Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Family

Purty LightsWhenever I go home to visit my family these days, I try to bake for them. I like to bake; my mother doesn't bake much anymore and my parents enjoy eating my creations. And who else will so willingly and happily eat my culinary experiments? So, I bake.

As I sit writing this, I listen to my father poke fun of my mother because she accidentally gifted him women's perfume instead of men's cologne for Christmas. And I'm reminded that THIS is why I enjoy coming home for the holidays. To sit around and watch too many movies and bits of all the various TV series that everyone received for Christmas - Battlestar Gallactica Season 3, The Original Twilight Zone Season 1, 30 Rock Season 1 have all been on tap this week. To catch up on all the random goings on that I've missed over the phone. To eat too much and hang out until my father stops flipping channels and settles on an hour-long look at the mating of whichever animal or the history of something. To comment on how much bigger the cat seems to have gotten and the latest animal sightings in the backyard. It's all very ordinary, but it means a lot to me that I get to be here for this.

Having had a dysfunctional childhood - like so many other people - these very typical scenes were always what I wanted as a kid. I guess I drank the kool-aid that the Hallmark commercial offered up. The thing not at all evident though in those sentimental 30-second attempts to sell something is how long it takes to get to that happy homecoming scene on the doorstep with the snow falling. It takes time to have shared history, because of course history takes time to make.

We all have family. In a perfect world, families would be the easiest birthright to claim and be a part of. In the real world, family relationships are among the most difficult courses to take in the ongoing classroom that we live in as humans.

As the year rolls to a close, I want to say that I'm grateful for everyone I get to call family.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Lying in Bed ReadingThe absurdism watch is on: I'm reading Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Everytime I pick it up, I spend the first 10 pages wondering what the point is, and then I shift into the appropriate state of mind and get into it again. It reminds me of M*A*S*H for obvious reasons.

Also reading Larry Lessig's Remix as the latest selection of the FMC intern book club. I'm early enough in the book that Lessig is still painting a portrait of how the business models of the music industry came to be and how they're not adequate anymore. This is hardly news since even the RIAA has finally realized that suing its consumers isn't a good idea. They're now planning to shift the policing for piracy onto your friendly and inept internet providers which will no doubt anger ever more people if it works at all. So, the people who can't show up to turn on your cable will now be charged with letting you know that you've broken copyright law? Right-o.

Speaking of absurdity, I was talking to a former co-worker who mentioned that she's created a folder in her email software called "really?!?" expressly for those ridiculous exchanges that one has in a 21st century office environment. Brilliant.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On the Mend

Jazz in New OrleansI'm happy to say that my fourth trip to New Orleans in two years revealed a city rebuilding. There's still way too much to do to be conscionable, but what our government neglected, the residents of the city have stepped in to do with grace and class (with a little bit of help from Brad Pitt).

If you ever make it to New Orleans, I highly recommend you visit the Mother-in-Law Lounge, the former home of and now tribute to Ernie K-Doe. Ernie's widow Antoinette K-Doe tells the story of how she waited out Katrina for days in the second floor of the lounge before she got airlifted out of the building still flooded in six feet of water, but you wouldn't know it from seeing the new tiki bar in the back and the Christmas decorations alight.

That first night at the Mother-in-Law cascaded into a day of meetings about musicians engaging in activism, which segued beautifully into a thoroughly entertaining benefit concert for Sweet Home New Orleans, an organization that helps bring New Orleans musicians back to New Orleans post-Katrina and helps keep the city's musical traditions alive. See the nice Rolling Stone write-up and lots of photos here.

[Update: I've been cross-posted on the FMC blog, too...multi-tasking!]

Monday, December 1, 2008


Ode to the MoviesAh, the week of large meals was a tasty one.

As a kid, Divali was one of my favorite holidays. The food was so good and always featured Indian sweets - kinda of like not-oversweet pieces of fudge - and gifts and a funny song that the kid in the family had to sing throughout the house with a handmade candle to bless the home.

My own celebration last Sunday was sans song or gifts, but with a good dinner with friends and candles to ward away the evil spirits. The dinner featured Mushrooms & Potatoes in a Tomato Sauce, Lentil Soup, Rice and Peas, Lemony Cilantro Chicken, a kick-ass Raita, and one of those orange-shaped chocolates that you smack to break into sections. A good time was had by all and my very first dinner party was a success and has encouraged me to do it again.

Random thought: If I married a Chinese guy who was Jewish, then we'd have four, FOUR different New Year's celebrations to observe and three of them would move from year to year!

The next day I traveled up to Boston for Thanksgiving. It was fairly low-key trip since I was feeling crappy, but I was glad to be there. In addition to the big meal, I caught the most recent Bond film with Justin (of Loudcity). Quantum of Solace needed more moments of quiet to highlight its moments of craziness. One of the things I liked so much about Casino Royale a few years ago was that Daniel Craig's Bond finally seemed like a fully realized character rather than a caricature of one. Quantum of Solace took a step back: there were too many chase sequences, too many explosions, too much violence and none of it particularly memorable. Maybe he'll have gotten over himself in time for the next Bond?

Not by choice, but I also saw The Notebook. It was cheesiness itself but Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams are mostly winsome characters and it was enjoyable enough despite the Velveeta gloss. Then again, watching Star Wars IV: A New Hope later was an object lesson in stilted acting despite its status as a classic. Context is everything I guess.

Anyway, I'm off to New Orleans tomorrow for a short trip to talk about artist activism, to see how things have changed since I was there at the beginning of the year and catch up with some friends.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In Pictures

I've recently become a fan of the Flickr Photo Blog - check out these shots from the Flatiron group, snow, or these peephole fisheye lens shots. There's this fascinating motherlode from the Life magazine archive, courtesy The Daily Dish. Those blue leaves are alas not mine, but still gorgeous (from Bostonist). Also, in addition to being such a cool cat, I didn't realize my old friend/roommate Mike Powers from my Stainerd days in Allston was such a great photographer.

Speaking of blasts from the past, check out Cassettes from my Ex. It's getting turned into a book soon but without the music (huh?), which means the blog with the songs posted is a much better way to check out this project. I have mixtapes but none from my exes, but maybe you do? They're collecting stories for the book so if you have one, drop me a line and I'll send on the directions.

There's some crazy statistic about how many fictional acts of violence we witness in a typical year if you watch an average amount of television. You can't help but become somewhat immune to it. That's why Danny Boyle's new "Slumdog Millionaire" was unique: I felt the enormity of the little violence there was. That's, of course, also the mark of good filmmaking: caring about the characters and what happens to them.

Anyway, "Slumdog Millionaire" was thoroughly enjoyable and had no song and dance numbers, for those of you averse, except for the ironic one at the end that felt like it was out of Dirty Dancing via Bollywood. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that boy meets girl, lots and lots of adversity happens, boy gets girl at the end. Even though you know that five minutes in, it's still a fun afternoon.

The End. (Hat tip to Boing Boing).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

True North

Weather VaneA few years ago Sarah Vowell pointed out this truism in "The Nerd Voice", an essay in "Partly Cloudy Patriot": it's the height of uncool to like learning in this country. The cool kids copy eachother's homework and are distinguished by how well they're able to get away with it. After high school, of course, the geeks all find each other and realize that they live more interesting lives anyway, but for 12 years, we live with the idea that you have to hide being interested in the past, the future and the world around you.

Welcome to Graduation Day Redux, boys and girls.

That's one of the developments I'm most looking forward to since the night DC exploded into cheers and honks and screams and high-fives and hugs: the geeks are out and proud again.

