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lundi 27 juin 2005

Heli's got it. Up north of me, with a fan switched on at Heaven and Hell Radio, she asks: "Isn't it time the G8 summit did something to global warming?"
To it? Even if they could, the thought of some of those G8 leaders doing anything more than they have chills my heart. But her link, to an article in 'The Independent', is worth checking out in full, since I've not seen anybody state so clearly before in the mainstream press, as John Houghton comments:

"Scientists now agree that the central European heatwave of 2003, which led to the death of over 20,000 people, was largely due to an increase in greenhouse gases, for which humans are responsible."
Scores, some say hundreds, of them in France, remember? Those black crosses I mentioned appearing in the entrance halls of buildings around this part of town and elsewhere in Paris?
We're still only June, the temperature in the street at 8:30 pm tonight was +32° C in the shade ... what will they be saying about 2005? As people started complaining, that minister, whoever he was, I forget, eventually rushing back from his holiday and saying: "Oh, I'm ever so sorry. Didn't we have a plan for all this?"

I should lay off the cynicism. Being at the Factory that can be difficult, but once someone's singing some sense into me it gets increasingly hard to stay bitter...
The truth remains I'm glad that Heli and a few others blog on, indefatigably and in her case usually briefly, reminding us how hard those stupid, thoughtless and often short-sighted bastards need kicking.
The G8 ideas I was kicking around during my "political" hours of the day were more about music and who, in Africa, gets to write what in the next few days about the major musical projects for that weekend, especially what the Africans make of it all.
During one preparatory chat with Helen, who's in Nairobi right now and knows so much about some very hot spots in eastern central Africa, she works -- as people can -- for both us and the BBC.
"I wonder many people in Rwanda," she mused for a moment, "have even heard of Bob Geldof."
"Good question," I said. "So do I."
So we'll find out a few things like that...

Aino LaosDoubtless, you'll be getting more here apart from one or two points I've already made. Perhaps not when it happens. We'll all be up to the eyeballs in G8 and Africa, flavour of the year, but the Desk chief has asked me to firm up my vacation dates. As usual, they're last minute. As usual, they're not as planned, but you have to fit in with world leaders and where their plans put your work mates.
As usual I want to be free & around town in August, already agreed for the first three weeks of that month this year, and now a last chunk of July looks good for the rest. If it's not too hot, you might get a few inspired thoughts less coloured, once more, by the heat of the day's endless flow of nonsense.

Frank speaking: there's hot ... and there's Ani

Ani diFranco, to be precise. You get nothing new when I tell you today's VoW album is 'Evolve', since Ani did that more than two years ago. This particular picture -- you've had quite enough of their inevitably fine bodies for a while -- I stole for the fun value from 'asteroid-b612' (aka 'The Cygnus Loop'.)
Ani can be a lot of fun. She makes being serious about life fun and she can even do it with anger. Maybe this blog should be a kind of "wiki", I think, knowing some entries should stay open for more perceptions while albums grow on me. People who say this particular album was aptly named are right: it's a big change on the "old Ani".
"i speak without reservation from what i know and who i am. i do so with the understanding that all people should have the right to offer their voice to the chorus whether the result is harmony or dissonance, the worldsong is a colorless dirge without the differences that distinguish us, and it is that difference which should be celebrated not condemned. should any part of my music offend you, please do not close your ears to it. just take what you can use and go on."
She said that years ago when people called her the "l'il folksinger", and there's another open letter at a site Margie Gillespie left behind in '99, but like all of the women whose music I write about she's carved her own path and like many she's done her best to be a spanner in the wheels of the industry.
She's poetic and very outspoken, now has an Ani diFranco space on the Net and guess what? The New York connection is almost becoming a nuisance, I'm not doing it on purpose.
When I return down her road, it'll be once I've remedied recent ... excesses and have something to say about 'Knuckle Down' (her latest). But if hers is not a familiar name, 'Evolve' is a very good place to start.
If she was a familiar name, but hasn't been for several years ... "Evolve' is a very good place to start. For why? Because yes you do get Ani the angry, the witty, the lover, the political sniper and the folksinger, a woman who knows what to do with guitars. But you also get what I guess she herself would consider her first wholly seamless bid to build on her foundations and move into, for instance, jazz.
Not just traditional jazz either. Somebody who's already written about this so well that I'll simply link and quote is Ari Levenfeld (PopMatters). To each their own ears; mine don't have the problem's Ari's did that day when they found Ani a little too taken by her new experiments in style to give her soul-searching and her lyrics the place he'd have liked. For me, the mix works.
But for this, he gets the last word on Ani:
"'Serpentine' represents the promise of what combination of well thought out, Wynton Marselis-inspired arrangements can be, when coupled with Difranco's lyrical stabs. It's a long, meandering piece of work that takes some time to build. To evolve, maybe. It includes the best of her break-beat acoustic guitar picking and a jazzy bass line that takes just long enough to kick in. If this is a glimpse of what Difranco is attempting to evolve into, she might just make Charles Darwin proud."

I don't know what Darwin would make of the G8, but he was a practical kind of fellow. The Americans will doubtless arrive with a big box of spanners, but if Bush and some of his pals fancy doing anything practical themselves before everybody comes out with some "joint declaration" so watered down they'd do better to save the water for the places that need it, they could try dropping by Ani's hairdresser on their way over.

11:16:56 PM  link   your views? []

dimanche 26 juin 2005

Today's huge thunderstorm is making such a racket it's time to be as experimental as Dr Frankenstein in some ancient movie. If this blog disappears completely then I've made a very big mess, but I must bring those dead links here to life again, I don't want them forever broken. My flat is as clean as it will be after a week of very hot and bright days when I could see all the mess. And I am flat broke until the end of the month.
I thought it was buying music by too many VoWs and suchlike greed until I checked and saw the horrific phone bills that have gone through the bank in June. Monstrous bills always come at once, don't they?

Aino LaosWhile I fix stuff, does anybody know lots about Aino Laos? She and her band came in handy after a truly African storm that struck Paris during the week, being in my head when I behaved more or less like a gentleman for some of its victims in a very packed, soaked Métro train.
My own previous reference is almost all a search engine will give you in English, apart from Belgians wanting "More, please". CD Baby says little:

"Harvest Moon is a record based on blending the mesmerizing voice of Aino Laos with a unique & beautiful music created to take you on a travel through time & space. Recorded in 2003 in locations in california & danmark, the blend of different styles & influences will please & surprise."
Actually, they wrote "travel trough", which isn't a bad description of the M at the height of the rush hour. This isn't Africa yet. That morning, women had done what women do, saw a very hot day coming, put on as few clothes as they dared to look attractive without being arrested and left the umbrellas at home.
They and everyone else who hasn't yet realised this found out that global warming, summer after summer, means you don't have to go to Africa to have the air and the sky become stickier and heavier and darker as the day goes on until it explodes. When it did, the rainstorm was the kind that drenches you in less than a minute. Isabelle, a top news editor who knows about these things, said: "And it's not even six o'clock yet!"

Some time well past six Aino Laos was singing 'Stranded' (you'll find decent song excerpts at the iTMS, forget Amazon, she's still not there) and it was one of those evenings when I let two very packed trains through before playing sardines again in the third.
The rush hour M was full of women going home and mostly robbed by the rain of any more choice about how much of their bodies they wanted to show. Crushed up beside me, one was very young and so ill at ease I didn't have to look to feel the "vibes". I gave her what space I could ... but she closed in. Within a couple of stops, she had her head resting on my shoulder, it stayed there for 10 minutes, she relaxed, and not a word was said. Another woman had a "tit problem". When she left for work she didn't mean everyone to see them.
Since my last notes about the "psychology of the iPod", people have told me they don't get it themselves: my own experiences, the easy chats, are less common that I thought. The point remains that when listening to music in the M, it's not to shut people out (unless somebody I don't like gets on and I'm happy with an excuse to avoid them), but I'm very aware at a conscious level of what's going on around me. iPods certainly help remove the element of threat among strangers people feel in the animal environment of a crowded train, but there's more to it. I caught the eyes of the tanned woman with the drenched blouse and gave her body a long and leisurely look before meeting her gaze again. She glanced down coyly for a moment, then looked up and smiled. When they got off, they both smiled. No words, but the three of us made a 13-minute world in our corner of train that put them as much at their ease as 'Harvest Moon' had put me.

I've no idea if other people are so conscious of these behaviour patterns, but when, in the late 1960s, Desmond Morris published 'The Naked Ape' and went on to write more books about body language they became such huge bestsellers, people must have found it new. Anyway, I know if there's one thing guaranteed to make a women feel uneasy, it's furtive looks from men who mentally take her clothes off and then stick their glance elsewhere before they think she's noticed. I mention it because I watch many men do this I've got news for them. She does notice and it doesn't do you any favours.
Before writing more about Aino Laos, I listened again in the M today, then plugged the iPod into the hi-fi. The brief CD Baby blurb on 'Harvest Moon' could lead your imagination as astray as a wet T-shirt on a good-looking woman, while Google and other search tools give you Danish (MyMusik -- biografi) and German, but little English apart from me and one of the slowest Flash sites any of my browsers have met.

I'll tell her this because it's about as unhelpful as men who annoy women like Gudrun Laos with sly, hungry looks, while the noisy default music on it for now says more about musicals than a subtle solo album that's neither "new age" nor "alternative pop". Once you've found the rest of the music, though, it's a generous selection.
Gudi is Danish and 'Harvest Moon' is a largely gentle collection of songs with lyrics good and sometimes poetic enough to make you think English is her first language. On the opening track, which came out as the single 'Time is a Healer', Aino Laos's first question is "If time is a healer, why am I still weak inside?"
And if "new age" means being idealistic and adding a little electronica to perceptive songs full of questions and stories about live and love, including some gorgeous ballads ('Blinded by Silence' and 'For a While'), about life and love, there's a lot of it about. The words are all Gudrun's, who accompanies several songs with an acoustic guitar, but if she's a show star, mainly in Germany, that'll be because she can certainly rock when she wants and doesn't always dress like anyone I've seen in the M.
People like Gudi Laos are reasons I spent a whole evening stripping the musical genre labels others have put on many albums on the iPod, but that's a story for when I plan to discuss both the miracles and the drawbacks of the Gracenote data base.

