Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Wedding of James and Jill

James Kenlar has been a friend of mine from a distance for almost ten years. He lives in Chicago and co-runs the independent label Flameshovel Records, which put out Judah Johnson's three releases. But James was always more to me than just a part of my music life. He has a weary kindness that always made me feel accepted and loved. I've always respected him and wanted the best for him. So I was happy (and surprised) to see on Facebook that he just got married. I didn't even know he was engaged, and I've never met the bride.

A photographer friend of James named Jeremy Lawsom posted his photos from the wedding. They made me feel good. Good for James, good for everybody. Good for love. You can feel the love bursting from these photos. They made me feel that winter is warm. I like the way that wedding in these photographs is a celebration of their life itself, its parking structures, its diners - not a ceremony in some sterile facility as if their vows were an event removed from their world.

Jeremy gave me permission to post some of his pics here. Check out his photography site.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009


Seeing the movie Doubt, which was like seeing the wet, warring workings of my own brain dissected and put into conversational form on a large film screen, caused me to look into the writer and director John Patrick Shanley. I discovered that he wrote the screenplay to Moonstruck and had his directorial debut with Joe Versus the Volcano, which he also wrote. I had seen neither of these two films before I dug them up this week.

Joe Versus the Volcano is so much better than the bits of dismissive critical response that have lingered in my memory all these years. It's like a Tom Waits song directed by Terry Gilliam, all hipster magical realism beating through a plumply romantic, surreal heart.

Moonstruck is more of the same in a less loopy, more traditional package. But it's amazing how deep the script can slice in between the Italian-American cliches and popcorn whimsy. Dig this scene where the one-handed, wolflike Ronny Cammareri (Nicholas Cage) tries to sweet talk Loretta Castorini (Cher) into coming up to his apartment after a night at the opera, and as he does so tries to pull his argument from a place deeper than sentiment. Years ago I wrote a lyric "We're born to have our hearts broken and die." I thought then that I knew what I was saying. I didn't. This is what I was saying:

Ronny: Come upstairs. I don't care why you come. No... that's not what I mean. Loretta, I love you. Not... not like they told you love is - and I didn't know this either - but love don't make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We... we aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect...

Loretta: Oh– [Like the cliche of it is indecent]

Ronny: [Looks up in thought.] The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us. We are here to ruin ourselves and... and to break our hearts and love the wrong people... and... and die! I mean that the story books are bullshit! Now I want you to come upstairs with me and... and... and get in my bed!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Tiny Tear in the Fabric of the Universe

So I'm standing in the living room of my friend A.J. making small talk when it happened. I had come by to borrow a midi controller and it was my first time setting foot in his home. We had digressed about cats, Christian rock and a pretty mindblowing concept for a screenplay based on A.J.'s recent breakup when I looked across the room and saw it. And my speech slurred to a stop. "Wha–? Is that... I don't, under...."

A.J. stared at me, perplexed, his big, sweet Ewok eyes growing wider. He said nothing.

"Why do you have that...? I mean, what is that? I just don't understand."

I was staring at this painting, on the cover of an LP, which he had framed and set on his table.

And the tiny tear in the fabric of the universe happened in my brain, which short-circuited because I couldn't understand what multiple levels of perverse indie irony had caused someone to create a retro-tinged oil painting of spoof-epic Tropic Thunder's Kirk Lazurus (actually the white actor Robert Downey Jr. in blackface), and dress him in WWII-era pilot garb.

I heard A.J., as if from a great distance, mumbling something about Jazz composer Thelonious Monk and great deals on frames from Urban Outfitters, but I had already fallen down the rabbit hole.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Man Machine

This Onion piece perfectly captures Apple users' love/hate relationship with their machines. Apple products are beautiful, and clearly the best thing going, and yet.... their flagship programs (such as iTunes and iPhoto) are riddled with usability issues. And the stuff is not built to last. On Christmas Eve my latest iPod died on me. This is probably the fourth one I've had that has done this. I took it in to the Mac store on appointment with one of their condescending "geniuses" and he told me they're basically good for a year. I said, "This little mp3 player was $300. That's a lot of money to pay for something that's not built to last longer than a year." "Yeahhhhh," he said.

On a happier note, I experienced a triumph of Man vs. Machine last night sometime after midnight when, after much therapy and involved negotiations, I convinced Battery (my beat-making and sampler program) to talk to the volume faders on my AKAI MPD24 midi controller pad. This basically means I can turn the volume up and down on my samples when performing live. It took everything in me not to cry out in rejoicing and wake Kirsten up (though I did raise my fists to the sky and shake them). I've been trying to make that happen for a solid week.

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009


Ice is broken.