I am doing the best I can under unflattering lighting conditions.
My office building has fat mirrors in the elevators. I think this is very unfair. Not only do I have to be at work, but the mirrors make me look fat, and the fluorescent lighting accentuates all signs of aging and hangovers. This is too much. Did they ever think that improving the lighting and mirrors might improve productivity? We’d have employees who were excited about coming to work and happy to be here. Or is the establishment afraid that if people felt too good about themselves, they would realize their own worth and refuse to do work that they found unfulfilling? People would feel so good about themselves they would quit their jobs and finish writing that novel. Become the hang-gliding instructor they always dreamed they would be. There might be more marine biologists who would bring attention to global warming which would save our environment from ourselves.
Fat mirrors are evil, and it’s affecting our planet.Share
One of my favorite songs is Sparks’ “Sherlock Holmes.” Back when Debutante Hour first started, Maria and I used to do a cover of it as a duo. She humored me.. I’m sad that a recording of it never made it onto the Follow Me covers EP, but I was thrilled to work it up to any performable level with her.
I’d never actually read any Sherlock Holmes before. It seemed so old and so British and so something I wouldn’t like. There didn’t seem to be any women in the stories. When I was a kid, I liked fantasy novels. These stories didn’t have a single dragon or magic back door into another realm. What was going to keep my interest?
Turns out that I love Sherlock Holmes. And Dr. Watson. I love them. Maybe it took me being in my thirties to appreciate Sherlock’s obsessiveness and Dr. Watson’s loving observation of Sherlock’s obsessiveness. They are both hyper-vigilant observers. Sherlock of the clues, and Watson of Sherlock. And artists are all hyper-vigilant observers, so when Sherlock falls into a depression and shoots cocaine (a 7% solution) because he’s in between cases and there’s nothing to occupy his mind, nowhere to direct his obsessiveness… well, I can relate. And Dr. Watson thinks it’s a crime that Sherlock never gets the credit for his genius. Others get the glory for the mysteries he’s solved. Musicians are the same way — “That guy was doing Beck before Beck was Beck!” Or “everyone knows that Keith Richards was the glue in The Rolling Stones.” Singer songwriters are often unsung heroes.
Sherlock was an artist. He didn’t solve mysteries for acknowledgement or money. He was a purist who solved problems because he was rigged that way. He couldn’t not solve problems. He needed people to do bad things and try and hide them so that he would have something to figure out. He lived for problems.
I love a guy who lives for problems, because I usually just get irritated by them–irritated or doomed. I love a guy who doesn’t feel doomed by things going wrong, because I already know how to do that. It’s such a novelty to be around someone who gets excited over difficulties. I think that is the way to be, but I have a feeling I’ll never be that way.
In conclusion, I’m enjoying Sherlock Holmes more than a century after he was created, because he’s someone who knows what’s going on when no one knows what the hell is going on, and it makes me feel safe. I know safety is an illusion, especially here in 2013, but it’s still a great illusion.
THURSDAY, March 28th, 8pm
9 Clinton St. (just south of Houston St.)
New York, NY
ph: (646) 863-7171
Door: by donation (suggested $5)
March 28th, 8pm at Culturefix in the Lower East Side.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective stories are the inspiration for new music tomorrow night! A Study in Scarlet, A Scandal in Bohemia and any of the 56 much loved short stories featuring Sherlock (and Dr. Watson of course) are fair game for intrepid local songwriters:
Aron Blue: Aron is a singer songwriter, sound engineer and producer. She created SuperMeow Records and also curates shows in Brooklyn. She ain’t afraid to get things started.
The Adventures of Kaila and The Kid – Kid Lucky and Kaila Mullady are the beat-rhyming duo of the decade. They are a beat-rhyming force of nature, soon to be touring with their new recording. Watch the TRAILER.
Casey Holford - is an Antifolk-based musician, songwriter, recording engineer and photographer. He has a way with melodies, and his songs are harder to drum to than you think. Did you hear his Game of Thrones song?