6:45:46 PM  link   your views? []

mercredi 22 juin 2005

I know.
My item title links are still broken. After the weekend they might be mended.
So's the water heater, still broken. That's more than a month of cold showers now.
Jon has told me how the heater works.
He didn't come all the way from Australia just to do that, but it's progress.
Maybe I know what to tell a plumber from Poland.
What do you expect?

This is, after all, a stray bit of Africa.

12:49:41 AM  link   your views? []

Rebekka BakkenThis is Rebekka and she does jazz.

Tonight is music night beneath a nutty dreamer's moon. As everybody knows, the night of all musics. So what did I get, unless I shut the big windows? Bagpipes! The ultimate caterwauling horror if played as they were here, very badly. That was no misty photo shoot in the glens, safe from most human ears, it's Montparnasse on a busy, noisy, happy midsummer evening.
There were two of the wretched men and the audience was already so drunk they were getting applause enough for me to fear they'd stay all evening. I kept the eggs in the fridge.

Rebekka can do the standards very nicely when she wants, putting her mastery of techniques at the service of the song rather than taking the tune just to showcase a beautiful voice, without heart.

The wailing outside reminded me this remains the Breton part of town, south of the vast glass and steel railway station originally built to service that part of France, where they might have kept the cornemuse (corne as in horn-ed, diabolical), especially when it gives us what they think is the Skye Boat Song.
A pair of local virtual neighbours at 'Montparsud' are proud of being in 'Libération' in a multipage spread BJ thought might fire me up. Another French "citizens' blog", ',' is in court for a "landmark libel case" in challenging the clan that runs a suburb of the capital. I'm not getting heated since this fellow, Christophe Grébert, can clearly look after himself. If the suit doesn't backfire on the Puteaux town council, I'll be surprised.

Look up Rebekka Bakken on the Net and you may turn a page or two to find a read in English.
She's Norwegian, says Jean-Luc Scolé, who has an ace choice of mainly VoWs among his "suggestions musicales" (a Quad fan), and came to my ears when somebody told me what I'd missed in April just a stone's throw from the Factory.
Rebekka at the time got a show in 'LA PLUPart DU TEMPS,' a blog worth visiting for what's on in Paris (though not tonight unless you want to stare at one of Michael Jackson's incarnations), and sometimes sings up front with the Julia Hülsmann Trio.
That means, probably, lines to come about 'Scattering Poems', not yet given a word at Amazon UK, a recent addition to the library along with today's introduction to 'The Art of How to Fall' (Amazon France; Bakken by herself hasn't crossed the Channel yet), a skill she made public in November in 2003.
I liked it so much that the month's second -- and last -- permissible online spree under way tonight, includes her latest, 'Is That You?' (out last February) and half a dozen other albums in the iTMS wishlist. Amazon's suggested companion to that is Viktoria Tolstoy's 'My Swedish Heart,' which would go into the library ... if it wasn't there already.
You have yet to read much about these Scandinavian and German (Julia H.) "jazz" wonders, who are all more than a part of the current upsurge of interest in the European jazz scene, particularly the Nordic countries -- and will outlast it by many years.

"You should have put a warning in the 'trash line'," the desk chief said about a brief "offbeat" tale today from Kenya. He was right, I much regretted subbing an item about sex with sheep, especially before lunch. Lamely, I said, "Well, there is an editor between me and the reader who gets to choose which bits to use."
"If he doesn't stop after the fourth paragraph," said David. One of the women took a look and said, "Whoever wrote that obviously enjoyed himself. And, of course, it will 'score' everywhere." Yes, it will, it was vile. As for enjoyment, I almost closed my eyes before hitting the button but presume the lady was right since few Factory stories go out even with a Latin phrase in them ("flagrant delight" or whatever it means)...

Tonight, the cover art on how to fall isn't here, since you just may have had enough erotic content and even this singer, who fell gracefully, comes naked and recumbent. The picture's instead a detail of one of the huge offerings on Rebekka Bakken's site, along with a small Tolstoy for you, since I'll write about her another time. Rebekka's original is 26.06 x 32.41 centimetres!
That generosity is reflected on the album, a turning point when she for the first time wrote all her own lyrics, which is why it was first into the library, and I'm glad I said "she does jazz" because she's also done rock, soul and R&B:

"In my early twenties I had a 'walkman experience': A friend taped 90 minutes of Bob Dylan's music. I listened to that non-stop for one week. It wasn't his singing, but his honesty that made me realize: Now I know what to do. And this knowing kind of guided me."
Dylan's the only influence she claims, but in an introspective song where she asks
"Can I turn around,
Break the bonds,
'Say goodbye to what is gone'?"
the second track and first beautiful slow, lightly scored number on the album, her voice really comes into its own, with the controlled power of a stage show star. I hesitate to make comparisons, but in getting used to everybody Rebekka can sound like when she wishes, for a friend who asked me if I've got any Billie Holliday, the answer's "Yes, but how about trying Rebecca Bakken?"
"I have great respect for jazz - that's why I don't want to say, I'm a jazz singer. On the other hand: What does it mean to say: 'I'm not a jazz singer!' I don't want to say that either. I just don't want to make a definition of what I am. I am nothing; I am just what goes through me. Maybe I'm even not a singer; I'm just doing whatever I have to do at the time. Who am I? - This question is more meaningful than the answer."

There's more than jazz here, Rebekka grew up in Oslo and I can hear a classical training and occasional echoes of the church. She moved to New York in 1995 -- there's no escaping New York when it comes to women on and around the log at the moment! -- where Andreas Felber (who wrote her sketchy bio) tells us "she explored the new terrain with her own formation until the album 'Daily Mirror' with [Austrian guitarist] Wolfgang Muthspiel opened the door to a broad audience."

Well, what "trashline" might I have used to warn unwary editors, as if the wretches haven't seen it all? "Warning, not exactly family reading"? "Adult content?" What the iTMS says, "Explicit"? I'll guess they'll come up with something. I just found it a grotty but unfortunately "newsworthy" aspect of life, which contains, like Rebekka's music, plenty of adult content. Thing is the boss was right: some editors don't read what they publish, that's "blasé" for you.

Bakken gives her news pleasingly straight, which simply means she can sing about anything without making it filthy or vulgar. If it's yet more reclining women covers you want, wait for me to review Jem, who comes from Cardiff and is among tonight's virtual wishes becoming sonic data. I only allow self-indulgence, which means I couldn't let Lizz Wright have a new album at large -- and even posters, Lizz is coming to town -- for more than a fortnight without saying I'm 'Dreaming Wide Awake' and listening.
Rebekka says:

"I have chosen 11 songs from the material I wrote during the last two years out of my own true musicality, out of where I stand. I am only trying to express myself, to express how I feel. The last two years have been amazing. So much has happened personally. That's what you hear in the music. For so long I tried to make a concept. But then I thought: Fuck the concepts. There are none. How can I decide how things are gonna be in future? The process is what is important to me."

I'd love to know who she's doing it with. Most sites and reviews in German -- my grasp is shaky to say the least -- tell me how sensual, even downright sexy, she is live, but are short on names. You don't need to read critics or look at pictures to know she's sexy, that's obvious from the music, when both Rebekka and her voice can slide from childhood and growing up and "a Hershey kiss" to 21st-century womanhood.
Now she's "fucked the concepts", what's wonderful in that "process" is the way she and, I've so far gleaned, Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset and trumpeter Takuya Nakamura, who adds muted loveliness to 'Powerless', take words that might simply be diary entries and turn them into beautiful, sometimes memorable, melodies. There's little technological tweaking but occasional electronic elements, mainly for sheer sound texture, don't go amiss.

Viktoria TolstoySome of today's Factory stories were both arresting and horrible, routine news on midsummer day, and like the pipers fortunately, have long since gone away -- the window can't stay closed when the temperature's slid down by several notches to a mere 25°C, the bottom side of where I begin to like it, even for Rebekka. But "routine news" can make you want to pray and music answers many of my prayers.

The real shortcoming of the iTMS is the lack of credit to the splendid drummer and bass player on this album, if you haven't got the CD. 'The Art of How to Fall' closes in the autumnal season with a prayer, another of the slows, this one sung in an outdoor temple to a god without a name:

"Daylight Is Short In Fall

Daylight is short in fall leaves turn to gold autumn and winter will enter in time to color a tired soul
Give me faith this year to find and to know; living is only what runs through an open heart living is letting go
So many words already spoken trying to explain after sunny days come rain nothing ever stays the same
The grace in change -- a gentle face that looks upon a mending heart as time passes by
Daylight is short in fall leaves turn to gold autumn and winter will enter in time to color a tired soul
Give me faith this year to find and to know that living is only what runs through an open heart living is letting go"
Some jazz reviewers, if I can understand them, acknowledge the richness and range in Bakken's stream-clear voice but wonder if she's really a jazz singer.
She makes no such claim. She's more sensible, as you've read. But if taking near diary entries and singing them to a music sometimes rooted deep in blues where your fellow "voices" are given free range to improvise around you to their heart's content and that of the audience, obviously a little differently each time, isn't jazz, then somebody may put me to rights and tell me what is.

More on the jazz in women's heads another night, since this time the music's coming to me. The joy of living here is how it does. It's jazz outside. They all look like men. But you can't have everything...

... but has anyone written a concerto for bagpipes and a fiddle and accordeon orchestra collected from Métro trains?
Please keep it on the hidden track.

