You know that time when you were all wanting to make your friend Xtina's Sunday really, really special, and you were like, "I'm going to make her a ten-tiered layer cake with columns and Ed-ible glitter and rhinestones, and it's gonna have color-changing LED lights and rotate 360 degrees and each layer is going to have its own unique theme, and when I present it, a mini-Fergie is going to pop out the middle and perform nose piercings? And it's gonna be like that Lexus commercial that plays every Christmas, only without that algal bloom schmaltz? Remember that?
And how you kept trying to make it, but this wasn't really coming out right and you didn't really plan that out and every time you tried to correct it, new obstacles appeared and then you started to think like, "Shit, we're in a Depression — maybe I oughtta stop metaphorically flicking off SoHo store owners by balking at their 80%-off prices and, like, SERIOUSLY focus on my job?" So that when Sunday finally rolled around, all you had for Xteenerz was a plate of half-underdone, half-burnt cookies that you put too little sugar and too much salt (and banana flavor!) in, but mixed it wrong, so that one bite was like a Matterhorn-size circus peanut and the next was all brackish seawater but mostly it was just charred flour? Remember that? Remember? You do??
Well, um... OK, then. [deep cleansing breath] Happy Sunday, X-teenzlers! [best :/ face here]
Cuz honestly beeplers, that metaphorical 30-story layer cake? That's what I'd wanted to present to you. For the new year, not Sunday. I was all psyched and shit and like, "It's a NEW! YEAR! and I've got twenty-and-one score songs in my iPod so I'm gonna write this big, novella-length five-part miniseries for the FMU blog and it's gonna have different "voices" and go off in random, rambling, zany, insane directions and it'll have non-Euclidean footnotes and an endnote page and fake citations all kinda crazyass shit, and it's gonna be whatever the German word for FUCKINGAMAZING is, because you know there is one and that it's gotta have at least 37 letters, and I'm going to put it out right around January 26th, cux that's when Chinese New Year is and it's the year of the Ox again, and Obama and I are both oxen, and it's gonna have this fake self-help theme that's gonna work as a great framework to just ramble on about shit, and, get autistic about it and examine it from every angle and take it apart and put it back together like when you fake-solve a Rubiks Cube, and then just Blame It on the Fraaaaame[work] (1)
And I tried to write that; I really did. I got started and it felt like it was coming out OK, like a really good turd, but then when I tried to keep it going, there were parts that weren't were all clunky and off color, like a not-so-good turd, and I felt all this PRESSURE to keep it coherent, and then I got distracted by all these thoughts and the framework got overwhelming and the whole thing just looked to me like a stinking brown splatter. Like, well, you know — a piece of chocolate cake you stepped on. So I threw my hands in the air like Tony Blair and damned the flip flops. Because, I figured, if all those 36-shot lattes and goo-goo-lala herbs from the Vitamin Shop and enzymes and booze and blueberries and Sessions for Peace couldn't bring out this amazing THING I wanted to give you, then it must not have even been there. (2)
But then the other day I was walking around SoHo, which has kinda become my 'Hat 'hood since I've been in Brooklyn. [Don't ask me 'bout that, K bitches? Cuz damn, that commute is long (4) — so long that sometimes I feel like I'm gonna lose my shit on the train and just start crying into my Walgreens bag and, I dunno, "sing an aria to God" or something. But then I also lip the words and seat-dance to the songs on my 'pod and sometimes even walk to the beat, and really, isn't that EXACTLY THE SAME as crying in public, except some kinda in-sub-ob-verse? So maybe I lost it long before I ever moved out to the BK. Annieway, SoHo has become my Hat hood now, because it starts, sorta, right at the 2nd ave stop on my train. Sure, I could get off at 4th, 14th, 23rd, even 53rd/5th, but damn, bitches — I don't want to be stuck on a train ALL DAY! So I'm rocking the 2nd ave, and it's close to Injun Row, where my cheap friend likes to eat (as do I), and it's near that bookstore and Sephora and Starbucks and I'm semi-familiar with it and now on a first-name basis with Phyllicia at Whole foods... so basically I just gotsta adjust. When I lived on 105, the walk down Riverside Park was my hood, and lemme tell ya, it was so beautiful that sometimes I felt like Pocahontas running through that autumn-summer-whatexactlywasit landscape, with my perky booblets and raven hair... And yeah, I could do Prospect Park, and it's gorgeous too, but I don't KNOW it, know wha'mean? Neverthebreast, I do sometimes walk up the park on temperate sunny days (more about that another time — seriously, you have to remind me. Like, email me or something. This will be a running theme. Maybe you oughtta get out your legal pad, the pink one. No, the orange. Duh. Seriously. No — SERIOUSLY.), but even then I just train it into the Hat. Cuz that's the only place people will meet you. Show me someone who will journey out past Williamsburg to meet you and I'll show you someone seriously gunning for sainthood. Sure, I probably COULD find someplace in the BK to hang out all day, if I really looked, but please, can we just eject this topic? Like let it be, OK? I'm not cool, bitches.] Andyway, I was ambling around SoHo, looking for some light train reading, and I found this magazine store. I went in and it was almost ALL fash mags, and I kinda wanted to buy one, hoping that there would be some mind-boggling wisdom of the ages contained therein and that it would be written in great readable New Yorker-esque prose, but every time I picked one up I couldn't even open it. Because while all the covers were just breathtaking — all minimal and art-directed and forward-looking, I just knew from all my experience with fash mags that everything inside was stick-stupid. But I wanted something to look at, so I stayed the course, scanning every shelf for something light fun different engaging sexy and smart. And when I'd almost done the Tony Blair again in frustration, I spotted this mag with Chloë Sevigny on the cover, and I was like, "Shit, there's gotta be SOMETHING good in that one, even if it's just the interview with St. Chloë." (5)
So I bought the mag (Missbehave — kind of a dumb title for such a sharply designed magazine), and I'm flipping through it, and I come across this blurb on a book series which contains the titles How to Get Fat (I can write that book in one word: Eat. There. Now where's MY advance, Sally?!?!) and How to Have an Ill-Behaved Dog, and they called it the "Self Hurt" series. You know, like self help, but, well, yeah. And when I read that, well, it was like my head peeled open like a cheap shoe, and some angel ass sprayed a warm, honey-scented fart of wisdom and grace directly into my brain. And it swirled and tickled and bolted through my nervous system, reducing me to a puddle of pulsating, almondy goo. Naturligtvis, I'm talking about the revelation I had:
"Self Hurt"??? Is that a real genre now?? Because lemme tell ya, bizznitch, if it is, then it's a genre I can DO. I've GOT the qualifications — you can't get more cred in that department (well, you can, but do you really want to hang out with Courtney Love on a really, really bad day? I'm sure you THINK you do, but a BAD day? Not a microphone-hit-the-crowd day, but a save-her-from-falling-into-traffic, explain-to-preschoolers-why-she-keeps-nodding-off, apologize-to-shop-clerks-and-never-get-to-rock-out-because-she's locked herself in the bathroom day? And hey, I'm not hating — I love me some crazyass peops, but not when they've really gone off the rail. And apologies to CL — I only used you as an example because you've been a mess in the past. Hey, from one mess to another, right? I'm sure you wouldn't want to be around me when I'm yelling at the computer in Studio C.). Sample titles: Power Stains: Nature's Answer for Dressing (and Undressing) to Avoid Success? Advance me and I can tell you more than you ever wanted to know. Emotional Mismanagement for Dummies? Gotcha — I'm ON it, after the advance, of course. Losing Friends and Alienating People FOR REAL??? Literary agents should be on me like killer bees on the baseball games of my childhood fears.
