Tomorrow night, we’re presenting new music inspired by Howard Feinstein’s memoirs of his experiences as a civil rights lawyer in the ’60s–“Fire on the Bayou–True Tales from the Civil Rights Battlefront.” Howard will be there to speak about his book and his experiences, and he will also play his own musical composition reflecting on the book.
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have him there. Not only is this such a meaningful time and important issue, but Howard was my blues piano teacher in Maryland. He was the first one to teach me 1-4-5. After years of studying how to play notes that I read on paper, he taught me songs that weren’t written down at all. He showed me songs that aren’t meant to be read, but that you have to feel in order to play. And it was what was in me all along. Howard let me into the blues, which have always been home for me. Kimchi may be my home food, but the blues is my home music.
So, I hope you can come and hear all the new songs inspired by the book, and I hope you can come early enough to hear Howard speak about his experiences. We’ll be at one of my favorite Brooklyn venues in Park Slope, Barbes (376 9th St, Brooklyn, NY /ph: 347-422-0248), 7pm-8:45pm.Share
The subway train conductor breaked like my dad. Herky jerky from a paranoia that somehow never makes you feel safe as much as irritated. At the mercy of paranoid breaking and the congestion patterns of the morning rush hour commute, I was getting fur in my mouth. Fur from the hood of a girl’s brand new, serious winter coat. I looked at the label on the shoulder of the coat–”Canada Goose.” That’s a serious coat. In Canada, they know about serious winter and therefore, serious winter coats, but they have more personal space there, so they don’t know about eating a stranger’s fur in a crowded subway car first thing in the morning.
Koreans, on the other hand, know something about completely surrendering personal space. They know how to pack a subway. It’s not just that we’re smaller physically. It’s that we’re efficient. And we surrender individuality for the good of the whole. The whole commute that is. I remember morning rush hours where the car was packed so tightly you could lift your feet off the floor and still be upright. Nobody really complained. I don’t even remember anyone complaining that much when the businessman who was still drunk from the night before vomited on himself–kimchi vomit no less.
Well, as much as I complain about crowded trains, it does make me feel closer to people. I guess because I’m closer to people. And we’re all there together–gross human beings, all breathing and sweating and enduring together; we’re berated together by the other human being who lashes out at us over the loudspeaker. He’s really had enough, and he lets us have it. For Christ’s sake why can’t we use all available doors and move to the center of the train? People….
I will not be taking the train tonight to play at Chris Rael’s Birthday Bash at The Bell House. I will bring myself and my accordion via my ’94 Corolla, gifted to me by my parents in 1994. They believed in providing their kids with an American education and a means of transportation. They didn’t realize they were facilitating my accordion playing and singing in public. They regretted it later, but they still let me keep the car. And yes, it’s the one that now has a big dent on the passenger side back bumper with the tail light now hanging out at a… jaunty angle. Look, I’m trying to be positive; it’s not natural for me. My tail light is now… a tongue sticking out, uh playfully. Whimsically. Something like that.
I’m excited for the show! I get to play and sing a little on Chris Rael’s great songs and beautiful arrangements. I’m telling you, no one writes a good run like Chris Rael. I get to play all kinds of fast and intricate sections in fun time signatures. I try not to gush too much, because it might make him feel weird, but I listened and listened to that CD of “The Hand” that Bruce burned and gave to me in 1999. I listened to it so much that by 2001, it wouldn’t play anymore. And I don’t even like rock music.
Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be playing tonight. Happy Birthday, Chris!
The Frontier Room
Chris Rael’s Birthday Bash
Church Of Betty, Johnny Society, Low Cut Connie, Blueberry
Thu, January 16, 2014
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
The Bell House
149 7th St,
Brooklyn, New York
ph: (718) 643-6510
I’m mostly against marathons. It’s nothing personal against running or runners; I’m against anything that impedes traffic. I like to say that I’m pro-flow. I was looking on the marathon website last Friday to see what the route and timing was, but they made this very hard to find. There was all this essential information on security measures, baggage options, where the cheering zones are.. “How to Run in 2013” “How to Qualify for 2014″… They forgot “How to Avoid.” I might be a marathon Grinch.
