the siren islands
personal faves (to rant or to read)
open minds and gates
margins of my mind
friends for good
(bi)monthly brain food (frogtalk)
music & .mp3 blogs
finding the words
(pop-ups occasionally are pests)
nick b. 2007
do share, don't steal, please credit
dimanche 31 juillet 2005
...and me as well, but it's over.
Now a rest is appropriate, you may like to hear what happened once a lifetime's practice at playing with fire and doing so once too often is leading to a radical change in outlook on life.
I don't know if the bang was inevitable but the log needs to adapt. Indeed this has begun. Some people may have noticed, nobody asked for it. Anyway, there's no rush.
Women are taking turns to lighten an arduous, enjoyable task. More than half a dozen did so on Day Four. The flat's been filthier for ages than usually I cared to notice, knowing when the break came the job would be a long one, but now it's in hand, it's trashing time again.
A fifth day may end the kind of moments you seem to have even more mess than progress as piles of moved clutter get bigger, if you live somewhere small and are no good at getting rid of things until you're sure there's no more use for them.
Most bands and singers keeping me company are ones I'm getting to know better or discovering for the first time. 'Scissor Sisters' helped me deal cautiously with a food can long forgotten at the back of a high cupboard. The tin was leaking ... you don't want to know.
Someone kept an eye on me. While painting her windowsill she liked the music so I coloured her Pink with 'Try This'. Maybe trying an album that's sometimes bitterly raw but extremely raunchy was risky.
We've had rain, the day wasn't hot, a flat nearby has often been rented by attractive loners. The jobs the most recent and me were doing meant much sweat and few clothes. The distraction was nice, but this is Shivaree -- who cooled me down. It's Ambrosia Parsley, to be accurate, in a photo by Melanie Nissen. What a fine trio her band has become!
On hearing 'Who's Got Trouble?', which came out last April, I wanted more and helped myself, then agreed while out shopping and drinking coffee with Ambrosia's sentiment that 'I Should Give You a Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in this Dump'. There are personal dumps and shared worlds. This one seems worse in some ways than in 2000.
The last task of the day took nearly as long as a third dose of trouble. Here we are:
"Now, five years and over half a million album sales after the I Oughtta release, Parsley and Shivaree return with a question first sung in a fantasy nightclub, circa 1942: Who’s Got Trouble? (Zoe). Michael Curtiz’s timeless Casablanca is the inspiration for the album’s title and lead track, and the answer, sadly, is all too familiar. (Studies show that while it may accurately describe their politics, registered Republicans typically shun movies in black & white.) The track’s evil siren has an appetite for lust and a lust for world destruction; recognizing a willing patsy on Pennsylvania Avenue, she preys. Little surprise then that the next 40 minutes are raked by excess, deceit, escape and wrenching loss."
That's straight from the Shivaree web site.
Nobody needs my own political comments, but the new album's among the saddest and drily funniest I've heard this year.
'Trouble' is no dull political bash anyway; it alludes to some people in power on occasion. More importantly, Parsley, Duke McVinnie and Danny McGough are far-sighted, put the album in a context and can do pretty much anything as musicians. Leaders come and go. This kind of work lasts.
'Trouble' gets dark sometimes, sure. Here's an extract:
"I will go quietly
There's no screaming in or before this last song.
I'll leave my speech
Hold down the mystery
With a throat full of bleach
And I won't go talking now
Not even a sigh
I'll sleep on a broken bough
With a nail in my eye
And I won't hear a beat again
I will go quietly
But I'll stay screaming inside your sleep
I'll stamp out the moon and I'll shear all of your sheep"
'Trouble' is a gentle record. It's a strong one and Ambrosia Parsley has a beautiful voice. This isn't a review, just a suggestion that if it's new to you, you might enjoy this courageous album -- like tomorrow, while there is one.
I've rarely been more optimistic, but that's probably a story for next month.
3:40:58 AM link
dimanche 17 juillet 2005
Edited to correct a source reference in September, thanks to a clarification by Andy A., Sarah's publicist.
Sarah Fimm sat with her band, manager, crew and friends in the shade at a quayside restaurant table full of drinks and food, mostly meatballs and pasta. Deckchairs dotted the paving close to the gangway down to Le Batofar, the converted lightship where her evening concert was to come below decks.
In the hot still air, the moored boat scarcely moved on the sluggish brown flow of the Seine, sunbathers idly listened to music practice on the upper deck, but the performance area was a dimly lit space with no seats, a stage at one end and a bar at the other.
She must be a lioness.
Now we've met, it's easy to see Sarah sitting in her New York apartment with a couple of cats on her lap, like cubs, poring over a song. 'Lioness' was the name Sarah gave a song on her first album 'Cocooned', released in 2000, and I can't think what else she is when I believe in those natural totems many cultures believe each of us.
Her auburn mane almost brushed the keyboard when she came on stage with Pete Geraghty, her bass player, and drummer Jim Perry. With a greeting, little ceremony and total focus, they launched into 'Story of Us', one of my favourite songs on Sarah's latest and third album, 'Nexus'.
For now, the only places I know where you can buy all three of her records outside the United States are via Amazon US (that's a list link), Sarah Fimm's own site (thus CD Baby) and the iTMS.
Until that changes, if you're in the right parts of Europe and would like to see and hear one of the finest musical talents to emerge since the turn of the millennium, there are still plenty of opportunities. From Paris, Sarah goes on to Ireland and the UK, then back to the continent.
People who have read my strange tale of a first "meeting" with this 24-year-old poet, singer and pianist will appreciate that on greeting her in flesh and blood just a few weeks later and scarcely crediting my luck, the only place for this particular VoW has to be in the orchard.