Chris Andersen – When he’s not working on his daily online comic, The Ego and The Squid, he’s redefining your notion of hip hop with TheHappy Rappies. He’s performing solo for Book Club this month!
Dan & Rachel - This rock and roll duo is usually zig-zagging the U.S. in their Mazda, hypnotizing the country city by city with their cross-genre, harmonizings and brazen lyrical variety. They will also seduce you with Kale – KALE RECORDS, that is.
Jason Perlman – is a local songwriter who made THIS for the first book club of the year. Happy to have him back for our March show!
Natti Vogel – can break your heart in any musical genre and at least 2 languages. One of them i being Chinese.
Phoebe Kreutz – is an award-winning songwriter and exceptional conversationalist. She is known for her remarkable ability to turn a Sumerian epic into a musical. You must see her GILGAMESH the Musical.
Susan Hwang – is the founder of Bushwick Book Club. She bends literature to her own musical whims and makes a mission of encouraging others to do so because she thinks it’s funny.
The Pope announced a decision today that I actually support. He’s decided to step down, because he’s 85 years old and tired. He’s stepping down to take care of himself. Isn’t that remarkable? Isn’t it remarkable that it’s remarkable? It should be normal. It should be normal to decide when a job is too strenuous for you that you should stop. It should be normal to take care of yourself and do things that support your health, instead of working until you drop, which apparently is what every other pope has done for 600 years. I read this after I read a New York Times article about how rest increases productivity. And then I saw the brainpickings.org posting today on how Thomas Edison didn’t believe in sleep (thought it made you stupid). He was very public about not sleeping more than 5 hours a night, but didn’t talk so much about all the power naps he took during the day. You have to see the adorable pictures of Edison napping under a tree, napping in his laboratory, napping in Hagerstown, MD…. If he were alive today there would be websites, fb pages and the like, dedicated to the latest cute Edison photos. Imagine, Edison would fulfill the role cats now play in satisfying the cultural need for cuteness.
I’ve been told by a number of different sources that what I need right now is rest. I need to do nothing. I have not followed this advice. Honestly, I wonder if I know how. The first time I was told this was last summer when I started work on a small theater production that was accepted into the New York International Fringe Festival. Theater, small or large, is not something one does to relax. I learned this the hard way. I’ve not had more success in doing nothing since then. I’m paying a price. I’m learning a lot about limitations–the exhilarating lesson of limitations! I’m hoping I get the hang of this balance thing before I’m 85 and begging God for a break. Getting to 85 is not bad, but maybe 85 years of not getting enough sleep is more torture than one needs. I think this might be the most valuable lesson I’ve received from this pope. I don’t even like popes.Share
A bagel is heaven.
I’m not actually a secretary; I just play one in reality.
I’m trying not to define myself by how fat I feel right now.
It is best not to accept friendship requests from anyone you did not enjoy sex with. Even if it was 21 years ago. When they like your status update, you’re just reminded of something you did not enjoy. And maybe that’s a nice way to challenge yourself into finding a positive angle on unpleasant thoughts, but maybe you don’t need the extra challenge. Maybe you’re challenged enough, thank you.Share
I was born with a talent for discerning what is wrong about a situation. This talent did not come into full expression until I was in my thirties. Now it’s a raging force in my daily existence akin to the Niagara Falls or the Pacific Ocean. Okay, maybe not exactly, but almost. It’s funny how I could grow up not recognizing this amazing, obvious, huge talent for razor-precision negativity that is so glaringly apparent today.
When I was a kid, like 6 or 7 years old, I remember sitting on the floor with my mother. It was after dinner, and I was done massaging her. I was taught from a young age to walk on my parents’ legs and pound their sore muscles with my little fists. It was not my favorite thing to do. I was still a kid and would rather play with my barbies or watch TV, but if my parents wanted it, I would oblige… It meant I got to spend time with them at least. This time after massaging my mother, she complained about having to go into work. She didn’t want to go back to the pharmacy the next day. It was too tiring. She was on her feet all day. She didn’t want to go. It was heartbreaking to me that my mother should be so tired. I didn’t know why she had to do something that would wear her out. I didn’t understand why she should have to do something she didn’t want to do. This is my earliest memory of wanting desperately to change something. I wanted her just not to have to go there. I could feel how much she dreaded it. I wanted to erase that thing that was causing her dread. I asked if I could write her a note. I would write her a note to give to her boss to excuse her from work that day. I would write her a note that said, “Dear Mr. McNair, My mom is tired today and needs to stay home. Thank you. Sincerely, Susan.”
