Just in case you feared I had become anything resembling hip…

…No, it shall never be.  And to prove it, just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, several minutes of pointless video that might only be of interest to a small subset of my friends and relatives*:


“This is not how I am” indeed, Simon – get yer paws off of the coffee table.

Happy holiday weekend, at least to the US folks who are looking forward to beer and barbecue tomorrow.

*And of that small subset, there’s probably an even smaller subset consisting of John and my mom who will actually be amused by this video.

As long as we’re piddling about today with YouTube and music

Have a glance at my cousin, fronting the Compaq Big Band.

I have some cool relatives.

In a continuation of the odd blogging synchronicities that we’ve been having ’round here lately…

Making Light posts a link to the YouTube Video of The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain doing one of my all time favorite power-pop songs, Life on Mars*:


I rather love this – especially since the first singer bears a passing resemblance to John Simm.  It’s also clever in that glee-club/harmony/deadpan way when they start to go intentionally off the rails.

*My favorite version of which is probably Seu Jorge’s, even though it has none of the bombast that makes the original so compelling to me and was a key component of yesterday’s plea for help. What can I say – I’m fickle.  Of course, Bowie’s original isn’t really jangly, so doesn’t neatly fit into the category I posited anyway.

Oh – and hey lookie – another video.  Seu Jorge himself:

See?  Love.

Jangly power-pop

I was sitting home yesterday letting my laptop serve up what it wanted out of the 9.7 days’ worth of music it has in its innards, and Bleu’s "DDBDD" came on.

This, of course, brought me right back to the summer of 1993, the last summer I lived in Minneapolis.  I didn’t know it was to be my last summer – I managed the world’s fastest move back to the East coast on having been summarily accepted as a transfer to the University of Maine School of Law: two weeks from acceptance to classes starting.  I try to remember that summer when I get the idea that something isn’t doable in the time allotted.  If I found someone to take over my lease, packed my one-bedroom apartment, loaded the caboodle into a U-Haul and made the two-day trek from Minneapolis to Portland* in two weeks, I can bloody well do ANYTHING.

Sorry – digressions upon digressions.  Getting back to the point, "How on earth did an album released in 2002 bring you to 1993?" I hear you cry.

Two words: Andy Sturmer.  Andy Sturmer of the sadly short-lived band Jellyfish, which I saw live that summer, works with Bleu, and on some songs (as with "DDBDD," and "Could be Worse"), the result is so Jellyfish-like I get an absolute jones for more jangly, harmony-drenched, sunny-yet-slightly-bombastic power pop.

So I’m begging you: any recommendations?  The last.fm playlist in the sidebar to the right has some good examples of what I’m talking about.

*Hat tip to Dad, who did the driving, but only because he hates being driven.

Made me laugh so hard I cried.

Take two utterly insane things, mash them up, and you have Wookies dancing.

True story — sort of.

"She told it to me, and… like Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great, I occupied it.  It was real estate that I wanted to be part of so I just marched in and became part of it."

How fabulous is this?

A cat playing a theremin.  God, but there are some days I just love the Internet.

My favorite bit may be the end, though watching the moments when the instrumentalist plans his next move are pretty fabulous also.

Further thoughts on music to exercise by

I listened to my new running playlist this morning on the way in to work, and realized another thing about it (and playlists like it in the past).

I start my runs (in general) with the dark, the sarcastic, the angry.  The first three songs on this new playlist are each, in their own way, a solitary middle finger with a backbeat. 

The emotional arc of my music and the emotional arc of my runs are pretty much in synch, and I don’t think it’s any accident that I’ve ended up packing the front end of my playlists with “…and the horse you rode in on” music.  Like many (most?) people, exercise is only partly about corpore sano – it’s also about mens sana.  I’m clearing my head as I burn calories, and the first things I need to deal with (at least lately) are feelings of anger and frustration.  These are pushy emotions in me – dominant and aggressive* – and they end up leashed in tightly in a lot of daily life.  On my own, on the trail, they can rampage around a bit and help to get my physical motor turning over in the first 10 minutes or so of exercise.  It’s a healthy way to cope, I think.  These “negative” emotions can be put to good use, fueling my pace as the first few hills put my body to the test.  After that first ten minutes, “angry and frustrated” morphs into “fierce and strong.”  And “fierce and strong” is a nice pivot point for me emotionally.  From there, I can pretty much go anywhere -  good or bad.

For anyone not familiar with that internal landscape transformation, the transition from the baffled confusion in Richard Thomson’s moody, angry Read About Love (lyrics here) to Help Me Suzanne, which is a light, classic pop song with a happy chorus oozing with shiny gratitude (You gave me the reason/For feeling like I do/You gave me the reason/I’d like to thank you) would have to constitute some sort of musical whiplash.  Having burned off my initial exercise-rage, however, this is exactly the sort of thing that helps me pivot off to a more positive range of emotions, extended by Spoon’s groove (never mind the fact that I don’t ever want to know anyone who can remain filled with rage in the face of Keepon) and The Scissor Sister’s bouncy silliness.  Shawn Colvin simply puts the mellow frosting on the new-attitude cake.

*Yes, I’ve been watching a lot of Dog Whisperer lately.  More on that later.


