Philadelphia Arts Advocacy Day probably sounds like something involving tall skinny women wearing all black and chunky jewelry sipping chardonnay and complaining about the callouses they have on their check-writing hand. And who’s to say it isn’t? Any tall skinny woman who wants to sip chardonnay and complain about arts funding is a friend of mine, as long as she keeps donating to the arts organization of her choice.
But seriously, folks. The Philadelphia Cultural Fund is likely to be reduced for fiscal year 2016. Last year arts advocates convinced Mayor Nutter and City Council to approve an increase in the funding, to $3.14 million. This year, we’re only asking that the budget not be reduced. We’re not asking for an increase (though that would be really nice too). We’re just asking that it not be cut (to the 1.84 million that Mayor Nutter has proposed).
In order to have cool things that make a place livable, such as summer camps, street fairs, orchestras, nifty little painting and writing classes, and endless productions of Shakespeare to make us all feel smart, you have to have cultural funding in your city budget. If you want to be a great city, you have to have great art, and that means great money. We’re not even asking for more money, we’re asking just to keep the number the same.
Thank you for all the hard work that you’re doing for Tacony and Mayfair. I moved to Tacony when I married my husband, and in the past eight years I’ve seen a lot of positive change. For example, the Tacony Storefront Improvement Program was long overdue and is a great asset to our neighborhood. Here is another way that life in our district can be improved, that’s also very important to me.
The Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s budget allocation is at risk. As a writer, artist and arts supporter, I’m writing to urge you to save the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF) and keep the budget allocation at $3.14 million for the fiscal year 2016.
As you already know, last year Council appropriated an additional $1.3M for PCF, bringing its allocation up to $3.14M. This additional funding allowed PCF to dole out larger grants and reinstate the Youth Arts Enrichment grants. This grant provides project support for arts-education programs serving K-12 students in the Philadelphia School District.
Funded projects directly address the priorities of reducing youth violence, reducing truancy and drop-out rates, and increasing the percentage of School District graduation rates and graduates going on to college.
They give kids something positive and productive to do. This is something that our district desperately needs. We have tons of young people wandering the neighborhood, and no opportunities available to them beyond sports. For kids who aren’y interested in or good at sports, there needs to be meaningful activity. Furthermore, participation in arts programs helps increase emotional intelligence, making people less likely to engage in violent or destructive activity.
There are many people in Tacony and Mayfair who are just plain bored, and live to complain about renters or people who are different, and watch television. Events such as the Mayfair farmers’ market and street fairs give residents the opportunity to interact. It’s great that this is happening, but we need more. The Devon Theatre has been sitting idle for years. It’s a tragic joke that the past artistic directors abandoned it. However, it would make an excellent space for Theatre Philadelphia companies to give performances. People in our district need intellectual and emotional stimulation that art and culture provides, in order to lessen violence, drug use and crime. The arts also enhance local businesses; people who attend arts events are more likely to spend money near by, such as for dining and parking. The Philadelphia Cultural Fund allows for better opportunities not only in District 6, but throughout the region.
Mayor Nutter has only appropriated only $1.84 million for the PCF in his FY2016 budget. Please encourage Council to act and ensure that PCF is flat funded for Fiscal year 2016.
Please allocate $1.3M for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.
Thank you again for your hard work, your time, and your attention to this important matter.
Come see my show, come see my show, come see my show, eh? Oops, I just got fined a million dollars.
In Moses Avalon’s recent article about Canada’s new anti-spam law, called CASL (pronounced “castle”), he describes a Kafka-esque or Orwellian nightmare in which bands who use a web-based form to gather their fans’ email addresses can be fined a million dollars for each e-mail they send to a Canadian recipient. Avalon focuses on the impact this legislation has for musicians, but this can apply to theater companies and any business owner, small or large, who needs to be able to reach a lot of people at once, on the cheap. Basically,
-if you have a super-cheap or free website, coded in HTML with a text box labeled, “fill in your e-mail address to join our mailing list,”
-and the user’s address is put on a list without a second opportunity to confirm that
-yes, they do want to join your mailing list,
-then, if you send them an e-mail, and they are a Canadian Citizen,
-you just bought the Canadian government a new library. Or something.
