Saturday, April 29, 2006


My newspaper — the one I quit this blog to do — died long ago, but its remnants are everywhere, from the disconnected fax machine to the box of advertising rate cards I can’t bring myself to throw away. Because I’ve been trying feebly to revive it, Cambridge Day also keeps its presence on the Internet; I wanted to keep the event listings coming in, for one thing.

One of the unintended effects of this, though, is that I’m occasionally contacted by people seeking media coverage. I feel bad when I can’t follow through and help.

Especially when they send free stuff.

That’s what the band Pinocchio Syndrome did, providing a nine-song compact disc, publicity still, press release and biography. Having inadvertently conned the quartet into wasting a bunch of effort and postage, not to mention abusing its hopes and good will, I figured the least I could do was listen to the album and pass on what I thought about it.

In short, I wasn’t even done with the first listen before racing furiously for the press release to find out when the band was playing next. I was shattered to find out I’d missed its performance upstairs at The Middle East by less than a day. Hell. It was even more frustrating to find out that, because I’m starting work next week, I can’t get to the band’s May 18 show at T.T. the Bear’s Place. (On the other hand, Pinocchio Syndrome is scheduled to go on at 11 p.m. This makes it barely plausible that I can catch some of the band’s set, given that things are rarely on schedule at rock clubs, let alone rock clubs in the greater Big Dig area.)

I had this reaction, obviously, because I liked Pinocchio Syndrome’s music. This is not the usual metal crap, indie tedium or, thank god, American Idolatry. Indeed, trying to categorize the band merely reveals the pointlessness of the activity. What can I say? That Pinocchio Syndrome is like Primus meets Fiona Apple meets Joy Division, Metric, the Doors, Radiohead and Massive Attack? And that list wasn’t even in any particular order, so anyone gleaning direction from it is almost certainly going to get lost.

To be honest, Pinocchio Syndrome work from the “Free Heat” album is just this side of headachy, but it drones on (the median length of songs is 4 minutes, 13 seconds) in a way that is more epic than monotonous, and it is easy to imagine a live show leaving listeners dazed, stunned openmouthed. When you finish a Syndrome song, let alone an album, you feel like you’ve been somewhere — and that, while it wasn’t so easy getting there, the journey was as important as the destination.

The music is heavy on guitar but rescued by piano. The former makes it grandiose, the latter ironic. The result is a decadence strangely reminiscent of Brecht and Weill, or Jacques Brel, for that matter, particularly when co-vocalist Renee Dominique Greer calls out theatrically “I love ... the lies” and repeats it four more times. “Keep your secrets and tell your lies,” she sings, and one imagines it being sung from one actor to another, with the pounding drums and frenzied strings rising from a pit. “Your 20/20 vision’s got four eyes.”

The band doesn’t traffic in simple love songs, odes to rock ’n’ roll or even polemics, which would sound silly atop its musical excess. Instead, it tells stories aided by Greer and fellow vocalist Max Goransson singing in everything from sullen mutters to outright screaming to Broadway swing, including in the deliciously dissipated, cuttingly sardonic “It Was a Bad Idea from the Beginning,” in which Greer gives full throat to a rollicking jibe at the self-dramatizing:

They’ll talk about you like you don’t even exist
And maybe you don’t, but the whispers persist

You’ve got your razor and you’ve got your reasons
You’ve justified your alibi that you just can’t please them

The funny thing is that the drama in Pinocchio Syndrome’s music is an easy invitation to this kind of earnest excess, even as the lyrics wink and slam the door in its face. You have to work a bit to get the point, including making it past the pretension in the band’s Web bio (“Pinocchio Syndrome began, with time, as a feeling. Then suddenly it was a thought that couldn’t even be uttered, an unfathomable concept.”) before getting to the deadpan giveaways (“You’re either with us or against us, so don’t fuck around”).

The conceit is even suggested — possibly even on purpose — in the band’s name, which says explicitly that all lies are given away if you know where to look. Is Pinocchio Syndrome a chronic condition? A cure would definitely be worse than the disease.

“Free Heat” can be downloaded, for free, of course, at

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I just caught a moment of the television show “Fear Factor” in which best friends are obliged to, yawn, eat disgusting things. But these disgusting things were more disgusting than anything I’d seen while flipping past before: a “sausage” of pigs blood and eyeballs and another of live Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

One woman brought herself to chomp down on the pigs blood and eyeballs — which went bursting out of the skin and spilling over her plate — as the other gaped at the squirming, clacking horror on her plate. “I can’t do it,” she kept saying, touching the sausage tentatively before the giant cockroaches erupted from the thin skin and scattered, slithering, twitching, over the table.

Host Joe Rogan seemed perplexed.

“You couldn’t eat even one,” he said to the woman, who controlled herself and sat back down in front of the creatures. “What happened?”

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


It wasn’t so long ago that Museum of Fine Art employees told us 9/11 means you can’t stand in corners to look at photographs. It was an even shorter time ago we were told thirsty MFA moviegoers must stay thirsty — because revealing there’s a water fountain just around the corner is apparently not policy. And yesterday my backpack (and laptop) had to be checked in, while my friends’ purses didn’t.

I asked why, and the guard didn’t know. His manager did, though: 9/11. Again.

Bombs fit in backpacks, but not in purses, he told me. “I know,” he told me.

We were not actually at the museum to test whether we’d be irritated every time we went. We were there for the free Art in Bloom event. Foolishly, I spent $5 for the 36-page event guide, thinking somewhere in those 36 pages was some value. After all, there were 70 exhibits of flowers and art over two floors of giant museum, and it would be nice to get the inside story on what we were seeing.

Too bad the guide is worthless.

Just as an example, here’s the text on exhibit No. 48, flowers by the Chicatabot Garden Club’s Jean McCarthy and Linda Meanns of a painted relief of the judge Mehu in the old kingdom Egyptian wing:

This image is a fragment from a large relief depicting a fishing party on the Nile. Mehu is shown from the waist up, facing left, and wearing a long wig, short beard and collar. The colorful paint is well-preserved.

Fascinating, but a bit of a gloss on the material you find posted next to the painted relief of the judge Mehu, which goes like so:

This fragment from a fishing scene shows Mehu dressed in a short, formal beard and heavy wig. Standing in a papyrus skiff (see drawing), he holds a yellow painted harpoon with which he has speared some fish. The bright colors give a vivid impression of the original appearance of all Egyptian tomb wall painting. Two door jambs with images of Mehu and his wife, also from his tomb chapel (see photograph), are exhibited in the corridor adjacent to this gallery.

Information on the flowers? Not so much. Reasons to buy guide? None. Irritation at museum? Consistent.