Sunday, December 27, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
With very special guest floating about in the crowd brandishing a cocktail: Courtney McCullough
Could it be nearly the end of whatever this last decade was called? The Oughts? The Naughts? How it flew by, taking with it most of my head hair and a lot of what was left of my belief in the goodness of humanity or faith that we can beat all the weird new viruses and microbes and booger bears and religious extremist wack jobs.
But then again the Harry Smith Anthology of Folk Music just get reissued on vinyl as did Roscoe Holcomb's "High Lonesome Sound" and The i.e. Series Reader has been published after much anticipation, so I guess there's still some spin left on the over-heated gumball of Earth, even if the polar bears are already being slated to go out next after the art of civilized debate.
How did I get on this, dear reader or two. Maybe it's because I just came from visiting an old friend in the ICU, a wonderfully strange old friend who just happened to be the guy who introduced me to my beloved, where I saw him without consciousness or words stuck to more tubes than I've ever seen in one place. The fact that we had to put on astronaut gear before we could even see him lent an extra otherworldly helplessness and removal from what we know as life. This after hearing the gifted guitarist Jack Rose died at 38 from a heart attack last week. We wish our friend well and all of us each one struggling with this sometimes cold and eery world.
The good and gooder news is the lineup for the next Shattered Wig Night that just happens to also be a bit of a birthday party for former Baltimore bon vivant, musician and Normal's employee, Courtney McCullough. He has just hit the half century mark and his wife Sabra and mother, Sri Rebecca the Desert Vixen, bought him a plane ticket back to Harm City from New Mexico so he could catch this show. I will take this moment to brag that I got lucky and was able to get Brett Sparks of the transcendent Handsome Family to play at Courtney's true birthday party at the Press Club in Albuquerque. There is a small, tiny chance I may be able to land the Family here when they come through Baltimore in the Spring.
As luck would have it, two days before finding out Courtney would be here, I had gotten a call from Amanda Pollock, another Baltimore legend who ran back in the '90s, looking for a booking. Amanda is an incredible vocalist, kind of in the soul folk category, who has done time with The Barnyard Playboys, The Velvet Mafia, Cloaca and many others, but also has always been mainly a solo vocalist with her own guitar accompaniment. She has a new duo in New York called Redbird and I'm excited to hear what she's been up to the last year besides writing twisted memoirs for her writing class.
Also performing is another great duo, this one local - Sea Couch, consisting of Dan Dorsey on banjo ukulele and regular uke and his fiance Amanda Copeland (she of the brightest smile) on banjo. Both warble pleasingly. Dan has the most clean picking style I've heard lately. He also plays in The Same Damn Thing and was in the Pasadena supergroup The Jumping Off Point and Other Moments of Grace. He also did this show's flyer, pictured above, saving me from another one of my tacky '80s School cut and pastes.
Knowing that Courtney would be in town for this special event, I had to muscle his favorite musician, John Dierker, into playing. Solo. Naked soul up against the wall of Oblivian demanding answers.
Our visiting reader this show is a novelist I've been wanting to book for a while, Goodloe Byron, author of The Abstract and Revisions Of. The Abstract truly reminds me at times of Flann O'Brien and Phil Dick, which is some fine company. Plus Goodloe is an interesting 21st Century Lamont Cranston kind of presence so I'm curious to hear him hold forth.
And of course it wouldn't truly count as Shattered Wig Night without Blaster Al. He's been on a particularly good roll of late, despite his recent mugging right on the front porch where he and I live with the reclusive millionaire Shuggie Berndt. The streets of this town are starting to really feel sinsiter again. Times are beyond hard. Rigor mortis stiff to the point of twisting.
At the 14 Karat Cabaret. Doors open at 9pm and the cover charge is a whopping $6 since we're top heavy with performers, aged ones, ones that have various monkeys to keep in silk smoking jackets.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Last Friday, December 4th, I had the honor of reading a few mumbly words at the gala opening of Scott Larson's new art show - "Failed Rescue".
As usual Scott nailed the modern human condition on its steroid pumped head while also mixing in some nice abstract Philip Guston-like lumps. Beautiful spirit of whimsical menace. Impossible machines/growths veering along somehow at breakneck speed through constricted/obstructed paths - an electric feeling of being alive for the hell of it.
I would marry Scott Larson's sensibility. Play it Bettye Swann lps on Sunday morning when we are both feeling coy, gentle and muzzy. Then sometime around 1:00 when the Saturday night wears off and the cough syrup kicks in, slap on some Etta James wax and get all sloppy over it like the last Salvation Army suit on the day before Thanksgiving.