This past week, we had our first Bushwick Book Club show of the fall. The book was My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Orson Welles and Henry Jaglom. It was a good show. There were 12 songs in all from 12 different songwriters (myself included). I hosted the show, but I didn’t gather my thoughts enough before the show to express what I wanted to about Orson. What I did manage to express was that I loved the language that he used. I loved his voice in my head. I loved his stories.
But what I missed saying was that he was in a basic way just like us. His goal always was to make stuff. And he did. He created until his last breath. He had a heart attack while writing a script. He died with a typewriter in his lap. What you hear about is what he didn’t make towards the end of his life, and it’s true, he was working on getting funding to make King Lear and The Dreamers. It’s true that many projects were stalled or incomplete because of lack of funds and whatever ways he couldn’t find around real or perceived difficulties. But it doesn’t mean he didn’t continue to create. He wrote and made smaller films. He painted. He acted. He never stopped being who he was. He never stopped being an artist. He did it by hook or by crook or by funding his own projects with money made from hawking cheap wine. He did it come hell or high water or talk show spot on Merv Griffin.
I can relate to this. My parents never explained this to me. I think it’s something they couldn’t’ explain because it was something they didn’t know. In their minds, creating was an indulgence and potentially bad for you, like eating candy or having sex with prostitutes. They didn’t know that for some people, it’s a need—a fundamental aspect of being. It’s as basic as whether you’re left or right handed. Or whether you have a genetic predisposition to diabetes or alcoholism. It’s like being gay or straight. I make things, because I was born this way. You can’t brainwash me or cure me of this with a Christian reform camp or even maternal bullying from my Korean JW mom (which is pretty formidable). My parents tried to get me to stop, because they thought it was detrimental to my physical well-being and survival in society. They have their reasons. During the Korean War and afterwards, being a musician may well have been a death sentence. This is likely why my father’s dying words to me were “Don’t hang around musicians… They cannot function in society.” Well it’s too late… I was born this way.
I think for some people it is a choice, and depending on circumstance, that urge to make things can be nurtured or neglected, and either way, they will be fine. Some people have no desire at all to make anything but money. There are all kinds of urges. My people, we make things. Sometimes we get outside notice for it, sometimes money. Sometimes we don’t. But whether or not you get money or attention from what you make doesn’t have anything to do with that basic inner orientation to make. They are separate. One doesn’t have more value than the other, but it’s just separate I think.
That said, I was thrilled with all the new songs from the Bushwick Book Club show last week. The conversations, whether you liked Orson or whether he irked you, inspired all the songwriters to express something that hadn’t been said before. Something they hadn’t said before. And I marveled at the colors each musician chose to present their reflection of or response to Orson. I marveled at how truth finds its own specific path out of each performer. The flavor of each artist, each person, each song. You can hear them here: bushwickbookclub.bandcamp.com
It’s hard to assign a value to the things we make, but they are valuable. Just ask the Gurlitt’s, the Rosenbergs, The Monuments Men (sounds so Marvel Universe). All those paintings, stolen, the effort made to recover them.. Those 1,400 works taken from Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment in Munich recently, of which could include works by Matisse, Courbet, Max Liebermann, Marc Chagall… This is a big deal, because we value the representation of truth as shown on each canvas. These artists were great because people found value in the way the truth came out of them. That’s my interpretation. The way truth comes out of you is so important that you can be sent to Siberia for it. Just ask Shevchenko (exiled from Ukraine in 1847 for an unflattering poem about the Emperor and his wife). And these nine exiled poets . And Dante (exiled from Florence for supporting the Holy Roman Emperor over the Papacy), Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Salman Rushdie… Don’t tell me it’s not important the way the truth comes out of you.
