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Much like Christmas and Groundhog Day…

It always comes around at this time of year; my determination to get this blog going by posting short, off-the-cuff entries instead of starting on mammoth essays that get edited and edited and never published. I’m beginning to think I suffer from a strangely specific version of seasonal affective disorder. Other than the Januariness of it all, I sort of get my dilemma; short, off-the-cuff things make outstanding Facebook status updates.

That notwithstanding, it is January, and so I am determined. This year will be the year I get back to posting regularly and making jewelry out of all those sparkly and stringy things I acquired before I had a baby and the tremors took my hands (unrelated but complementary obstacles).

Maybe I’ll figure out why you can’t post links in my comments. And why I only get notified about comments from first-time posters. This is sounding like “uninstall all your plugins” territory, isn’t it?

22643_281477619912_574639912_4283783_4000206_nI don’t know if this will turn out as well as I think it might, but I might have the kid live-blog (I mean, through me) American Idol once it gets past Hollywood week. His commentary was astonishing last year, but of course he’s now 5 and possibly too mature and/or jaded to have the same effect. We’ll see.

I am going to post this now without even proofing it. Such is my dedication. You’re welcome.

Tangled up in “ew.”

One entire week I’ve spent tweaking a long, detailed entry about how I really hated “Julie & Julia.” A WEEK. I finally realized that I wasn’t having trouble editing it because it was a terrible piece of writing; rather, it was because I just revived this puppy and do I really want to kick things off brutalizing something I disliked that most people seem to love? I do not. We’re not about the hate here, people.

(I will say THIS about THAT: Had I read the first two lines of Roger Ebert’s review before going out that day, I would have known immediately to spend my movie money elsewhere. Those lines were, more or less, “Have you ever wanted to spend a 3-day bus ride sitting next to Julia Child? Just asking.”)

So I’m going to talk about things I love. I love Project Runway! And it’s back, in a new expanded format. Last week’s All-Stars competition was fun to watch up until the judging, which was insane and wrong, but I’m over it now. Then there’s the series proper, which I’m optimistic about this season – so far I’m rooting for Louise Black, because she made this:

…and, well, I’m considering a Lotto habit that would, if successful, allow me to hire her as my personal stylist. I do recognize that the creation of clothes that I want to wear is not always a path to the top on PR (I still have flashbacks of the judges quizzing Chris March on who exactly would want to wear human hair as I tried to figure out what I had to do to get my hands on that dress [it was strips of hair extensions, it wasn't even gross, but I felt a little Cruella about it]). So I’m trying not to get too attached. But whatever happens, we’ll still have Tim Gunn to root for all season long.

If you also are seriously into PR but you haven’t visited Lifetime’s site for the show, you must go there – unlike its sad old broken Bravo counterpart, it has tons of extra content that’s really worth watching.

What else do I love? I love the new album by The Duckworth Lewis Method, a collaboration between The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh that is all about – well – cricket. I was frightened by that initially; my favorite sport is, after all, avoiding anything to do with sports. But then I heard the first single and was utterly powerless under its spell.

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If you can’t watch right now, I’ll say if you like early Kinks, the Zombies, XTC or cricket, this is the CD for you.

In local news, I am still obsessed with the lunch I had today at Mani’s Bakery. I got a sandwich called “The Regular” on rosemary bread and it might have been the pinnacle of the sandwich-based narrative of my life. And then there was the caramelized apple cake! We were alarmed by the $9/slice price, but then we saw a slab go past and realized it practically demanded to be shared; huge and overwhelming, yes, but quite delicate in flavor. Mani’s is a health-conscious bakery and cafe that tends toward the whole-grain and fruit-sweetened, so if you’re not that kind of eater it may not be up your alley. If you’re on the fence, this tip may help: When deciding between fruit-sweetened desserts, you’ll rarely go wrong picking one that’s supposed to taste like apples anyway.

I’m going to count this as a clearing-out-bad-karma entry. Back soon!

Why Danny Gokey is not the American Idol, by Wesley, age 4.

Wes doesn’t usually watch prime time TV because it’s right at his bedtime. The past few weeks, though, I’ve let him watch American Idol. Regulars will not be surprised to hear that he instantly had an understanding of the goings-on that, I believe, would qualify him to replace almost any of the judges. To “pitchy,” “artistry,” “magical,” and “indulgent,” add Wesley’s judging criterion: Rock Star.

We started out with the fabulous Adam Lambert’s Whole Lotta Love. Wes refused to give an assessment of Adam’s standing in the competition, as he was positive Adam was not a contestant but had just come in with his bandmate Slash [that night's mentor]. Rock star +++.

Next was whiskey-voiced teen Allison Iraheta wailing on some Janis Joplin. “Mommy, she’s a rock star too!”

Third, we have mellow laid-back cute boy Kris Allen singing Revolution. Wes watched this one much longer before opining. “I think he’s just pretending to be a rock star.”