Baltimore is a land of enchanted folks adrift or half-slumbering beneath protective rocks while mayors carry out their junior mafia activities and the murder rate climbs. Scott is one of our under sung heroes and like many a Baltimore artist/performer, he also manages to work 50 or 60 hours a week at his day job and raise two gypsy children he picked up in a dice game down South long long ago.
The evening was closed by Sir John Dierker's group Il Culo. Hammering funk that included a Fela cover to warm folks up for the weekend of The Baltimore Afrobeat Society shows coming up.
Drop your spatula, throw your kindle into a loan processor's bathtub, take all your investments and run to the Metro Gallery and love up in all ways on the demented eye candy of Scott Swede Larson.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
He speaks well through wire-enforced glass. Keeps strict law among star-faced moles while I stay at home lit by a pair of crystal hurricane lamps. Enthralled by stereo, moon shots and color tv. Nat King Cole sweaters carry the sun down. A misery lands electric like dancing. John Kennedy dead.
Late afternoon sun creates golden flecks on her arms as the Canadian uke man jumps about like Jiminy Cricket, giving his audience of six heartfelt atomic razzle dazzle. Her hand on mine, the sense of everyone's gathered breath, the blast of coffee - I've waited over a decade for this: drop the feeling into a river and watch it spread in far reaching ripples.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Having grown old and cranky, without the crutch of the faux fuel of alcohol to temporarily waylay the cares and gravity of the body so that the brain can be coerced into going to parties, it's fairly rare that I make it to one and actually have fun. Usually I prefer groups of four or less or one on one with my beloved on The Good Ship Lollipop, reading poetry or a novel beside her as she reads tales of apocalypse or grim testimonies of the Holocaust, all the while wearing a smile of gentle kindness (perhaps on a little sideways from bootleg Spanish wine), two fat orange tabbies flanking her.
But Senor Peyton and his intergalactic Venusian healer Usana held a beautiful party on All Souls Day that also happened to have low key but soulful quality performances. Liz Downing, pictured here for the unitiated, graced us with an old traditional song plus one of her own based on The Odyssey. She had the audience entranced and her spectral, clear vocals surely crossed the membrane which is so thin between the spirit worlds on All Souls Day. She, along with Chris Mason and Laure Drogoul I will always consider the Holy Trinity of Baltimore artists, having had my mind blown by them within the first few months of moving here in 1984. They all deserve monster grants, with money preferably taken away from bankers, lawyers or stock traders, so that they can devote all their time to wandering their brains and imaginations. They have taken their lumps in the workaday world plus the ones large enough to grace Curly and Shemp's heads. They will always be prole art threats.
I caught and enjoyed a poet I'd never heard before, Cliff Lynn, heard the always inspiring Jenny Keith (who had to compete a bit with Don and Usana's large elderly dog Moses) and Batworth and watched my beloved Everly get dragged inexorably into the Italian Futurist web of Barbara DeCesare's debauched playwriting. Everly, along with Tinklers and Old Songs member Chris Mason, played one of "Three French Girl Singers" in DeCesare's "Doug Gets Kicked Out of Denny's A Lot". The play features a Denny's waitress with a gift for machine gun fire cursing and a group/audience sing-along finale of the treacly "Endless Love". DeCesare leered from the shadows off to the side watching her flesh puppets carry out her sick vision.
Party co-host Don joined Skizz Cyzyk in their ukulele stand-up bass duo The Lefties. Skizz sang his classic song of performance existentialism "Why Are All You People Staring At Me" (or something along those lines) pondering the obsessive need to perform even if there is paltry or non-existent pay and the act causes pain to the performer.
During one song Don displayed his musical and acrobatic prowess by falling onto his back with his stand-up bass and playing upside down. It was perhaps this fall that caused him to forget to sing their memorable cover of "Going Back to Eden" from one of the old classic Star Trek episodes. A song that Daniel Higgs does his own visionary take on also.
Sadly, the poet/friend who thought up the idea for the party and got Don and Usana going on it, Chris Toll, was somehow not aware it was taking place so he wasn't in attendance. But that leaves a good excuse to force our unwashed way back into the peaceful home of our hosts at some later date. They talked about doing another one featuring Freebo and Daniel Higgs.
