Saturday, January 27, 2007

A new hope

Also up on the Web is my Isthmus cover story this week about Aaron Yonda and Matt Sloan, the Madison filmmakers who created the Internet sensation "Chad Vader." (You can download a scan of the article from Yonda and Sloan's Web site.)

In the current edition of Isthmus is a supplement, Health Beauty Fitness, that includes an article I wrote about my loving boyfriend's sleep apnea. Read the piece here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


It's rare that a political cartoon makes me laugh out loud, but this one in today's Wisconsin State Journal did.

Today's lazy blog entry

Look! A list from the Internet, reproduced for you! I always liked this collection of proverbs for musicians, which has been passed from e-mail account to e-mail account for nigh on five and a half years. Some of them are dated, others ungrammatical, all useful.

The one about going through more than four bass players is uncomfortable for me, and so are the ones about talking on stage, cable-access television and asking members of an audience how they are doing. (It's hard to think of stuff to say up on the stage!)

Some of these no longer make any sense, like #21, "No one cares if you have a Web site." As someone who has written about music for many years, I can affirm: Music writers care if you have a Web site. Saves time. Also false is #15: "When your drummer brings in a song for the band, find a new drummer." The drummer with whom I have worked the most, Thomas Crofts, writes the best songs you've ever heard.

But I am just devastated by #4, "No one cares who you opened for." That's a bomb I've been known to drop. (Did you know I opened for Billy Joe Shaver? Hank Williams III? Neko Case?)

1. Never start a band with a married couple
2. Your managers not helping you. Fire them.
3. Before you sign a record deal, look up the word "recoupable" in the dictionary.
4. No one cares who you opened for.
5. A string section does not make you sound more important.
6. If your band has gone through more than four bass players, it's time to break up.
7. When you talk on stage you are never funny.
8. If you sound like another band, don't act like you're unfamiliar with their work.
9. Asking a crowd how they're doing is just amplified small-talk
10. Don't say your video's being played if it's only on a cable access show.
11. When you sign to a major label, claim you have inked the best contract ever. Mention "artistic freedom," and "guaranteed three record deal."
12. When you get dropped insist you had the "worst" deal ever and you asked to be let go.
13. Never name a song after your band.
14. Never name your band after a song.
15. When your drummer brings in a song for the band, find a new drummer.
16. Never enter a "battle of the bands" contest. If you do, you're already a loser.
17. Scary word pairings: "rock opera," "blues jam," "swing band," and "open mike."
18. Drummers can take off their shirts, or wear gloves. Never both.
19. Listen, either break it to your parents or we will; it's rock and roll, not a soccer game. They've gotta stop coming to your shows.
20. It's not a "showcase," it's a gig that doesn't pay.
21. No one cares if you have a web site.
22. Getting a tattoo is like sewing platform shoes to your feet.
23. Don't hire a publicist.
24. Playing in Virginia Beach and Charlottesville doesn't mean you're on tour.
25. Don't join a cover band.
26. Although they come in many different colors and sizes, electric guitars all sound the same. Why do you keep changing them between songs?
27. Don't stop your set to ask that beers be brought up (Plan Ahead)
28. If you use a smoke machine your music sucks. ditto Light Show.
29. We can tell the difference between a professionally designed album cover and one you did on your computer.
30. Remember, if blues solos are so difficult, then why can so many 16 year-olds play them?
31. If you ever take a bad publicity photo, destroy it, or else it will come back to haunt you.
32. Cut your hair, but do not shave your head.
33. Pierce your nose, but not your eyebrows.
34. Do not wear shorts onstage. Or a suit. Or a hat.
35. Rock oxymorons "Major Label Interest," "demo deal," "blues genius."
36. Things that are never coming back: headbands, gongs, playing guitar with a beer bottle.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Big time

Look, my Emo Philips review has been linked to by Ann Althouse, the UW-Madison law professor and noted blogger. She was struck, I gather, by my report that Philips mocked Republicans -- and one Republican in particular, who happened to be sitting in the front row.

An Althouse reader named Dust Bunny Queen complained about yours truly:
Wow....what fun. Go to a show and end up being the butt of every joke by a rude fourth rate comedian. Everyone's dream I'm sure.

It's interesting that the author of the article seems to think this is perfectly acceptable because the patron has the temerity to be a Lawyer AND Republican at the same time.
Dust Bunny Queen is right. I wasn't really bothered by it. Neither, as far as I could tell, was the Republican lawyer, who was laughing along with everyone else. Maybe he wept later, or wrote a humorless blog comment somewhere.
All the young dude

This won't be meaningful to anyone who doesn't know a thing or two about the music scene in Madison, Wis., but check out this pic on MySpace of one Carl Johns, age 18.

Monday, January 22, 2007


I like that on the Web site of Wisconsin's South Central Library System, the library in Belleville reports that its copy of the 1930 film version of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie is in the "adult video collection."

It's true, O'Neill ain't kid stuff.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

31 discs, so little time

I'm still loving the Complete New Yorker DVD set Ereck gave me last month, especially now that I have followed the directions on this Web site and copied all the files from the DVDs to a hard drive. The reading and the surfing are that much more fun without all the tedious swapping of discs.

I bought an external hard drive for the purpose, and there was plenty of room left on it after I installed the New Yorker files. (You actually can now buy the set preinstalled on an external hard drive, which is genius, but much more expensive.) So my eye lit on another trove of mine: the Complete National Geographic on 31 CDs, which come stored in a handsome wooden box. My folks gave me the set this some years back, and I must confess that when I got it, I fooled around with it a little, then put it on a shelf. Why? If the eight DVDs of the New Yorker set are a hassle, the 31 CDs of the National Geographic set -- which contain every issue of the magazine from 1888 to 1997, but none of those celebrated pull-out maps -- are, well, a bigger hassle.

But I had a Saturday afternoon free recently, so I copied the 31 discs to the hard drive. The designers of the National Geographic software really expected people to run the program using the CDs, so it took a bit of jiggering to make everything work from the hard drive. I won't bore you with the details of the jiggering, except to say that I had to dust off some old MS-DOS skills along with the National Geographic discs.

Finally I got everything working, and I must say: from the standpoint of presentation alone, the Geographic set is a disappointment. For starters, the program window is permanently sized at 640 by 480 pixels, which probably seemed like a great idea in 1998 but is downright microscopic by the standards of today's displays. And the program's design is, well, ugly.

Worse than that, though, is the fact that the scans of the pages are really quite poor -- smudgy, fuzzy, pixelated. Here's a sample:

By way of comparison, here's what the text from the New Yorker DVDs looks like -- still a little pixelated, but much clearer than the Geographic copy.

That said, the National Geographic set is endlessly fascinating. The text is readable, if just barely -- really, just barely -- but for these purposes, that's okay. The browsing is great, and as we all know, the photographs are striking (if blurry, in this case). Look at this one of the country singer Webb Pierce from the 1978 article about Nashville I excerpted above.