Feb 28, 05 10:14 AM
Law Called Sucker by Rock.
The thing I loved was Beyoncé's phrasing on the song sung in French. And that I actually was able to watch the entire broadcast, but still climb into bed and read a few Jack Gilbert poems before midnight.
Year after year, the movies I adore win writing awards. If anything. Both of 'em won those last night. Second-tier, I feel, but I'll take it.
I'm still cheesed off about Paul Giamatti.
Posted by Mike at 10:14 AM
Feb 27, 05 11:08 AM
I'm Gonna Send You Back to Arkansas.
I saw Ray last night.
I wanted to see a least one movie other than Sideways before the Oscars. Being that the flick's already out on DVD, there's only one theater in Manhattan still playing it; the one in the sub-sub-basement of the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. How surreal, to exit from the hushed cavern of a movie theater into the bustle of shoppers, and then the bright lights and noise of Times Square.
There was a lot of stuff I liked about the movie. The old records, of course. The raw data of the biography stuff. Lip-synching puts me off in general; being a recovering addict, I always become unnecessarily consumed with the minutiae of the portrayal of addiction.
(Late at night, channel-surfing, I'm always looking for drug tales. My friend Wayne says, "Joe Montana's retired, but what do you think is on his mind every day?")
Pat Dillett, who produced Rockity Roll and "Move On," took me to see Ray Charles a couple years ago. His wife works at the Natural History Museum; Ray Charles was playing a brief set at a benefit.
I was never a devotée of Ray's--I went out of curiosity--but the show was an amazing lesson in mastery. We sat in the second row. A trio of tuxedoed musicians took the stage and vamped cheesily (the guitar player applied the chorus pedal liberally). There was a corny Roland keyboard sitting on the stage. Pat and I looked at each other: Ray Charles couldn't possibly be playing that thing--? Where did he get these clowns, from a wedding band?
Ray was led out by a hypeman, who intoned, in a burly but bored voice, "You are about to be entertained! By the GENIUS! Ray Charles!" Ray sat at the keyboard and tickled a note or two.
Pat and I were horrified; it was instantly recognizable as one of the corniest boilerplate keyboard sounds in existence. And then: astonishingly, he rocked it. I mean he rocked the hell out of this insanely corny tone. Just supremely, effortlessly musical. Sheer mastery.
The next tone he dialed up was even cornier; a bell-like tone that was just disheartening to hear. And then, once again, he played with such emotion that the corny tone became transparent, and we could only hear the smooth undulation of the stream-of-consciousness lead.
It was an environment of forced reverence; this was before the nouveau wave of Ray-genuflection; the audience seemed to be motivated mostly charitable participation, and responded to tunes with obedient applause. Ray played a hasty, 45-minute set that he seemed to just dash off without much commitment of thought or passion.
Nonetheless. The guy apparently couldn't help but to flash his brilliance. He played hits, but he seemed to have become tired of them, and many were reduced to near-abstraction. "Georgia" began with a meandering jam; the vocal didn't enter 'til two minutes into the song, on "...the whole day through..." and in the course of the tune he never once uttered the word "Georgia" itself!
In the second to last tune he held his wristwatch up to his ear; a cute gesture, until it occurred to me that he's blind, and he must have a watch that speaks the time aloud! The hypeman came out again, and Ray took his arm and departed with little concern. "You! Have just been entertained! By the genius! Ray Charles!"
Posted by Mike at 11:08 AM
Feb 26, 05 05:09 PM
I Don't Have to Sell My Soul; He's Already in Me.
I went to a party that Adidas threw in memory of Jam Master Jay last night.
I went because my very old friend Greg Galloway's wife, Fiona, works with the company who set up the event. I spent the evening just chilling with Greg, catching up and talking about people we haven't seen in a while. This all seemed very normal until, for instance, Li'l Kim passed through with her entourage--she is indeed li'l--barely up to my chest--and has a face so pointed and waxy-looking she might've been a doll.
There was a room set up as a meditation room, where apparently one was supposed to go and think good thoughts about JMJ; unfortunately it was filled with big, fake-fur covered beanbags labeled with their unfortunate product name: LOVE SACK. The room stayed empty, except at one point Bone Thugz-n-Harmony went in there to get high.
