In March of 2005, You Learned:
HOW TO HOLD A GRUDGE.
Just now, my iTunes "Party Shuffle" – aw shit yeah it's always a party when i'm sitting perfectly still in an ergonomic office chair with my laptop in front of me – decided that The Fiery Furnaces' ten-minute and 25 second long song, "Quay Cur," was the perfect way to keep the party pumping.
It made me realize that, almost a full year after I purchased the Fiery Furnaces album, Blueberry Boat, with great anticipation, I'm still mad at them for making such a dense, impossible and pleasure-less follow-up to their exciting debut. Fuck them and their seven-part songs about dogs and fruit and whatever the fuck they're talking about. People have told me their most recent EP is far more accessible and entertaining but, unless each copy of it comes with a hand-written apology note, I don't want it. Whenever a track from Blueberry Boat rears its ugly geometric head on some shuffled playlist, I feel like I'm hearing the definitive argument argument against my particular tastes in music. I am reluctant ever again recommend a record – like say, for instance, the new Stars album, Set Yourself on Fire (which is so excellent even if each successive listening makes me seven percent more gay) – for fear that someone will pounce on me with, "Oh? Is it as good as 'Chief Inspector Blancheflower,' you asshole? You still need to answer for that one!!"
Thanks, Fiery Furnaces. Now put down your antique floozophone or whatever and pick up some AMERICAN instruments, you terrorists.
[post-script: someone emailed me about this post, and voiced some disagreement. i'm perfectly open to that, of course. she also mentioned some inflammatory article on the Pitchfork Media, criticizing people for hating Blueberry Boat, and claiming anyone who hated them just wasn't "getting it." i do like Pitchfork, generally, but hearing that made me a little sad. first of all, if we all listened to everything Pitchfork told us, without challenging it, we'd all own a copy of the new album by Shining, and that would be extremely unfortunate. also, i have a hard time swallowing the argument that in 10 years Blueberry Boat will be an album we'll put on again and marvel at how amazing it is. i reserve my "ten years later" listens for nostalgia-assisted moments; not to impress/bore my new girlfriend. Blueberry Boat is, to me, a semi-interesting failure. a lot of interesting ideas and strong musicianship squandered on twelve-part psychedelic wanderings. people sometimes talk about the importance of albums like lou reed's Metal Machine Music but, you know what? i have listened to it once, and would only play it a second time on a dare, or as part of a Fear Factor music challenge. Blueberry Boat is like that to me.]
HOW TO – HOLY CRUD I'M BUSY.
Seriously, will you just take a peek at the sidebar for a second. I have a lot of shows coming up? Stop by one of them, if you've time.
I'm particularly excited about the HEEB storytelling series on April 5th, partly because I'll be surrounded by heebs and partly because I've never performed at Joe's Pub before. It's a pretty fancy venue – I saw Blowfly perform there once, and when he told a joke about how you can tell what size pussy a woman has by listening to her urinate, he nearly blushed due to the venue's inherent fancy-ness. I've been told the tickets for this show are selling pretty fast so, if you want to get a nice table on which to place your drinks, reserve one now, yo. Like, here.
Also, next Wednesday's How to Kick People, which has a great line-up including Becky Donohue, a return visit from one of our favorite past performers, Mike Albo, and Cintra Wilson, whose writing I've pushed on people, sometimes against their will, for almost five years now.
PLUS! Bob Powers and I will co-hosting a new show for PSNBC called "Bob & Todd's Pen Pals," on April 12th. (check out the details on the sidebar, please.) It's a comedy show revolving around correspondence writing, and the line-up is already shaping up to be kinda nice. Sam Lipsyte (author of Home Land) and David Rees will be performing, among others. If you show up, you might even make a penpal.
And also other things! Seriously.
HOW TO SHOW YOU KNOW THE MOST AT THE EXPENSE OF HAPPINESS.
