so i recently finished perfect from now on: how indie rock saved my life, john sellers's paean to guided by voices and catalogue of a life of musical crushes. i've been predisposed to sneer at rockcriticboys since chuck klosterman took a cheap shot at a friend of mine in sex, drugs, and cocoa puffs, and i generally have little or no patience for books that read, at first glance, like extended music blog posts. that said, this one is sticking with me* - particularly because of this passage:
Why is it, by the way, that few men get whopping crushes on female musicians and ramp up their interest in the music as a result? There's rarely any swoon factor, at least in the circles I've hung out in. I'm sure you can find countless guys who'd say that Harriet Wheeler was a chipmunk-cheeked cutie, or discuss their inexplicable attraction to Kim Deal, or utter the unspeakably dumb words "Liz Phair? I'd fuck her." But not one of these dudes would say that looks factored into their assessment of the music; music is either worth listening to or it is not. And they certainly wouldn't stoop, as one breathless female Village Voice critic did, to opening a review of a Decemberists album with four hundred words about her attraction to the band's frontman and other indie darlings just like him. Holy shit, that sucked.
eight different feminist steam pockets exploded in my head when i first read it, but damn it, he's right. except for a kid i knew in high school who, when asked about why he dug kristin hersh's music, would start mumbling incoherently about her blue eyes, i've never met a guy who favored a hot chick's music because she was hot. plenty of female artists are marketed for their looks - your gwen stefanis, your britneys, your pussycat dolls [shudder] - and yet their consumer base is overwhelmingly female, too. you can't really compare acts like those (in terms of hetero sex appeal and how it translates to sales) to, say, justin timberlake, a decent musician whose squee! factor made him a superstar. what gives, man?

my theory, or the only theory i've got thus far that doesn't make me ashamed to be a lady, is that fangirls are a byproduct of mainstream (sometimes aggressive, sometimes subliminal) sexual repression. they crop up in periods like the '50s, when shrieking and swooning and gettin' all flushed was acceptable at a concert but a no-no on a date, and the '80s, ten of the unsexiest years in modern history; boys and men don't need to squee! because they get away with more (a guy with a playboy is normal; a girl with a playgirl is...do girls even buy playgirl?). this doesn't sound quite right, though, and it certainly doesn't explain why i had a door poster of jon bon jovi on my wall in sixth grade. any theories, folks?

*my verdict on sellers and the book is still out, pending additional explanation of this passage in appendix a:


1. Elvis Costello
"Alison" ruined everything else for me.

bloody hell, man! how was i unaware that my herbs had a suicide pact?

day 22: cilantro and dill

they went from looking fine to like this overnight. how absolutely unnecessary.

at the attractive end of the death spectrum, i've been fixated on the flooded grave, a bitchin' photomontage we saw at moma's jeff wall exhibition on saturday (the whole thing - gigantic, mostly staged photos in mounted lightboxes - was pretty engaging; if you're in town, check it out). it reminded me of ariel's song from the tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

hear that, cilantro and dill? i expect you to have turned into a lavender cheesecake by the time i get home tonight.


i stumbled into hearing about the jarvis cocker shows at webster hall (review, photos), and am i ever glad i did: apparently he hasn't played in the states for nearly ten years, and his whole north american tour this time is teeny. joe and i were there last night, and it was one of the best concerts i've ever seen.* as i'd expected after seeing live forever (a 2003 britpop documentary), m. cocker's chatter** was endearing and odd; i was wholly unprepared, though, for the lanky-man-dance-hurricane. as another attendee noted, it was like seeing (skinny) elvis. no one seemed to mind the utter absence of pulp songs, though we did catch our collective breath when he announced that he'd run out of new material for the encore and would have to play older stuff. he meant older covers - talking heads' "heaven" and black sabbath's "paranoid"*** - and both were great. my one regret is that i couldn't pick up a shirt in honor of the best song of the night: where can one wear "cunts are still running the world" on one's chest?

i went to bed wondering if that was, in fact, the best show i've attended. i've been more emotionally attached to other performances - i saw the cure in high school, for example, and lou reed at a benefit a decade ago - but the venues were huge, and the showmanship was lacking. tell me, internets: what's the best performance you've caught? what earned it the gold star?