Against my wishes and hers, my mother went to work the next day.
My mother has finally cut back her hours, but only 33 years after that night on the living room floor. I like things to happen faster than that. I continue to want change, yearn for it–for myself and for others. I want my friends to get over their ex-boyfriends and their ex-boyfriends’ oppressive immigrant families with their Old World judgments. I want them to immediately recognize their own worth and not give any weight at all to their ex-boyfriend’s immigrant family’s superficial standards and cultural commitment to suffering. I’d like for my other friend to instantly have the apartment of her dreams with a room of her own and a romance to boot. I want things for me too. Sure, lots of things, but mostly the ability to let myself have work that doesn’t feel like punishment. I seem to torture myself with forcing myself into worlds that I despise but will pay me to do the most boring things imaginable. I’m serious—if I don’t look like I’m not having fun at all times, they know something is wrong and immediately dock my pay. I have to quick, open up a spreadsheet and look like I’m dying so as to escape unwanted attention. I’d much rather swim with dolphins.
I keep looking at the people here and thinking, you guys, you know we could all be swimming with dolphins; what is wrong with us? Apparently, I haven’t changed that much since I was a little kid. I still fundamentally don’t understand why we have to do anything we don’t want to do.
People act like they’re stressed out here, but I don’t understand it, because it’s not like they’re writing a new song or anything…
I just read the most interesting post on the brainpickings.org site that was all about optimism. The most encouraging fact was there. It seems that people have the most optimism in their teenage years, and that this level declines until mid-life, after which optimism increases again through to old age. The bottom of optimism is different in women and men. For women, it’s about 38.6. For men, around 53. 38.6 for women!! That means I’m at or past my bottom right now! That explains everything! It’s sort of like reaching Christmas or the winter solstice. It’s only better and better (only more and more light) from here on out. I’ve reached the lowest low, the darkest dark. Hallelujah.
I’m feeling very optimistic about being more optimistic. I think that I can see this trend of increased optimism in my mother. Granted, when she was around 40, I was a teenager, so of course she was in rage and despair, but these days, she seems to have a cheerful kind of denial, and I often find myself marveling at how skilled she is at being happy. I mean, she’s still my mom, and I got my ability to pinpoint what is wrong in any given situation from her, so she still complains about the way kids wear their hair or how slow they walk or how bad someone’s parking is or how overprotective parents are today. But then she also finds great pleasure in being in her home. She finally got the windows she’s been dreaming of for 25 years. She loves the flowers she sees when she’s out on field service, and she emails me pictures of them that she takes on her ipod touch. I couldn’t find any of those, but here’s something she sent that she titled, “My lonely orchid.” She said, “It loves son in my little room.”
And here’s one she sent me of her special rice because she knows it’s my favorite.
From 33 years of talking to strangers about Jehovah, my mom has the remarkable ability to start conversation and relate to anybody. She is not shy. She does not have self esteem issues. She does not seem to be unhappy. I love that about her. I aspire to that myself.
Okay, I mean, she does sincerely believe in Armageddon and a literal Satan, and she once told me the nightmares I was having meant that I was obviously possessed by demons. But I believe weird things too, like that maybe in a past life I was a monk who took an oath of poverty and boredom that still affects me to this day. So despite the fact that I don’t agree with my mother’s religious beliefs at all, I can see she has really honed her skills of being happy, and I’m very impressed with that. It makes me optimistic.Share
I just read an article in the NY Times about oxytocin, the hormone that is released when you fall in love and promotes bonding not only in couples, but between mothers and newborns as well as between players on sports teams apparently. They’re saying that the hormone encourages gloating and boasting too. Just being in a room full of people high-fiving each other can cause you to secrete more oxytocin–even if you don’t like sports.
