-theist who sees Muhammad strictly as a historical

figure, not as a religious one.

So for someone to say that I can't draw a picture of him

or to describe him as I see fit is highly offensive to me. It's

like someone saying I can't criticize Napoleon, Pericles

or Newt Gingrich.

Nobody owns the copyright of Muhammad or of his writings.

He belongs to me, a secularist, as much as he belongs

to the devout. Muslims don't own him.

And my opinion, frankly, is that Muhammad never said

or wrote anything as memorable or wise as Nieztsche,

Sartre, Plato or Bob Dylan did. I'm not joking. The Koran

is a crashing bore, mostly self-promotional stuff along the lines

of "you must worship me and only me yada yada yada."

And in his personal life, Muhammad appears to have been

a bit of a pervert, screwing around with prepubescent

girls and having way too many wives to be considered

anything but aberrant. If he were alive today, there'd

surely be a place for him -- on Megan's List!

That said, I really did give him and the Koran a

shot, traveling hundreds of miles by local train to

get to Islam when I was a teenager. And I must

admit that some of the art inspired by The Koran --

the Blue Mosque, which has forever changed my

view of blue, and some byzantine mosaics -- is

some of the most enduring of the Ottoman Era.

And the locals who I enjoyed most in Istanbul

were the Muslim hippies who hung around The

Pudding Shop and sold me banned music like

"Nem Kaldi" by the late rocker Cem Karaca, forced

into exile by the government because of his

"treasonous" music.

By the way, I entered Islam through a rare entrance:

from the Iron Curtain, at the only major eastern border

of the Soviet bloc nations that actually opened to a

NATO/Islamic country.

The border crossing is called Edirne, where Turkey,

Greece and Bulgaria meet in Thrace, and I arrived there,

all alone and barely nineteen, around midnight one night

in 1976. "Long wait at the Bulgaria/Turkey border," I

wrote in my journal that night. "Soldiers [with rifles] all around

checking bags, shining lights....It is pitch black and

probably midnight."

Very tense border crossing.

The stamp that got me into Islam from behind the Iron

Curtain is above (it says "Edirne").

But I digress. Paul


Here's the passport stamp.


Play It Again, Osama*


OSAMA BIN LADEN (to himself): What's the matter with me?
Why can't I be cool like the Prophet Muhammad? What's the secret?

An imaginary Prophet Muhammad, wearing a fedora and looking
and sounding like Humphrey Bogart, appears from the shadows.

PROPHET MUHAMMAD: There's no secret, kid.
Infidels are simple. I never met one that didn't understand
a slap in the mouth or a slug from a .44.

OSAMA BIN LADEN: Yeah, 'cause you're Muhammad.
I'm not like you. When you lost Aisha, weren't you crushed?

PROPHET MOHAMMED: Nothing a little bourbon and soda
wouldn't fix. Take my advice and forget all the romantic stuff.
The world is full of infidels to fight. All you have to do is whistle.

OSAMA: He's right. You give the unbelievers an inch
and they step all over you. Why can't I develop that attitude?
[mimicking Muhammad] Nothing a little bourbon and soda
couldn't fix. [He swigs a shot of Old Crow, gags.]



LINDA CHRISTIE: Osama's calling again. We've got to find him a girl.
Somebody he can be with, get excited about, fight infidels with.

DICK CHRISTIE: We'll have to find him a nice girl.

LINDA: There must be somebody out there. Someone to take his
mind off losing Mohamed Atta. I think he really loved Atta like a wife.

DICK [picking up phone]: I know just the girl for him.



Osama is preparing for his date, which is in an hour or so.
Again, from the shadows comes an imaginary Prophet Muhammad.

MUHAMMAD: You're starting off on the wrong foot.

OSAMA: Yeah, negative.

MUHAMMAD: Sure. They're getting the best of you
before the game starts. What's that stuff you put on your face?

OSAMA: Canoe. It's an aftershave lotion.

MUHAMMAD: You know, kid, somewhere in life
you got turned around. It's her job to smell nice for you.
The only bad thing is if she turns out to be a virgin --
or an agent for the JTTF!

OSAMA: With my luck, she'll turn out to be both.

TITLE CARD: Later That Night....


The doorbell rings and Osama opens the door. It's Linda.

LINDA: How did the date go?

OSAMA: It never would have worked between us.
She's a Sufi, I'm a Sunni, it's a great religious abyss.

