Thursday, May 31, 2007

Summer Vacation

Today's guest blogger is my daughter, Rosemary.

Today I have a sleepover with my bf Peyton @ 3:30 p.m. And it's 3:46p.m. She is super late and I feel so excited but sad cause it's 3:48. WHERE IS SHE??? Man, bull bull bull. Mabe she had to do a recital or something. Maybe she got aducted by aliens. Maybe she went to Ireland. Maybe she just disapeared or is hiding under her bed.

It is summer. I love summer. That makes me happy! Today I'm going to the pool. And having fun. La la la la la. This summer I am going to the beach in Florida, not in Hawaii or in Georgia or in South Carolina or North Carolina. Or even in Alabama. The team name is the Florida Gators. And we're going with my grandma and aunt and my brother, me, and my momma and that's all.

I have a new book. The Tale of Emily Windsnap. It is about a girl that turns into a mermaid.

Edited by Julie: Peyton arrived and Rosemary had to go!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ten Years After

Today is the tenth anniversary of Jeff Buckley's death.

How can ten years already have passed? It seems like it just happened. I remember hearing that he'd been lost in the Mississippi and was believed to have drowned. I remember fighting the news, telling myself they were going to find him alive. I remember pretending it was a hoax of some sort, that Jeff was just hiding from the publicity that had begun to follow him. But I knew none of that was true, that this incredible man had been lost. As crazy as it sounds, I cried for days about his death. It was much more than losing a talented musician. His dying affected me on a personal level, leaving something undone, unfinished. I felt, and still feel, like his death was the death of a future, an end to possibilities, not only his but somehow my own as well. I was surprised at my reaction.

I went to see Jeff once in 1994. I had no idea who he was, just went along with a friend who had told me "He's Tim Buckley's son," which meant nothing to me. I went anyway, expecting some mild entertainment, some folky singer. But something happened to me that night. From the moment the music started, I knew this was more than just a good musician, more than just "Tim Buckley's son." I can't even explain it, but when he started playing I got a chill, a feeling of being in the presence of something essential, something powerful, something very, very important. I have never, before or since, been so blown away by a performer.

Here are some lyrics from his song "Lover You Should Have Come Over":

It's never over
My kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
It's never over
All my riches for her smiles when I slept so soft against her
It's never over
All my blood for the sweetness of her laughter
It's never over
She's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever

The almost medieval quality of those lyrics, combined with the chord progressions and swelling force of the music, is something no one but Jeff could do.

Jeff Buckley was something incredibly unique and special, a creative, intense, spiritual yet earthy human being. I know he's gone, but I still feel him here and have a weird sensation that I will meet him again. It's impossible to explain. Suffice it to say that I mourn him today but don't really think he is gone.

Here's an interview I've never seen before, where he talks about love, creative moments in everyday life, sex, the power of the live performance and the divinity of life:

And my favorite song,

"I think people are divine and eternal"

Monday, May 28, 2007


The pool is finally open, and the kids and I spent all weekend there. It's like sliding into the ocean, getting back into the summer routine. Find the pool bag - check. Dig out the beach towels - check. See if the sunscreen from last year has dried up - check (it hadn't.) Throw on bathing suits, pull hair back into its permanent swimming ponytail, grab a big glass of sweet tea and some snacks, and we're off.

I love this first brush with summer. I feel calm, sunbaked and relaxed. Even boy troubles and Josie Davis can't really bother me on a weekend like this. I've got a pile of books I need to read and a dissertation I need to write and I think both might actually happen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blastis from the Pastis


For no apparent reason.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Taylor Hicks went Golfing

Taylor played in some benefit tournament thing in Birmingham a few days ago. And it's driving me wild.

Someone please explain to me why these pictures are having such an odd affect on me. I can't stop looking. Is it because he looks so dang hot doing something other than what I usually see him do? Is it the clothes? The sunny day? The golf clubs? WHAT??

I have looked these pictures over again and again, and every time I just go "AWWWWW!" It's making me feel a little ill, cause I don't even like golf. But something about Taylor with a putter and hat and those golf-y sunglasses is doing a number on me. And I'm big enough to admit it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lester Bangs, A Great American Soul

Here is a great rock and roll read for anyone who has been asleep for the past twenty years and somehow missed it: Lester Bangs Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. The book is a collection of articles written over the course of Bangs' colorful downward spiral of a life, and was published posthumously in 1988. Irreverant, disgusting, hilariously funny, often sad, like Bangs himself the essays represent an era of American youth culture long gone.

For those who knew him personally, Bangs was a big teddy bear of a drunk, a rampant club-goer who ultimately just wanted someone to sit with him and listen to him rant. But clearly he was doing more than just drinking and ranting. Bangs was, if you’ll pardon the trite analogy, a kind of human sponge, showing up, absorbing, watching, categorizing, analyzing and theorizing the world around him in the moment. His writing reads like that of a wizened cultural historian looking back on a bygone era. But that moment was now.

