Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chapter XXIII: In Which I Join a Badass Gang

I am wearing a bandana for the next few days. DD saw me in it and said: "It looks like you've been working very hard, mama." I have this genetic thing where I grow lumps on my head, and every 10 years or so I have to get them cut off. Ewwwwww I know, it's totally Alien. Or the karmic retribution for working in advertising. So the removal process today was a little complicated, and now I have a small bald spot and blue stitches and just yuckkiness on the top of my head. And the only thing I can think to do is wear a cotton bandana, because at least that's clean and breathable. Luckily, I have plenty, from running. I have purple, teal, turquoise and pirate. What does that say about my sexual preferences, I wonder?

On another note. Sad news. Much like what happened to my brother-in-law, about 8 years ago now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"In An Interstellar Burst I Am Back to Save the Universe"

I was Jonesing furiously to hear "Airbag" and couldn't find OK Computer anywhere, so DH downloaded it for me, kind man, and I over-and-overed it all the way to Annapolis and back, and between that and the trees and being reminded of Vanity Fair, and also that movie The Object of Beauty, when Malkovich was sexy, I came up with this.

And I certainly have been something of an airbag lately.

A Sharp Retort
I agree it's a cheap way to pass the time,
But how can I feel sexy when I'm not liquid?
Maybe if we were living like outlaws again--
Now that's a life to get you pumping,
Go in and out the windows, that keeps you young.
But not these dull duns on the front stoop, please;
Not living like palace fleas, feeding on the fringes
There's got to be someone out there for whom
A glance is as good as a promise--
Oh debt, where is my stain?

Jai Homo-Loving Son of a Gun

Was it the long run, or the salmon with rice noodles I made? We dozed through yet another awards show, on a pile of newspapers.

DH: Penelope Cruz should get it because she's so hot.
Me: Daniel Craig keeps getting all mixed up.
DH: Natalie Portman. Smokin hot.
Me: Yeah, but they're going to feel bad about this whole Joaquin Phoenix thing when it turns out he's suffering from undiagnosed mercury poisoning.
DH: Tina Fey. Preeeetttttyy!
Me: Yeah, but she's anti-stripper, so I'm not so crazy about that.
DH: I love Melissa Leo.
Me: (As Joel Gray addresses Sean Penn): Great, have the gay guy talk to the gay guy.
Me: (As Christopher Walken addresses the guy from Revolutionary Road): Great, have the crazy guy talk to the crazy guy.
Me: (As Cuba Gooding Jr talks to Robert Downey Jr): Great, have the Junior talk to the Junior. Or maybe, um, oh.

UPDATE, really important update: How could I forget, John Legend. Nutmeg. Nutmeg. Mmmm, nutmeg.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Doesn't Anybody Notice That Our Knuckles Are Turning Blue?"

Even though it was my business to do so for some years, I never gave a shit about the Oscars or any of those other awards shows. Tonight, I'm looking forward to the Oscars. Why? Seeking cheap escape, that's why. I'm like one of those Depression-era women clutching her nickels to buy a ticket to go see that "My Forgotten Man" number one more time.

The New Yorker rundown is the only one telling the truth about the sorry nominees this year.

Speaking of telling the truth, YOU HAVE TO read this. That's a joke around the Cougar household, because certain relatives are a little on the controlling side, constantly telling me I HAVE TO go to an expensive restaurant or resort or watch this year's pretentious hit show or similar thing I don't want to do and can't afford. (All I ever want to do is groove, lie in bed, and write poetry, fuckers.)

Unfortunately, the full essay is available only by subscription. The free bloggers on this guy's site are tearing it up, on topics ranging from the dangers of space junk to investigative reporting on Navy testing off the Oregon coast, and you can read them for free, but there's a big chunk of prose you get only through subscription. I can't believe I'm shilling for this dude, AGAIN, since I've got my differences with him on several levels, but this taste will maybe show why reading this just made me jump up and walk around the room. Yeah, it's ironic, the not-buying-it woman saying pay for this, but I do buy art, books (carefully), I do still buy the privilege of seeing performance.