Two remarks that struck a cord:
  • As I walked to the White House the night of the election, the crowd was chanting "Pack yo' shit! Pack yo' shit! Pack yo' shit!"
  • My friend Emily's facebook status the next day: "Food tastes better, drinks are stronger, steps lighter, strangers nicer. It's like Mr. Rogers neighborhood."

  • As hopeful as I am about the coming four years, I'm dismayed to see the successful and accomplished Michelle Obama further morph in the public eye into mommy, fashion icon, and supportive wife. Hopefully, the fact that her husband seems to understand the compromises she's made will make a difference in domestic policy.

    In other explosive stuff, I keep coming across examples of high speed photography of stuff while it's exploding - vases with flowers, teddy bears and balloons. Beautiful.

    Also, I finally cleaned out my Netflix stash when I watched The Triplets of Belleville. It was a charming if occasionally slow animated film about a French kid who grows up into a Tour de France bike racer who gets kidnapped and later rescued by his grandmother and three fading stars of the French stage. The best part: when the tough, crusty, French grannies all turn out to be expert percussionists who play bicycle rims, newspapers, and their shoes with equal ease. It was beautifully rendered in an over-the-top caricature. Check out the trailer.

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    Inside Baseball

    The job that I moved to DC for was a tele-fundraising gig. I never made a single call, but I managed other people in their calls to raise money for various progressive causes. I'll admit to being a chickenshit - the fear of mean strangers on the other end of the line does me in - so it only seems a fair comeuppance that I made some calls for Obama over the last week. For all my skittishness though, they went really well. The first round of calls was to potential volunteers who were so pleased to hear from the campaign and eager to help. The second round was to NH voters who'd probably been taking these calls for weeks. The only notable call was to a woman who said she wasn't going to vote, maybe because I called for her ex-husband? Was it something I said?

    I am indubitably and undoubtedly obsessed with the election. Between the current frenzy and Richard Ben Cramer's "What It Takes", my life has been taken over by one election or another. No wonder I'm watching Alias Season 4 for fun.

    "What It Takes" is an inside-baseball look at Bush I, Dole, Dukakis, Gephardt, Hart, and Biden, their 1988 Presidential campaigns, and the modern political process. Reading it has been akin to watching the elections play out from both sides of the looking glass: 1988 from inside the election with a candidates-eye-view and 2008 from outside the election albeit from the most plugged in place in the country and in a time when it's easier to be plugged in. I'm more than ready to move on, but it's been fascinating getting a fuller picture of the characters in the play, many of whom are still around.

    I now need something thoroughly frivolous to read. Maybe I'll catch up on my unread Buffy Season 8 comic books or Y: The Last Man?

    In other randomness, I caught DC's High Heel Race and went to a couple of Halloween parties, including Puck's birthday party, but I punked out of putting together a real Halloween costume this year. Got a fabulous idea in waiting for future years though.

    I leave you with this awesomeness. Off to distract myself and see Federal Reserve Collective tonight...toodles.

    Thursday, October 30, 2008


    Black CrowesOne of the interesting challenges that came out of the Hindu funeral I was at a few weeks ago is that I was told I had to be vegetarian for two weeks. While I'm a committed omnivore, I'm often accidentally vegetarian, so the change hasn't been difficult with the exception of takeout lunches. Good vegetarian sandwiches aren't easy to find and salad bars get expensive, so I've been cooking more than usual for the leftover lunches.

    In thinking about it, here's what I'd miss if I decided to be vegetarian: all the various pork products - especially bacon and all the deli meats that go into Italian subs and muffalettas - and the very occasional burger. I don't eat any of those delicious things often, but how I'd miss them all...*sigh*...I'm making myself hungry. OK, no more food talk.

    Caught The Black Crowes during their 3-night stand at the 930 Club last week. It brought back fond memories of the first time I saw them with my then boyfriend, an overly sensitive, Jesus-lookalike, drummer. This time around, it was just the rock if you please. They totally killed it...and without feathers, any overly-self-indulgent solos, banter, or opener to warm up the crowd, just two and a half hours of the Crowes. They played a third of their set from new material which wasn't as strong as the older tunes, but it didn't detract at all. They had a couple of gospel-esque back-up singers who I wish they'd used more. The crowd went wild over "Remedy" and I got to hear a few tracks off my favorite allbum Amorica (i.e. the album with the cover straight outta Hustler). Something about the Southern-tinged rock always leaves me feeling relaxed and refreshed.

    In other non-election news, stuff I've been enjoying lately:
  • Feeling slightly less like a modern jackass when reading about the financial crisis now that I've listened to this and understand what "breaking the buck" means.

  • The awesome occasional mixes by the boys at Shilo Presents: #4 and #5

  • Patrick Smith @ Salon does a weekly column called Ask the Pilot about airplanes, air travel, airports, you get the picture. This post on airports, hedgehogs and poverty especially moved me.

  • Being something of a map fanatic, I found this fascinating.

  • Calexico's "Two Silver Trees"
  • Wednesday, October 22, 2008


    Mt. Auburn CemetaryIt's been a distinctly schizophrenic few weeks.

    After the frenzy of our New York events, I took a very necessary and relaxing vacation for a few days. But then I got word that I needed to be in Boston for a wake and funeral this weekend which put everything back into overdrive.

    I've only been to one other Hindu funeral and so I find that I look on the rites themselves more from an anthropological perspective. The ceremony featured a yogi who took one of the nearest family members of the deceased through the rites while stopping to explain what she should do at the end of every page. So, apparently neither yogi nor family is obligated to know what to do in advance and it's not considered rude to talk or leave and return throughout the ceremony. Then some songs are sung - none of which I understood - and then you pay your respects by pressing rice into red ink on the deceased's forehead and you leave a flower petal or a flower in the casket.

    One of the handicaps I go into any Indian gathering with these days is that I don't speak much Gujrati and I understand slightly more that that. Still, it was amazing how much more of the language barrier I could bridge after just a day around all the extended Indian family. Not long ago, I got a Bollywood film in Gujrati from Netflix thinking that would help me remember the language - alas the sound recording was so bad that I could barely make out the words and the movie was so incredibly awful that I couldn't watch more than 45 minutes. I'd also forgotten how any outing to eat with Indians always involves many, many requests for hot sauce and crushed red pepper.

    All chattiness aside though, seeing that much distant family at one time was somewhat stressful since at this point I barely remember their names much less how they're related to me. They all seem to know me and chatter on in Gujrati while my mind whirs trying to unearth that word I heard 30 seconds ago that came after my name. My 26 hours in Boston also featured a lot of smiling and nodding to random pronouncements on how I was now responsible for whatever, which was helpfully communicated in English. No questions about an impending marriage, but someone did opine that a boyfriend was keeping me from getting in touch more often.

    Of course, it was set against the very prominent backdrop of a funeral with all the grief and solemnity that accompany them. That made all the things that I normally would've laughed off feel more like an opportunity to go hang out in a cloud of mosquitos. Combined with very little sleep before and during and flight complications along the way, my nerves were pretty fried and my brain felt like a kaleidoscope that someone wouldn't stop turning. So as much as I usually love my visits to Boston, I'm glad to be back to my normal life.

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Beautiful Morning

    It's a Beautiful MorningEverytime I go to New York City, I like it more. The same held true this time when I was there for 36 hours total.

