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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Under Construction

Under Construction
Missy Elliot
Under Construction
One thing that seems to come along as part of the graduate school experience is poverty. Not the kind of back-breaking poverty where you’re forced to sell yourself on the street or anything, but at least the type of poverty where debt mounts up through no fault of your own, unless the decision to get an education counts as a fault. Some people never quite get used to it, I guess. As for me, I’m less poor than when I was an undergrad, but much, much poorer than when I was employed. While I certainly never lived a very consumer lifestyle, I have had to make a few lifestyle adjustments. One of them has been to stop buying records. And that makes me very sad. (On the other hand, I borrow a lot more records than I ever used to, so I probably break about even as far as that goes.)
Missy
However, I had a breakdown a few weeks ago and bought a bunch of used records. The clerk batted nary an eyelash at the fact that I purchased Missy Elliot, The Beta Band, and Son Volt in the same fistful of used CDs. (I guess in a college town record store, there will always be someone with taste infinitely less discriminating than one’s own.) The thing was, the Missy Elliot wasn’t even a whim purchase. I actually went to the record store with the intention of looking for it. My teenaged sister is to blame for this. On our last family outing to New Jersey, she rode home with me, and we blasted Missy Elliot from my 150-watt Kenwoods in an effort to stay awake on the ride home. With that much bass in the small of my back, there wasn’t much chance of falling asleep. It’s like being beaten while you drive.
So I bought the album. And, on the whole, it’s good. Good beats, clever lyrics. The only thing that nearly ruins the album is the insipid monologue between each track. RZA ruins his greatest hits album the same way. Why do producers let this happen? They must know when they’re dealing with a talented musician who sounds like a complete doofus when you let them talk. So why let them? But otherwise, Under Construction is a good album. Missy take the whole misogynist thug thing and turns it on its head. But then she records a track with Jay-Z (a misogynist thug) about the “good old days” of hip hop before everybody was a thug. It’s like inviting George Bush to speak about what a shame it is that we live in an increasingly militarized country.
On the whole, Missy’s talent covers some unbelievably silly production decisions. But I guess as long as she’s selling albums, the label stays happy. And let’s face it: mainstream hip hop is all business and bottom line these days. Jay-Z can rap about what a shame that is all the way to the bank.

All Hallow’s Eve

phlogiston OK, I’m a bit late in posting this, BUT — Per usual, I headed off to a Halloween party again this year. The party was hosted by Count Chocula and his vampire mistress. This year, my costume was phlogiston. It’s definitely true that some people put a lot more effort in to this sort of thing than others. Even when I was a kid, I didn’t bother much with the whole costume thing. I would usually just wear black clothes, and be either a ninja, a burglar, or a beatnik, depending on when you asked…