Wednesday, February 27, 2008

kd & mf

this is how you can tell when you're really old:

the last two concerts we've seen have been at venues with not only seats but assigned seats. and we think this is a good thing.

just like both of the concerts: magnetic fields at town hall on friday night and k.d. lang tuesday night at the allen room (a very special venue: approx. 450 capacity, great sound and the backdrop to the stage is a tremendously huge window looking out onto central park south).

both shows were sold out. both had enthusiastic crowds (though k.d. had tony bennett in her audience).

magnetic fields song that would've made the show just a wee bit better: "100,000 Fireflies"

k.d. lang song that would've made the show just a wee bit better: "Pullin' Back the Reins"

definitely two of the best shows we've seen in a while. of course, we didn't go out much at all in december and january (too cold; another way to tell that you're really old).

an abridged reprint of my magnetic fields piece (a.k/a the Ethan Frome piece) is up at sfweekly.

in other news: we fly to mississippi on saturday, I'm about to take a long vacation from my day job, I was sent a janet jackson download today but I'll be damned if I can get it into my iTunes (not knowing how to work your own computer; another way to tell that you're really old).

good night everybody!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

with the oscars impending

(mere minutes away, in fact, though we'll be delayed here thanks to our recent acquisition of Fox Sports Atlantic (channel 452 in Queens)) I'll go on record to say that I'm pulling for "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from the movie Once (slightly disappointing but I had high expectations) for Song of the Year.

but am I the only one who thinks Glen's voice sounds like Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)?

(by the way, Magnetic Fields on Friday night was great. almost as good as the Texas beef brisket sandwich I ate at Virgil's afterwards. but I thought the Memphis-Tennessee game was about the most physical (the refs' fault) and sloppy game imaginable for a #1 vs. #2)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

blame it on the succubus

on Wednesday night, the Duke University Blue Devils basketball team lost their second game in a row (and their second conference game in a row) as Miami (yep, Miami who had never beaten Duke in 45 years (to be fair, that only covers about 10 games as Miami is a relatively recent (and strange) add to the ACC)) prevailed 96-95.

this is wonderful news for oh so many reasons:
#1 - Duke lost
#2 - Duke lost again
#3 - Duke now has two losses in conference play, creating a virtual tie with our beloved Tar Heels
#4 - meaning that if form holds and both teams win out their remaining ACC games(a big "if"), then the decider (an undeserved shout out to you, W) will be Duke-UNC II, a game I like to think of as "the revenge of Ty" (of course, more than likely the ACC tournament will determine which if the two teams will bring home that all important #1 seed in the NCAA tournament's East bracket (the first two rounds in the East will be played inside the state of North Carolina. and that's got to be a major advantage.))

the backstory of today's blog headline?
after Wednesday's loss, Coach Krzyzewski was quoted as saying, "We are not the same team these last two ballgames. It's almost like someone has come in and invaded their bodies."
got to blame it on something, I guess.

Duke hosts St. John's this afternoon (4 p.m. EST) on CBS (and I have no idea why that game deserves to be broadcast at all, let alone nationally).
Carolina hosts Wake Forest, the up and coming team that dealt DU their first conference loss, at 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, a televised game on FSN (call it your Oscar-watching warmup).

remember, while it may be too late to hate Duke early, it's never too late to hate Duke.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

no depression is dead, long live no depression

it seems that No Depression, a wonderful magazine to which I have sometimes contributed (both prose and photos), will cease print publication after one more issue.

the letter from Grant, Peter and Kyla explaining said decision is here.

(also worth checking out is Mr. Alden's latest blog entry, "Sing! Fear is a man's best friend!", in which he ponders Megan McArdle's recent article, "No Country for Young Men," in the Atlantic Monthly.
a (near devastating) quote from Ms. McArdle's piece: "Somewhere around the age of 45 or 50, the experience of losing a job seems to change dramatically. Whatever the reason behind the job loss, long-term unemployment becomes a much more likely prospect. People older than this are somehow unwilling to accept a new, lower-paying or lower-status position, even if that refusal causes substantial economic hardship. Instead, they may label themselves consultants and wait for a job comparable to the one they lost, one that, in all too many cases, never comes along; or go on disability; or simply exit the workforce altogether."
I'm not even going to count how many ways this is relevant right about now.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

castro resigns, lohan poses, obama wins

not that I'm suggesting any connection between the three.

the k.d. lang piece (not my original title) is up and ready for reading at Philly Weekly. it's my first Philly feature in precisely 51 weeks (what can I say? I've been busy).

last two books I ever read: Stewart O'Nan's Last Night At The Lobster and John Darnielle's Master of Reality (33 1/3)

next two musicians I'll ever interview: former Go-Between Robert Forster and Kaki King (both for the Voice)

lights out, kids!
I don't want to have to tell you again!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

my k.d. lang story

like a push me-pull me, I tell ya.

call me Doolittle.