So, perhaps sober-drunk on the idea of this new genre I could become the Yoko Warhol of, I had another 'piphany: Why not make THAT the framework of my Flimsy New Year's Excuse to Talk About Shit FMU Blog Post, the one I'd been trying so hard to avoid writing and failing and totally succeeding?. I could do something like, "How to Not Get Ahead in the Year Ahead", or "Quitsourcing: Harnessing the Power of Not Following Through to Not Change Your Life." But in the end I thought it best to just call it, "How to Have an Ed Shepp 2009." And that's why this post is titled exactly that, except, you know, exactly not. Confused? Good. You should be. Cuz that's a big part of the ride here, that disorientation that many find nauseating but a precious, hypersuperoverevolved population (that's YOU!) find exhilarating. So get ready. ...Are you ready? K.
Consider this your Rough Guide to rocking 2009 Ed Shepp-style. And since it's Ed Shepp- and not Emily Post-style, we're throwing out the rules and keeping it arbitrary. Y'know, FREEFORM, babe! I'm gonna talk about a few things that've been on my mind lately, maybe toss in a resolution or two, give some assignments, and mostly just shoot shit. And by the end of this entry, you may just learn something. ...Or not. But if you've ever wanted to be more like Ed Shepp — and really, Christ help you if you have. Seriously, consider therapy. I am — here's your golden ticket, babe. Right from the source.
But one request of many — please, please, please, please, please don't expect continuity or coherence. (And if you can shut off that part of yer brain that requires it, you'll really be that much more closerer to being Ed Shepplike.) Let's try to keep this loose, like a love letter or a porn star's asshole. Or, rather, since I've never actually written a love letter, not even to myself (OK, maybe once or twice to myself. Or weekly.), maybe I'll go for the tone of a drunken email to Mom — y'know, when you're disinhibited enough to talk about your feelings honestly and straightforwardly, without regressing to some childhood role that makes you feel like Baby Jane, but you're not so tanked that you're blubbering like a sad Gloria Estefan song or talking about shit that you really shouldn't be mentioning to Mom (like porn star's assholes and that tape you made with Andy Dick — BELIEVE me, do NOT mention that)? The kind of email that, after reading it, you would never really think, "He was UNDER THE INFLUENCE." (6)
Oy-K, I've got a LOT to rehash about old shit and a lot of filthy language to fit in (it ought to be written in blue), so this entry may just end up being installments, an epistolary piece if you will, and it won't coincide perfectly with Chinois New Year (um, Happy New Year — it's the 26th as I type; er, the 28th as I type more, and the 30th today), but I can still rationalize plugging it out in February cuz that's the month I was born from. So we'll make THAT the beginning of 2009. But Amyway, back to the postie: Let's start at a primal place for your journey into Ed Sheppitude for 2009: Pop music. All aboard!
First thing's first. And it's unpleasant and all apologies, but here's the real spit: Whether you've heard The Ed Shepp Radio Experiment or not, you're almost definitely reading this from the FMU blog (but if someone forwarded to you cuz they thought it was cool, THANK YOU, forwarder! If you forwarded it to laugh at me, I fuck your laughter, shitwipe. Don't you have to go put more gel your hair? It's looking a little.... symmetrical.), so you're probably expecting me to have some zazzoo, rarified, outsider taste in music. And actually this expectation may be a good thing, because it will learn you an integral lesson in the art of the Ed of Shepp: You will be disappointed. (And as Ed Shepp, you will disappoint. It's like a fat old woman walking zig-a-zag on a NYC street when you're really late — there's no way around it.) What's on my 'pod would probably make your toenails curl. It's somewhat sanitized at the moment, since I was changing shit recently, but let's have a look at what's there today, Jan. 25, 2009:
Hazy Shade of Winter, the Bangles; It Must Have Been Love, Roxette (7); Soak Up the Sun, Sheryl Crow (202); Piece of Me, Britney; Like a Prayer, Jon Wesley Harding and a Madonna megamix; Rockapella (yeah, I'm THAT square); The Magic of Christmas Day, Celine Dion (more on that later).
The Magic of Christmas Day
OK, that's a quick selection of the naffest shit I love. But I feel like being from Florida gives me a little License 2 Naff. I mean, when my roommate and I were at Versailles and we came to a souvenir desk, I told him that I suddenly felt at home, because I grew up surrounded by souvenir shops, so they almost induce a state of serenity in me, like the smell of a mother's tit does to her baby. Maybe I get an oxytocin rush from them (8), and maybe I should set one up in my room, as part of this idea of Sanctuary that I've got rocking (add this to the list of stuff you have to remind me about later. You need to know this if you want to be more Ed Sheppy.).
But back to the naffitude. OK, just to ease your mind and make this whole sordid business less scary for you, I'll concede that (naturligtvis) I left out anything remotely interesting in that list — the dozen or so files from my voice recorder, the cover of Angie off Pop Artificielle, that Mu song, that Brigitte Fontaine song, Norwegian rap, Swedish radio and podcast lessons; some Robyn; Wing; a dsico remix.....
And a couple other blorgps that we may or may not get to in this postie.
OK. Again, let's breathe. Cool. So now that's all cleared up, let's get down to the bitch that is Being Ed Shepp for 2009 (or any other year, for that matter). We're approaching our first stop on this train ride, and her name is (and really, you shoulda seen this one coming): Celine. Yes, as in Dion. And don't even THINK of trying to skip out now, biatch! Because you couldn't, really, even if you wanted to. Once Ed Shepp gets in ya brain (and if you've gotten this far, then it means I have), there's no turning back. (It's like I told my friend Sandra Bullock a couple weeks ago: Sure, it's a lot to handle, but if you just relax and enjoy it, it'll take you to the moon and back. Yeah, we were eating cake. And fucking.)
OK, I have complicated feelings about Celine Dion. Or at least I tell people they're complicated. On the one hand, I've never liked the timbre of her voice. I've always found it somewhere between nasal and strident. I hate her French accent, how she manages to put an r and an l into every vowel. But I do like some of her songs, and listening to her greatest hits CD became an accidental Christmas tradition at the MDC (Mount Dora crib), probably how watching Disney at 3pm on Christmas Day did i Sverige. Accidental because for years no CD-R I burned ever worked in my Mom's car, and the only CD in her Josh Groban-rich collection that both my sister and I could sing along to was Celine Dion's A Decade of Song, so we played it constantly. (Radio was just not an option — we tried, but Orlando radio is a wasteland). Background: I was only dimly aware of her for years — I knew I didn't like her voice, but I was largely unfamiliar with her ovaries. Or is it oeuvre? No one can say. But then came The Song That Changed Everything, and of course here I speak of My Heart Will Go On. It was the first CD song I liked (and I love the fact that that itself has become something of a cliché). And when I say 'liked,' I mean OBSESSED OVER. I played it over and over and over and over and over again, as is my wont for whatever I'm rocking at the moment. It's my ass burgers. (So yeah, sometimes I'm literally rocking.) Please note: I never saw Titanic; I just liked the song — the tune, the melodrama, the fact that it wasn't all that hard to sing until she goes from celine to CELINE!!!. I even bought the album, but never listened to much beyond that song — the duet with Barbra Streisand isn't horrible, but neither is it soaring. I think years later in NYC I must have gotten a street copy of the greatest hits, because I remember listening to MYWGO and the song with Meat Loaf, because that's just beyond-the-beyond in terms of melodrama. It could hold its own against a lot of bombast you'd hear on Broadway, which makes you wonder when Celine's Mamma Mia is going to debut. And the other ones I liked from Decade: That's the Way It Is, because I like the tempo and it's easy on the voice and the brain. And speaking of easy, I really wish she'd lean into the word more in the song — you know, moan it in, like Britney would. Except without sounding all froggy. And here's one toward the end of the disc that I like simply because it's very apparent that they auto-tuned her voice to death. Not in the modern way, but in the trying-to-sound-perfect-but-still-human way. I like hearing that gloss that pitch correction can put on the voice, and I find it interesting how the song is this "demarcation line" in the album — the vocal processing makes it sound completely different from all the songs that preceded it. And just hearing the tuning on that track lets you know that the vocals on every subsequent track will be chromatically perfect, even if you don't recognize it outright.
