Saturday, May 28, 2005

I Will Live By My Own Policies

The Emperor's New Clothes
by Sinead O'Connor (1990)

It seems like years since you held the baby
While I wrecked the bedroom
You said it was dangerous after Sunday
And I knew you loved me
He thinks I just became famous
And that's what messed me up
But he's wrong
How could I possibly know what I want
When I was only twenty - one?
And there's millions of people
To offer advice and say how I should be
But they're twisted
And they will never be any influence on me
But you will always be
You will always be
If I treated you mean
I really didn't mean to
But you know how it is
And how a pregnancy can change you
I see plenty of clothes that I like
But I won't go anywhere nice for a while
All I want to do is just sit here
And write it all down and rest for a while
I can't bear to be in another city
One where you are not
I would return to nothing without you
If I'm your girlfriend or not
Maybe I was mean
But I really don't think so
You asked if I'm scared
And I said so
Everyone can see what's going on
They laugh `cause they know they're untouchable
Not because what I said was wrong
Whatever it may bring
I will live by my own policies
I will sleep with a clear conscience
I will sleep in peace
Maybe it sounds mean
But I really don't think so
You asked for the truth and I told you
Through their own words
They will be exposed
They've got a severe case of
The emperor's new clothes
The emperor's new clothes
The emperor's new clothes

Everyone deserves the right to make his or her own mistakes, dontcha think?
Or as Mr. Springsteen says,

Well if I had one wish in this god forsaken world, kids
It'd be that your mistakes would be your own
Yea your sins would be your own...

It's Been a Long Time Coming, indeed...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Things I Like Vol. 23

Ten People/Places/Things That Rock My World:

1) Johnny Thunders, just 'cause
2) Ryan Adams - Live at the Ryman Auditorium, 11-20-04--be very quiet, genius at work
3) The Orpheum, Boston MA--proof that we once knew something about architecture in this country
4) Entourage - smart comedy from the mind of Mark Wahlberg--who knew?
5) Dunkin' Donuts - great late night coffee and sponsor of Little Steven's Underground Garage
6) Italian wedding soup, preferably homemade
7) Goodbye, Columbus - Philip Roth
8) Cafe La Ruche, Georgetown, Washington DC
9) Jandara, Washington DC - Thai food rocks
10) Union Station, Washington DC - see number 3 above

Hero of the Week: Not sure I have one, everyone is pretty much disgusting me at present

Villain of the Week: Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) - there are no words for how much I despise this man


It's Not Enough

NOTE: The following is not meant in any way, shape or form to endorse substance abuse as a means to solving anything. Altering one's mind temporarily, however, is heartily encouraged.

Did you ever feel like what the world gave you was not enough? That no matter how hard you tried, how you struggled and tried to accept the hand you were dealt, the gifts that you have been given, that it was never going to be good enough for you?

Johnny Thunders did. Take a gander at L.A.M.F., the great Heartbreakers album, track number five. Johnny just got it, he understood. Here was a guy who was handed athletic prowess and never pursued it, handed good looks and destroyed them, handed musical talent and pissed it away. He wanted something more, something that was just down the road, around the corner, out of reach. And sadly, he could never quite get there, even clean and sober.

Johnny was not the only one to feel this way. Check out Steve Earle's "I Ain't Ever Satisfied." Coming from someone with his intellectual and musical gifts, with his big heart, that's saying something. Check out "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2. Ditto on Bono. Both of these men have restless spirits, have sensitive natures and questioning minds, and they can't take the way things are. So both of them continue to wrestle with their inner demons, often turning to mind-altering substances to numb the pain. They are engaged in a lifelong inner struggle, and sometimes the demons win. And we don't question this struggle, we welcome it, because out of this struggle comes great art.

So why do people constantly tell us that we should accept what the world hands us no questions asked? That we should be happy with what we have, with the way things are? That we should not try to make the world a better place, shouldn't try to make of things what we can instead of letting events and people shape us? That we should just settle? That if we are "good," that somehow we will get our share in life, that good things will come to us. That we should not be angry at the way things are, that we not should "push the envelope" when we can--should not question and challenge, should go quietly into that good night.

