Friday, February 27, 2009

This week I made two major life changes: I switched from Whiskey Sodas to Greyhounds and from Pro Tools to Logic.

Who says that change isn't possible?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Heck and Hell

I hate parent blogs. They're full of cuteness. And even though parenting is often an overload of cuteness it can also be terrifying and sometimes depressing as you do your best not to fuck up your kid while at the same time somehow managing to keep their ass alive and healthy (all the while failing daily). I mean, last night I'm reading this really interesting book that talks about social conditioning and the whole time I'm thinking, "Shitmaster! I already made half of these mistakes on Claire!"

But she's doing just fine. Better than fine, really. In fact, as far as I can tell, my kid is better than other kids - though I would never tell her this so I don't over-inflate her ego. Or wait. Should I actually try to over-inflate her ego so that when the world has its cruel way with her it'll all balance out? Man, I don't even know.

Anyway, today there were a couple of funny father/daughter moments that I will cherish for the rest of my days as an inept parent.

I pick her up from latchkey and notice her hat is nowhere in sight. This is bad because I've been cracking down on hat and glove usage: she hates wearing them and I tell her that she can thank her hatless ways for her nasty cough. At the same time I'm noticing the missing hat she screws herself by blurting out, "We went outside again after school!" I say, "You went outside and didn't wear your hat?" She says, "Yes, I did." I say, "Then where is it?" She says, "Back in my locker..." I say, "Then you couldn't have worn it outside, right?" She knows she's busted. "Right."

I've also been trying to crack down on the lying, which is happening more and more frequently. I know that kids are going to lie to their parents up and down. But still, I have to try, right? So I say, "Alright Claire, you're grounded from TV tonight for lying to me." She weeps in the car. She weeps at home. She's weeping for so long that I ask her to go in her room and weep there so I don't have to listen to it any longer. I say this really nice and add that it's okay for her to be upset and cry, but that I just can't stand hearing it any longer.

Eventually, I make her dinner and, since Kirst is out, suggest that we sit down and eat together and invite her doll Ellie to join us at Kirst's place. She stops crying immediately and starts bustling around setting the table for three. Her face is red and swollen but suddenly optimistic.

While we're eating the subject of school comes up. They're learning words that start with E this week. My usual joke when we go over her letter words is to say the longest ones I can think of, in this case stuff like "Effervescent." She'll say, "Ear," and I'll say, "Evisceration." She laughs at my joke, though I'm not sure why. Then I say, "Exclamation," and ask her if she knows what an exclamation mark is. I tell her it's something you put on the ends of sentences for emphasis. She says, "Like, 'What the hell!'"

I say, "What did you just say," really not sure if I heard her correctly. She looks at me without blinking and says, "Like, 'What the HELL!'"

I'm at a total loss. We've never had the swear word talk. How do I explain to her the arbitrariness of cuss words, about substituting one word for another nearly identical word out of deference to other people's sensibilities and the superstition of language. I say something like, "Claire, has nobody talked to you about how you're not supposed to say certain words?" She looks at me blankly and continues stuffing food in her face. "No," she says.

I have no energy for the conversation. Or at least for the speech I'm supposed to make. Instead, I try to level with her and explain as sincerely as I can that there are certain words that kids aren't supposed to say, and that she's going to hear adults say them all of the time, and there's no reason for these rules except maybe manners and she's going to have to learn the rules anyway and "hell" is one of those words and she's supposed to say "heck" instead. She says, "Okay" and continues polishing off her mac 'n' cheese.

Later, I'm in my office working on something and she comes in and hands me a handmade card. It's is scrawled in her phonetic chicken scratch:

i em sre theet i
lid too you
I love you

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dancing Girls

Dance lessons were my present to Claire this Christmas. She also got the full leotard/tights/slippers costume as well but they couldn't be located in time for this past Saturday's class so we had to improvise.

Claire is the same age as these girls but much, much larger. It's funny and cute how tall she is. But the extra height hasn't made her any less graceful.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Telefon Messages

Because my life has turned into a giant fortune cookie it doesn't really surprise me that my ipod has randomly selected the same Telefon Tel Aviv track four days in a row, sometimes a few times a day, and that when I finally looked to see the name of the song it was "Stay Away From Being Maybe." I'm trying. I'm trying.