All that said, the more I listened to the album over Christmas and one summer, the more I realized how awesomely, incredibly BAD most of her songs are, and when I tried to explain to my mom or sister what exactly made them bad, I kept drawing a blank. I knew a LOT was wrong with them, but I couldn't put it into words. Now, after having the question percolate through my brain for so many years, I've realized that it's mostly the more-clichéd-than-cliché lyrics, the paint-by-numbers instrumentation that seems tailor-made to convey nothing and aspire to complete mediocrity, the complete misfires of Celine's attempts at melisma and the fact that even though she was singing very LOUDLY, I didn't feel raw emotion from her (even though I can certainly appreciate that some of the shit she does sounds difficult to do. I love that difficult shit.) I also wondered whether my mom and sister would agree that most of her songs are bad if I could convey to them what makes them so.
And no mention of Celine Dion would be complete without pointing out one singular song, The Magic of Christmas Day (to read my full thoughts on that, go here), which I'd been listening to somewhat frequently, as it was, you know, Christmas, and I'd had it because I'd used it in a show a few years before (9). It's one of the few songs that I like, hate, revel to, cringe to, am mystified by and am, yes, more than a little embarrassed that I listen to. More on that inna minnut.
But here's where all this is going: One of my goals for the year (which is now one of yours too) was to really get to the bottom of this Celine Dion enigma — to really understand why her bad music is so viscerally bad. For some time now, I've been wanting to read the 33 1/3 book about Let's Talk About Love — I figured if anything could give me the insight I was seeking, this could. Part of it is a "tell us what we should think of the opera" (9.1) idea, but I also wanted to read a thorough, well-considered critique, to see if I my observations held up (9.2). And the book, which is largely about the concept of 'taste,' has so far proved both a quick and fascinating read. Will it get me to the bottom of the Celine conundrum once and for all? Y'know what? I think it, combined with focused attention, will. It's just a tool in the armamentarium, but I feel like when I'm done with it I'll actually be able to explain WHY certain CD songs are bad, instead of getting on a high horse and having a fake asthma attack, which is what you see most people do at the mere mention of CD.
And while the book is spectacularly quotable, I don't want to delve into it here. It's your assignment to read it. Trust, you will learn something, even if it's just a bit of the D's personal/cultural history. (Hell, I learned the word naff. Ditto for kétaine.) But you should also view reading the book as a social experiment: Read it cover-out in public and observe the responses/judgments you get. They'll fall into four categories:
2) People who know 33 1/3 but haven't read the book. They'll assume you're reading it "ironically," to laugh at Celine Dion. Now, within this population you may find some sexy young things, but they're probably not good for much more than sex. And even just for the sex it might not be worth putting up with all their pretension.
3) People who have actually read the book. You might want to meet these people, because it's possible they're the kind who actually think into things. Yeah, I know — that phrase 'think into' is maybe a little opaque, but I heart it. Why don't you? Go suck a lemon.
4) People who read the book AND GOT IT. YES! If you happen across one of these, and there aren't any dealbreaking discrepancies in appearance or whatever does it for you, marry hir. Trust me, they'll be worth it, and you won't have to agonize over choosing from a multitude: there will only be a handful of them.
So there's part 1 of your homework. Part 2 is to listen, really listen, to the song I mentioned before: The Magic of Christmas Day. It works in your favor that it's not currently Christmastime, because now you have some distance from the material and can understand its pure strangeness better. The song itself is an obscure, but nearly perfect, example of Celine at her best and worst. Listen to it when you're relaxed and disengaged — don't take speed or get all hopped up on coffee to concentrate — it won't help. Instead, have some booze if you're of age, chill, take a bath or sauna, or listen at double-two and one fifth past the hour. You need to be able to let your mind roam where it will, so that the insights that the song offers (about itself, not Christmas) can trickle to the surface of your mind. Yes, like bathtub farts. Don't believe me? Then you is a punk — why the hell are you even reading this? Cuz I can back up my shit — click here for the neurology behind what I'm now calling Chillistening.
OK, there we go. You have your assignments, so stand clear of the closing doors, cuz we're on our way to the second stop on our train ride up Ed Shepp Avenue. Oh, and I really hope you're buckled in, because we're about to take a full-on 180. Heeere weeee gooooooooooooo!!!
Yowz! That was sick! But worth it, cuz now we're at our second stop on the pop music tr-tr-tr-train train: the unfathomable, mind-boggling Biggest Midget in the Game, Lady Sovereign.
OK, a little background on how I found the SOV (and yes, I did just now find her, even though her record's been out for almost forever. Didn't I tell you I can be naff? Well, there you go.): Aiight so I was gwakling around on Pandora one day (let's NOT talk about internet radio yet — save that for later, cuz that's big ol' barrel o' stinkmonkeys with big teeth and mad crabs that transmit a new malaria which melts you into a custardy muck that Madonna uses to plump out her skullface), and I was like, "I'm gonna create a station called Neurogenesis, and I'm gonna fill it with all kindza eclectic stuff that I never listen to, and it's gonna make my brain grow new cells just to process all the novelty [science here]." And at the time I had a good bit of faith in Pandora, because I'd gotten great results with holiday music from it over Christmas (after I'd trained the living shit out of it, of course). I hadn't used it much before then because my previous experience with it led me to doubt the formula it used to choose music. Like once when it suggested Cher's Believe (12) because it had "subtle vocal harmonies." Um, no. If it had given the reason "bitchass whackadoo auto-tune" I could have maybe accepted the selection. I could even have accepted it if it had said something like "This song was chosen because you seem really, really, really gay." But no. (And if that were the unspoken reason for Pandora raping my ears with that song, then why did it keep throwing twat pop [twop] at me every other minute?? It played the Pussycat Dolls 20 times an hour, and they sing like they're on their backs.) But I was giving Pandora another chance, and it kinda sorta seemed to almost work, but the Neurogenesis station offered less variety I'd hoped for and kept making odd choices. Ever and anon something catchy and interesting would pop up, but I ended up scrapping the 'speriment.
So you'd think that the Neurogenesis station was a failed venture, then? Not so. Because it threw out one song that I liked immediately and could not get enough of. I liked it so much that I went to Woolworth's and bought the record, which is something I haven't done at least since I turned 57. The song? (Brace yourself, you may cringe again) Love Me or Hate Me, by Lady Sovereign.
Now, A word about rap, since SOV can be considered (I think) a rapper: The homophobic, misogynistic, gangstabullshit rap of the 90s turned me WAY off to the genre, so that since Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC, I have vomited more times than I've listened to a rap song all the way through (and actually, that's more often than it seems, since I've vomited quite a bit for someone who's never been pro-Mia and doesn't drink all that much. Stomach flu FTL!) And while I became aware that a lot hip-hop was really cool and fun and creative — Missy, Kanye, maybe some Eminem in spite of his persona — I just couldn't bring myself to listen to it. Until I tried foreign rap. French rap to see if I could catch any words (I caught the rhyme of "violence" with "Jack Palance" once — that means I'm a genius, right?); Nordic rap to "tune my ear" to the language(s); and finally, UK rap, because when it's done "street" (is it done any other way?), I can't get enough. Street/Cockney/Estuary British English cracks my ass straight up like diarrhea. Everything sounds hilarious to me, like, for instance, when they pronounce Adidas ADD-ee-DASS and Nike without the final -e. But then even posh English amuses me, like when a person-of-authority once told me he was "cross" (with me). I just couldn't take that seriously — could you?