I escape from Manhattan maybe an hour early, head home (it was brutally cold this morning with a ferocious south to north wind), barely drop my backpack when the phone rings.

see, I'm supposed to interview k.d. lang at 5:10 this afternoon but this is earlier. and the news, no matter how professional publicists try to sugarcoat, is not good. we're already on a ridiculously tight deadline (almost as bad as the John Sayles assignment and that one, of course, blew up like a bad joke) and now k.d. has lost her voice. as in, she ain't going to be doing phone interviews.

but they really want her to do this so can we do it by e-mail?

this does not mean that ms. lang and I are going to do the IM thing. this means that I'm supposed to submit a certain number of questions (I have no idea how many because I've always turned down these e-mail only interviews in the past, including with Rickie Lee Jones who I really would like to've interviewed) and sit back and wait for the answers.

and I don't know. I don't always write with the utmost of confidence, but I'm pretty certain I'm a good interviewer. and without the whole back and forth, rebuttal, follow-up questions, parry and thrust, I just didn't think I could do a good job.

too much like a puzzle. you know, take the answer to question five and put it in this paragraph, then transition to her answer to question six.

but I didn't want to pass entirely (waiting, of course, wasn't an option) and I didn't want to stand up my editor (who was completely understanding and supportive from start to finish on this one) so we decided to kind of split the difference - no feature, and we wouldn't kill entirely, but rather we would run a shorter, straight Q and A with an explanatory intro re: the e-mailed exchange.

so I've got to type out some questions (because it's not like I've got a list of questions written down for a phoner (or in-person, for that matter)). and again, I don't know how to really do this (having never done this before) so I go back and forth - short question, long question (meaning questions that should elicit short answers, then long answers). then the questions start getting a little bit more involved because at some point I'm like, She doesn't have to answer any of these if she doesn't want to. Nobody's going to force k.d. lang to answer these questions, so why not pile them on?

and so I did.

big, thick, involved questions. chunky with extra vegetables. just like mom used to make.

and I sit back on the couch and ponder what I will do with my suddenly free evening (no transcribing of a twenty minute interview). and I might even pump up a little thinking about how I'll have no transcribing to do at all. and that sometime later tonight, or tomorrow morning, I can actually begin writing this piece that's due on Thursday. except all I really have to write is the intro because the rest will just be pulling out the best e-mailed exchanges and letting them rest on their own laurels.

and then the phone rings.

I'm actually off the couch by now. I'm actually in the kitchen heating up some sloppy joe mix (not the northeastern sloppy joe like you get at a sub shop, but southern sloppy joes, like ground beef and a can of manwich) because this unexpected freedom has built up an appetite.

I answer the phone.

it's k.d. lang's management. k.d. lang "wants to speak with" me.

I hem, I haw. she's lost her voice. what does she want? am I supposed to be ready to do the interview? management doesn't know and for a second or two I'm quite nervous. have my questions pissed her off? does she know that I'm heating sloppy joes?

then I realize that if k.d. lang wanted to tell me off she would've let management do it. that management would've insisted on doing it. because you don't want the writer pissed off at the artist if you can help it.

but I'm still a little nervous (interviewing k.d. lang means something to me; I mean, I'm not sure I can think of anyone in the past twenty, thirty years with a stronger, more powerful, impressive voice; and I don't want that voice pissed off at me).

and I'm still a little nervous when the phone rings again. and it's k.d. lang.

she's read my questions, confesses that she's a terrible typist, and even though she is supposed to be resting her voice she's decided to do the interview.

I ask her if she's sure (I don't want it to be my fault if her voice doesn't heal properly), and she says, Yes, let's get started. but that I should only ask her "the good questions." I ask if she remembers which ones were the good questions, she laughs and we're off.

(to see how the story ends (I don't really know myself just now) tune into the Philadelphia Weekly in about nine days (I'll be here to remind you))

ms. lang's latest album, Watershed, was released just last week. and she has concert appearances upcoming in Philly (2/24), New York City (2/26-28), West Palm Beach (3/1), Chapel Hill (3/5), Newark (3/12) and San Francisco (3/25 & 3/26) among other stops. the three NYC shows are already sold out.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

all I have to do is dream

I'm not sure that dreams are a suitable blog topic. to tell the truth, I'm not sure that I've successfully determined the proper use of a blog, what should and shouldn't be included (other than including links to other writings and not including anything I'd be ashamed to have my nieces read). but that's another topic.

