Hi. This blog belongs to Matt Cibula, but I am not posting on it right now because I am working on an online novel at a secret location. If you want to read this novel as it develops, email me by clicking here. You can also always read the archives to see what you missed; trust me, it wasn't all that big a deal.

If you have come here through Google to find me, I'm still here, and I'm perfectly fine. The kids are well, my wife is well, the cats are well, we're all well. I have two writing books for teachers due out this spring; I'll post details here when that comes about.

Also, if you are with a school and you'd like to know if I'm available for appearances and writing workshops: yes, I am. Again, drop me a line and I'll get back to you.

Paz y luz to all of you. Love, Matt.


a couple of quick notes

Hey, Carla. Hey, everyone. Thanks for those of you have contacted me with interest on the new thing. I'll let you know the new destination on Tuesday.

I will no longer be posting on 36,500 Words, but I'll leave it up for now. I might start posting again on The Daily Seventeen, not sure yet.

Email me.

One love to Morgan Freeman, Easy Reader kickin' butt with an Oscar.


March 1: The End of This Blog.

As of March 1, Haibun will no longer exist as a regular weblog. I'm not sure if I'll keep it up or take it down; probably the former, for a while, if just for announcements and to re-direct people to my other projects. But yeah, not so much. March 1.

I've said this before, but it's time. I don't hate the b***osphere, not at all. But I think my time in it has passed. I just don't have the time to keep up, what with having a day job and a wife and two kids; I hate doing this boringly, and it's boring for me now, god only knows what it's like for the 25 or so people who read this. I'm probably linked more than I'm read!

When I started, I was sure that this weblog would be my main mode of expression in terms of being a human and a music critic. But I'm not sure that I care about being a music critic anymore, or even a reviewer most days. What the hell do I have to say here that I can't say on PopMatters or Stylus or ILX? And, more to the point, why the hell am I trying?

That's what this is all about: moving on. When I was a kid, I didn't sit around going all like "Man, I hope someday I can grow up and try to pontificate about the state of whatever music there is then." Geez, I didn't even want to make any kind of big statement like that when I first applied to InkBlotMagazine and told Jesse that I was the great undiscovered music writer of our time. I just wanted free stuff. And now I get a whole lot of free stuff, but I have no time to listen to it, and even less to reflect on it. I actually feel like I'm physically and emotionally addicted now to getting free music: the thrill of the new! so liberating! But there's an awful lot of stuff that I already love, gathering expensive dust in my basement and in the trunk of my car and at my desk at work. Something's gotta give sooner or later.

No, what I wanted to be when I was a kid was a WRITER. Someone who could really change the game, flip this crazee world on its ear with funny jokes and clever prose and wry observations. I have actually reached my goal three times over: I've published four books for children, I go to lots of schools to help kids with writing, and I've been a nationally recognized slam poet (corny but harder than it sounds). Then, I started to write reviews. Since then (and a second child and some tough times due to depression and inner demons and crap-eating weasel presidents of the United States of America blah blah blah), no writing, except about random CDs someone sent me in the mail, or that I bought at The Exclusive Company or Circuit City or Best Buy or Frugal Muse or what have you.

Anne-Marie says that I worry too much about the younger Matt Cibula hating my guts for being who I am. She might have a point, but I'm not going to change this conception. I'll still write reviews, but once the current batch is done, I might just pull a slow fade like Johnny Carson, not re-up my list, just focus on writing some of this stuff that's been waking up like a seed in spring.

Well, I'll probably still review, just not as much. Time to get paid and/or get busy.

So here's the deal: if you email me, I'll send you details about a new blogspot site that will begin on March 1. This site will be a serially-written novel that I'm hoping to publish someday. I'll write a new chapter each week. You can comment on it, yell at me, compliments and brickbats, whatever. But Haibun has to die so that new thing can live.

March 1.

I'll holler back a couple more times. In the meantime, ride that link train all the way into the sunset.


several things to say about the best album ever released, Pizzicato Five's Happy End of the World

in the cool clothes store
I hear a Japanese song
and it blows my mind

I knew about them from the 'Twiggy Twiggy' song, only a hit because of an ironic fetishization, but my interest in them was piqued one day, standing in Jazzman on State Street looking for overpriced pants. I have determined that they must have been playing Made in USA, the first comp issued by Matador, because I was really enjoying the music and then boom that song came on.