And one more word on rap: I tend to prefer female rappers. That's prolly some part of my Essential Queerity that the psychologists need to parse over. Theories, anyone? Anyway, remind me to talk at length about Queerity sometime, because I got LOTS to say, K, bean?
Back to the Lady. So when I first heard Love Me or Hate Me, the sum of female rapper+UK+subject matter+beat&production hit my music pleasure receptors so hard that cherries were popping all throughOUT my grey matter. My brain felt like a 30-foot tall house-shaped Jiffy Pop container covered in Christmas lights, decorated by the richest Wal-Mart shopper in all of Tennessee. Now, maybe I have some kind of novelty deficiency or something, but I almost NEVER lust for songs the first time I hear them. Or if I do, the feeling doesn't last. But in this case, I knew that I was gonna rock out to that shit for months. I KNEW it. You know, like when you're walking down Mercer St and you almost bump in to this guy and you do that weird dance where you both stop and wait for the other to go, and then you look up and you realize it's Benicio Del Toro, and you're ABSOLUTELY SURE, because for some reason, when you're faced with a real celebrity, there's no doubt? (I'm not exaggerating here. I knew I had to have it, the way that the, uh, overweight woman in Whole Foods, um, had to have, er, the, uh, cake. ? Erg. See, I originally had something REALLY salacious there — I mean dirty to the BONE(r), but I was like, "If I leave that there I'll lose everyone who didn't bolt when I uttered that first four-letter word, "Celine.") That's the kind of intensity of emotion that I'm talking about.
So I've had the album on the 'pod for I think a couple weeks now, and if anything, I think I like the song even more (especially the remix with Missy). I love the lyrics, especially the chorus, which I have essentially adopted as a meditation: "If you love me, then: Thank you! If you hate me, then: Fuck you." [arguably I should be connecting more with the song about shutting up for the MC, but that's another can-o-beans]; I love her accent; but mostly I love the beat and production. Not to sound jackassitous (although that's a very Ed Shepp thing to be — take note), but I think I key into it so much because the beat pattern is similar to one I always return to in my own shit. The first 2 kick drums in the measure, to get microscopic. (Hmmmm, I wonder if I'm undercutting the whole Neurogenesis idea — the point was to listen to different, challenging stuff. Instead I end up with another version of the tempos and rhythms that already make my brain come. Doesn't that just deepen the grooves in my brain the original grooves dug?)
But let's talk about the beat. I suppose I should note here that largely my experience of SOV and Celine Dion is a study of opposites: everywhere that CD's instrumentation feels trite and phoned-in and dipshit dull, SOV's feel fresh and inspired and sparkling. But that's an aside. Let's talk about what the beat FEELS like, and if you're one of those people who thinks sexual metaphors are dragging our civilization down into a (writhing, moaning) mud pit, please stop reading here and move to rural China, where you can teach your missionary shit and remember too late that sex feels good; but if you're not, read on. You might think I'm going to say that when I listen to this song, I feel like my brain is coming. Well, that was my first thought too (and in fact I said it in the last paragraph), until one day I realized that I didn't so much feel like I was coming as like I was JACKING OFF. No, not "masturbating." Not ejaculating, exactly. And certainly not fucking. But JACKING OFF. And incidentally, this is the first time I think I've thought of a song in those terms before — sure, there was "this song makes me feel sexy" and the "this song is sonic crack and I can't stop hitting it," but the words JACKING OFF (yes, the bold and the capitals are necessary) never occurred to me until I was rocking out this song. And to be honest, if you don't feel this when you hear it, I don't think I can convey it to you, but I'll have a stab at explaining what I mean:
OK, all the obvious reasons you'd expect for the phrase apply here: the beat hits all your pleasure centers; it's available whenever you need it (just like your hand); you can rock it whenever you have the freedom to let loose; and you may find yourself compulsively listening to it and even replaying the same parts over and over and over and over and over and over again. But then there are the less obvious, harder-to-explain aspects, which are best left to 33 1/3 authors to elucidate: 1) the beat is almost violent, but not in a conventional way (i.e., distortion), but more in this punchy way that almost attacks you — it grabs you, throws you on the bed rips your pants off, all with a sneer that makes you wonder if it's gonna bite you; 2) the lyrics are narcissistic (in that way that Americans love more than 88oz Slurpees), so you make it all about you, and you absent the presence of another (in a love song, for example there always looms the presence of another) — this is a big part of why it hits you so hard, because it lends you a lens through which you can see yourself as a character compelling enough to create polarizing obsessions simply by existing; 3) you end up turning up the volume on your listening device way too high, which is a kind of self-abuse — note that this is how people used to politely describe masturbation; and 4) most importantly, it gives you the same feeling of ferocity that you get when, for instance, you walk into a room (because you know no one will be there) and spooge everywhere or come into a sink that other people use or you quickly rub one out at a time when it's likely that you'll be discovered or you just do it flat out with the shades open because you live in the East Village and that's what people who live in the EV do (and why pass up an opportunity to have an audience? When your friends in Dubuque ask you what it was like to live in NYC, would you rather tell them "I baked great cookies on a shitty stove" or "I got myself off before a cast of hundreds in a shitty apartment in a neighborhood that stank of stale urine and hot-ass style"? Hmmmmmm??????).
Now, one thing I want you to notice is that JACKING OFF is not the same thing as masturbating to go to sleep, or masturbating in the shower. That's just mechanics. JACKING OFF is a state of mind, and it's one this song induces. Except, yes, with a caveat: the song isn't about sex, and it doesn't really evoke any sexual imagery, so when I speak of it in those terms, I'm using the metaphor because we don't really have the language to express how TOTALLY FUCKING AWESOME this song (and Lady Sov) is. You could alternatively say that the song feels like JACKING OFF YOUR BRAIN. Like, it's all jacking off except with no genital contact. But apart from that, it's very close to the feeling. Like, imagine jacking off as a big juicy burger, and jacking off your brain was a metabolite of an isomer of said big juicy burger, and gave you all the sensation of meat-deliciousness but without the feeling of fullness. Same sensation, but lighter. Sharper. Brighter. The sensation minus one ingredient that — who would've guessed? — turned out not to be necessary for evoking it. Who knew it was even possible to separate the sensations? But they did. OK, so that's my attempt at explaining how the song, especially the beat, feels. (But don't count out the great production, specifically the alinear reverb in the "I can't dance and I really can't sing..." part, and in the remix when 1985 makes a cameo with its booms, clicks and cowbells.) And you could accuse me of taking straight out my ass (it's been known to happen; take note!), but that's how I'm feeling it right now.
"OK, so that's a great jam, but what about the rest of the album?" you ask. Trust, it's just as good and maybe even better — and I haven't even gotten through most of it yet. Bits: My England. This is starting to become my jam. My favorite lyric: "The changing of the Queen's guards does nothing for me to march out my house for. Tra la la! Rather sit on my ass!" (Or, "rahva si' omah ahsss.") It reminds me of those people who think New York is all Sex and the City and say dipshit things like, "You must go to the Magnolia every day! I wish I lived in Time Square!" Tango: Beeyotch wrote a song about someone with a fake tan! And OK, I wish it didn't sound like a screed against orange, because that IS my favorite color, but really, it's not. It's a screed against the ridiculousness of someone who would try to seriously rock a fake tan. A Little Bit of Shhh: I'm gonna have to start working lyrics from this song into my regular conversations to get fuckers to shut the hell up. "A little bit of shoosh!" And I've only described 3 consecutive songs, bitches! Are you getting this????