It's been years since I got screamingly sick of being told I was supposed to help the world by spending money I don't have on crap I don't need; similar time frame for being disgusted at myself for working in advertising (even for nonprofits). But I'm also very trapped; there are certain things I've signed up for and can't creep out of now. I've been clearing little honest and adventurous and true spaces for myself around the corners, just through being crafty and creative, but it takes such an enormous amount of energy. It's like I've been staying up late and using odd hours when no one is watching to dig an escape tunnel out of a prison, and now I wonder how many people are going to show up wanting to use it, and they're all welcome, but here I am not even knowing if it goes anywhere.

And I'm claustrophobic. But all I can do is keep digging.

Anyway, here's the Eric Francis that you HAVE TO read:

"Yet what is really driving all this consumer debt? Is it the need to conform? Are we covering some deep insecurity? Are we consuming because we have issues about our ability to create? A consumer-based economy is clearly the result of the feeling that we're not creative people. Compared to vacations in the Bahamas, art supplies and musical instruments are cheap. Most of what we consume either has nothing to do with creating; or it could, if we applied the imagination to make it so. But that takes, well, imagination, and the boldness to use it. Learning to play the guitar takes practice.

Yet as most creative people will tell you, it's difficult to make a living based on what you make. Most of us don't actually purchase the work of craftspeople, artisans or artists; we purchase manufactured items -- and all artists know it because most of us have to do something else to put food on the table. And often when art is purchased, it is done as an investment by the purchaser rather than for its own sake. The value goes up when the artist dies. I jokingly tell talented young artists not to accept payment in heroin. I learned this from an art dealer.

"...Besides showing up as sex-phobia, our emotional problems are congealing around money and specifically debt. Americans consume mindlessly, and it long ago turned into a full-blown habit. Admittedly, we are pushed to consume on a nonstop basis by the most expensive educational campaign in history -- advertising.

Addiction is an inappropriate response to an emotional issue, and it is often hidden from view (veiled, like the 8th house). We have accessed debt at unimaginable amounts to finance this addiction. As a culture, we utilize our brainpower to rationalize our behavior rather than use it to recognize and define the problems underlying our addiction; or to turn our energy toward creation. The act of thinking has been co-opted in the service of our addictions. We feed our imagination titillation and fantasy to the point of total distraction. We shun the use of our creativity for problem solving, for pleasure, for beauty.

Why do we do this? Here are some questions we might ponder, provided this week by my friend Kelly after she looked at the chart:

-- What are the emotional issues that are underlying our addiction? What are we avoiding? Why is any loss so difficult to deal with?

-- What price are we willing to pay before we recognize that emotional processing should be part of our daily rituals, just like brushing our teeth, or eating? It is part of the maintenance of living.

-- Why are we holding onto our paradigm of reality even when it is clear to any rational being that it is self-destructing? Doesn't anybody notice that our knuckles are turning blue?"

Photo:, telling the truth about business and getting ripped off for a decade.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Falling Rock

My hearing is getting so bad that the only time I can listen to music is when I'm alone in the car. I can't really hear it unless it's at high volume. (It's not from listening to too much loud music, by the way. It's called Meniere's disease. Probably didn't spell it right.)

At home, my daughter or the neighbors complain. So last weekend I'm driving DH and DD up around mountain roads because my Hot Friend E offered us a couple beds in a ski place she rented for her family. And DH has got the weird iPod thing working where he plugs it into a cassette tape and then it plays through the speakers. He usually plays random stuff and most of the time I'm all, ohhhh, please can we turn it off and put on an Elvis Mitchell podcast. And he's playing random stuff and we have this conversation.