This, after all, is where I keep the magic.
Sarah's very special. She gave a great show, but I doubt she'll mind my saying it can't have been one of her best since she was tired and I was glad to see the band gets a night's break before Dublin.
It probably wasn't very clever to introduce myself as "that lunatic" who has swapped mail with her because Sarah asked "Are you really a lunatic?" and I said: "Well, if I am I guess that makes two of us!"
Fortunately I finally found some chocolate afterwards and Sarah stared fascinated as heaven knows what else came out of my long-suffering shoulder-bag to let me get at it.
That's the least you can do for somebody when you're convinced you really did jump space and time to visit their mind, especially when you know a bit about their cravings.
Enough of the weird stuff, though. I'll never find the words for what happened after I stumbled on 'Nexus' at the iTMS and it gradually sunk in. Gail Worley's bio of Sarah, published by Andy Adelewitz, who works for a New York booking agency, says:
"Nexus is a riveting collection of 15 indispensable musical journeys that explore various themes of connection. 'The Nexus idea is all about the journey, the connections you encounter while on the journey, and everything that goes on in between,' Sarah explains. 'I was reading Mark Buchanan's book Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks*. And I got into the whole "six-degrees" theory**. I think that if people could see how they're connected to everything, then they wouldn't have to feel so alone, and maybe we wouldn't have all these other problems. I need to keep my message optimistic,' she emphasizes" ('Little Big Man').
Sarah's into science, big time, like me. It's true that several modern theories helped me have an inkling of understanding how our minds connected, but I've stopped speculating since I logged a little about these experiences elsewhere.
Any ideas have given way to something deeper, a direct awareness of a reality our five senses simply can't handle. And yet somehow we know. Some believe me, others have called it "baloney" and a few say: "You've got religion!" I wouldn't go that far and have said I'd rather simply enjoy the music at work in us once we know it's there.
I've got lots of optimism and a renewed faith in human nature, despite the wicked ways some people have. This is partly Sarah's become the latest of the people I consider extra-special, the kind who turn up just when you need them most in your life.
At first, as I explored her 'Nexus' and then the two previous studio albums she's made, it was occasionally scary to become so close to a woman born a quarter of a century after me, in Connecticut, who seemed to know me inside out, just as I found it easy to understand her every word.
So if you want more distanced writing about her music, check out what other people have said. You'll find they have a hard time classifying her, because each album has explored new ground.
She's been called a rock singer, a spacy keyboards player, electronica, punk even, new age, and a mystic.
Reading all the reviewers keen to tell me who Sarah sounds like brought about the moment when I decided to go back to the ways I used to write about music for a living, long before my Africa days. For a while, I collected those endless comparisons planning to publish a few and show how absurd they are, but what's the point?
Asked herself about the musicians who've influenced her, she includes Leonard Cohen and Bach.
Christa L. Titus described Sarah's 'A Perfect Dream' as:
"a diamond buried deep in the indie underground: a brilliant and durable gem worth mining that no doubt will increase in value. Likewise, Fimm's new 'Nexus' is another rare jewel. Whereas the songs from 'Dream' were very separate entities, the 15 cuts winding through 'Nexus' transition into each other almost seamlessly, creating a chilled-out dimension, one that is vast and colored with celestial imagery" ('Billboard').
Far from "chilled-out", that "dimension" is one I've called the multi-verse in acknowledgement of how little we really know. In a place, where music, mind, energy and matter seem to interact and we get stuck for words, Sarah's found wisdom, just as many have before her.
She's an idealist and unashamed of her dreams. This has been immensely encouraging to me, finding such empathy with somebody who gives voice and reassurance to many of my own. I don't doubt she does the same for others: people are the most important thing in her life.
For 'A Perfect Dream' and 'Cocooned' especially, Sarah's written some tough, even biting songs about a very real world. One of her greatest gifts is to look behind the veils of illusion and go sometimes so deep into pain we've all experienced that she can lift us out of it.
I'm not for an instant saying she's the finest poet-singer around. On the contrary, the more VoWs I hear, the greater my admiration for many of them, but I have an affinity with Sarah that makes any notion of "better" or "worse" more absurd than ever since she reminds me to respect differences and value the unique qualities of other people.
Peter Murphy, who she's touring with right now, I never heard last night in the end, though I enjoy what he does. Some other time.
Sarah's studio albums are very accomplished, without overdoing the technical wizardry in production, but it was good to hear a selection of songs mainly from the new one performed "raw" and straight, with a couple of fine breaks for the solos special to live concerts.
No fireworks, just right, I found I'd listened to enough music.
Most people there had come for Peter and his reputation, so I soon gave up a comfortable corner for the centre of the floor, well away from the talkers. In the middle, people were really listening, enthralled.
That wasn't all. Next time I go to Le Batofar -- I will because it's a relaxed, friendly place with an interesting and varied programme -- I'll know the prettiest women don't stand around the walls!
Once Sarah had finished with a very low bow and a graceful namaste, she and the fellers were out of there. As she said later, it was hot on stage. I hung around long enough to overhear what people had made of her, already pretty clear from the applause, then went out for a proper chat.
I talked more to Pete than the others, because he's a nice guy and gave me the guff on how he and Sarah and Jim got together as students at Boston's Berklee College of Music, which is a good place for people ready to open their musical minds wide.
I found somewhere that Sarah did a "world music" course, which is no surprise. A word about Aimee Mann's concert last weekend got Pete, who's also got several skills, telling me a story about doing her lighting once, when she pulled the same stunt I saw and got some poor sod of a friend on stage when he wasn't expecting it.