12:22:44 AM  link   your views? []

lundi 20 juin 2005

Three packages of CDs arrived at the Factory at once.
That's great; weeks have rushed by since they were ordered from people in Canada and the United States who sell via Amazon France* and I'd begun to wonder if they'd gone astray.
The music's by nine women singer-songwriters or women-fronted bands. When one or two people said, "Never heard of any of them," one meaner thought was "Good."
Bic RungaFor the musicians, it's bad, of course, though some already have a big following. But it means I'm on the right tracks in writing about them. The handful of people who took a look are not a representative sample of music-lovers, but all have functioning, hopefully open, ears.
Harmonie spotted Bic Runga's 'Beautiful Collision' and said it's very good stuff. I reckon my ears will agree with hers, so you can have a Bic Runga pic without any further introduction now than that.
Heather Nova's 'Oyster', Aimee Mann's 'I'm With Stupid' and the double-album version of 'To Venus and Back' by Tori Amos are for gaps in my head and holes in the library, but newcomers on this log, just for the record tonight, are Erin McKeown ('Grand'), Chantal Kreviazuk ('Colour Moving and Still'), Ashlee Simpson 'Autobiography', Susie Suh ('Susie Suh'), 'Til Tuesday ('Voices Carry') and Carla Werner ('Departure').
Friends within kicking range, please note the word "library", with a reminder that's what it is on condition I know who's got what.

A good day for music started early with a brief, very nice mail from the VoW I've mentioned enough lately to find it nearly normal when the Kid came to town at the weekend bubbling with as much energy as she could muster in the heat and said, "Hey, Mum's playing this 'Nexus' album, I love it. Have you got any more music by --"
"Yes, I have. Lots."
But I hadn't ranted to Catherine ... unless she does read this. Before the Kid and Sarah's reply to my blogged mail arrived, it suddenly came to me what would be good fun -- and appropriate -- to do about her music while ringing the changes from the usual write-up format. For this, however, there's no rush and we'll have be patient.

Pulp HardcoreThe second album cover photo's not one in the eyes of those who object to about three in every 500 pics on this log -- yup, those are bare figures about the nude women who cause some moans; it's all provocation -- but answers the question: "Have you stopped listening to men completely?"
Certainly not, I've a headful of Pulp. 'This is Hardcore' isn't hardcore, though it says a few things about sex, and some people find too gloomy. I don't. I bought it -- the album was released seven years ago -- while catching up on some of what's being going down the other side of the Channel since I almost stopped setting foot there. When I first heard them, parts of Pulp surprised me. I didn't know anybody was still doing what used to be called 'pomp rock' with good lyrics.
That's unfair; but once you're safely past your 30s or any other "God, I'm getting old, where am I, why am I?" stage life as acutely described and rarely enjoyed by Jarvis Cocker on 'This is Hardcore' turns out to be not nearly that bad! I'd write more, but plenty of people have reviewed Pulp already.
On the artwork, one of them, Andrew Russeth, waxed almost wild:

"A blonde-haired woman lies naked on a red couch; her eyes are open, her face is completely without expression. We're given no further clues. Is she dead or simply caught in a momentary thought? Or is she just a mannequin? There will be no easy answers in the next hour. Indeed, this unsettling, Lynchian image provides a perfect, chilling visual representation of the smut-noir world that This is Hardcore inhabits. ('the wood')"
Like Cocker, who doesn't forget to be funny while he's centre-stage, and the album, Russeth lightens up on his way. But if he thinks the man's a "middle-aged rock star", he can get stuffed, because what does that make me? A slightly more middle-aged rock star?

On having mind to change your time

I hope -- probably in vain but you never know -- never to reach an age when I start saying what some have to me, "Don't ever get old, it's horrible." On the passing of time, as on more things than I'd imagined conceivable before I started reading Sarah's journal (no more links for now), I agree with her when she writes:

"We can alter the passage of time if we utilize the strength of our minds" (Feb 15, 2005).
The seraphim doesn't say how we can do it. Neither will I, but regulars may have noticed I tend to write about "making time" to see somebody or do something, rather than "finding" it. There are no absolutes, none.
To say why would mean lots of "f*f". I don't fancy it. I'm putting the new albums on the Mac, then tomorrow the iPod, and swearing at Americans again: "Would you please stop sticking those sodding sellotape title strips across the top of CDs? Getting the wrappers off can be bad enough without having to deal with them afterwards. It's one thing I don't like making time for."

This is what Sarah says:

"That self-imposed productivity we put on ourselves to 'do things' does not seem to bring happiness to anyone I am aware of. It seems to me that happiness comes from simplicity, awareness and a fundamental understanding of our environment. Becoming a lens, and trying to focus to become fully acquainted with the space of the moment you are in, at a particular time and place. The amount of things you can do becomes more like a fever or sickness, that will only continue to displace you from what is actually happening at this moment. If you are preoccupied with the scattered minutiae of your mind, in random unfocused or selfish thoughs, nothing fresh, nothing new and beautiful will come to you, because you are not allowing it to. As much of a struggle as it can seem, it is so important to let go of this clutter, and just live. Remember that there is an underlying harmony in all things, and this is what we must reach, and we must grow with it, outward and inward, expanding and learning all the time. That is all I have to say about it."


*Enough people in France and other countries with high "value added tax" rates on "culture" who read me have said they're unused to buying through Amazon to give both the stores and other sellers who use them facilities another quick plug.
When browsing the store, don't forget to take a look at the offers on the right of most item pages indicating what's available new or used from other sellers. In my years of experience, they're reliable; safeguards include a star system and, in some cases, a package-tracing facility.
If I try a new seller without lots of stars already I don't buy in bulk (doing so obviously cuts postage costs) and I've only had one bad problem -- no reply to mails -- which Amazon settled. Rating the seller and leaving a quick comment yourself, takes only a few moments. When you do, it helps both them and the people who get there after you.

11:23:07 PM  link   your views? []

samedi 18 juin 2005

Self-confidence is hard to achieve, can be tougher still if you're more than usually clever or good-looking.
Today I ran in a corridor into a woman who's both and should know it, but always bitches about mistreatment and unfairness. The harder she finds life, the more she loses sympathy, now she's losing friends. She thinks it's "unjust".
This makes it worse for her. The less people want to listen, the more she hides away and lacks confidence, it's classic. Her head is full of what everybody thinks of her apart from herself. She's made it hard to talk, difficult to help and probably knows most people say, "What she needs is a good kick up the ass."

Sometimes that even works. A friend told a bunch of us what's he's made of a guy who prides himself in cooking up recipes for life, has written a self-help guide to it, and helped himself to my mate's daughter for ages.
Wedlock has recently entered the not very young man's mind, my friend added: "Rather say this now than stand around in a few months' time with a champagne glass feeling like a hypocrite and a buffoon."
When he showed us the evidence, I told my mate he'd done all right.

SandraIn a few months, I'd like to write a long article about how the music industry helps itself to people and what it does to some of them, particularly the bright and the beautiful. There's space for this, instead of magazine gossip coverage and star biographies.
I read lots of the music press and there's little about it; there's plenty once you start asking the musicians. The idea came when we got reminders at work to put in our holiday requests and I was told -- it seems hard to believe -- there's a backlog stashed up for me. Before anybody else does, I've put in for August, hoping it'll be really hot again and when it's fun being in a Paris empty of Parisians.

Tonight's thoughts linked up listening to Sandra, unknown to me when the half-French, half-German "one-hit wonder" made 'Close to Seven' in 1992, when we rarely watched television though it hadn't been thrown out for good.
I only have the CD because it was in the "wrong place" on the shelves at the FNAC among new music and not her kind. Odd. I didn't bother to look at the date and on listening to somebody I knew nothing about, find she sounds like a kid growing out of it, about to make more of electro-dance music than she does, the lyrics her own on songs that say something.
In fact, what sounds like a first album where real confidence is coming through, turns out to be the end of a career. 'When the Rain Doesn't Come', is more than dance-floor, don't bother with the words, song: it's about child prostitution. The woman singing it doesn't sound very far out of childhood and has a voice I'd encourage.
I did wonder about a one-name singer when I bought it. Who is she really? Really, she was a kid born in a border area that got mixed up by several wars between France and Germany, now maybe "just a mother" married to musician Michael Cretu. Long since finished, a VoW I must have heard on the radio without listening, another woman who lived in London for a while and was given a hard time for being German. Before I quit Britain, I knew some of those people. Many English people were cruel to them, the country I grew up didn't like Germans. For it's own often insular people, the Japanese and their onetime empire, of course, were "worse": that's what many wanted me to believe because they did.

Sandra's fansite tells a story in a language clearly not written by a native English speaker. It makes plenty of allusions to what did Sandra in, sketches the details of what was probably one hell of a career, in every sense of "hell".
Sandra -- the picture pinched from her place -- may have been no fashion victim. I haven't asked her, but imagine she must have felt pretty punished for being pretty and having talent. When I "confessed" to liking Kylie Minogue, not everything but parts I discovered on going back from what she's done with Nick Cave, a friend snorted: "She's manufactured!"
Who isn't? We're all manufactured in a host of different ways.

The woman I met today is manufactured, in her own mind, by the views of other people. She's turned herself into a product of their perceptions and opinions and that's a mighty vicious and destructive way to go.
No, I'm not starting a Friday F*f column. That's one way I could be manufactured: "Your place isn't a blog, Nick." I've heard that frequently enough. "You're a columnist. It's what you should be doing instead of working for the Factory."
There's just one hitch with that notion, remember?
Usually I like working for the Factory. My worst enemy there is boredom. It's a System, like any other, and the people who understand that each play it their way. Mostly our own "rules" are OK with other people. If they're not, you find out bloody fast! Journalists are great at bitching, rarely praise -- especially about their colleagues -- and are renowned for being incapable of organising a piss-up in a brewery. From a previous phase of life, I can attest to their ability to do that very well. And if others now use my name for AFP, with their own affection and curses, they know why I call it the Factory, a place that expects some journalists also to be managers, sales fiends and PR experts. That's common media practice.

