Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This Charming Discussion About Fame

My interest in fame is such that on one hand, it clearly comes from that same voyeuristic mentality that is what powers Yahoo News. I'm not going to lie. Some of my Google updates include "Britney Spears" and "Celebrity Memoir." On the other hand, my interest in fame is that actually, what I'm really interested in beyond the gossip is the psychology behind the gossip. Or at least that's what I tell myself; I love good commentary about that voyeurism.

I LOVE when celebrities talk about their experiences with fame. It's so outside what most of us experience in the day to day. So I guess there's some redeeming quality to the "No, you unload the food out of the shopping cart for the grocery store cashier to ring up, I'm reading Star Magazine"-impulse. I mean, it's OK to read US Weekly if you say smart things about it, right?



I loved in Morrissey's book Autobiography, he had so much to say about his experiences with it. He's so thoughtful and wonderfully complain-y about it, as exactly I wanted him to be. I think the pithiest one was this one, on page 436:

"Fame can demand upon you a sudden wish to get along unseen, after those riddled years of wanting nothing at all but to be heard. It is important not to make matters of business the final word, and although eccentricity is now permissible--since your art has paid its dues in the swamp of self-torment and the scars of failures, even your mis-steps can suddenly seem honorable. You are, in any case, disqualified from what is known as 'normal' society (that is the society in which none qualify as being 'normal' since 'normal' doesn't actually exist) because you don't fit into anyone's drab philosophy. You have cast yourself in the starring role of an unfilmed despised-while-living-acclaimed-when-dead standard melodrama, and you are only inclined to discuss the rumors about yourself that you most like to have circulated. This is considered egotistical to anyone of famous platform, yet not to window cleaners and anonymous citizens to whom it also applies in precisely the same measure."

We have such high standards for our celebrities don't we? It's OK for the common person to worry what people think of us, but as non-celebrities, we have this image that when it's cleat that a celebrity worries about what people think of them they're considered egotistical. Like it's OK for a window washer to be concerned about their image but not for Morrissey? He's got a point there.

Also! I love, love, love the bit about how after years of wanting everyone to know who you you then get famous and then all you want is some privacy. That makes so much sense to me. It's also clear to me that that's why there are all those songs that pop stars record many albums or years into their career where they're all like, "Paparazzi! Leave me alone!" It's like Oh god, the novelty of this has worn off. I just want to like, go get my groceries now. Fame then becomes a handicap. I can't remember where I read this, but some writer was talking about how most people think it would be awesome for everybody to focus on them in the crowd in the way we do celebrities, but it's actually the exact opposite fantasy for folks who have some kind of disability. They're used to being the focus in the crowd but they don't want to be, and their fantasy is to actually be in a crowd and have no one notice them. Being conspicuous in a crowd when you have some sort of disability is like the shitty side of celebrityness. It's kind of crazy. It's like that scene in Little Man Tate where the genius kid who has all this focus on him is having a hard time with all the focus on him, and he has this dream where he sits down next to himself, and the self of him that's sitting on the bench, who is in leg braces and is disabled. It's a poetic and freaky scene.

I also love the bit about permissible eccentricity when you're famous, after you've proverbially paid your dues, but then you've also cast yourself as the despised-while-living-acclaimed-when-dead role, that somehow both of those things co-exist in the world of an arty public figure, I like this very much.

P.S. Some of my favorite parts of the book are when he's catty about other celebs that have done him wrong. Because that is some hilarious shit. And THAT DEFINITELY appeals to the Yahoo News part of my psyche. Read the stuff about Siouxsie. Then get back to me.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Capturing Spontaneity Adequately, Spontaneously, But For Further Spontaneous Marination

A photo posted by Quimbys Bookstore (@quimbysbookstore) on

I feel like I let too many moments of creative inspiration escape me. I think "I really should write that down, or follow up on that idea I had!" But if I don't act on it at that moment it's gone forever.

Nikki Sixx said in The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star that Rick Rubin bought him a tape recorder, because Nikki said he would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that was amazing but he wouldn't write it down so he'd lose it. Hence the tape deck.

I should really find something that works for me in the same way. Too many moments of inspiration in my life go unfollowed up on. Or at the very least, too many good quotes I encounter go unwritten down, or at least assembled in one place for easy access.

Too many moments that lend themselves to potential creative elaboration go lost forever. I hear or read something awesome, and then because I don't do anything to document,  I lose out on the opportunity for further meditation on whatever the idea or quote is. These are potential opportunities for expanded revelation and celebration.