They’re saying that all kinds of stresses increase oxytocin, like just exercise alone. Mice who had an exercise wheel in their cage bonded readily with females placed into their cages later. Unexercised mice didn’t really show much interest in their females…
The group that they didn’t study but should, of course, is bands. I mean, how else can you explain that much putting up with everyone’s egos and neuroses and likely drug-induced bad behavior? It’s got to be the oxytocin released when you’re up there together facing the audience and your nerves. I know that when you’re performing, you sweat differently. During the last Debutante Hour tour, we’re were up there, and then all of a sudden, I was like, “Man, somebody really smells..” I sniffed around and then realized that that somebody was me. It was a smell that I’m not used to smelling as mine, so I didn’t even recognize it at first. It’s that sweat mixed with fear and adrenaline that I had to go wipe off right after we’re done playing. Straight to the restroom for a “whore’s bath,” as Gail Malone would say. The nice thing about sequins is that they don’t soak up sweat so much. A good travelling choice for baggage with the least stink. I’m going to tell Martha Stewart, but she probably already knows. You ask Dolly Parton, she’s known since 1966.
Oxytocin may be the answer. I’m always looking for one. The love hormone may be it. I’m the best when I’m in love. The last time I fell in love, I moved out of my tiny room and into a real apartment of my own, left Crown Heights, ended one band, started another (with Maria), played 2 shows in New York and then flew to Korea and Japan (new love in hand) to play more shows with Maria. Maybe this is normal life for some people, but it was extraordinary for me. I mean, I showed up on my grandmother’s doorstep in Seoul (Kang Nam, I think), with Maria and Tom and knocked on the door. I didn’t tell her I was coming. I just showed up. “Noogoo seh yo! (who is it?),” asked my weh halmuni.
“Sook-hyun-ni eh yo!” I replied.
“Moh! (what?)” We nearly gave her a heart attack.
That potent oxytocin not only got me to the other side of the world, it had me playing music in my homeland. The mother country. The country of my mother who had always told me never to play music in front of people. The mother who has to change the topic when I even mention a rehearsal. For people more at ease with their ethnicity, this is not an issue. For me, bringing accordions to Korea and playing 2 shows in Seoul was groundbreaking. It broke up a lot of ground, chock full of ancestral karma about what you are allowed to do and who you are allowed to be. That oxytocin is powerful stuff.
Oh, I also lost ten pounds. See what love can do?
I’m thinking, if love is a hormone, why can’t we just have it all the time? Why can’t we make cocktails? Oxytocintinis. Oxytocinaritas. Sloe Oxy Fizz. Side-tocin. Negroxytocini. Oxy Nog. Who wouldn’t show up for that party? Everyone can stand around sipping their love cocktails, getting solidly in love, blindly in love, wake up the next morning still a little in love from the night before. This changes everything. Sign me up. Count me in.
Theater is a kind of practice in orchestrated chaos and an obstacle course of stress and potentially clashing coping mechanisms for stress.