Why don't I have a telly? Because most of it is crap. I miss decent documentaries but not the films. There are plenty of new ones and I've got DVDs. Even the X-Files. The news is a product. It begins with a person, a computer these days, a camera and another person or an event. It generally passes through many pairs of hands before you get to read or see it, even when it's "live".
Live is a half-truth. You may feel you're there. You're not. You're watching pictures and hearing words that have come through a production line. Some good, trustworthy journalists work for CNN. But the year CNN gave the first Gulf War a jingle, I said: "Fuck CNN!" Even when I see it forcibly at work because someone insists on having it on and I hear CNN give a "breaking story" I've just sent to them myself, along with all the other clients, I don't trust all those people between the person who wrote the story, then me, them and you. Many of them aren't journalists at all. They fiddle, they package: here's a jingle. Here's some "tough shit going down. It's really 'real', interpreted by a Today's Tough Shit expert." Oh, here's a hotel chain somewhere else. Happy holidays. Or do good business. Have a safe trip. Iraq's a nasty place.
If some "musician" took whatever conflict comes next in Africa and does a package containing the like of an Ethiopia-Eritrea trench war jingle or a DRC succession of wars jingle -- three million dead -- I will pick up my telephone and go ballistic with anger. That's a promise. I know many people have the wit and experience to know what's news and what's package but CNN doesn't make it easy. Fox makes it harder. I saw it once, that was enough.
Elections often show people prefer the wrapping paper, not the gift.

This place is what I want it to be. Often what you like it to be, whether I'm being serious or fooling around. I no longer feel guilty about an increasing lack of links to fellow bloggers. There are hundreds of thousands of them.
If I linked every week to your pieces I read when I do get bored at the Factory just to keep in with a crowd, people who come here would probably get very bored themselves. I have a number of virtual friends in the blogroll, would love the time to get involved in some of their debates and projects, but I can't do that and work and VoWs and the Quiet Revolution.

With apologies to those who feel neglected, I think we might be in for another name-change. Most of my virtual friends, no less real for being unmet, have the confidence already to blog whether or not I write about them or chip in with my comments. In the music industry and in the media, while I plan to specialise in neither, there's much more at stake. Striking out on your own with a log is one thing, making a career and a life out of music and being a journalist is another.
Both are industries, ruthless and brutal with people who lack confidence. The more I become a journalist who writes about music as well as Africa, the less I like the way many "specialised" music writers do the job. They don't. They're self-referential, often show-offs, with values I find peculiar.
The comparisons they frequently make among musicians usually say more about the reviewer than the singer-songwriter. They seem to have got forgotten an axiom of journalism: "Go to source."
Most singer-songwriters tell their own stories. I've realised it matters to read them in making music my lifeblood again, though I no longer make music and talking about them. Fame has nothing with it. Journalists are great name-droppers when they want to be, we do a job that gets us close. I've talked to Nelson Mandela, I hope soon to talk to Aimee Mann. If I do, it'll be more than a joke about autographing her songs on my iPod. They're famous, outgoing people, generous with themselves and their time, hard as nails when they have to be. Many of the women I find prettiest in the Métro bite their nails. Why?
People tell me "Looks don't matter, they're not the person." Nail-biters know that's bollocks.
Sandra I don't know at all, apart from her fansite's CV and her CD.

I could make up fictions. She's a sorry casualty or she's an empty Barbie doll wanna-be who failed. A one-hit wonder. Maybe she had something of the woman who bitched today. Not knowing, I came across half a dozen songs I liked, some I didn't, and thought she could do with an honest write-up and encouragement. Too late. Like the nude studies I get into trouble for posting here, she used her looks and the rest. Packed it her career, apart from a DVD about it.
She didn't get screwed for a living. I won't often show sex outside Indian temples, but I don't find it an ugly or shameful sight. Porn's an industrial spin-off from what some call "the oldest profession". I'm less hasty to draw conclusions about the lifestyles and feelings of any woman whose pictures you get than my most vehement "feminist" critics. I like women's looks. And I think the porn industry is to be subverted by saying "Let's take another look at looks". The industry won't vanish because it offends you, you turn your back and say "That's no part of my world. All those women are being exploited."
Are they? Like fashion models, then, people whose job it is to make you think you don't like your looks unless you wear their stuff? I'm open enough about my holes, wore a shirt today that had a more than frayed collar. It's still a shirt. I don't grow the holes on purpose and I couldn't care about the collar. I care about what's inside it. My real holes and the rest.
Some women show more of their holes than others. I won't give you pictures of bits of men being shoved into those holes because they're boring. Bodies aren't. What some people publicly do with theirs is a subject open to discussion with anybody when they don't throw insults and words like "sexploitation" at me without being sure themselves. I'm happy with my looks and would blog the outside as liberally as I did those various bits of insides during medical exams for "the Condition" a couple of years back, if I thought anyone cared. If asked, I'll find a decent photographer! I wouldn't even make you pay for the privilege... but that's just fun.

I am sure of this. Whatever really happened during Sandra's career, it must sometimes have been like today's moaning Lisa. But the latter has forgotten how to do what she needs for confidence. Sandra probably rarely even got the time, with all those big bulbs flashing, the constant media inattention, the vacuous television shows, the lot, to go to source.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has just been a vacuous idiot. Thanks to BJ, by the way, for taking my mind from Africa to the arch-outburst.
Dr Rowan Williams "launched a wide-ranging attack on the media, accusing journalists of distorting debate, contributing to a climate of national cynicism, and unjustly attacking institutions over their secretiveness. (...)
Dr Williams claimed that some aspects of current journalistic practice are 'lethally damaging', contributing to the 'embarrassingly low level of trust' in the profession" (The Guardian).
This matters, so here it it is: 'The Media: Public Interest and Common Good' (Speeches and Sermons). Don't take my word for it, take his. I think he fell into the very trap he preaches against. He must have known journalists would be up in arms and angry, but few would give the whole lot to the reader.
Dr Williams, that's our job, mate. We have to put you in context.
My context includes a weblog that that sometimes tackles your concerns as an insider.

"To conclude good journalism is one of the models of good conversation and communication in the wider social context. That is, it may be and should be at times argumentative and one-sided; but it must leave room for reply and even provide material for reply. It must work with a sharp sense of what it is that different kinds of community know and how they know it. Without this, it will move constantly further into its parallel universe. And so long as there is real work in a real world to be done by the news media, this movement into a parallel universe would be a disaster."
We live in a multiverse, Dr Williams. I write and shall more about that elsewhere. I don't feel any need for a god. Don't go out of your way to pray for me, I've not told you what I think "god" is. My faith doesn't happen to be the same as yours. But I have faith. I need faith.

Before the archbishop opens his mouth again to be an ass, venting an assault on the media and bloggers with what may seem, superficially, to make sense, Dr Williams might yet do well to rub his poor eyes and take a look at the Anglican Church, his own lack of openness -- and the message he's given an African continent that's part of his flock, about its journalists.
Go, tell journalists that in Bujumbura, be sure you find it first (Bujumbura is not BJ. It's the capital of Burundi, with people in it who told you about a civil war, 1993 -- maybe --2005). Am I being "unjust"? Whose crusade is this?

What lacks most in the "Williamsite" speech is insight into a newsroom.
He begins with a quote from 'Scoop' (Evelyn Waugh's satire on the press) and presents a caricature of his own.
I don't shit on the archbishop. I shit on some things he said because it made him a whining old chap out in the corridor. He forgot himself. Try it, Dr Williams. Go to source!Then start afresh.

Hey! Maybe I should call this place 'taliesin's lethal logorrhea'.
Would you still come?

1:48:38 AM  link   your views? []

jeudi 16 juin 2005

Edited: Aug 2005. Author Michael Day takes flak about style in his novel 'Slide' that remains fair -- as far as it goes and I'd got in the book.
I finished it, held by a plot that kept me turning a few more pages each time.
Whether Mr Day woke up or an editor did, I don't know, but most grounds for my moan disappeared. No write-up, but it's a good story, clearly well-researched, about a horrifying prospect. NB

Hello, Sarah,

"Today, "I did not begin this day with my eyes, but with someone else's. They became black and purple and I almost fluttered off into space.
"Nothing feels right when you are trapped in someone else's vision. It must be your own."
I wonder whose they those may have been. How many other pairs of eyes are out there, other visions, each unique?
People "clock" watchers say it's almost 6.448 billion tonight, just the human population of our planet. My plans were other than an announced "open letter" to you. This isn't it!

My infamously prolific and irreverent mind returned to yours while travelling "home from Africa" tonight. A double British "l" there from someone called Nick, Nicholas when people insist, whose nationality means very little to him any more. Someone asked if ever I write about groups rather than the voices of women (VoWs).
I do, if a VoW is upfront, and got stuck in the Métro by one of the stops a train occasionally makes at Invalides station, where the driver says "Sorry, sardines get off here and wait for the next one, if you can squeeze aboard."
'Dummy' (Portishead) was my private soundtrack, not a journey to lift me out of the world, fluttering off into space.

With "someone else's" eyes, you began, on March 5 -- a damp, chilly Saturday here. My waking day started with silence, letting the last dreams dissipate gently as ever, slowly replaced by whatever five senses were telling me that morning. It's perhaps no strange synchronicity this: I'd previously put some photos on the Net for a New Yorker of 'Parisian Purgatory', nothing special. A presence had felt like an absence, it didn't matter, I wrote:

"She's only a phone call or a quick e-mail away, but for some reason beyond any explanation, I've felt a sense of rightness in doing neither, as with another friend with whom I've avoided contact for a little while. Some relationships need to gestate. If you don't understand a word of this, fine. Neither do I...
Maybe it's the weather."
Grey, just grey, bothers me. Not rain. Not water. Except I suppose one day soon I should get a defunct water heater fixed. I've had many cold showers lately and may have needed them, summer's coming.
But still...