It's just that I don't usually take time out from the moment to stop everything and write down the quote or idea. It doesn't get recorded for myself in any way other then at the most a doodle in the book I'm reading next to the quote. More times then I care to remember, I haven't done anything to bookmark/record/notate/ the quote, idea, the revelation, the theory. For every ten awesome things I encounter, maybe I get around to relishing the awesomeness of the quote or idea or whatever maybe once or twice. So many missed opportunities for processing what I've encountered in a fabulous way.

I'm not talking about recording or capturing an experience by just taking a picture. Although pictures do capture amazing moments and things, the sign of a truly good moment is that there might not be anything actually capturing it, unless it's the type of thing that you just always have the tape running in some kind of media recording experience. I just mean, when I'm talking about missing opportunities for documentation, I'm not talking about pictures.

I should add though, that often, the mark of a really good party is that there is no documentation of it anywhere because nobody wants to stop the good time they're having to stop and take a picture. I think sometimes people take pictures not to actually commemorate the experience but to prove to to social media contacts that they're popularity (I'm partying at a party!) and having a great time, when actually, the exact opposite is true. When you're truly "in the moment," the last thing you want to do is stop and interrupt it. I know a party was awesome because there's no documentation of it anywhere.

When I say moments of missed creative opportunities, I'm talking about reading or hearing something awesome that I want to write down, maybe a snippet of something that as an isolated quote, is awesome. Or maybe I hear something really great in an interview or some dialogue in a movie or TV show, and I'm like, "That is sooooo true. I really should write that down that for posterity somewhere."

Sometimes what I feel needs to be recorded is an idea I have for a mashy-uppy sound art piece or a hilarious collage I could make, or maybe some zine article I could write about. (To be fair, there are only so many hours in a day, and it's not like I have the time to follow through on every single idea I have.) But still. I could do more.

Sometimes I make notes in the margins of things I'm reading. Most of the time it's not really even a note as much as a little star I put next to something, or underlines I've made. It'll be a part I think is particularly pithy, funny, worth marinating on or just resonates with me in some way. If I could illustrate, I would do visual representations of these quotes in the vain of fan geek art.

I've been inspired by a lot of fan geek art lately, artists making art inspired by and specifically about the movies/comics/shows they love. Sometimes artists illustrate something from a movie, like a scene, character or reoccurring image or object. Sometimes they do their own version of an ad for the movie or book, almost as if it's fan-made advertising which is an interesting phenomenon to me. Some people do fan fiction. Some people do fan art. And some people do fan advertising I suppose.

Specifically, I've been really inspired by all the Twin Peaks art people make. And then there's all the geek art where people really go to town with illustrations inspired by things in the geek community (video games, Star Wars, comics, etc.). If I had visual art talent, I would illustrate quotes I liked from books I read. I suck at drawing/painting, and even my graphic design skills while passable, are more hack in nature then creative in nature. I can parody and I can ape, but I can't create.

However, the least I could do is start actually putting the quotes of things I read that I mark up in one place. That I can do. Anthologize, document, curate, celebrate. Those are things I can do well. Comment on, make fun of, parody, theorize, satirize, feed through the Weird Al-ometer, these are all forms of hacking I can do that can sometimes lead to smart theoretical criticism, when I'm operating at my best. But that's definitely not always. When I can get my operate at that higher level, it's a very creative thing, but it definitely has to be inspired by someone else's creation (their song, their book, their movie, their TV show). I can't draw or create the original work itself, but I can definitely, once it's created, add layers of celebration of that work that manifest as multilayered icing of thoughtfulness of  their original work. I'm good at celebrating awesomeness, which when done well, is a form of creativity (or so I try to convince myself).

So I'm going to try to start actually writing in the things I note in the things I read, the stuff I think is mark-it-up-worthy. I suppose that's not unlike the concept of the sixteenth century commonplace books; they didn't quite have the printing press, so people just had to write down the things they liked in their own book, but if you had to write it down, you'd probably just write out he stuff you like. I guess that's kind of what TUMBLR is, really just people putting things they think are awesome in one place for easy access. I guess TUMBLR is kind of like one big digital sixteenth century commonplace book.

I lent Morrissey's Autobiography to a friend and he told me, "I saw what you marked in the book."

"Oh shit," I said. "I am such an asshole. How pretentious of me."

"No actually, I could see why you marked it. It was a pretty good quote," he responded.

So maybe I will share my notes! Maybe you will like the quotes in books I like too. I'll do the Morrissey book a different day, because I happen to have a different book sitting next to me at this moment. So here's stuff from the a book I read recently, which I will share momentarily.

