Logos Books and Records, how I’ll miss you!

I read the news today, oh boy:

Santa Cruz’s Logos Books and Records to close

As anyone who’s walked down Pacific Avenue (or read Going Coastal‘s “Santa Cruz Vinyl: Cutting A Groove” chapter) knows, Logos is a Santa Cruz fixture. It’s 11,000 square feet of pure enchantment for any bookworm or record hound. The entry-level floor overflows with records, CDs, DVDs, cookbooks, art books, graphic novels, fiction…you get my drift. If you tire of that (not that you could), the downstairs level has floor-to-ceiling shelves laden with humor books, children’s books, sports books, poetry books, and ever so much more. In spite of the size, the shop doesn’t overwhelm me the way some large stores can. That could be because of the clearly marked aisles and posted maps. More likely, it has to do with muscle memory: I walk into the place, and immediately I feel at home.

Logos has been part of Santa Cruz since 1969. It survived 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake, so I’m in disbelief that high rents and digital downloading will outlive it. (My mother bellowed “I don’t believe you! I refuse to accept this!” when I told her the news.) I feel heartsick for the employees (especially Dave, the friendly bespectacled guy who turned me on to Lawrence Weschler’s fantastic book Boggs: A Comedy of Values), and certainly for owner John Livingston. I know that generations of county residents must feel the way I do, and I hope someone will take up the Logos mantle. Losing Logos forever would be disastrous for the city and lovers of culture everywhere.

What a crazy year it’s shaping up to be. The world is fraught with tension. Quintessential San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau will be a Toronto Maple Leaf this coming season. Now, a place that has brought great joy to so many is about to be shuttered permanently.

Logos, you’ll always be in my heart.


Song In My Head #81: “Stay Tuned” by Ambulance LTD

One Saturday afternoon, I went to see a movie. This song played over the opening credits, dazzling me to the point where I had difficulty concentrating on the film that followed. (The proof: even though I remember it being a fairly good movie, I had to look up the title just now. It was the 2004 drama P.S., featuring Laura Linney and Topher Grace.) With its sunny guitar jangle building into dark shoegazing allure, “Stay Tuned” should have been a gigantic hit. (What’s more, today I learned that band members Marcus Congleton and Darren Beckett also played in the Interpreters, another band unfairly denied superstardom.) It’s never too late…

Song In My Head #80: The Replacements’ “If Only You Were Lonely”

Since I was one of those kids exposed to the Replacements via MTV back in the day, for many years I believed the old saw that ballads were reserved for the band’s later records. When I read Bob Mehr’s Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements last summer, I learned how mistaken I was. “If Only You Were Lonely,” cited by Mehr as one of Paul Westerberg’s first songwriting triumphs, was released as the B-side of the single “I’m In Trouble” back in 1981. It’s gritty yet strangely sweet, timeless in spite of the video game reference (which always brings a smile to my face).

Brent Burns wins the Norris Trophy!

On Wednesday night, Brent Burns became the first San Jose Sharks player to win the NHL’s James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the league’s top defenseman. (“What about former Sharks player and current Sharks general manager Doug Wilson?” you ask. He won the award in 1982, with the Blackhawks.) While I personally thought Burns should have won the award last year as well (then, he was a first-time nominee who lost to LA’s Drew Doughty), his 2016-17 statistics were incredibly impressive. He scored 29 goals and 47 assists in 82 regular-season games, leading the league’s defensemen in goals and points. He also had his best defensive showing ever, with a plus-minus rating of plus-19.

It’s been a stressful couple of months for San Jose Sharks fans, with the team’s unusually horrific injuries leading to a first-round playoff exit. With the NHL draft in full swing and the free agency period looming, the offseason promises to be intense. Nevertheless, there are a lot of things to look forward to next season, and a brand new reason to celebrate. Congratulations, Brent Burns!

It’s Summer Reading Program time!

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again. It’s the perfect season for barbecues, trips to the beach…and library visits. While summer hasn’t started officially, many library summer reading programs are in full swing. (I’ve enrolled in quite a few already.) In the past, summer reading programs were reserved for children. Today, libraries tend to encourage participants of all ages. What’s more, the new programs mix in various activities with your reading. Visiting museums and local parks, attending library programs, and going to concerts can help you reach your goal. (I have to give props to Santa Clara City Library’s Ready Player One-themed program, which, along with the expected activities, gives readers credit for eating pizza and donuts and playing video games.)

Why do I bring this up? This year, Santa Cruz Public Libraries’ program asks enrollees to share what they’re reading on social media. So, while I’ve never taken a selfie, I hereby present my first shelfie! I’d love to know what summer reading programs are like in your neck of the woods. Of course, if you have any reading recommendations, please tell all in the comments!