LINDA: [laughing]

OSAMA: You're laughing and my sex life
is turning into the Petrified Forest.
Millions of women in the Northwest Frontier
Province and I can't wind up with one!

Osama takes a seat on the couch and Linda sits next to him.

OSAMA: I'm turning into the strike-out king
of Waziristan!

LINDA: You need to be more confident, secure.

OSAMA: You know who's not insecure?
The Prophet Muhammad.

LINDA: That's not real life. You set too high a standard.

OSAMA: If I'm gonna identify with someone,
who am I gonna pick? My imam? Muhammad's a perfect image.

LINDA: You don't need to pretend. You're you.

Osama nudges closer to Linda on the couch.

Suddenly, the imaginary Muhammad appears and speaks to Osama.

MUHAMMAD: Go ahead, make your move.

OSAMA: No, I can't.

MUHAMMAD: Take her and kiss her..

LINDA (getting up to go to the kitchen): I'll get us both a drink.

MUHAMMAD: Well, kid, you blew it.

OSAMA: I can't do it. We're platonic friends.
I can't spoil that by coming on.
She'll slap my face.

MUHAMMAD: I've had my face slapped plenty.

OSAMA: But your turban doesn't go
flying across the room.

Linda returns with two drinks.

LINDA: Here we are, you can start on this.

MUHAMMAD: Go ahead, kiss her.

OSAMA: I can't.

The phone rings and startles Osama, as he answers it.

OSAMA (into phone): Hi, Dick. Yes, she's here.
I was going out -- I had a Polish date.

He hands the phone to Linda.

MUHAMMAD (to Osama): Relax. You're as nervous as Abu Jahl was before
I blew his brains out at the Battle of Badr. All you've got to do is
make your move.

OSAMA: This is crazy. We'll wind up on al Jazeera!

LINDA (into phone): OK, goodbye.

LINDA: Dick sounded down. I think
he's having trouble in Karachi. I wonder
why he never asks me along on his trips.

OSAMA: Maybe he's got something
going on the side. A fling.

LINDA: If I fell for another man,
it'd have to be more than just a fling.
I'd have to feel something more serious.
Are you shaking?

OSAMA: Just chilly.

LINDA: It's not very cold.

MUHAMMAD (to Osama): Move closer to her.

OSAMA: How close?

MUHAMMAD: The distance of Flight 175 to the south tower..

OSAMA: That's very close.

MUHAMMAD: Now, get ready for the big move
and do exactly as I tell you.

Suddenly, an imaginary Mohamed Atta appears and
confronts the imaginary Prophet Muhammad.

ATTA [to Muhammad]: I warned you to leave my ex-lover Osama alone.

Atta draws a pistol and shoots Muhammad.

Osama looks a bit panicky now that Muhammad is gone.

LINDA: I guess I'd better fix the steaks.

OSAMA: Your eyes are like two thick juicy steaks.

Osama kisses Linda, who recoils, pushing him away.

OSAMA: I was joking. I was just testing you.
It was a platonic kiss.

LINDA: I think I'd better go home.

OSAMA: You're making a mistake.

Linda waves goodbye and leaves the apartment.

OSAMA: I attacked her. I'm a vicious jungle beast..
I'm not the Prophet Muhammad. I never will be.
I'm a disgrace to my sex. I should get a job at an Arabian palace
as a eunuch.

The doorbell rings.

OSAMA: That's the vice squad. [He opens the door, and Linda is there.]

LINDA: Did you say you loved me?

Osama and Linda embrace and kiss and the scene fades.


MUHAMMAD: That's all there is to it.

OSAMA: For you, because you're Muhammad.

MUHAMMAD: Everybody is at certain times.

OSAMA: I guess the secret's not being you, it's being me.

MUHAMMAD: Here's looking at you, kid.

*with massive apologies to Woody Allen.

I'm Paul Iorio, and here's my regular column,
The Daily Digression, which covers pop culture and beyond...

- My homepage is at paulliorio.blogspot.com
- NEW! My satire site is at ioriosatire.blogspot.com
- My main music site (w/lyrics) pauliorio.blogspot.com
- MP3s of my songs: myspace.com/paulioriosongs
- Audio excerpts of Paul's interviews with pop culture icons
myspace.com/pauliorioo & myspace.com/paulioriooo

All posted text on this website written solely by Paul Iorio.


I'm Paul Iorio, and here's my regular column,
The Daily Digression, which covers pop culture and beyond...