First, a description of this book: Each book in the 33 1/3 book series focuses on an different individual album, and each title in the 33 1/3 series is written by a different writer. Sometimes the book is a look at the making of the album, sometimes it's more personal because it's about the writer's experiences with the album and why it's significant so that title might end up more autobiographical in nature. Sometimes the book is about the album's place in culture. Sometimes the book is fiction inspired by the album. The format is all over the place. The point is, every book in the series is different. I really only read a 33 1/3 book if it's an album I like, soo even though I have read a number of them haven't by any means read all of them. Not all of the books I've read in the series are good, but some are really really good. I enjoyed Marc Woodworth's book based on the Guided By Voices album Bee Thousand. His book was eclectic. It was kind of a cross between oral history, listener response and personal history. A lot of my favorite parts were ones in which people who had some involvement with the band, whether it was people who played in the band or who just recorded them, talked about what the recording sessions were like. If I could draw, I would illustrate these quotes from Woodworth's book in some way from the book like how some geek art does, like this wonderful piece by Jerod Gibson:

Anyway, from 33 1/3's Bee Thousand by Marc Woodworth:

p. 16-17, where the main songwriter/autour of GBV Robert Pollard talks about the writing of their song "I Am a Scientist":

What am I? What exactly am I? I's kind of a self-analyzing song. I'm a scientist studying myself. I'm a journalist recording and reporting what I find. I'm a pharmacist prescribing a medicine, a drug I could ingest to do something to help me find out. In the end, rock and roll's the religion, the source of redemption. The way out. With all the confusion of not knowing which direction to go in or what I really was during that time, rock and roll seemed to make it a little clearer. What am I going to do? Rock and roll's what I'm going to do. That song was the answer. That song was the decision.

The importance of finding your path and it being what guides you. And the redemptive power of rock!

p 21 (Robert Pollard, talking about recording):

It was important to me that we capture a song in the least amount of time from when I conceived it to when we put it on tape. That's the way to capture the purest essence of a song. When we were recording the songs for Bee Thousand, spontaneity was important to me. When you don't establish a set of ground rules and you don't care about mistakes, it's easy. Some of the best music is recorded exactly the way the way that it's conceived and created-it's all happening simultaneously. At any rate, there has to be a point when you say, "that's good enough."

I love that quote. It speaks to the importance of letting it flow without having that internal editor that seems to take all the fun out of any sort of artistic endeavor for me, something I battle with. When I'm operating at top level awesomeness on a creative endeavor I can sprint and flow and save the editing and bleeding for later. If only I could channel that method more often. (I've had to kind of train myself to do more sprinting and less bleeding to get the ball rolling.) I also like the bit in this quote about how at some point, when you're working on something, and you just have to say OK, it's good ENOUGH, though I don't feel like it's ever really gong to be done. I could fuck with something until the cows come home, but the thing usually has a somewhat arbitrary cut off point, most likely a deadline, where you're forced to stop working on it. Plus, you really CAN actually work on something too much and make it go from being awesome to horrible. You might add too much extra language if it's writing. Or if it's music maybe you add in too many noises and bleeps and blops and effects and layers. I always know when a song has been overproduced: they add horns. Oh shit, when they roll out the brass it's over. Or extra fake violin flourishes of something. And oh! You know who else overproduces their music with too many extra layers of bullshit? The Flaming Lips. Did we really need sleigh bells there? No. No we didn't.

p.40-41 from an interview with collage filmmaker Lewis Klahr talks about the song "Echos Myron"

In "Echos Myron" the lines "Most of us are quite pleased with the same old song" and "We're finally here and shit yeah it's cool" are powerful, autobiographical glimpses into GBV's reworking of the British invasion of their youth and mine, and their arrival at a place of greater visibility and recognition. I latched onto these as signposts of my own attachment to the past often at the expense of the present (what I call when describing my work "the pastness of the present") and when things are going better in my career there is a sense of arrival embodied by the Beatles and "A Hard Day's Night" of what one hopes the world will produce but of course never does. This little bit of this that Pollard got quickly spoiled him. For me, well, I thought I arrived several times only to experience the disappointing sense of the limited way this is true."

I love, love, love this idea of "the pastness of the present," and the past being embedded in the present. So many layers of awesomeness to unpack. Hoping the world will produce something as earth-shattering as something amazing from the past, but how rarely that does; the past has spoiled us. And then on a more personal level this quote is great because it describes the feeling of being so preoccupied with your own personal past that it overshadows the present. Sometimes the nostalgia is totally unwarranted, because you're just putting a rose haze over something that, if you were able to actually go back to the moment, you'd realize the past wasn't actually as good as you "remember" it being.)