That began a hunt through the bargain bins and indie stores of Madison and other Midwestern cities for anything P-5 related; but the first one I got was Happy End of the World, and it remains the best. Here are several reasons why:

1. It is the most exciting music I have ever heard, even after hundreds of listens (in the car, on headphones, on my home stereo, and on my little shitty office speakers that I can't use anymore because I share an office now and we both write all day in silence). By now, I anticipate all the twists and turns that each song undergoes, and the sheer audacity and skill still kick my ass every time. When "Mon Amour Tokyo" begins, I get all excited, because I know the exact moment when the glitching will peek through the facade of Bond-epic pop song, and when the big fat beat-down busts the rest of the walls down. They're simple little songs rooted in the popular music of America and England and Japan and Africa, which are all then deconstructed through drum'n'bass and surf music breaks, through cheerleader chanting and groovy jazz riffs and odd sound effects. A whole ocean of WTF moments on one disc.

2. It is an album ABOUT music, but in the least annoying way possible. The opening song, "World Is Spinning at 45 RPM," is muted and hushed with fake-vinyl sounds, and its theme is Emerging From Depression; soon, the murk lifts and floats away, and that big-beat sound that Yasuharu Konishi does so well bursts in, and the lovely flat-voiced supermodel that is Maki Nomiya intones lines about not having any reason to be sad anymore. Which I need on a far-too-regular basis. Then we await the beat-screwery, then the actual song comes back in, ending with the most beautiful (translated) lyrics that any music lover could ever hear:

Right now in my head
Music starts to play
Right now in my head
The world starts to spin
At a speed of 45 revolutions per minute

(OMG, that still hits hard just READING it.) But all the other stuff here is about music too, songs like "Trailer Music" (a fake-Japanese movie-promo ditty that turns extremely weird halfway through) and "Arigato We Love You" (a collaboration with Arling/Cameron wherein they write the song they're playing in the course of the time they're playing it, and it goes from stupid pop song to club banger and back again all in 5:14") and "My Baby Portable Stereo Sound" (those are the only lyrics, along with "a new stereophonic sound spectacular" -- a phrase that is a recurring motif in P5 -- and "baby baby baby") and "Love's Prelude" (lyrics: "Pizzicato Five") followed by "Love's Theme" (which is how my daughter learned how to spell "P-I-Z-Z-I-C-A-T-O"), all the other stuff too but I want to get onto the next point.

2. You know how some people at the all-you-can-eat salad bar will fill their plates up tastefully, carefully, minimally, because they know they can always go back for more? I hate that. I pile it all up, everything sliding and shifting into everything else, devil-may-care, heaping maximalism, that's the only proper response to a salad bar. That is the way Konishi goes after music. His gods are Burt Bacharach and Phil Spector, but his other gods are Donna Summer and Carla Thomas and Tricky, and Richard and Robert Sherman and Shirley Bassey and Yes and Martin Fry (I'm sure of it, absolutely convinced that The Lexicon of Love is in his 5-disc changer EVEN AS WE SPEAK) and Chic and George Clinton and a million others. For spot-the-influence heads like me, this is a master's thesis-worth of fun, but you can also listen to it even if you're not a big nerd, because it's everything all the time. Konishi's salad-bar approach to music is the only appropriate approach to life.

3. The packaging is probably the most brilliant thing I've seen ever. There is no title except on the sleeve, the back cover is just the front cover photo reversed with some bullshit Matador info and a big yellow "********* records, tokyo," and the booklet inside the little paper sleeve has beautiful cutesy drawings and lyrics both in the original and in translation and hilarious synopses of the songs. I didn't know what to make of "Happy Ending" until I read that it was supposed to be "Accompaniment for a long credit roll of the movie starring Henry Winkler." Then I understood. That's EXACTLY what it sounds like.

4. This has the highest amount of jazz licks on any post-modern dance-pop J-pop album ever issued. It also has the most slamming drum sounds in my record collection, and a harpsichord solo, and a song called "Collision and Improvisation" which is through-composed.

5. "Porno 3003" is a three-part prog epic consisting of a long monologue by Maki over three different musical sets: "Music for Sofa" is slow and mysterious; "Galaxy One" is slowly waking up; "It's All Too Beautiful" finally busts through with housatronic brilliance. The monologue is untranslated here but I nerded out and found it on a P5-worship website a few years ago, and it's kind of like a robotic sex session, really about relaxation and control at first but then kinda HOTT in the middle part. The booklet description is spot-on: "A package tour of 9 minutes and 51 seconds."