So, what are artists supposed to do to avoid this? Avalon says:
“The CRTC demands that every recording artist get “express consent” from each Canadian member of their mailing list before July 1, 2014. This requires figuring out who on a mailing list of potentially hundreds or thousands of opt-ins are Canadian, extracting their names, and then sending them another double opt-in permission email before proceeding to email them further. A task that experts on the subject agree will be impossible to do by the deadline. For the most part there is no way to tell which emails on a list belong to Canadians without expensive tracking services.”
Essentially, he implies that this law is an unnecessary and tiring burden on musicians, to pick through their e-mail lists with a fine-toothed comb, extracting the Canadian addresses and getting a second opt-in permission from the users in question. Furthermore, Avalon points out more about how this is all part of the vast government conspiracy to kill off every last independent artist with sweeping legislation;
“Or, or for the poor-man’s approach, if you’re a US band, you could simply stay out of Canada. And if you’re a Canadian band, you could move to the US.
I cannot think of a more bone-headed move on the part of our sister country. And all this time I thought they were supposed to be the kinder more polite America.”
I don’t think the government wants to kill artists off in one fell swoop. They wouldn’t enjoy that anywhere near as much as hunting us individually for sport.
So, before we all panic, let’s find out a little bit more about what this really means and what we can do about it.
Again, CASL states that e-mail recipients must have provided express consent. Generally, most businesses use what’s called a DOI, or double-opt-in method. You have probably seen this if you’ve signed up for any newsletter or social network in the last few years. Jeremy Moskowitz, who is a sharp mind among Internet technology people, describes DOI as:
1. They fill out a form on a website.
2. They get an email to confirm.
3. They confirm.
4. It’s registered as confirmed.
Jeremy said that e-mail list management systems such as Infusionsoft can show an e-mail list manager immediately if an address is confirmed (a human got the confirmation e-mail and responded) or unconfirmed (that hasn’t happened and you might want to remove that e-mail from your list). He said, “If you plan on running a business of any kind, you should consider using something that does this for you.”
Using a double-opt-in method allows you to be confident that your e-mail is actually going to humans interested in your work, not people who’ve been pranked, mis-spelled versions of the e-mail addresses of your fans, or bots.
“If you send out commercial e-mail, then you have to make sure that
(1) the recipient consents to receiving it, expressly or impliedly; and
(2) the sender/originator is identified, the sender/originator can be contacted, and
(3) the recipient can unsubscribe.”
So, basically, your e-mail list has to be based on a conscious and consensual exchange of information. (I can hear you now. “Oh, that sounds hard. Being a rock star isn’t supposed to be hard.”)
This is not a hassle, it’s an opportunity. Seriously. Remember when you were little, and your mom sent you to clean up your room, and you didn’t want to do it, so you shoved all of your books and stuffed animals into one pile at the end of the bed and said, “Okay, all done, Mom!” and she wasn’t too thrilled? Now, remember when she sent you to clean up your room, and took all your books and put them on the shelves in the order in which you knew they would get along with each other best and lined up your stuffed animals and dolls under the window in the order in which they best got along so that they wouldn’t fight, because really, that’s how all this trouble got started?
What? Was that just me?
Basically, you have to engage with your audience. Your e-mail can afford to be fun, as long as it’s clear and concise. Use your sense of play. That’s what got you into being an independent artist in the first place, right? Grant points out that the government provides a FAQ devoted to the intricacies of the new anti-spam legislation (really, they don’t want outsiders to stop doing business in Canada completely), but it can be about as simple as, “You’re receiving this commercial message because you signed up on our mailing list. Do you really want to be on our mailing list? If so, click here. Thanks!” and making sure that every e-mail you send out clearly states, “If you no longer consent to receiving these e-mails, ‘click here’ to unsubscribe. Thanks!” Think of this as a way of keeping your relationship with your audience engaged and active.
You might be saying, “But I have, like, dozens of fans on my mailing list, and I played a show in Wildwood last year while the Alliance de Surf Internationale de Quebec was in town, and they loved us! How do I reach them, legally, when I want to sell the new EP I spent my last dime recording and pressing?”
Okay. So, first of all, you get yourself a cheap e-mail list manager. Moskowitz recommends MailChimp, which, along with d0uble-opt-in gathering methods, can give you 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free. Send an e-mail out to your current homemade list BEFORE JULY 1, 2014, telling them that you want to make sure that everyone on the list is getting the email because they really want to. Give them a link to your page with the link for a double-opt-in option to join the new mailing list (this is where Mail Chimp comes in). While you’re at it, throw in a perk for joining the list: a free download of a secret track you’ve recorded, a pdf of a connect-the-dots puzzle, some kind of incentive for joining, to remind them just how terrific you and your craft are.