    It was a pretty stressful few weeks in the lead-up with some expensive revelations along the way, but our event worked out well in the end. Lots of people showed up, they seemed to learn a lot and were very appreciative, the panelists were smart and personable, no fistfights broke out over webcasting rates, the cocktail party was beautifully done and tasty, the panel on sampling brought out a new and interesting crowd and no one sued us for breaking their leg on the premises. As I said, all went well.

    Things seen/heard/realized while in NYC:
  • A representative from one of our sponsors sheepishly showed me the (illegal) painted turtles he'd bought in Chinatown the day before. Remember those? I wanted some of those so badly when I was a kid.

  • Double-sided posters: so cool, economical and green!

  • Old Town Bar in Union Square was nearly deserted on Sunday night when I caught the middle innings of the Red Sox-Angels Game 3 with James. Probably 'cause New Yorkers got no one left to root for in October. Poor things. Great burger and a great bar though with a cool history.

  • I missed a chance to eat good bagels, but I had a great Italian dinner at a place that I don't know the name of unfortunately.
  • Anyway, now back and taking a few days off and lovin' it.

    Saturday, October 4, 2008


    A few months ago, one of our summer legal interns, Jenny, and I were talking about interesting, fun, law-student-worthy projects she could do. At the time, a friend had sent me a link to yet another fabulous mix that was distributed illegally. That got me thinking and I posed the following problem to Jenny: how do I legally post a streaming mix "tape" to this blog that includes any song I want?

    Jenny very diligently started researching and took all our ideas of websites that exist in some quasi-legal realm and started piecing the whole thing together. She quickly ran into all sorts of legal bogs and the post is still in mothballs.

    Anyway, I thought of it the other day when I saw that muxtape was planning a revival as a completely different service from the online mixtape service it started as. Muxtape's founder Justin Ouellette writes eloquently about his experiences with the four major label groups and the RIAA when he was trying to negotiate a licensing agreement that might have kept Muxtape alive in its former form.

    Muxtape is only the latest instance of the mainstream music industry biting the hand that feeds it by refusing to embrace and enable the new and then laying blame when those services are popular. They seem to enjoy crying poor. And now that venture capital is getting harder to come by, there will be fewer services for major labels to try to squeeze for cash. Digital Music News takes a good look at the possible venture capital lessons learned from muxtape as well.

    So, inevitable new, cool illegal services + industry reluctant to work with emerging tech = more music available to music fans but less money getting back to the artist and the record company. After a while, artists realize the majors aren't helping their careers and they find more visionary people to help them build music careers. If history is any guide, the major four will hold progressively tighter to their declining revenues and be less likely to work with emerging tech...

    Around the merry-go-round they'd think they'd recognize the view after seeing it a few times?

    Thursday, September 25, 2008


    Black Cat EspressoWell, back from Chicago. My brain feels less comatose than it did when I first got back. I love the Old Town School of Folk Music, the location of FMC's Chicago event. Being there reminded me quite a bit of working at a dance school during college and having to thread my way through little kids in tiny tap shoes to get to my office. Trip and event were good and I was proud to have been a part of it.

    We stayed at this wacky bed & breakfast, complete with pottery collection, photographs, collections of all sorts, and great breakfasts. The website makes the place look straight-laced, but in person it's more like The Real World should've been housed there. My photos here.

    I caught the end of the second day of the Hideout Block Party - wished I'd seen more. I enjoyed Ratatat, who on stage weren't the same band that I have on cd; they were much better live. Saw the beginning of Hercules & Love Affair's set, but it didn't seem like the right timing or venue for them. DJs belong in sweaty, crowded clubs - not in half-empty parking lots on Sunday night.

    As to the event, I didn't see more than 10 minutes at a time, but I gotta go check out some of the releases by the Numero Group. They had great stories and I would've loved to have let them keep talking! Also cool to meet Dave Harrell, proprietor of Digital Audio Insider, a smart, well-written blog about making money making music.

    Anyway, before, during and after all that, diversions have been the name of the game:
    Burn After Reading. Well, I wish it could've decided what sort of movie it wanted to be. Dumb guy comedy? Political thriller? Hmmm. Decide and all else shall follow. Without that fundamental question answered though, how do you make all the rest of the decisions?

    Top Hat had some of the best dance sequences I've ever seen on film. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' "Cheek to Cheek" is a masterpiece.

    Darjeeling Limited was navel-gazing but oddly affecting. I was sceptical at first, but by the end, I bought it.

    The director's cut of Amadeus was a perfect slow quicksand of tragedy and left me wanting to violently wipe the smirk off Salieri's face.

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    The Gorge

    Professionally, I've always been a jack-of-all-trades. I've liked it since doing a little of everything saves me from boredom. However, the downsides are that a) it's hard to sell cohesively on a resume b) you're never quite qualified for any specialized position and, c) you're forever qualified for more similar positions at low-paying non-profits where they can't afford more specialized people.

    When I took the Events Organizer job at FMC at the beginning of the year, I didn't think much of the future, only that it got me out of an assistant gig. Then we decided to have three events in the coarse of two weeks in two different cities this fall. It'd be an understatement to say that there's been a learning curve. I've had lots of help and I'll certainly do it better next time. But interestingly, I haven't felt ill-equipped for the job.

    Most definitely, over the last six weeks or so, it feels like my world has gotten progressively narrower. I work. I sleep. And everything else gets third billing: eating, friends, running, whatever.

    However, the unexpected part of this narrowing focus of my days is that while my world has narrowed, it's also gotten deeper. That's because a lot of the parts of my jack-of-all-trades experiences have come into play and they make more sense within the context of this particular job. All that that random stuff that's crammed into my head has coalesced this summer into a job and I've learned more about all of it along the way.

    Learning so much so quickly has felt sort of like that dog sticking his face out the window of a car on the freeway and having to turn his head at times because sometimes the onslaught of smells is just too much. But notice he keeps turning back into the wind to get more? That's been me. And it's been fun.

    Anyway, if you know any musicians in Chicago on September 22 or New York City on October 6, please send them the links to our websites. These events will be a great chance for musicians to learn more about making a living making music in the 21st century and some of the policy issues that affect the process. Come on out and and pack the house!

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Moving On

    My Morning JacketMy old boss Jenny once made the point that you shouldn't spend your time on the platform making the other side's case for them. That idea came back to me while watching the speeches at the two conventions. I know the Dems like to take the high road (and I love 'em for it), but that tack presumes there's honor in this season of silliness.

    I had planned a comparison of the Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain speeches, but Cindy McCain only gave hurricane relief messages. Thank goodness there's less of a need for hurricane relief than initially expected. As for that other woman on the campaign trail who's unwittingly bringing new meaning to the word "sexist," I can't deal with talking about her anymore.

    To add a necessary dose of levity to my life, I've been watching the first season of How I Met Your Mother. What took me so long? I heart Neil Patrick Harris.

    Since I'm congenitally incapable of decorating, I'm in mild awe of Apartment Therapy. Boing Boing, however, hipped me to the Fish 'n Flush. Rad. Huh?

    Caught My Morning Jacket this week at D.A.R. Constitution Hall. I've never understood what the big deal was with their live shows. I get it now: Jim James has scads of charisma, he's overflowing with the stuff. I couldn't stop watching. I still left an hour into the show since it's been long days at work, but was glad to go. I was curious that there weren't more hippy types and that there so many gray-haired folks. It was also definitely a night of bromance. I love that word.

    I wrote about Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone a few months ago. This morning, I came across this NYTimes Magazine article about social networks and how they've changed as a result of Twitter and Facebook. The article in some ways could've been one of the chapters on the 21st century that was missing from the book.