- My homepage is at paulliorio.blogspot.com
- My photography site is paulioriophotos.blogspot.com
- My main music site (w/lyrics) pauliorio.blogspot.com
- NEW! MP3s of my songs: myspace.com/paulioriosongs
- Audio excerpts of Paul's interviews with pop culture icons
myspace.com/pauliorioo & myspace.com/paulioriooo

All posted text on this website written solely by Paul Iorio.


I'm Paul Iorio, and here's my regular column,
The Daily Digression, which covers pop culture and beyond...

- My homepage is at paulliorio.blogspot.com
- NEW! My satire site is at ioriosatire.blogspot.com
- My main music site (w/lyrics) pauliorio.blogspot.com
- MP3s of my songs: myspace.com/paulioriosongs
- Audio excerpts of Paul's interviews with pop culture icons
myspace.com/pauliorioo & myspace.com/paulioriooo

All posted text on this website written solely by Paul Iorio.


Fatwa Against Pooches in Iran!

A low-level Ayatollah in Iran, TK, recently outlawed

images of dogs in advertising, among other canine-related

restrictions. Here's a link to an L.A. Times story

about it:

I must admit that some years back I came across a

pooch-related promotion that forever convinced me

that dogs-in-advertising are not evil! It happened

while I was writing and reporting my fourth story for

The Washington Post, in 2002, which was partly about

a San Francisco restaurant called The Doggie Diner.

Here's a photo I shot for the article I wrote for

The Washington Post:

[photo by Paul Iorio, published
in The Washington Post, March 24, 2002]

By the way, here's an editorial cartoon I came up with this morning

about the Ayatollah's fatwa:


for August 26, 2010

Interesting remembrance of Max's Kansas City and Andy Warhol

on the newyorker.com site (linked here: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2010/08/30/100830ta_talk_seabrook).

Reminds me that Warhol would have turned 82 a couple weeks

ago, if he had survived what should have been routine surgery

at New York Hospital in early 1987.

I didn't really know Andy Warhol, though I did attend several

private parties in Manhattan in the 1980s that Warhol was at.

In terms of first-hand memories: the first time I saw Warhol

was in late 1985, at a party for the rock band Ratt at A Dish

of Salt. And the last time I saw him was on July 4, 1986, on

a boat anchored in New York harbor in the shadow of the

Statue of Liberty. ZZ Top was aboard the boat and gave a

concert for the few dozen people on deck. (What an opportunity

it was to see ZZ Top perform their classic tunes from a

distance of just a few feet, by the way.)

But Warhol almost upstaged every celeb onboard that day. As I described

it in my November 3, 2009, blog:

"Just before ZZ Top performed a private
concert for the small crowd on the boat, Warhol
emerged from the upper deck and walked down the stairs,
causing almost everyone onboard to stop and stare.

Warhol, accustomed to that sort of attention, had a characteristically
novel response: he pulled out a camera and started taking
pictures of partygoers as if they were the celebrities and
main attractions. Very, uh, Warholesque."

And now (for the first time online!) here is the review

I wrote of that ZZ Top performance (and of Warhol's appearance),

which was published in Cash Box magazine in July 1986:

* * *

While I'm in a Warhol mood, here's a 1972 work of his,

"Vote McGovern," that I photographed a year or so ago.

But I digress. Paul


* just a joke -- I'm not married!


for August 24, 2010

[by Paul Iorio]

* * * * *

And now, a few original jokes I came up with earlier this year...

Everyone's criticizing Imam Feisal Rauf these days. But

they ignore the fact that he has shown a vast degree of

tolerance -- toward the 19 hijackers and bin Laden.

* * * *

Seriously, folks, I went to Cash for Clunkers with my wife.

The dealer said, "I can't pay you anything for the clunker,

but I'll give you a few bucks for the car!" [ba-da-ching]

* * * *

I have a friend whose mother lacked any love and affection

for him. When he was a kid, he had a mild case of dandruff -- and

his mom told the doctor, "Do not resuscitate."

But I digress. Paul


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tells the IAEA:
"Yes, I kampf!"
[by Paul Iorio]

* * * *

Because my television has been on the fritz for the last week, I

haven't been able to get NBC (I'm starting to miss "Today" and

"Nightly News"). But I did catch Brian Williams on "Charlie Rose"

the other night and saw clips of the new NBC News docu on

Katrina. Harrowing stuff.

