Friday, May 28, 2010

Open Letters are great.


I totally have an ongoing love affair with open letters. I write them, I read them, I find them to be cathartic literary jewels that call out to my eyes for attention - and I give it to them freely.

The first open letter I ever wrote was in the 9th grade. It was an "open letter" to Jean Valjean (from the book, not the musical). I'm not sure why I wrote him a letter, except that it was some kind of English assignment. I remember writing the letter, and then giving it to my dad to read and copy-edit. He's actually the one who added the "open letter" title to my piece. The comment from my teacher with an arrow pointing to the title was, "Oooooh, nice!" As though she were impressed that a 13 year old would know what an open letter was. Too bad I actually didn't know.

But now I do ... and in case any of you are confused about the term, here's the definition:

A published letter on a subject of general interest, addressed to a person but intended for general readership.

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote was an open letter to Canada, where I plead, ask, demand, and attempt to guilt the great country of Canada into giving me a work visa. While this letter did not give me what I was asking for (damn you, Red Maple Leaf!), it did allow me to blow off some steam. Lots and lots of steam. In fact, Canada, your people are very good at writing letters expressing their outrage. I'm really good at writing letters expressing my outrage. Why can't we merge, eh?

I digress. (I digress a lot around here...)

A friend of my Monkey's sent her a link to a website called Timothy McSweeney's - it's a website of "open letters to people or entities who are unlikely to respond." In fact, you can send your open letters to Timothy for publication.

So why am I so emphatically excited?


March 26, 2010
- - - -
Dear Aging Hippies Dancing at the Tinariwen Concert,

There is not a culture in the world honored by your whack-ass dancing. You, woman with the long grey hair, dancing right in front of the stage, don't do that, what you're doing there. It's not good. And you, next to her, same thing. I know the music is good, but this is no way to respond. They are like wizards casting a spell on us. You should be mesmerized, rocking hypnotically, but you are doing some weird kind of twitch.

Notice how the band is dancing. Small movements, practiced movements, deliberate movements. They are elegant. Yes, they are moving their limbs and you are moving yours, but there the similarities end. You are not doing the same dance they are doing. You are not one with them, they with slight tilts of the hand, dips of the shoulders, you with some hand-over-hand-like-you-are-unrolling-toilet-paper-over-your-head dance. And you, lady next to her, you look like you are trying to flick cobwebs off your fingertips.

Why do I care? Because you are making me look at you, because you forced your way to the front just like you do at every single concert you go to. Then there is the look on your face, which is so goddamn smug, which you force me to look at, which you force everyone here to look at, because you are dancing right in front of the stage. You didn't discover this. You want us to know that you are worldly because you are dancing to this music, and you want us to think you understand the Tuareg and their traditions, and you share in their struggle because look at how profound your face is and aren't you just one with the music. No, you're not.

And then there is you, guy in the middle of the crowd. Why are you flapping around like that? Why are you taking up so much space? There are other people who would like to be close to the band. Yeah, the band is looking at you, of course the band is looking at you, but not because they see some kindred earth-brother. They see a spazzmatic ass. And why are your shoulders up around your ears? Unless you are dancing in a Bollywood musical, your shoulders should not be up around your ears.

You, guy in the back of the room, you're cool. Your dance is awful but you force it on no one.
Oh, lady, do not gesture to the rest of the crowd to "get up." It is not your place. This is not your show. I did not come for you, but you are stealing my attention. You have no right. Just because you probably went to Kenya ten years ago does not give you the right to speak for this band from Mali. They have earned the stage. I will listen to them. They have done everything and you have done nothing. I will get up when they tell me when to get up.

Hey. Hey! What is wrong with you? Look around. Notice anything? Everyone else is clapping! Why? Because the drummer who has practiced his ass off in a tent in the desert and who has worked so damn hard to make a life for himself has asked us to start clapping. So we are clapping. What are you—oh, my God, are you pretending to play the guitar? Is that what that is? It looks like you are strangling a swan. Lady, listen, there is no guitar right now. Why? Because the guitarist is clapping his hands!