Look at managing your e-mail list as an opportunity to connect with your fans in a different way. You’ll clear out the old e-mail addresses that no longer function, and reconnect with your listeners in a way which shows them that you’re responsible as well as entertaining.
Moses Avalon is a guy who knows a hell of a lot about the recording industry. His books are chock full of good advice, not only for businesses, but also for anyone who wants to make their music, art or craft without being financially punished for it. In the case of his article about CASL, his opinion and description is fair, but slightly alarmist. Sometimes anxiety is a good thing, it can jolt you out of complacency and get you to try new things. Use this opportunity to change things for yourself and your audience.
Need some hot fresh dance music for your Saturday night? Vince has spent the last snowy nasty cold wet afternoon weaving some hot guitar licks and classic beats for your booty-shakin’ pleasure.
One of the things which has been keeping me from going completely bonkers from seasonal affective disorder this winter has been The Thrilling Adventure Hour. It’s a classy, funny, smart, strange show, in the style of “old-time” radio drama and comedy, performed in front of a live audience, with a live band and Foley. Mainly, I listen to Sparks Nevada, Marshall On Mars and Beyond Belief, because they’re bizarre and hilarious, and Paget Brewster’s voice is like being wrapped in a silk and cashmere cocoon, filled with vodka and dipped in chocolate.
So, I was cleaning my writing room. The Wreck Of The Alberta and Who Is Cattle Kate? are finished (for now) and the current pair of plays I have to write this semester (pairs. why do they always come in pairs?)are still unformed, and singing along with the Sparks Nevada theme song was keeping me from feeling like this was an exercise in futility.
Within a few minutes, I heard a strumming in the next room. Vince, in his savant-like fashion, listened to the theme song (written by Eban Schletter), figured it out and taught it to himself.
So, while we’ve been trying to keep winter gloom from making us want to peel off our skin and run screaming through the icy dark streets of Philadelphia, Vince re-interpreted and re-arranged The Theme From Sparks Nevada, Marshall On Mars, in the style of The Shadows.
Last night, as I was getting ready to leave for rehearsal, Vince was sitting on the couch eating a big plate of poached haddock and brown rice.
VINCE: I found out something really important.
ME: What’s that?
VINCE: The truth about Billie Joe McAllister and The Tallatchee Bridge.
ME: What’s that.
VINCE: He didn’t jump.
VINCE: He was pushed.
VINCE: Think about it.
ME: I am.
VINCE: Why would the narrative voice be filled with so much guilt in the second half of the song, if not to cover a crime for which she’s nearly caught?
ME: But… she’s got an alibi. She was down in the field balin’ hay. Or her brother was balin’ hay and she was chopping cotton or something.
VINCE: But Billie Joe McAllister didn’t just jump off the bridge. Not that morning.
ME: When did he jump?
VINCE: The song doesn’t say. But he had to have jumped the day before, otherwise how would the mother know and bring it up so casually at the lunch table?
ME: Okay, but an admission of guilt doesn’t mean anything, what’s the motive?
VINCE: Well, that’s the big mystery, isn’t it?
ME: Where did you get this information?
VINCE: I just thought of it, right now.
Now that I think about it, and after double-checking with lyricsmode.com:
Billie Joe McAllister couldn’t have been pushed by the narrator, because the mom reports “Today Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge,” and the narrator has an alibi and a witness.
But you know who doesn’t have an alibi? The mom. I think she pushed him.
Oh, sure, apparently, she was cooking, but none of the food she served is stuff that requires close supervision: the black-eyed peas could have been on a low simmer and the biscuits could have been in the oven for a long time on low heat, as could the apple pie. And there’s no proof that the food was served hot, she could have cooked it the day before. Also, the father mentions that they have forty acres; a family living on a farm or ranch that large wouldn’t have found out about a suicide investigation that quickly without first hand knowledge.
And, Mama does have a motive, because she’s trying to set the narrator up with the preacher.
And she shows absolutely no remorse. Clearly, Mama is the cold-blooded killer.
David Bowie turns 66 today, and, true to form as a brilliant marketing person as well as an artist, he’s giving us all a birthday present. His new album is released today, with a new single, ‘Where Are We Now?’ with an accompanying video. The short film by Tony Oursler is as captivating as any of Mr. B’s other projects, a calm, pensive exploration of one’s place in the last 66 years.
