Friday, February 17, 2006

Moving Day!

I am packing up and moving. Well, I haven't "packed up," really. But I have moved some stuff and will continue to expand online at:
Please visit for tea and scones.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I'm convinced that if Andy Warhol were still alive he would be the master-blogger. This guy loves to talk about nothing in an almost Seinfeldian manner. I'm wondering if Larry David has read this book. Is our entire culture of humor really Warholian? Is Warholian a word? I don't know, but this book is great, compiled and edited and finely tuned by excellent friends no doubt. Warhol was, for a long time, on my "do not bother" list (meaning that I do not bother with him) but this book has changed all that. This man was wry, clever, witty and humble as well as imaginative. He's like a non-gay David Sedaris with more art.

ahem, some little tidbits:

From "Love (Senility)"

"Love can be bought and sold. One of the older superstars used to cry every time somebody she loved kicked her out of his loft and I used to tell her, 'Don't worry. You're going to be very famous someday and you'll be able to buy him.' It worked out just that way and she's very happy now."

From "Fame"

"I've always thought that the President could do so much here to help change images. If the President would go into a public bathroom in the Capitol, and have the TV cameras film him cleaning the toilets and saying, 'Why not? Somebody's got to do it!' then that would do so much for the morale of the people who do the wonderful job of keeping the toilets clean. I mean, it is a wonderful thing that they're doing. The President has so much good publicity potential that hasn't been exploited. He should just sit down one day and make a list of all the things that people are embarassed to do that they shouldn't be embarassed to do, and then do them all on television."

Capitol Hill goes on Jerry Springer or Jackass? Genius!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Small Change" - "L'Argent de Poche"

These are images from Francois Truffaut's 1976 film, "Small Change." I watched every scene of this movie no less than four times last week as I entertained two eighth grade and one upper school French class. (I also watched it once by myself to judge it for "appropriateness.") Conclusion: I love this movie. It's very funny (and appropriate). I thank the town of Thiers and its residents.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Striking the Anvil

Actually, that would be, "striking the mess that will become the Anvil."

This is Andrew Dudek. He and Green Bean coffeeshop owner, Pete Schroth, are starting a huge music club in downtown Greensboro, at the end of Lewis St, a block down from Elm. The club will be called The Flying Anvil and the guys have set April as a finishing date. Perhaps there will be a release party for Cat Power's newest album if everything is ready. The club will have a large bar area, a larger performance area with a stage, a V.I.P. nest and a record store. The club will host all sorts of bands, says Dudek, who owned and operated Tate Street's Gate City Noise.
Construction is definitely underway - today I spent several hours hauling old ceiling tiles and pieces of former wall out of the V.I.P. parlor-to-be with Andrew as the third muskateer chipped away at the cement. For now the guys are working Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays starting at 9 A.M. and eagerly accepting any volunteers who want to help out. The space is amazing and amazingly huge. I highly recommend stopping by.

This is the third muskateer in the future V.I.P. lounge. Notice the mask he's wearing. I had to wear one too so as not to inhale too much dust.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

An Interview with Claudia Gonson

photo by Clay Walker. I have been a fan of the Magnetic Fields since my freshman year of college. This band, as well as the other bands with Gonson and Stephin Merritt, are nothing but genius. Ms. Gonson sings and plays exquisitely on 69 Love Songs, as well as on The Future Bible Heroes' Eternal Youth, Memories of Love and a few others I haven't heard yet. She also played instruments on the Magnetic Fields' first two albums is the manager of all the Merritt bands, I believe.

Below is an interview I did with Claudia today.

How did you meet the bandmates and start playing with them?

I met Stephin in 1983, when we were in high school. Our high schools were nearby. He came over to my house with my older sister, who attended the same school as him. We almost immediately began playing music together, in a bunch of home-studio bands and eventually we formed a live band.

How big were your first shows and where did they take place?

We played our first gigs in Cambridge and Boston, Mass, where we lived. The very first shows were fairly small, I'd say 20 people. After a few months we had larger crowds, probably 50. That was considered pretty good.

What kinds of places do you like to play best?

Places that feel intimate, which aren't always places that are small. It really depends on the acoustic space. For instance, the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan feels really warm and intimate, and it's fairly small (I think the capacity is about 200), but Zenkel Hall, at Carnegie Hall, seats 650 and also feels really intimate. Town Hall, which seats 1500, also feels pretty cozy because it was designed to be for speech making and folk concerts.

Are you working on any outside projects or soundtracks?

Stephin is about to release "Showtunes" (in mid March 06, on Nonesuch). This is a compilation record of songs from the three musical plays that he's composed over the last three years, with director Chen Shi-Zheng. The complete scores from the three musical plays will also be available online for download. This fall, Stephin will release an album of songs he wrote for Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events." There will be thirteen songs for the thirteen books in the series, plus two bonus songs. The band will be The Gothic Archies (which is basically Stephin, with Daniel- aka Lemony- playing accordion). That'll be out in October on Nonesuch.