Five weeks later, I told people about 'Sarah, of an evening, revisited.' I forget why I began "Warning! Work in progress..." but said how you gave me "an easy, wordless tuned-in smile with a stranger while discovering a voice (the other person was flying on her on own iPod), dreaming spaces and hand-in-hand trips to the inner places you go to find hope when the news is dominated by the dead. "She's about opening cages, freedom to move on."

There was more, 'Nexus' had me sure (picking up a review quote you keep at your place, Sarah Fimm) "I'd leave out that "fucked up", certainly for this album, just say she's got strong attitudes, honest lyrics and ouch! what a range."
Since then, you've sometimes been a part of my travels.

"Individuality can be subtle, hiding in the cracks of our skin, sleeking about in the folds of our minds, or expelling itself in a loud belly laugh. It is our uniqueness that sculpts our humanity. It is everything to recognize it, receive it, and allow it to nurture itself."
So it is. What you called "individuality" that day I sometimes call "identity", our self-awareness and place among others beyond all count. We are ourselves multiple, you know this. Until last year, as others know, that took me so far the time came to find out for myself what I am. On April 8, without no more help, my brain was still rewiring the networks. Some poor buggers may have thought, "There's no stopping it, Nick's on speed forever!"
That's a story told and I recommend nobody read the last couple of years of the telling, which became totally open while it happened, among a host of jokes and notes of absurdities: that and the rest are now an appalling number of words, more than 1.6 million! A few enjoyed the ride. The French call roller-coasters "Russian mountains".

A probability I foresaw happened after 'Nexus'. Most people would be alarmed and upset, Sarah, to be told: "Sorry, I didn't mean to do this, but I've been into the folds of your mind." Some are. A few, close to me, who don't pretend to understand any more than I do, call me a 'walking I Ching'," but that's all about probabilities and to use the book and say "This is now and this is the future" is nonsense.
Who can really tell fortunes for anybody awake enough to choose how to live their own? People know I'm still prone to "head-trips", no thought-reader either. A few days ago, I said -- with some trepidation -- that with you, it was very different.
'Looking before I leap: treat seraphims with caution'. So I do. Never before has a "head-trip" taken me anywhere near a stranger and one who's a "Quiet Revolutionary". Back at work after a week's rest when the rest of the world and its riot of "news" was switched off completely, back in the routine madness, back with scores of people I must be with instead of just those I long wanted to make more time for, it's still too real for me to say it never happened.
Your latest album spoke of networks. On hearing all I could, after that, I wonder which way round it happened!

Sarah, it's a risk. An "experiment", that's what 'taliesin's log' was subtitled when it began. The current "really, luv?" is simply affection for those I do. If you look, you'll see, on every page, the 'Big L' is something I'm more cautious about than ever! It's done too many wonderful and terrible things through me before and while I say "luv" every day to lots of people, it's no longer to be used as an excuse to beat and drown them until they gasp for air and space and the right to be themselves.

You, not halfway round a world, just a long way, are back from a tour of the States. I hope it was as good as it could be. Only tonight, rather late, did I look notice you keep a log of your own. I've not read the journal and don't want to be gratuitously nasty to anyone else, but must say a new bedtime book, 'Slide,' by Michael Day ... it's giving me a hard time.
Mr Day, a novel about the "world's first environmental war" could stir me, but I'm an editor. I'm trying hard to stick with your story. Please next time remove one word in three, mainly adjectives, even nouns. When I got to:

"They were going after a special type of gold trapped in the huge sedimentary basin lying deep beneath Rockall Bank. Black gold.
Enough oil (...)"
Just enough. Why the "special" and "type of"? Are sedimentary basins generally small and shallow? People who don't know what a sedimentary basin is will have to look it up anyway. A new paragraph for "Oil" did me in.
For those likely to read your book -- well-starred at Amazon UK -- you could have spared your fingers.
Normally, if I don't like something, I won't do an unwanted hard review. Those can be funny, sometimes helpful, but I'd rather read something constructive than waste time on demolition jobs.
Sarah, some reviews, even most of your reviews, bewilder me! Really, luv, I'm not obsessed; maybe I'm crazy or you are, maybe it's both of us. I know I'm "nuts". Many people who listen to your music and the words seem often to miss the point; that's no fault of yours, no lack of clarity.

What you've done convinced me to change a project, 'Sting in the Lotus,' cheerfully trashing dollops of screenplay. I lay no unique claim to understanding what you sing, except feeling we're on similar wavelengths, such as I've never known with a "stranger", woman or man.
My "open letter" is largely done. You need time and light and space and air and freedom, above all freedom to give out more of who you are. Tonight, it feels wise to ask you first. All being well, may I soon publish what I'd like to tell the person I believe I've "met", often looking into a mirror, perhaps as others do, that we're on the same road for a while?

It's no love letter, no fan letter, more a very strong feeling of recognition and that when I read your online journal, this will deepen. It is a risk -- one that gets shorter with each word I write now. I use too many still myself. The film, as is or maybe was, goes places words don't. So, often, does what you do.
"Overthinking," you say, "gets you nowhere."
Hence I call it "fuckinfilosofy," usually to be inflicted on those who ask.

We may never meet. That's fine and beside the point.
I think we already did; part of a pattern, beyond dreams, however "perfect", and I don't want to push you. If I'm right, you seem to break a few "laws" of physics! You know about those. I'd tease you, as I do most people. And I's tell you and others about a big law of physics scientists recently decided may not work any more.
Maybe you already know.
I think we have stuff to share, often with others as well, because it's fun and interesting and it's where we're going. Before I go any further in public, I should ask you, one busy person to another, if that's cool?
Say "No" and I won't. Say "Keep it private -- and short!", I shall. Say, "Shut up, Nick," I shall. Anyone's allowed to do that, especially between friends.
Now your music has made of you a friend, I'll cheat.
Before going on, I'll add one more brief paragraph. In private. It may help you make up your mind, but the choice can only be yours.


(To be continued. Or not. "Pursued" is not the word, that's not on.)

1:58:44 AM  link   your views? []

mardi 14 juin 2005

It's happened again, a miracle of a first album as if from nowhere.
Rachael Yamagata calls it 'Happenstance'. That's no song title. She radiates assurance, not always in her words, in music that can fly you from New Orleans to the deep end of the orchestra pit. One achievement was to catch a listener, fly him to work for what proved to be a hard and stressful day, then lift him out of heavy, muddy boots and blow all that away.
Happily, there's no pinning Rachael down. [Such was my day, I had to borrow two of the heavy cavalry, BJ and "Jessel" -- Stephen answers to that too -- for a story or three to share the load, which is rare, and did not expect any voice to lighten my mind within half an hour of getting out of it. If I'd had the time, I'd have told BJ the basset-horn of a remarkable find.] She has a light touch even when coming on strong and loud, pens all her songs, though some with men, and seems to write most of the music, which is almost conversational, witty with the spontaneity of jazz, while taking you for a walk in country style. Some of it is jazz. What class!
As a composer and keyboard player, mainly the piano, she's done time in school, but which ones?

"If I could could take you away
Pretend I was queen
What would you say?
Would you think I'm unreal
Cause everybody's got their way I should feel?"
From the first words on the album -- "Sure, take me for the ride" (oups, that was my reply;the above her opening notions!) -- and their music, you might expect a string of ballads. Rachael's many surprises come with a range of feeling and musical expression. She can rock, she can slide, she can swing and she can dance, even waltz, you through soft chambers of instruments, where unexpectedly I fleetingly found myself back in the '70s and the court of King Crimson. She has plenty of room for strings and woodwind players. In songs like 'I'll Find a Way' she can risk
"The rain is like an orchestra to me
Little gifts from above meant to say
Girl, you falling at his feet (...)

Why do the street lamps die
When you're a passing by
Like a hand that won't stay on my shoulder tonight?"
and still make you think she's just talking to somebody, she is.

Rachael YamagataSuch slows are beautifully orchestrated. Musicians, particularly on drums and other percussion, vary from track to track, Oliver Krauss gets a mention in the despatch for cello and string arrangements, everybody's good, the credit list is huge, including "friends and family I've gained and lost."
On 'I Want You', with its fleeting reference to a "dream of London" again an odd space came to mind: halfway between that old New Orleans and the cabaret Berlin of the careless, dangerous '30s. For all that, 'Happenstance' remains an album of our times, deliciously crafted.
Americans might place Rachael's sometimes husky, tender, sometimes bright voice and accent, while her name, the album cover and snapshots inside tell of her mixed origins. She is -- I'm almost tempted to say "of course" when coming on new VoWs by now -- gorgeous. The picture on the French CD (here) is a different shot from other releases. The longest track, 'Quiet' is six minutes, all feel longer, there's a lot in them; she's gonna grow on me, that's certain.
In March last year, she released the simply named 'Ep'. At Amazon UK, someone says "you just dissolve away to this". Quite right. 'Happenstance', with a solo hidden song by the way, dissolves you for an hour that lasts at least a day and still you want more. Rachel gets five stars there: straight off, count me in.
Where does she come from? For that, I need to check the Web, having stumbled over Rachael in one of the French music monthlies, now dreading the comparisons; of course, they're there. Norah Jones? Fiona Apple? Take your pick, simply Rachael Yamagata. Chicago, I guessed quite wrong, now we know. At fan site 'The Reason Why...', it emerges she was born in September 1977 of a half-German, half-Italian mother and a "third generation" Japanese dad. That will do me. If you want to explore, I'd start with her music.
From Rachael's last journal entry:

"Have you ever been trapped in a glass box of passing time, screaming out 'thanks yous' to those who blow kisses while trying not to fall (...)
"It's been pretty nonstop for.. god - 2 years now... Malcolm Burn and the most fabulous musicians guided me through my EP. To this day it has one of my favorite recordings, 'Would You Please'. Karl Berger played this gorgeous set of vibes from Paris - his treasure on the side from his talents of orchestral arranging for the likes of Jeff Buckley and so on. We pushed them way back in the mix and they haunt the track. And thank god for Malcolm's gift of capturing moments. He pressed record as I was noodling in the other room to playback from the board on his aged upright piano. The timing was off since I was half a house away, but somehow it worked perfectly.
"From that winter on I traveled to various places opening for Sondre Lerche, Damien Rice, Gomez, and most recently Liz Phair. I ended up in California for a month doing a residency at the Hotel Cafe - a small and intimate room where I could try out new songs and bring up players that were drifting nearby. I've given up any permanent dwelling place and have suitcases with me wherever I seem to land (...)
"They're all about to go in a trailer as we take off for my first tour as the headliner across the states. We've weathered four record mergers and an ever changing roller coaster ride of insanity that is the music business. I've learned many things by trial and error and continue to cross my fingers that I'm courageous enough to always follow my instincts and forever trust my heart.
"We've made a record that I'm proud of. (...) It's a mind fuck - the first record that is ... finding your sound, being open to creative possibilities, shaping, selecting songs, and educating oneself enough to make the choices that will go down on tape. I've done my best and i hope you enjoy it. My favorites are 'Quiet' and the hidden track. The hidden track is for those of you reading this message. Most will never find it. It was one take at 3 in the morning hunched over one mic on the floor of John's living room. I'd written it that day and was doing my best to remember the guitar parts and form last minute words.
"If you want to know where I'm going, what I want to find out of myself - that's it. I found the beginning right at the very end. And when I listen to it now, I realize that it sums up the record for me in the strangest way: 'I understand the cost of craving dark instead of light'.
"Oh - and also - to me, the real title of this record is 'The Never Can Be Happenstance'. I'll spare you the details of why it doesn't say that on the front, but check the inside disc and you'll see it there. There must be a reason for everything. Hope. Protect it" (Rachael Yamagata's place).
'The never can be ... Happenstance'. Yup, she's right; I might have guessed; maybe I did. No wonder I like what she does. I can well believe the music industry is a "roller coaster ride of insanity" and won't venture yet on to unblogged ground, describing this first achievement as a "mind fuck" (neither was Sarah). It may have felt like one to make it, but I'm "proud of" finding her and buying it.
Some may read Rachael and say "Oh, she gushes". For the past couple of days, I've wondered with Lauren, who flies back to Dakar tonight after being dumped in Mali where she went to play soldiers with the US military and nine African armies, why I've been in a generous, outgoing mood.
Be reassured, it won't last.
I liked an image in a story by Lauren, where she told us how a bugler in Mali's army, which can hardly afford to dress and pay its solders, was almost drowned out by the sound of the air conditioning from the very temporary abodes of the American troops.
I was also informed by Jessel that if I headlined what he made in English of the new World Bank president addressing west African cotton farmers with 'Wolf dons sheepier clothing in Burkina Faso', I might get a sackcloth and ashes. So for today, I didn't. I still need the cash ... how else would you get Rachael?
If it's cynicism you want right now, go to the 'BBC's Weblog Watch' on "the Make Poverty History campaign putting the G8 summit in the mainstream", scroll down to the music blogs bit and you'll find plenty.
One music blog quoted there reeks of so much scornful shit by people who seem unable to be, therefore write, I could only stand five minutes of browsing and decide it doesn't deserve a link here, where you may have spotted more music sites slipping quietly on to the list of "places I drop in".

If you think this is becoming one and don't like it, I'm afraid your heart will sink further. People were asking today about portable music players. Emma said the storage space on mine was "ridiculous". When Nancy asked what all those gigabytes actually meant, Emma said: "You could put everything in your computer on it."
Unfortunately you could put several Factory computers on it. What an appalling thought! Preferring dreams to nightmares, I have many discoveries to make. Rachael's already been there for weeks. Sorry, it's like that.
I'd planned, sometime, to say I've finally finished my main bedtime book, Ian MacDonald's 'River of Gods' and say more. I will: it's bloody brilliant!
Both words apply.
If I added he's a man who writes as well as about sex as he does artificial intelligence and India, I know.
You'd start throwing stones.
"Ever been trapped in a glass box of passing time?"

11:09:33 PM  link   your views? []

samedi 11 juin 2005

I do hate software upgrade days, using VersionTracker. There can be lots to check out and usually install, it takes ages, then you have to clean up the Mac afterwards. I don't knock the poor developers, churning out one new, often better version after another. It must be like housework sometimes: you think you're done, but have to start again, getting ever better.

Rare is the musician with the gift a friend, Jean-Paul, voiced over lunch today in the Canteen. "Sometimes," he said, "you just have to say 'Let go' and feel finished, complete, that will do."
I've no VoW for you today. All being well, tomorrow I'll write about a "new" one, far from finished but complete, scarcely known in Europe and too much of the world. It'll be a reintroduction: discovering this songwriter led to one of the strangest "meetings" of my life.
Where might 'broomqueesha' put her among the '5 Main Types of Female Singers' (Amazon US): that's some ambition. I can't be so true to "type", hence fun demolishing, visually or otherwise, the idea of types of women and sticking definitive labels on them or anybody else.
Occasionally, for doing this, I've been accused of playing with fire and worse.

A week ago my exhaustion was so deep I furthered a pyromaniac's reputation -- and a cheerful French misconception -- that caused much amusement at Le Bouquet.
I'd done masses of shopping, the bags were heavy. Between a supermarket stretch of street and remaining shops further up, I stumbled into the corner café downstairs, said "Double crême, please, I'll be back when I'm done, but leave this lot before my arms fall off."
I bought the rest, returned happy to see a saucer keeping a huge cup of coffee warm and said: "What's that smell of burning?"
Nobody answered. I shrugged and was on to a second big cup when my bar neighbour said "He's right, there is one. What is it?"
Everyone noticed before I did.
"British Airways, your bag's on fire."
So it was, oh merde, smouldering, very slowly but surely.
It was mostly the post. I pulled out the bills, made a dismal bid to extinguish envelopes by banging them on the counter and sending sparks everywhere before a mate had the sense to grab the lot and trample them underfoot.
The laughter got louder when Hugues, the barman who always calls me "British Airways", said: "Now we must blame you for Joan of Arc."
"Unfair," I protested, as usual. "We didn't burn her. We perfidious English merely betrayed her. You did the asphyxiation."

I've done much of what I hoped this week, except that stupidity briefly mentioned when writing up the last Voices of Women. When I told my friend of my interference, a furious reaction from somebody whose life I should've left alone cast doubt on my ability to understand other people. My friend said sarcastically maybe it came of the way I think sometimes I get right "into their heads."
That shook me, along with a pressing demand I think and explain my motives. To say more would turn this into a confessional, but it's bad part of a story. After the moments my wrondoing took, I knew it was no favour, more a betrayal. I was grinding an axe and dragged in someone else.
Yes, I had done a "head-trip" and with time on my own hands, I thought my friend might need some more.
You rarely can buy it for people, but it's weird stuff, time. Though I apologised and sought to make amends, I've not asked for forgiveness, since I believe forgiveness, just like love, works through people. You can't ask for either and nobody really knows where they come from.
I can't explain my motives, not entirely. Some of it defies analysis.

Long before this week began, I was thinking about a seraphim. Hers was the weirdest "head-trip" I've ever done, since it's "mind-blowing" and breaks almost all the rules I know.
I've really been thinking what to do: thought's a conscious process, however fleeting and fantastically fast. Anyone who's sceptical -- unlike the Shaman-Shrinkess who finished helping me last year -- about my odd "travels" may do better to stop reading, because I'm likely set to suspend disbelief and had to do it with my own.
For others -- those who know getting into people's heads just happens to me and always has, but I repressed the faculty until told I'm stuck with it, so better put it to good use -- I'd do well to say what does usually happen.
It isn't telepathy, no paranormal transfer of thoughts.
I've written how a clinical psychologist who's dealt with people like me says it's empathy, feeling with others and not just for them, but pushed beyond bounds. It occurs in extreme situations: post-trauma or conflict, states of shock, and, in my case, often such weariness lots of the "me" circuits in my brain switch off.
Empty-headed, I can go somewhere else and feel I am somebody else. I don't do it on purpose, it never lasts long but the insights linger, as some dreams do when you wake up and they bring their dimension to the day.

Until a few weeks back, I'd never done this with a stranger.
At work, it can be useful to be "in the head" of a journalist in a difficult position and on the phone: that's probably part of it, I don't waste time with questions if I "know" the needs straight away. People's ideas, desires, needs are a part ot it, but usually nebulous, like clouds I see and feel around me, they don't always make a lot of sense. I can't "read" them, often I get the general drift.
Feelings, however, are different. Those I know and understand, without choice, because I feel them too; often enough, it's doing that almost every day I find tiring. I'm no psychotherapist and lack the training and ability to switch off between sessions. Instead, I take a break.
It's interesting how our emotions colour our thoughts and play a key role in memory. Perhaps I "feel" ideas because of the "colours". Apologies about that betrayal were in part for how my action could have coloured a friend's thinking about a dilemma and interfered with the judgement of anybody concerned. I have no right to do this.
So I must be prudent when it comes to that seraphim, a "quiet revolutionary" if ever I've encountered one. Perhaps a little less careful, though, because what do you do when you "meet" a stranger who seems to have the same ability? It didn't take me long to end up with the even more inexplicable feeling she's perhaps paid a trip to my own head! She may simply not know it ... yet.