Monday, November 2, 2009
voices of frustrated
pay phone calls into
the shoebox, along with
an unimpeded box car
moustache that once
rode above lips tossed
The church is filled
with hushed marching and
a brocaded cushion
feels boundless yearning
for the swinging
A swimming pool can
be baptismal, so
blue and rippling and topped
with shifting light
triangles, but it can
also be a fondue
bowl of greasy bodies
doing things that
humans do in what
some may call their
For the disgruntled
onlookers things are
at a maddening crawl
as they yell for
blue suede shoes
reflected in Cadillac
chrome, Germanic angels
lifted from Deutsche
aloft in trees,
roaring stadiums or
at least wrinkle free collars.
There is a slow
closeup pan on
a heavily veined hand
lifting a photo of
Uncle Divshek from
the still crisp shoebox,
its corners not yet
blunted or kicked around,
which indicates that
there might still be
hope, that someone has
bought new sneakers
or wingtips for
a fresh school year
or job interview.
After surviving the
Battle of Bastogne
Uncle Divshek refused
to fly unless the
pop band The Beatles
were also on
the plane, reasoning that
no god would take
them down while they
were so beloved.
Which is not saying much
for Buddy Holly or Patsy Cline.
In this photo
Uncle Divshek has his
arm around his
parish priest by
the side of the
A few days after
it was taken
two altar boys were
found floating dead
on the pool's surface
and Ringo Starr
was killed in a hunting
accident by the
Vice President of
the United States.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Kim Jong Il and I made some time in our stressed out schedules last night to catch "Where the Wild Things Are" at the monumentally depressing theater in Towson. We arrived early, Kim was lavished with free chemical butter-laden popcorn by a toadying concession stand worker - who took the liberty of brushing her forearm many times against the great one's khaki jacket - and since we were early (conversation was lacking at the Five Guys where the lettuce lay limp like a docile American factory worker) we were then treated with fifteen minutes of brain numbing collegiate white pretend thug pseudo lifestyle propaganda. Commander Kim said it was all very unconvincing and unsuccessful as he lightly brushed some of the yellowish butter-like concoction across his healthy vibrant Elvis-like coif.
What came next, partially brought to life by the pen of Dave Eggers, was interesting, but slightly perplexing. The movie starts with great dynamics, really catching - for me - the exhilarating slightly out of control energy of being a kid left on his/her own. After a criminally short period of time sharing the screen with Catherine Keener, little Max boards a sailboat and floats to Bummer Island. It's a visceral, exploding world of sudden violence and screaming, but also one where many furry beasts with pleasingly growly voice can all jump into a warm pile and drift off together.
I have to confess I'm not a religious devotee of Sendak. I really like his drawings, but didn't grow up with them and they didn't speak to me as a semi-adult or adult except as well done cute children's art, so I didn't come into the movie judging it against the classic book. The film kept me engaged, if not glued to my sticky seat, but it gave me a feeling I hadn't had since college days, the feeling of having indulged in the wrong drugs with the wrong crowd. Kind of like Mr. Show's parody of H.R. Puffenstuff/Lidsville.
I see Max's trip to the Island as his immersion in his unconscious and his grappling with emotions beyond his learning or understanding and I salute the director and writer for not taking an easy, cushy, pat way out. It's a movie that could easily have just gone completely safe and cute and raked in millions. And it's got me thinking about it the next day, which in this, once again for me, horrible horrible year for movies, that's a rarity. But it still seems like kind of a nice deranged movie for adults who have survived childhood, not necessarily a movie that would be entertaining or instructive or comforting for anyone under 15. In fact, I think a nice alternate ending would be Max leaves the Island and then wakes up in a mental institution as an adult. But that's just my preference.
The final shot of Catherine and Max gazing into each other's eyes was sublime, though and the actor's facial expression seemed wise way beyond his years.
Needless to say, I liked the movie far more than Commandant Kim and our Greco-Roman style wrestling in the Power Room never got off the ground. He went back to watching Gone With the Wind and I read the new Harper's.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. I am no where near as famous a writer as Eggers - in fact I'm not famous at all, other than being able to perhaps draw ten people to a Baltimore poetry reading - but if I were to get my chance to write a children's film it would be a version of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
......long enough to compile a beautiful, full Tuvan throat song of a poetry anthology! It is half full of local Baltimore edgy stalwarts like yours truly (high five me you goblin), Lauren Bender, Rictus Royer, Chris Mason, Heather Fuller, Justin Sirois, Adam Robinson, Bonnie Jones and many others too numerous to mention without more coffee. Plus national top shelf poetry legends like Charles Bernstein, Tina Darragh, Norma Cole, John Yau (also a great Normal's customer, so double big ups), Lisa Jarnot (sounds of cooing worship), Tom Raworth and Rosemary Waldrop.