That "pastness of the present" can sometimes overshadow our abilities to really enjoy the present, what's really in front of us.

And then one more layer of this quote is a more general sense, which is about artistic success. There's this notion of wanting to attain some level of success inspired by artists you've loved from the past, perhaps wanting to experience the success in the way they did. I love that he talks about the British invasion and also Hard Day's Night, as if the Beatles are a case study for this point. "Hard Day's Night" is basically about the Beatles being so famous that they spend most of the movie trying to escape their  screaming fans. Right? Wasn't that kind of also the plotline of SpiceWorld? I thought I was soooo smart when I made that connection, and then I saw that Roger Ebert wrote that in 1998.

"Making something from what we remember-making art from the memory of art that we love, making art that we love, making art from our own lives and imaginations-is not incidental to our being, but central to it."

Isn't this true? Whether the art you make is orignal or tribute to art you love, it all deserves a a place. And more then deserving a place, it's necessary for it to exist, to nourish our souls.

P.S. The idea of Nikki Sixx talking into a tape deck is hilarious, as if he was Agent Cooper, is the most hilarious thing to me ever. Like he picks up the tape deck and is like, "Diane, it's 3:16pm. What has 48 legs and 12 teeth? The front row in Alabama."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ray of Blight #6 Celebrity Cooking Now Available on iTunes or Podbean

The podcast I do with my friend Sacha has a new episode. You can listen to it here. But you can also subscribe to it on iTunes here. Or listen to it on Podbean here!

In this episode we talk about when celebrities have no business sharing their food expertise do so anyway. A small sampling of relevant subtopics in Ray of Blight #6 Celebrity Cooking: Cheeto Casserole * Recipes from a Bygone Era: Tuna + Egg * Phyllis Diller's Chicken Maui * American food sentiment: Ketchup, Sauce, Heat and Alcohol * Sacha's Theory: Everyone Has a Chicken Dish * ghost cookbook writers * cookbooks in the style of a fictional persona * married vs hitched * cracking an egg badly and spreading the mess to a wider surface area * falling asleep with a half eaten cookie * the superiority of shredded cheese* the part of the grocery store that's like Epcot Center * British Celebrity Chefs * The Beverly Hillbillies * judgment of Sacha's messy walk-in pantry, and much, much more. …Plus, we make Irene Ryan's Spicy Corn Bread, and it's delicious. It should be. There's an entire stick of butter in there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Previously On" Parodies I Made: Twin Peaks, Battlestar Galactica & Glee

So there's part of me that thinks that all I'm really capable of doing creatively is either a) making fun of things and/or b) making parodies of things. In some ways, I'm like a shitty critic who can't actually write original material but can totally make fun of other people's material. Shame on me! But then there's another part of me (perhaps a part of me that rationalizes things) that feels in making fun of a thing, or parodying it, I'm synergystically creating something new. Sometimes also, the parody comes from a place of appreciation for the source material. This push and pull negotiates territorial control in my brain and sometimes the "make fun of" wins over the "synergystically creating something new" or vice-versa.

On the entertainment podcast Ray of Blight I do with my friend Sacha, we do a segment called *NSYNC Fan Fiction, which is basically us reading aloud from a binder full of some anonymous girl's *NSYNC fan fiction that our friend found at a thrift store here in Chicago. Before we start the reading though, there's a recap of what's happened previously on *NSYNC Fan Fiction. At some point I started making these recap segments into parodies of "previously on" segments from television shows I enjoy. It amuses me that I could take these unrelated things like a boy band from the early aughts and shows like Twin Peaks or Battlestar Galactica and tie them in together. That stimulates the part of my pop culture psychic third eye consciousness that thrives on a good mash up. Edited lunacy, the best kind, especially when there's a poetry that evolves from the pairing of two opposites. Sometimes a hilarious poetry evolves from pairing two things, like when you're reading multiple books at one time and they start to fuse in your head, and then you start drawing awesome connections.

But I flatter myself that my edited lunacy is in any way poetic; sometimes the Weird Al part of my brain wins over the Greil Marcus part of my brain. Occasionally however, I can't separate the two, and those are my favorite moments.

So here are the recaps, in descending starting with the most recent.  I hope you like them!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Mirror (and i-Pad) Crack'd

So I was watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Kyle Maclachlan is on it. I'm watching him break mirrors and ipads and anything that has an image of himself and I can't help but think, WHY DOES THIS LOOK FAMILIAR?

...And then I realized, OH THAT'S WHY.
A good indication of where the third season of Twin Peaks might go?