In remembrance of the tragedy of '05, here's a shot I took of New

Orleans during my 1976 trip there:

The way it was. [photo by Paul Iorio]

By the way, TNY reports that over a hundred thousand people

who relocated to Houston after Katrina are still living in

Houston. I thought about them as I flew over Houston

several weeks ago. Here's a photo I shot of a Houston 'burb:

Houston subdivision, last month. [photo
by Paul Iorio]

Also, Brian Williams, on "Charlie Rose," mentioned that he

has a pretty amazing passport that includes -- get this -- visas

to Iraq and to Iran.

Impressive, I must admit.

I can't say I have that beat, but check this out: here's

my 1976 visa to Bulgaria, the most Soviet of the eastern bloc

satellites at the time. Below, the Cold War document that

enabled me to get behind the Iron Curtain in '76 (as a

teenage American citizen on his way to Istanbul):

A rarity: a visa to Bulgaria (and border stamp) on a
1976 American passport [from Paul Iorio's


for August 11, 2010

A Couple Upcoming Shows, etc.....

A few mid-summer items about upcoming shows:

First, They Might Be Giants are playing a free gig at

Stern Grove in San Francisco on August 22.

I've been in an archival mood lately, so I thought I'd share

the first stories about They Might Be Giants that I wrote

and reported, dating back to September 1985 (almost 25 years

ago!), when I penned the very first story about the duo to appear

in any trade publication.

Here's that review:

Above, my write-up of They Might Be Giants's September
13, 1985, gig at Neither/Nor in the East Village.
At the time, they were unsigned and nobody had written
about them at the trade mag level. It appeared in the
Sept. 29, 1985, issue of Cash Box.

* * * *

Here's a flyer for the '85 Neither/Nor show (above).

* * * *

Here's the second piece I wrote about the Giants.
It appeared in the December 14, 2985, issue of
Cash Box.

* * * *

A later piece of mine, from the December 13,
1986, issue of Cash Box, capturing a
very fun and vivid interview I conducted with
the duo!

* * * *

By the time of this concert review, published in
Cash Box on February 28, 1987, the Giants were
no longer obscure and had expanded their audience
considerably. This is how I reviewed their February
7, 1987, concert at CBGBs.

* * * * *
* * * * *

Also on August 22, Cirque du Soleil is giving a free

show at the Grove in Los Angeles, performing parts of

six of their shows. (Here's an L.A. Times piece

about it: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2010/08/cirque-du-soleil-coming-to-the-grove-but-for-one-day-only.html)

I'm not a huge fan of Cirque (though I hear great

things about The Beatles' "Love") and have only seen them

once (the Dralion show in Irvine, Calif, on

January 9, 2000). But some of their acrobatics and effects

are nothing short of magical, and you should

catch them if you can.

Ah, my first Cirque show, Jan. 9, '00. Took the train
to Irvine, saw the show, interviewed various
Cirque players, wrote it up for the San Fran Chronicle!
[Above, Dralion ticket and train ticket to Irvine. (Can
I file an expense report 10 years later? Jus' jokin'.)]

But I digress. Paul


How I Was Able to Be the First Journalist Anywhere to Interview Trey Anastasio on Tape

Photo of Phish that the band sent to me in 1988.

It's safe to say, I think, that The Phish I remember is not the

Phish almost everyone else knows. And that's because I was the

first journalist anywhere to have conducted a taped interview with

Trey Anastasio (here's an audio clip of the January '89 Q&A;

http://www.myspace.com/paulioriooo ; and here's

the '89 interview transcript, published many years later in Miami

New Times: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2003-12-25/music/school-daze

For the record, I was also the first writer (outside its

Burlington hometown) to have written about the band

(see scan below) and the first person to tell Trey about the band

Widespread Panic (and I even did so on audiotape, whch you

can hear here: http://www.myspace.com/paulioriooo).

Actually, my connection to the band dates back to early 1988 and late 1987.

A few months after I left my staff writer position at

Cash Box magazine in New York in '87, I came up with an idea

to do a story on the pop music community in Burlington for the

East Coast Rocker, a New Jersey-based music newspaper. And I

asked dozens of unsigned Vermont bands to send me tapes.

Among those who sent in tapes was Phish, which mailed me

a 1987 demo featuring four originals ("Golgi Apparatus,"

"Fee," "David Bowie," and "Fluffhead," all of which

later appeared on "Junta") and two covers.