[R.I.P. Charlie Cooper, one half of Telefon Tel Aviv, who passed last week just as this record was coming out.]

Telefon Tel Aviv "Stay Away From Being Maybe"

Telefon Tel Aviv "You Are The Worst Thing in the World"

Kanye Takes it Outside

I'm doing a lot of cross-blogging these days between my culture blog Fone Culture and here. I guess I'm having trouble distinguishing between the personal and the cultural right now.

I am standing in a flood of thought and inspiration these days. My mind is fixed on the idea of outsideness, of any instance of someone stepping outside of their programming. There is no finer example of this than Kanye West's challenging the black community on its homophobia-as-a-rule. It's not uncommon for a celebrity to be an activist for the causes they believe in, but the stances they take, no matter how progressive, are usually safe positions to have within the like-minded embrace of their peers. I guarantee you no such protection exists for Kanye in the hip hop circles he runs in.

For years people have been pointing out the sad irony of the black community hating on homosexuals after themselves being the victim of so much prejudiced cruelty. It's not a new idea. But it's still exhilarating to see Kanye touch on that in this guest appearance on Big Boy's Neighborhood. If he said this on a show like Fresh Air, he'd be preaching to the choir but on an urban music program like Big Boy's, he's really challenging beliefs.

Kanye visits Big Boy's Neighborhood (Talks about Chris Brown, Rihanna, and Gay rumors) from qdeezy on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Me, Anthony Hamilton and Christopher at the Esquire Magazine party last night in Times Square. Don't ask.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A True Definition of Soul

I have a piece in the Metro Times this week that is as close to what I want to do with writing as I've gotten yet (I'm not even close). I don't think I've ever wanted to get a story right as much as I did this one. It's a profile of Melanie Rutherford, a Pontiac, MI-based songwriter and singer who I discovered this winter after becoming obsessed with her guest appearance on Black Milk's "Bond 4 Life."

Read the story: Until The Wheels Fall Off

Melanie is a fascinating character and meeting her and trying to put my impressions into words made my brain hurt, but it excited my heart. She is all music, all of the time. At her request, we did the interview at this Pontiac Cony Island she goes to every day to write. Every few minutes during our talk she'd end up busting into song in the middle of this diner and schooling me on all the soul music I didn't know about. Here are 4 short audio excerpts of our interview to give you a glimpse of what I'm talking about:

"I Like Real Music"

"On Curtis and Otis"

"A New Song, Bravos"

"You Are Not a Marvin Gaye Fan!"

Black Milk "Bond 4 Life (Feat. Melanie Rutherford)"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar and the Horror of Compromise

Speaking of questioning...

Saturday's This American Life came at an inconvenient time for me. I was running a couple of crucial errands for my girlfriend, who was home sick with the flu. A few of these errands required me to get out of the car during this, one of the most captivating pieces of radio programming my ass has ever heard. I was so torn!

This American Life "The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar"

I was conflicted listening to this story of a woman who begins questioning her own family story, a story which involved the kidnapping and eventual rescue of her great grandfather. She goes on a search for the truth, approaching the issue with a hunger for objective facts with a journalist's code, a code we've all been told is a high ethic to uphold. My whole life I've wanted to be fearless about the truth, and to face it straight on. But then at some points I've asked myself, as this story asks of her, what good does it do? And whether I, like she, like every journalist, have an agenda I'm not acknowledging.

A friend of mine and I have been hitting on this topic recently, not just of questioning the building blocks of our own story - most of which has been supplied by those who came before us - but of the value of questioning itself. I think it's one of the hardest things of all to come to terms with. To wonder, after spending your whole life unraveling a ball of yarn, if you shouldn't have just left it in tact. Is there a point where questioning is just destructive? When it's done in the service of a quest for absolute truth - so-called truth for its own sake - doesn't that reduce truth to something amoral, like a block of ice existing in a void. What about people's feelings? What about getting along? And doesn't the idea that facts and histories have a greater value than anything else an idea that other people thought of for us? In other words, is questioning everything just another way that we are being a follower?

And yet another question about questioning - do we even have a choice in the matter? My gut says no, that some of us were just born to blow things up. So it is what it is. If the lie is more comfortable, but you see through it, what difference does it make that it's convenient? It's too late either way.