The seraphim's no angel, that's for sure, but as soon we'll see, she's good at letting go and being "complete". You wouldn't believe that to read some reviews, but I think such critics bring their own axes into it; at least I know my judgement is multi-coloured.
An e-mail seemed the sensible thing. A quick hello from me to her, in private. Further reflection, another look in a mirror, said: "Go further, take a risk. If you're wrong, it won't do any harm, she doesn't mind publicity. But if you're right, it's a test of your notions of just what the Quiet Revolution is and of how some of those who are aware of it work."

Open Buren boxI got a good omen while shopping again. I was listening to her voice at the time, enjoying it -- and making another "reality check". Perhaps you remember Pauli the painter in his 70s. I met him in March, put a rude title on the log entry and showed you a picture he gave me almost at first sight. Those whose browsers show the titles given the illustrations here may have spotted that one: "Inside out, upside down and just fine."
As I crossed the road, the seraphim was 'Wrong Side Up' ... you can't say you're short of clues. And there was Pauli, first time I'd seen the fellow since that day. Buying figs. It was all a bit much, even her album's called 'A Perfect Dream', one I'd found by then. Of course, I went to tap him on the arm and in the next few moments, we'd agreed to meet for lunch on Friday.

Yves Simonpauli, it turned out, doesn't eat lunch. I usually stuff myself, but this week I've found little appetite, today I watched the others do big main courses while I shoved down two desserts in a row. So Yves took me instead to sit on a terrace in the sun, hot chocolate for him, the usual mega-caffeine dose for me. Being the QR Pauli is, he launched into his art as an act of making love, then a recent chat with Daniel Buren, who built a 'Time Box' (stolen here from 'Art Minimal and Conceptual Only' [MindWebArt]) in 1975, to remain unopened for years.
Buren, a story in his own right -- if you explore those links and look for others, you'll find boxes within boxes and a huge exhibition in Paris in 2002, "Le Musee qui n'existait pas" ("The Museum that Never Existed") -- is famous, or infamous, for his "columns" at the city's Palais Royal. What he, Pauli and others fancy cooking up is quietly revolutionary even for a capital of contradictions: to fill a former factory site with ... nothing. They'd like to build a virtual museum, the technology being such that visitors to the place can conjure up the art they want.
"I'm into paradoxes," I told Pauli. "I love 'em. You make me laugh by telling me about the architectural plans you need for a place that won't 'exist'."
"There's a condition," said Pauli. "All the artists have to be alive."
I wondered how they'd know if somebody died while their art was still there. What would happen to it? I kept that to myself and decided to tell Pauli a bit about the Quiet Revolution and other people I know in it. It took little talking, the way it does when people are on the same frequency.
We could still have gone for hours but didn't and, as the man put it, "have all the time in the world." He wasn't surprised when I even told him about the seraphim or the wretched "head trips", had some remarkable stories of his own and some neat ideas on sharing and exchange.
I'm in trouble though. I began this week, on "African time", with plans for the screenplay, 'Sting in the Lotus'. And I've got on with it, hard work. Now the week's almost over, I can't help feeling it's "wrong side up", real people, odd moves. Maybe that's how it should be, I don't want to analyse all this, it has to flow, keep flowing, but sometimes it's overwhelming, I fear I might have bitten more than I can chew.
The film's like software development, housework: you think you're done, but have to start again, getting ever better. It's a good job the Kid's agreed, without even a bribe, to help me with the housework soon, the bigger jobs that need doing. Meanwhile I keep finding QRs, some are shining stars, a few remain interested in the Lotus Project.

It's time to talk networks. For this, for reasons she already knows and anybody who's still here wishes to find out, I can think of nobody better to begin with than a stranger who just for today, remains the seraphim.
After such a mental cleanout, I shouldn't neglect the Squip: where's Cindy at?
Hmm. Well, I haven't got a pretty dress. And given of my lack of success so far in getting my RSS title links to work properly again, with just a couple of ideas left, I don't think I can blush with pride, let alone say: "I actually *LOVED* being called a nerd. Go figure."
I can't. It's reassuring, however, to find she brings that up after "one of those weird, freakish things that tend to occur in my life" (Dusting My Brain). Squip, I know how that feels too.
I just don't want to start a fire.
(To be continued...)

11:57:26 PM  link   your views? []

vendredi 10 juin 2005

Natural behaviour: no songbirds these

The pigeons got unusually flustered over breakfast. About a dozen swept down from the rooftops around to scoff their bread on the bathroom windowsill, but then flapped off every few moments.
They used to fight over food and take flight from me, but I'm just a bit of their lives now, they stopped fussing.
"What's got into you lot?" I asked. "It's not me. Kytie's under the table, she couldn't care less about you."
It is worth talking to pigeons, because when I told them to stop crapping in certain places and annoying my neighbours they did. They obey the rules banning their rows and coming inside.
Then I got a quick glimpse of a big black creature, looked out, but it was gone. The pigeons had a special breakfast from the 'Best Baguette in Paris Award 2004' bakery downstairs. They agreed with the judges about that and were all dropping down four flights of stairs to fetch the crumbs they'd knocked off the sill on to a low roof where normally the sparrows get them.
"That's it," I thought, "it's the baguette. Greedy buggers!"
It wasn't.
Johnny MorrisThe ugly black Stuka with a wicked set of claws suddenly fell noisily down on the sill, had a long spat with the pigeons and flapped off outnumbered making a couple of loud caws.
Johnny Morris used to do croaks and the like on the Beeb's 'Animal Magic' when I was a schoolboy in shorts I hated. Were he still alive, I reckon his helpful voice-over would have been: "All right, scum. But I'll be back!"
So pigeons are that scared of crows?
All I knew of nature as a child came from long country walks with informed relatives, cutting up frogs in class and Johnny Morris (1916-1999). He was addictive. This is a good picture of the man I remember, in black and white, stolen from a 'screenonline' obit and tribute at the British Film Institute.
"In his inimitable, relaxed, avuncular style, Morris presented the series for over twenty years [1962-83], communicating his fascination for animals and investing them, through the humorous filmed inserts featuring his voice-over mimicry, with human emotions and characteristics" (John Oliver).
He told wonderful stories and did everything people find objectionable when they insist "you're not allowed to anthropomorphise" -- that big word for giving human qualities and voices to pigeons, steam locomotives and god.

Client for sex and the 'City'

I don't know about the pigeons, but I've scarcely set foot in the country for months, maybe years. I should but I like city life ... as long as I can stay on "African time" in the middle of it.
CityI've not succeeded this week as well as I'd hoped, but the VoW singers make up for that when they whirl me away. Dancing in the street is dangerous in Paris and it's a while since I've risked a dance floor. Some women prefer me at their feet, but none stomping on their toes. Client comes to the rescue with a trip to their 'City'.

"Life is cruel and then you die, can't be bothered to try to survive..."
You wouldn't think that's anything to dance about, but a lot of people do because the first track, 'Radio,' begins the way a wry, clever electro-pop album plans to go on and it's contagious. The air-raid siren that opens and closes another one would do nicely for my mobile, with a bit of something else, "revenge" on somebody who got the same model, likes the same "old phone" tone and gets me thinking hers is mine.

The lyrics are straight and usually raw, but the effect very uplifting. If you'd care to meet the girls, Sarah Blackwood (the songwriter, Client B) and Kate Holmes (Client A), start with Mike McGee at 'Rockpile ("Secret Agents Go All City")':

"Sick of the prefabricated, bubblegum packaging of mainstream pop stars, the pair agreed not to fan the fires of such shallow publicity machines. Stripping themselves of their names (adopting Client A and Client B as functional, no-frills signifiers), Blackwood and Holmes donned rigid, uniform garb and relegated their photos to meager, headless shots of swaths of female bodies—a foursome of crossed legs in one promo photo, a pair of starch-shirted shoulders in another.
'We didn’t want to be regarded for what we did in the past, or for if we were men or women, or our names,' explains Blackwood, or, if we’re to play along, Client B. 'We wanted to be judged solely on our music. It was a reaction to all the airbrushed, manufactured bands that all wear the same clothes, showing as much flesh as possible.' Of course, inadvertently, the aesthetic remained fit, attentive to form, in control and, by definition, sexy on its own terms."
Inadvertently? He jests, surely. My thing about uniforms can be Paris Métro ones plus contents. If very lucky, when I head "down, down, 'Down to the Underground' (that's another neat, tight Client number), I find myself on the same train as one of the killer chicks the RATP is good at hiring for some of its ticket offices. She's something else. We kinda know each other now. One day I hung around to marvel at her comic transformation out of black leather, badges, safety pins -- a style success from shock-haired mainly blonde head to hard shoes -- into uniform, just as sexy.
Client"Androgynous," Mr McGee suggests. I like that word, can hear and see what he means but there's nothing androgynous about secondary effects these two may have on someone like me.
Client are out to rouse people up but sound good laid back with eyes closed too. One song's simply about being 'In It For the Money' then comes some 'Pornography' that isn't, but they slice down to the bone with 'The Chill of October,' a busted love song.
Derek Martin is good on 'City' at 'Pitchfork'. He and McGee tell you about the fine male contributions on some songs. It may be best to take Client B solely at her word and how she sings with Client A, but Sarah, on the right, reminds me a lot of the M-girl minus the spikes. wonder if an outfit as regulated as the RATP has a rule banning bras for staff like her or it's one of her own, but that's all part of her style and her nipples probably turn into champagne corks for whoever she fancies, "functional, no-frills signifiers" at the least.

