Monthly Archives: April 2009

A catch up

If you follow me elsewhere (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or even [gasp] real life), you might’ve heard my plea recently for you to enforce a May 1st deadline for my book. Like the heroes that you are, you responded with threats, promises, treats, condolences, coffee and chocolate.

I never intended to be done May 1st. Instead, I was practicing with a deadline. The first draft of the book got finished when I cut off almost all human contact, locked myself in my house for 10 days subsisting almost entirely on Rockstar Energy Drink (I’m plugging it in the hopes that they’ll send me a free supply for my new deadline) and vegetables suggested by Steph. I had to finish that book, there was simply no other option. A lot of crap resulted, but a lot of sleep-deprived genius also happened. Okay, some sleep-deprived genius, a respectable percentage when you consider the vast amounts of crap.

I’m a lot closer to finishing this book than I allow myself to believe on a day-to-day basis and around the new year, I set myself a deadline of June 1st. So this is my for realz deadline and I hope you won’t feel punk’d, I really did need your help for the dress rehearsal. And I continue to need your threats, promises, treats, condolences, coffee and chocolate. Not to mention Rock Star and veggies.

In return, I pledge to:

-spend less time playing with music
-watch less t.v.
-refuse most of your offers of recreational activities
-take on the least amount of freelance work I can
-ignore this blog and all of you as much as possible.

But only for one month.

With any luck, there will be only one blog post for all of May and it will happen somewhere around the 30th and will say something along the lines of: We won! The book’s done!

And then I will sleep and spend time returning your calls and begin the process of sending the book to its new interim caretaker.

So, for perhaps the last time for a little while, here’s some stuff I’ve noticed recently:

Seth Grahame-Smith is inventive, crazy cool and now rich.

I’ve been saying for years that we needed this.

Stephenie Meyer rocks – sold 16% of all books last quarter and reminded us all what a writer with a fan base is capable of. In case we forget, I’m sure there’ll be another reminder from her soon. Perhaps a spin off featuring J. and R. (aka N.)???

Just to prove I read other things besides MediaBistro, passenger lands plane.

This is a bad idea, but makes a great point about the length of AI.

Wonder if you can get carpal tunnel of the thumbs from texting. Or heart attacks from the bills.

Angelina will star in movie(s) based on Patricia Cornwell’s series.

Ron Howard defends Angels&Demons. Hasn’t the Church figured out they’re the only reason anybody cares about this movie at this point? Audrey Tautou gone? Me too. Though at least it looks like the mullet’s also gone.

I have two desks, too. Have for years. It’s a good idea. If you count Cheers, I have more like three.

Note to self: Don’t marry another writer. Or at least make sure you can communicate very, very well before you do.

The Soloist. I dug the long music/color sequence. Admired the chutzpah of Joe Wright. Had other issues, but not that particular one.

‘Bout to be kicked outta Cheers, gotta run. Cheers.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Gotta talk about it…

Okay, so they need to rename American Idol “The Adam Lambert Show with Friends.” That’s incredibly rude to say, especially considering that the other four contestants are hugely talented. But it is true. Kris blew me out of the water with “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and Allison Iraheta is solid every week, doing her thing. But who can top Adam’s showstoppers?

If anyone else wins, it will be primarily because they’ve had to raise their game so much to match Adam and surprised everyone.

I mean, take a look at this latest, “Feeling Good.” Simon nailed it when he said that complaining that Adam is too theatrical is like “complaining that the cow moos.” That’s exactly what Adam is, theatrical and not afraid of it. He plays with whatever material he chooses to tackle, collaborates with the house musicians, packages himself and the performance in an always-memorable way. You have only to see his entrance on those stairs to feel like (and I’m borrowing a Paula-ism, but it’s true) you’re watching an Adam Lambert concert (event) rather than a talent show. I mean, was that a white satin suit he wore tonight? He was the exact opposite of Ryan as he stood next to him. Not many men can make eyeliner, falsetto and impeccable fashion sense as masculine and sexy as he can. I guess it’s the swagger.

Speaking of that falsetto, I must say that it is incredibly hard to hit the note Adam hit at the end, hold it as long as he did and then maintain that level of control when you’re coming down quietly. You don’t have to know anything about music to know that, but I know just enough to say confidently that it’s hard and not everyone would be capable of it. When the hell did he breathe?