The Stooges and the (Three) Stooges

Quick, who’s your favorite Stooge? I always holler “Iggy Pop!” before the question is done. However, I must acknowledge those who would mention Larry, Moe, or Curly (or, especially, those discerning souls who like Shemp). Intriguingly, there are moments where classic comedy act The Three Stooges and quintessential Detroit punk band The Stooges converge. Jim Jarmusch’s 2016 documentary Gimme Danger reveals that guitarist Ron Asheton once phoned the Three Stooges’ Moe Howard for permission to call the band the Stooges. (That re-enactment sequence was the film’s unexpected highlight for me.) This week, I flipped through the latest issue of Ugly Things, which tells of a Stooges song about…the Three Stooges. Viewers who stuck around for the end credits of 2012 Farrelly Brothers opus The Three Stooges were treated to “3 Stooges.” Writer David Laing proclaims the song to be the greatest product of the Stooges’ reformation. Judge for yourself:

Song In My Head #79: “I Want Someone Badly” by Shudder to Think featuring Jeff Buckley

Most mid-’90s music lovers became Jeff Buckley fans because of a song; “Last Goodbye,” say, or his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I may be the only person who first appreciated him due to an unusual magazine article where he was not the interview subject, but rather the interviewer. Might as well start at the beginning…

It was spring quarter 1996 at Stanford, and finals were looming ahead. I was particularly worried about the Poetry and Poetics exam, which would not be an exam at all. Rather, students were to memorize Wallace Stevens’ “The Idea of Order at Key West,” and write it down in its entirety. I read and re-read the poem for days, but somehow it wasn’t sticking. I remember my friend Scott calling me the night before the final, occasionally interrupting our lengthy discussion of the Posies and Big Star with a stern but kindly “Are you sure you shouldn’t be studying?” (He’s a working musician himself now, which seems proper.) The next morning’s final revealed the truth I had repressed all week: I only remembered bits and pieces of the poem. (The mental block, apparently, was permanent. Today I looked up the poem, and aside from the “Tell me, Ramon Fernandez, if you know” line, I might as well have been reading it for the first time. Yikes.) My TA was sympathetic, and promised to take the rest of my class work into account when grading the final. Even so, I was pretty upset. I figured I’d flunk out of school shortly, and might as well do what I always did to cheer up. I hopped the campus shuttle to Palo Alto’s University Avenue.

After lunch (Chinese at Jing Jing, as I recall–funny how I can remember that, but not the blasted poem), I decided to browse the newsstand at Borders (formerly the historic Varsity Theatre, currently the Hanahaus coworking cafe), since that was an option in those days. I flipped through the new issue of Mojo, where an appealingly odd sidebar caught my eye. Juan Garcia Esquivel, 1950s space-age composer turned 1990s lounge-pop revival icon, had granted a phone interview from his home in Mexico. The man asking the questions happened to be the up-and-coming singer Jeff Buckley. Buckley’s enthusiasm jumped off the page, thoroughly charming me. As he grilled Esquivel about the minutiae of various song arrangements, I felt myself grinning for the first time in days. I knew that the wheelchair-bound Esquivel was undergoing painful physical therapy due to various back injuries, yet the older man’s warm, upbeat demeanor was impossible to ignore. His mind was percolating with future songs and projects, and the article ended with him proclaiming “I’m in a very good mood today.” Needless to say, the whole story put my problem into perspective. (Recently, I learned that the conference call was organized by rock journalist Barney Hoskyns. I actually met Hoskyns at the 2015 ALA conference in San Francisco, but didn’t know to tell him this anecdote at the time. Given the fangirling I was doing over his books that day, it’s probably just as well.)

I bought the magazine, and became a fan of both artists. I ended up receiving a decent grade in the class, too, though somehow the situation didn’t seem so dire by then. Music has a way of fixing things, even though, as we know, it can’t fix everything. Even today, it somehow seems impossible that “I Want Someone Badly” was released more than a year after Buckley’s tragic death. I keep checking the album liner notes and Wikipedia, but they feel like typographical errors in my head. (Yes, I do know the truth. In a lifetime of reading, four books fall into the “I Cried Inconsolably, Even Though I Knew What Was Going To Happen” category so far. David Browne’s Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley  is the first.)

That’s right, a song is why we’re here, and it’s an intriguing one. “I Want Someone Badly” comes from the First Love, Last Rites soundtrack of summer 1998. (The movie is an Americanized adaptation of the Ian McEwan short story. I haven’t seen it, but have always been curious.) The songs were portraying oldies that the characters heard on the radio, so they encompassed various musical styles. The guest vocalists included everyone from Liz Phair to John Doe, but the music itself was written and performed by Shudder To Think. (Band members Craig Wedren and Nathan Larson have flourishing soundtrack work to this day, and I’ve always wondered if this project planted that seed.) The song itself is understated and spare, giving Buckley full room for a powerful (yet not overblown) performance. (Since no other singers are credited, I have a feeling the doo-wop backing vocals are an equally impressive double-tracking.) I remember thinking it strange that such an amazing song was flying under the radar, which is probably why it appeared on the expanded reissue of Buckley’s breakthrough album Grace in 2004. I still hit “repeat” often when I play this one, which I guess is as good a tribute as any…