*even though i didn't see karl lagerfeld, who's supposedly BFF with jarvis's wife and topped my celebrity sighting wish list for the night. i hear wes anderson was all over the place, however.

**on webster hall: "i like this venue; it's a bit like being in the ark of the covenant, what with all the arcane symbols. we're like the contents of the box, and if you lifted the top off we'd be able to dissolve people, which would not be a bad power to have."

***i confess i felt terribly superior when the guy in front of me texted it as "IRONMAN!" to a buddy. i know jack about ozzy, but i know the bone lick for ironman; that wasn't it.


a surprise gem in the boston phoenix's 100 unsexiest men 2007:
Fratboy humorist

Corn-fed, ass-faced classic-rock apologist is on book five of a schtick that wore out after book two.
i find the list a bit harsh elsewhere - bob saget (no. 91) is by many accounts the nicest guy in the universe,* and david lee roth (no. 75) is, well, diamond dave - but hee.

in other news, please note the queue, haiku link at top right. i was recently 1) talked into joining netflix and 2) struck by the realization that having completed less than 20% of the items on my 101 in 1001 list, including the ultra-passive ones about watching movies, is utterly pathetic - so i'm chronicling both in an attempt to keep myself moving. the godfather (part I) is on the list (no. 53) but doesn't get a mention, both because actually i rented it on the fly at the local blockbuster and because i was reluctant to admit that i found young al pacino kind of preppy-hot (and that for the first half of the movie, i didn't actually realize michael corleone was al pacino). anyway, woo hoo! movie haiku!

*which is but a single and traditionally unsung component of sex appeal, of course, and i'm not personally hot for the man - i'm just saying.


i overheard someone saying today that perhaps the virginia tech tragedy will be like 9/11 or kennedy's assassination - that is, we'll all remember where we were when we heard about it. i was napping, as it happens, and woke up to a gun control round table on the evening news. it took me a few minutes to figure out what had prompted it (i'd been without media for the morning/afternoon). that initial groggy disconnect has stuck with me, and i've been bewildered and vaguely grossed out for the past day. i was going to post this afternoon about the movies i've been watching for my 101 in 1001 list, but i remembered how i'd been criticized for a personal post on 9/11 ("...how trite and insular she is."). god, i thought, it could be really tasteless to talk about my life right now. never mind, of course, that i have neither a personal angle on what happened nor an expert one on what it means. honestly, is anyone burning to know how someone who blogs about their underwear and house plants feels about a massacre? tonight's american idol began with dimmed lights and ryan seacrest sending goodwill to virginia; that felt selfish to me. i don't need to wear my heart on my sleeve.

at the other end of the spectrum, the television is still full of heads who want to talk politics about the shootings. guns terrify me, and no one - law-abiding citizens, criminals, even law enforcement - would carry them if i had my way, but cranking up the national debate immediately feels a bit selfish, too. maybe i am trite and insular, but i think we should keep our mitts off of those poor people for a while. it's their story.


the team across the hall at work, famous for leaving baby shower banners up for two weeks and bringing wine to meetings, have a new banner today:


what does that mean, exactly? they aren't wearing (more) black (than most new yorkers do), they aren't pitching black to advertisers; they aren't sacrificing black roosters in the bathroom, as far as i can tell. friday the 13th has captured the popular imagination today, it seems. the local news had a lengthy segment on it* (filmed in front of 13 west 13th street) and claimed that some people are actually staying home. is that the answer to being unable to take off for judeo-christian holidays? i should tell HR that agnostics can't work on friday the 13th. anyway, stay safe, internets! just a few of the abominations that reared their heads today:

wilco tickets: on sale at noon, now double the price!

dogs in strollers!**

en-suite garages the size of our apartment!

i'm taking a nap.

*roger clark yelled STAY AWAY FROM BLACK CATS! just as a big fat one sat in my lap.