Pete told me many bass players don't like being in bands and prefer gigs, but he wasn't one of them and prefers "bonding". The three have been together from the start, though Sarah initially had a bigger band, and has herself explained they really started working as a team on the second album..
Rather than bother her with it, I asked Pete where he thought her songs come from, since I'd been amused by some references to this in her journal of the "I feel a song coming on" sort. We all know such feelings, but they usually mean hard work ahead.
"She has a whole album in her head before it happens," Pete said, but the individual songs are spontaneous.
"This tour seemed very last minute," I suggested.
"It was," Pete agreed. Murphy had said he'd like them to come to Europe during the US tour, but when he made good on it soon before leaving for Sarah's band to get their act together was "quite a hassle". Yet here they were.
Before the last tour, Siren Song Magazine wanted to know if Sarah ever found the uphill struggle too much?
"Nope," she said. "But there have been times when I have contemplated taking off my clothes and running through Times Square screaming, 'Please buy our fucking music so we can go on tour and I will show you my tits!' Needless to say, I realized just in time that that wasn't such a good idea."
Maybe, maybe not, but she had a pretty blouse and long skirt on when I slid round to sit next to her: "Don't worry, love, I don't want to interview you."
"Did you enjoy it?"
"I loved it," I said. "It was brilliant, I love all your stuff."
We relaxed into a chat and I completely forgot to give her a kiss!
Sarah proved to be one of those women who listens a lot more than they talk, so I hope she liked what I told her, which was complimentary and I meant every word of it.
She did talk about some of the things she's learned and seemed pleased when I said 'Be Like Water' -- it sent shivers down my spine earlier when they played the opening track on 'A Perfect Dream' -- had become a "mantra for me".
She said that was one of the most important things she'd ever learned.
The rest was just a sharing of ideas. I won't log it any more more than I would chats with any other friend. Sarah explained that anything she thinks important goes into her online journal anyway.
It does. I congratulated her on keeping it tight, less long-winded than mine. To be honest, though I said how she'd shown me that wisdom has nothing to do with age, Sarah listened so intently to what I told her she's probably still taking some of it in -- as I am -- because she does have a melancholy side, that was evident, and in formal interviews she's said things about tough times I didn't want to ask.
One of the most remarkable things about 'Cocooned' -- if age does come into it -- is that Sarah wrote the songs on that debut album between the ages of 14 and 17! So she tells Gail Worley, who interviewed her early this year with the kind of sensitivity only too few music critics can manage. That's at 'WomanRock' ... and also at Ink 19.
'Cocooned' is such a good album many young singers would aspire to that kind of quality of music, lyrics and sheer honesty much later in their careers than out of their teens.
Pete told me about 'Sexual Animals' done on stage. It's scarcely The Peaches, but it sure is sex ... and I find it very sexy because listening to a woman asking a man to do a particular something for her like Sarah does turns me on. The orgasm, he said, was sometimes replaced by music. Sometimes...
Two other songs, particularly 'Red Paper Bag', will go into the "tough love" iMix I'll soon be publishing, along with a few others, on the iTMS, because when you feel fucked up in a love affair, singers who can really share that with you are much more help than friends who tell you "You'll get over it."
What Sarah says about these things on that album and others is no invitation to wallow in your woes, but it's reassuring to know that it's okay to hurt and you're not alone.
I wonder how much Sarah believed me when I got the chance to say that for all that darkness people hear in the places she goes in some of her songs, she's very far from "fucked up" herself, despite the review snippet sitting on her site and I hear a great sense of humour. She said "Thank you" and I hope she did believe me, because there's too much of the "dark angel" writing about her around.
I'm reminded of Dorothy Parker again: "It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes."
It's one thing to face up to and know your darkness, but quite another to take that part of you and turn it into beauty. "There's no point in negative bantering," Sarah told Gail Worley. "Life should be honored and appreciated, because our time here is really special."
In that interview with Gail, she talks about the scientific interest:
"I've always had a fascination with space and time and how we're all relative to it. That kind of thinking was really instrumental in A Perfect Dream because I had always been thinking about it, but people so often dismiss those things because they don't understand them. The easiest thing to do when you don't understand something is to dismiss it as unimportant. I wasn't ready to accept that. I wasn't ready to give up my life and my wonder of the Universe just because people seemed to tell me it was crazy to even care" (Ink 19).
Well, on that, I couldn't agree more.
But in the past year, I've come to see no point in force-feeding people with the science.
Because Sarah's right and it doesn't take science to know this:
"I think that if people could see how they're connected to everything, then they wouldn't have to feel so alone."
* Here's an Amazon US link to Buchanan's book, also out in paperback, where you can take a look inside.
** "Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries," says the Wikipedia.
11:59:10 PM link
samedi 16 juillet 2005
Hooray: it's Sarah's day!
Peter Murphy's Unshattered Tour with Sarah Fimm has brought them to my doorstep.
If Peter's site turns you on, keep an eye on that tour itinerary link above. One stop was cancelled, but all is otherwise well.
In a greatly chopped entry written ahead of the concert here's some news of other voices of the week.
During the first part of the tour, in the States, Renata Youngblood joined up for a couple of concerts. That alone is reason enough for me to get to know her fast.
Finding a ticket at last to see Sarah, I got a couple for Susheela Raman in October. Advance notices of her third album, 'Music for Crocodiles' (Susheela's site) have been exciting, especially by people who found 'Love Trap' disappointing after 'Salt Rain' (I wasn't one).
Friday night was also a good time to explore the cut-price shelves at the FNAC: these have become astonishing since the iTMS appeared. Maybe some stores and the music industry are miffed, but it's good news for the musicians.