I, for one, am not willing to accept the status quo. For that I have been called hostile, angry, difficult, bitter, an entire host of pejoratives. But I will not compromise, I will not change. Because like Johnny, like Steve, like Bono, I will most likely never be completely at peace. Nor is that really where I want to be. I want to be challenged, I want to be provoked, I want to be stimulated, I want to be alive. Because it can all be taken away from you in a heartbeat.

"I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special."
-----Shelby Eatenton in Steel Magnolias

Say what you will about the source, the idea rocks. And for believing it I will never apologize.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I Can't Get No...

1) Marah - "Why Independent Record Stores Fail"
2) X - "Fourth of July"
3) Bruce Springsteen - "Loose Ends"
4) James Carr - "Dark End of the Street"
5) Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - "You Really Got a Hold on Me"
6) Ryan Adams - "Come Pick Me Up"
7) Lone Justice - "Ways to be Wicked"
8) Lucinda Williams - "Metal Firecracker"
9) Patti Smith - "Because the Night"
10) Prince - "When Doves Cry"
11) Jimi Hendrix - "Love or Confusion"
12) Jesse Malin - "Bad Friday"
13) Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes - "Long Distance"
14) Aretha Franklin - "I Never Loved a Man"
15) BoDeans - "Say You Will"
16) Dwight Yoakam - "Ain't That Lonely Yet"
17) Elvis Costello - "Alison"
18) Rolling Stones - "Dead Flowers"

1) Edith Wharton - The Age of Innocence
2) F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
3) Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights
4) Charles Frazier - Cold Mountain
5) Michael Ondaatje - The English Patient
6) Thomas Hardy - Tess of the D'Urbervilles
7) William Styron - Sophie's Choice

1) Casablanca
2) Doctor Zhivago
3) Now, Voyager
4) The Age of Innocence
5) Gone With the Wind
6) Midnight Cowboy
7) Annie Hall

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Between Obsession and Madness

Some people are just wired differently. We experience the world in a different way— need different things out of it, want different things from it. For example, some people— in fact, most people, can get up every morning at the same time, work at the same job at the same desk with the same people for years, and seemingly not be bothered by this routine. They don’t need or want more, don’t ask for much except for everything to remain at the same even keel.

The rest of us need—no crave—not just variety, but randomness. We welcome the unusual, the unforeseen, the dramatic. We are bored by the ordinary so we seek the extraordinary, often not realizing we are walking the thin line between normalcy and obsession. We often work at the same Monday through Friday jobs as the rest of the working world but see them as no more than a means to an end. We crave the tension, the drama, the singleness of focus that comes with being so devoted to a cause, a sports team, a band, a TV show or film that we will disrupt our entire lives to get closer to it. And we are not annoyed by the necessity of such disruption—in fact, we welcome it, almost seek it, and often fall into deep depression when it’s gone. We don’t know what to do with ourselves without the excitement, the stimulation, and yes, even sometimes the chaos.

Is this behavior something we should concern ourselves with? I believe that the answer is different for every person. Are you still able to discharge your responsibilities as an adult? Are you harming anyone else? Are you harming yourself? Are you running away from something, running to something? Are you dealing with the issues in your life, or are you avoiding dealing with them? It is impossible to get inside someone else’s head to answer these questions—hell, it is hard enough to get inside our own heads and figure these things out. And it most certainly is not fair to judge what others go through on a daily basis, what they need and want from the world to get through life. Yet, there are (as there most certainly ought to be) times when it is right and proper to inject oneself into a particular situation, to intervene on the behalf of someone else. But we must be very careful when doing so and examine our own motivations for intervening. Is it possible we are guilty of the same behaviors of which we accuse others? Will the other person be helped by our intervention or are we just assuaging our own guilt?