Saw Robyn Hitchcock perform in my neighborhood last night. I love it when Brooklyn delivers. It was an all-request show, apparently, which in indie rock terms should be called a "Show Everyone One How Much You Know About The Obscure Nooks and Crannies of My Back Catalog at the Possible Expense of Enjoying a Cohesive Concert." If you've ever been to all-request shows, you'll know they are the wet dreams of rock nerds who like to yell out the most impossibly stupid b-sides and you - played - it - once - twelve - years - ago - in - bristol - and - guess - what - i - was - there - and - now - it's - like - we're - communicating - with - each - other cover songs. You'll hear stuff like, "Play, 'Sloop John B.!" and then, if the artist plays the song or even acknowledges it, a couple members of his bootleg swap club will snicker knowingly and whoop. A concert for two!
People asked Robyn to play that ridiculous song about trilobites – which is the equivalent of asking They Might Be Giants to play "Triangle Man," but Hitchcock indulged this request, and many others, with a bionic level of charm. He filled the spaces between songs with strange but completely articulate non-sequiturs about nudity, Dirty Harry, and man's complete arrogance in naming extinct species against their will. As he flipped through requests, his ability to conjure up lyrics and chords and recall some of the more surreal tongue-twisters in his discography was really impressive and, thankfully, there were some reasonable people in the audience so we were all lucky to hear songs like "She Doesn't Exist Anymore" and "Mexican God" instead of just a set of nudge-nudge-wink-wink rarities. Not that there's anything wrong with rarities but I just have a hard time imagining getting any real enjoyment out of a 90-minute musical inside joke, even if I'm in on it.
HOW TO EAT A PEANUT.
Last night was the annual "Elephant Walk" in Manhattan. The event is a signal that the Ringling Brothers Circus is in town. The circus is an expensive spectacle far less impressive than the sight of a dozen or so elephants marching out of the Midtown Tunnel, and across 34th Street in the middle of the night. (This event was immortalized in the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I wonder how many people saw that scene and thought, like everything else in the film, it was another staged invention of Michel Gondry's limitless imagination, instead of the happy accident it actually was.) I attended a couple years ago, and had the great pleasure of watching the happy elephants eat the peanuts I threw at their feet. Later, a few blocks away, several bundled-up New Yorkers had the great pleasure of watching the happy elephants poop out those very same nuts. Circle of Life. Or something.
On the way to the elephants’ point of entry, we caught a candid moment with the circus’ main attraction, a curiously under-painted and blonde-haired clown named Bello. He was a few blocks away, without makeup, (I guess, though one can hardly tell the difference when he’s in full face paint. His delicately rosied cheeks make him look like someone who came in from the cold. Fun!) and he had just hopped out of a white SUV to ask a traffic cop for driving directions. I must confess I found it sort of ironic to see such a large car containing only a single clown. I guess in his profession, that’s considered diva behavior. ("Girlfriend, I saw Bello step out of a car BY HISSELF! Yuh-huh, I’m telling you! One clown in that big-ass car. And we gotta drive our asses around, 15 to a Volkswagon. Aint’ that a bitch?" – this is a simulated overheard monologue, as performed by Chauncy, the star clown attraction of The Universoul Circus.)
On the elephant route, the crowd’s spirit was hopeful, if a bit impatient. Among the people with cell phone cameras raised was a single animal rights protestor gamely trying to unfurl a dog-eared protest sign that had clearly been rolled up with rubber bands for the last year. The sign was difficult to read, as its edges kept trying to make out with each other, and the protestor soon abandoned her post, perhaps to throw some red paint on someone’s gyro.
At one point, a group of people with nice haircuts and carefully selected vintage clothing scanned the crowd, turned down the corners of their mouths, and looked at each other with expressions that suggested something like, "dudes, I know a club downtown where the elephants are way cooler. Alix just texted me tonight’s password. Let’s jet." Then they all slinked away as mysteriously as they arrived.