Why do you think you can have this? The moon landing wasn't enough? Hendrix at Monterey wasn't enough? You have to be in front for this, too? Why do you think you are entitled to everything? Why do you think this is all yours? Just get out of the way, please. Move to the back, please and let us dance in front of the stage. We dance better than you.

OK, guy with the shoulders, why are you jumping? No one else is jumping. This is not jumping music. Stop.

Matthew Robert Lang

Now. If that didn't make you literally laugh-out-loud at least once, then my sense of humor is so much better than yours.

But a word to the wise: While all of the letters have a cute/funny/sarcastic/humorist vibe - they are not all butterflies and red velvet cupcakes. In fact, two out of the five I read made my eyes tear quite thoroughly. One is an open letter to a man's inoperable brain tumor, and the other is an open letter by a mother to her relatives concerning her child's fits from Asperger's Syndrome. Don't say I didn't warn you.

What I love about these pieces, is that open letters require intelligence and poise, humor and self-deprecation to be pulled off effectively. Most "journalism" or media stories are completely uninteresting to me; stories for the sake of sensationalism and shock value. "Fear this!" "Be angry at this!" "Believe this!" "Worry about this!"

My answer to that: NO. I will not.

I will, however, take great delight, empathy, love, inspiration, and raucous laughter from my fellow human beings; reveling in their triumphs, failures, stories, pleas, observations, and griefs. Because we're all a lot more alike than we'll ever care to admit.

I hope you like them too.

Oh ... and just a little something because I love you:

You're welcome.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Damn you, Rolling Stone!


Hopefully, most of you know by now that whenever I fly anywhere, I buy a Rolling Stone. Period. The End. No Discussion. The two exceptions to this ....quirk, tick, obsession, routine, superstition, whathaveyou... (which are fairly rare) are:

1) If I'm too broke to afford one (this has happened once or twice - they're $5.00! If it's between a Rolling Stone and a Coffee/Food, I'll usually go for the Coffee/Food. I do have priorities.)

2) My flights are too close in succession, and there isn't a new issue out yet. (this has happened once or twice, too)

Last Wednesday, I whisked myself back to Calgary to surprise my gorgeous, wonderful, amazing Monkey for her birthday. My fabulous sister-in-law to be was my partner in crime, and together we concocted a masterful, low-key plan, resulting in the Monkey's ultimate and exuberant surprise. Heh. We got her GOOD.

After an awesome weekend that included beer, Fi's cabin, and Lee's fabulous musical stylings, it was time for me to head home. But not without my Rolling Stone.

On the trip to Calgary, I read all about Robert Downey Jr., and his amazing comeback, his new, burgeoning empire, his son, Iron Man, etc. I read about The Courtyard Hounds - the two sisters from the Dixie Chicks who wanted to make some music while Natalie Maines takes a break, and how the album is actually quite good. I read about MGMT, and their struggles with each other, and with success, Ke$ha and her "confessions of a party animal" (gag!), Melissa Etheridge's supposedly awesome and raw new album about cancer and her divorce, and about The Hold Steady and their awesome new album.  I read about Summer Music Festivals, who's playing where, how awesome Coachella is, and how Jay Z and Beyonce went to everything they could listen to - from Edward Sharpe to Faith No More to Vampire Weekend. Rad.

On the way back, the cover was of Mick Jagger, circa 1972. The main article was on the re-release of Stones' epic album, Exile on Main Street. Keith Richards did lots of Heroin in the South of France. The sound engineer, Andy Johns, ended up mixing the entire album himself in two days because Mick Jagger was "sick of the album" and didn't want to listen to it anymore. Andy Johns was 21 years old at the time. I also read about The Black Keys and their new album - who, if you haven't heard them yet, ROCK. Two boys from Akron, Ohio - one on a drum kit, one on a guitar. It'll blow you away. They don't like Band of Horses' new album, though Rolling Stone gave it a solid three stars.