Ultimately, each person must assume responsibility for his or her own actions, and only that person can decide if and when it is time to make a change. Many times, though a behavior pattern may seem odd or unusual, it is in fact not harmful--in fact, it may be the only thing that that allows that person to get through the day. It is very easy to sit on the outside of someone else's life and judge, but most times there is very little we can or should do. Some people fall off the edge of addiction, obsession and chaos into madness and self-destruction, and there is, quite simply, nothing to be done.

And this descent into the vortex is a truly frightening thing to watch. Frightening for the rest of us who also live on the edge—because we are not so sure we are very far from following that path ourselves. And that is a truly terrifying prospect.

Monday, May 16, 2005

All They Want is Everything

I have watched with growing consternation the behavior of my fellow music fans as regards the objects of their obsession, musicians. It seem to me that the complex artist/fan relationship has, paradoxically, become increasingly dysfunctional as the world has become more “connected” through cell phones, the Internet, etc. The easier it is to monitor what an artist is doing, the more control people seem to think they have over that person. The more license they seem to think they have to intrude upon that person‘s life in any way shape or form they see fit. To pass judgment not just on the artist’s creative decisions, but on his/her life decisions.

It has always been difficult to be in the public eye, especially when one is shy and retiring to begin with. Some artists handle it more easily than others. Some attempt to be as “normal” as possible, appearing in public often, letting fans approach. Others lead very private existences, barely emerging from their cocoons except to appear onstage. This was once a part of the pact artists had with their fans, and no one ever questioned it. However, with the increasing dominance of the entertainment industrial complex here in the U.S. (America’s only true export), there is now a correspondingly insatiable, nonstop demand for informational details about musicians and their lives. Encouraged by the ever-intrusive media, fans have grown increasingly demanding of personal details and, paradoxically, less receptive to being challenged by what truly is their business: the creative output of the artist. In 2005, the artist must create exactly what the fans want when they want it and live his or her life in accordance with the fans’ wishes, or there will be hell to pay.

Now I have no problem with fans criticizing a musician’s artistic choices—that is a natural part of the relationship, and every fan is entitled to his/her opinion. Where I really have a problem is with the fan who feels entitled to dictate to the artist how to conduct his/her personal life: how/when/where to create, whether or not to buy that house, get that nose job, whether or not to marry whomever he/she chooses. The right to tell the artist whether or not he or she is entitled to use the stage—the artist’s stage—as a platform with which to communicate his/her personal or political beliefs. It is as though the right to speak out in the very setting in which he or she is most comfortable is somehow denied to the artist precisely because he or she is an artist. It is as though the fan owns the artist, as though the artist ought to function as a person’s own private jukebox or trained monkey, or better yet, a puppet on a string that each fan has the right to manipulate in whatever fashion suits his/her fancy. Film aficionados may recall the Martin Scorsese classic that deals with this complex, fascinating subject, The King of Comedy--an eerily prescient tale about a couple of obsessed fans who stalk and kidnap the object of their mania in a misguided effort to force him to capitulate to their increasingly intrusive and bizarre requests. At the time the film was released, it seemed almost cartoonish. Now it just seems, well, like real life.

And that’s too bad, because this level of fandom, now accepted as “normal,” is a real hindrance to artistic creativity. The artist, who exists only to create, to express the complex feelings that buzz inside the brain because he/she must do so or go mad, must now fend off constant, ever more intrusive barrages from “fans.” Must receive unrelenting criticism, must constantly justify his or her entitlement to the same beliefs, personal opinions, and personal life as anyone else—as though because someone is an artist, he or she is no longer a person deserving of rights as a human being—that he or she belongs to us, the fans wholly and completely. The fact that we, as fans, have been graced with this person’s gifts—art that somehow makes a harsh, sometimes unlivable world seem infinitely less so--seems to mean nothing anymore. The artist must have artistic output only when, where and how the fans dictate. Must not speak his mind onstage or off. Must dress a certain way, think a certain way, be a certain way. And woe betide the poor soul who puts up an argument.

