Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'd stop

Because I read in two random places today that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing every time and expecting a new result.  And because I'm working on a list of all the things I will do differently.

Next Time
by Mary Oliver

Next time what I'd do is look at
the earth before saying anything.  I'd stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.

When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I'd watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.

And for all, I'd know more -- the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.

In defense of darkness

To be courageous, you must experience fear.

To be optimistic, you must see the obstacles.  

Otherwise, you're just in denial.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Can't take back

I thought long and hard about posting my absurd conversation with the Bass Player about whether or not we should get a goat for the apartment.  Just because it's Friday, and it was silly, and why not?  And then I realized that the conversation, like the goat idea itself, was always meant to fade into the welcoming abyss of Things Best Put Behind Us.

Someone recently described the past to me, and the all-too-human urge to Go Back, like this:

I thought that was very insightful.  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Smile + tee hee

Is it because I've been sick in bed for four days that now, stepping out into the sunlight and a world of strangers streaming through it, everything looks more alive than before?  The line of light surrounding every person seems to glimmer and wink at me as if to say, "Isn't it all just so lovely and terrible and grand?"  One man scowls at me as I look up from his gray-whiskered dog to his weathered face.  The man behind him, a bit more dapper, catches my face falling in response to the dog-walker and then I fear I've passed on the frown.  I only have a few paces to fret about this before a third man, this one in a tie, smiles at me the way a baby smiles at . . . well, almost anything it can hold in its pudgy hand.  Maybe it's just the coming of spring, but I want to pass on the smile and giggle at the frown, because it is, it really is:  it is all just so lovely and terrible and grand.

Friday, March 13, 2009

And one of them I only know for the one door

Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that if we are not beautiful to each other, we cannot know beauty in any form.      

Vertical, locked; horizontal, unlocked.
Correct:  2 + 3 = 5 
Incorrect:  2 + 3 = 4 
Nonsense:  2 + 3 = pig

You can't earn love.  But you deserve it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


There are two women who change my life every time I encounter them, who remind me in no uncertain terms of the incontrovertible contents of my heart -- my ideals, my dreams, my values, myself.  

The first is Ellis, a folk singer from Minneapolis (by way of Texas) who embodies a generosity of spirit our Keyboard Player likes to refer to as the Lifeglow.  I first saw Ellis in 1998 or so when she had just started her solo career; she was totally mesmerizing and I think I floated instead of walked for the next week!  When she's onstage, it's like witnessing a beating human heart opening up and spilling out light.  I think you'd have to be as imperturbable as...I don't know, the Borg? -- not to be moved by her performances.  You just missed her Club Passim show last night, but if you dig deeply felt, engaging acoustic music, check out her tour schedule-- she plays in Plymouth, MA on Saturday.  If you can't attend a show, her CD's are available here.

The other is Nikky Finney, a poet from Kentucky (by way of South Carolina) who is like the best and most difficult teacher you ever had -- she's passion incarnate.  And while she does teach creative writing and was the best of teachers to me, beyond the classroom, Nikky carries this same challenge.  It's like she is constantly charging you, through the way she speaks and moves and looks you in the eye, to do only the kind of "work" you can feel good signing your name to.  Nikky will be reading her work Monday, April 6 at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education ($3).  If you can't make it out for that, her books are available here and here.

As for changes in my life... for now I want to defer to the words of another impassioned poet:  Rilke.  I think about change a lot, probably because I seem to always be aware of some transition or another (life being the constant whir of becoming).  This is the most brilliant thing I have found on the subject, and I think of it often:

I believe that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension that we find paralyzing because we no longer hear our surprised feelings living. Because we are alone with the alien thing that has entered into our self; because everything intimate and accustomed is for an instant taken away; because we stand in the middle of a transition where we cannot remain standing. 
For this reason the sadness too passes: the new thing in us, the added thing, has entered into our heart, has gone into its inmost chamber and is not even there anymore, is already in our blood. And we do not learn what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing has happened, and yet we have changed, as a house changes into which a guest has entered. We cannot say who has come, perhaps we shall never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters into us in this way in order to transform itself in us long before it happens. 
And this is why it is so important to be lonely and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and stark moment at which our future sets foot in us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and fortuitous point of time at which it happens to us as if from outside. The more still, more patient and more open we are when we are sad, so much the deeper and so much the more unswervingly does the new go into us, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more will it be our destiny, and when on some later day it "happens" (that is, steps forth out of us to others), we shall feel in our inmost selves akin and near to it. 
And that is necessary. It is necessary and toward this our development will move gradually that nothing strange should befall us, but only that which has long belonged to us. 
We have already had to think so many of our concepts of motion, we will also gradually learn to realize that that which we call destiny goes forth from within people, not from without into them. Only because so many have not absorbed their destinies and transmuted them within themselves while they were living in them, have they not recognized what has gone forth out of them; it was so strange to them that, in their bewildered fright, they thought it must only just then have entered into them, for they swear never before to have found anything like it in themselves. 
As people were long mistaken about the motion of the sun, so they are even yet mistaken about the motion of that which is to come. The future stands firm . . . but we move in infinite space.