Around 12:45am – over an hour past their scheduled arrival – the elephants high-tailed it up the block, preceded by their publicists. Bello was precariously perched atop the lead elephant – show-off – and waved to the crowd while someone behind me yelled, "is that the dude from the Slim Jim commercials?" As the procession passed, too quickly and passively for my complete enjoyment, I noticed the rear-most elephant had a tattoo of a star on its left flank. "That’s so cute," I thought. "A college freshman girl elephant." Getting a second glance, I noticed this elephant had a second tattoo – the Chinese character for "strength" – on her ankle.
[Addendum: My friend, Stephanie Dongleberry, who always writes better jokes than me, added this: "the last elephant from the parade has a spread on Suicide Girls this week."]
HOW TO PICK YOURSELF UP OFF THE BAR FLOOR.
Have you ever been so drunk that you completely forgot it was St. Patrick's Day? On my way to work today I (naturally) saw dozens and dozens of people with green accents in their fashion, and all I could think was, "is there some new gang I was unaware of? Is my iPod gonna get jacked? Am I gonna hafta get loose, and is some motherfucker gonna get his/her balloon popped?"
But no. It was just some dicks who traveled 100 miles to drink Shamrock Margaritas at Houlihan's.
P.S. I think there is so much passive-aggression expressed these days, thanks to the pretty, faceless Internet, that yesterday's post has caused at least a few of my friends to suddenly question my sincerity and level of commitment in our friendships. I like you all the best.
HOW TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.
It's hard to justify plopping words up on a web site when you feel like you're so behind in other aspects of your life. When will I feel like I'm "caught up"? By that I mean caught up with all of the projects I have to do, along with all of the projects I want to do. I think there's some place where I'm supposed to learn the value of saying "no" to certain things in order to help me expedite this goal, or at least diminish that obligation pile.
But it's so hard to say no, isn't it? It's hard to say no to Girl Scout cookies and drugs and moonshine dates and "+1's" on someone else's fancy guest list. (which usually leads to more free cookies and free moonshine and pigs in a blanket and stuff) And it's really hard to say no to work or favors or shows or any other kind of project that would involve me trying to please someone else other than myself.
It's a struggle. I consider myself somewhat selfish and self-absorbed. I get cranky when loved ones suggest eating at restaurants I hate, when I should just be grateful for the company. I often allow my pedantic worries to get in the way of someone else's real problems. But, at the same time, I will grant nearly every favor I'm asked, and will refuse almost no social engagement, even when it means putting some personal project on hold, and hastening my next existential crisis.
I put the whole question of getting caught up to a friend yesterday, and asked, "when do you think we'll be totally on top of everything, looking down at everything we've done with a satisfied and calm sense of personal achievement?" His response was interesting. He changed the subject, but did not ignore the question. It was quite cryptic. He said, "You know, Greenwood Cemetery is very nice. But you should reserve your grave site now, and save money."
On the subject of things for which I feel like I'm terribly behind, I'm performing at a really great show tonight, in NYC. It's called THE REJECTION SHOW. I've been before, as a member of the audience, and had a nice time. The show has an interesting fail-safe element; it's performers and writers presenting material that has been rejected by various other outlets – magazines, publishers, television shows, lovers, etc. Therefore, if you're bombing with the material at the Rejection Show, you can always say, "SEE??? No wonder it was rejected." And then everyone hugs you.
Here are the details, for tonight's show. Laugh along with our failures:
THE REJECTION SHOW
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Performance Space 122
150 1st Avenue at 9th St.
Tickets: $7 (advance tickets here)
Tonight's guests include comedian Jessi Klein, Daily Show writer Bob Wiltfong and an American Idol reject. Zoinks.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOU'VE EATEN TOO MUCH SUGAR.
On my list of "Things Over Which I Am Incapable of Experiencing Unmediated Enjoyment," I think I can finally add white sugar. I know this because lately, every time I grab something sugar – yesterday, that would have included two handfuls of cinnamon almonds, some Paul Newman mint chocolate chip chocolate (that redundancy was not a typing error) cookies (fuck yes!), a sweetened iced soy latte, a glass of wine, some gum, and Heinz ketchup – the last thought I experience, just before passing it through my food-hole, is, "will this be the item that gives me diabetes?"