But now here's the thought-provocation about SOV: Her latest song, I Got You Dancing. Hmmmmm.... It seems a departure from the stuff on Public Warning. Don't get me wrong — I love it too, especially all the auto-tune and vocoders and the beat in the middle, and when I listen to it I'll find that I'm AGREEING when she sings, "You ain't never heard of a girl that could do it like this"; but I wonder if she's going in a new direction (13), or if this is just the 'poppy-dancy song.' Because not only is it sort of a dance song (but with a similar beat pattern to LMoHM) , it's kinda about dancing (well, it's about her — the fact that you' ARE dancing, no matter what you may say about her). I didn't see that coming, and I'm not sure what to make of it. Plus, the side ponytail is gone, and the video seems really glammed up (although not exactly expensive). So are her songs gonna change? Is she going pop? (Nothing wrong with that if you can pull it off. Madonna supposedly started out all funky and street, then became the very epitome of mainstream, then became addicted to controversy, then a sex-bomb-for-gay-men, and now the Crypt Keeper. But she made a helluva lot of coin and everyone knows her name. Of course, everyone knew her name before she was born, when she was a She.) I thought she would take a more Eminem kind of path — because the comparisons of her with Em (am I allowed to call him Em? Is he going to rip me in a song? It seemed like he was dissing anyone he could think of for a while there, whether there was a point to it or not. Didn't he, like, murder Maureen Dowd in one of his songs or something? Or was that Slim Shady? I can't keep track of all of them. When is he coming out with a line of hair bleach, by the way?) are clearly apt, and nothing to be offended by. Eh, I guess time will tell. But for now, I'm totes dedicated to the SOV — I'll like whatever she does, unless I don't.
So there's your second assignment. Listen to Lady Sovereign and write a treatise on the future of her career. Twittering her will be considered a valid mode of research (especially since she announces US shows there). Please have it in by Tuesday; the minimum is four pages; Courier is not an acceptable font.
OK, back on the train now, so mind the gap, step in the car and hold those doors for one more minute and you won't need those winter gloves! Our third and final stop today will be some hazy moment in the 80s, when a band released a song that has of late been an absolute fascination for me, in terms of emotional exploration: Object of My Desire.
Of course I'm referring to the Starpoint version — apparently there's a techno remake of it by Dana Somethingorother, and it's absolutely perverse. It drains everything interesting from the song — namely, a certain agonized longing — and turns it into candyfloss. Cod, I love that word, candyfloss. Anyway, the video is even worse. Do NOT watch this video before listening to the Starpoint version. It's just sick. SICK! [sic]) This was a song from way back — I must've been in middle school when it was on the radio, and I remember even then it being kind of a punchline. And ever since it's been little more than that. If you ever thought of it at all, it was in the context of those 80s songs that just seem patently ridiculous now, like Centipede or anything by Nia Peeples. In fact, I happened to come across it in the WFMU vaults, beside some fake fog and a pile of sequined capes. I was looking for songs from the 80s for something I put together recently for Billy Jam, and I saw it there hangin' with the other 80s songs, and I was like, "I remember that song! I could put it in to symbolize horniness or something." Decided not to in the end, but I did load it to the 'pod, in spite of the whole novelty/neurogenesis thing — maybe my brain is trying to tell me not to bother, that laziness is the REAL path to, eh, whatever neurogenesis was supposed to lead to. (But you know what? I came up with a rationalization for adding OoMD to the pod — I told myself that intermingling something artistically "challenging" next to something I last jammed to 20 years ago would be even MORE effective in creating new neural growth, because of the juxtaposition. Or some shit. Wow, could I write one of those reductive, pop neuropsychology books that I so despise or what? Don't answer that.) So anyway, I added to the 'pod and forgot about it.
So a day or two later I'm flipping through the new adds, in a contemplative mood, and out jumped that song. So I was like, "I'll have a listen — it'll be fun," expecting it to be even more stupiderly than I remembered, like 80s songs usually are. And yes, the instrumentation is a joke, but when I heard the lyrics fresh, not remembering any of the verses, I have to say I was amazed. The song is ostensibly about this girl's infatuation with someone; it seems to be more deeply an exploration of the idea of fantasy, because what she longs for never actually happens, but she spends the verses vividly describing it, with words like, "we kiss each other, now I'm really scared. Too much to ask, even for a fantasy." Damn. Too much to ask from a fantasy? That's a lot. Of course, the fever pitch doesn't explode until the bridge from the verses to the chorus: "Passions fire, when it's on and on! My body screams, "Please make love to me!!"" OK, when I looked at a horrible YouTube vid of SP performing it on Solid Gold,(!) I realized that the actual lyric is "passion's fire burns on and on." Yes, that lessens it for me, because I thought "fire" was a verb, and I liked to change the words to "tensions fire" or "receptors fire" (yes, I'm THAT nerdy); and I thought it was prescient of them to say "it's on and on" as in the contemporary phrase, "it's on and crackalatin'." Whatever — it is what it is. Luckily, the lyric to pay attention to is the "Please make love to me." I actually remembered that lyric, because it seemed to be the phrase that plunged the song into utter inanity — way, way over the top and maybe even schmaltzy. Because who says that, really? Have you ever said to someone "make love to me" and didn't expect them to laugh? Truth is, you probably have. But you have to be way turned on/moved/rolling/whatever to be able to say something like that and mean it. Because people don't use archaic constructions like that unless it's on and crackalatin' — e.g., when referring to Obama's inauguration, it wouldn't be incorrect to say "an historic occasion," but if you used the same phrase to describe the opening of a Whole Foods or IKEA in your town, then you would have to be a clown. Who has had 37 facelifts. BUT — if you called the opening of a Dairy Queen 'an historic occasion,' some might find you quite clever. Annmarieway, the point here is that the lyrics are a bit torchy, but not so much that you couldn't imagine feeling the emotion behind them (Except, interestingly, for the chorus. There the words are mechanical, like they came out of a Mad Libs or a Random 80s Chorus Generator. It feels like no accident that the singer describes this potential lover as an 'object.' Furthermore, it's like in the verses she is experiencing the fantasy, but in the chorus she's an outsider observer describing it. 'Metacognitively,' you might say. Of course, you could perhaps argue that the entire song is metacognitive, observed from separate perspectives. Or even that it's about metacognitivity. But you'd better be able to hold your own if you're going to say that, especially with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and all. And yet, I just stepped out of my depth and can no longer hold my own, but somehow I'm still yammering. Hmmm, take a note: that's so very.... [Ed Shepp! What the canuck else would it be?])
Now here's where things get interesting. I said that the emotion in the song could be imagined. Your last assignment for this segment is to listen to the song and find the place the song's 'protagonist,' if you will, is coming from. That is what I find fascinating about the song: I can't locate it. Yet. I've listened to it numerous times, and, like The Magic of Christmas Day I've thought to myself that I wish I felt as strongly about ANYTHING as this bitch does about having this person do her. Except that, unlike Magic, this song's lyrics are just far enough from total cartoon CoolWhip and close enough to something you might actually feel that I get the sense that feeling that way might just be possible. There must be people out there that experience this kind of intensity, right? Especially with sex — I've met people who love it so much that I wonder whether they're flying out to some secret sex clinic in Switzerland to have amazing congress in ways I've never dreamed and reaching states of mind heretofore only associated with 200-year old Yogis and the like. So I feel certain that people experience emotional states like in the song; I know I've felt like that before, but it must've been a long time ago, and I certainly don't remember the last time I felt like that over a person.