How should it not be difficult for us? 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I love you good bye chord

Okay I'm back, but just long enough to say that this Lovelines site is so happy.  Just clicked through a bunch of "i love" and feel happier than when I started.  A few of my favorites (besides the title one):

i love you held to our hearts the values of life you have taught us

i love my freedom a lot more

i love how caring we humans are

i love mermaids

i love tattoos and piercings but contrary to popular belief this doesn't make me a bad or $#!+ person

i love: rock and roll

i love hush puppies golden fried fish and french fries with cold slaw on the side

i loved reading and my dad also wore glasses

One of these mornings child you're gonna rise up singing

Yes, yes I am, and while I'm at it I think I will take to the sky.  Till that morning comes...Janis will keep reminding me.  Bless her rocked out soul.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Slow dance lyrics, check

It was daylight savings time this weekend, so even though I didn't feel as tired as the clock said I should last night, I had big plans to go to bed early and get up early this morning.  I got out my journal for just a "few minutes" of scribbling to unwind, and ended up writing lyrics for my slow dance song.  Then I obviously HAD to email them to one of the songwriters right that second, which required staying up to tap the whole thing into my iPhone because the wireless on the laptop isn't working, for reasons unknown.  So I ended up hitting snooze for two hours this morning instead of getting to the office early.  The setbacks I suffer for the muse.  And This Blue Heaven.  *wink*  

Actually, though, I had some seriously crazy dreams between snoozes this morning.  The second tornado one in as many weeks.

Oh!  I just remembered that tornadoes are a symbol of love-worry for me.  (Love-worry:  n. General anxiety surrounding a loved one, sometimes but not always pertaining to the love itself.)  Hm.  Well this tornado was right up against this huge dream-building downtown, but it didn't hurt anything, and I walked by it to wherever I was going, though I wasn't unconcerned or unperplexed that the building wasn't affected.  So that's gotta be a fairly good dream.  Right?

Friday, March 6, 2009

To h-e-double-hockey-sticks in a handbag

Recently, the Guitar Player and I have found ourselves discussing fears of various things disappearing from our culture.  It's strange at my spring-chicken age to already be thinking "kids these days" kinds of thoughts, but at the same time, this whacky world wide web and other technology seems to have accelerated the pace of change.  Since this topic has become a trend (three occurrences = a trend, no?) I thought it perhaps blogworthy.  

1.  Slow dancing

In the last maybe year or so, I've been visited again and again with this image of slow dancing.  The way a song gets stuck in your head or a dream comes back to you in the middle of the day, I think of slow dancing and yearn to do it.  And not in a Dirty Dancing kinda way, but a croony cheek-to-cheek kinda way.  The other day my uncle wrote a Facebook note about the tunes that were popular when he was a teeny bopper, songs by The Crew Cuts, The Diamonds, The Four Lads.  It reminded me of a story about my grandparents slow dancing on Sundays, the details of which I might have invented myself -- I'm forever making up love stories -- so I'll keep them to myself for now.  But anyway, GP posed the question:  Does anyone actually slow dance anymore?  Does the radio play slow dance songs anymore?  I was hard pressed to think of any, which of course makes me want to write one.  I will definitely keep you posted.

2.  Rock stars

GP read some article or other about how superstars are a dying breed in music, which re-ignited a recurring rant of his about how the industry no longer allows for bands to become really big.  Not only is it hard to do with SO many bands, all of which have more access to audiences (thanks MySpace!) and sound-improving technology than ever, but any band who comes along with the ambition to become really huge is automatically treated with skepticism (at best) from critics.  

Personally I have mixed feelings about this whole thing, for two reasons.  One is that I of course love discovering little-known eccentric ANYTHING -- towns, bookstores, fruits, bugs, blogs, and yes, musicians -- because I am eternally delighted by variety.  The other is that for music to become really huge, it has to appeal to a whole lot of people, all of whom of course have widely varying tastes and things they want from a song.  That means that the artist either has to be just exceptionally good across the board, with universal but provocative lyrics and somewhat groundbreaking music (The Beatles, U2, and Radiohead come to mind) or they have to be generic enough that there's little in the music to turn listeners off, in which case they rely a lot more on sex and catchiness (a la Britney Spears -- and the Bass Player says Hinder but since I've never heard of them, I don't think they can be counted a household name).  I would argue that the Britneys still get much more culture-wide attention than the Bonos (maybe just barely in this particular case, since Bono's such an international do-gooder and Oprah hearts him), so hugeness may have nothing to do with quality, in which case I say good riddance.

So if anything concerns me here, it is the decline of quality.  Part of the problem is that the industry is SO saturated with fairly good bands, all of whom have more or less equal access to audiences, it's neither easy nor necessary for a truly superb band to emerge.  Another issue is the fact that technology has made it far less important to be a truly good musician.  In theory it is totally possible to build a fan base without ever having to play live, thanks to the net.  The majority of people, in my estimation, find music online or through friend recommendations or on iTunes or Lala  -- certainly not by checking out local shows.  And recording technology has advanced enough that a mediocre band with enough cash could make a pretty good-sounding record.  