My first interviews with Phish's Mike Gordon date back

to an astonishingly early January 1988. Back then, we

talked on a fairly regular basis, and here is a letter he

sent to me in 1988:

I interviewed Mike Gordon a full year before I spoke with Trey,
though I didn't record those conversations; however, Gordon
did send me this handwritten letter, dated March 8, 1988 (above).

I eventually wrote about the group for the newspaper's July 19,

1989, issue, calling Phish "an unlikely combination of the

Grateful Dead and Steely Dan" in a story that stands as the

first to mention the band in a publication outside the

Burlington area (besides concert listings in newspapers).

Meanwhile, my Anastasio interview of '89 stayed in a drawer

in my desk for years; nobody wanted the interview at the time

because the band was almost completely unknown (and would

remain that way for some time to come).

My '89 interview with Trey was finally published

many years later, on December 24, 2003, in Miami New Times,

after it had become something of a talked-about

pop culture artifact of significance to Phishheads. (Click the New Times

link (above) to read the New Times piece, or check it out in

the Phish Archive!: http://www.phisharchive.com/articles/2003/miami1.html

Above, my description of Phish for a newspaper in 1989,
the first mention of the band in print outside
of Burlington.

Anyway, I lost contact with the band after 1989, so I don't

really know any of the bandmembers (and, frankly, I haven't

really followed their music that closely since). But I was there


But I digress. Paul



for August 15, 2009



for August 3, 2010


65 Years After the First Nuclear War in Northeast Asia...

North Korea Escalates Nuclear War Threats

Hate to break the news, but the violent threats

from the North Korean government are actually a bit worse than

what is being reported in the western press.

I've been reading the North Korean government's official

English-language website on a daily basis for more than a

year and have noticed how the taunts have become

more violent, vehement and specific in the last couple


Here are just a few recent incendiary quotes from

the DPRK site:

-- several weeks ago, the official site threatened the

possibility of "turn[ing] Seoul...into a sea of flame."

-- on June 12th, the site said that "there is even strong

opinion that the ship [the Cheonan] was sunk by the U.S."

-- several days ago, it stated that North Korea will use its

"powerful nuclear deterrence" to counter the naval exercises

now being conducted by the U.S. and South Korea in the

Yellow Sea.

-- And then there is this unsettling message posted a few

days ago: "If they provoke a war in any waters of the Korean

peninsula, whether in the East Sea or in the West Sea of Korea,

this war will spread not only into the Korean peninsula but into

the rest of Northeast Asia and rapidly develop into a new

global war."

Which means what, exactly? The DPRK has to be referring to

China -- there's no other way to interpret that.

Are they implying that China has their back, that a DPRK

retaliation against naval exercises will be backed by

the PRC?

Is Kim Jong-il Hu Jintao's Agnew, saying and doing hardline

things that Hu can't?

By the way, just hours ago [8am PT] it was reported that the PRC

is now conducting live-amo air defense exercises near

the Yellow Sea, practicing its defense of Beijing, which

is virtually across the water from Pyongyang.

Can Kim be considered anything but a clinical paranoid

if he really does believe, against all evidence, that the

United States was likely responsible for the sinking of the

Cheonan? And if that is Kim's reality baseline, as it

appears to be, then the prospect of war seems more


I must admit these DPRK threats are making me a

bit queasy about the 65th anniversary of the first

nuclear war in northeast Asia, coming up in a few

days, on August 6th.

But I digress. Paul


1. The army and people of the DPRK will legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence

August 6, 1945

The alarming violent threats from the North Korean government's official

English-language website continue, on a nearly weekly basis.

Here are some direct quotes:


for August 2, 2010

Xgau for "American Idol" Judge

I know, the L.A. Times beat me to the punch on this one,

nominating Robert Christgau as a candidate for judge on

"American Idol." Privately, I was thinking the same

thing the day before.

Put a truth-teller on the "Idol" panel. The "AI" audience might

actually respond to him as an intellectual, temperamental

version of Simon Cowell.

First, full disclosure: I sent him my album "130 Songs" -- the

most reviewable of my releases, in my opinion -- weeks before he stopped

writing his Consumer Guide last month. So it's now too late for

any possible CG consideration, but let me say that even if he

had reviewed "130 Songs" and not given it an A or B, I'd still

say the same thing: the guy's a genius.

And I'm not kissing his ass, either, because it wouldn't do me

any good anyway. One thing about xgau: you can't flatter your

way to a good review with him -- and crossing him won't get you

a bad one (just ask Lou Reed).