There was an article about how My Morning Jacket did a two day recording in New Orleans with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which sounds phenomenal. LCD sound system's new album is supposed to be BRILLIANT - 4.5 stars, according to RS. Also on the music radar of note: The New Pornographers, a new Stone Temple Pilots album (Scott Weiland is sober! Again!), The National, Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Dum Dum Girls, The Dead Weather (more from Jack White), Them Crooked Vultures (musical super group of John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme), Trombone Shorty, Solomon Burke, Sleigh Bells, Black Francis, Jamey Johnson, Dr. Luke, and Dr. John.

Okay. So why, with this melodious cornucopia, am I publicly damning Rolling Stone? Because there's all of this new music, all out at the same time. And it's not shit. And they're telling me how not shitty it is - which means that I want to buy it. ALL OF IT. That's right ... 22 of the groups I mentioned above, plus MORE that aren't even on their radar, like Sarah Harmer's new album, which I put off buying so that I could surprise my girlfriend for her birthday.

And it's just all of a sudden! For the past year or two, the groups that Rolling Stone was mostly profiling were of little to no interest to me. Which made me feel superior (and financially richer) in my contempt of rap, pop, and screamo metal. But suddenly - within months - Rolling Stone has decided that I'm not spending enough on itunes, and if I really WERE the music nerd I claim to be, I would have all of these albums in my collection, not to mention listening to them non-stop. The one problem? I can't afford to buy them all at once!


So here's my current plan: Monthly Musical Installments. I'm allowed to purchase no more than two (2) albums a month, and no more than ten (10) individual songs. To help me remember who and what I want to buy, I wrote a two-page list in my red moleskin notebook when I was the on the plane coming home. For those who are interested, I'll post what I find to be interesting, and what I find to be crap (if any).

I'm actually hoping to be disappointed, thereby saving myself lots of money.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, YouTube! and two non-sequiturs.


As many of you may, or may not know, this year marks the 5th in which YouTube has assisted, inspired, bullied, and/or cajoled us into blissful, hilarious, mind-numbing, and diversion therapy procrastination. From funny babies, to insane animals, animation, music videos, voice-overs, old tapes, new tapes, puppets, nerds, dweebs, dorks, geeks, dumb beauty queens, sobbing gay divas........and everything and anything in between, I think we [read: I] owe them a large debt of gratitude for reminding us that there's always something to laugh at, and/or make us feel better about our own life, especially when we're not feeling so great.

I saw on the Huffington Post that Conan O'Brien listed his top 5 favorite YouTube videos. And I think that if Coco gets to do it, I do too. (Sure, why not?) So here are my Top 5 Favorite YouTube videos ever. Thanks, YT - you've made the word "viral" sound so much less disgusting.

#5: Because at heart, I'm just a huge World of Warcraft nerd ... no better than these guys. In fact, I might be worse.

#4: This has to be the coolest video mashup ever. Gwen Verdon, the fabulous Queen of Fosse (literally and figuratively), "walks it out" to Unk. Almost 30 years before Unk wrote the song. Brilliant.

#3: My sister and I can sing this by heart. Don't bother with the other videos by this kid - they're not nearly as brilliant. Harry Potter + Puppets + Pipe Bomb + Random Song = MAGICAL. (HA! Get it?? I made a funny!)

#2: I think this video, exemplifies some of humanity's best traits, while still being entertaining. An entire prison (complete with a tranny) creating their own production of "Thriller?" Yes.

#1: Why? Because quintessentially, this video has it all - it's what YouTube is all about: cute things, surprising moment, short, sweet - No matter how rotten I feel, I can watch this little 16 seconds of happiness, and feel somewhat better. Without fail.