So I'm approaching the song as a neurological experiment, as it were. First I'm listening to it and trying to concoct some situation in my mind where I could imagine feeling the ecstasy of expectancy that the singer feels (14). And a bit of advice — it's hard to do that walking down the streets of SoHo. It's an exercise that requires intense concentration, unless, of course, you're from Brazil or Spain and are already passionate like that. (Everyone there is, you know — and if you didn't, you should see that really crappy Woody Allen movie, Barbie and Grushenka's Most Excellent Barcelona Adventure, or whatever it's called. It'll learn you that everyone in Spain is a bisexual painter who has nothing to do but pick up chicks and fly them to his huge house where he lives with someone really "fiery" and has no day job.) So you should do it when you can close your eyes and concentrate. And for cod's sake, turn off your fucking Crackberry already! Because I think you really have to feel the sensation in your body to know that you're getting it. When you imagine feeling angry or relaxed or lonely or even garden-variety horny, you could conjure up a physical dimension, because those are accessible, familiar emotions. I think that if you're sitting there, grasping and clawing at things and sweating and writhing and barking and whatnot, then you've accessed the intensity described in the song. Amtrakway, after unsuccessfully trying to feel the obvious emotion of the song, I've been trying to connect the words allegorically to a any scenario I can imagine in which I might feel something similar — find an adjacent emotion and amplify it until I'm experiencing what the protagonist is. I've come sort of close in imagining a scenario that contains elements of expectancy, victory and (dare I say it?) schadenfreude (really, it's all theoretical; Schadenfreude is best when it's an enemy that goes down. You can experience an everyday version of it, but I feel like the difference between the two is like that between having sex and making love. Schadenfreude over a real enemy is making love, made so much more complex because you can't have real enemy without caring. Sigh. I don't even have an enemy at the moment. I thought I had a nemesis for a while, but he turned out to be an unworthy foe, too inept to compete with for anything. I hope my enemy lobe hasn't atrophied. Can't there be a Prozac-like drug to correct that? To activate that part of your brain that's motivated by having a good enemy? Maybe sometime in the future...); but I've not yet captured it. And why is capturing this feeling so important?
Well, my thought is that if I could access the melodrama of the song, and define it in my brain, and then practice it a little, then I could have more of it in my daily life, albeit in presumably lower concentrations(15). (Yes, I have this 'capitalist' streak in me that wants to find a purpose for things and exploit them in ways that could enhance my life, in however small a way. Take notes.) Because when you listen to the song, isn't part of you thinking, "Wow, I wish I could feel like that!" And even if you're just thinking that you wish you could be that horny, when you think further you realize that you would love to more frequently feel that depth of passion in anything — e.g., literature, film, your job, your friend's lives... Because don't we all kind of secretly envy that person who cries at sappy movies, even if we know that she's being crassly, and maybe even poorly, manipulated by hackneyed plotlines that we all know the endings to? And don't we all wish we had a passion spigot that we could turn on and off? I do. I'm sure some people would argue that they always want that to feel organic, that there should be something 'magical' about intense feeling, but frankly, I'd love to have control over it. (Note.) Imagine what it would be like if, after a hard week at work, you could go see a corny movie and be moved literally to sobs, so that you felt IN YOUR BODY tidal waves of emotion? Or if you could find a book and just be completely engrossed by it from page one? And then, of course, turn it off when you've had your catharsis? That would be a dream.
So that's your last assignment for this session — listen to the song and connect. Do NOT watch the YouTube of it — the singer is far skinnier than she sounds (which makes me wonder if, maybe, the bad was a C&C Music Factory type of thing — remember that?), and the effect is disturbing. I imagine the person in the song to be a bit desperate, maybe just-ever-so-over the hill. I think that's because the singer sounds older than the girl in the video clip. And a note about the actual singing — whoever really performed it, she did a great job and she's certainly a great singer, but I think the song suffers from her being TOO good. There needs to be more straining — I feel like I should be getting more passion, more hunger, from the singer. And even though she handles the "please make love to me" line well, I feel like her voice is too sweet there. Xtina had grit in her Stripped period — of course, she also had enough melisma to feed all of Asia, which is, in case you're wondering, too much. And also, don't listen to the music — you won't be missing anything. And you need not listen beyond the second verse. The song falls apart after that. There's one good second where these stabs are playing that sound a little James Bond-y; one horrifying second where someone thought it would be a good idea to get a few men to shout "chum!"; a ghastly, if well-engineered, guitar solo; and then a very forgettable reprise of the chorus. I never listen beyond the second chorus.
And there we go. This feels like a good place to conclude, since cod knows I wouldn't want to be verbose. Except that I have one more pop music thing to mention: Get the song Just Dance by Lady Gaga. Someone gave me her album, and I find that while most of it doesn't really "take me there" like, say, SOV or some technified-out-to-Neptune Britney, I really like Dance. When I first heard it, I thought I recognized it, and then I think I heard it in H&M and was all like, "I don't think I'm going to listen to this song," but then there was this story on NPR about how people tend to go for songs with very straight-on beats in bad economic times, and it used this song to illustrate beats that are on the beat (as opposed to beats that are, er, off the beat — if you haven't guessed yet, I'm just not sophisticated enough in music theory to be communicating this. Notes!). And it certainly does have a straightforward beat — I just wish that the kick drum backbeat played under every snare instead of just the 2nd. Aspenway.... So one day the trains were messed all up, as usual, and I didn't know where I was or where I was going (as usual), and I thought, "I should to listen to that Dance song and see if it calms me down." And damn if it isn't the perfect song for that! I had no idea it was about someone drinking (?) way too much and just trying to 'maintain.' "Just dance. It'll be OK." Now that I can connect to, because I know at some point in my life I've been too effed-up in public and had to remind myself to chill. And if I were at a bar, I'm sure I did think to myself, "Just dance. Just focus on the music and the fuckedupedness will subside soonly enough." And please note that I'm talking about bars in New York, where I could take the subway home and not drive. Don't get me started on my don't-drink-and-drive lecture, because I will lecture — in fact, I had a mini-lecture here that I cut because I don't want to get all highfalutin, know wa'ah mean? (160) But anyway, back to the song: I recommend listening to it if you're feeling unsure of yourself, like before a big meeting, before a friend's wedding, if you're one of those people who are terrified of being single, before visiting a friend's house when you're allergic to her cat, before getting on the F train (where will it go today??), or when you're really drunk (hopefully on television) and need to maintain. Oh, and it's got a great tempo for walking, so if you want to walk and look really "purposeful," it fits the bill quite nicely.
So that's your Rough Guide to having an Ed Shepp 2009. Try to have the fun with it, if you're going to attempt it. Because being Ed Shepp does have its moments — it's not all hating on NYC, losing your phone (and making no real attempt to find it) and getting stared at by people who can't decide whether you're talking into a recorder because you're a journalist or mentally ill or both. It's got great smells, loads of wackiness and 7 billion excuses why you can't go to so-and-so with such-and-such and do blah blah blah dee dee doo tra la la. (And do I even have to mention the nonsense syllables!?!? Groosh bagoosh!!) (214). But it can be overwhelming at times, being Ed Shepp. So when you're in the moist of one of those times, and you feel a freakout coming on, simply speed up your gait to ~120bpm and remember Lady Gaga's sage words:
Happy New Year!!
(1) Perfunctory Milli Vanilli reference. And speaking of Milli Vanilli but not, if there are any goofyhot German tourists in town reading this, I'm available if you want to include "doing an American guy" in your itinerary. Like, if you want to say, "Ja, we ate at an Olive Garden, drove an SUV, talked REALLY LOUD, ordered a 14-word drink from Starbucks (Starbucks drink orders are rather like German words, don't you find? You can just keep adding and adding and adding; I don't think we've found the breaking point where the person can't keep track of your order, like people are always losing track of what I'm saying. Um, what?), and we did an American guy." It works better if you're guys yourselves and not gay. And then if you want to get REALLY American, you end with "And we laughed and laughed..." NOTE: The ellipsis is essential. Skip that and you might as well just have gone to Salt Lake City. Which is technically in the United States but.... isn't. Like Indian reservations, illegal immigrants and Guam.
