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The Music Never Left You

27 Jan

It has become difficult, especially over these past few weeks, to shake the feeling that we are lying in the basin of some vast, vague ditch of malaise, frustration and crappiness – nationally, globally, but also individually.  Everyone seems depressed, and not just because it’s January.

We’ll see if Mr. Obama can get up there tonight for his first State of the Union and make us feel better about things. I imagine that at the very least he’ll make those of us who support him feel a bit better about him, which should in turn make us feel a bit better about “things.” I doubt, however, that it’ll be the spiritual salve that I, at least, am craving.

But I think I know something that could be. I was browsing the Facebook statuses of my friends and fellow musicians when I saw a post by a San Francisco saxophonist I know, Bari Sax-man extraordinaire Doug Rowan, who shared the following:

Everyone that ever played a musical instrument and quit playing for some reason or another should pick it back up again and see what happens.

To which I say: YES. Doug, I love this. “Pick it back up again and see what happens.” Yes. Yes.

Right after I saw that (and wholly unrelated to it), a singer friend of mine shared on my wall that she’d picked up her alto sax again after several years of not playing, and was loving it.  And I realized: that’s it!  We should go for it, we should turn that thought into some sort of unofficial national initiative.

People of the world!

Ex-band geeks, garage rockers! Former dorm-room strummers and lapsed fifth-grade recorder virtuosos!

Hear me, and heed the call!  It is time to pick up your instruments once more!

Seriously, I am talking to YOU.  Perhaps you played an instrument in your high school band, or banged on the bass in a garage punk group in college?  Maybe you sang in the madrigals or were a marching band nerd?  Did you rent-to-own a euphonium, or spend days learning scales on the xylophone? Is there an accordion moldering in a closet somewhere in your house?

If so, go dig that accordion up, dust of those drum cases, re-string that bass, have your folks ship out your old Squire. Find your old instrument and see if it still works, because I’ll bet it does. And more to the point, I’ll bet that you can still work it. Just place your hands on it and see what they remember. You just might surprise yourself.

And sure, you might be utter rubbish, you might give your cat a nervous breakdown. Playing again may remind you why the lip pain, sore fingers, and frustrating metronome bleeps made you stop in the first place.  But maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize how much you loved music, how much you miss it, and you might start to play again.  Find a teacher.  Learn some new songs you like.  Join a band.

I know this won’t solve anything tangible.  It won’t get back any bailout money, or fix the California state budget, or re-hire all the amazing teachers who are going to be let go this year, to say nothing of what it won’t do for the suffering multitudes of the world.

But what it will do is something less quantifiable, perhaps smaller but no less grand – it might allow you to rediscover a part of yourself that you’d forgotten was even there.

You don’t have to sound “good.”

You don’t have to sound like anything at all.

Just give it a try. See what happens.


Welcome to Veridian, America

22 Jan

An apple is not an orange. My wallet is not a tree. A truck is not a pair of jeans. And a corporation is not a person. This is not a letter/spirit of the law thing, this is just… true.

If there’s really nothing to be done about Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, then it really is just a matter of time until day-to-day life becomes an unfunny version of Better Off Ted.

ABC’s (hilarious) corporate send-up takes on a bit of a new flavor now, doesn’t it?  While the writers get a lot of mileage out of ironically having Portia Di Rossi anthropomorphize a corporation (i.e. “The Corporation would rather you didn’t do that.”), Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas have just literally anthropomorphized corporations. As if by some black alchemy, they have made them People.

So. Prepare for a world in which every day is casual Fribsday and all scientists (even the funny ones) are evil; where each of us is placed in his or her own cat- or space-themed cubicle and all the stolen coffee creamer in the world can’t set things right.

ABC may be canceling the show, but in a few years, we’ll get to live it.

Welcome to Veridian, America. The Corporation has been waiting for you.

A Bear With Chainsaws Instead of Paws

1 Oct

Daily Show Democratic Supermajority Bear With Chainsaws Instead of Paws

…makes me think of a lot of things:

“Haaaaa” followed by “He’s looking at me, Ray,” then maybe “OMG RUN”

“Democratic Super Majority,” on the other hand? Doesn’t really come to mind.

Also: I hope no one tells Colbert that the bears are now arming themselves with chainsaws.

Geddit? ARMing?  Because the… arms… and paws… are…


(pic via)

Rest In Peace

23 Sep

Here lies The Internets

Yesterday I heard a lady on a cell at Trader Joe’s say it, and she just sounded so pleased with herself…

Sigh. Let’s just accept it and move on. There will be time to grieve later.

Oh, Monkey Washing A Cat…

11 Aug

Jon Stewart Monkey Washing Cat…is there no complex social issue you can’t cure?


So You Think You Can Douche

31 Jul

Daily Show So You Think You Can Douche

Glen Beck! Sean Hannity! Lou Dobbs!  Who will go home tonight?  I thought that Hannity’s solo routine to Carmina Burana was pretty good, but, in a shocker, Beck wins the night with a double-toepick-contradiction that has the audience out of their seats!  This show, I’m telling ya – people say it’s just cheap thrills, but really, the level of douchebaggery on display makes it so much more than that. (Via)

Pianist Henry Hey Makes McCain and Palin Sing

22 Jul
John McCain Sings

Flyeee me to the moooon...

I’ve been talking a lot about Auto-Tune the News this past week – everyone I’ve shown the video to (and my post on the subject) agrees that it’s pretty damn amazing.  My addiction to issue #6 remains, though I haven’t been watching it as many times as I was, and damned if I’m not still noticing little jokes (the singers are called the “Congressional Congress,” the way that MJ’s attorney and Katie Couric join the final stacked chord on “Waking Up,” etc).

While in NYC, my buddy Landon, a fantastic jazz pianist I went to school with, showed me a couple of videos made by fellow NY jazz pianist Henry Hey.  In the videos, Hey plays piano along with campaign speeches and interviews given by John McCain and Sarah Palin, to hilarious, fascinating result.  The first one features a McCain speech and a Palin Interview:

Amazing!  Seriously, listen to it again – the modulation at the very start of McCain’s speech, the way that it speeds up and slows down so effortlessly with his strange speaking cadences (particularly when he gets confused about agree/disagree, haaaaaa)… and Palin!  Wow, whenever I hear her jumbled, confused-sounding speaking style (particularly in interviews), I cringe, but when it’s put to music, it’s actually staccato and interesting!  Here’s another Palin interview, really great stuff:

I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into doing these – while ATTN wears its slick production on its sleeve, Henry Hey’s videos make music out of politicians’ words in a much more organic, challenging way – that is to say, he uses his accompanying skills to literally make music out of their words!  Brilliant.

Hey is a total badass on his own, and one gets the sense that he does these videos more for the hell of it than anything, but even taken on their own, they make a pretty compelling case for any jazz vocalist to hire him.  I mean, if he can make Sarah Palin sound good, imagine what he could do for someone with talent!

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