Me: I kind of like that song. Who is it?
DH: It's called LCD Soundsystem.
Me: It sounds old. I like it.
DH: I think it's a Joy Division cover.
Me: That doesn't sound like Joy Division. I don't know that one. But maybe my hearing's just so bad I don't recognize it. It sounds too happy.
DH: Happy? He's saying everything falls apart and you think that's happy?
Me: I thought he was saying "It's going to start." Can I turn it up?
DD: (from carseat in back): Will you please turn down the music? I can't sing when it's too loud.
Me: It could be falling apart in a happy way.
(Same song starts playing again, but it sounds a little different.)
Me: What, does this band just do one song over and over?
DH: No, I think this is John Cale singing it.
Me: But it's the same band? Who is this band this time?
DH: They. Are. Called. L. C. D. Sound. System.
Me: So they're the same and they're doing one song. Why do they do the same song?
Me: Don't make fun of me for going deaf. Is it like a tribute?
DH: I think there is a Joy Division tribute album, but it's not this one.
Me: I know there is a Joy Division tribute album. It sucks. I mean, are they like a Joy Division tribute band, like Lez Zepplin? Wow, that would be cool, a lesbian Joy Division tribute band. What would they call it?
DH: It's the same band.
Me: (Thinking: Ha ha! Black Lab! They could call it Black Lab!) This is cool, because the first time I heard Joy Division it was on this cassette tape? And I was listening to it going to the prison up by Antietam to visit this guy. And it was weather like this, all gloomy.
DH: Who were you visiting in prison?
Me: He was a friend of my friend MR, you remember her? I knew him from being around, you know, but she wanted to visit and bring him some stuff, like sweats and stuff, a bible, you know. He got all born again in there. He wasn't violent or anything, just (mouths, because of daughter) *drugs*. But she was out west, so she couldn't go see him, so I went instead.
Me: This is a different song now. What is he singing? "Going around the bend--in Africa?"
DH: "If you do it again, I'm gonna freak out."
DH: "So do it again."

So, did you guess the song? It's "All My Friends," and it's NOT a Joy Division cover. LCD Soundsystem does, however, cover No Love Lost, an obscurity from the days when Joy Division was called Warsaw. So maybe my hearing's not so terrible after all.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Some co-conspirators on That Wretched Facebook thing are doing lists of favorite covers. Here, with just a few recycled bits, is my list of favorite covers that will never happen.

Barry White, "Theme from The Beverly Hillbillies"
Cass Elliot, "Hate On Me"
Marc Bolan, "Baby I'm-a Want You"
Freddie Mercury, "Evenflo"
Jim Morrison, "Ride Like the Wind"
Bob Marley, "Renegade"
Kurt Cobain, "Hit Me Baby One More Time"
Robert Palmer, "Think Before He Cheats"

Please add as inspiration strikes.

Layoffs have gotten closer. It's not right to say anything more specific, even here; I'm safe for now, but infuriated. Trying to detach. I mean, when you come down to it, what did you expect? Why does it come to such a surprise to us that we're worthless and disposable in this system?

But that's only in this system. In what realm are we precious and prized, and why can't we arrange for that one to be our consensual reality?

The door is always open wide...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Get Ready for the Judgment Day

"If you don't feel looming dread, you're not very bright." That's what Edward Albee is quoted as saying in the Post, and it's good enough for me. However, I woke up this morning inexplicably happy. Here are some happy things for you.

--The movie's horrifying, I understand, but I like this trailer because it kills on cliches, and plus, the dancing kilt guy. Some people say it's a feminist affront; I disagree--well, maybe the movie is, but the trailer, no, because a dumbass cliche is a dumbass cliche, whether it's girly or not.

--Not since encountering the incisive work of rock critic Ronald Thomas Clontle have I been so impressed by such an omnibus, a panorama, of rock history. This cavalcade rules.

--One of my friends has threatened to act this out at the next PTA meeting.

--How could I have forgotten this???

UPDATE: My bad, my bad: Bad link on Tres Chicas the other day. Good link on Tres Chicas.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Grammies Wuz Trippin

And I was falling into a dream
Over the New York Times magazine...
Little Nick Jonas gets shook up by Wonder
and misses his cue--but his brother knows what to do...
Don't sleep in the subway, Kanye...
Tired eyes and a tight tank top for Kate Winslet,
Looking well in the Chelsea Hotel.
MIA bounces like the bee girl reincarnate
Proud mother of a brood of boasts.
Robert Downey Jr. puts his kadas through the difference engine
and finds the solution. Then Thom leads the samba drums
and shining brass into a Trouble Man for our time--
Et cetera, et cetera, et tu...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