(2) What I, and by extension the world, could really use is a brain laxative. With the side effect that you, I dunno, shat out your ideas through your fingers into your computer. Or your notepad. Or your bar napkins, for you lushes! (I envy thee. I wish booze busted out my creativititties (3) — I'd come up with hot shit every weekend. But it don't.)
(3) If I don't give him credit he'll be LIVID, so full disclosure: The word 'creativitity' was first coined by Mark Baratelli as the name, and domain name, of a blog he did. So make it up I did not. Biggity-ups to the MB, y'all. I love how he spells it in the singular, because the first several times I read the word I always thought it was creativity. Not creativi-tittie, which seems like the intuitive spelling. I think I remember telling him it was unbelievably genius, but people would fnuk it up constantly and even the 'edgiest' ad agency would still get their knickers in a bunch about the word.
(4) I tell people that you have to pack a goddamn bag to take the F train from the BL to the Hat. And I also tell them that I predict that when the next MTA service cuts REALLY hit (they've actually been cutting service for years now — it's OBVIOUS, really — but now they're gonna cut it without denial. And that is going to SUCK!), taking the F train to the Hat is gonna be equivalent to crossing the Atlantic in 1789. Husbands will take mistresses and send their wives, who have "the consumption," on trips to Brooklyn, and life will be like a Brontë novel, with people all like, "I've sent her to Brooklyn. Now we can finally be together!" And people will measure their years by how long they've been on the train. I guess for over-the-river trains you could have Titanic or Queen Mary moments, and maybe people take them for Depression-luxury "cruises," (4.1) but mostly it will just be a chore. And something you write in your log (blogs will have disappeared. Depression chic, everyone. And you KNOW you're in a Depression when guys have already started wearing top hats and curly silent-movie moustaches. Watch for modeling to walk the runways in barrels in Galliano's next show) something like, "It's been 7 Christmases since the day I met Lucy. Seven Christmases and two F train passages ago....." You wait. That's how it's gonna get.
(4.1) Let's talk about cruises for a moment. Aside from the sun you'd get, there's no reason to take a cruise other than to bump-uglies-with-strangers, right? Because there's nothing inherently awesome about floating around on a boat — I hardly think that people went on "cruises" back in 1789, when traveling around the sea was something you had to do, instead of something you did for fun.
(5) Incidentally, HOW did Chloë Sevigny become CHLOË SEVIGNY? I mean yeah, she's oober-talented, but so are a lot of actresses. And her stylistic choices are, well, outré at best. But she's a darling in the fashion world. Or in SOME world. And, let's face it, it ain't cuz she's a pretty girl. So could she really be that special? And if so, how did she get that way? I wanna know, and not just academically. Because hey, I wouldn't mind occupying that space. So maybe she don't got the bank of, say, Nicole Kidman, but she seems to be doing pretty well. And I have a feeling NK is the kind of person who talks about her hedge fund at dinner, when she's not kissing your ass because she wants to keep being a BIG! STAR! Chloë Sevigny seems like the kind of person you could actually imagine having diarrhea. And being open about it.)
(6) Now this one really demands mention. Recall that SoHo is my hood now, and if you're not familiar with it, trust me, it can be insufferable. Think of all the worst connotations of a word like 'posh.' Anyway, I was in that bookstore on Prince(!) Street, and there was this woman walking around yapping on her phone (of course — I mean, you're only in a bookstore, b9itch! How could you possibly find anything more interesting to do than broadcast your cell phone conversation to everyone?!) about being rejected for a fiction-writing class. Behold her side of the convo:
(Note: she literally said 'jerk.' Not cunt or shit-eating pigfucker or even b9itch. Just 'jerk.' That was enough for her. Makes me wonder about all the times I caught people calling me a jerk behind my back. They must've have been burning with a white-hot passion that I never picked up on. Because I always considered 'jerk' a very tepid word that you might hear in an episode of Dennis the Menace. It seemed barely even pejorative. But the best part comes next.)
[another long pause, during which I start wondering what 'drugs,' exactly, make people act like that. You know, like a 'jerk.' Coke? Amphetamines? What writing teacher could afford effective coke or even an appointment with a psychopharmacologist who would 'scribe Adderall or one of her sisters? Ummm, could she mean marijuana, opiates or hallucinogens? Unlikely. People who take these tend to be mellow or zonked or 'at peace,' and even in the MJ-paranoia state, they would surely be docile, desperate to avoid conflict. Dissociative anesthetics, NMDA antagonists, inhalants? Now really, I can't imagine anyone taking a writing class knowing about any of that. Well, not this boonatch. I don't even know about that shit. So really all you can seriously consider are uppers and booze, both of which can make people aggressive and mean. But really, anyone who refers to booze as "drugs," is one of the rare people who can accurately be termed a douche. So after this long pause, Phone REPEATS:]
[Here her friend clearly just agreed cuz s/he knows that Phone is being WHACK. Then Phone says, Anyway, I'm not dropping the class."
Wow. I mean, WOOOOOOOOOOW. What. a. cunt. She doesn't get into a writing class (and she was around my age, so 'twernt no college thing) — probably because she isn't any good. Cux I mean really, if you need to take a class to write, then baby, you can't write. Go back to your notepad, take it seriously, focus and do your 10,000 hours, and THEN enroll in a class, where they could teach your clarity and grammar/usage. You can learn that. You can't learn personality. Or style/flair/voice, whatever you want to call it. You have to come to that on your own. And you gotta bring it to the party yourself.
(7) My 10-year anniversary for my move NYC is coming up at the end of April. So I'm putting together a tribute album for that (of people covering my songs) called It Must Have Been Love: New York for the Sick-of-This-Shit. And if you get that reference, PLEASE send me the original Roxette song. OK, I'll spill it—'Must've Been was first written a Christmas song with the tagline Christmas for the Brokenhearted. The line in it was changed from "Christmas Day" to "winter's day." But that's the name because, if there was ever love for NYC in me, It's oooooooover now...... But then I'm writing this in winter, so check back in a few months (or hours); my opinion may have changed.
(8) A word about oxytocin: It's a big deal right now. I was reading some issue of Discover Brain about love and its connection to oxytocin, which is a peptide released during labor, orgasm and when you're being touched, etc.; supposedly it reduces anxiety, enhances feelings of trust and may selectively impair memory. It's a prescription drug (a nasal spray) used by doctors to induce labor and psychonaut bloggers to induce somethingorother. I first read about it at FSU in the 90s in the book The Alchemy of Love and Lust, which said that not much was being done with it except that showgirls in Vegas were using it to make their nips stick out. Fast forward about 10 years, when someone I know — Chakalamumba Perkins, we'll call him — actually asked his doctor for some, to see if it could function as a "touch replacement." He was denied. (8.1) But if you only learn one thing from this postage, make it this: Ed Shepp Is the Future. Because long after my friend had asked his doctor, a book came out all about oxytocin, and I declared, to a the psychology shelves at Barnes and Noble, or maybe to my murse: "Oxytocin will be the next serotonin." Fast forward to a week or so ago, when I read in that Discover Brain issue the following words: "oxytocin...may well follow in the footsteps of serotonin..." When I saw that I was all like, "I said that years ago!!!" And since then there have been stories in the NYT and on a couple blogs, so oxytocin is everywhere right now.