6. Oh, more to say but Sammy wants to use the computer and I've been in here for an hour on Saturday morning, bad father. Anyway, if you find this record, snap it up in a heartbeat, it's important dammit, it's 63 minutes of music school and church and madddddness.

in the wilderness
of my soft suburban street:
turn my speakers UP


okay, over it already

Big Matt's back, and he's listening to Deana Carter and Mannie Fresh and Intocable. Everyone goes on extended walks in the wilderness sometimes; it's just that I do it more often than most.

There are no new links for you to follow. If there were, I'd be linking to the asinine Gerald Cosloy non-controversy, or something about how someone is stupid for liking/not-liking some kind of music I really like, or the thing about the other thing. But I'm not going to do that, as I don't really have a lot of time around up in here. Crazy at work, crazy maddd review writing on again, painting downstairs rooms (asparagus for living room, papaya and summer day for dining room), playing with children, sleeping a total of 18 hours this week so far, etc. Slow news week.

I just wanted to say hi. I'm still standing, I'm not down, etc. Thanks to all the people who've sent nice messages privately or in the comments section. Apparently I have friends; maybe I'll meet some of them/you someday.



Quick Update:

Super-cute Cibula family Grammy Smackdown at The Freelance Mentalists.
Also: reviews of LCD Soundsystem and Steve Porter, two great dance albums of 2005, are to be found by link-following.


Mea Culpa

I have screwed up royally. I didn't check a fact I thought I knew (actually I thought I checked it but I obviously didn't) and now a review I wrote has gone into print with erroneous information in it. The editor is pissed and I don't blame him. It wouldn't be such a big deal but a) it was an easy thing for me to have caught and I just didn't; b) I kind of hinged the first part of my review on the incorrect fact; and c) I really feel bad for the editor that trusted me, and for the publication that printed it. Even the fact that I'll probably not get to write for this publication again, or for a long time, or ever, pales in comparison to the shame I feel at having let down an institution and a person that I hold in high regard. They trusted me, I blew it.

I'm horrified. I barely slept last night, I wasn't very productive today at work, I have been in a crappy mood for 28 hours. (There are other personal factors here too, but they're insignificant for the purposes of this post.) This is my worst nightmare. Ever heard of "Imposter Syndrome?" This is the very common feeling that someone's going to figure out what a fraud you are and call you on it. I don't know anyone who feels this more than me (unless it's my wife, haha people who went to Harvard constantly feel like this, and the ones who don't, should). MY WHOLE LIFE I've felt like this. Now it's made real, blowing up right in my face.

My stomach hurts. I know this isn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things: it's not like I killed somebody, the world's still turning, my kids are still awesome, etc. But I feel embarrassed and called-out and guilty anyway, because that's the way things go with me. Also because, in music reviewing terms, this is inexcusable.

No good to say to myself "Dude they're a band from another country, don't worry, no biggie"...yes, it IS a biggie. No good to say "I bought it with my own money and therefore there was no press release to fall back on"...that's why they invented the Internet. No good to say to myself "Maybe no one will notice"...I know, at least one reader knows, the editor knows, that's all that matters.

I dunno, maybe it's a sign. Maybe I've stretched myself too thin for accurate fact-checking or something -- I'm usually really good about stuff like this! Honestly! -- and maybe this is an early warning shot across the bow to let me know that I should own up, face my limitations or something.

At the very least, it's a lesson. People, check your damned facts before you send them to anyone. I'll never make it again...but I'm afraid that one publication, for which I have been writing a fair amount in the last year or so, is going to be dead to me. I'm not even pitching anything there for a while; self-imposed suspension. Couldn't happen to a greater and/or sadder guy.

Anyway, be happy that at least you're not me. Oy vey.


no title

tiny little snow
settles down all over Earth
far as I can see

Maybe it's because I'm not sleeping much or something, but last night I burst into tears watching the video for John Legend's song "Ordinary People." The video, directed by King Kanye I, is pretty heart-breaking, with all the unhappy fighting people who manage to solve their problems by means of ellipsis; brilliant use of black and white cinematography; it's lovely.

But the SONG, oh my GOD, the song is genius. Lovely for being what it is: an open-heart piano ballad with strings. Spiritual for John Legend's voice and lyrics. Ballsy for quoting Sir Stevie on ONE NOTE at the end. Perfect for the theme, we're all working as hard as we can, we all need a little ghetto heaven sometimes, life friends is hard / we must not say so, I find no fault in this just man. Words fail me now. They won't for long.