Your songs with the MagneticFields and the Future Bible heroes sometimes seem to come out of a very fictional place. Are these scenarios that the bandmates make up together or do they come from one person in particular? If you or one of your bandmates comes up with a song that expresses some fictional scenario like a lonely vampire or retired rockette, does it take a lot of explaining to get it across to the other bandmates?

Stephin Merritt writes every last word and note for all his bands: The Magnetic Fields, the 6ths, the Gothic Archies, Future Bible Heroes, and all his theater and film scores. He rarely collaborates as a songwriter, or performs other people's songs. So neither I, nor any other musicians he works with have anything to do with writing songs for our band. We often even do not develop our musical parts; they are sometimes composed for us by Stephin, who does the orchestrations in advance on music paper, and we play them from sheet music. The only exception to this process is the Future Bible Heroes, where Chris Ewen creates the music backing tracks, and then Stephin develops lyrics and melodies on top. But your question about songwriting still only applies to Stephin. Sure, sometimes I think; "What is this song about?" And, sometimes I ask him about it. But, sometimes I just enjoy coming up with my own interpretation, and maybe even believe it's the right one for two decades, until one day he says "that's not what that song is about at all!". This is fairly unusual, but it is not unusual for me to feel that a song is really moving, and then find out that he finds it comical, or vice versa. Not sure why that is.

If you had a weekend to just do whatever and all of your responsibilities magically disappeared what would you do?

Disappear. I really enjoy my life, but I feel burdened by a feeling that if I disappeared, to travel around or live somewhere else, be free of all contact or responsibility, it would really screw up my work with Stephin and his bands, which is an intense and ongoing process. We speak all the time, and are always brainstorming new projects, working on several things at once. Of course I would miss it intensely too, if I were to disappear, but I love the idea of just strolling around Barcelona, or becoming a potter, or living in Hawaii or something. Or working on a farm. Or hiking around mountains in Asia. Etc.

How have your ideas about musicianship changed over the years?

It's a pretty big topic! I guess I feel like the big thing that's happened is the internet, and file sharing and the kind of access and community that it brings. Which is really cool. I am impressed with how easy it is for a person to make music without having a lot of money. It's like film, you can do it much easier and cheaper in the digital era. I'm not sure how much of it is good... but it's complicated for me to discuss this since I'm not really paying attention. I'm in that place that older people get into, if they're lazy that is, which is that I'm not really listening to new bands or new music. If I have one piece of advice for people trying to get going in music now, it's that there's no right or wrong way to do it. People call me all the time, seeming to feel that I have an answer to how they can make it. I really don't know how anyone makes it; I certainly don't feel we've officially "made it" . What we have done is stuck with it. It's always helpful to do something for a long, long time. If you can get along with your bandmates and try to define your roles well enough so that no one feels trumped or hurt or stepped on. Frankly it's no different from a personal relationship, like a marriage or a long term commitment of some kind. If you can figure out how to be compatable, work out your ego issues, goals, differences of opinion in a way that remains effective, then you can keep going. It's not easy of course.

Thanks, Claudia!

Here's a nice little reveiw of Memories of Love:

And a little something from Neil Gaiman on Eternal Youth:

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Boyfriend

This is my boyfriend. I went to visit him last Saturday at the prestigious institute where he studies human psychology. He's very intelligent and he is known as the alpha male of his research team. He's invited me to come and participate in some of his studies but I'd like to establish myself as a scholar before we join forces. He and I are planning to marry as soon as his next grant comes through.


I feel traumatized by the puppy fiasco. Please someone, found a support center about this.

Claire Zulkey has this to say - "surgically stitching anything into a puppy, even if it's the cutest wootest widdle thing ever, is still animal abuse."

For some reason I had the idea that one of the surviving puppies being trained to become a drug-sniffing dog is kind of like a former slave or prisoner becoming a human rights lawyer. But that would only really be true if he were sniffing out drugs that involved puppy-torture.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brokeback Mountain Notes - The Females

I give you: The Williams Center:
Thank god. Now that Jen, A.K.A. Michelle Williams, has been nominated for an Academy Award we're really going to need this place.
I have some trouble seeing Ms. Williams/Mrs. Ledger as anything except a-little-bit-more-round-than-Katie Holmes Dawson's girlfriend with a bubble in her throat but she was pretty good in BB Mountain.

You know who was better though?

Since Freaks and Geeks Linda Cardellini has been a Scooby-Doo gang member and now in Brokeback Mountain she's Innis' (Heath Ledger) second attempt at female companionship. MTV's Larry Carroll says she "may be in the process of setting the record for most diverse back-to-back projects." Cardellini was so good in Mountain that I didn't recognize her as Lindsay. I'm always surprised when young actors can, you know, act.

But also, who was this cutie pie? Anne Hathaway, originally from Brooklyn, was in The Princess Diaries (which I have not seen) and is soon to appear in the movie version of The Devil Wears Prada. At first I mistook her for fabulous Parker Posey but even after realizing my mistake, I was not unhappy to see her. She gave a good performance, I thought - There's nothing quite like a cowgirl and Hathaway played the character as spritely, coy and cold. (The cold part mostly because it is my opinion that her character was an accomplice to Jack's murder.)