Somebody else taking risks on hunches and grapevine rumours agreed these shelves are probably best searched for the treasures just before a weekend. On Saturdays, those albums must disappear within hours.
There were a couple of copies of Loretta Lynn's 'Van Lear Rose', mentioned and pictured in the July 8 entry because I have ears for anybody recommended by a singer I admire. Other such finds included two albums considered "Mind Melting Music" by treadingwater (Amazon UK). I mean Björk's 'Debut' and Goldfrapp's 'Felt Mountain'.
Organic development: the key change
Since discovering Sarah, abandoning my screenplay, and then making Aimee Mann's marvellous concert, I've adjusted my priorities. It's absurd to question again "What if life is music?" now most of my friends know I'd like my life to be music.
Many singer-songwriters I'm featuring are less well known than I'd thought before asking friends and colleagues from all over the world. Though Aimee has a big following and other VoWs I adore are even more "famous", they're often unknown among people who share some of my eclectic tastes.
The log's future reflects my determination to take sides in the "battles" over the future of the music industry itself, now I'm learning what musicians themselves want and strive to achieve.
Choosing where to go after the concert by Aimee -- who's clear about her stance in the business -- took me initially to a very young singer many sneer at as "manufactured", but listening and looking closely was a night's "work" and may make another story.
The week's selection focused on poets, mostly Americans.
On Friday, it was the turn of Dar Williams, who's a fine storyteller. On 'Mortal City' her song 'The Christians and the Pagans' is such fun you want to laugh out loud and do.
She thinks a lot also and I'm getting into Dar's reflections with much pleasure.
The others are Joanna Newsom with 'The Milk-Eyed Mender', Laura Viers with 'Carbon Glacier' and Erin McKeown with 'Grand' None of the albums are new but these women are imaginative, often surprising people.
Joanna, the youngest, plays a harp and a harpsichord along with regular indie-folk instruments and lends a striking voice to almost surreal observations and the talent noted in an interview intro at tinytapesmix (today's picture). This says how what she does
"makes us call forth a part of ourselves that we have long neglected, and for this it sounds familiar as a sister's gentle sigh, but it is also a vehicle to render us breathless at the beauty inherent in musical honesty."
The surprise was the childlike timbre in her voice, but like the wisest people, her perceptions and juxtapositions can be those of a child. For her part, Laura Viers visits some very strange and wonderful territory. You won't find much about our daily lives and relationships in these places.
But they're still places we can share with her and find in ourselves.
Many music sites tell you what's going on today, I shall myself when the occasion arises, but I'll do plenty of looking back. 'Mortal City' was released in 1996 and 'Grand', on which Erin turns her talents to all sorts of styles, will be two years old in September.
Music needs time, but often becomes timeless.
With luck, Sarah will share new songs tonight, but I've scarcely touched on two of her albums. She has one well-kept "secret" I've mentioned because I remain astonished most of the record critics seem deaf to her sense of humour.
Many critics do things I won't. I've also been asked to stop being "cryptic" by people who find I am. That's fine. Everybody who's been very special to me, including Sarah, has taught me a lot. She's a very open woman and I've no secrets left of my own.
Others do and I respect this, so my writing has changed this year.
I found three price-slashed albums by men, though cheating my way back on topic. 'Ten New Songs' have Leonard Cohen's name on them, but he does them with a woman, Sharon Robinson. I risked 'Le Saut de L'Ange '(Amazon Fr) by Emma Daumas because though I've read cries of "Shame!" and she allegedly became arrogant about it, she did it by herself.
Ms Youngblood gave me a term even I hadn't thought of for what comes later despite that inability to stay away from sex for long:
"For all the fans of orgasmic sounds... this woman's music is for you. Haunting and beautiful, Sarah's music has a way of moving sound around itself as though it were tangible ... touring Europe with Peter Murphy. You must see these two when they come to your town. You will never forget it!" (Renata's links)
Orgasmic? Hmm. Huh?
My evening will be spent at a concert by people who have a great gift for shedding light, however much darkness they find in our world.
3:15:29 AM link
samedi 9 juillet 2005
Aimee Mann, on stage with a fine band, is ... brilliant.
The Paris concert on 'The Forgotten Arm' (album link) tour, telling some of the story of Aimee's new "concept album", judiciously woven among older songs that had long-standing fans in an aged, packed theatre applauding with the first notes, was a wonderful end to a week I'll remember as special.
An American in the throng said "awesome", but friends know I save up the superlatives, don't want to run out of them!
The musicians were very together and they rocked, taking occasional airy solos, giving us ballads -- Aimee called one a "lullaby" -- and dancing jubilation and at times indeed she had some of us gloriously 'Lost in Space', all ears.
She brings humour and spontaneity to the brief moments between songs with superb lyrics (if my first live performance by one of the VoWs now I like giving them most of this log sets a trend for those to follow, then heaven might help those who help themselves).
The picture caused a whistle or two at work, but someone's "waif" remark is no word for a woman who's slender proof that looks alone really are deceptive. So was the eyebrow-raising ticket fee, but Aimee and her pale arms can channel so much warm energy on the night the radiance is priceless.
La Cigale, up in the northern Pigalle district, has kept most of its balcony but seen much of the ground floor cleared for standing room only. It needed it.
After a very generous show, any desire to ask Aimee more about a return to the early 1970s with a story of an ill-fated love affair and a road trip across the States was gone, and if it was no part of her own life, the songs and her introductory words made it an everybody's tale someplace.
Editing this has been done on a day unusual for how I've so far kept more music out of mind, still full of the treasure we were given. Any thought of where it's taken me comes best at the end. Then we'll move on...