He was born in 1947 (same year as my mom) into an England repairing itself from World War II. The tragedies of that time were so horrible it was believed that the human race could never, ever do anything so bad to its fellow creatures ever again. Of course, history has shown that humans have an amazing tendency to shoot themselves in the foot. Repeatedly. The video for ‘Where Are We Now?’ is crafted to show Mr. B’s diverse drives concerning his role as a pop artist in a world where disasters are quickly forgotten, covered by a fresh coat of paint and a pretty PR campaign.
The video opens with a shot of what appears to be a large, cut diamond, on a cluttered surface, at the center of a cold visual field. Most viewers will instantly believe this to be fake: glass paperweights and plastic tchotchkes like this sell everywhere from Tiffany’s to A.C. Moore. Later we’ll look at what the faceted jewel signifies and what it actually is. Don’t let me forget. (Cripes, hang onto your butt, because this could get more rambly than Quentin Tarantino’s famous speech from Sleep With Me about the homoerotic nature of Top Gun. But, the only person with a more calculated sense of image other than David Bowie outside of public office is Madonna, so no detail is in the frame by accident). The next shot is of a broken or disassembled frame without a picture. The glass is intact, and reflects a view of a street, with moving vehicles. It’s sort of a glass half empty/glass half full test: is this garbage, or is it a picture in and of itself? Or is it a symbol of two-dimensional art abandoned?
The point of view moves through a room, again with a cold visual field, cluttered with mismatched objects and evocative of abandonment or disaster. It finally settles on (again, ambivalently), what is either a pile of clutter or an arrangement of mismatched objects, like a still life or installation. The primary focus is on a screen, projected on which are street scenes in black and white, and a doll that appears to be a two-headed baby (which seems to be a not to Mr. Bowie’s embrace of circus freaks and space oddities, cuddly friendly ones). The faces are blank white pillows, on which the faces of Mr. Bowie and an unnamed woman are projected. Their faces are distorted by the projection, pulled tight, into barely-human masks.
As the song proceeds, the text of the lyrics is provided, bit by bit, complementing the rest of the visual experience. The song has the feel of a lullaby or a funeral song, dreamlike and peaceful but also somewhat disquieting, describing the experience of traveling in Berlin. The visual layout and pacing of the sung lyrics seems to be created specifically for this video to be watched online and compared with searches for the terms he uses. Of course, if you’re German, European, or any kind of a serious history student, the words are familiar. If you, like me, are 24 years younger than Mr. B and took American history instead of European, you might want some help from Google.
The song describes the experience of being in Potsdamer Platz, one of the busiest locations in Berlin, watching the crowd go by, on the Nürnbergerstraße, which is a popular shopping and tourist destination, looking at the KaDeWe, an elegant department store, and crossing the Böse Brücke. Today, these would be places where lots of commercial and tourist activity occurs, where supply and demand glitter and groove. However, the history of these locations is heart-stopping.
On November 9, 1989, the Böse Brücke was the first crossing point when the Berlin Wall fell, reuniting East and West Germany, completely changing the consciousness of the nation and the life of every German. The KaDeWe, or Kaufhaus des Westens, is the second largest department store in Europe. It has a greenhouse-covered roof housing a winter garden and restaurant, and anchors a boulevard of designer boutiques to rival any in Los Angeles. The business was founded in 1905, but the Nazis obviously decided to remove the mostly-Jewish management. In 1943 the building was nearly destroyed by Allied bombing, most notably when a plane crashed into the building. Potsdamer Platz itself was divided by the Berlin Wall and turned into a wasteland for much of the Cold War Era. Prior to that, its status as an important gathering place and trading post is recorded as far back as 1685, which made it a high-priority location for Nazi propaganda and offices.
Essentially, Bowie is pointing out that places of ancient plenty and pain are prettied up for profit, and asking “where are we now?” Have we improved as a society, or have we just given history a PR campaign? What does it mean to take places where people struggled and died and turn them into shopping malls?