So henceforth it needs to be on your radar, or you're going to miss out on a lot of culture until it is. One example: You know how Requiem for a Dream is an upper movie (even though it's about heroin), Valley of the Dolls is a downer movie, Casino is a coke movie, Showgirls is a drinking game movie and Honky Tonk Freeway (161) and the entire oeuvre of John Waters are pot movies? Well, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an oxytocin movie. At present I must have no empirical evidence for why this should be the case, but it's my instinct that people who "do oxytocin" might go see this movie, just like people who do XTC go to a rave, people who do pot ought to go to a buffet, and people who do coke go to the bathroom. Because oxytocin is supposed to be associated with feelings of warm, velvety comfort, the emotional equivalent of really good fabric softener, and I think that this movie in particular would seriously popping some oxytocin cherries in the user (and maybe anyone's) brain.
(8.1) And good luck if you think you could get a script for it. I guess if you really wanted to try, you could tell some doc that you've been carrying around a huge, 8-pound turd inside you and need to "induce labor." But outside of a gay clinic, I don't think you could pull that off. And honestly, the only reason I think you might have a better chance at a gay clinic is because you know that they've probably seen the weirdest-of-weird things stuck up people's netheregions. Because let's face facts: if you're in medicine, you've almost definitely seen some crazyass x-rays of things people stuffed up there. And herein lies a life lesson, so pencils ready: While you certainly don't want to go around putting shoes and table lamps up there, you don't need to feel like you're not allowed to drink soy macchiattos or read Malcolm Gladwell or have a favorite game show on NPR just because you slid something up the Final Frontier one day. Doctors know: hey, humans put things in their asses. They have for millenia. But if you're gonna do it, don't use a tiny lipstick thing covered in Vaseline; because listen Nomi, you will NOT shit that out, and then you'll have to go to the proc doc and do you REALLY want to be telling your grandkids 50 years from now that "that's how Your Granny met your Granddad."?!!? I reiterate: ??!?!?!!!11 And is THAT the special ritual that you want to re-enact every anniversary at your timeshare in Jackson Hole? And if you think that you can keep something like that secret, understand: Gay, straight, Fred, Bob, Sanjee, whatever: men are men, and when we gets drunk, secrets come pouring out. Especially if you've been using the AMEX to buy $500 bags and designer wardrobes for the dog. And then when you deny it, someone WILL rip off your wig. Because honestly, if you're the type who would go through all that trouble to keep something like that secret, then you will definitely be wearing a wig. Do you really want to be that person??? I didn't think so. Now let's just all be a bit more chill, like Betty White.
(9) In this show I tried to basically cram every Christmas song I could find together, to make the "Ultimate Christmas Hour," all the Christmas music you need shoved into one hour. So when I looked around for stuff, I ended up finding The Magic of Christmas Day and that Britney one, something about "my only wish this year." I had to speed up both of these songs to almost double to fit them in. And I have to say, it really improved them; in fact, it did for most of the songs I used. I never would have listened to them if they weren't sped up, because at the regular tempo, the Celine one really clods along and the Brit one is just a tad too slow. I've gotten used to them at their original tempo, but I still think that, at least for these songs, faster=better.
(9.1) I'm referencing Dangerous Liaisons here, but you'll have to remind me to talk about it later, because, well, let's face it, this is starting to run just a little bit long.
(9.2) I don't need to know why I like it musically, because that's neurological, and has to do with the chords, the tempo, blah blah blah... Because even if a song is embarrassingly bad lyrically, it can sometimes "take you there" musically. Or brainologically, perhaps I should say. Case in point: If you've ever liked any song by LFO, you probably for the beat, or the guy's pretty faces or the fact that it was really stupid. But you didn't like it for the depth of the lyrics. Or Madonna's Frozen, which I like musically — especially the percussion — but it's just off-the-ghastly with its boring, desiccated lyrics. If only she'd sung it in Turkish, it wouldn't have sounded so insipid. All pop music should be sung in foreign languages — that way you can never tell how dumb the words are, and you can let your emotions swell viscerally to the music without feeling like a complete toad.
(12) It has to be said: I HATE this song. But I hate it SO much that, unlike with the Celine stuff, I don't care to know why. Because (and I'm gonna use a major cliché here just to show that clichés exist because at some point they were and can still be true) if hating Believe is wrong, I truly do not want to be right.
(13) Tip remembered from an ancient issue of Maxim magazine: If you're talking to some chick at a bar and trying to bag her, work the phrase "new direction" into the conversation, because it sounds like "nude erection." Does it work? Not really sure — never really tried it. And I don't think anyone's ever tried it on me. Then again, considering Maxim's readership, I'm not surprised I've never encountered it.
(14) OK, let's talk shit. Specifically, about 'the ecstasy of expectancy.' And NO, I'm not talking about pregnancy. Stroll on away, Momma. Tra la la la la. OK we all know dopamine, right? Because pop psych books over the past 10 years have been telling us that we're all reducible to three monoamines, and voila, eating tuna instead of potatoes will turn up one dial and help feel one way; something sugary will do the opposite. What a bunch of hocus pocus. But at least we know some terms now. Dopamine spikes during pleasure, right? Well, it also spikes when someone is expecting pleasure, and that may be the bigger part of the story. (I really should be running this by my friends who are actual neuroscientists, or whatever people who scan and slice brains are called. But would that be sooo very....? Guess not.) The takeaway? Maybe it can give you just as much pleasure to want something as to get it. Remember how the days leading up to Christmas, especially Christmas Eve were always so much more exciting than Christmas Day when you were a kid, because after you'd opened all your presents, the fund and mystery of wondering what they were was over? Dopamine. And hundreds of other chemicals, to be sure. But in the current decade so far, it's been all about the big three — serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine — with some more contemporary stuff like oxytocin and orexins marching onto the scene. And anandamide. Give yourself points if you know what that is (I think it may even be an archaic term by now.)
(15) Olfaction provides and example of how this can happen: when you know the name of a smell, not only can you recognize it more quickly, but you're also more sensitive to it. That's why you can smell a perfume that you love on someone even if she'd applied it hours before and doesn't smell it herself any longer.
(160) But I have to keep this endnote in, because I'd mentioned in the cut part how people don't jaywalk in Copenhagen. Maybe it's the wannabe Scandinavian in me, but I was impressed and pleased when I read that li'l nugget in this book Traffic, which I read over Christmas (I was in this weird competition with myself to finish these 4 books I got from the libary, even though one was kinda not worth it. I'm sure my siblings thought I was a complete lunatic — "Why's Ed spending all his time reading outside in the sun?" Um, maybe because sunlight is a scarce resource in winter here, and I never have the time or energy to read anything?? Sheesh!). Apparently over in Denmark they wait for as long as it takes to get the walk signal before crossing a street, even if no cars are coming. Now that sounds like a society I could live in — where you wait for the light to change and can expect drivers to also obey the traffic laws too! The book said it essentially Danish culture that made that possible. It also said that Sweden "practically oozed safety." When I read that I think I oozed a bit in my pants — the pants in my mind, of course. Aaaaah, Sverige — where the roads are safe, the people are well-behaved, the churches are empty, the social safety net is intact and Roxette roam the streets giving tuberose bouquest and fiber pills to the masses. Don't get me started on Sweden. If only someone could build a giant mirror that sends subtopical sunshine over there in winter. Sigh...
(161) Remind me about this one later.
(202) I like to sing it as "Soak up the Son": "I'm gonna soak up the Son; I'm gonna tell everyone I know that they're going to Hell. Because I know I am saved; anytime I feel lame I'll say that Jesus is Lord. I'm gonna soak up the Son..."
(214) Yes, I really do say this. No, it has no particular meaning — just another one among legion of my effervescent interjections. Beep!