I don’t have kids, so I have no idea what that kind of stress is like apart from what I saw it do to my parents and what I see it do to my friends. My mother turned to religion and became a Jehovah’s Witness; my father’s latent Hepatitis C expressed itself when I was 16. For my friends who are parents, what I notice mostly is excessive guilt, sleep deprivation and sometimes a return to cigarette smoking. Since I don’t have children, I get to worry about other things like whether we can set up 2 backdrops, a table full of magic props, a shadow puppet show and my feather headpiece, corset and high heels without ruining my make up in the 15 minutes allotted by the Fringe Festival for set up and break down of our show. All this while wondering what’s wrong with me that I don’t have kids yet. If I did have kids, do you think I’d worry less about whether people will laugh at my jokes and more about the state of our educational system? What if kids come to the show and they don’t think it’s funny? I’m worried about that…
Here’s a video from our Kickstarter campain that gives you an idea of what the show is like. It’s directed by Julie DeLano and music by Dan Gower (both so incredibly talented and generous)
We had our tech rehearsal the other day. Herb was energized by being on the stage, like it’s where he belongs. I do not have this relationship with the theater. When I got on that stage, mostly I found it daunting. It was intimidating to me to have to fill that stage and that room with myself without singing or playing music. Just with myself? Surely, you need more than that to fill a room. Anyhow, I’m practicing, and I’m glad that Herb really pulls out the stops for a live audience, and I’m glad that we have some incredible musicians working with us to create real moments during this thing — Marc Steve on drums and Peter Dizzoza on piano. And Ben Folstein with our incredible backdrops and all the lighting and all the reassurance (he’s good under pressure). Julie DeLano is designing and building a beautiful puppet theater prop (it’s incredible). Thomas Bayne designed our postcards, programs and advertisements. Matt Kessler designed my costume’s cape and head dress. Bob Fitch has been directing us, and he is some kind of stage/magician/tap dancing angel (my favorite kind!). All these people have done and are doing incredible jobs with this. I will continue to worry that no one will laugh at the jokes, but most of all, I will continue. It’s nice to know the show will happen whether I’m tweaked all to hell or not.
We’re at The Players Theater
115 MacDougal Street
New York, NY
August 11th, 12th, 15th, 21st and 26th.
Happy post-Memorial Day. In honor of my favorite season, here’s something I wrote last Memorial Day for the writing group Austin holds at the Humboldt House:
SEVEN WAYS TO PLAY ON MEMORIAL DAY
If you can remember seven ways to play, you are lucky. Most of us grow up and forget. We forget so hard, that play becomes the unknown, and then you avoid it, because you’re afraid of the unknown. Remember to remember the fun things, or you’ll have no choice but to actively avoid them, run from them, scream at them, hide from them, until you have what you do remember, which is no fun at all.
When in the absence of fun, please consider these seven methods for remembering:
1. Shake a body part. Go ahead. Pick a body part. If you can shake your ears, do it. Shake your belly. This is particularly fun. The belly holds more memories of fun than any other part of your body, which is why it hurts when you laugh. The belly is the physical source of laughter. Take what you’ve got, big or small; shake it. You can hold it in your hands and move it that way. Lift your shirt if you can, and watch it jiggle. This will activate the vibration of fun in your body.
2. Fun with cats — Put your face on your cat until he or she is uncomfortable and wants to move, but don’t let it move. Force it to cuddle with you until it’s whining. Giving a cat too much attention also stimulates fun receptors in the brain. If you need to, tie a scarf around the waist of the cat and watch it try to walk for enhanced secretion of fun to the brain.
3. Ride a bike: You may not want to get on the bike, but remember, no one ever regrets riding a bike once you’ve started (unless you’re Luke Kelly and took 3 hits of acid beforehand, and even then, he didn’t really regret it).
Biking is commonly known as the closest thing to flying, and flying is universally, undeniably fun. We know this from our dreams. Get on the bike. For an enhanced effect, wear a skirt.
4. Dance badly. Dance to anything. Dance to nothing. Just dance. The stupider the better. Move your body in ways you know to be sick and wrong, completely inappropriate. Do it. Do it some more. This is nice to do after #1, shaking your belly.
5. Make a sock puppet. Make it tell a story. Invite a friend. Have some beers. Have your friend make a puppet too.
6. Give yourself a pedicure. See if you can paint a different local news anchor on each one.
7. Call a friend. Don’t be ashamed that you can’t remember how to have fun. Your friend will want to help you and will likely want to have fun with you.
7a. (Alternative to #7 in the event of overwhelming shame.) During dinner, apply lipstick all over your face, like Laura Dern’s mom in “Wild at Heart.” Continue dinner and conversation. See if your boyfriend notices.
Remember, some methods may work better for you than others. The important thing is to do what works.
When you remember to play, the world is your toy.Share