Saturday, July 26, 2014

What the twins are saying

"There's three dollars on my poop."

Dad to Vivienne as she's trying to use the potty: "Do you need privacy?"
Jules hears this, goes and sits on his potty and says: "I need a private seat."


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thoughts on popular music

I was a cameraman at the Governor's Ball, a three day music festival on Randall's Island in New York. My job was to shoot the long lens camera at the main stage for the large screens. With a crew of four cameras, we provided the live experience for most of the audience of 80,000 people sprawling back for miles from the stage. It was a great time and it gave me a chance to see some fantastic bands, and also to ponder the state of popular music in our current era.


It was a blast to take part in the performance of some of my favorite live acts like Outkast, Janelle Monae, Broken Bells, The Strokes, The Kills, Spoon, and Jack White.
The Strokes don't suck
I had never seen The Strokes live before and I was amazed. They've come a long way since I first heard about them sometime in the early 2000's. At that time, my band Melomane was recording an album in a studio in the East Village called Transporter Raum, run by our eccentric friend Gordon Raphael. We were all set to record the last week of overdubs, when we were told that we had to postpone the session. Gordon had gotten involved with some young kids who he said were going places, and they had to come in for a week to finish some demos. The band was the Strokes, and we were pissed off that they usurped our session. I went into the studio to pick up some mixes one day, and I met two or three of them, nice young kids sitting quietly listening to their tracks. I didn't think much of it. My bass player Daria was familiar with the Strokes, they were the bratty young punks who came into the Mars Bar where she worked, and acted like priviledged poser assholes. Their session dragged on, one week became two and then a month, and when it was finally time for us to get back into the studio, Gordon called us with bad news; the studio was shut down. The Strokes had descended into booze-soaked stupidity one night and fished some fluorescent light tubes out of the dumpster outside the studio. They had smashed all the tubes and trashed the studio. The landlord wasn't amused and shut the studio down, so our session was cancelled. Needless to say, I had no love for the Strokes and didn't share in everyone's enthusiasm for "the demo" which became their first album. However, when I finally got around to listening to it a few years later, after the band seemed to be on everyone's list of God's gift to mankind, I realized that it was… really really good. It was great. I loved it and still do. Those overpriviledged posers wrote gorgeous songs and crafted some truly inspired guitar rock.
Seeing them live, and being a part of their show, was a revelation. They are artisans of guitar rock, using two guitars and a bass much like a piano's left and right hands. Truly original and astounding. And now that they are older, less pretty, and less destructive, they are really focusing on the business of making great music on stage, and it was a total joy to watch. The crowd went absolutely batshit. It was a blast.

I also got to see some new bands that I didn't know about that ran the gamut from brilliant to unbearably shitty. One of my favorites was Frank Turner, a punk troubadour from England who sounds like the most brash and raucous parts of Billy Bragg, with less political edge but all the humor and a totally rocking band.
Another surprise was The Head and the Heart. My old friend Dave Burton, who was tour manager for my band Morning Glories back in the 90's, contacted me and said he'd be at the festival with this folk band from Portland. They had a beautiful, laid back, 70's era folk rock vibe, like the Eagles with better voices and cooler songs. Great stuff.
Jack White killing it