Aimee followed half a dozen contributions from Norway's Robert Post (his place; Eng.), a good acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter with a first single out, 'Got None,' and his two British mates to know they might have a career ahead for some to write up.
Post was unexpected with a tough warm-up job, disarming the first crowd in a steadily arriving audience by giving his name, adding it's all he can say in French and took vocal risks that paid off by the time they finished with 'The Way We Are'.
I warmed to them, so did most; we heard nothing very original but it was pleasing after a difficult start where Robert reminded us the voice, like many instruments, has to warm up itself if you want to jump it up and down as much as he does.
Post was modest about his luck ... or pluck ... being with Aimee and her band.
They brought perfect pace throughout a long evening apart from one "Christ, that was awful," which it was, and a major retune where the easy banter started.
French audiences are enthusiastic ... and incorrigible! I wondered if she realised what a lusty chorus of yells, "A poil!", from men who forgot themselves meant. If she felt any inclination to take off her jeans and a flashy red top, Aimee ignored it. She and band member Paul have taken up boxing, difficult in hotel rooms, she told us instead, and if men don't like hitting a woman or being pounded by one, "he doesn't have that problem."
Enough people understood to sustain the fun.
Maybe she tells most audiences she's never known a better one; Aimee was having a wildly good time, stopped to take photos herself, and shared her music well. She and the band chose a fine selection spanning years of musicianship. For her final encore she sung 'I've Had It', claiming she'd not done this for years; that wasn't how it sounded, but she's been around since long before I knew about her.
All I'd have given Aimee later was a kiss to say "Thanks". Many hung around while my long walk in the rain brings me here without a hoot for the hour. Watching real professionals performing live is great, sometimes I did and often I closed my eyes for ages: I'm one of those.
Her mellow voice has a large audience already. If I can broaden it for people like Aimee and help give one to VoWs who are less well-known, then I take up the "job" with pleasure.
Life with ears: fewer ideas?
Aimee began her tour in Germany on June 29. From here she goes to Belgium, then Ireland, then the UK and you can visit the Mann home to find much more, through August, no longer in Europe.
If this comes as good news and I've done part of the job, music will do the rest.
I wasn't going to spell it out, but shall.
My policy is to take each voice as it comes. You won't get the comparisons of singer-songwriters and very little of the "she sounds like" game many enjoy. Who cares?
I don't doubt the birthday woman was there; we never saw each other despite a message I left. That was fine.
I'm sure she loved Aimee's evening and while the singer-songwriter mentioned London, she had the grace to leave out words about the week and lifted a high heart further, since mine are said and other people's will last me for days. But I cheated. After I glanced at the very long street line, a press card came out with my ticket and got me into a good seat.
Bad behaviour perhaps, my queue-jumping.
Never mind. It takes us on from words about one of the best of the many concerts in my life, since wanting to say more about Aimee and ever less about me opens an avenue full of wonders and confirms hints of where this log's going.
As I get better at this, like picking up a bicycle where I left it in 1980 for France, you'll read plenty of what the VoWs say but I shan't ask for formal interviews. I shall have relaxed exchanges with them sometimes if they like, taking risks of my own and I'll commend you to articles by others who do the same.
Léa, a new friend. You nearly came tonight. Since you had to head south, here's what's right up your broad avenue. sinceOndarock is Italian. Like trilingual you, it takes risks and has a wide open mind.
Your lovely mail suggests you might lend me Italian and I'll ... send back a mail about your ideas. But the closest I'll go to a "sounds like" -- telling you more about writers than the woman we're with -- is an "If you enjoy, then how about...?"
The only people who know how their art is influenced by that of others are the singers. If we hear more, it's usually easy to ask but ventures a guess.
You may guess which singer I write about was so often shelved with Tori Amos, she once said she admires Tori but stopped listening to her music because of the comparisons and her wish to be herself.
I've lost count of how many women are told they sound like Tori, often just because they focus on a piano more than other instruments and share what's in their hearts and on their minds. Neil Sandman's nocturne is closer to home and less dangerous.
If Tori makes much of the comparisons, I'd be surprised. We make the myths, not musicians ... take the composers who never got to Symphony No 10 "because" Beethoven didn't; it's true a handful thought this. Gustav Mahler never finished No 10 and wasn't alone, but that's musicology for scholarly ears. If you find both Amos and Mahler at the Wikipedia, "sounds like" could keep you up all night.
I forgot to eat lunch, looked at the clock and said "Fuck" so loudly everyone turned round and somebody offered me soap. Instead, I opted for Vitamin C and the reward was a feast.
Since February 2003, people have read me learning my own darkness and light. Some have turned away, some say I gave them a hand, some think I'm nuts, some do better without thinking, but what I do most of the time isn't worth more words. Tonight was one of life's miracles, hours when I stopped thinking.
In sharing the magict, Aimee's "message" was that of many who has explored enough of themselves to know where they're going and say music is their life.
It's nothing new for me to say: "What if our lives are music?"
It might be new to say it here, but I shan't think about it any more because I've heard and seen enough people behave as if the two are one and the same. Beyond this, I'm speechless on that and would rather try to stay in tune with myself, others and what I feel beyond us and any of our words.
That's music on the house.
Thank you, Ms Mann.
How many beers did you say you'd buy tonight? I know you'll find, in Brussels, nicer beer than in most places in Paris.
Bedtime. That calls for yoghurt...
Once I was up four hours later I thought these latter words might be beer too small to spill here. I guess not. The cup is running over, so if you're soaked, best clear it up now. No looking back.