HOW TO SEE PAST TODAY'S MOST EXCITING TRENDS.
My new issue of TimeOut NY arrived yesterday, and I was excited by the cover story, "NYC's 41 Best Dive Bars." But then, today, the postman delivered the latest issue of TimeOut NY Two Months Into the Future. The cover story was "NYC's 41 Most Over-Crowded Former Dive Bars with Newly-Raised Drink Prices and Annoying Open Mic Comedy and Music Shows Three Times a Week." Damn! And it was going to be so much fun.
The editors of TimeOut NY get my hopes up when the reveal the cheapest food, coziest drinking spots, and performers the editors want to have sex with/are currently having sex with. I keep thinking, "great! New stuff I need to check out!" Then, right on its heels, TimeOut NY Two Months Into the Future goes and ruins everything. Here are some of their most recent cover stories:
- NYC's 25 People to Stop Watching, Because They Have Become Tremendous Stuck-Up Assholes
- Fall Movie Box Office Failure Preview
- Hottest Canceled Summer Festival Concerts
- 22 Sizzling Young Fashion Designers, Dead of AIDS/Overdose
- 15 Closed-Down Clubs We Should Have Waited to Feature Until After They Applied for their Cabaret Licenses
- TONY's Resident SEXpert, Jamie Bufalino – Still Not Fired!
- Cheap Eats, Without Rat Feces (Revised)
- We Are So Sorry About That Masturbatory Feature on John Leguizamo
- 20 Must-See Broadway Shows! (NEVERMIND – TOO LATE!)
- No One Believed Us When We Said Raw Foods Were The Next Big Thing, and for Good Reason
- 48 New Spa Treatments to Avoid Based on Complaints of Sexual Abuse
- Special TONYTMITF Tribute to 50 People Declared Missing or Dead in TONY's "Top 5 NYC Secret Crawspaces"
- Ridgewood, NJ: The New Staten Island?
HOW TO CATCH UP WITH YOUR BEST FRIENDS.
One nice and unexpected side-effect of my CRIPPLING ILLNESS is that I've been able to spend a great deal of time with my cats, Coleman and Ble. Lotta lap time. Lotta scratching behind the ears time. Lotta time cleaning up vomit – theirs and mine.
So much time, in fact, that I thought it would be nice to put together a tribute to the second and third hairiest women I've ever loved. (Thanks to Dan Cronin for his invaluable video instruction. If he'd known he was helping me with this, I'm certain he never would have returned my emails.) Click on that cat face below to dowload (6.8MB - safe for work, unless you work in a corporation owned and operated by dogs.).
DISCLAIMER: the first few seconds are messed up and crazy looking, as are the first few seconds of every movie I've ever tried to make on this computer and iMovie. Just be patient, because the remaining 1:45 are magical.
HOW TO MEET WITH A CERTAIN LEVEL OF RESISTANCE.
I've been knocked out by an upper-respiratory infection that seems determined to inhabit my body for as long as possible. My voice has gone from indecipherably hoarse to adorably scratchy to "are you holding a cup of buttermilk in your throat and refusing to swallow it" congested.
When you're sick like this, people tell you the same thing, more or less. Chew on vitamin C. Stay away from sweets – they spread bacteria. Drink plenty of fluids. Tea. Lemon. Honey. Blanket. DVDs. No one tells you how it's going to feel like your whole life is slipping away from you, that you're missing every amazing thing this city has to offer, that even reading Premiere magazine will make you dizzy and sick (possibly unrelated to other symptoms), or your clothes will feel frumpy, and that your chest will explode with coughs and your body will attract other injuries (like the 2-inch splinter that drove itself through my cuddly winter sock into my foot flesh last night) and that your penis will be too tired and weak to get hard, even when hard-penis-making things happen.
