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Apr 18, 07 12:09 PM

I Handed Anna Paquin My Chinese Lute.

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Back in Minneapolis last week for more tracking. So great to see the fellows. Scrap was there, this time, playing guitar; he brings wonderful energy. He wasn't playing bass on the previous sessions, and we missed him; I was gonna credit him on the album anyway, as Chaplain.

We cut two new tunes, and re-cut one that sounds like a single. One of the former, and new verses I wrote on the latter, reflect my breakup last year, which naturally I've been writing a lot about.

Munson added big fat trombone parts that go BWOMP! to the single-ish one. Ken Chastain, a fantastic percussionist, was on the session, and Mankwe Ndosi--her backing vocal is gonna be an integral characteristic of this new album.

I had been adamant in earlier sessions about this thing I called Dude Theory--listening to the record, one has to be able to connect each sound with a visualize-able Dude. Haughty Melodic was exactly the opposite, guitars layered upon guitars and vocals upon vocals.

In a way I'm consciously trying to make this one different. Unfortunately, I've learned that every time I make a new move, all these people come out of the woodwork telling me that what I did two years ago was better. Skittish people disliked Rockity Roll, those people complained about Haughty. Oh well. I gotta keep moving.

It sounds great! McNeal, Kirby, Ken, Munson, Scrap, Mankwe, Dan, Brad the engineer--everybody was smiling.

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I wrote an anti-war song for this session. Actually, it’s more of a song about my own guilt for living life without thinking of the war every moment. I was invited by the USO to visit Walter Reed the last time I was in D.C.; Kirby and I went over and gave CDs to wounded guys, most of them in their 20s, most missing limbs.

It was tremendously moving. As we left the hospital, I was thinking that I wanted to never lose that feeling I felt, of incredible gratitude for everything in life.

The lyrics in the song’s bridge are about what I wished a guy in his 20s was doing instead of being scarred by a fucked-up war. One line is, “You should blast Young Jeezy with your friends in a parking lot.” I changed it from “You should blast Toby Keith with your friends in a parking lot.” Mostly for reasons of singableness. But also because I realized everybody would take it as a snobby dis on the soldier. (Particularly considering that the track is produced by Dan Wilson, co-writer of, and Grammy-winner for, the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice”--!!)

I actually meant it in passionate sympathy; it’s better to be a teenage jingoist than to come back with your consciousness or body shattered, knowing the tragic naivete of jingoism.

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A friend of mine in Minneapolis passed away last week. She wasn’t very close; we were introduced by mutual friends. She was trying to get clean, and our friends knew I spent time in Mpls, so they told her to call me. We hung out a few times; she was sweet, smart, beautiful, 24 years old.

Details have been hazy. She may have died of an overdose; I believe she might have taken her own life, despairing that she couldn’t stay clean.

I think I was one of the few men she’d met that were nice to her without wanting anything. I was nonjudgmental in the way only a fellow recovering addict can be. She was working as a stripper, and, though it’s my personal belief that that can be like taking a ballpeen hammer to one’s self-esteem, I was accepting of her choices.

She developed an awkward crush on me. I side-stepped it; I would never get involved with somebody in the early stages of trying to get clean. It’s like flirting with someone in a car accident.

She wrote out the Eightfold Path of Buddhism for me, and gave me a mix CD of Decemberists songs--she drew her picture on the cover--that I didn’t listen to until a couple of weeks before she passed. She gave me a flirty picture of the gorgeous tattoo covering her muscular back.

I texted her when I got to Mpls. When I didn’t hear back from her, I figured either she had relapsed, or was embarrassed at making a pass at me. I sent her a lightly teasing text three days later. Then I got online, minutes later, and discovered she was gone.

I have lost a couple people in the past year; a woman I had an affair with, and an old friend from my darker days. For some reason, I’m more stunned by her loss than these people that I knew much better--even knowing, as I do, that addicts are prone to die. Could I have done something? Called her every day? Not resisted, and fooled around with her when she wanted to? Told her more explicitly why I couldn’t get involved, rather than just changing the topic?

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I met a cute girl online, and Googled the only two things I knew about her--her first name, and the genre of book she was publishing. For example, as if I had Googled "Marsha fiction." Astoundingly, her blog was on the first page of results. There was a link to her Amazon wishlist, and I thought about buying her a book on the list, and signing the card From your secret admirer.

Immediately after I heard that the friends I mention above died, I went to their MySpace pages; they were still there. There was a girl who sent pictures she took at Bonnaroo to my fanmail email; I wrote her back asking if I could blog them, and she responded with a happy note. The next day, her boyfriend emailed to say that very suddenly and undiagnosed brain illness had killed her. I went to her Livejournal, and there was a post about how she had just gotten back from Bonnaroo and was tired and muddy.

I searched for the name of a girl killed at Virginia Tech--it was in the NYTimes--and her MySpace was still there.

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And to think last week we were obsessed with Imus and the “Culture of Meanness.” I was peeved that Imus was getting crucified, until I got schooled by Joy Behar on The View.

Oh. He called bright, successful college athletes whores.

I still don’t want to lose track of what made me angry, before I realized that Imus got what was coming to him; there are words in wide cultural circulation that some people are not allowed to use.

As of the morning I’m typing this, nobody has bought the URL CultureOfMeanness.com, or .org.

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I stopped voting for Sanjaya, and was glad to see his tearful departure. He was fucking up too much. Where once he seemed guileless, he seemed to become arrogant. So it was nice to see his sincere tears.

I still think--and I’m completely serious--that he has an amazing voice, such a buttery fresh tone. He just can’t hack it live in front of a band. Yet. Big yet. He’s gonna make a record, and if he gets with the right songwriters, it’s gonna be good. He’s a natural star.

I’m bitterly amused by the insane theory that he stayed in the running because outsourced call-centers in India have colluded to stuff the electronic ballot box. Amazing. Do I really need to trot out the cliché and note that Howlin’ Wolf sang: The men don’t know, but the little girls understand--?

I have messed up so badly in my Idol predictions--Stephanie, Sanjaya, and LaKisha as top three! Yarg. Now I say: Melinda takes it. (as if that's not the second biggest duh of all time)

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I am recommending:

José Gonzáles: “Crosses.”

I’ve gone on about this guy before. He’s Swedish. Yes, as in from Sweden.

John Adams: “Short Ride in a Fast Machine.”

Scrap has introduced me to a lot of 20th century classical music lately. (I hate calling it classical music. What else can we call it?) We heard this guy’s “Shaker Loops” symphony (do you call it a symphony, if it’s long and has movements?) on the radio while we were driving around Brooklyn. I got home and went on a mild iTunes binge.

Posted by Mike at April 18, 2007 12:09 PM