4:39:40 AM link
vendredi 8 juillet 2005
London: a tribute
[Correction*: the quiet American among the Brits. She didn't ask for it, but it should be here, for she was, this tragic day.]
My thoughts and heart go out to people in London and around the islands across the Channel who won't be sleeping tonight, their lives stolen or made hell by the bombs in the British capital.
My brother Jon says he's "trapped". The double-decker bus explosion, right outside, "blew open the door while I was sitting on the loo."
His son Tristam was cycling past an underground station when the horror hit. Assessing the calm and efficient response of civilians and security and rescue services to the attacks, Tristam's Swedish girlfriend later said: "This makes me proud to be ... British."
Jon and his wife Louise are "trapped" -- we kept the call short because lines have to stay free -- behind "at least seven police cordons" found when he went out to see what could be done.
He was asked please to return home and stay there, wait it out for as long as required for emergency services and then the police work.
Since some colleagues read this log, let me warmly thank everybody who works for the Factory in Africa and heeded the day's message, dropping hassles that beset us sometimes to leave the rest of the English news service alone and do a good job as a team without argument.
It worked, guys. It worked very well.
We'll do the same in the morning, OK?
The other stuff can wait.
You know I'd normally never put such words on the log; today's different and I didn't get a chance to say it to everybody sending me stories to edit for the world. If others learn that even we can manage it when required, so much the better: the old saw that "journalists couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery" is proved wrong once more.
It's unusual the Paris "English Desk" at our international news agency, known as such only for our common language, is staffed exclusively by Brits. But it was for much of the day, *I apologise to Nancy, who was so quiet and concentrated she was left out of the count when I thought back.
Many people will be focused on London tonight (AFP as I post this).
I'll say little more of the story that exploded so callously and horribly soon after the start of a shift by a woman who would blush if I singled her out for staying on as long as she did.
Do others need to know this? Not really, but it's here, along with answers to one question put this afternoon as the telly gave us a press briefing by police and emergency services doing their own jobs: "Why do journalists ask such stupid questions?"
What of the rules?
Somebody muttered this. Quite right -- superficially.
First, obviously because some can be idiots; secondly, it's part of the job, on behalf of the public, to ask what the security authorities will reveal of "terrorist" intelligence they may have, knowing we won't get a straight answer; last, since such questions must and will come ... later.
What happened today was simply proof you can, and we should, question "the rules" all we want. That's a right it's up to every one of us to exercise.
Sometimes those rules -- though I often like standing them on their heads -- are the right ones and we know them so well that on occasions it's vitally important, enough people come together, setting aside doubts and questions, to get on with the job, and it brings out the best in everybody.
It won't last, why should it?
When it happens, though, it's worth rejoicing in our shared humanity, everything we know how to do together, setting our selfish egos aside for the sake of what's right.
To know we have that freedom from ourselves and in ourselves to be a team, paying tribute where it's due, is an experience worth keeping as knowledge and wisdom for some other day when we have time to be petty.
I prefer merely to know this debate means almost nothing and that when it's indispensable and right, if it's to be done, most of us can.
We should take pride, without complacency, when we get it together.
Every day brings its terrible tragedies, its great joys and it's only too human to be stupid. Later, there will be a meeting to sort out the problems and inevitable misunderstandings that beset some of AFP's Africa coverage; that's now a promise -- it's on the cards, put there by you people.
The daily word -- don't tolerate mischief from others -- holds good, if we all remember the other side of it, playing fair with the rules, and above all: you must never hasten to judge them. None of us know the whole story.
Here are some lyrics:
"Who made up all the rules
Tonight I heard those words again. Jem's 'Finally Woken' was my head's way of leaving the Factory behind until the morning and it opens with them in the song 'They'. In one word: yummy!
We follow them like fools
Believe them to be true
Don't care to think them through
And I'm sorry so sorry
I'm sorry it's like this
I'm sorry so sorry
I'm sorry we do this
And it's ironic too
Coz what we tend to do
Is act on what they say
And then it is that way
but be swift to judge others"
The combination of a fine VoW -- Jem happens to be Welsh -- with an outgoing, life-enriching mind and musicianship to back it that can shift in an instant as swift as the mood of an hour's work from airy and laid-back to hard-kick industrial force appeals to me enormously.
Tomorrow? Who knows?
Jem's head is screwed on well: she understand rules, she understands freedom.
She makes sense and will tell you what it is to be grateful for each day as it comes, more harmoniously than I do.
I don't mean listen to me. Simply listen. My days start with silence and have done so for months. No radio. No babble (unless I'm talking to the cat or the pigeons). I take in noises from outside. I'm learning to listen. Then I'll head off to work or wherever with music. Like most, I far prefer harmony to discord, but without the latter we can't know the former.
What do we do? As in all musics, we have rules. There's something odd about those rules. As in music, the less you think about them, the more they seem to come naturally. They seem naturally right.
At the right moment, there's nothing wrong with discord and dissonance. Ask any musician! As people sometimes we get cross. Soon I'll tell you about something that made me angry this week, mad enough to say: "Blasted Apple! They've done it again."
I won't call this "righteous anger", but it's okay to say your time is valuable, like anyone's, and it would be wiser while we're alive and have got it, not to waste it.
[Modified on July 9 with a thought to share.]
Many remarkable woman are wearing pretty much, with or without navel decorations, the kind of casual looks that make travelling through town a great visual pleasure right now.
So's Aimee Mann, as some Italians saw her and is she is now, but I'm moving that picture to the next entry. Aren't you lucky?