    How could I not smile?

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    All About Expectations

    Well, life moves along briskly. Organizing three events simultaneously has been a challenge for me - partly because of the newness factor and partly from the sheer quantity of things to think about. It's been a good challenge though since I have a minor adrenaline beast living inside me at times...and moments like these feed that beast.

    Between work and the political theater, it's been a full week. Michelle Obama's impassioned Tuesday address made me wonder what Cindy McCain's going to say next week and will it be any different? I certainly don't want a 2-for-the-price-of-1 President so it makes sense to me that spouses' speeches, if they have to be given at all, stick to more neutral topics.

    But in a year when a woman came closer to the Presidency than ever before, it's sad that wives are not only relegated but expected to address topics of hearth and home and standing by their man. To address the spin campaign in place to alienate the Obamas from voters, the yardstick of success for Michelle Obama was in how much she could humanize her family and show that they, too, had lived an authentically American life. Despite any number of opinions about more controversial issues, there was no way she could have given any other kind of speech - even if she'd wanted to.

    My objection isn't to how her success was measured. After all, she had a goal and she hit her mark admirably.

    My point is that the role of humanizer was always going to fall to her. As smart, talented and remarkable as she might be in her own right, her role was always going to be that of supportive wife. High profile, non-political male spouses are still relatively rare, but you and I both know that no husband would be expected to give a speech like the one Michelle Obama gave on Tuesday night.

    Other Democratic Convention thoughts: I liked the fire in Kerry's address. Wish he'd given that speech a few more times four years ago. I'd like to note that CNN compared the two conventions' scheduling strategies to Spinal Tap, i.e. "you got two Clintons? Oh yeah? Well, we got two Bushes." Yup. And then Wolf Blitzer just confessed to lurving The Barenaked Ladies. Me, I always look forward to John King and his maps.

    I'm glad I'm in DC this fall. 'Nuff said.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Hair Here

    Wrinkle PointI was in Boston and at the Cape last week visiting family. Since I've been swimming semi-regularly at the new pool down the street it wasn't quite as much of a shock to go into the ocean as it normally is. Equally fun was biking around a bit while I was there. It was a fairly uneventful few days that featured a lot of missed connections and doing the hurry-up-and-wait. And since I took my job with me, it wasn't exactly a vacation either, but enjoyable all the same. See photos.

    While in Boston, I realized how rarely one sees unnatural colored hair in DC. In addition to spying the usual manic panic shades, I complimented this teenage girl at the airport on the fantastic color of her hair: blue in the back and beautifully shifting to teal in the front. Her mom, seated next to her, smiled. (Cool mom.) Not only that, I ran across a couple of 6 or 7-year-old boys with mohawks. I see plenty of mullets in DC - not worn ironically I think - but otherwise people seem to prefer a more strait-laced look here.

    Went to see Dr. Zhivago yesterday but ended up being a half-hour late and seeing Man on Wire instead. Great documentary on Philippe Petit - the man who walked a tightrope between the tops of the two World Trade Center towers in 1974. Go see it.

    Plucked out of the Internet ether:
  • The term "modern jackass".

  • Reinventing yourself as a frosh? Check. That's assuming you can find your dorm room though.

  • Freedom.

  • Walmart employees are copyright maximalists, dontcha know?

  • NYTimes cracks on French horns and the people who play them.

  • Still not joining the twittering masses, but interesting points all the same.

  • Jen, yet again, makes me tear up.
  • Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Sporting Rant

    The Summer Olympics have never appealed to me. Has anyone else heard the name "Michael Phelps" enough? Somehow he's even managed to overshadow those anorexic, overworked little girls in leotards that everyone fawns over, ahem, or as they're more commonly known: women gymnasts. I find the medal count crass. And while I don't deny the athletic ability it takes to play beach volleyball - this from someone that used to avoid the volleyball in high school gym class, not like Daria but close - I have a hard time taking a sport seriously if it needs sand and a bikini. All the while, the network strings you along in between as many mentions of Michael Phelps as possible.

    Or maybe I'm just being contrary.

    After all, at what other point in time do you get to see synchronized divers from Mexico on primetime television? There is the argument that the Olympics are a shared experience for a large part of the planet, an unusual occurrence still. The Summer Olympics are also far more accessible to many more countries than the Winter Olympics ever will be - after all, no pickup hockey in Kenya. I even got a little swell of feminist pride the other day when I happened upon women's professional cycling for the first time. Lance who?


    OK, I'm done ranting and praising in somewhat equal parts. I promise to talk about something else in my next post.

    Sunday, August 3, 2008


    I'm nearly done reading Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'm coming to the conclusion that there's no sustainable, ecologically-healthy way to eat other than growing my own food and living off the industrial agricultural grid. Being vegetarian, even if I wanted to go that route, apparently wouldn't change a whole lot. As educational as it's been to read about how food gets from from field to plate, I'm left wondering: where does that leave the conscientious urban consumer after they've been to the farmer's market?

    Sticking with the theme: Aesop Rock's carefully thought out list of Top Ten Cereals and Retro Kids Cereal Boxes - just check out what they thought your kid self would want. (The post was written, by the by, by the guy who dreamed up one of the ultimate geekfest events, the Buffy Sing-a-Long, which is now in mothballs because of legal issues.)

    I was sad to learn that Cookie Monster no longer says: "Me want cookies!!! Omm, nom, nom, nom!!" Apparently, political correctness and the mommy state (literally) took over and he now says "cookies are a sometimes food." Where o where is the childish glee in that? Trust NPR to notice, but at least the rumor that he'd be turned into a Veggie Monster was a hoax.

    Finally, a bit of food-related wackiness, courtesy of Boing Boing, a whole photo blog dedicated to documenting banana peels on the streets of London. No doubt, some of these bananas, could've used a Banana Guard. God, I love the Internet.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    3 Days in Chicago

    ArtomaticI was in Chicago over the weekend for a multi-purpose trip. Thursday's Public Enemy panel was everything that panel conversations should be. Conversation was funny, free-wheeling, and took on a life of its own. And even though it ran substantially over schedule, no one left. Keeping in mind that I know nothing about hip-hop, I found it most interesting to hear them speak from the producer/engineer perspective on the history of Public Enemy and the making of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Needless to say, I left that evening with a crazy need to watch the panel again (soon to be online), then put on the uber-studio headphones and listen for all the things that they talked about.

    Dinner conversation got very tech-heavy, but it was cool to talk shop - something I don't do very often. Interesting conversation on whether mastering is a necessary process these days given the switch to more of a singles-culture and the ubiquity of gadgets that fix tune and tone for you. This is a mind-boggling toy. You could literally take one note and make a whole album with it. It's really all a bit crazy-making to imagine how it could affect sampling culture and copyright law.

    Friday was me catching up on work and visiting Old Town School of Folk Music where FMC is holding a day-long September event.

    Saturday I got to hang with Alicia and Davide. Here's all the random photos from the weekend. We hung out, ate too much, saw The Dark Knight and then they introduced me to wii while we enjoyed margaritas. Verdict: I sucked pond water with the tennis, did OK with bowling, can't play drums to save my life, improved with the bass and singing and didn't finish most games of Mariocart since I kept running off the road. Fun was had, but what a time suck if I had one of those. So, no. Not going there.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008


    McMurdo from aboveEscaping into the air-conditioned comfort of the E Street Cinema this past Sunday, I saw Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World. It was a fascinating look into Antarctica's McMurdo Station, which is the dedicated to scientific research and the only permanent "settlement" on the continent.

