Friday, August 15, 2008

Now with 18 1/2 minutes of special features

Just in time for the conventions, on Aug. 19 drops a new video release of the Oliver Stone romp Nixon, starring Anthony Hopkins and wondrous Joan Allen. It is being packaged as a special Election Year Edition! The irony of course is that if Nixon had had his way there wouldn't be any election years.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good word

"Never's just the echo of forever."

-- Kris Kristofferson, "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I meant to tell you, my fabulous blog readers (and the many people who find their way here because I once linked to a picture of a nearly nude Rachael Ray -- welcome!), that as of a couple of weeks ago I have switched from Isthmus features editor to Isthmus arts and entertainment editor, while my wondrous colleague the longtime A&E honcho takes a hiatus. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Not all NASA-themed novelty disco songs sucked
Chicken Little didn't lie

As a musician who is interviewed by journalists, and as a journalist who interviews musicians, I know all about a question that every music writer learns in Music Journalism 101. Musicians dislike the question because it isn't a very good one:

What are your influences?

Musicians dread the question because they know music writers may not like the answer. For example, I am an alternative country singer, so I might plausibly respond as the writer likely believes I will: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams. Senior.

But although I admire those artists tremendously, musicians who have influenced me at least as much include ones I loved when I was a kid: Styx, Donna Summer, Thomas Dolby. And there are more contemporary sounds I like that might not make sense as country influences: Kelly Clarkson, Outkast, the Whitewater polka artist Steve Meisner. But I suspect those answers wouldn't end up in the article. Or if they did, they would be only the punchline of a not very illuminating joke.

The point is that, for this musician at least, there's no telling what will influence me musically. Which brings me to today's featured track.

Years ago I blogged about being moved when I identify songs I dimly remember from childhood. That happened just the other day when I played a 45 given to me as a present by my very thoughtful boyfriend: The Astronuts, "Skylab Is Falling." Incredibly, he turned the record up on eBay based on my pitifully vague description. It is a novelty disco song I remembered, if faintly, from the summer of 1979, when the pioneering American space station Skylab crashed to earth. I was 8.

Actually, all I recalled was the title refrain, fraught with pathos. But the memory of Skylab's demise stayed with me, and years later I mentioned the event in a song of my own, the Junkers' "Susan B. Anthony Dollar Rag," about the ill-fated coin:

Now 1979 was the year for disaster
Three Mile Island was ailin', Skylab met the master
And ol' Brezhnev said Hey, I never been to sunny Afghanistan

Those are all events I remember from that year, and indeed they are my earliest political memories. And for my memory of Skylab's falling I can thank the Astronuts, whose charming, propulsive disco ditty planted the seed for what has turned out to be a lifelong fascination with manned spaceflight. But that's another blog entry.

The Astronuts - Skylab Is Falling

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Good word

"It's not possible to watch two weeks' worth of performances by athletes of Olympic calibre without having your capacity to be thrilled and inspired enlarged, especially as you get older and there is not much about your own life that is gravity-defying."

-- Nancy Franklin