I had to take a hiatus from running when I was dealing with the respiratory ick (and then a bout of flu – or something like it – does one really care what it’s called when one feels as if they were run over by a truck?  No, I thought not).  To celebrate my return to it (and to acknowledge that I had grown weary of the last playlist and had sort of mucked with it and ended up playing one song over and over again because it got me going due mostly to novelty, which was wearing off), I cobbled a new one together.  It’s not quite as long as the last one, but since I’m more or less getting my groove back, I’m only doing about 2/3 the distance I was at formerly (“And that’s OK,” I keep telling myself more or less firmly.  No, that whole “reality” thing isn’t going over so well, why do you ask?).

Anyway, mostly because I think this might amuse my more musically-minded friends, here it is:

We Used to Be Friends – The Dandy Warhols: A theme song to a neo-noir teen mystery series.  Yep.  It’s a nice walking pace for my warmup, and I think it’s really catchy.  Some might detect a certain girl-power theme to a lot of my running tunes, and they wouldn’t be wrong.

Gunpowder & Lead – Miranda Lambert:  Ahem – did someone say girl power?

Read About Love – Richard Thompson:  Irony?  What irony?  I haven’t an earthly idea what you’re talking about…

Help Me, Suzanne – Rhett Miller: I picked this up on a Paste magazine sampler disc – it’s got a nice mid-run beat that reminds me not to blow out too early.

Don’t You Evah – Spoon:  This is when I start to get a little tired, and this tune gives me mental images of Keepon.  It’s hard to let your pace flag when you’re imagining a curious, bebopping Peep:

She’s My Man  – Scissor Sisters:  If it’s hard to let up when you have a mental image of Keepon, it’s even harder to feel tired to this song.

Fill Me Up  – Shawn Colvin:  A nice bouncy walk home (well, by then I’ve usually blown myself out by running pretty hard to the Sisters, so I’m not so bouncy.  Tosh is usually still bouncy enough for the both of us, though).

Any favorite exercise tunes?

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall

I have been accused of being difficult.

Control your shock, please.  I’m speaking of something specific.  Both my husband and mother have told me that purchasing gifts for me is fraught, since I tend to buy the things I want for myself, with some alacrity.

So it was with great forbearance that I put James Taylor’s “One Man Band” into my Amazon wishlist some time before Christmas, and waited.

And waited.

No dice.

So, what’s a girl who has been accused of a behavior to do, but repeat it?  I ordered it earlier this week, and it arrived.  We’ve listened to the CD, and now I’m watching the DVD portion of our show.  And I can’t help but be reminded of my first concert.   Which is a bit of a story in and of itself.

I was about 12, and my aunt, my dad’s sister Judith, informed me that it was time I saw some live music.  She told me that she was going to take me to a concert as a gift.   She also made it clear that this was a rite of passage – one that was not to be avoided or delayed.  She handed me a Boston Globe advertisement for “Concerts on the [Boston] Common” and told me to choose a concert.  No pressure.


The rite of passage, the solemnity with which she intoned that It Was Time I Did This: frankly, this scared the ever-living crap out of me.  My incredibly sheltered, small-town, 12-year-old mind was possibly imagining opium dens – if she had a single clue about what opium dens might consist of (hint: not a single iota of an idea).

But James Taylor was on that list.  The idea that James Taylor might exist outside our family’s stereo’s speakers (I speak broadly here – I’m not aware of a member of my dad’s side of the family who is not a fan) was a little alarming, but the opium dens receded a bit (not entirely – I was aware that “A Junkie’s Lament” was not exactly about monkeys and snickers bars, but I had no more idea about the mechanics of heroin addiction than I did about the circuitry of an ENIAC).  I told Jude that JT it was.

It was five of us who went that clear summer night – Judith, her husband Chris, my uncle Bob, and his wife Kate.  Four people who were then  younger I am now, ostensibly escorting a 12-year-old to her first concert (Jude is 11 years older than I am, more of an age to be a cousin than an aunt.  Bob is closer in age to my dad.  God love ’em for putting up with me).

I was still terrified.  Excited, but terrified.

As we went through the entry, Chris noted the whiff of pot smoke – did I mention I was scared?  Yeah.  We found our seats as the opening act (Karla Bonoff) finished her current hit (the forgettable “Personally,” which Judith excoriated).

I sat, nervous as a cat.  I was uncertain, tense, thrilled.  And then JT came on.  And I began to have some clue about why concerts are such compelling things.  Seeing someone live has an energy that is impossible to replicate, but with JT there are those “How did he do that?” moments – tricks of timing and skill that are akin to stage magic.  I’ve seen him several times since, and he always seems to have some variety of that trick in his shows: something that shows off his skill with timing, but in a low-key, seemingly casual manner.

In the case of this show back in the early 80’s, it was him singing “You’re Just In Love (I Wonder Why)” as a duet with a reel-to-reel tape deck, with the deck providing pithy, spoken psychoanalysis to the psychosis provided by the song (e.g. “I smell blossoms and the trees are bare…”  “Ah.  Olfactory hallucination…”).  The trick doesn’t seem too wonderful, unless you’ve had to try to time something live to match something recorded.  Not so easy.

As evidenced by this latest DVD, he’s still at it, but with massively geared drum mechanisms and a video containing a subset of the Tanglewood Festival Choir.  I’m no longer afraid of opium dens, but a JT concert still has the ability to give me that uncertain, nervous, thrilled feeling.

Thanks, James.