This is an exciting project that's been fermenting in the pipes for a while so we at Shattered Wig are worked up into a Kim Jong Il worthy froth of pacing and khaki rustling.
To pre-order your copies of this tasty beast that will soon go the way of the dodo, get it here:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Kim Jong padded rottso
I will take a can of corn now
or a Dr. Pepper
leave it by the moldering statue
back in some cabin woods
where makers of manifestos knit
(brows and colorful mangos)
It's all a daring centerpiece
if you happen to be right there now
punch my card
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Baltimore Magazine Names Shattered Wig "Best Literary Magazine" and an exciting call from a sufic prankster
Shattered Wig has been going for twenty-one years now (!) and is so out-of-fashion - hand cut and pasted and hand stapled - that hopefully it can be seen as a creaky cabinet of musty forgotten wonders. We are regretfully old enough now that a few of our original and favorite contributors have passed on to another plane. Its original intent was to spread the words and art of people around us we loved and who energized us and that's still the mission, we're just trying to expand that circle physically further out into the new boundless internet world.
Recent very fresh exciting news is that I got a call from Daniel A.I.U. Higgs proposing that Shattered Wig Press put out his new book of lyrics, poems and drawings to coincide with his upcoming Thrill Jockey double album release. Needless to say, more than a few of my Hummel figurines were smashed in the ensuing pinwheeling of my aged arms in ecstasy.
One of my first sights of Baltimore live music was a few weeks after I moved here (from dreaded over-congested Rockville) checking out the first Sowebo Arts Festival. As I strolled up to the main avenue of smoking meats and arts vendors I heard and saw an impassioned vaguely threatening man beast on top of the Sowebo Market building on Hollins St. It was Higgs with mic in hand singing with his then band Reptile House - which was too crunchy and metallic for my taste, but Daniel's yowling vocals and electric presence pinned me to the spot.
Then a few years later I remember catching a real early Lungfish show at the old Hour Haus on North Ave. when it was truly an old school Baltimore dump that artists and musicians lived in without heat or much else other than a lot of other sodden warm bodies around.
Some of my favorite "poetry" performances of the late '80s were ones that Higgs did with musician and filmmaker Dick Turner backing him on piano.
Senor Daniel luckily comes in often to the store I co-own, Normal's in Waverly, and his sufic conundrums are often the highlights of days that can be frequently brought down by haints and the psychically unhinged and can afford no treatment other than walking into a used bookstore or record store and dropping a bucket of bile giblets on the dusty floor. And his three annual "Christmeastermasses" that he's put on in December at the shop have been life altering.
To put it lightly, we here at Shattered Wig are thrilled at the thought of this new venture.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Screening of the film "I Will Smash You" by Michael Kimball and Luca DiPierro.
Music by Sweatpants.
Readings by Ingrid Burrington and Blaster Al Ackerman.
Last weekend's Tinklers Publication party was so solid and well attended by attentive responsive humans that it almost feels sacrilegious to already be hyping the next one, but I will just use this bliss as the new plateau from which to build higher to altered consciousness.
The November show should leave no one disappointed, either.
I WILL SMASH YOU (2009; 50 min)
a documentary from Little Burn Films www.littleburnfilms.com
CONTACT: Michael Kimball
email@example.com; 410-467-0966; 410-205-0075
I WILL SMASH YOU started as an open call on social networking sites. Luca Dipierro and Michael Kimball invited people to choose an object that has some personal meaning for them, to tell the story of that object (Michael conducted the interviews from off-camera), and then to destroy that object. They filmed in Michael Kimball’s backyard for 2 days in the spring and the result is this documentary film.
A teenage girl destroys a papier-mâché version of her teacher's head to get the meanness out.
A man smashes his procrastination with a cement block.
A woman stomps on family heirlooms that have become a burden to her.
Another woman cuts up an intricate lace doily as a personal and political statement about the violence and hatred in parts of Bosnia.
A man sings a Christian hymn and then swings a baseball bat at the song’s notes in an attempt to resolve his complicated relationship with religion.
Another man burns his favorite double album, the one that he listened to over and over to get through his teenage years.
A man burns his discharge papers from the Army in attempt to exorcise his recurring nightmares about being forced to re-enlist.