Aimee used to keep the hair short. And ''til Tuesday' this week, with the music she did up front with that band, followed by a whole bunch of songs from her later albums, I did fine, a whole evening's listening, with a musical hole in my head filled by Lauren.
One Aimee ticket for tonight has gone to somebody as a birthday gift. The woman it was intended for can't make it. A second who wanted it called belatedly with a "problem" that wasn't one: "I'm ever so sorry, but ... I don't like the music."
You see, I lent Olya two albums. I warned they weren't what she usually likes. The concert had much more to it. The "birthday girl" speaks good English and must have relished the banter.
But Olya found Aimee's latest too different from her quiet tastes, so instead of opening her mind to anything coming, I lent her a snapshot that closed it. Next time, for Olya and others who don't have the Net, I'll say: "Look, here's a print-out of what the woman likes -- is this up your street?"
It's there for the doing. Aimee has done it for Amazon US.
Loretta Lynn is a name to me, an unknown, on my back burner after reviews last year since her thing didn't seem to be mine straight away. I bet Olya likes Loretta's kind of music, so the new picture is for her.
Nobody here's dressing like her these weeks.
The first two replies I got to a last-minute spare ticket offer were quick but impractical. Both were "I'd love to!" Both were from Africa.
Whether I go with the birthday woman grows out of what happens tomorrow. I could well be late, depending on the day's news. I'll be fine at work, but afterwards ... can mind over matter achieve what I know how to do with time?
With patience, or by skipping, you're welcome to a few coming words about having time for things. Someone thought they were mine. They are now taken into me, but I didn't write them.
Better than ever I've been able to do this, with my science and theoretical approach to how I make time, rather than find it, Sarah Fimm, in her journal, suggests exactly what to do.
I copied Sarah's thoughts for one friend and when I read them to another, she told me they were so wise, as I find them myself, I should blog them, share them and say, if you like them, go to the source, where you'll probably enjoy plenty more.
"'Til Tuesday came as a big surprise to many when they emerged as passionate, entertaining, intelligent and stylish," wrote Mike Thorne in an interesting piece on making the 'Voices Carry' album in 1999 for the Stereo Society. "The lead singer, Aimee Mann, had shown clear songwriting insight even when leading her rather more arty previous band, Baby Snakes. The others were accomplished musicians, each with their own distinctive sound."
These days -- though I'm sure she will on Friday -- 'Aimee Mann won't play nice for others,' (Bankrate). Good on her!
For Bankrate, she told Larry Getlen why not. She explains how she and Michael Penn, the bloke she married, joined with others to form a music collective.
The "harsh realities of the music business" they chat about understate what I've been learning in the past months. And United Musicians? Still going strong -- as are other companies and collectives like them.
When speed backfires, Macs go haywire
If Apple were equally sensible, combining hard heads with outgoing hearts, you'd have had more this week from my music files. But Steve Job's outfit has, once again, seriously screwed up, trying to be to clever by half.
What cost so much of my time was rushing to install iTunes 4.9. The aim, Apple said, was to go on giving you the digital music revolution. To give you "podcasting", something I don't plan to discuss.
After at least eight hours of repairs, I replaced iTunes 4.9 with 4.7.1, the last "safe" version -- perhaps no longer if Apple have corrected their latest blunder of releasing a software programme without making sure it won't wreck your Mac.
Tonight, no long story. My Mac's happy but won't play nice with the iPod.
Different things went very badly wrong, as usual at such times, for different people. If you're in real trouble yourself, check out MacFixit and other places where it's discussed.
If at the weekend, I find a fix that suits everybody, I'll pass on the link. For now, I'm just glad I've acquired the technical expertise that enabled me to mend a hard disk damaged, according to a message I refused to believe being experienced enough to know it was wrong, "beyond repair".
I had no reason to panic, have long since found you must have and keep regular back-ups and got my whole music library up and working. The iPod works too. Together they're a disaster, but some people have had it far worse!
They've lost data, sometimes music, for good. Or rather, bad; I presume this would include music they bought from Apple's store! I don't know...
Why was I livid?
I never was, but felt a damned fool for rushing when I know better, and I'll unleash my percussion on Apple's top brass for the simple reason that I'll bet you the other Aimee Mann ticket that, again as usual, they won't say "Sorry, we blew it."
No. MacFixit and other sites report that, on the contrary, they "pulled" iTunes 4.8, it vanished. No words. There's a funny thing. I thought the idea had been to add video and stuff like that. It seemed good.
But oh. Why's the artwork on my iPod going wonky? I didn't worry about it much.
I think it's fine to get it wrong. Everyone does. But when you do, you don't hide it. I imagine the poor guys on expensive Mac hotlines have been saying "sorry" and maybe even "I dunno"! I haven't thrown the money after the time.
Apple likes lawyers. I've had reason to tell people that before. Usually I like Apple. I'm not calling them liars, not for telling me they're giving us a digital revolution. I'm just saying that the buck for incompetence stops at the top. With you, Steve.
If you should happen to apologise for the misery a premature software release caused people, many of them lacking my confidence and competence to undo a good part of the damage myself, it cuts both ways, mate:
Get that right.
Regardless of such words, I find being nasty to people, in a world where teaching is merely a sharing process, an increasingly pointless and boring exercise. My own "teachers" are of all ages, children and the elderly.
When some people want to be nasty to me, of late they've used my friendships as a novel means of attack. Because I generally get on so well with the opposite sex and tend sometimes to think as they do, those I annoy have decided and say I keep a "harem"!
It's so absurd, especially since I'm neither into ownership nor a Don Juan by any stretch of the wildest imagination, I occasionally find it funny. But it's true that most of the people who have become my most valued teachers and some of them great friends, are women.