Also this—the maltese falcon made of resin that Humphrey Bogart carried in scenes from the movie has a starting price of half a million dollars. I’m using this as proof that people still care about stories. A prop used in the making of a piece of art is a valuable thing to some people. I’m using this to support my argument that stories and art are essential to us as humans—integral to our existence in ways I’m not able to articulate or even fully comprehend most likely.
I’m collecting proof to counter evidence to the contrary, like the woeful lack of funding from the government and the fact that it’s increasingly rare to make a living wage being a band/musician in New York City. If you need stories of the glorious golden days, talk to my dear friend and super-drummer Steve Rubin. I can’t hear any more of these stories myself, because I’ll get unhelpfully sad and teeteringly close to bitter, but the stories are fascinating… this mythical time when animals talked, there was a chimera on every corner and you could earn a living as a house band playing music to people who would come out and dance. I also recommend talking to drummer Paula Spiro for tales of playing music in a very different, long gone New York. Just like Orson said–”It’s terrible for older people to say that, because they always say things were better, but they really were.”
And if that’s true, that means right now is the Golden Age of something… so there’s that.Share
The High Heels of Lviv
These shoes are not
built for running or for connecting
to the ground as much as keeping
you above it.
A spike, like Jesus,
Off the ground is certainly closer to god.
These women are just
The shoes say,
who cares about getting there.
Lay me down. Bend me over. I’m ready for it.
For life, I mean—the exchange, the interplay
and hello, reproduction
if it comes to that.
The heels say
let’s make something. I’m ready to
The shoes say
Stay….It’s not the destination, but the journey anyway.
Me, I’ve had enough
of keeping myself above.
My back has let me know.
I spent my 20’s on a platform
above reality. Reality schmeality, I’d say.
I paid the price for hovering.
I’m flatfooted now
with heels gripping the pavement.
I’m learning to be low.
I’m making friends
with the ground I stand on, which I like,
because I like having friends.
Look, I know what it means—
the illusion of height, the defying reality.
Fuck the elements. Fuck gravity. Lviv is centuries
of want me, want me.
I don’t know why
ankles grow fat or toes crooked.
I can’t read minds,
and who knows why time is so mean.
You do what you can.
You put on your shoes.
A heel worn higher still
says what you’ve always known to be true—
if you’re not wanted, what are you?
It’s very nice that feet take you
to the toilet first thing. But really,
do you exist without being wanted?
I am here regardless, and I have other rules that bind me,
but this city exists because it never resisted.
‘I won’t fight. You can want me.
I won’t run away. Stay, stay…’
Sometimes when people ask me to do things here, I’m like, “Seriously? Do you know how boring that is? I mean, it’s really boring. Like inhumanely boring–as in human beings should not be made to do that. That’s what machines are for, and once machines gain any level of sentience, we’ll have to think of something else, because no one, not even a partially sentient machine should have to do that. It is a morally unacceptable level of boredom you are requesting someone expose himself to.”
I’ve never said that, but you know, it was an internal dialogue.
This place doesn’t have nearly enough accordions in it, and everyone goes around acting like poems don’t even exist. If a poem was found on the premises, they wouldn’t know what it was. They would think it was a bat that had sadly found it’s way in, and they would hit the poor, misidentified poem with a binder until it smeared onto the industrial carpet.
Bring Your Poem to Work Day would be a mess.Share
This is my losing entry for the Bare Burger jingle-writing contest. With this entry, I didn’t win $4000 and free burgers for life. I still like the song though. Here are the lyrics:
No need to panic.
Our food is organic–
everything from the meat to the bun to the cheese.
All our beef is grass-fed,
free from hormones and dread.
Bareburger for you with more omega threes.
Don’t need a big attitude.
We let the food be the food.
You’ll want to get in the nude.