A woman destroys a ceramic bust of Zeus that has an uncanny resemblance to her husband.
Another woman smashes her car with a crowbar because it is cursed.
Plus many more stories and much more destruction (and catharsis).
I WILL SMASH YOU is funny and moving, angry and strange (a clinical psychologist described it as a kind of smashing therapy). You have never seen a film like this.
Sweatpants is a vigorous band that brings the rock led by Publishing Genius magnate Adam Robinson. After they opened for Springsteen in Munich a year ago Springsteen said he was too shaken to do his five minute monologue opening to "The River" and instead he told the band to leave and performed a short acoustic set.
Monday, October 12, 2009
It was a busy week at Shattered Wig headquarters. Preparing our always capricious nerves for the big publication party for The Tinklers new book, The Elements, while also getting to open up for Tao Lin at a reading at Atomic Books on Oct. 8.
Due to the lightning quick quality work of Live Bait studios typesetting and layout on the book we actually had all our copies weeks in advance of the October 9th show at the 14 Karat Cabaret. This was a very welcome change from the usual nail biting waiting at the door in dirty robe for the UPS man on the night of the show scenario.
The book looks great, the show, featuring The Tinklers and Blaster Al Ackerman reading and music by Zomes and Ghost Life, was well attended by lively enthusiastic humans who were treated to some top notch performances. Not only all that, but we actually sold a goodly amount of literature. Not bad considering we almost had to greco-roman twist Chris Mason of the Tinklers into a Pennsylvania pretzel to let us publish it.
In a mere 78 pages the courageous Tinklers take on explaining the Periodic Table of Elements (Hydrogen to Argon), the strains put on love by economic hardship and the need for a unified ecology that protects Mother Earth. All written in their uniquely cosmic populist prose. The book is out now, a perfect bound paperback and available for $8 at Normal's Books and Records and Atomic Books in Baltimore or $10 postage paid from:
Shattered Wig Press
425 E. 31st St.
Baltimore, MD. 21218
"It is a rare thing when I am jealous of the concept behind a book, but I am jealous of The Elements, and you will be too." - Michael Kimball, author of Dear Everybody and The Way The Family Got Away.
The City Paper's Bret McCabe interviewed Chris Mason and Charles Brohawn of The Tinklers about the book and here is his story:
Every Story Paints a Picture
With the publication of The Elements, long-running Baltimore duo the Tinklers return to their spry narrative roots
By Bret McCabe | Posted 10/7/2009
Consider: One morning Mary sees her husband Steven off to his first day at an aluminum beverage-container manufacturer. He returns looking broken, a shell of the man who left that morning. The next day, Mary meets a neighboring woman who tells her two very important stories. One is about how the manufacturer's greed led to layoffs and higher productivity demands, pushing the local workers to strike as the company brought in scabs. The other is about how lava cools to form granite, which includes feldspar--made up of aluminum, oxygen, and silicon--and briefly explains the long story of pressure and time producing aluminum silicate, which, when water-logged, becomes clay.
This story, one of 18 collected in the Tinklers' new book, The Elements (published by sometimes City Paper contributor Rupert Wondolowski's Shattered Wig Press), ends with Mary crossing the picket line to pull her husband out of his job and continue on their journey across a landscape that feels and sounds very much like America. "I was reading about a few different strikes at the times we were writing this," says Chris Mason, one half of the Tinklers, of the early 1990s. "I think it was one in Austin, Minnesota. And I was thinking about aluminum cans. This was all done before the internet, so we just had to read a lot of books to learn this stuff."
Mason sits next to his creative partner, Charles Brohawn, on the couch in Brohawn's eclectically decorated Idlewild home. A striking array of paintings hang on the walls, and the living room feels like an ideal incubator for creative whimsy. Mason pulls one of the duo's old rubber-band guitars out for a demonstration. And Brohawn need only walk a few steps to snag a 1950s/'60s era scientific textbook about the atom as an example of the sort of research they explored in creating The Elements.
"It's not really serious science, because we're not, you know, scientists," Mason says. "But we have researched it. Just like in ancient times people would look at the world and would be amazed by the winds and the stars and describe it to the gods, we're just amazed by what's happening inside the atom."
"The elements are kind of a frame to look at the world through," Brohawn agrees.