I came upstairs and told my wife that I had been crying watching a video. You could hear her eyes rolling back into her head. Still, though, I stand by my judgment that this is one of the songs of my life.

warming up the car
melody comes sneaking up
and blindsides me: POW



outside my window
that good old mid-winter rain
hoses down the snow

IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION: I am not in favor of Rockism. I am merely trying to analyze it and describe the unconscious philosophy behind it.

I am honored to be quoted in the Nashville Scene's Country Music Critic's Poll, which can be found at this address. Pretty much in favor of Loretta Lynn being #1 on albums and Gretchen Wilson #1 for singles, good job ladies. Pretty much a good result overall, although I am sad that more people didn't vote for Los Tigres del Norte or Joni Harms or J.J. Cale. I also voted for Anthony Hamilton's song "Charlene" at #1, but of course that was doomed by dint of not getting played on country radio and being by an African-American soul singer. Some people say that Anthony Hamilton is an Al Green wannabe, whereas I say that I am more eagerly awaiting his new record than the new record of any other artist on earth right now.

Then again I am given to making statements like that. I guess I'm probably more excited to see if there is something new from El Gran Silencio or Baaba Maal this year, or maybe the new ones from Lee Ann Womack and Deana Carter (which I think might be ushering in a new countrypolitan era, which would rock), or the Conjunto Primavera album which should be arriving any day now, or Mannie Fresh, definitely the new Common album, perhaps Los Fabulosos Cadillacs have one more killer record in them, O the glorious delightful possibilities, O what a big wonderful effed-up dappled world.

Anyway, I have received a gang of new music in the last few days, lots of stuff from Nepal and Cabo Verde and Sumatra and Romania and Argentina and Pakistan and Vietnam and Mexico and Germany and Boston and Cincinnati and other exotic places. I have written about some of it here and here.

Also, if you have visited either 36,500 Words or The Daily Seventeen and you like them, please feel free totell me about that, or to link to them, or whatever. I have some new links up, and more are to come, especially to some cheeky British newcomers.

sometimes late at night
I can hear the whisperings
from the other side


furtherly to clarify

turns out I'm gonna do a whole thing about this Rockism dealio on Stylus maybe but here is my basic thesis:

GIVEN: That anyone, critic or non-critic, "intelligent" listener or "casual" listener, hipster or scenester or regular person, can listen to and like any music and any artist and any album and any song that he or she wants to.

RESOLVED: That it is only the REASON for the likage or dislikage that brings Rockism into play.

THESIS: That Rockism should be defined as follows: The act of appreciating any particular piece of music or musical genre based on extra-musical criteria. We shall call these criteria THE ROCK AESTHETIC.


1a. There is such a thing called Rock, which is different from Rock and Roll.
1b. Rock is a noun but is more like a verb. If music rocks, it is Rock, even if it is not Rock and Roll. (i.e., Public Enemy, Bob Marley, etc.)
1c. Rock is a tradition. Therefore, musicians must know music history; it is okay to reference another song but one must not be derivative.
1d. Rock is about hard work. Therefore, acts must be able to prove their worth by playing their own instruments (and synthesizers are okay but not as good as organs or pianos), singing their own songs without pitch correction, and playing before live audiences.
1e. Rock is about sincerity. Sincerity is all: the burning desire to connect is the most important part of Rock. The signifier MUST BE the signified. The huddled masses yearn for the humble but special individuals placed amongst us who are filled with the spirit of Rock and therefore get to communicate with us.
1f. Humor is okay if it is sincere salt-of-the-earth-style humor, but it must seem sincere. If there is smarm, it must be cloaked in angry disdain (i.e., Mick Jagger). Sarcasm and/or silliness can be accepted as Rock after 20 years.
1g. Rock is about sex. (There is no conflict between 1f and 1g, it is okay and probably preferable to be both sincere and sexual.)
1h. Rock must incorporate rhythm. Rhythms must be subservient, however, to riffs and lyrics. Rhythm is a means to an end, and not the end itself. However, again, any song that seems primarily focused on dancing can be accepted as Rock after 20 years.
1i. In Rock, lyrics are important. This does not have to mean good, or meaningful, or comprehensible -- but important nonetheless. The sheer fact of several kick-ass Rock instrumentals ("Frankenstein," "Funeral for a Friend," etc.) is the exception that proves the rule.
new additions
1j. Rock is about spontaneity, especially if it is carefully planned. (See J.T.'s point in the comments section below.)
1k. Rock songs mimic Freitag's Pyramid, which is really just imitative of the sex act. That is why the guitar solo is the central trope of Rock. (It is also why most rock songs hover around four minutes today; earlier, pre-sexual awareness songs were more like 2:30.) If a solo is played and it is not on a guitar, the sound should somehow mimic the sound or feel of a guitar solo.
1l. Rock is best experienced on the ideal format for it: the vinyl album. This is mainly because there was more room for visual information (band photos, lyrics, credits, etc.) on albums; to worry about digital vs. analog in terms of sound quality is getting less and less Rock. The compact disc is acceptable due to convenience and increased length for bonus tracks.
end of new additions 2/4