Let’s go back to the is-it-or-isn’t-it-real diamond for a second. Think about what it actually is, and what it stands for. If it were real, a lot of people would have died to get it out of the earth, transport and protect it. It is probably a glass or plastic imitation of the idea of a giant flawless diamond, manufactured by the thousands in a factory somewhere in China. Think about how it stands out in contrast to the rest of the visual field here: barren gray versus “ooh shiny.” I don’t know about you, but, unfortunately, I live in a world where thirteen-year-olds fight over Louis Vuitton handbags. Not because they earn that kind of money or save up from a paper route or lemonade stand, but because their priorities (and those of their families) have become so wrecked by poor educations and too much advertising that they honestly believe that buying the latest fashion accessory is more important than anything else.
Never mind that this fashion accessory may have been made by a child who was paid maybe five cents a day to make it. Never mind that it was made in a factory in a country with such poor environmental protections that, all together, shopping in the Potsdamer Platz at the KaDeWe can set off a domino effect of money changing hands that results in the kind of widespread all-around badness that can still be as devastating as what happened in Berlin in World War II, just not all at the same time. So, not only are we sweeping tragedy under a very pretty rug, we’re also building another tragedy on top of it.
But, OMG I HAVE TO BUY THE LATEST SHINY TRINKET SO I CAN BE COOL LIKE KIM KARDASHIAN.
Oursler’s film places Bowie and Berlin together by showing footage from when Bowie lived in Berlin. This city and experience figured prominently in Bowie’s life, allowing him a place to get clean from drug use, and helping him create the albums Low, Heroes and Lodger. This film provides an opportunity for younger fans to get to know him, with its (aforementioned) multimedia-friendliness. It also allows older fans to travel down memory lane, back to when “Heroes” and “Boys Keep Swinging” really meant something. The lyrics say that he is in a “Dschungel,” or jungle; if you only hear this, it sounds almost exactly like “jungle” is the sung word. “Dschungel” is one of only three word in German that can be masculine, feminine, or gender-neutral. Bowie kicked down a lot of walls for men who liked to wear dresses and makeup, as well as women who liked to wear trousers and suspenders. In this song he isn’t the buoyant alien, or the wild rocker: he’s “a man lost in time, walking the dead,” (sung with the image of someone walking with a dog). The song never refers to the glitz of the shopping arcades, it could take place at any time in history. it’s a reflective story of a traveler walking with ghosts. Whether those ghosts are personal, political, or spiritual is unknown.
The climax of the song is the most universal part, evoking the love-conquers-all message of “Heroes,” with the simplicity of “Everyone Says Hi;”
“as long as there’s sun…
as long as there’s rain…
as long as there’s fire…
as long as there’s me…
as long as there’s you…”
The narrative states that as long as there is human companionship and kindness in balance with nature (sun, rain, fire), everything will be all right.
Disasters are on everyone’s mind this winter, as if they are ever far away. Berlin is a place of agony, where some of the worst of the human race’s offenses occurred. However, for Mr. Bowie, it is also a place of escape, where he created some of his best work and when he got clean. It’s a place of tragedy, commerce, and hope. Coming back to the diamond, we need to think about things (Berlin, Bowie, disasters, ourselves) as a faceted, like a jewel.
But, just who is David Bowie to pass judgment on the human race in the last 66 years of history?
When the images on the screen in the assemblage start to become most personal- point of view shots which take over the entire visual field, the film steps back to include Mr. B himself, looking at the multimedia art installation. Colorful objects are in the foreground, and a dog walks by, wagging its tail. Bowie is in the role of artist here. Despite the bits of warmth in the frame (the red text on the shopping bag, the ginger fur on the dog) he is in pain, clutching a notebook and pen- he’s at work, and his work hurts.
Again, nothing here is by accident. Bags with text saying “Thank you for shopping here!” can be found around the world and clutter every nation. The message, “Thank you for shopping” is not unlike George W. Bush’s message to the American people after 9/11. Bowie’s a businessman, an entertainer: he provides product to consumers. He’s not exempt from any anti-consumerist message, and his hands are no cleaner than anyone else’s. There’s another chunk of text in the shot that’s telling us something: Bowie’s t-shirt says, m/s Song of Norway.
So, just to recap:
he’s wearing a shirt
advertising a cruise ship (cruises being the easiest and most homogenized way to travel)
named after a Hollywood musical (starring Florence Henderson before she became Mrs. Brady)
named after an operetta (for people who find opera too much to handle)
based on a play
about composer Edvard Grieg, and his drive to create music that contributed positively and meaningfully to the national identity of his homeland.