You Can't Shoot the Fiddler in the Middle of the Show

Finally got around to opening, reading, and, thanks to a longish drive to and from a witch convention, listening to the two CDs of the Oxford American music issue. You get a lot for your money with that thing, all kinds of short essays of all types, at least one on each tune, plus usually a story, some poems, and a couple of features. The piece on Elton and Betty White, who I am so happy to now know about, had me shouting out bits aloud to DH. Photo of Arthur Lee looking like a bodhisattva (and sad story of his last days). Very very good piece on "Lawson and Four More" that explores the question of where you draw the line on what you call an authentic outsider--a topic this magazine should take on in every last issue, because it's sticky and endemic to southern culture nowadays and certainly to this magazine--through taking apart a piece of music by skilled players that was intentionally produced to "sound garage." It's got a knockout punchline, in that the band evolved into Big Star (and the ethereal "For You" is on the second disk, btw).

But then there are the blaps and tweets, like the dreadfully earnest Peter Guralnick recycling his stuff on Jerry Lee (just listen to the song) and a multi-page pant about Neko Case, in which the author works the conceit of spending a day with the band to the near death of all concerned, even the poor publicists'. It starts with some line about remembering watching a woman licking a strawberry ice-cream cone, and just gets worse; wank, wank, McSweeney-flavored wank for six freaking pages. I sure hope y'all didn't pay this guy by the word.

Too many of the women artists I hear now sound like they've been processed to fit in as the soundtrack to the obligatory emo montage at the end of a network drama--a little acoustic strum, a little trebly warble about staying strong when all feels bleak. Or maybe they're all the same person. And then I think of artists like Lynn Blakey and Lori Carson not getting their due and I'm all like, I'm just going to listen to the Stylistics again. I know it's not a bad thing to have your song on an emo montage, hell, it happened to Joni Mitchell and the cash is not unwelcome, but you know.

So I had little hope for the song itself, even though I'm sure my husband has played me the album it's off before, and plenty of New Pornographers as well. He's always waving the Latest Things under my nose, but my tastes are so particular and peculiar that I can't settle and listen for long; I have no patience unless it knocks me out and forces me into it. I'm sure like many others she's been part of all kinds of cool kids' bands that I haven't bothered checking out, so just STOP, OK? What I'm saying is I like this one song, if that's allowed? And that I had that wonderful experience of having my assumptions trashed?

In the first 30 seconds or so, I'm wondering, did Wanda Jackson ever record with Lee Hazelwood? Same rodeo-rope phrasing, just yelping it out. Showdown and tumbleweed guitar, her own, I hear, and those metaphysical lyrics, with just enough specificity thrown in to be mysterious:

Compared to some, I've been around
But I really tried so hard--
That echo chorus lied to me with its "hold on,
"Hold on hold on hold on..."
In the end I was the mean girl
Or somebody's in-between girl
Now it's the devil that I love.
And it's as funny as real love.
I leave the party at 3 a.m.,
Alone, thank god,
With a valium from the bride.
It's the devil that I love.

I played it over and over, missed my exit, dipped down to cross the Patuxent and looked out at the ice breaking, played it again, and played it again.

Once I got home, DH enthusiastically played me the rest of the album it's off, salivating about a new one she's got coming out, but nothing grabbed me the same way. I'll check out her second, which is supposed to be more country.

So there's MY wank. And they say women take longer. To its credit, OxAm also has a shorter piece on Case by Greil Marcus, call it a wan. The best of his take on "Hold On Hold On"--"driving fast around the turns." Maybe we all shoulda just left it at that.

And I'm rooting for Anthony Hamilton in the Grammies.

Photo: Was delighted to find one of her with guitar instead of just looking fetching, but lord, read that cover line, oh you poor thing to have to listen to that kind of drivel all the livelong day. Does put one in mind of Yates' "It's certain that fine women eat a crazy salad with their meat."

Headline: It's got a good Clarence Gatemouth Brown song on it, too. No fiddle players were harmed during this production.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


My arm hurts too much to write (beyond 8 billable hours required to get paid). Resting for a couple more days. Scared cosmos is saying you must never write anything fun again.