Silent disco is a very good start to the DJ problem

Then there were some bands that confused, depressed, and irritated me. I would lump these bands into the category of "horrible 80's retro." The worst offender was a band called Bleachers. They dressed like backup singers for Wham and sounded like Phil Collins singing over karaoke tracks of Gloria Estefan. Horrible fake string synths, whiny and overwrought vocals, and contrived arrangements filled with Broadway style bravado. I soon realized that there is a conscious effort among a bunch of twenty-somethings to channel precisely the worst elements of 80's mainstream. High pitched guitars, effete, asymmetrical outfits, terrible synth sounds, drum machines, jangly guitars, and inane, inoffensive lyrics. Any of those elements alone could be interesting, fun, or ironic, but when a whole subset of very popular bands is ripping off the entire oeuvre of A-HA or Cindy Lauper, something is horribly wrong. In all fairness, I was a big fan of some big mainstream bands in the 80's, like Duran Duran or Wham, but they all disappeared or evolved as music grew in depth and studios decided to re-embrace the mid and low end. The 80's happened and they were pretty crappy and they ended. The signature sound of the 80's was cavernously reverby drums, high pitched, whiny guitars, brooding, english-y, fey vocals, and fake horns and strings. But even during this period, other bands were holding on to powerful, imaginative, guitar-driven rock. The Minutemen, Fugazi, the Pixies, REM, the B-52s, and many many others were all alive and well in the 80s and so much better than the dreck that is being copied now. My question is WHY? Some of the worst offenders at the festival were Lucius, Haerts, Papa, Hunter Hunted, and Meg Myers.
And then the other category is what I call "mama's boys product placement rock." At the top of this list is Vampire Weekend. They are a living commercial for ______. I left this blank because they are so squeaky clean and irritatingly pleasant, they are just waiting to be used for the dullest, most sanitized marketing campaign imaginable. Rock and roll is a pulpit to question, think, ask, and agitate. These guys look like they would much rather be stock traders but unfortunately they are making too much money as rock musicians to quit and follow their passion, which is kissing ass.
Foster the People gets special mention for doing the mathematically impossible by fitting 100% into both categories and being by far the most irritating band to ever exist.
The last category is what I would call "DJ / karaoke / performance art." To me this is not really music and doesn't deserve much mention. These groups are usually comprised of a singer or two with one or two rudimentary instruments singing and yelling over laptop beats. Some people call this EDM. It is apparently very popular but it is not for me. Examples of this are Washed Out, Sleigh Bells, and others. Can't remember, don't care. When I go see a great movie, I don't immediately rush to the projection booth to congratulate the projectionist on the quality of projection and ask where he is "playing" again. That is the equivalent to me of paying to see a DJ "play" music. DJs are technicians who facilitate the reproduction of music that has been composed, performed, and recorded somewhere else. 
I will continue to seek out new artists making honest, thoughtful music with real songs. Lately I've been loving Courtney Barnett, Ages and Ages, Hooray for the Riffraff, Drenge, and Elbow to name a few.  Rock lives!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What the kids are saying now

Pony no!
baby panda eats leaves

Vivienne is really concerned with what Jules is doing. She wants to make sure he is taken care of. Whatever she has, she shares with him. It's so sweet it breaks mu heart.

Jules is extremely verbal. he has learned how to speak English the past two weeks and he makes complete sentences using complex verb noun agreements. "I wanna jump on the bed." "daddy, I want some water please." Daddy, can I have some more please. Where did mommy go? baby panda wanna eat flowers.

Some interesting linguistic observations: the word "my" substituted for "me" so they say "thats my's" instead of that's mine.

A lot of singing. Vivienne wants to hear the alphabet song "en franciais." And she can sing along with it.
They love some french songs like "La maman des poissons." and Fait dodo.
They know lots of words in french:
 Pantalon, chemise, poisson, c'est froid, chaussures. chausettes, doudou, dodo, tete, nez, pieds, bouche, ├ęcole, de l'eau, oiseau, le chat.

I should be teaching them more French and I feel bad about it. I guess it's making me realize that I'm losing touch with my french side and it's also so hard to talk to them in french all the time. I love French and it's so important to keep it up. But, they need some kind of context in which to speak it. Chelsea and I don't speak french at home so it doesn't make much sense to speak to the kids. But hey will be much better off if they learn it. I was SO lucky to have the upbringing I did.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Robert Gates on Ukraine

I am sitting twenty feet away from Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense under Bush and Obama. He is speaking at the Plaza Hotel at a conference hosted by Blackstone, describing Putin as a product of the Soviet Union. He says Putin wants influence on all the former Soviet states but doesn't want a return to the USSR. Gates says that Putin has a deal with the oligarchs. "You got everything you have by stealing it. You can keep what you have as long as you don't cross me politically. " For the reason, sanctions on the oligarchs is pointless in terms of reaching Putin.