This is, of course, an impossible situation, one that, as the creative sort myself, I find increasingly difficult to stomach. Where will it all end? Will we all have our own personal holograms of the artists we admire, our own Sims characters that we can order around? What’s great about art is that it confronts, forces people to think about and see things in new ways. I do not subscribe to the belief that I ought to be able to dictate what someone else’s art ought to be, what it should say, how, when or where it should exist. Once it is out in the world, it is now mine to interpret for myself, and to incorporate into my life as I see fit. I remember when that used to be enough.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Things I Like Vol. 22

Ten People/Places/Things That Rock My World:

1) "Reason to Believe" - Rod Stewart
2) Matchless, Brooklyn NY - where the cool kids hang out
3) the Washington Nationals - exceeding all expectations
4) the Washington Wizards - ditto
5) "Time Has Told Me" - Marah cover version
6) To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee - proof that Americans do create art
7) Ludwig von Beethoven - Sonata No.8 In C Minor, Op.13 ('Pathetique')
8) Cafe Ole, Asbury Park NJ
9) Gram Parsons
10) the Order Sons of Italy in America - telling the truth about the Italian American heritage

Hero of the Week: Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who has led his party ably through a quagmire of moral issues with great dignity and passion

Villain of the Week: (tie) Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), for threatening to throw the Senate into chaos to enforce the president's agenda, and Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), who spoke out strongly against U.N. ambassador candidate John Bolton and then refused to vote him down in committee

Thursday, May 12, 2005

This Must All End

From the Washington Post today:

Marines Who Survived Ambush Are Killed, Wounded in Blast

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service

"HABAN, Iraq, May 11 -- The explosion enveloped the armored vehicle in flames, sending orange balls of fire bubbling above the trees along the Euphrates River near the Syrian border.

Among the four Marines killed and 10 wounded when an explosive device erupted under their Amtrac on Wednesday were the last battle-ready members of a squad that four days earlier had battled foreign fighters holed up in a house in the town of Ubaydi. In that fight, two squad members were killed and five were wounded.

In 96 hours of fighting and ambushes in far western Iraq, the squad had ceased to be.

Lima Company drew Marine reservists from across Ohio into the conflict in Iraq. Some were still too young to be bothered much by shaving, or even stubble."


Two years after "Mission Accomplished," five months after the "elections," a U.S. Marine squad was, quite literally, wiped out in Iraq. What in God's name is going on here? And why are we doing absolutely nothing to stop it?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Good Man is Hard to Find

This was played last night in St. Paul, MN. It speaks for itself.

A Good Man is Hard to Find
by Bruce Springsteen

It's cloudy out in Pittsburgh
It's raining in Saigon
Snow's fallin' all across the Michigan line
Well she sits by the lights of the Christmas tree
With the radio softly on
Thinkin' how a good man is so hard to find

Well once she had a fella
Once she was somebody's girl
And she gave all she had that one last time
Now there's a little girl asleep in the back room
She's gonna have to tell about the meanness in this world
And how a good man is so hard to find

Well there's pictures on the table by her bed
Him in his dress greens and her in her wedding white
She remembers how the world was the day he left
And now how that world is dead
And a good man is so hard to find

She got no time now for Casanovas
Yeah those days are gone
She don't want that anymore, she's made up her mind
Just somebody told her
As the nights get on
When a good man is so hard to find

Well she shuts off the TV
And without a word
Into bed she climbs
Well she thinks how it was all so wasted
And how expendable their dreams all were
When a good man was so hard to find
Well it's cloudy out in Pittsburgh

Copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I am so tired.

I am tired of fighting the world that tells me I am not quite good enough.
I am tired of fighting my looks, which tell me I am entitled to certain things I never ask for and don’t really want.
I am tired of fighting my intelligence, which tells me I am smart enough to handle certain things but am denied those things because that’s the way things are in this man’s world.
I am tired of denying my true self to keep other people from being threatened by me.
I am tired of suppressing my feelings and my beliefs so others will be more comfortable.

I am tired of a world that tells me the most important thing for an adult to do is to raise a child and then denies me the tools and means to do so. And then tells me I am useless if I am not a mother.