**my three-legged cat doesn't even have a stroller. people are pathetic.


i've been meaning to post about practical problems lately (how to transfer my herb project to the fire escape?* how to wear long shorts without looking like a man?**), and in researching a story today, i discovered the site with all the answers. tell me, have you ever checked out wikihow ("the how-to manual that anyone can write or edit")? if wikipedia is a sign of the apocalypse, wikihow is at least one of the seven last plagues (darkness, and maybe giant hailstones). amateur strangers contributing advice, now! it is also the most entertaining site i've discovered in a while. a few of my favorite passages:

(from "how to air kiss")

For an extravagant, boisterous touch, exclaim a person's name with a smile as you approach. Since the air kiss is all about showing affection without actually giving it, this is another way to reinforce a positive interaction without physical contact.

(from "how to be cool")

Have good stories you can inject into the conversation. But don't use them just to look cool. Use them only when the conversation has right spot for them. Remember, cool people have many cool stories because their life is so cool.

(from "how to date a bisexual")

Remember that even though bisexual people are attracted to both sexes, this doesn't mean they are attracted to everyone. They have limits and standards, just like everyone else.

*the sprouts are getting too big for the baggies i'm using to cover them, but if i remove the baggies inside, the cats will eat the herbs; if i remove the baggies outside, the pigeons will eat the remaining seeds. i could buy a terrarium with a mesh lid to stick out on the fire escape (i priced them yesterday, and the setup would be like $15 total), but that seems a bit involved.

**emboldened by my short pants adventures this fall, i test drove the gap's long shorts (essentially slacks hacked off above the knee) yesterday. since i haven't actually seen my knees in a while, i'd forgotten how weird they look (big old soccer scars and so on). also, despite my zero tone program, i still have awkward calf muscles. i nearly shrieked "there's a man in my pants!" in the dressing room. stupid legs.


pearls before breakfast,* a clever article from this sunday's washington post, has been bouncing around the web like crazy this week. on the off chance that i wasn't in fact the last person to read it, i highly recommend it. summary: the post wanted to see if d.c. commuters "[had] time for beauty," so they sent virtuoso violinist joshua bell to play his $3.5 million gibson ex huberman (made by stradivari in 1713) for passerby at a subway station during the morning rush hour. the paper worried beforehand about creating a mob; in fact, over the course of 43 minutes, only 7 of more than a thousand people stopped to listen for more than a minute, and bell earned a little more than $30.
Watching the video weeks later, Bell finds himself mystified by one thing only. He understands why he's not drawing a crowd, in the rush of a morning workday. But: "I'm surprised at the number of people who don't pay attention at all, as if I'm invisible. Because, you know what? I'm makin' a lot of noise!"

He is. You don't need to know music at all to appreciate the simple fact that there's a guy there, playing a violin that's throwing out a whole bucket of sound; at times, Bell's bowing is so intricate that you seem to be hearing two instruments playing in harmony. So those head-forward, quick-stepping passersby are a remarkable phenomenon.

Bell wonders whether their inattention may be deliberate: If you don't take visible note of the musician, you don't have to feel guilty about not forking over money; you're not complicit in a rip-off.

It may be true, but no one gave that explanation. People just said they were busy, had other things on their mind. Some who were on cellphones spoke louder as they passed Bell, to compete with that infernal racket.
the piece is huge, and it covers everything from kant (beauty is colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer) to the cure (on a commuter's ipod; the journalist gets big unrelated points from me for noting that "just like heaven" is a terrific song). one of the most heartbreaking or heartening details, depending on where you're sitting,** is that every single child who passed bell tried to stop (and was hustled off by his/her parent).

i could have been one of the few who stopped, maybe:*** i never, ever use an ipod outside, i rarely use the subway for work (so i have time to dawdle), and i do like engaging artists there (i'm still happy with the drawing i bought under 14th street a few years ago). i think bell would have had better luck in nyc than he did in washington, the latter's reputation as a hard-core company town notwithstanding (busking on wall street is probably pretty rough, too): new yorkers seem primed to discover art on the go. theo eastwind, a guitarist who frequents the bedford L stop, has more or less made a career of performing underground (note that we have a local "subway idol" competition). bedford isn't the best example, given williamsburg's fondness for artists, but performers who make it there find love elsewhere, too: another regular, a skinny african-american man who sounds eerily like a young paul mccartney, also performs in the tunnels under union square. i heard him from around a corner once, on a saturday afternoon - in a duet with someone - and turned to see a (sober!) middle-aged businessman at his side, singing "i wanna hold your hand" at full volume and looking like he was having the best day of his life.

no grand unifying point here, really, but even if i wouldn't have been one of joshua bell's admirers, i think i can at least be the businessman. that's a start, right?