I suspect the final three is going to come down to Adam, Kris and Allison. Although I enjoyed Matt Giraud tonight, I think he’ll be the next to go. Then Danny Gokey next week. He did well tonight, even with Jamie Foxx right in front of his face, but he’s a bit bland for me. I’ve heard folks predict that it’ll come down to Adam and Danny and that may happen. But my money’s on Adam and Kris at the end. Unless people assume Adam’s gold and don’t vote – the judges’ save is gone now, so he’d be toast. I highly doubt that’ll be the way of it.

Let us see. Only Adam (and Kris’s “Aint’ No Sushine”) could’ve made me watch again after Alexis and Megan left.

[4.28: This is ridiculous, but I was curious. The high note lasts at least 8 seconds with the controlled notes coming down lasting another good three or four before he can even think of breathing and surprisingly, the breath isn’t a loud heaving one. So hard.

I compared the different versions of “Feeling Good” I personally have after listening to Adam’s like 5 times straight through today. Recently heard an awesome cover from the Dark Was the Night charity album by My Brightest Diamond which owes a lot to Nina Simone’s version. While Adam’s version is not original – those edgy opening notes gave away his debt to Muse – he cut their 3:20 cover down to a 1:59 version that didn’t suffer for it. AND, that high note? His own, entirely. Muse’s is quieter and less showy. Gorgeous, of course, but not anything as oh-my-f’ing-gawd-how-did-he-do-that as Adam’s.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Characters taking charge

Well, in the midst of changing a relatively minor detail in the second scene of my book, that crazy wonderful moment of “I’m not writing anymore, it’s the characters possessing my fingers” happened and then I realized, “Oh wow, is this gonna change a thing or two.”

So good news. The best news. But a lot of new work.

And I’m trying to finish by the 1st. Here’s my grocery list since I’m about to become a shut-in:

1. Energy drinks, lots and lots of them
2. Vegetables and fruit
3. Some chocolate

*
Something I’ve wanted to post for a little while. From Nick’s email newsletter, something that spoke to me about what I’m going through right now:

“Then, last night, my heart started trying to crawl out of my chest. This would be a signal that something is wrong. I’ve missed an important detail. And, of course, I know what this detail is.

I’m not writing.

….But it has been too long already. I am far past the point where it is okay for me to not be writing. I am not working, and I can feel my blood gathering for a mutiny.

There has to come a point where I stop making excuses for myself, for why I’m not writing, and realize that my time is finite and, sooner or later, I’m going to get cut down by something I cannot understand, and until then I have this thing called time, and I don’t know how much of it I have, only that it will run out, and the only sin I won’t be forgiven for is not using it while it sat in my hands. Because I was lazy. Because I was ignorant. Because I was afraid.

I started five poems last night. I also worked on my book for the first time in two months. Pretty much everything I wrote was crap, but it’s a start. Just get the engine running. The detritus will clear itself out eventually.

And tonight, I write this. You’ll probably read it tomorrow. Funny how that works.”

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Seal vu play


While I try to stay away from posting personal items, I received pictures of my brother’s trip to Paris today and they’re so typically Norm that I had to post. You did want me to forward them, Norm. ;”)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing about music…

is still writing.

Today I am faced with a short review of The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips in EW and then his playlist blog for Living with Music. Guess which was more effective in making me want to read the book?

EW gave The Song Is You an A-, but the reviews are so wildly unreliable in determining what I will like that it’s amusing. But then they’re not reviewing for me, are they? Who are they reviewing for? Who does anybody review for?

I’m not going to answer that.

So I read Living with Music religiously, yet somehow seemed to have fallen behind. Today, I caught up and when I read the following, I was like, “I’m sold…”

2) Sympathy for the Devil, the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger, channeling Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita” and feeling more than up to the task of speaking for Satan, ends up producing one of the great works of the 20th century, encapsulating a couple millenniums of evil in six minutes and, like a good alumnus of the London School of Economics, blaming the Russian Revolution on the Prince of Darkness.

I managed to write about music and a book. I’d say that was a pretty successful use of my time.

[4.17.09: My copy of The Song Is You came in today. At Cheers, I read the prologue and since it deals with Billie Holiday’s I Cover the Waterfront, I put that on while I read. I honestly got chills. It was hard to put the book down and get to work.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Loose Marbles


Montana‘s not even two hours in the city and she gets to see something I’ve been waiting almost two years to see. 🙂

Driving around the Quarter randomly, we saw The Loose Marbles playing and are lucky enough to find a spot that while probably not technically legal was legal-enough-looking that we could leave it there for 10 minutes to watch the show.