I am tired of being told I have too much experience, too little, too much education, not enough. I am tired of being told I am not the right person for the job.

I am tired of being told I am too opinionated, too aggressive, too pushy, too loud, too generous, too open, too giving. Too pretty, too smart, too sensitive.

I am tired but I will not apologize because I have been through way too much to get here and I’m not about to stop now. There are plenty of reasons to give up but that would be too easy.

So I guess I will continue to slog along, doing the best I can every day. And there is no guarantee that any of these things will change. In fact, it is entirely likely that I will continue to run into these issues every day for the rest of my life. And I suppose I can be ok with that.

But I am just so tired of fighting, tired of the battles inside my head, tired of dealing with it alone. Because that’s what happens to smart women who threaten the status quo—we are the ones who are marginalized and cast aside.

We are almost always alone, and it is exhausting.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams

What do you do when everything you care about turns to shit, when people betray you and you feel like there is nothing left? You go back to the things that helped you when you were a kid—in this case, the music.

So tonight I am listening to “Can’t Hardly Wait” and the connection is immediate and needs no explanation. The demons in Westerberg’s head drive him to push people away; music is the only thing he knows. So he goes out on the road because he is an artist and a performer and that is what he does. And it is paradoxically the most lonely and most accepting place he has ever known. People who, like him, live for the music are in front of him every night and they understand. They don’t want anything from him except for him to get up and play those songs and take them to another place for a while.
So he goes there with them, and he forgets the chaos inside his own head for a while. But then he gets on the tour bus, and the roads all look the same, and the lights flash by, and he has never been more alone.

I go on the road a lot following bands around—it is part of what I do as a writer. And a lot of it is for business reasons, granted. It is about schmoozing, making contacts, after show parties with the band.

But I would be lying to myself if I said it was purely for business reasons that I am ready, willing and able to pick up and fly, drive or crawl at a moment’s notice if there is a band I want to see. For me, it is also admittedly about running from the demons in your mind, about getting that fix once again that for an hour or two takes you away from whatever ails you. Sometimes what ails you is fixable, sometimes not. But you have to work on it and recognize it and deal with it, and I am, despite all appearances, trying my damndest. Because it is far too easy to just run around on the road with those cute boys with guitars and not deal. That is indeed a large part of why the job of being a musician is so attractive—someone else is always there to pick up the pieces.

In Paul’s case, he fights the demons every day, but he is still here, and he is still the Talented Mr. Westerberg. It may not come out as often, maybe he lets the hard work of songwriting and performing slide more than he used to—but there he is out there working it out, and we are out there with him and waiting for the magic which, while rarer than it used to be, still happens on occasion.

As for me, well, I continue to work on my multitude of issues, but I will also keep on listening to the music and following wherever it takes me. And I will not apologize for it. Because the only person who knows what I need, what is going on inside my head is me, and only I can judge what is right and proper to do. So the music will continue to take me on that mystery ride, and I am happy to follow. I hope someday that someone will be able to join me there, but it is entirely possible that that is not the case. I have been and will continue to deal with that, too.

For now I, like Paul, am high and lonesome, holding on to the white lines on the highway by just a thread. Until that song comes on the radio…

“Lights that flash in the evenin’/through a hole in the drape
I’ll be home when I’m sleepin’/I can’t hardly wait.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Things I Like Vol. 21

Ten People/Places/Things That Rock My World:

1) Great Falls, the mighty Potomac in full effect
2) "Moneytalks" - AC/DC
3) Cold Roses - Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
4) the Center for American Progress - making intellectualism fun again
5) Sister Helen Prejean
6) Patti Smith, high priestess of cool
7) the Melrose Diner, Philadelphia PA
8) Johnny Depp
9) viewing the Philadelphia skyline from the Walt Whitman Bridge
10) Bebe Neuwirth


Hero of the Week: Jimmy Carter - sometimes what you do after the White House is more important

Villain of the Week: Peter Angelos - AGAIN -- for denying the citizens of Washington a chance to see/hear their brand new MLB franchise in action so he can inflict his sorry excuse for a team on us instead