He got music, completely. He didn't hesitate to lay bare the good, the bad and the ugly of those he wrote about and of himself. Part of his appeal is that he was never afraid to go out on a limb and say something illogical, angry and sometimes downright nasty. And this at a time when malicious journalism wasn’t commonplace, in an era of no internet, no blogs, no common medium for random bitching. Bangs wrote raw, ugly, passionate articles for relatively mainstream publications long before nasty was cool.

Lester Bangs is painfully of his time, a relatively innocent period of American culture when there was still a lot of ground to be broken and music to be made. Yet in retrospect he is also of the ages, a timeless and weary voice. His writing is poetic as well as ugly: disjointed yet coherent, pissed yet eloquent. In other words, his work mirrors the venom and passion of the music of the bands he writes about – Blondie, Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, the Ramones – as if the energy of the music had been translated into language. In a style reflecting the earthy poetic bop of the beat writers and a complex thought process akin to something penned by a critical theorist, Bangs reflects the raw and edgy qualities of these performers, as seen in this passage he wrote about Patti Smith's album, Horses:

What must be recognized is that she transcends bohemian cultism to be both positive and mainstream, even though her songs go past a mere flirtation with death and pathology. She just saw that it was time for literature to shake it and music to carry both some literacy and some grease that ain’t jive. The combination makes her an all-American tough angel, street-bopping and snapping her fingers, yet moving with that hipshake which is so like every tease you slavered after in high school. 

Bangs saw music as something more than just an isolated art form. He saw and seemed to understand the links between wildly disparate cultural markers – art, music, random rebellion, beauty – and the people who spawned them, proving himself to be one of those rare individuals who is able to glimpse the connections that link the cosmos. Lester Bangs understood the complexity of music and life at a level few people can even imagine, but it was his incredible breadth of scope that really made his writing unique. An article in which he beautifully expresses the relationship between free jazz and punk opens with this paragraph:

In a New York City nightclub, a skinny little Caucasian whose waterfall hairstyle and set of snout and lips make him look like a sullen anteater takes the stage, backed up by a couple of guitarists, bass, horn section, drummer and bongos. Most of his back-up is black, and they know their stuff: it’s pure James Brown funk, with just enough atonal accents to throw you off. The trombone player, in fact, looks familiar, and sounds amazing: you look a bit closer, and of course, that’s Joseph Bowie, brother of Lester, both of them avant-garde jazzmen of repute. But then the anteater begins to sing, in a hoarse yowl that sounds more like someone being dragged naked through the broken glass and oily rubble of a back-alley than even the studied abrasiveness of most punk rock vocalizations. The songs are about contorting yourself, tying other people up and leaving them there, and how the singer doesn’t want to be happy. After a while he picks up an alto sax, and out come some of the most hideous flurries of gurgling shrieks heard since the mid-Sixties glory days of ESP-Disk records. The singer/saxophonist’s name is James Chance, and you have been watching the Contortions.

Damn, that's good stuff.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Good Man is Hard to Find

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you

I saw Jeff Buckley in Atlanta in about 1994 in a small club…one of the most amazing nights of my life. He was soulful, sexy, beautiful. I spoke to him after the show, he asked me to come chat backstage, I couldn’t. Then he was gone. I have wished ever since that I’d managed to talk with him…

But some things aren't meant to be. Many things aren't meant to be.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Athens Georgia

Back in 2005 I was on the planning end of a huge mega-party/music/photography/art event called Athens Rewind. Having honed my pop culture teeth on the Athens scene of the late '70s and early '80s, I had become very nostalgic about that time and place, and was yearning to somehow experience it all again. Was it possible?

Athens was a place like no other, a time when anything was possible. An undercurrent of energy ran through the town like lava, and each person who felt it somehow became psychically connected to all the others. The creative outlets, mainly music but also art and writing, were barely enough to contain the passion and angst which spilled out into other areas of our lives. These were beautiful young people who realized that they were just a little (and yes, sometimes just a lot) outside the norm, and who embraced that realization with a fervor. Whereas most 18 to 25 year olds were content with football, frat parties, and towing the status quo line, these kids felt the need to shake things up. The New York and London underground scenes came to us vicariously, and we all felt part of something much bigger, much bigger.

Everyone who lived through it was touched with that special mojo that can't quite be defined, but that Ort called "the zen of Athens." Peter Cline comes damn close to capturing the Athens zen. Peter, if you read this, please forgive me for lifting it. It's too beautiful not to share:

I remember the Coffee Club, and all the incarnations of the 40 Watt Club, and Tyrones OC, and the Mad Hatter, and KT’s and the B&L Warehouse.. I remember small town drag queens who didn’t know (or care) if they were black or white. I remember dancing with Wes to Hotel California, drinking too much at the Speakeasy in the Georgian Hotel. I remember being young, elegant, and not having any idea that I was either. God bless memory.