Non-Sequitur #1: 

One of the most admired people in my little life, Garrison Keillor, writes eloquently and personally (and, I fear, truthfully) in the Baltimore Sun about the future of publishing. It's highly depressing for those of us who cling to the carbon-based paper books like polar bears desperately holding on to all-too rapidly melting icebergs (DOUBLE THE DEPRESSING!), but as Garrison himself says, electronic self-publishing is making minced meat out of $30.00 publications issued by bloated publishing houses. Blame technology, blame the economy, blame the youth of today....or just hold on to the books you have, invest your savings in all the books you can still grab your hands on, and then open a Used Book Shop (or Paper Antiques, if you will) in your neighborhood in 10 years, and watch the money roll in! I bought a pre-Depression-era edition of Jane Eyre when I was in Olympia, Washington for less than $10.00. It was highly exciting at the time. Now - it's horrifically sad.

And if you don't see the tragic-yet-hilarious irony in me posting the above article on perhaps the western world's largest self-publishing website - then why are you reading my blog??

Non-Sequitur #2:

My family and I were visited by a representative of the Golden Retriever Shelter of Southern California. She inspected our home and asked us questions about our current animals, as well as general dog care and maintenance. We had been preparing for some animal fascist - a woman who would deem my incredibly pet-friendly house and family unworthy because we have a pool in the back yard, two middle-aged cats, and a rabbit who's allowed to roam-free pretty much anywhere. She was actually quite lovely, but the source of my fear came from the on-line questionnaire we had to fill out, which took no less than 45 minutes. It asked everything from "What will you do with your dog when you travel?" to listing every single pet we've owned as a family - going back to the cat my dad and mom owned when I was born - and how/why they died. Intense? You have no idea.

Rescue shelters are notorious for overly-zealous volunteers who test and investigate everything from kitchen faucets (I'm not kidding!!) to types of yard grass. I understand the impulse - the animals at most of these shelters have been through such hell, they don't want to send them right back into another one. But their methods and demeanor sometimes lack... common sense. I actually know someone who was denied a cat by some of these people - and this someone worshiped and adored cats as though he were an Ancient Egyptian. Boo! Boo I say!

At any rate, it was a good visit, and hopefully sometime next week I'll be able to post pictures of our new "forever pet friend." That's the shelter's website lingo talking....

And here's to all the furry forever friends who need good homes. I would rescue you all if I could. And then maybe give some to Fiona. ;)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Music Mix... of awesome!


Okay. So today I might have made the single greatest mixed CD in the world. I kid you not. I entitled it "This Devil's Gone to Heaven." I'm tempted to make one for everyone I know, though I don't think I have enough CD's...

A note to my cuddly cow, Leah: I'm finally starting on your "Music for a Sunday Morning" mix. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten.

I'm feeling generous ... any requests?

Monday, May 10, 2010

AH! I'm back!


Sorry! I am so sorry ... I've been away forever! I ran away to Canada for three weeks.I know, I know. I didn't call, I didn't write. Such a bad bear I am!

I have a blog to write about marriage - as it's been popping up quite a bit in my furry little life. I also have a music blog to pump out. These are things to look forward to.

Things I'm not looking forward to: memorizing my lines for King Lear. I've been hemming and hawing over this project for months. I NEED to sit down and do it. But some little evil elfkin of procrastination keeps pulling me away to shinier things ... like the massive reorganization of my room which I waged war on all last night. I found the latest Silver Sun Pickup's CD among the debris. Not only do I NOT remember purchasing it, but I have paused at music stores contemplating its purchase (or really, repurchase) at least half a dozen times. When wondering how I could have been so absent-minded, I weighed the possibility of sleep walking (or sleep driving). But I don't think I'm so coordinated as to make it out of that situation alive. Pity.

In other news, while I was away I:

Had my 28th birthday
Saw an actual movie in a theatre with my girlfriend (it was a first!)
Had an informal interview with a graduate school
Sobbed under the influence of Jameson's and a very sincere (albeit drunken) love for my gorgeous girlfriend
Read two novels
Played several games of trivia
Won some money at poker ($2.50 to be exact)
Wrote a script for my theatre company's benefit show
Purchased a new ipod (and some other things; damn you Best Buy!)
Experienced two April snow storms
Had a melt down over the San Jose Sharks (I HATE THEM!)
And am currently getting my ass kicked in Fantasy Baseball

YAR! It be a Polar Bear's life, me furries!