If authoring a book sounds like a change of pace for a musical duo, bear in mind that the idea of the Tinklers as a purely musical act is a 1990s phenomena. The pair recorded three albums for indie label Shimmy Disc between 1990 and 1993. Riddled with deceptively precious melodies and faux-innocent ideas--the immortal "Mom Cooks Inside, Dad Cooks Outside" off 1990's Casserole, "Dinosaurs Are Better" off 1991's Saplings, "Dog Sounds" off 1993's Crash--the band was, arguably, too hastily aligned with the primitive-punk naivetAc of Daniel Johnston, Happy Flowers, and the twee Pianosaurus.
When Brohawn and Mason first coalesced into the Tinklers in 1979, though, it was to create narrative performances that included songs, visual art, and theater. Brohawn was coming out of MICA's painting department, Mason out of Johns Hopkins' poetry program, and they encountered a rich Baltimore community of poets, performance artists, video artists, and punks, including City Paper photographer John Ellsberry and his brother Richard, provocateur tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, and MICA poetry professor Joe Cardarelli. It was a hearty brew of art and DIY that, well, doesn't sound too far removed from what a different generation has discovered in Baltimore in recent years.
"That's why I wanted to start doing music," Brohawn says, recalling seeing a band such as Half Japanese deliver its goods. "Just seeing something like that and thinking, Why not?"
Early Tinklers shows were less concerts than performances that combined visual art, puppets, and songs played on homemade instruments. They performed their "History of the World"--illustrated on a gigantic single roll of paper and dramatized through songs and plays--in 1981 at School 33 and in New York. The songs themselves were often the products of free-flowing binomial idea trees that concatenate out into something else. Mason pulls out an early book of song charts to illustrate the point.
"Like, if you have 'scary things,' you can divide that into 'scary things that are moving' and 'scary things that are not moving,'" he says. "And then, scary moving things that get on top of you, that don't get on top of you; scary moving things that get on top of you could be buzzy or squirmy; scary moving things that get on top of you that are buzzy could be electric or flying; scary moving things that get on top of you that are buzzy and electric could be things that you could get your fingers caught in or things that shock you--and from that we did the song 'Don't Put Your Finger in the Fan.'"
It follows a rigorous logic, but one predicated on an outlandish idea. "On some level, we were kind of making fun of performance art by just telling these stupid stories in these stupid songs," Brohawn says. "There wasn't any mysterious aesthetic or anything going on."
Other narrative projects that became self-published books followed. "Manifest Destiny," which also involved The Elements' Mary and Steven, "was kind of an American history book with songs and performances," Mason says. "Our Childrens' Childrens' Worlds" followed in 1984, the story of Siegfried and his cousins--Marcia, Missy, Megan, Sam, and Simon--who get lost in a cave during a family picnic, during which time the world ends and begins again, and they emerge to be adopted by three utopias.
"It's kind of a poke at the post-apocalyptic thing, because the world ends while they're in the cave but starts up before they get out of the cave," Brohawn smiles. "But 'History of the World,' 'Manifest Destiny,' 'Our Childrens' Childrens' Worlds'--they were thought of as these stories with songs. I think we were thinking of Wagner or something--our own version of it."
Just don't mistake this irreverent streak for irony, and don't misjudge the Tinklers' seemingly simple sounds and drawings for insincere ease. "Simple" and "childlike" are two of the most overused adjectives when describing the band; "efficient" feels most accurate. The music and songs may sound easy, but they deal directly with sophisticated feelings and emotions. They're just delivered extremely directly. And while such economy may suggest the childish, consider how conflicted childhood is: a time period that adults nostalgically look back upon for being more innocent and idyllic, but also the locus of psychological and emotional trauma that lingers well into maturity.
The Elements is an equally complex document. It works on multiple levels: organized periodically, the stories offer basic science information, and those scientific facts frequently provide thematic structural elements to the stories themselves. The book also tells the story of Mary and Steven as they travel across the country; inside their journeys, though, they encounter the often difficult socio-political realities of an unsettled country. Given that each of these stories is but a few pages long at most--the entire book a mere 78 pages--The Elements starts to feel less like a simple, childlike tale and more like a surreal adventure of a couple set adrift across America's unstable time and space.
And it makes you curious as to what sort of big idea the Tinklers might next wrap their brains around. Brohawn mentions Darwin, and how 2009 is the 200th anniversary of his birth. Mason smiles at the idea of the Tinklers getting a grant to do research on the Galapagos. Since they've already done the history of the world, Manifest Destiny, and a good chunk of the periodic table, evolution is just the sort of small topic that fits into their bailiwick.
"And it's controversial," Brohawn smiles, before audibly deflating into the realization, "well, it is here."