I felt a little uneasy about the Adidas connection--they seemed to be using this event, ostensibly to raise money for JMJ's charity foundation, to unveil a line of limited-edition collectors' shelltoe sneakers. They were themed after cities--Berlin, Buenos Aires, Boston, others--and musicians, among them Ian Brown, the former Stone Roses singer, and one of my all-time faves. (the Stone Roses, and the Madchester thing in general, were big in my mind's ear when we recorded Haughty Melodic) He wandered the party with his pants sliding off his ass, looking like a slightly more gaunt and lined version of himself.
Greg had made a giant poster of JMJ on which celebrities put their autographs; it was to be auctioned for JMJ's foundation. It seemed the less sizable the celeb, the bigger the signature was. The signatures of Starski and Grandmaster Caz, God love 'em, were absolutely gigantic.
I walked up to the poster--right there in front of everybody, security milling about and people standing around chatting--and wrote my own name on there, right next to Lee Quiñones. Very small, of course--and, because my ballpoint pen didn't cotton to the posterboard, unfortunately--though quite fittingly--barely legible.Posted by Mike at 5:09 PM
Feb 22, 05 11:39 AM
In My Lens Was a Naked Canadian.
They've finally posted the naked pixx I shot!
Months ago, I photographed a SuicideGirl, Twwly, on my rooftop at dusk; a delightful experience. She was really nice to me, considering I'd never done this before.
Now it's up! I'm so happy. I feel like a real photog. Not only that, but--as I believe I've mentioned on this blog before--in tandem with the Aquaman story I wrote for DC Comics' Bizarro World book, I can now put both comics artist and pornographer on my resumé.
Posted by Mike at 11:39 AM
Feb 21, 05 09:25 AM
Roaming around Manhattan, having my photograph taken.
A bunch of people showed up at my door at 10 am yesterday; among them photographer Aaron Farrington, who's taking the images that will be used inside my CD package. He was a lovely freak, an adorably nervous, intense, and absorbed guy from Charlottesville.
We had a white minivan (God's comic response to "White Lexus," maybe?) in which we cruised all over town, stopping and taking pictures when the scene was opportune. It was great fun. I warned Aaron that I had a tendency to put on what might be called a rapper's glare in the presence of the lens, so he tried a number of things to make me laugh. At one point he riffed on something I said about existence, "You're doomed," he said, and, hilariously, that became what he said every time he wanted me to smile.
"Great--OK--could you turn your head a little to the left? And--OK--look at the camera. Great. Oh, and Mike, by the way--YOU'RE DOOMED." And then I would bust out laughing.
There was a stylist on hand named Kumi, and every time my hair would get messed up somebody would say Kumi check! at which point Kumi would appear with a spray can of something or other. I realized in the course of the day that what I really need in life is a Kumi of the everyday, so that in a restaurant, or at the post office, or right here laying on my couch as I type this blog entry I could say Kumi check! and Kumi would materialize, with lip gloss.
We stopped just as the snow started to fall; by 10 pm I was home, watching the snow accumulate on the street outside, and the orange glow the streetlamps made on it. I fell asleep reading the Lonely Planet: Puerto Rico, fantasizing about the balmy colonial district of Ponce.Posted by Mike at 9:25 AM
Feb 17, 05 10:00 AM
View of the Spree from Behind the Harp.
I had a rough gig last night; but, what a hoot the Spree were.
I could barely hear myself onstage last night; it was all treble, like a tin can, and my voice seemed to be emitting from a telephone twelve feet away from my ear. Anybody that was there last night, how did it sound in the house?
Canada Dan Chen, however, sounded amazing--so much fun to play with the guy. And Vin, my new drummer in this as-yet-theoretical band of mine, hung out backstage.
I watched the Spree's show from behind Ricky, the harpist, who at one point turned around and solemnly draped a long ribbon of silver mylar around my neck. What a blast it was to watch them. The thing I loved most was the bass playing--those fat, nervy, Beatlesque lines. When it really got rocking, you could feel the floor wobble.
And naturally, what could be more advantageous for an arty photographer such as myself than a gang of zealous dancers in multicolored robes?
Posted by Mike at 10:00 AM
Feb 16, 05 08:56 AM
These Spree folks are so nice it's unbelievable.
These gigs have been fun; in particular, the Spree's road crew have been so helpful and accomodating--it's like the relentless sunshine of the Spree's show has infected every corner of their cadre.
First gig with Handsome Dan last night; I love the man. A guy yelled out "Crispix!", superfluously, as we were taking the stage last night, and we improvised a song called Crispix. "Crispix! CRISPIX! YEAH!"