This is when I began to suspect he was a genius.

(We missed the smarmy and unmusical Danny Gokey’s evisceration of Aerosmith somehow, but did see Adam & Allison duet on “Slow Ride,” an event that has caused Wes to take up writing preschool fan fiction. He calls them Adison. Just like crazy internet people with the smushing together of names. Don’t go feeling all justified, crazy internet people, he’s FOUR.)

This week, he finally got the Gokey experience. During “You Are So Beautiful,” he turned to me and said, “I think he could be a rock star.”

What? Could my kid not be a genius after all? Doesn’t he have any comprehension of pitch or phrasing or breath control? (By “he” I meant Wes, but one might ask the same about Gokey.) How can he like this? You’re almost in kindergarten, dude, step it up!

But out loud I said:

“He could?”

Wes nodded sagely. Did that eye-roll/head-loll he does when about to state the obvious.

“Yes. He just has to learn to sing like a rock star.”

Oh, is that it? Just the singing that’s the problem? Genius status regranted.

Also, I’m totally letting him watch all my shows with me from now on.

Goblin King, cont’d

Scott tried to link to this in the comments on the last section, but apparently you can’t put links in my comments, probably because of something I did wrong in a past life. But it’s really funny, so I’m linking it here instead.

I’ve seen this movie a couple times, but was so distracted by David Bowie, and also by all the David Bowie, that I never really noticed parts of it are not very good. And the last time I saw it was like a month ago. So kudos to you, David Bowie, for giving new meaning to carrying a movie.

Two phrases I’d like to abolish from the discussion of music.

1. Self-indulgent. Pretty much any creative endeavor is self-indulgent to some degree, isn’t it? The other option appears to be, “I made this music because I wanted to use my gift to touch others. My goal is just to inspire people.” Next thing you know, you’re on a televised talent competition and you’re singing “I Hope You Dance” and Mariah Carey’s “Hero” and “Jesus Take The Wheel” and you’re bathed in white light and reaching out to the camera all Christlike and a sizable portion of the nation is looking at you and thinking, “Jesus, this guy’s a tool.” You get some people thinking that if you go the other route, sure, but you probably have more fun along the way.

Often, from the words surrounding self-indulgent, I suspect that what the speaker/writer means is, “Yeah, I didn’t get this.” But there are times when an alternate phrase might be valuable. I believe that phrase may be: “Frankly, this artist has his head way up his ass.” Try it – see how it works. (I should note that the offending term has been misappropriated by TV’s own Simon Cowell as “indulgent,” which I take to mean the singer has allowed the performance to eat far too much candy and also bought it a puppy.)

2. Emperor’s New Clothes. When you take your turn in a music discussion and announce that, oh, say the new album by Of Montreal is “a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes,” if I recall my fables correctly, the opinion you’ve introduced is something like: “All of you who’ve been talking about how great this is? You are BLIND. That’s right – BLIND. I ALONE am able to see the truth!”

And really, is that polite?

(This applies to other art forms as well, but I didn’t want to have to use ninety slash marks in every sentence. I’m lazy like that.)

Mother’s Finest

I have been loving the Internet this week, you guys. Despite the latest hideous Facebook makeover (do they even have a QA process?), it’s continued to be a great tool for finding long-lost people whom I adore, and also for finding out that my friend Scott should totally move to the country. Over on Twitter, an application that would be perfect if it offered a little more control, someone’s engineered a little more control with TwitterSnooze, which allows you to stop following someone for a limited amount of time – an ability whose usefulness may escape you if you don’t, say, follow a person who liveTweets three Wednesday night TV shows that you don’t watch.

Also using the Internet, I was able to track down a store in the greater LA area (Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park) that carried dairy-free chocolate bunnies so I don’t have to order that crap from Portland with dry ice and such to give my allergic child a happy holiday. And yes, my kid DOES have to have a chocolate bunny at Easter; we’re not religious, but we feel very strongly about inexplicable people and animals who show up your house to bring you junk.

But here is where I had the most fun. If you have had the misfortune to be cornered by me on the subject of American Idol this season, you know I kind of like contestant Adam Lambert. Like, to the point where I wish all those other people would quit interrupting The Adam Lambert Show with their singing and whatnot. One of the reasons I like him is that he is a big ol’ record geek; not like I’m short on those people in my world, but I don’t know many who are 27. And what really surprised me was that we share a favorite completely obscure band, Mother’s Finest. Here, watch Adam talk about them with the fevered eyes of the true believer:

Yeah. I was happy to find out about the Germany thing, because I, who could technically be his mom, am too young to know about Mother’s Finest; I spent my youth hanging out with a bunch of musicians about 10 years my senior, some of them from the South. That’s my excuse. And I’d wondered what his was.