From Sarah Fimm, I'm learning a prodigious amount. She finds the words for stuff I know but have more trouble expressing clearly. Tonight's closing section needs two word's subbing, no more. When she has a stream of ideas, it's not for me to break the flow of a woman who says so much to me in just three words: "Be like water."
I meditate on them every day.
For the rest, I have no illustration or quote marks apart from her own. From that journal, open to all, the rest is pure Sarah from here:
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005 7:59 AM EST
Today I am sick with too many thoughts. I am ill from the amount of times I have heard strangers in passing use the word "dreamer" as some kind of derogatory term. Either to refer to their friend who has no job, or their child who refuses to pay attention to them, or an animal that will not respond to their calls.
Do you like stare into the sun even though it hurts and causes spots in your vision?
Do you like to make the dinner rolls into feet on the legs of forks, like Charlie Chaplin?
Do you use your imagination?
This last bit is the most important. Since we all use our energy to manifest the thoughts of our imagination, I conclude that we are all dreamers and that my friends, is a beautiful thing. Just look up every so often, listen, and gaze into the clouds.
Tuesday, February 15th, 2005 8:33 AM EST
Yesterday someone very special said to me, "Time always goes by too fast, I feel I cannot have relationships with certain people because they will not help with my career or my life, and so what is the point? It seems better to be with people whom I have more in common with, who will be able to help me. That way it will be more productive." I decided to address this here, because I have heard quite a few of you say things like this to me. My honest answer is,
We can alter the passage of time if we utilize the strength of our minds. 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.
12:08:03 AM link
mardi 5 juillet 2005
I went quiet.
Last week nothing happened as planned and it was pretty good.
Those who may imagine I developed a Seraphim obsession because of an unexpected "trip" to New York that defied the "laws" of physics in four dimensions are incorrect. It's been far more remarkable than anything so banal.
I said "Oh goodness!" on finding today this particular VoW -- whose online journal is available for anyone with a taste for poetry and proof wisdom has nothing to do with age -- will be in Paris at the end of next week.
Sarah Fimm starts a European tour on Wednesday. I'm beyond astonishment. Sarah's doing this with Peter Murphy, widely described as a "gothic rocker", which says what dunces we are to stick labels on people.
I hope to meet both, if this is possible. Knowing what touring is like for musicians, many of whom are politer about journalists asking for interviews than they feel, I haven't.
There are less formal and more useful ways of saying "hello" and learning a few things, which include relaxing.
If anything comes of this you'll know about it.
July can't be a month of which my bank manager will approve unless I'm careful. Caution consists in telling you I'd better not do concerts and also leap on every latest voice of a woman to take my fancy. But there's always somebody so remarkable that I'll buy the album anyway.
In the past few days, I've been listening and exploring the inspirations and different life stories of enough VoWs to keep me busy telling you about them for a long while to come .
I'll no longer say it's unlikely a 'Sting in the Lotus' screenplay about the story of the Quiet Revolution will see the light of day, because it simply won't. Ever.
I warmly thank everybody who's encouraged me to "get on with it", but have meditated on this for a long time and concluded the only way to pursue any 'Lotus Project' is to get on with the QR itself instead.
That's simple and constructive, while what you make of the words 'Lotus Project' will, I hope, for some, give a notion of what I'm about; I could also call it just "waking up".
When I see striking signs of what the QR is in action around us, I'll sometimes write about them, but decided it's wiser to stop blogging about unconventional things I seem able to do with my mind since it's too new and strange as a conscious exercise. Most of what I say will be nonsense until I've understood what's going on and hypothetical speculation is of no interest or consequence.
I've no longer the questions I first wished to ask Sarah about networks -- she's clear enough. If you can be a net-working kind of person and do a bit to help people in your immediate vicinity discover a little more harmony in themselves occasionally, it's a sharing process and that takes some learning at any age.
I shall indeed write later about Sarah's other albums, since there are few such lucid markers to people's capacity for change and experiment and risking something new every time, but since she's coming to Europe, I'll say if it's humour you like, a marvellous sense of fun and a sharp ear for the absurdities of life, let me do potential listeners a favour.
All those reviewers full of comparisons and claptrap -- there are too many of them -- who find this lass "oh, so terribly dark," they're bonkers, I think. Quite potty. The first thing I realised about Sarah is how funny she is. It's blindingly obvious. If people are blinded when singers shed so much light on life, that's one of the strangest things about life. Or people, whatever...
I shall be going to that moored lightship on the Seine for warmth and the radiance. But now it's late and I've still got some musical things to do before I go to bed. I'm bound to say a bit about that Aimee Mann concert coming up on Friday, and somebody who's coming with me has three days to learn English.
Or so she fears. In past days, two people reminded me, as if I needed it, music doesn't have borders. One was a Senegalese stranger in Le Bouquet, my coffee hole, who said he didn't give a damn if people in Dakar think Youssou N'Dour changed too much for them when he came out with
"Blank those people in Dakar," this fellow said. "If they can't hear what's good when it's given to them, they may be sad with walls in their ears and sadder still with the fences in their minds."
I've forgotten to point out if you're interested in the musics people make without barriers, the 'Auralgasms' link in the blogroll is a place I visit very often because apart from having an appealing name, the site's frequently updated and one where musicians get a chance to introduce themselves without many people getting in the way.
1:30:22 AM link
fountains and fortunes
voices of women
(ecstatic naiades, erotic firebirds, eccentric angels,
electric dryades ...)
a blog behind the log
(popping those green pills sometimes gives me strange fruit)
contributing friends (pix, other work)
retain their rights.
a fine way of seeing it