And I can't say I know him, but I did meet him a few times

when I was a staff writer/reporter for Cash Box magazine's

New York bureau in the 1980s. He visited me at

my office at the magazine in very early 1986, when I was

the new guy on the block, looking for some article

on (I think) Russ Solomon or something. And I remember

the whole place was abuzz afterwards, as if Bob Dylan

himself had flown in from Malibu to visit my office on

West 58th St. (And this was an office accustomed to

visits from famous folks, where everybody from members

of The Byrds to Debbie Gibson visited me back in the day.)

I certainly haven't always agreed with him; aesthetically, I'm

more of a melodist for whom Paul McCartney and Ray Davies are kings

(for me, "Muswell Hillbillies" and "Ram" are major albums). But

even when I disagree with him, I see his point.

He's changed the way I view even familiar works (like "The

Beatles Second Album," which I now see as sort of the

band's hip hop LP) and introduced me to great

stuff (the joys of side one of Grandmaster Flash and the

Furious Five's "The Message" LP, Fela Kuti's pre-Maiduguri

prison work, etc.).

There are very few off-key notes in his writings (his take

on the Beatles' "Revolution" was one, but he more than made

up for it by not docking Johnny Ramone, another genius, points for

having been a rightist).

Missing from his Consumer Guide collection are the landmark albums

of the Fifties and Sixties, which, of course, pre-dated the CG.

It would be great if he were to write a book of Consumer Guide

reviews of the major LPs from 1955 to 1970.

I get the same sort of rush reading his reviews as reading other

writers who use words in unprecedented ways (e.g., Donald Barthelme,

Allen Ginsberg, etc.). I think it was novelist Harry Crews who

once told me in a bar that the definition of poetry is

memorable language -- and xgau's writings are certainly that.

His reviews were all about music, but not about music at all.

But I digress. Paul



for August 2, 2010

I know, the L.A. Times beat me to the punch on this one,

nominating Robert Christgau as a candidate for judge on

"American Idol." Privately, I was thinking the same

thing the day before.

First, full disclosure: I sent him my album "130 Songs" -- my most

reviewable release, in my opinion -- weeks before he stopped

writing his Consumer Guide last month. So it's now too late for CG

consideration, but lemme say that even if he had reviewed "130 Songs"

and not given it an A or B, I'd still say the same thing: the guy's a


And I'm not kissing his ass, either, because it wouldn't

do me any good anyway. One thing about xgau: you can't flatter your

way to a good review with him -- and crossing him won't get you

a bad one (just ask Lou Reed).

I certainly don't always agree with him; aesthetically, I'm

more of a melodist for whom Paul McCartney and Ray Davies are kings

(for me, "Muswell Hillbillies" and "Ram" are major albums). But

even when I disagree with him, I see his point.

His Consumer Guide reviews are more like poems than reviews, and

people read them because they tell them about themselves

and shed light on things. In a sense, they're really not about

music at all.

Anyway, Fox should put a truth-teller up there on the "Idol"


n't get to meet John Hammond Sr. until he was 74 years old, and he was as modern and cu


for July 31, 2010

OK, folks, I'm back from a brief vacation, so i've got lots of

backlogged material that I'll start rolling out this afternoon.


Paul Krugman for Treasury Sec'y

Christgau for "American Idol" Judge

new material added July 18, 2010! Free MP3 downloads/streams of Paul's songs at pauliorio.vox.com & myspace.com/paulioriosongs NEWFour brand new songs by Paul now posted here (7/18/2010): fourbrandnewpaulsongs.vox.com....Many thanks to KALX radio and Marshall Stax for playing my new song "IF IT'S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE SUSANNAH" last night on The Next Big Thing! Hear it here: ifitstuesday.vox.com(6/1/10)...Hear my previous song "BACKFIRE" here: http://backfire.vox.com The track is from the latest (and ultimate) Paul Iorio album, "130 SONGS," a limited-edition collection (details coming below)....Paul's songs "IF I WERE A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN LIKE YOU" and "TALIBAN VIRGINS" are streaming here: ifiwereabeautifulwoman.vox.com [Feb. 16, 2010]....And thanks to Hollow Earth Radio in Seattle for airing my new song "I WAS YOUNG (UNTIL FAIRLY RECENTLY)" the other month. Hear that one here: ioriopaul.vox.com....

I'm Paul Iorio, and here I am in my Berkeley apartment! * * *