Say Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan and Led Zeppelin formed a supergroup. You’re kind of close to what they sound like. You cannot imagine how dynamic they were (I assume still are) live. I have been to approximately one gazillion concerts – most of them by people who are considered great performers – and nobody touches MF. You can’t squeeze that kind of power into the space of a YouTube video, but here’s a track from what I believe is the concert Adam described seeing:

So, back to my point about loving the Internet: People much younger than I, possibly younger than Adam, are seeing that first video on YouTube, looking up something very much like the second video, going, “Hey, this band is great! Why haven’t I heard of them?” I’ve been helping some people out with collections of MP3s available on Amazon that make a good $10 introduction.

So: Because a kid who is a frontrunner on American Idol in 2009 turned on a television in Germany in 2003 and mentioned it on a clip that was only available on iPhones and on YouTube, one of the most underrated bands of the early ’70s gets a new burst of life.

That’s just cool.

New site, and what happens when you raise your child around creative types and heathens.

Hi! I keep writing complicated posts and thinking, “Oh, this will take forever, let me just write a short one,” and then that takes forever and… well, let’s just say my dashboard looks like those Russian nesting dolls now.

But what I *did* manage to do is build a new little site; it’s called Waterloo Sunset and is a tribute to the song of the same name. I’m rather pleased with it.

This morning, W. and I were playing in the courtyard of a closed museum down the street. Across the street, a church service let out.

“Mommy, are those Presidents?”
“Presidents? No, they’re people leaving church.”

[After a minute]
“Why did you think they were Presidents?”
“Because they’re wearing President clothes.”

President clothes.

I am so pleased with that.

Your musical recommendations for today…

This year-old Hawksley Workman concert from CBC is not the best live performance I’ve ever heard from him; however, it’s the best one that’s streaming for free on the internet (and it’s pretty damn great even with the disclaimers). My only real complaint is that they’ve clearly scissored out a ton of his famously surreal between-songs banter (he’s a bit like Robyn Hitchcock, if Hitchcock were less about insects and eyeballs and more about chocolate and puppies), but hey, clearly they had a length to come in under so here you have it.

The following YouTube video is here for a different reason. I could totally find better footage/audio of Duke Special for you, even streaming free, but that material would not provide the additional pleasures of staring at the screen throughout, thinking, “Why is this happening? In this place? There must be a backstory that makes sense… oh, wait, I think I have it – no, no that doesn’t work.” (There are five more parts to the story if you find that you enjoy the game as much as I did, or if you’re just digging the concert.)

(I feel as if I should hold an “explain this video” contest, but we all know I’d forget to put the prize in the mail. Feel free to play anyway!)

Joe Henry Concert Video in Paradiso

A much, much earlier post on this blog bemoaned my inability to find online video that would properly convey the spellbinding loveliness of the Joe Henry concert I had just attended. Because the internet is magical, a friend who had not seen that entry pre-relaunch (pre-relaunch? should that just be ‘launch’?) has now alerted me to the existence of just such a thing.

Click below for spellbinding loveliness, and lots of it.

Joe Henry Concert Video in Paradiso – Main Hall – Free on


Some of you know that I’m the editor of a website dedicated to the Los Angeles and Southern California jazz scene, This week, I’m bringing my work home with me, because I cannot get over how much genuinely amazing music is coming to town.

Last night, we caught sax player Pharaoh Sanders and his quartet at the Jazz Bakery. Can I tell you how much I love that club and everyone who hangs out there? SO much, is how much. If you don’t recognize Sanders’ name, you’ll get the idea when I tell you he worked with John and Alice Coltrane back in the day; the man has not lost a step since then (or if he has, it’s a step only dogs can hear). He’s there through Saturday; if you’re in town, go. Seriously. It improved my entire outlook on life.

The next show I really want to see is Charles Lloyd this Sunday at Catalina’s. Lloyd, a reed player who’s celebrating his 70th birthday, is a legend and entirely a reason to attend on his own; however, what I’m really excited about is the addition of pianist Jason Moran to Lloyd’s quartet. Moran is quite possibly my favorite jazz musician from the younger generation, period. He’s one of those rare people who can synthesize what seems like the entire history of music into a highly original sound of his own. He also has a nice little collection of free MP3s on his website; well worth your time.

The Jazz Bakery goes on to have a jawdroppingly great schedule for the next month or so. There’s vocalist Jimmy Scott, whose distinctive phrasing and instantly recognizable soprano voice have served him in working with everyone from Lionel Hampton to Lou Reed. There’s best-kept-secret Andy Bey, a pianist/vocalist who returned from a 20-year absence from recording to release five astonishing albums over the last decade; word has it he’s better live. The mind boggles, I tell you. There’s saxophonist Lee Konitz, who rivaled Charlie Parker in the ’40s.

And there’s much more, but that’s what that other site I work on is for, right?

Even if you’re not seriously into jazz, do consider checking one of these shows out; we’re really quite fortunate to be able to see the architects of a whole genre of music playing in cozy little clubs, I think.