    Herzog walks around the base talking to the people who work there, how they got there, what they do, why they do it. I enjoyed myself, but I felt like he was trying to get the audience to laugh at the people who work in Antarctica. Don't get me wrong, the folks who work at McMurdo seem like loners who've finally found their pack (and have the stories to go with their adventurer personalities), but I always wanted to be one of them - and applied numerous times to work at McMurdo - so I guess I took it a little personally on their behalf when they seemed to be played for laughs.

    See lots of photos of McMurdo here and here.

    Interestingly, the director was surprised that McMurdo looks like an Alaskan mining town. It's hardly pristine, it's filled with construction equipment and people running around in dirty white bunny boots. I think this disappointed the director since his conclusion at the end seemed to be that he wished we left blank spaces on the globe, wished humans allowed places to hold tight to their secrets rather than feel an insatiable need to uncover them. I see his point, but I think that we go to new places not only to learn more about them but to learn more about ourselves. I think of traveling more as allowing yourself to be changed by other experiences so I don't see discovery as a zero-sum proposal. And if someone else has been there first, that doesn't make the journey less significant for me.

    Personal quibbles aside, go see this or at least put it on your netflix queue and be pleasantly surprised when it lands in your mailbox. After all, armchair traveling counts as journeying, too.

    Friday, July 11, 2008


    SunsetI have a problem. The problem is that I get stuck in the land of indie rock unless I make an effort to take another direction. So, I'm overhauling my ipod.

    Shuffling is cool most of the time and gets me listening to the random corners of my collection, but it's not enough. So, my plan at this point is to get rid of all the single tracks and everything that falls into the category of indie rock. Exceptions: the indie rock I haven't listened to and the running playlist, because I can't just go running to whatever.

    Of course, the new Girltalk album is like listening to a couple hundred different albums all by itself. There are so many samples, it's like playing "where's waldo?". It's a not-commercially-available-because-he-didn't-and-couldn't-have-cleared-the-samples, pay-what-you-like dealie available here.

    Anyway, what's left on my ipod? Not a whole lot since I can't afford to legally buy a new music collection.

  • David Bowie - he talks here about writing the songs he still doesn't tire of playing live
  • She & Him's Volume 1 - an odd little summer album, but the deconstructed, off-kilter Smokey Robinson cover won me over
  • Goldfrapp - both 2003's Black Cherry and this year's Seventh Tree
  • My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges - Are they really the second coming of rock music?
  • The Meters' Fiyo at the Filmore Volume 1
  • Common Market's Black Patch War
  • RJD2's Deadringer
  • Air's Moon Safari - loved Talkie Walkie, just never quite made to this classic
  • The National's Boxer
  • Tom Waits' Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards
  • Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - it'd be nice to know what they're talking about
  • Etta James boxset
  • Girltalk's aforementioned Feed the Animals
  • Ratatat's LP3
  • The Campbell Brothers with John Medeski on Can You Feel It?

  • Yup, I could go dig up the links to all those albums, but you're smart and I'm lazy and you can google them yourself. Next dispatch from Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival next week.

    Friday, July 4, 2008


    Hotel D'Grub On this Independence Day 2008, I note that war and conflict seem to fill my entertainment these days. I've been watching Ken Burns' lovingly done documentary The Civil War which brings back to mind Doris Kearns Goodwin's extensive Lincoln biography Team of Rivals. I've also just finished war correspondent Scott Anderson's Moonlight Hotel and moved on to The Man Who Tried to Save the World, both of which tell of internecine warfare.

    Here's an interesting factoid to chew on: after the Civil War, Americans stopped saying "The United States are" and began to say "The United States is". Our country feels incredibly divided at times - and I'd guess most generations have felt that since there hasn't been a real uniting external cause since WWII - but that division doesn't extend so far anymore as to make the parts greater than the whole. And jokes about moving to Canada if x gets elected aside, I'm glad I live here. So, happy Independence Day, America.

    Speaking of war-mongering, Bob Lefsetz got cranky and posted a music industry "enemies list". Gotta say, there's no better way to make 'em than by calling 'em out.

    But then, people surprise you sometimes. For instance, blog comment threads normally devolve into "what do you mean, you like x band? They suck!". The readers of 17 dots - the emusic blog - have resisted the impulse and been discussing R.E.M., The National and their own music buying/listening habits in this post on the slow-building popularity of The National. Refreshing. Not as refreshing as my sangria, but no hangover either.

    Finally I raise my proverbial glass to my friend Buzz who's moving out of DC. I met him one Saturday night my first summer in DC at the Marx Cafe. We started chatting over beer and discovered that we were both from Boston, we were both more than casual music fans, and we'd both spent much of that month watching the Tour de France as a break from baseball. The next afternoon he helped me finish the project that brought electricity into my hallway and we were friends. I couldn't have hoped to meet a more generous guy....happy trails and keep in touch, babe.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Numerically Speaking

    Pearl JamRemember being in grade school and learning how time signatures worked? Mathrock is apparently music based solely on using funny time signatures.

    I mention this because Jean told me the other day that Outkast's "Hey Ya" is in 22/4 time. You and I never noticed this because it's an even number which means you can still dance to it without suddenly finding yourself offbeat. The conversation reminded me of feeling like I'd discovered some hidden secret message when I realized that one of my favorite Soundgarden songs - "The Day I Tried To Live" - is in 15/16. Anyway...

    Speaking of Soundgarden, I saw their excellent former drummer Matt Cameron play with Pearl Jam the other night at the Verizon Center. I'm not much for stadium rock and they had a bit of mid-tempo lull early on that dragged, but once they recovered, they rocked. Kudos to Eddie Vedder for trying to explain U.S. oil-drilling policy to 25,000 people in the middle of a rock show. I'm still not about to go buy all their music, but I had a good time. And more importantly, I didn't get that distinct feeling that I was seeing a band that was a caricature of its former self. May we all age so energetically and well.

    Not much live music other than that. Caught the Waco Brothers a few weeks ago and they were a rollicking good time as always. Hope to make it to Pitchfork next month - not sure I'll get to see Public Enemy perform, but I'm looking forward to seeing them talk.

    New releases I've been meaning to get: Orchestra Baobab's Made in Dakar and My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges.

    New releases I'm curious about: Al Green's Lay It Down (with ?uestlove producing) and Joan as Policewoman's To Survive.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008


    The Electric CompanyAn ex once told me that I was the object in motion that stayed in motion until I finally became the object at rest that stayed at rest until I finally became the object in motion etc, etc. I always found that characterization amusing and spot on...except during the summer.

    I don't function at my normal speed in the summer. I move more slowly, I want to do less and have more of it be of the escapist variety of entertainment. I find myself spending weekend afternoons lost in a book and then wandering off to watch a few innings of baseball en route to something else that doesn't require lots of energy. I even want my music to be paced to a stroll rather than a run. During the last DC episode of swampiness, I found the right musical waystation in a couple of soundtracks. Soundtracks are often a crapshoot, but the Dianne Reeves soundtrack to Good Night, and Good Luck and the soundtrack to Robert Altman's The Company along with a stack of Jack Teagarden's old big band tunes, the new Goldfrapp album, and my friend Craig Klein's solo trombone release have all finally got me out of my Depeche Mode jag.