Friday, March 7, 2014

War is Stupid

Violence is stupid. You have to decide if you are for violence or against it. You can't just "support our troops" because everyone says it's the right thing to do. If you think it would be a bad idea to kill someone, then you have to live by that premise. I take offense at the lazy, passive notion that it is OK to support killing in your name, as long as it is done by people you don't know, in countries you will never visit. Killing is disgusting. Armies are there to kill. War is about killing. If you don't want to kill people, then don't support war. I hate war, I hate killing, I hate guns, I hate violence.  I don't support any of those things. Our troops are in place because we live in a country that buys into the notion that the only way to stop war is to wage endless war. Bullshit. The only way to stop war is to stop fighting. Fuck war. I know I sound like a throwback from the 60's, like a stupid unwashed idealistic hippie. I don't care. I know deep down in my heart that killing is fucked up. Very few people have the misfortune of living through the act of killing. Very few people see death face to face. it is disgusting and sad. I have seen death face to face when I had to watch my mother die. Death sucks. Why are we so obsessed with death and killing in America? Are we really defending ourselves against attackers of our way of life? Wouldn't it be much more effective to set the example of being the country that hates war, hates death, hates killing? America freaks me out. The whole western world freaks me out. i need to live in Tibet or Antarctica or somewhere far away from all the little boys with their weapons and egos and pencil fights. Fuck war.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Things the kids are saying now

Alligator = elevator
Daddy loves coffee
No nuggles - no snuggles
Shubble - shovel
Ina do it - I want to do it
No daddy seeping - daddy don't sleep, wake up
Banky - blanket
Hibou - owl
Beffast - breakfast
Move it!
No biting
ABC song
Elmo song
Olicopter = helicopter
Avion
Chapeau
Pantalon
Chemise
Whas dat?
Neenaw neenaw! - Pin pon pin pon!
(Imitating sound of a firetruck)
Beastie Boys!
Elephant
Quack quack!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

F is for Funky

Today on the F train in Brooklyn I saw an interaction that was crammed full of all the pathos, craziness,  beauty, and weirdness that makes New York the living circus that continues to surprise me after all these years.
I was on the platform at Jay Street waiting for the F train at about mid day. The platform was fairly crowded but not jammed. A nice looking middle aged lady who looked like she was dressed for work was standing facing the tracks with headphones on, and she was completely getting down, dancing like she was on stage at Madison Square Garden, singing backups for Beyonce. She was shaking and bumping and grinding, hand motions in full swing, totally grooving her ass off. Her ostentatious funk display was completely anachronistic with her generally reserved, business casual dressing style. I was mesmerized and watched her from a distance with a smile on my face.
The train took a long time coming, and soon I noticed a man shuffling down from the other end of the platform, mumbling to himself. I realized he was actually singing with a sort of raspy mumbling rap, and stumbling around slightly off balance, as if drunk but not altogether graceless. As he shuffled down the platform, his singing was peppered with commentary about every noteworthy detail he saw along the way. "Little dog got a sweater on, yeah baby… Trash can be overflowin', aw yeah…"
Eventually the man reached the end of the platform where the woman was continuing her all-out disco funkfest, he came to a stop, and gawked at her, thunderstruck. She continued her solo dance party, and the man, standing behind her, began to sway and groove and to narrate her moves in real-time. "Go on, on, go on girl! Don't stop till you get enough! Do that thing, do that thing, girl! Ow! Get it, girl!"
The F train screeched into the track, and everyone pushed out and pushed in. The lady dancer sat on a crowded bench, and continued her funky dancing, slightly subdued, in her seat. The swaying man came in and positioned himself directly opposite her. The following exchange transpired:
"Excuse me, ma'am."
"Yes?"
"You are very attractive."
"Oh thank you."
"Would you like to have lunch with me?"
"No, I'm sorry."
"You are a wonderful dancer."
"Thank you."
"I'd like to take you out."
 "Sorry, it's never going to happen."
"Are you married?"
"I might as well be."
And with that, the mumbly man swayed to the other end of the train with a bemused smile on his lips, unoffended, and the dancing lady continued her dance in her seat.

I didn't get any pictures of the above exchange, but five minutes later, these guys got on the train and I took this picture. Thank you New York.