I've been awake, out of bed, for over an hour this Saturday morning. which is unusual to me since I am not a progenitor (at least of small children). but that is what happens, I guess, when you combine certain prescription drugs and the desire to take a nap at 10:30 on a Friday night. hence, the early rise.

and the early rise, coupled with the lack of need to report to work, means the head's still cloudy, yet filled with really just one subject, the most recent subject, which is the previous night's dreams.

I'm attending some kind of school fair. it's a Greek school, or at least at a school named after a Greek female saint. and yet the saint's last name (call it Saint Christina Papandropolou, though that's not even close to what it was in the dream) has been changed. for starters, all the Ts in her given name have been changed, updated in a sense, to Ns. I ask a nearby student, kind of a chubby-faced boy of ten or twelve dressed in grey slacks, a white shirt and a maroon v-neck sweater, to explain. and he tries, but it's obvious that what he's telling me is merely repetition of what his teachers - Greek nuns, I assume - have told him.

and it sounds a bit like propaganda, so I continue down the sidewalk that, in this case, is literally on the side of the building. which is a strange place to have letters carved into the concrete facing, but there it is. and I can see where previous Ts have been butchered, changed into Ns. as if some kind of awkward political re-education had taken place.

the dream continues.

inside, presumably in the nun's quarters, I'm eating a late lunch with five or six or seven or eight over people at a table, maybe a long folding table, covered with a cheap plastic, red and white table cloth. there are several meat dishes, most resting on aluminum trays the size of cookie sheets. but the food is all too greasy. like a meatloaf with whole bell peppers and whole tomatoes as garnishes, near swimming in a dark orange grease.

I think one of the Greek nuns is my aunt, and my mother (though the woman does not look like my mother at all) is also at the table. and I am telling a joke. and the women laugh. but then my mother not only tells me (in front of all these other women, making me feel embarrassed in the process) that my humor has crossed the line (presumably the line of acceptable humor for Greek nuns in the kitchen of their living quarters), but deconstructs the joke, like an experienced comedy veteran, a mentor, and tells me the exact phrase that thrust the joke into inacceptability.

I get up from the table and go into a back room which has a washing machine but no dryer. nun's clothes, large, bulky, beige underwear and white garments that look like aprons, are hanging on a clothesline that diagonally bisects the room. but near the washing machine and the door is an inordinate amount of cat shit, and it's all over the place.

it's as if someone has taken a litter box and thrown its contents across the room, and then gone back and cleaned up just the litter.

I try to help clean, but it's like the cat shit is multiplying. I stop to try to disengage a gob of cat shit from the left arm of my sweater, a polyester blend v-neck like the chubby-faced boy outside, except my sweater is grey, not maroon. and while I'm trying to pick off the cat shit that is stuck to my sweater tightly, clinging, like each were made of velcro, my cell phone, in my front left pocket, vibrates.

the screen says that the call is from some county school, and somehow I know that the school is in the southeastern United States and somehow connected (maybe he teaches there?) to Cormac McCarthy. I answer.

the cat shit is still on my left sleeve near the cuff, and now more has appeared near my right shoulder blade. the woman on the phone tells me her name, the school she's calling from, and that's she calling on behalf of Cormac McCarthy. it seems she's responding to an e-mail or letter I sent him months and months before. 'yes m'am,' I say. 'that was me.' she asks me what I want, how she and/or Mr. McCarthy might be of assistance. and I have no idea.

I know that I wrote to Cormac McCarthy and that I had a specific request, but it seems I had long ago given up on the possibility of a reply and so now I have no idea why I wanted to talk to Cormac McCarthy. and the woman on the phone is waiting.

'can I call you back?' I ask. 'I have cat shit all over me.'

it's the quickest line I can come up with. and it happens to be true. the woman stammers in surprise and assent. and that's when I wake up.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

kill the overkill (kill! kill! kill!)

big day today: Super Tuesday (wow, Mike Huckabee's not dead after all), the Giants' parade (like that wasn't long enough), the Dow's biggest one day loss in two years (like January wasn't painful enough) and, of course, Mardi Gras in the old stomping grounds.

and for some reason, over the past two days, I've been channeling song lyrics - original song lyrics - while riding the subway. nowhere else. but on the subway it's like a steady stream slaloming (is that a word?) through my head.

guitar hero news (yes, I'm playing too much): I'm currently #374 worldwide (or maybe worldwide Playstation 3; I can't figure it out for sure) in Medium Career rankings (the Foo Fighters downloads are especially fun even though they don't count in that category).

but back to the title subject. the Voice ran their fifth (count 'em) piece on Vampire Weekend in three days when Tom Breihan posted his "Live: Vampire Weekend, Not Sucking" entry last Thursday afternoon. and as they say in the old Shake 'n Bake commercials: "and I hayelped" (or something). I'll take deserved credit for the accompanying photo.