Not the best pictures, but here’s an idea. You can’t really see what the crowd was like, but there were lots of people who’d just stopped to see what was going on. At one point, two mounted police went by and (I kid you not, Montana can back me up on this), the horses danced to the music as they went up Royal.

I’ve seen The Loose Marbles (in one configuration or another) playing at two different places, but have never been lucky enough before to catch one of their street shows. They played “When I Get Low I Get High” at my request, though I suspect they would’a played it anyway…

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Customer service

Something I’ve noticed is that the ratio of good customer service to bad that I’ve personally experienced has gone up since this economic crisis. Perhaps businesses are realizing just how valuable every single customer is to their business. Yeah, there’s still some incredibly awful customer service, especially at big box stores. However, it seems like the consumer is viewed as an important and powerful resource again by more and more companies. Let’s just hope that continues to improve as our economy does.

With that in mind, read this about a boycott of digital books priced above $9.99 on Amazon.

And this one about books for soldiers.

And about the short story published in spreadsheet format where you can add changes.

And this about a mother’s memoir of her daughters running away. Probably important research material for my book. 🙂

I’ll tell you something (unrelated to power in the marketplace, to my knowledge, but related to writers and emotions) – I watched the series finale of ER last night (haven’t watched ER for many, many years, but I was 12 when it started, so I had to watch) while reading Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. While I recommend both ER and Olive Kitteridge, I don’t recommend double dosing on that much powerful, emotional media.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Clarence Nero

The 225 Magazine piece on Clarence Nero is now up on the site. Go take a look. This is their great photo of Clarence, used with permission.

Clarence is a good friend of mine and has been struggling with a medical set back since Mardi Gras. I really hope that everyone keeps him in their thoughts and takes a moment to check out all that he has accomplished and continues to accomplish. Clarence, you know you’re always close to my heart and never very far from mind.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

American Idol thoughts

I didn’t say anything last week after the results show because I was satisfied with Michael Sarver going home. That sounds kinda cold…well, it is cold. Here’s my problem with this season so far (as I realized last night). I think people are sticking around longer than they should based on their voices because they’re likable, have gotten air time because of their likability. Let’s face it. Michael’s a cool guy with some kids and a tough job – incredibly likable guy. Not a great voice compared to the others. Same with Scott and, as Paula calls it, his “challenge.” He’s blind – he seems like a great guy, I have tons of respect for his courage for doing a show like this, especially the group numbers at the beginning of the results shows. But his voice is boring to me and ditto his performances. There was absolutely nothing special about his “Just the Way You are.” It was decent, but absolutely nothing special. I don’t think I would be doing him any favors if I pretended to love his music just because he’s got a special challenge in life.

Alexis Grace going home pissed me off because she has a great voice. She struggled with one song, “Jolene” and went home. Folks – have you listened to “Dirty Diana” and “I Never Loved A Man”??? Don’t you want to know what she’ll do next? But how does a young mother with an awesome voice compete for likability against a blind guy and a roughneck daddy with okay voices? Everybody has kids this season: Lil Rounds (I cringed when Ryan picked up her daughter and handed her to Randy – but its horrific cuteness will probably save her after a wretched performance of “I Surrender”), and Megan also. Danny’s a widower, which they made a big deal out of for a while, but I’m relieved they seem to have let go of a bit. It’s a big deal to let us “get to know” the contestants because likability is a huge factor.

But it turns my stomach when it comes down to Allison being “the 16 year old,” Scott being “the blind guy,” Danny “the widower,” Michael “the roughneck daddy.” The contestants who’ve stood out to me did so because of amazing voices, incredibly strong or new performances.

I also hate that Alexis went home right after a lot of Internet speculation that the contest was rigged (as folks speculate it is every season). Maybe it is rigged and Alexis had to be sacrificed so that people would believe that it wasn’t… See how my conspiracy theory mind works? Honestly, I seriously doubt that AI is rigged because that would kind of defeat the purpose. And because the judges/producers (ahem, Simon) already do so much visible manipulation to try to save the contestants they think have what it takes. Anyway, if AI is rigged, how the hell did Taylor Hicks win?

Let’s talk about last night.