I felt slightly guilty about making Dan's very first live song with me ever a hasty improvisation. Throwing him right into the lake. Welcome to the most dignified Mike Doughty organization, Dan.
Oh, people have been asking me about the mystery cover tune that I was so coy and insinuating about a few months ago; obviously, to those who are on the email list and got the Haughty Melodic track list yesterday, there's no cover song on there.
We recorded covers of the Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love," and Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler." Both sounded great, and we had a notion to end the record with a cover tune, but we were struck by this one tune that previously we'd kind of written off, "Your Misfortune." Dan and I demoed it the very first session we ever did, but shelved it. We dusted it off in the final days of the recording, in November, looking for a b-side or two to send to ATO. We realized it was really great and bumped the cover concept.
Both "Book" and "Gambler" will find lives outside the record, though--iTunes or European or Japanese bonus tracks or something--so they're going to be available in some form.Posted by Mike at 8:56 AM
Feb 15, 05 10:19 AM
Handsome Dan from Canada.
My veins are thick with cheesesteak.
I opened for the Polyphonic Spree in Philly last night--I hotfooted it back to Manhattan right after my set, but not before I tucked in to two cheesesteaks with extra Whiz from Jim's. I asked from the stage how late Jim's was open, and, true to Philly form, several folks shouted out GO TO PAT'S! GO TO PAT'S!
Tonight, it's Brooklyn, with my new piano player, Dan Chen. He is an extremely handsome man, and a very sharp dresser--the sharpest dresser I've ever shared a stage with. Seriously. He's also from Toronto. Of course, the most vital aspect of the new sideman induction process is figuring out a nickname. Handsome Dan? Canada Dan? Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed Dan?Posted by Mike at 10:19 AM
Feb 14, 05 09:27 AM
The Dude Says: "Chill."
Dan Wilson and I went out to Jackson Heights, Queens, for a pre-Valentine's feast.
Dan Wilson, his wife Diane, and their daughter, the luminous boddhisattva Coco, came to New York for the MoMA and the Gates, and we and my nameless friend trekked out to Jackson Heights, to this place called the Delhi Palace, on 74th Street, to bask in the ecstasy of their lunch buffet.
There is a particular passive-aggressive New Yorker's joy to the Delhi Palace, which is that it's literally one door down from the Jackson Diner, a famed Indian food place which is the preferred joint for most Manhattanites who are to hip for 6th Street, and ride the 7 train out to Jackson Heights for Indian food. Delhi Palace whups the bejesus out of the Jackson Diner, and one passes by the Jackson Diner, chock full of Manhattanites, and laughs, HA! You fools! en route to the superior joint.
The food rendered me in such a state of numbed, exhausted bliss that my dining companions referred to me as being paneered, after the Indian cheese dish, which the Delhi Palace cooks up in such tremendous depth of flavor that it makes you feel dirty.
We all stopped by a religious goods store en route back to the elevated tracks. There were numerous depictions of this Sikh guru:
My nameless friend and I, who incidentally has Punjabi Sikh roots, refer to this guru as The Dude. His right palm is always held up in that serene gesture. Whenever we see his picture we say the same thing. "The Dude," we say, "says: Chill."Posted by Mike at 9:27 AM
Feb 12, 05 05:01 PM
"Drunk Party Chick Lost Control Vs. Fucked in Glue."
(The above being the subject line of a porn spam missive from one Ignorance J. Puckish.)
I've been thinking about Sekou Sundiata, my old poetry teacher at Lang.
When I went to school, all I was interested in was becoming a performer and a songwriter. There's no school that offers a genuine curriculum in what I wanted to eventually do for a living, so I had to cobble together my own, moving to New York to play open mic nights, taking poetry and theater classes at Lang. I jerry-rigged my own sort of conservatory.
Sometimes I fantasize that if I hadn't been so single-minded and obsessed with becoming a songwriter, I might have not had abysmal grades, and might have ended up at Brown or Vassar, and actually gotten myself a liberal arts education. Of course, I realize that there's no gift an adolescent can have greater than a feeling of purpose, a place one is burning to get to, so I'm grateful for my luck.
And had I not ended up at Lang, I wouldn't have studied with Sekou Sundiata, a guy who impacted my life immeasurably. He taught a poetry class called "The Shape and Nature of Things to Come." I've applied what I learned from him to every part of my creative life. I was taking the D train home early this morning, and I thought up a list of the things he taught that have most resonated in my life.