    I'm going to have to find a way to break out of my mental relaxation mode though since this summer promises to be brisk at work. To prep for that, I'm getting ready to start hiring again. Arg. Didn't I just finished looking at bad resumes? Observation: the people who applied for the unpaid intern position were overwhelmingly more likely to follow the directions than the people who applied for the paid position. When I say directions, I mean that they sent the resume, cover letter and writing sample that we asked for. Is it that the people who want an unpaid internship self-select so only the more conscientious people apply whereas everyone needs to make money? Or are college students more used to following directions because they're still in college? Hmm.

    I leave you with this inspired little couplet my ipod shuffled together the other day:
    "Off the Grid" by Beastie Boys from The Mix Up
    "Kilometer" by Sebastien Tellier from Sexuality
    "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" by Stars from Set Yourself On Fire
    I'd happily post a mini "mixtape" except I'm not entirely sure how to do it legally...which is a whole 'nother post.

    Sunday, June 1, 2008

    Candlepin Anyone?

    XI've been reading Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, an extensive look at social capital in the US and why there's a marked decrease from the 1950s and 60s in the strength and breadth of civic engagement and social connectedness in the US. According to Putnam, less social capital correlates with or increases the chances of everything from infant morality to obesity to not stopping at stop lights. For instance, if you smoked cigarettes and lived in Mississippi - which ranks at the bottom of much of everything in Bowling Alone - and continued to smoke but moved to North Dakota - which is at the top of most every heap - the effects would be akin to your having quit smoking.

    In the way that you often find synchronicity when you start exploring a topic, I've been thinking a lot about social capital lately. When I moved to DC I was told that it takes at least a year after you move to a place for you to start feeling comfortable. I only stopped feeling like I was living on an alien planet once I made some friends, met some people in the neighborhood, and was able to leave my apartment on weekends without looking at a map. Having a number of friends that are relative newcomers here, we can all attest that even then, it's not easy: where to go, how to meet people, how to be a part of a place when you don't feel of it. All that sure takes the naive romance out of "reinventing yourself" in a new place.

    I'm not sure how much I buy all of the book's arguments especially since they're about 8 years old now. For instance, the Internet has certainly added a dimension to how we keep in touch and a case could be made that this year's political theater has increased active participation in politics. I'd definitely be curious to read an update. (For you non-New Englanders, here's the explanation on candlepin bowling.)

    Still, I'm glad I waded through the book...which I did in between a couple of shows that renewed my faith in live music: X and Cut Copy. I've seen X a couple of times now and they never disappoint. Their show certainly isn't new since they haven't released new music in years, but everything's played with gobs of punky, head-banging attitude and energy and they obviously have a fabulous time. Cut Copy was a lean, tight, dance machine and I can't wait to see them again. I think I may have actually jumped up and down on command. Wow. (Arf?)

    And yes, finding the rock clubs in DC went a long way to making me feel like I belonged more!

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Calendar Illusions

    Afternoon CoffeeEver feel like you're definitely getting older but feeling younger all at the same time?

    I took a few days off to visit family and friends in Boston this past week and arrived just in time to smell the lilacs in full bloom. As usual, I had a great time, but it wasn't all fun and games.

    I had that moment when I realized that I might really need to get involved in some evolving family health situations. As the only American-born member of my biological family with the language skills and resources to cope with the system, I guess I'm going to have to get involved and be bitchy and demanding. Mind you, like Tina Fey, I can be good at being bitchy and demanding. In my head, however, advocacy is the province of an adult and it's hard not to feel like a kid around my family's older-generation-but-not-grey-and-frail family members, regardless of how many years the calendar gives me. I think it's going to be an eye-opening transition from cared-for to care-giver.

    On the more light-hearted side of things, I saw a bunch of friends in ones and twos and groups, did some long-overdue clothes shopping, made it to Redbones and got me some BBQ, bought too many books at Brookline Booksmith (in particular, I felt a keen case of discounted-cookbook-lust), wore out the little kitty playing many rounds of bottlecap soccer and got scratched up by the big kitty. I discovered - how did this take me so long? - that you can sync up Bollywood film dances with just about any non-downtempo music (thanks, Justin, for that). I ran around Jamaica Pond a few times and saw the ducklings and goslings trailing their parents. The ducklings especially were too cute for words. I'm considering making my next trip back coincide with the Newport Folk Festival.

    Now that I'm done procrastinating, I should get back to digging through email...have a great long weekend, folks.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008


    The Black KeysGetting tickets turned into one hell of a process, but I didn't regret it when The Black Keys finally started playing on Monday. Yup, I did hear shades of Zeppelin on occasion, but that's not a bad influence to wear as long as you're not draped in it. Danger Mouse, producer of The Black Keys latest, made sure of that. I loved the raw and loose blues attack of thickfreakness (you probably heard some of it in a car commercial), but the slighter cleaner and spacier sound of the new release is completely complementary. The live show had a lot more bombast and devil-horn-worthy tunes than you'd expect from only two guys on stage. Psychotic Girl is one of my favorite tracks. NPR webcast the second night at the 9:30 club.

    Also checked out the Hirschorn Museum's The Cinema Effect: Dreams exhibit. The entire exhibit hall was outfitted cinema-style, complete with red curtain at the entrance. Once you walked in, you followed faint white arrows on the floor and tried not to walk into other people. Eyes adjust of course, but even still the exhibit had a pleasantly disorienting and cocoon-like atmosphere...which was perfect since the exhitbit was about how cinema blurs the lines between illusion and reality. There were lots of quiet, eerie short films and there were also some amusing oddities: someone had taken close-up videos of a face looking around and talking - David Bowie was one of them - and then projected it onto a flat dummy head, which when played looked like it was talking to you. They wouldn't let me take photos, otherwise this explanation would make more sense. Regardless, always entertaining to have Bowie looking at you maniacally!

    On the way back, I walked past the soon-to-be-open National Museum of Crime and Punishment . And then I learned that there's also a Museum of the American Cocktail. Maybe I can raise my glass with a drink made with ice cubes using these?

    I was hanging at the Marx Cafe last Friday night when DJ Provoke was on fire with the funk spirit. Too bad for him that he was spinning a masterpiece in a sports bar/restaurant. Even those of us who were really into it were dividing our attentions. Sorry, Patrick. Gotta go buy some Meters.

    Saturday, May 10, 2008

    Farmer's Market Love

    Farmer's MarketThe Mt. Pleasant Farmer's Market started again on Saturday. I love going to the farmer's market and I'm completely spoiled since it happens 60 seconds outside my front door. I like vegetables and fruits, but the farmer's market makes me want to cook and eat even more of them. I like buying what looks good/interesting/different and then figuring out what to do with it - the green, diamond-spiked, Romanesco cauliflower, the Thai eggplant, the riotously- colored tomatoes and all the rest of it. For instance, this weekend I brought home some stir-fry greens, spicy radishes and this crazy looking purple asparagus.

    I also brought back some herbs. My apartment faces north and while it's really bright from indirect sunlight, it only gets actual sunlight for a bit in the early morning so growing anything is a bit of a crapshoot. Based on last summer's experiments, I'm going to plant thyme, chives, and mint and I'm going to see how rosemary does without sunlight. I tried lavender last summer and it grew beautifully but I couldn't figure out what to do with it.

    Someday, I want to have an actual garden with all sorts of vegetables and way too many heirloom tomatoes growing in it. In the meantime, my windowsill garden is a nice start.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008

    Moments Per Minute

    Chelsea HotelAfter a workweek spent touring upstate New York, I'm back.