All of that said, I'm not nearly as worried about it as the GP.  The long tail may be where it's at now, but I think people need their rock stars.  There's something in the human psyche that will always seek a god or goddess.  I have to believe that even globalization can't steal our need for ideals.  Obama's a good omen in this respect.  Don't give up hope.
3.  The integrity of the English language

I'm just gonna paste in our IM conversation about this from the other night, which all started with GP mentioning something from his day called a "Webinar," a word that struck me the wrong way at that moment and sent me off on a rant.

Singer: here's the problem.
it's the same problem all around, which is that masses of lazy-minded people all have access to a forum (message boards, blogs, etc. etc.), so new words catch on very quickly, even stupid words created by lazy-minded people, which would otherwise die in their heads or at best, their circle of friends.
   or their company.
just like masses of mediocre musicians have access to an audience.
the result is a decline in quality. of music and of language.
as evidenced in pepsi ads everywhere.
GP: webinar is a stupid word?
Singer: it's not an awesome word.
it's a utilitarian word trying to masquerade as an awesome word.
which annoys me.
that's the business part of it.
GP: why as an awesome word?
Singer: or at least a clever word.
GP: i think it's primarily about brevity.
not cleverness.
so what you're saying is, you're not into the whole brevity thing.
esp. not when there's a beverage involved.
Singer: no that's not at all what i'm saying, duderino.
i mean.
how hard is it to say "web seminar"
it's not.
we're talking about a single syllable saved.
which is why i think it's more about cleverness
GP: how hard is it to say cannot?
will not
Singer: but can't is not being used in the same way
GP: does not
it's being used for brevity.
Singer: plus you say can't, won't, shan't how many times a day?
okay maybe not shan’t, but y’know
of course it's going to get contracted. it happens just by talking fast.
how often do you really need to say web seminar.
GP: they put them on every other week
i bet it's somewhat common in business.
Singer: plus to -not a word is a whole pattern of language
yes. it's common in business.
and that irritates me.
just because it does.
Singer: because business people do not care about words.
and i do.
and if they do care, it's for NEFARIOUS purposes.
like selling stuff.
GP: they're BUSINESS people.
Singer: precisely.
and they're ruining my language.
along with the LAZY-MINDED people.
it's this whole "go go go" crap anyway. brevity…
we don't have TIME to say web seminar.
we have important STUFF to sell.
er, do.
none of that has any business screwing with language. language, which affects our very brain structure.
so there.
it belongs to the downfall of integrity conversation every bit as much as the death of the superstar does. is my point.
corruption of quality.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'm going to need new earrings

Ever been to the Paradise Rock Club?

Last night, Lisa Hannigan (the now-solo female vocalist who sang on Damien Rice's first two albums) played there.

This Saturday night, The Airborne Toxic Event (you know, their song Sometime Around Midnight is always on the radio -- damn I love that guy's voice) is playing there.

The following Wednesday some other band is rumored to be dropping in to play the venue they first headlined in Boston in 1981.

March 25?  Digable Planets ('cause they're cool like dat, they're chill like dat, they're peace like dat).

April 25?  Parker House and Theory.  Uh huh.  

Oh, and also --

At The Paradise.  No, not the lounge (it's closed now).  The room.  The club.  THE DISE.

SO!  Mark Saturday April 25 on your calendars (while you're writing, mark that it's also the GP's birthday!), come to the show, bring along as many friends as you can -- you will be thrilled you did!  We may be giving away a few choice tickets to promote the show, so stay tuned to our site for details.  If there's any show that's going to be worth attending it's this one!  The Paradise is a sweet, sweet room and Parker House and Theory puts on a super-energetic and airtight live show.  

(Any of you out-of-town beloveds want to come visit that weekend, just say the word!)

Monday, March 2, 2009

It won't be the last time I say it

I   L O V E  my band.

The absolute best thing in my life right now is the kinda thing that happened last night at rehearsal, which is that we all played something new together for the first time.  Aaron brought in the first draft of a song for which I'd written the lyrics a week or two ago.  It's always completely magical to me to send off my lyrics and wonder, while I wait, what tune our songwriters will conjure from the musical abyss.  I am always delighted by the results, and last night was no exception.  I'm so excited about this song!

It's called "Lemonade," a title which actually came before any of the lyrics, when Aaron said we needed to "make lemonade" by writing a song inspired by the "lemons" our bandmate's life seems to have given him lately.  So it was kind of awesome to write this song whose purpose, in part, would be to let our friend know he had our support and to maybe make him laugh, too.  

So last night Aaron brought it in and sang it through, which happily we recorded, because he hammed it WAY up and we were all cracking up and it was hilarious.  The song is the perfect combination of cheer, sass, and pop.  I think it's going to fit in really well with Generous Soul (our second-newest one, which is now a regular part of our set).

All of this makes me even MORE eager for the song that's being created from some lyrics I sent Stu recently (no pressure GP... really)!

Anyway, I just feel so totally blessed by this band.  We create together, we laugh together, and we take care of each other.  They could never replace my family, of course, but This Blue Heaven is another kind of family altogether and I really cannot imagine my life without these four uniquely crazy and wonderful men.