You work for the poem, the poem doesn't work for you. So you have to listen for what it wants to be. "You're trying to build a house," he said in a class once, "and sometimes the poem says, 'I'm not a house, I'm a bird.'"
Learn to cut your poems unmercifully. Don't protect them; don't treat every line as if it were precious. It was positvely disorienting when you'd read a poem in class and he'd start saying cut this line, cut that line. And then, of course, instantly the entire class would jump in and start cutting your lines, too. Some were able to let go and give themselves over to this process; others fought tooth and nail for this or that superfluous word (and that was a fascinating lesson, too). Eventually, skins thickened, and we were better poets for it.
"Sometimes the poem is just a life-support system for one killer line," Sekou said. "Cut that line out and find it a better home."
Your poem has to be more interesting than what it purports to be about. The most meaningful learning experiences in the class came from the bad poems that got brought in, not the good ones. One time a guy brought in a spectacularly mediocre poem about Islam, and Sekou laid into him with the cut this line, cut that line. The guy, in defending his work, outlined a really fascinating story about muezzins and prophets, and Sekou said: "That's great. Why don't I hear that in the poem?"
Have killer titles. Poets tend to be timid about titles, often leaving their poems untitled. Sekou didn't suffer this milquetoast position gladly. Titles are like a line of your poem writ large, often the most important, most visible part of the poem itself.
Have a style. Be conscious of your voice, and conscious of how you develop it. "Miles Davis said, 'I like musicians who play a style,'" Sekou would quote, over and over again in class.
Over time, I've come to question this as a value. Certainly the stuff I wrote for Soul Coughing was redolent with conscious style, but as I've gotten older, I've gotten less concerned with it, in fact becoming wary of myself whenever I write something where I'm very conscious of my own style. Maybe it was a great place to start from, though, and all the creative success I've had over the years came from the seed of this conscious development of an early style.
Be the truest version of yourself you can be. This was the biggest lesson for me. I really wanted to be black, as a 19 year old. Like most 19 year old white suburbanites want to be. Sekou gently steered me away from that; I began to look for what was most intrinsically myself in myself--check out the heightened, barking whiteness of the voice on the early Soul Coughing recordings. "They call it soul because it comes from the deepest part of yourself," Sekou said, repeatedly. "Soul is undeniable."
Feb 11, 05 01:40 PM
The Art of Porn Spam.
I just got spam from somebody named "Pantheon I. Pomegranate" (I love this trend of spam from these seemingly random-generated two-word names, and with middle initials no less!) titled "Hot cartoon-mouse having sex."Posted by Mike at 1:40 PM
Feb 10, 05 09:48 AM
Weirdly, I Keep Seeing David Hyde Pierce Strolling in Different Locations Around Manhattan.
Here's links to pages about a dog obsessed with chicken:Posted by Mike at 9:48 AM
Feb 9, 05 10:47 AM
More Gear Must Go.
I have retrieved a bunch of items from my storage space, and they, too, must find good homes.
I'm in purge mode, all this old gear I don't use would be happier in homes that appreciated them more. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if anything here appeals to you.
VOX AC-30 AMPLIFIER.
I've sold this amp.
Tchad Blake had me play through one of these on Ruby Vroom; I bought this amp right after recording, and it was my touring amp from the day the record came out to the last gig Soul Coughing ever played, the Dirty Danny benefit at Bowery Ballroom in December of 1999. (a gig distinguished, for me, by the fact that I OD'd and nearly suffocated onstage during "St. Louise." Hoo boy.)
Previously, I represented this thing as in bad shape--but I just played it, and WEIRDLY, it seems fine! Sounds great! I'm stunned.
The case was painted by Steve Keene. If anybody ever saw Soul Coughing, they might remember the colorful stage set; it was made up of road cases like this one, painted by Steve, of whom I was, and still am, a big fan.
It's crazy heavy, especially with the case, probably EXPENSIVE LIKE A MOFE to ship. I would like to sell this to somebody in or near New York who can come pick it up.
I'm asking $903.55 (I'm asking weird prices for all these because I'm superstitious about round, plain numbers)
ANOTHER FENDER CORONADO.
A secondary guitar from later Soul Coughing tours, I opened the case and found this Coronado still in the "$300" tuning!! Weird. It's in OK shape--electronics are fickle--I'm askin' $798.35.
STEVE KEENE PAINTED ROAD CASE.
Looks like this thing might be sold, I'll keep you posted.