A fine Mann about town

We do stupid things. I've done one that did my week off no good and less still to the person concerned. It's not quite like this, though I feel bad about it: 'The Chill of October,' one of Client's surprises, with a unexpected gush of string orchestration and words about how things end between people is a fine candidate for one of the iMixes I'm working on sometimes. An iMix, if you don't know, is to the iTMS what others do at Amazon when they compile music collections that can take others on to new ground, sharing favourites.
Aimee MannAimee Mann, while quite a different kind of musician whose words are far more polished, is another candidate for songs about raw personal experience, the kind I'd like to listen to myself when love is tough and hurts, and there's often no better remedy than somebody who sings "Don't wallow it, but this is how it is, you're not alone."
I'm doing some odd iMixes and seemed almost alone in being convinced Aimee will be in Paris next month. The day I spotted the ad, a couple of tickets were the "must have" of the hour. Several sales agents firmly assured me Ms Mann won't be in town on July 8, but plans to take on the vast Stade de France at the end of summer.
Maybe she does, but that's way too big for me and soon I started thinking I need the picture to tell people this is definitely Aimee Mann and she'll be at La Cigale (Fr) when I say she is. Cosy. After several calls and sweeping the Net, I found somebody agreed with me, and became quite certain when the tickets fell into my letterbox a few days ago, remaking my week. I didn't know my friend Ellie was a music writer until she told me she loves Aimee too,

"saw her in concert in 1989. I still have one of her cassettes. Great sharp, broken-edged love ballads, no?"
Yes. Exactly that, lots more. I grabbed 'The Forgotten Arm' the day it was released for the same reason as Thom Allott at Amazon in his write-up:
"Even without hearing a note, it’s a certainty that at some level the album will be excellent."
It is. Aimee Mann's latest adventure is an unusual and successful one in times when many musicians don't do "concept albums" any more, including a dose of "broken-edged love". For a review of my own, I think I'll wait to see and hear her live, along with Plan C or A.
Plan A goes up on notice boards:
"Found: Aimee Mann. Lost: You.
You like Aimee.
Like Aimee you improve with age.
With age comes experience.
I like experiences, your sense of humour, dreams, spontaneity, holes and stunning looks.
Stunning looks are in the eye of the beholder, but beware: I tend to talk the legs off the donkeys.
The donkeys and small talk are not required around Aimee Mann.
Me, a man, may be your ticket.
Your ticket comes without strings."
It's not one of my best versions, but there are many VoWs to go to see and sometimes I'm a very attentive listener. Knowing me, however, I'm likely to forget the contact details.
If I do it will have to be Plan B.

9:27:43 PM  link   your views? []

lundi 6 juin 2005

Most people I like are good at self-deprecation and hate taking themselves seriously. It eases my own stage-fright to log the more intimate stuff people occasionally still want in counting you at 7 1/4 on a good day.
The real figures are flattering, but I know some of you prefer to keep up on the adventures of others with RSS-XML, if possible.
Fewer people each year ask me what RSS is -- here's the BBC's fine explanation again -- they now take it for granted as an invaluable development on the Net.

Testerday's 'test' is there because my own RSS feed is slightly screwed up: you still get me along with other bloggers who use feeds and all the news in Really Simple Syndication newsreaders. But if you click further to open an entry in a web browser, as many do, the title links are bust.
Sorry. I'll "mend" them later this week, don't fancy doing this by hand for more than 700 entries, or even just the ones that talk sense.
Most of my links work fine, I dunno just when the title ones broke, but suspect it's a combination of changes I've made, including getting new Macs and shifting stuff, and changes by one of my site's hosts. The Radio UserLand discussion forum is great ... as big haystacks go!

It's a bugger, not helped by some people's ability to skirt the issue when they have a problem.
I'm as far as having seen where my difficulty lies, I've bookmarked what I need to sort it out. This will take time. Not now.
However, life with search engines would be so much easier -- I've known this ever since being a Mac newbie -- if only people who run into problems specified just what's wrong in their requests for assistance, but just as in life, they don't!
They bury info you need to help, instead of coming straight out with it, up top. With people, that's OK, if time-consuming, but for something as stupid as your average search engine, looking for key terms, the problem has to be prominent and clearly stated.
I can't even make a short technical point without a quick generalisation about the human condition!

I'm glad to see word of the Firefox browser and its RSS capabilities making headway in the Windows world. It's getting close to my number one Mac browser even, but bugs me over a few details so I still prefer others I've raved about sometimes. For Mac-heads who care and have taken up the Tiger operating system, again a couple of MacDev Center articles to check out:

"For some (guess who), Safari RSS is the answer to all of humanity's problems, from poverty and hunger to the overly frequent appearance of pop-up windows on screens. To others, Safari RSS is the weirdest and most useless combination of technologies ever thought of in the computing world."
Of good, clear tech writers in the O'Reilly gang, François de Kermadec gets a mention here so often he must be one of my big three favourites for humour as well as skill and clarity -- though I can't guess who sees Safari RSS as a way of dealing with Africa's humanitarian problems. Does Bob Geldof use it or something (he "today unveiled plans for a re-enactment of the second world war mass sailing across the English channel to Dunkirk in support of his anti-poverty goals" (Guardian)?
De Kermadec's limited his own ambitions to 'Everything You Wanted to Know About Safari RSS': part one (MacDev, May 31) and part two (MacDev, June 3). Enjoy, if required. You can read me, if you want, on Safari RSS once I've dealt with the mess.
Of possible interest to other Radio bloggers: Userland's own software interface is a good one, with tremendous potential built into it, but last night's browsing for answers taught me that many Mac bloggers, like me, prefer to avoid it as such, and use the blog editor (MarsEdit) and newsreader (NetNewsWire) from Ranchero.
If Ranchero's software has had an unsolicited ad on my pages since forever, it's for one reason only: it doesn't come any better and has seen nothing but one improvement after another.

7:39:04 PM  link   your views? []

vendredi 3 juin 2005

"Me, mess, floor. Sorry."
"No hassle." He was on the 'phone, hence our first words.
"I'm Nick," I said, having taken in instant to a friendly, intelligent, straight gaze, slight tan and Med accent, "and you're the musician."
"Good. Now we can make a racket again. Welcome aboard."
He smiled. "Ciao."

Marco timed his arrival very well.
Tonight, I'd just planned to say everyone's entitled to their likes and dislikes, but please stop slagging off poor Tori Amos.
I've read so many comments saying somebody or other reminds them of Tori, but "better" and less "angsty, messed-up, overblown ... whatever" I could almost think somebody's been handing out cash for a coordinated anti-Tori campaign.
I'm running some tests on a repaired iPod that's going to Africa very shortly.
Tori AmosWith it goes everything done by a knock-out VoW up for mention very soon ... and also, off the iTMS, 'Strange Little Girls' (2001), the album where Tori takes 12 songs by men and "covers" them her way (the iTMS omits 'Happiness is a Warm Gun').
Going by some reviews, Tori can't even get that right. Fans said, "Shit, it's not an original album", others said: "Shit, she's gone and changed the music, stripped it bare." Me, I love what she did ... and nobody can blame her for the lyrics.

The most interesting comments I read were by 'Lord Chimp' at Amazon US:

"I'm not sure I'll ever completely grasp Tori Amos' vision for this album. Strange Little Girls is an record of cover songs, and as I understand it, Amos wanted to give a female perspective to how men see women in music. Either the gender politics are beyond me, or she didn't do it quite right (I'll wager it's the former). She definitely hits the bull's-eye a few times though. The song that best accomplishes her goal is her harrowing rendition of ''97 Bonnie & Clyde,' Eminem's vicious song about a man who kills his wife and throws her in the sea to get rid of the body. Amos's naked delivery of the song, hushed, spoken vocals over a spooky strings sample, is downright frightening. I think that fact that it makes me uncomfortable to listen to it is a testament to her success" (and plenty more).
I like having an idea of an artist's own "vision for an album"; I don't know what Tori quite wanted either, but that ''97 Bonnie & Clyde' is so creepy I can listen to it over and over, enjoying the "ooh, that's evil" shivers.
Maybe she's just out sometimes to twist and succeeds admirably. Maybe the album's a kind of "actresses' performance", the way people sometimes say "that's a film-maker's film", a public private thing. It doesn't matter: it's a real professional's work, brilliantly done.
Even 'Lord Chimp' winds up comments I agree with -- though he frets he he might have missed gender politics he can't understand when I'm not sure there are any deep statements to understand -- by saying he's "eager for another release of original material."

It must be hell to be so talented.
If you don't always deliver, people moan, if you do, it's "more, more!" In Britain, Amazon sold the album sending people one of the four possible snapshots. That says it all. The New Yorker article about recording and music I mentioned last time was swiftly introduced at Arts & Letters Daily with the words: "Freedom from complete disaster was the standard for a good concert a century ago. Thanks to sound recording, perfection is now the standard. Is music better off?"
Good question.
Like or loathe an album, it's a snapshot. Maybe much more polished, technically sophisticated than a concert performance. This is obvious -- people have written dozens of books -- but to judge anyone on the strength of one part of their lives is a disaster, the same goes for records and artists.
Our reviews, amateur or "pro", are also snapshots of us at any moment.

Marco, the agency warned me with trepidation, would be a musician neighbour, thus noisy. He doesn't do it for a living, he told me. Maybe I should warn him and his girlfriend the wall really is thin, but that doesn't bother me. I've heard the strangest noises from next door with successive people, they're just people doing people things and no reason to get red-faced.
Neighbours get their share of my various rackets, whether made on my own or not.. All I care about is being free to make them again without thumps and bangs of complaint even during normal hours. I'm just saying that in a world where there's so much interest in objects, fixtures and things, it can be easy to forget that like music, people are a flux, a flow, movement, action, change.
Even Tori Amos.
Any attempt to seize them, fix them, can only be a snapshot, nothing else, however insightful. Snapshots are no basis for making judgements, yet we so often do. When we do, we might as well be dead. Gosh, what a shame!

12:11:46 AM  link   your views? []

fountains and fortunes
voices of women
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the orchard:
a blog behind the log
(popping those green pills sometimes gives me strange fruit)

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