Which really has to be a nod to how a musician creates something and it travels through time like words in a game of whisper down the lane, and eventually you have no way of knowing how you will be remembered or what your impact will be. You can go nearly mad writing “In The Hall Of The Mountain King,” and two hundred years later your music is on Bugs Bunny cartoons and your lasting tribute is a mode of travel for the terminally lazy.
(Oh, snap, I said that. I guess nobody’s giving me free cruise tickets now.)
What? Maybe Bowie always wears his cruise ship t-shirts when he’s just hanging out in the studio? Yeah. Right. The guy did a fashion ad campaign for Gucci, for God’s sake. I don’t think he leaves the house without four hours of planning and several drafts.
However, the last place where we see Bowie is not standing back against the wall with marketing copy. We see him as one of the faces on the conjoined-twin baby doll. After the woman removes her face from the projection, he steps back, but hesitates for a few seconds, as if reluctant to leave. It is as if Mr. Bowie is more comfortable being part of the image he creates than a person in real life.
Mr. B, like his own video, and the fake diamond at the beginning, is multifaceted and not without flaw. But, he’s pretty when the light hits him right, he’s here to entertain you and make you think. and, like a real diamond, he endures.
Yay, timely critical analysis of a short film, whoooohoooo! I gotta go read Ubu Roi now.
I just got my new recording mics and I decided to make a video of the uncasing. Enjoy.
The music that you are hearing comes fro m the Mellotron Mk2 rhythm tapes via the G-Force M-Tron Pro VST plug in. There were basically a bank of tapes activated by the keys on the left hand manual. There are a lot of cheesy rhythms and fills to enjoy and they are being played by an actual band recorded at IBC studios in England circa 1964. So it was me and them and it..
Yes, he did say the guy playing was his son-in-law. They were the financiers of the instrument and Eric provided the musicians for the instrument recordings.
Okay, so here’s my quick review of the giant ham and cheese sandwich that is the Nirvana-McCartney shebang last night. which I did not see until 6:30 this morning, which was this recording, while making coffee.
0:04: Dave Grohl: I am totally gonna do that Namaste bow I learned from the hot chicks in yoga class. Yoga chicks love that shit.
0:10: Krist Novoselic: It’s cool, Sir Paul. Half the room has no idea who you are either.
0:21: Pat Smear: Everybody thinks I’m Fred Armisen.
0:22: Paul McCartney: I Am Gowing To Speaak In My Sir Pawl Vowice So Evaryone Knoows I Hawve Bean Knighted. And Sow I Wawrm Up My Vowcal Cowrds Awnd Down’t Crawk Like I Did At The Olympics. We’re Gowing To Jawm Owt This Rawk Hit.
0:26: Krist Novoselic: Okay, so I let my daughter pick out my clothes. At least I’m not wearing a rug that looks like a refugee duck from the BP disaster.
My thoughts about the music: When Novoselic said “It’s gonna sound like Scentless Apprentice and Helter Skelter,” he was right, but I think it sounded more like Come Together. Again, this isn’t the finest recording in the world, it’s pretty good, all things considered, and I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and I thought, of course it’s good. It goes on for 60 seconds too long, but of course it’s good. Your lead guitarist has been playing professionally for over half a century and basically is one of the inventors of the genre, your drummer has been playing in every kind of band since he was a teenager, your bass player has been hanging out for the last 20 years playing music for other people’s bands and saying, “fuck the system,” they’re gonna go through the standard book of basic rock riffs and throw all of them at the audience. I don’t know why they had to throw them all at the same time, they could have afforded to back off a little bit, go for finesse instead of bombast, but I’m sure Sir Paul could only give them two hours (including the performance night).
I’m also dying to know what kind of guitar Sir Paul’s playing here.
You know what would not have sucked? All things considered, if they had done this, which has no relation to a hurricane, but it sure would have been fun to listen to:
I just hope this means some more people get heat and electricity and food and clothes and stuff, who need it.
Blogging here has been thin, the semester has been thick. Right now I’m up to my nose in a work in progress and up against a deadline, but I promise some actual content after it’s all over but the shouting.
It’s that magical time of year, where I have to dig in, eschew all social contact, and sacrifice myself to finals. I’ve been spending the rainiest day in recent memory reading academic journal articles on Abstract Expressionism, and when this paper is finished and handed in, I will never want to look at a Jackson Pollock painting again. Maybe it’s oxygen deprivation making me feel compelled to overshare this with you.