A picture of the front of this case is up top of this blog entry. I don't know where the hell the amp is--it was the amp I used on a few songs that I played sampler on--the dialogue samples in the extended end-jam on the live version of "I Miss the Girl" for instance--and the keyboard riff on "Houston."
Makes a lovely endtable! In honor of its predominant use, I'm askin' $300.
I sold this one.
Electronics = fucked. But, MAN, does this thing sound good (when extensive jiggling gets the pickups working).
I don't know anything about what year this thing came out. Anybody know? The pickups are odd-looking. I'm not quite sure what to ask for it--once again, this bad boy needs to spend a little time in the loving hands of a repair person. My best guess--$303.33? Is that sensible?
I sold these already.
These were the pedals I used live on the El Oso tour. Do they work? Who knows. Like Earl Scheib, I'm asking $99.95.
BIZARRELY MAIMED FERNANDES WITH ROLAND GK PICKUP.
This one's sold.
When I first started messing around with the Roland guitar synth, I got the synth pickup (the GK-2A) and this unfortunate Fernandes, from which I ripped out the pickups, thinking it would look a little cooler. Trust me, believe it or not, it actually does.
GK-2A is workin'. No case, so either you're in NYC, or I'm throwing into a box and it'll get tossed around unmercifully by UPS. $77.07 and it's yours.
Posted by Mike at 10:47 AM
Feb 8, 05 10:57 AM
My back is back. I couldn't do anything for hours yesterday, except at last, after hours laying on the sofa in woe, I managed to sit upright and practice guitar. For some reason that seemed to set my back right enough to be a functioning person in the world. Is that strange?Posted by Mike at 10:57 AM
Feb 7, 05 09:15 AM
Above, pictured in my haphazardly-organized storage space, affixed to an old cassette deck I disposed of last night, are bumper stickers I bought in a German truckstop, displaying astrological signs and their commensurate sex positions.
When I type mutig into a web translator, it comes back as "courageously." Spitzen klasse comes back as "sharpen class". Huh.
I put my back out; I'm in ridiculous pain, and can stand up only with extreme difficulty. I hauled a lot of heavy gear up my stairs last night, by myself; I'm paying for it today. Aargh.
Yesterday I went to my manager Marty's storage space out in darkest Weehawken and retrieved a few guitars (including the famous green Coronado) and amps in cases painted elaborately by Steve Keene. Quite beautiful, and very sad to see them holed up in this dark space on a New Jersey back street.
I emptied out my storage space--I'm in purge mode--placing half my belongings next to a garbage can on Second Avenue and Second Street. The East Village is ritzier now, but when I was a teenager in this neck of the woods, there was a culture of street furniture and abandoned goods; I once hauled a giant fuzzy orange sofa half a mile down the Bowery.
When I drove past the corner ten minutes later, someone had taken the cheap portraits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a couple of Hindu deities that I'd thrown out and lined them lovingly against the brick exterior of Anthology Film Archives.
When I was sitting in traffic outside the Holland Tunnel, waiting to cross back into Manhattan, I saw graffiti on a truck parked on the roadside: PUNX ARE GAY. The traffic started moving again before I had a chance to take a picture of it.Posted by Mike at 9:15 AM
Feb 5, 05 10:11 AM
Mysterious Fun in Things Smashed Joyfully.
Mr. Dorgon, née Gordon Knauer, sold me that cheap-shit Yamaha guitar in 1989, which he used to play in New Jersey death metal bands.Posted by Mike at 10:11 AM
Feb 3, 05 10:01 AM
Air America Post-Game.
Radio adventures in the early morn.
I did a spot on "Morning Sedition"--the Air America show--this morning. I played three tunes, told abbreviated tales of Ethiopia, and managed to get a line in about how freaked out I was by Dennis Hastert's big weird face.
Marc Maron = still my hero. Favorite bit from the show; the reading of "Today's liberal agenda marching orders, just faxed in from Barbra Streisand's compound!" As "People Who Need People" wafted in the background.
I loved coming home on the 6 train, guitar slung over my shoulder, in a subway car filled with sullen commuters. Home from work at 9:30 am! Brilliant.Posted by Mike at 10:01 AM
Feb 1, 05 11:07 AM
Amazing Laughs with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
A short documentary film by Nicholas Gurewitch and Sarah Elizabeth Witt about an astonishing, involuntary word game that Sarah compulsively plays with every spoken phrase she hears.Posted by Mike at 11:07 AM