for more old news, Seattle Weekly picked up the abridged version (a la San Francisco) of my Yeasayer piece. but as they don't say in the old Shake 'n Bake commercial: "it ain't nothing you ain't seen before."

old business: Morgan (no, I don't know who Morgan is but he's connected to a music blog (written by Caleb?) with recent interesting pieces on indie rock voting and a "yes, please" in the Vampire Weekend argument) has written to ask that I explain, explicate, come clean about the title, "Strahan Has Corralled The Freaks," of my previous post.
and I am more than happy to.
"Strahan Has Corralled The Freaks" is an excellent song (if you don't use this link now, at least come back when you garner all your Pepsi Stuff points) by an excellent band (Centro-matic) on an excellent album, Love You Just The Same.
seriously (I don't do sincerity all that well), Centro-matic is one of my absolute favorite bands in the entire world (I picked their Fort Recovery album for the top of my 2006 Pazz & Jop ballot) and if Will Johnson (Mr. Mountain Goat John Darnielle and I agreed just last Friday that Will is a very nice guy, one of the best) knows what's good for him he'll write me with a release date for their upcoming Dual Hawks double disc so I can make some writing plans.
anyway, hopefully that'll explain Michael Strahan and some freaks (when I was in junior high it was pretty much the jocks versus the freaks, like West Side Story come to Alamabama).

the last movie I ever saw: The Bridge (a quite moving documentary on the astounding draw of the Golden Gate Bridge as a suicide site - four out of five)

the one before that: Atlantic City (Susan Sarandon, Burt Lancaster and Louis Malle in one of those stories where setting's strong enough to serve as its own character. really well done - five out of five)

the one before that: The Hospital (a decent turn by George C. Scott in the lead role but overall a very dated flick (I'm beginning to believe that Paddy Chayefsky is vastly overrated) from the early '70s (you know, the victim falls in love with her rapist, etc.) - two and a half out of five)

the one before that: San Francisco (they say that Clark Gable was hesitant about sharing the screen with Jeanette McDonald as he feared he might be consigned to too many scenes where his part was to watch her sing. I feel his pain. but it's still Gable and Tracy and the special effects (you know, the earthquake) are almost unbelievably good for 1936 - three and a half out of five)

less than 24 hours from Duke-Carolina I in 2008.
go Heels!

goodnight, Irene.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

strahan has corralled the freaks

well, that's something you don't see every year (or even every five years): a compelling Super Bowl.

the exact moment I predicted a 17-14 Giants victory: when Randy Moss' touchdown catch made the score 14-10 and I looked down at the office pool sheet and realized that the luckiest guy on our floor had the Giants 7, Pats 4 box.

nothing against Eli, but: yes, that final drive was amazing. and Tyree's catch against his own helmet after Manning channeled Houdini (he was in the grasp, right?) will be replayed forever. but the MVP should really go to one of the guys on the Giants defensive line. if not all of them.

not a problem for me because I was for the Giants: but Toomer definitely pushed off on that sideline reception, and New York held possession of at least two fumbles they actually lost (see Houdini reference above), most notably Bradshaw's high school wrestling move (under and over) on Pierre Woods after the New England linebacker had fallen on the bad handoff (and should've been ruled down).

poor Eli: okay, so maybe they gave him the MVP because he was too polite to tell the NFL marketing people what they could do with their oversized (so big it could fit over his shoulder pads) Super Bowl t-shirt. he looked like a Beetlejuice head on top of the body of the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man (Ghostbusters edition). having to go on national TV, in front of approx. 150 million people, dressed like that deserves at least a hybrid Caddy.

am I the only one: who found it interesting that Jeremy Shockey was downing a variety of alcoholic beverages in a luxury box with some buddies rather than watching the game on the sidelines with his teammates?

the ads: pretty weak group this year. and the lumberjack (leaning back in a "height of ecstasy pose" while holding a chainsaw) was much nastier than Danica Patrick's tease. Ax Men?

who thought it'd be a good idea: to cast Robert Downey Jr as a superhero (Ironman)? and why does Salesgenie even bother?

my favorite: the guy in the rat suit pummeling the homeowner for his Doritos (looky here):

in a weird way, it's nice: having people in New York awkwardly celebrating (see: yelling on the subway) the victory of a hometown team (esp. since it's not the Yankees).

why New York is better than Chicago or Boston or . . .: no centralized location to riot (everything's okay in Times Square, right?).

the Sunday sports story that really has my attention: can Ty Lawson come back from his high ankle sprain? because if he's not in the lineup, Carolina will be lucky to reach the Sweet Sixteen.

goodnight, Irene.