I used to work at an upscale men’s clothing store down at the Jersey shore (just to give you an idea: men’s golf shirts, $50 each) that was so mind-numbingly boring that we used to place bets based on how overplayed the songs on the South Jersey lite FM radio station were (i.e., how many times will we hear this song this week?). There was a period of time where the song of the week was “Leather and Lace,” but they never identified the artists. We all knew it was Stevie Nicks and somebody, but we couldn’t identify the male vocalist. It took a full week before someone finally correctly identified it as Don Henley.
You know your job is mind-numbingly boring when you can write, in your head, a full gender-studies article on the cultural relevancy of the lite-FM chestnut, “Leather and Lace.” It made me fall in love with the song. It wasn’t a great summer, but there are worse fates.
Years later but still years ago, I convinced my friend Jeremy to sing this at karaoke with me. Being completely blotto, I blew it so badly that I still owe Ms. Nicks an apology.
So, that might explain why I find this pee-myself hilarious, at least through the first 4 minutes.
Ferrell’s comedy takes a while (and it’s not work-safe, you have been warned), but at 4:15 or so, Dave Grohl just takes it back and owns it (and me). I’ve never been a huge fan of, specifically, The Grohl- his presence is ubiquitous enough to have become cultural wallpaper at this point. But his ability to simplify and perform this overplayed song compellingly shows you why, much like Chickenman, he’s everywhere, he’s everywhere. Guy’s got some chops, and I wouldn’t mind that served up with some caramelized onions.
But then Ferrell breaks the absolute cardinal rule of the guitarist-worshiper. No matter how funny you think you are, no matter how complicated your bromance, YOU DO NOT DISTRACT THE GUITARIST. Guitarists in general tend to be skittery creatures, and it’s a complicated juggling act for them to perform and make it look like they’re not self-conscious. One wrong move and they will tear back to Mom’s basement, the six-pack of Schlitz and the stack of vinyl records before you can say Stairway To Heaven. Deep down inside every guitarist is a kid who finds a complicated, ancient and beautiful stringed instrument less threatening than people.
Musicians make good partners for writers. When you need to go crawl into a cave and scribble and scrape out a few hundred words and try to make sense of them, they will not miss you when you’re gone. They will, in their weird way. You might come out later on and find a mouse on your doorstep. In reality, they’re off doing their own scrambling and scraping. Whatever you do, when the machine is in operation, do not distract them. You might end up with a 12-string neck in your ribs, and you will deserve it.
After over a year of [almost] weekly blog posts, Vince and I took a few months off. This wasn’t on purpose. We had some other things suck up our time and energy, most notably:
1) Quitting smoking. I’m sure there will be a future, detailed post about this work in progress. Suffice it to say that it took up most of our head space starting in mid-December. In the meantime, please know that we are not converted and ideologically we are still smoker-positive. However, the Fine Turkish Turkweed, she is an expensive and harsh mistress. So, Nicorette is my new constant companion, and for the month of February, Vince made sure we were well stocked with Cherry Tootsie Pops.
2) The Conshohocken Curve. Whether it’s where you tap your brakes or where you break free of the herd, that phrase is embedded in the minds of everyone who moves within and without the Greater Philadelphia region from years of radio traffic reports. When it floated to the top of Scott Rogers’ brain one day, Vince knew this had to be the name of the band they’d been working on with Alan Kaufman. For now, the band is practicing and getting ready to record demos, with drummer Mark Sugarman. Keep your cool cat clothes pressed and on a hanger at the front of the closet, because the rock, blues and folk-rock dance pop express train is getting ready to roll.
(How was that? How’d that sound? Do I still have the marketing-copy chops? Huh? Huh? Do I? Huh?)
3) This semester is such a switch for me that it feels like my head is on backwards. I’m taking courses that are all about what things look like and how that affects society, and/or how society affects what things looks like. So, I have to know the difference between talud-tablero and duo gong, ruquhn and rubakha, Whistler, Tanner and O’Keefe. All of this falls into the “things that sound dirty but aren’t” category, and not in a good way. I’ve been learning the craft of storytelling for a year and a half, now I have to use all the “analyze, memorize and identify” parts of my brain. so, yeah, just when the learning curve started to make sense, it flipped.
Worry not, internet. Your favorite writer-musician power couple of love has been doing just fine. Amanda Palmer is in Australia recording a new album and Neil Gaiman is in an undisclosed location writing a new book. In the meantime, you have Lindsay and Vince.