*i think the link requires registration, but it's free and totally worth it. several videos (bell's whole performance was filmed with a hidden camera) accompany the story, too.

**heartening, i say.

***admittedly, for reasons that have little to do with music appreciation.


wabes sent me a characteristically thoughtful note yesterday: she "wouldn't dream of scooping [me]" by rhapsodizing about knut the baby bear superstar before i did, but hey, here's a cute post about it somewhere else.* it shamed me a bit: though i obviously have no qualms about posting links with virtually no context, i forget most of them before i do even that. i think i'm going to have a go at a formal monthly brain dump here - to spare myself the annoyance of misplacing things, and to free up mental space for things like "meyer library" (see comment #7 in my previous post - my memory these days is really pathetic). here, then, is march/april:

brain dump 001 [03.07-04.07]

3191: a year of mornings. two friends - one in portland, or, the other in portland, me - post a daily photo without consulting each other, and the results appear side by side. the accidental conversations between their shots are lovely.

"my humps," as performed by alanis morissette. i'm always surprised by how cute she is, and how i can never, ever spell her name right without double-checking. does the fact that this reminds me of tori amos's "smells like teen spirit" mean that i'm going to hell?

echino wolf fabric. when i finally get around to making myself an article of clothing for my 101 in 1001 list, i want to make it out of this. bonus from the same site: canada is for lovers patches, perfect for pretending one isn't american when one goes abroad.

hot rod your kitchenaid mixer. i imagine someone like hannah mae (whose mixer, as i recall, is called 'the death star') or wabes could rock this. me, i forgot to register for a mixer when we got hitched, and i'm not nearly crafty enough in the kitchen to justify picking one up for myself.

haramaki, aka japanese belly-warmers. waist-flattering like corsets, fuzzy like sleeping bags! apparently these are all the rage with the tokyo hip kids. i just like the idea of being human sushi.

plush stag beetle. lizette greco bases each of her creatures on one of her children's drawings. it's a clever idea, and her execution is amazing. my poor beetle (still only half-done, though he does have a background now) would kill for such attention!

spinach, mushroom, and artichoke casserole. tasted great, but it was 1) HUGE and 2) way too eggy - it emerged from the oven in loaf form, so we were forced (forced!) to mix in a bunch of sour cream after serving. i'd try it again as a dip, sans eggs.

someone made a shirt just for me.

*because it is literally impossible to oversaturate me with news of knut. i can take or leave butterstick the panda**, but knut : lauren :: the beatles : ed sullivan's entire audience. the clip linked above, incidentally, is the very best one.

**google that with caution, by the way. apparently "butterstick the panda" has entered the lexicon as something else entirely.


the "you got promoted!" orchid

Q: what's even better than getting an orchid?
A: getting an orchid because i'm a senior editor now, yo.

(i got my news)


101 in 1001: 024 grow kitchen-worthy herbs from seeds [ongoing]

herb garden: day 1

plant-killer that i am, i probably should have waited until the day after april fool's to begin the urban herb project. i'd been eyeing the weird chia set at duane reade for weeks already, though; for better or for worse, yesterday was it. from left to right, i'm attempting cilantro, dill, chives, and sweet basil. here's hoping the cats haven't eaten and yarfed one or all of them by the time i get home tonight.

the planting coincided with our finally getting around to watching super size me, complete with harrowing dvd extras (joe shrieked repeatedly during 'the smoking fry,' where an order of mcdonald's spuds remains utterly undecayed for ten-plus weeks in a glass jar). i was guilted into finally giving up my annual egg mcmuffin,* which is undoubtedly a good thing. here's to new projects, then, and cruelty-free breakfasts (herbed, um, tofu scramble, anyone?)

*= the only thing i can stand at mcdo, and a traditional and extremely occasional reward for, say, dropping someone off at the airport at 7am (hey, at least i can make a stranger microwave an egg for me!). i also developed weird cravings for them when we were in belfast last summer, but that's another story.