I just saw Revolutionary Road after waiting for weeks to get the chance. I almost don't even want to talk about the film. I'm still getting over it. It's an artistic devil articulating the unmentionable and asking the most inconvenient questions about happiness, hope, change and the compromises that come with stability. It's like a horror movie about domestication and it scares because it calmly, clearly, with terrifying accuracy picks off all refuges - and then doesn't offer any answers in their place.

Revolutionary Road is the story of a couple in the 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler, who lose themselves in the search for stability. The obvious route for telling this kind of story, especially with this time period, is to create characters who blindly accept the suburban dream and then watch them fail. Something we've all seen before. But Revolutionary Road is different because its subjects are soulful, passionate people who are ambitious about ideas and are trying to live uniquely and be the exception. They see through the trap. Watching them get ensnared it anyway, I felt like I was watching a possible version of my own future.

The film is about taking the clear-eyed view of life, no matter the consequences. This kind of crystal-clear focus is even a visual motif, as the film is shot in a bright, open and transparent style that allows you to see every detail, every skin pore, every dark sparkle in the hard empty eyes of the film's most soulless characters. And the clarity is painful. Road doesn't flinch. And it's not fair. It isn't just about coming to an awareness of the truth, but whether awareness is enough.

There was a scene that killed me where one of the Wheelers admits to an infidelity and the other asks, "Why did you tell me?" They would have rather not known, not because they're in denial but because they've reached a point of clarity about the marriage that makes the cheating irrelevant in light of the corruption that has already taken over.

The best line happens after the Wheelers hatch a plan to move to France and "really begin living." They're discussing it with John Givings, a mental patient they've befriended recently, who's on a short leave from the hospital. Givings' true illness is his inability to play nice, and he makes enemies wherever he goes as he challenges the tiny lies around him that people are using to fuel their lifestyles. Walking through the woods with them, Givings asks why the couple is moving. Frank says to get away from the "hopeless emptiness." This stops Givings in his tracks. "Now you've said it," he says. "Plenty of people are on to the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Antony Interview

I loved Terry Gross's interview with Antony. As someone who's fascinated with questioning my suppositions, and withdrawing from society's psychological rules as much as possible in my own slow way, a trans-gender artist like Antony has a perspective I want to learn from.

I had a similar experience reading Esquire's "What It's Like" piece on Coral Hull, a writer with multiple personalities.

In Antony's case, he's been seeing things from an outsider's height since he was a child. But even now as a trans-gender adult, and in Hull's case as someone with many selves, they bring up questions of identity that go beyond the usual classifications of male/female, gay/straight. When asked by Gross to define trans-gender, and why sexual surgery isn't a part of his path, Antony is quick to stress that there is a level of cruelty and lack of subtlety involved in reducing people to their genitalia or sexuality. It's not a question of erotic orientation or physical makeup, but a difference of spirit. He feels that what sets him apart is a sensibility about life.

I also loved his answer when Gross asked him to describe how supportive his parents had been to him as a "different" child. He says that all of us emerge from childhood with a level of brokenness and our work is to look at what went right and what went wrong. This is a part of the human condition, not just his own story. He has a good relationship with them now, and that's what matters.

Gross also picked my two favorite cuts from his new album The Crying Light.

Antony and the Johnsons "Another World"

Antony and the Johnson "One Dove"

Listen to the interview.

Friday, February 6, 2009

You Need To Get With Jazmine Sullivan

That's all I have to say, really. You need to get with Jazmine Sullivan. And that Top 40 music needs to follow her direction: i.e. lyrics can be smart without being preachy; modern and raw without being hedonistic. And that her record has the songs, but it also has the production, so everybody wins. And that she's got weapons-grade pipes, but she keeps it in check with real-soul phrasing and leaves the fake out. And that Jazmine Sullivan is the middle path. And that you need to get with her.

Jazmine Sullivan "Live a Lie"

Jazmine Sullivan "Fear"

Jazmine Sullivan "Need U Bad"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Priest I Would Follow

I have a new piece out this morning in Metromode about this wacky downriver priest who's converted his parish into an eco-friendly/sustainability wonderland. I was blown away by this guy's story and example.

Check it out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bad Trip

I saw this on Zozzy's blog today and I have to post it. Ha ha ha ha. This little kid has entered the heart of darkness for sure.