2a. Rock is the standard to which all music should aspire.
2b. The quality of music can be adequately judged by how closely it resembles or partakes in the qualities of Rock.
2c. Therefore, Rock has an established canon, which is not fixed.
2d. Rock is always searching for its next addition.
2e. Every act is pining to become part of the canon, even if they don't know it, or seem to disdain the notion. This is the natural order.

3a. Artists are people with benefits.
3b. Each artist has a story to tell, and tells it in the course of his or her career.
3c. The ongoing story is lyrical, musical, and biographical. We care.
3d. It is acceptable and in fact preferable for an artist to give us details of his or her private life, as long as it does not take too much effort.
3e. For this reason, "albums" should be considered albums of an artist's life at that moment in time, with individual songs functioning as components.
3f. There are three models for albums:
3f1: Short story collections (most common: each song is its own story, one can infer the authorial point of view)
3f2: Poetry collections (rarer: each song is a poem, hard to infer the authorial p.o.v. because of avant-gardism and/or cryptic content and expression)
3f3: Novels (very rare: rock operas and/or linked stories)
3g. Although albums are the preferred form, no album can go without having at least one song that can be played on the radio. Said song must fit in the context of the album AND in the context of what can be popular in the landscape.
3h. The radio sucks these days.
3i. In fact, all of modern music sucks these days. Things were better before.

4a. Selling out is a bad thing.
4b. Selling out consists of alienating old fanbase by changing music in order to court new fanbase.
4c. Audiences can tell the difference between selling out and sincere art.
4d. Audiences care.

Okay, that's enough for now. Give me some feedback on this list, or else don't. It's not very Rock to ask for feedback.


a word here if you don't mind

Okay here is the deal. Our new cool hip Internet-driven bloggy-mountain-breakdown everyone-is-a-critic thing is great in theory but it has led to a very strange dynamic in terms of rockism.

Oh crap now I have to define rockism. I'm going to say here that it means this: "The notion that that music appreciation, no matter the genre, has to follow a 'rock aesthetic'; to wit: 1) music is best if it is somehow 'authentic' and 'real'; 2) that there are certain records or songs that form an accepted and acceptable canon that just about everyone agrees on; 3) that records or albums that do not fit this aesthetic are somehow inherently bad; 4) that this all actually matters; 5) that it is okay to think along these lines." I know this is a crummy definition but so what.

So here's my problem: we're all so desperate to avoid this kind of thinking (because we're modern don't you know, we're hip and happening, future moving a mile a minute etc.) that we have no patience anymore for the transitional record. Case in point: the new Over the Rhine record, due out in March. I like this record and will be reviewing it, but it only makes sense in the most gross "rockist" terms: a.k.a.: it tells the story, basically, of the couple that makes up this band,and how they have decided to save their relationship by scaling back their ambitions, it's a whole re-connection to each other thing, etc. NONE OF WHICH will make any sense to people who don't know that they're married to each other, that they almost broke through to a big audience last year, that they almost broke up in the course of their tour, etc.

We used to care about details like this: this song must be to this ex-girlfriend, this sound is a new one struggling for air so we thought we'd try it out for a bit, this album mourns a war that the singer hates, etc. Now these biographical / career-history details are irrelevant. It's all about PLEASE US NOW, ENTERTAIN US, knives out, worst.album.ever, etc. Maybe this is a good thing, in fact probably. But I'm going to miss growing along with a band, judging records by earlier sounds and efforts (without being beholden to the past or anything), being able to appreciate something using my memory instead of just my snap critical judgment WHICH IS ALWAYS RIGHT etc.

Oh well. C'est la vie.