And absolutely no one warned me that, at some point during my illness, I would find myself wrapped in a cat hair-covered afghan, watching the movie, The United States of Leland. That movie suffers from a tremendous case of the horribles. It's about a kid – Leland! – who probably stabbed a retarded boy to death and everyone wants to know why but Leland is a glassy soul with droopy eyes and dreamy dialogue sound bites and, guess what? Maybe there is no "why" to satisfy those questions. Maybe some crazy shit like stabbing retarded kids just happens so please leave me alone and let me stare through these prison bars like I'm seeing invisible angels. The United States of Leland is like a film adaptation of a Pearl Jam song, and I found myself narrating it like Eddie Vedder – "Butter cup sun trickling through the steel...a bicycle on its side...and LELAND!!!! LELAND!!!."
Do you see what I've stooped to?
HOW TO HAVE A PROBLEM.
I was thinking of posting this to Craigs List but wonder if maybe it will do more good here.
I have a problem. Well, it's a good problem to have, I suppose, but even luck sometimes balances itself with misfortune. You see, I recently switched careers. It's not that I wasn't happy as an editor for So Best Bride magazine – the people were a little high-maintenance if you know what I mean ;), and the hours were tres long but the parties were BRILL! It's just that an opportunity presented itself and I grabbed it. My friends say I'm very "Miranda" in that way. Whatevs. The heart wants what the heart wants, and the pocketbook wants it even more. (Shoe shopping! Hello??? Anyway, the next round of Mango-tinis is on moi!)
Sooo...I totally *heart* my new job as a field corresondent for the E! Entertainment (Spanish) news network. I'm totally out there, in the field – and totally playing the field. (NIGHTMARE!) I never imagined myself as a real correspondent and, honestly, now I can't imagine myself as anything else. (Except married! JK - not really. No, seriously, JK!! But my ring finger is freeeezing! AND SO IS MY UTERUS! Ew! TMI, right? JK. But for serious, though, why do I meet so many assholes? JK! sigh. K.) But here's the problem. Yes, I'm a correspondent but I only have EDITOR PANTS. Ack!
Is it wrong that I feel like a phony? I know I must sound totally paranoid but I feel like other people in my "industry" just have a hard time taking me seriously. Just today my boss was trying to pick someone to cover a roja carpet event for the film Diario de una Mujer Negra Enojada and I was totally all over it. But then my boss kinda looked at me sideways and said, "For serious, I personally think you'd be awesome, but for this event we're kinda looking for someone who is a little less 'Straight and Sexy' and a little more 'Curvy and Sexy,' you know?" Not that you're not sexy – I would totally fuck you!! – but maybe just a little too 'editory'?"
I so badly wanted to correct her and tell her that 'editory' isn't even a word and I would know because – hello? – I used to be an editor, but I was afraid that would just further count against me. Plus, it's not like I needed to throw around my particular area of experience and expertise; all they had to do was look at my stupid pants. duh.
I was devastated – it was like 9/11 times 911 – but I tried to play it cool. However, ten minutes later, there I was, in the bathroom, throwing up my lunch – some days, with food, I just want the taste but not the carbs, you know? – and then, ten minutes after that, I was crying. Crying like a baby editor on my f-wording pants – my career-pigeonholing pants.
So here's what I was thinking: maybe there could be an online swap service where other career-oriented people who go through professional changes can sort of, I don't know, exchange pants? Isn't that kind of brill? I was IMing with a friend today and she thought so:
Editrixxx (I know! I need to change this!!): so i was thinking...
buffy98763: hale & hearty 2day? BROC CHEDDAR!
Editrixxx: totals. but i was also thinking - what if we made a web site where we could exchange career pants?
See? Anyway, I just think – and sorry to get preachy – that we should not be limited (ohmygod kill me for that pun!) by our tailored slacks. We need to the freedom of movement from one career to another, without restriction, and without uncomfortable binding. And a pants-swap would do the trick. Not that I'm a feminist or anything – I HATE feminists.