    It was a busy and stressful week that was also entertaining, interesting and more-laughs-per-minute than usual. The parts of Rochester I saw seemed hip and happening, relatively speaking. We had our event there at the science museum which amused me because I got to direct people to the mastodon. (Before you think it, yes, I'm easily amused.) Syracuse and Albany seemed much more economically-depressed. You have to wonder what will happen to those folks if our economy continues to flounder.

    Our events, however, were very well-attended by local musicians and music industry folk and hopefully we gave them some new ways to keep playing. Random photos here. It was gratifying to watch people begin to put the pieces together of how the new music business works and how they can be a part of it and how faraway policy issues like net neutrality can affect them. It's not hard to become a bit blinkered in that I forget how little other people know about the issues that I spend my days on. Always good to get a reminder.

    After the Albany event ended, Jean and I drove to New York City. We arrived in the wee smas of the night at the Chelsea Hotel. The hotel itself was vaguely hostel-like but unsurprisingly very cool, as I discovered the next morning when I work up enough to take in my surroundings.

    I spent Thursday catching up a bit on work (have laptop/cell phone/Internet, will travel) and with some friends I haven't seen in a while. Good to see James, who I've known since high school. James is the man behind Dutch Angle Films and he's the reason I know anything about the art of film-making.

    That evening, I saw my friend Stew's musical Passing Strange, a thoroughly enjoyable coming of age story with a rock/funk/soul soundtrack and some great acting performances. I've never really been into theater, but if I lived in New York, I think I'd develop a taste for it.

    Whew. Now, I'm off to enjoy a weekend with very little planned.

    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Vocational Musings

    There have been moments when I think I missed my vocation by not being a tour manager. The irony, of course, is that now that I'm qualified and semi-connected enough to shepherd bands around the world, I don't think I'd really want the job for more than short stints. I did a little bit of tour managing a bunch of years ago and enjoyed it, but it did some crazy things to my psyche. I remember spending the entire week after I got back completely on edge (while awake and asleep) waiting for the cell phone to ring and present me with some disaster to fix.

    Despite that, at that time in my life I would've happily left town for 200 days a year. Now, it doesn't hold the same appeal. Maybe it's all the traveling I've done over the last few years, but business travel isn't always a perk. After all, you go places to work and you don't necessarily see much. Touring especially is all about traveling so that you can hurry up and wait for the show to happen. You and your brain don't belong to yourself - you belong to the job - and it's not possible to even attempt to maintain balance in your life.

    I've watched friends have a hard time after coming back from being on tour because they don't know how to be in one place anymore and they haven't been able to keep in touch as well as they'd like so they're faced with having to reconnect with people every time. That has to wear away a sense of home if the only purpose that home has is to let you collapse for a few weeks, catch up on bills, do laundry and revisit your favorite haunts.

    The huge upside, of course, is that there's nothing like that feeling you get when the show starts and the crowd is totally into the music. Not to mention the comradeship that develops when you're spending every waking moment with a group of people. You become fast family because it feels like you're cramming more moments of living into a day. Everything feels louder and funnier and weirder and altogether more exhilarating. It's that sensory overload that makes for a serious case of the post-rock-tour-blues when it's all over.

    Anyway, we all change as we get older, and that's one of the biggest changes I've noticed over the last few years in me. I still love to travel and I have all the wanderlust that I used to have, but traveling as a job doesn't seem to hold sway over me anymore.

    Saturday, April 26, 2008

    Keeping Score

    TulipsI got a year older last week and because of the occasion discovered that there are multiple depressing songs about turning 31 out there. I, on the other hand, had a few too many drinks with a bunch of people I hadn't seen in while and enjoyed myself thoroughly. It's always cool to see the different parts of my life intersect and interact.

    I told the story that night of my experiences with The Mendoza Line's Timothy Bracy in a can-you-believe-that style of humor and then felt badly afterwards because it's as far from funny as you get. I couldn't find a link to the song on 30 Year Low, but the apt comparison seems to be to Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Compared to that, Aimee Mann's typically dour and bitter soon-to-be-released track on turning 31 is innocuous.

    The live music scene has left me blah over the last week or so. I saw the New Pornographers at a sold-out 9:30 Club show last week. Yes, there was good-natured fun poked at our ugly new $5 bill, Americans in general and the audience (from the Canadian band), and the band clearly enjoyed themselves, but I might as well have listened to the record. Neko Case was cool and soldiered on despite a bum ankle, but I didn't see much of the indie-rock goddess that all the hipster boys bought tickets for. (Lest you think I'm exaggerating, I just googled "Neko Case indie rock goddess" and got 6,590 hits.)

    Last night was Son Volt who seemed bored and were boring to listen to. Wilco definitely got the better half of the Uncle Tupelo break-up. There were way too many mid-tempo numbers that sounded alike. They were marginally more interesting the closer they got to alt-country (and farther from roots rock), but that wasn't enough to keep me there for more than a half-hour.

    However, I liked Son Volt's touring guitarist Chris Masterson whose playing was melodic and economical but ballsy when necessary. Which was not often enough with Son Volt and much more so when he joined opener Bobby Bare, Jr. for a couple of tracks. Bobby Bare, Jr. was good though and I'd see him again. Eccentric and crazy are the words everyone uses to describe him and he definitely upstaged the headliners. Also amusing, his bassist looked vaguely like Borat had dressed him. Photos of Bobby Bare, Jr. and Son Volt.

    So, final score: 1 (plus a temp guitarist) for 3. Ah well.

    Life continues apace. I'm heading out of town tomorrow for a few days to shepard FMC's traveling circus around the boonies. Once that's over, I should be posting more regularly.

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    This Ain't No Disco

    Cauliflower & PotatoesI had forgotten over the last six months how much I enjoyed wandering into my local bar after work and watching a couple of innings of baseball with frosty beverage in hand. It was nice to remember last week after the packed weeks that keep happening.

    Among the fun non-work stuff, last week Puck and I were at Iota for Federal Reserve Collective, but ended up in the restaurant half of the club eating their killer french fries and drinking half-price wine. Aside from being very cool, Puck makes these which I find hilarious but don't click on the link if you're prudish or under 18, kiddies.

    On Saturday, I was at The Black Cat for This Ain't No Disco which is Chris Burns and Ed Porter (Dudes) spinning. I really enjoyed it and I loved the musical selections, especially those of Chris Burns. The place was full by night's end but not packed...not for long methinks. Must track them down again.

    I'm thinking about spending some of my tax relief check on either a bicycle or a keyboard. I've been having a hard time keeping up with the running lately, so it's hard to say how much a bike would get used. Still, it'd be fun to take rides up Beach Drive which gets closed on Sundays. But then I've always wanted a real piano or keyboard so I could try my hand at playing again. Can't decide.

    I'll be seeing a lot of the 930 club in the next month: New Pornographers are this week and Black Keys, Son Volt/Bobby Bare, Jr., and X are coming up.

    Random thought: Am I the only one who hears a tuba and thinks of elevator music? I've been shuffling through the ipod lately and have twice now come across a tune with a tuba in it and have found myself thinking of elevator hell. I got no issues with tubas or tuba players, I just think elevator music has done them a real disservice.

    Alright, back to making breakfast for dinner.

    Thursday, April 3, 2008

    Mixing It Up

    bumper stickerMy latest score courtesy of my office: The Beastie Boys' newest all-instrumental The Mix-Up. It's reminiscent of The In Sound From Way Out, which I've played at more gatherings than I can count. There are more moving parts, but you wouldn't mistake it as anyone other than the Beasties...groovy. Also, in the same batch, the Sondre Lerche soundtrack to "Dan in Real Life". He's gone all adult contemporary. Ouchie.