We understand, but please
keep your clothes on in public.
Goodness knows on your own
you can do what you want,
and you’ll want Bareburger.
I’ve had this longing for fried chicken lately, myself. It’s one of my many weaknesses. I can’t help it. I’m Korean.Share
This morning, I was rushing for the train. I was rushing as much as I could, what with my lack of sleep impeding me, along with bags of supplies for tonight (recorder, cables, book, bookmarks, extra shoes, change of clothes, clipboard). I ran onto the train before the doors could close and sat down. The lady next to me said, “Just so you know you have a little….”
“Schmutz?” I asked.
“On the back of your skirt..” she said.
“”Typical,” I said.
“It’s fur, a bunch..” She used her hand to show me the relative size and shape of the clump.
“That’s Chutney,” I said. She laughed, and I thanked her, and she returned to her book. It was a hardback. I glanced down and it looked like a cook book. I really wanted to ask her about it… I immediately thought of how I want the Book Club to use a cook book for a show. I looked away, and I contemplated not saying anything and leaving the nice lady alone, but then I thought, well.. she started it. She made contact with me. She didn’t have to say anything about the schmutz on my skirt. So I reached into my bag and brought out a book mark. “Do you need a book mark?” She took it and thanked me. I explained that I run a show of songs about a different book each month. “Oh really? That’s great.. I’m a librarian,” she said. A librarian!
“Well, I also organize The Hip Hop Book Club which conducts workshops for youth in libraries!” I said, and I handed her one of the new HHBC book marks. I left her alone for the rest of the train ride, which luckily was short, because she got off at the next stop. I mean, I assumed she got off to change trains at the Jay Street station, but she could have just gotten off to switch cars and get away from the cat-hair-covered, songwriting-book-club lady. I wouldn’t blame her. I’m such a Jehovah’s Witness about the book club. What is wrong with me? I think it’s just that my mother is an actual Jehovah’s Witness, and as much as I don’t agree with her religion and its tactics, I’m a huge hypocrite, because I’m just like my mother and need to proselytize what I believe in. I’m turning into my mother! Again. I’m telling perfect strangers about what gets me excited, which is songs about books. My mother tells people about what gets her excited, which is Armageddon. Well, Armageddon is exciting…
These are the bookmarks:
And here is one of the bags of nonsense I was carrying this morning. It started to split as I entered the office and searched for my building ID. If I’m going to be proselytizing, I really should find a better bag for my nonsense. No self respecting JW would be caught with this mess. JWs have standards.
And here is the FLYER for TONIGHT’s show!
The song is about how New Yorkers are nature freaks in their own way. It’s based on page 50 of the book by Becky Cooper! Come to The Living Room at 8pm if you want to hear it and other songs by lots of great musicians:
Like a bag of chips or a napkin note from your mom, songs about books can really bring a lunch to the next level. Tomorrow, I’ll start off the Bushwick Book Club lunchtime set at Grand Army Plaza for The Brooklyn Public Library. Come hear my set at 12:30pm (w/ ADAM AMRAM, JULIE DELANO and LESLIE GRAVES) and extend lunch until 2pm so you can hear Phoebe Kreutz, Adventures of Kaila and The Kid from Hip Hop Book Club, spiritchild and members of ArtStart. too!
Wednesday, May 22nd, 12:30pm-2pm
Grand Army Plaza/Brooklyn Central Public Library
ph: (718) 623-7100
Right here. I’ll be the one with the accordion.
Have lunch with BPL on the Plaza! Lunchapalooza, Central Library’s weekly lunchtime festival, kicks off this Wednesday, May 22. Enjoy delicious food, story time ( In a Land of Frogs and Princesses, 11:30 am) and music for the whole family ( Bushwick Book Club, Hip Hop Book Club & ArtStart, 12:30 pm). A different food truck will be parked outside the Library each week, rain or shine. In case of rain, entertainment will be canceled.
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.