Writing all this, I realize, I remember, that I remember both too much and too little; that memory is unreliable, fragile. I remember the dead, who I will not recite here but whom I remember with every living breath and regret, no not their dying, which is impossible to regret, but that, likely, I did not cherish them in life as they deserved, as I should have realized they deserved, to be cherished. I will remember, they will not know, I will forget, and we will all be forgiven.

Fast-forward to 2005. Assembling a few of the key players from back in the day - the famous KO, whose birthday party at the church was REM's first gig, Paul Scales, who founded the 40-Watt Club, Maureen, who knew everyone who ever passed through the gates of the town - we set out to find all the movers and shakers, artists and musicians, drunks and drag queens from those golden days of debauchery. Amazingly, we found most of them.

What grew out of our collective curiosity - "I wonder what happened to Mark Phredd???" - soon expanded into a guest list of over 400 people. We secured a location (the 40-Watt Club, natch) a band (Pylon, natch) another band (Oh OK) deejays (Kurt Wood, David Pierce, the inimitable Ort) photographers (Sandra-Lee Phipps, Molly Woo, Laura Levine) and more unexpected offers of relics than the Pope could have hoped for. It was a beautiful thing.

Though Athens Rewind was not able to reproduce that energy we felt back in the glorious day of our collective youth, it did serve to reunite people who still share a creative soul and who even now are connected by the Athens phenomenon. The weekend reminded us of how damn lucky we were to have been a part of the scene at all.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Lolita Sweetah

Does anyone out there love Lolita as much as I do? Not the book, and God knows not the cheesy remake, but the original Kubrick masterpiece. For me, it's up there with Franny and Zooey, which I have to read about every two years. I simply must see Lolita every so often or I get cranky. What a performance by James Mason as the uptight, in way-over-his-head pedophile, Humbert Humbert. Shelley Winters makes Charlotte Haze both a tragic character and just annoying enough that we want her to somehow get killed off. Sue Lyon is a pain in the ass, but damn, such an adorable conniving teenager from hell. And Peter Sellers is, well, Peter Sellers.

How did this movie ever pass the censors? I guess it's so tongue in cheek that no one caught the blatant references to what was really happening in West Ramsdale.

"I think it was your....cherry pie!"

"It's loaded with mayonnaise, just the way you like it!"

"If you were in my class I'd give you an A+."

Those of you who've seen it, here's a couple of scenes I know you'll love. Those who haven't seen it, shame on you. Get to the video store stat.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Raspberries

My first album was Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything. My second was Elton John, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player. My third was The Raspberries, some greatest hits record that I can't find anymore, neither in my collection (no big was a while ago) nor on the internet, which is odd.

In any event, what a great album it was. It had all the hits - Let's Pretend, Go All the Way, Overnight Sensation, I Wanna Be with You - and had a huge impact on my budding pre-teen insanity. At a time when I was naturally thinking about breaking away from my family, this music fueled images of being an adult, doing what I wanted, experiencing life on the road (no, I didn't yet know about Kerouac,) in short, a fantasy world of rock and roll where anything could happen. I don't really think I ever got beyond that stage, in many ways.

I recently rediscovered the Raspberries, and hearing those songs brings back a flood of strange feelings, almost tossing me right back into that place in 1974, my great era of pop music and AM radio and pre-pubescent desire. I feel a twinge of the soul-searching that only a 13 year old can experience. Hearing these songs makes me think of my bedroom, which I painted royal blue to contrast the white shag rug and white-painted furniture. It reminds me of falling asleep listening to Crocodile Rock, Will it Go Round in Circles, Lean on Me, and Mandy, on my little clock radio. It gives me a feeling of hope and despair, one because all of life is ahead of me, the other cause I have no idea what it's all about.

Here's to Eric and the boys, who by the way, are touring again. But that's fodder for another blog.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Taylor - Lost in the shuffle?

So here I am, minding my own business in chat, when WHAM! The meteoric rise and fall of Taylor Hicks is suddenly being discussed with a vengeance. Once again I feel myself caught up in the angst that this discussion pulls out of me...analyzing and reanalyzing and overanalyzing the poor man. He seemed so full of promise and good funky coolness...what happened to him? Why was he so phenomenal then, and just seems mediocre now? Is he (for some reason known only to Jesus) cleverly hiding that raw talent, or have the powers that be stomped it all out of him? Hard to say.

Taylor is not staying real to his roots and it shows in the lackluster performances he's been turning in lately. Whereas once he could make any song translate into a great performance, lately a lot of the gigs he's played seem to be less Taylor Hicks, blues man, and more adult contemporary mass-produced garbage. Although he is not a musician who is easily packaged up and sold, those who are"in the know" have been compelled to try to do it anyway. But Taylor is an artist who needs to stay on the edge, where he shines. When he tries to make himself sellable he gets very close to being a lounge act. Hence the crap album, which is now spilling over into crap live performances.

Five minutes of the Atlanta Smith's performance or the summer Workplay gig are worth the entire night of last month's Alabama theatre show. Is he losing his edge?