    Radiohead's In Rainbows is growing on me. Speaking of, they got one of those remix-our-song contests going on here. Points off for mixing each instrument together for you so you only get to remix five tracks - you know they somehow used at least 48 tracks.

    I was at Arts Advocacy Day on Monday. Along with media training and learning how to talk to your elected officials, I got to take a course in lobbying which included a detailed lesson on how bills turn into laws and all the detours-to-nowhere they can take. It was vaguely like my high school civics class except more interesting, possibly because I was paying attention this time around. If nothing else, The West Wing now makes even more sense.

    Saw Lust, Caution the other night. It was a quiet and reserved but intense film. Tang Wei, the lead actress spins a web and then gets herself caught in it - and you watch it happen on her face. She gives an amazing performance.

    Just returned from a good time in Buffalo where FMC presented a day long seminar for musicians on how to make money from their music and how to get involved in policy issues that affect them. SRO crowd that was engaged and diverse. More seminars coming at the end of the month in Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. Tell your musically-inclined friends!

    OK, back to sitting on hold with the bank and the person who needs "signatory" spelled four times...

    Sunday, March 30, 2008


    Colored VinylsThe nicest thing I've taken away from SXSW is a renewed excitement about listening to new music. There's always so much to check out between listening to the new, looking to the past to hear the evolution and feeding the current obsessions, that it just feels endless at times. But then I went off to a place where everyone's excited about all that music. And I guess all that listening and talking snapped me out of my doldrums. Case in point: I have next month's 40 emusic downloads already used which has never happened before. In the queue for next month: Bon Iver, Sandro Perri, some old Black Keys because they're coming through town next month, and Robert Nighthawk (courtesy of Document Records). This month's downloads got decimated in my current alt-country jag: Waco Brothers, Gillian Welch, and Eilen Jewell.

    The last few weeks have been so awash in trying to roll the snowball up the hill at work, that I feel like I could write a love letter to the elevator that takes me out of that building, but the Stars already did that in this cool song but blah video.

    In a random bit of synchronicity, I keep hearing about a resurgence in popularity of vinyl as a format, aka the "vinyl revival": donewaiting and idolator do the latest roundups on the topic and here's a blurb from the panel at SXSW with some exciting rumors included for those who care.

    I spent last night on the roof deck of Reef trying to solve the world's problems with Andrew and Brian and Megan. Failed in that goal, but had a good time all the same.

    Sunday, March 23, 2008

    Expressing Yourself

    Continental Club SignThis apartment building burned down in my neighborhood while I was in Austin. No one was hurt thankfully, but the remains are a pretty crazy sight to walk by daily.

    I got some grief when I mentioned that I didn't want Clinton to go down in flames in Texas and Ohio. For a bunch of reasons, I don't see the downside in extending the primary season to give Obama time to turn more smart, thoughtful Americans into believers, especially if his response to potshots is to turn them into opportunities, as he did in his recent thoughtful, impassioned discussion of race. But rather than go on about that speech, I refer you to The Journal of Abundant Media, who already said it better than I could.

    Amusing moments caught in four days worth of World Figure Skating Championships coverage: this guy from Sweden dug out the Saturday Night Fever get-up and Sinead & John Kerr from Scotland imitated aliens, but at least he didn't go commando. I wonder if DJ Shadow knows he's got a new audience in these French ice dancers? Men's figure skating has turned into the land of sensitive metrosexuals, which makes Daisuke Takahashi's program to a hip-hop-esque remix of Swan Lake all the more entertaining. Some years you could get snockered if you turned the awful-costume-watch into a drinking game. This year, you sadly would have been stone cold sober. Aside from that, it's been a thoroughly entertaining few days of appointment television/competition.

    I enjoyed myself at The Black Cat's Saturday dance night. A good time was had by all though the music was pretty unimaginative and the DJ confused the crowd at times. Still, judging by the booty-shaking, no one seemed to mind much. I'd go back since it was fun and $6 to get in.

    Starbucks's record label Hear Music - for which I worked one summer when it was still a little chain of cool music stores - is learning how hard the music biz is these days: the straight and the snarky take on that.

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    Can I Do It Again?

    Continental Club SignIn the event you're not tired of reading about SXSW yet...

    Once you resign yourself to the idea that you're going to miss 99.9% of what you want to see, SXSW is a no-holds-barred great time. The whole conference has that feeling at times of a house party with everyone you've ever met. Hung out with lots of people, panels were interesting for the most part, I left with posters courtesy of Flatstock, the music was everything you want in a music festival (as long as you ponied up for a badge) and the whole shebang ran on schedule.

    Bizarre sights: the blogger cage (scroll down for photo) and international speed dating.

    Sadly wasn't invited to this party.

    Here's the quick wrap-up on the artists (i.e. at least two songs) I caught:

  • Centro-matic

  • My Morning Jacket
  • DevotchKa

  • Waco Brothers
  • Wiley and The Checkmates
  • Herman Hitson
  • Andrew Collberg
  • Deadman
  • Jimmie Vaughan
  • Headlight - misheard later that night as "headlice"
  • Abra Moore
  • N.E.R.D. Watch video

  • Rhapsody's Tim Quirk wandered SXSW collecting drunk-dialing stories from musicians. He managed to get installments from The Hold Steady's Franz Nicolay, The Mekons'/Waco Brothers' Jon Langford, Gang of Four's Dave Allen and more. Don't laugh, you know you've done it, too.

    Even if I'd know that Bob Mould was in town on Saturday, I think I needed the silence by then. Still, would've been cool to hear Copper Blue live.

    Spunky hopefuls, huh? Pun was completely intentional.

    Oh, please.

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Future Leads to the Past

    Chick-fil-AOne severely overbooked flight, four hours of waiting, a three hour flight to a place I wasn't going to (Dallas), another overbooked flight to another place I wasn't going to (San Antonio), 3 hours of driving (Dallas to Austin) that included someone nearly ramming into us on the highway...and we made it to Austin at 12:45 last night...15 hours after I left my house. Insert sigh o' relief here.

    I've spent the day chatting and watching panels at SXSW to get ideas on people who can participate in FMC conferences in the future, to actually watch some panels and learn from them - something I don't get to do at our events, and to get a sense of what people are interested in learning.

    This afternoon's panels included an interesting one on "Selling Music As a Service." No doubt webcasts will be available in a few days here. The concept of treating music as a service instead of as a product is hardly a new one these days. It feels like the topic du jour, much like pro- and anti-DRM debates were a few years ago. The question that inevitably comes up is "what is the future?"

    If I could have the perfect world of musical discovery, what would it be? Would ownership of the music matter? There's certainly an allure to the idea of having the world's entire musical library at your fingertips from one device for you to access at any time for a fee. Portability of whatever system would be key for me. But giving up the idea of ownership would also be a shift in thinking. Our music and other collections define us in so many ways because they're indicative of who we are or were and what we deem or did deem worthy of spending money on or not tossing. What would replace that identification process? Would we have to (wow) go back to talking to each other and not making snap judgments based on that one Celine Dion or Backstreet Boys release that mars an otherwise worldly, eclectic and hip music collection?

    I'm off to dinner - possibly to a benefit concert for a documentary called Body of War and My Morning Jacket later tonight and as many other bands as I can see in between now and when I collapse. By the way, NPR is webcasting and broadcasting MMJ as well as Vampire Weekend, and Yo La Tengo and R.E.M. last night.