1. Kris Allen – Oh my. I was about to walk out the door for a volleyball game, almost decided to skip his performance. The first thing I said to my roommate when I heard he was performing, “Ain’t No Sunshine” (one of my most favorite songs ever) is, “Oh no, he could really screw this up.” I have 10 versions of this song in my iTunes and no matter how great someone covers it, it’s hard not to think of Bill Withers. And then Kris pulled some magic out of somewhere and presented me with an “Ain’t No Sunshine” I had never heard before and really, really loved. He changed up the phrasing, delaying that first “gone,” playing against expectations so beautifully to give us something new and special. Artistry, truly. Not that I didn’t miss Bill Withers’s rasp a little on the “I know, I know, I know, I know,” but Kris made this song so new and so current that it took my breath away. Now there are 11 versions in my iTunes and Kris has gone from “oh no” to “oh my.”

2. Adam Lambert – It’s an interesting week when Adam is second to somebody else for an original and experimental performance. I thoroughly enjoyed his “Play That Funky Music,” and think he’s a fascinating performer. But he did play second fiddle to Kris this week. Nobody could touch that final performance.

3. Megan Joy (Corkrey) – Really, really liked her “Turn the Lights Down Low.” She’s got a weird voice (which I love) and you can always tell it’s her singing. I think that’s an incredibly good thing. I still think she hasn’t picked one bad song. Not one. “Rockin’ Robin” was good for her and so was “For Once in My Life,” and if you don’t believe me, go listen to the studio versions. She may have had small stumbles in performance, but so has everybody and she is learning so much about how to hold herself on stage every week. I’m getting sick of “the new judge” Kara (it works both ways) spouting out, “Adele, Duffy, blah blah blah” after every performance. Yes, their songs will be incredible with Megan’s voice, but I like what she’s picking. I voted for the first time this season, trying to make sure that Kara and Simon don’t get her voted off.

4. Allison Iraheta – Gave me exactly what I’ve been asking for with the first section of “Don’t Speak” and then started screaming again. She’s got a great rocker rasp. I like her a lot. But I want more of the unplugged Allison singing softly. She proved to me that she can do it this week. Now I want an entire song.

5. Lil Rounds – Disappointed me with “I Surrender.” I thought if anybody could make me like a Celine Dion song, it’d be Lil. Nope. This song sucked. Lil can sing, I want her to give me a performance I like again.

6. Matt Giraud – I really liked his “You Found Me.” I kinda get what the judges say about his rock band songs (“Drops of Jupiter”), but then again not really. I enjoyed both of those performances and I like that he has dimensions – not just R&B and soul, but rock too. I thought it was a bit manipulative for him to play the piano in a sea of adoring girls, but that’ll probably work for him.

7. Danny Gokey – Liked his “What Hurts the Most.” Had no complaints, but it wasn’t my favorite. I think he picks the same kind of songs every week and that bores me.

8. Anoop Desai – “Caught Up” bored me and I forgot what he sang and had to look it up. I respect him for asserting exactly what kind of career he wants to have. But I’m not likely to buy his cds, maybe just buy a download or two.

9. Scott MacIntyre – You already know how I feel about “Just the Way You Are.” It’s hard to top the Piano Man and I don’t feel like he made it his own at all.

I’d like to see Scott or Anoop go. I’m afraid that folks will listen to the judges on folks like Megan and Matt (negatively) or Lil and Scott (positively). The judges supported both of the second two’s performances and I highly disagree. I’d like Lil to stay, though, because I like seeing what she does. So, in short, I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen tonight.

Know what else I’d like to see? Alexis come back. You think if the judges’ don’t use their save they can recall her, even weeks later? That would be lovely…

[Later 4.1.09 – I’m disgusted. Megan was voted off. Too bad it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. Simon really pissed me off as well because he spoke for all of the judges without consulting them (as far as I could see) before Megan even performed. This whole judges’ save things has brought out a whole new rude side in Simon. I’d like to say I’m going to stop watching now and I probably won’t watch as often, but I am intrigued to see what Adam and now Kris get up to. And yes, Allison. Really liked her sweet vocals on the group number. But I don’t particularly care who stays or goes any more, am not invested. You know what would be nice? Besides Alexis and Megan coming back? They should have a duets week where nobody gets voted off so we can see how the contestants sing together. Could be cool. It was nice seeing David Cook back and I liked what he said about only selling 1,000 copies of his cd in a year before AI and going platinum in 3 months after. And Lady GaGa’s performance of “Poker Face” – looooved it, especially how her singing straight at the clear pink piano was a million times more demented than her regular performance.]

[Also, and I know this is random, but I noticed my last name in the AI credits tonight. Just looked it up and Laura Staat is a deko operator (whatever that is, sounds cool) on the show. Hmmm, wonder if we’re related. Also random – if you Google “American Idol” and Staat, my blog pops up on the first page of search results.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized