Sunday, April 26, 2015

Melissa Ferrick on Concert Window

I just enjoyed such a nice Sunday evening treat right in my living room: Melissa Ferrick on Concert Window.

This was the second time I watched something on there (from Moisture Fest) and I think it's a great way to experience music, casual but totally excellent.

I only discovered Melissa Ferrick the other week, when she opened for Joan Armatrading. I'm totally hooked on her lovely music. Emotionally eloquent, sweet, sad, and uplifting all at once..

Tonight she was great -- every song she sang was fabulous (I think my favorite was "Wreck Me"), and when I finish this post I'll be downloading even more of her albums!

DK and the Joy Machine CD: Shy One

The new CD by DK and the Joy Machine is so good! The songs on Shy One cover a range of styles, all sung by Dian Killian (DK). Some of the lovelier ones are more bare and wistful while others are more lively and have a fuller sound with back up musicians. Some standout tracks are "June Apple"; "Four Walls"; "Salty South"; and the instrumental "Devil's Dance."

I don't usually post about albums, but Shy One is so good I couldn't resist!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rise in the Fall

The poems in Ana Bozicevic's collection, Rise in the Fall, are stupendously, achingly beautiful. They carry a range of emotional content, poetic sensibilities, and intellectual subjectivities -- there is so much there, yet the lyric voice has an identity, or integrity, throughout. It holds as a whole in a way that is itself holding. That is, these poems may be provocative at times, they may contain confrontational or biting moments, but there is a presence throughout that never quite releases the reader from the loveliness of its poetic embrace.

My copy of Rise in the Fall is now marked up with so many underlinings of the gorgeous language -- I couldn't keep my pen away from the phrasing and beautiful moments.

Such as:

"On the Christmas of my death when
I swam by myself in the peeling
blue of the pool, and
the pines addressed me, saying:
take me to the riot"


"I'll stand here and look at you
and invent nothing"


"I thought I was supposed to be
Well-oiled. I though there's something
In toothpaste that wakes us up."


"Oh I'm too tired to worship at your kittenish emptiness."

These excerpts to not quite capture the power of the poems in their entirety, all of which burst with energy, imagery, masterful language.

This collection is illustrated, hauntingly, by Bianca Stone. These images add an otherworldy virility to the text.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Joan Armatrading at the Concert Hall

Wow, such an amazing concert tonight. Epic greatness. Joan Armatrading was deep and gorgeous and electrifying and intense and beautiful. I am so glad I got a chance to see this concert. I have loved her music since the 80s and it is so familiar to me. I was pleased that she performed many of my favorites (her Love and Affection, The Weakness in Me, Willow, etc. all brought tears to my eyes). I was roused by Drop the Pilot. I also very much enjoyed and was enthralled by the songs that were less familiar to me. The crowd was totally in love with her and went crazy at numerous moments. I had such a great time, I wish I could go back and hear her perform again!

She did do an unusual thing, where she stopped the concert to go over a slide show showcasing her career from the early 70s up to the present. I didn't mind it all, but would have preferred the time spent singing more songs instead. Also, where we were sitting on the far left, the sound was slightly distorted.

Opening was Melissa Ferrick, who was great, and whose albums I am downloading STAT.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Margaret & Dusty

Oh, the poems in Alice Notley's Margaret & Dusty have such a bitter-sweet sting. There is the intelligent playfulness of the language, and softly lurking themes of death and loss, combined with a fresh ingenuity of perspective... This a truly beautiful collection, truly lovely. A gift.

Here is an excerpt from the poem "In Ancient December", this is the last stanza:

Can you worship loss? I can't remember it. I forgot to
sing it off from happening I had to arrange the flowers,
thousands everywhere, & thinly & it being purple I forgot
to see it ten thousand times. She forgot to. She
forgot to too. She would have forgotten anyway. She
didn't forget at any rate, she didn't anything. I didn't
either. I woke up I woke up again & I can't remember I
guess that's just it, but I didn't forget to sing this
time, but I forget what I'm singing. What am I singing?
Singing singing? What am I singing?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Alice Notley at the Poetry Project

Tonight I attended a wonderful reading given by Alice Notley at The Poetry Project. She read new poems from a series soon-to-be-published that were so gorgeous. She does amazing things with voice and character. These poems were in dialogue with each other, but each stood on its own as a kind of soliloquy. Lovely, stunning work, with dark undertones, and crispy edges.

I wanted to go home and read this work myself, but of course it isn't available yet. Instead I purchased a very different volume, Margaret and Dusty, which I just started and so adore.

Alice Notley is an intriguing and complex writer whose previous work I will always want to revisit and whose new work I will always desperately anticipate.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


The other night I watched Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon. It told the interesting story of a very well-connected entertainment manager. Gordon started off in the 60s and rose to prominence through representing Alice Cooper. He resorted to lots of pranks and stunts to get publicity for his clients, and his instincts were often spot on.

Supermensch is full of celebrity talking heads speaking about what a great guy he is, and I came away liking him. I guess I would have liked more social context, more about the history of the music industry. But it was pretty good.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Danny Collins

I really enjoyed Danny Collins. Starring Al Pacino, it's about a cheesy older performer, sort of like Neil Diamond (who I like, by the way), who receives a letter written to him 40 years before by John Lennon encouraging his song writing. This spirals him into a crisis about finding himself creatively, and also involves trying to connect with the grown son who he has never met.

It's kind of silly throughout. The grown son wants nothing to do with him at first, and his pouty stubbornness seems a little bit of a cliche, not about character but simply a plot device. In Danny's crisis he moves into a generic hotel (a Hilton I think) and develops a really fun flirtation with the manager, played by my favorite, Annette Bening. I enjoyed this "patter" quite a bit.

Even though Danny Collins is kind of cliche and fluffy, I was very entertained throughout and thoroughly invested in it. I even cried a bit at the end.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (season 1)

I just finished watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the 13-episode Netflix series.

At first I found the pitch of it to be too shrill and abrasive, and the tempo too chaotic. After 16 minutes I didn't think I could watch any more. But a few days later I tried again and became hooked.

The show centers around a young woman who had been held captive in a bunker for 15 years with three other women. Their kidnapper was a crazy doomsday preacher. The series opens with them being rescued and released. After a media hoopla Kimmy decides not to  return to the Midwest, but to make a go of it in NYC. Hilarity ensues. She meets up with a wacky gay roommate, Titus, and gets a job as nanny for a deluded narcissist, Jacqueline.

The humor is very fast paced. Very Tina Fey. Off-beat and surreal. Very broad, but with an absurdity that makes it more palatable. Although there is a dark side -- the subject matter is of course disturbing -- Kimmy's resilience and perkiness is actually kind of uplifting and at moments it is almost a "feel good" comedy.

My favorite character by far is Jacqueline, brilliantly played by Jane Krakowski. She is so out of touch that she doesn't know where water comes from and when she loses her maid she gets trapped in her own dress because she doesn't know how to unzip it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

GUTS at Dixon Place

Tonight I enjoyed two really fabulous performers at Dixon Place. Dia Felix has put together what so far is very much a marvelous series, Guts.

I got to see Morgan Bassichis deliver a monologue that started with reflections on the Going Clear documentary (which I just saw the other night) and a lifelong fascination with cults, then Morgan explored an interest in fathers, and ended with an engaging story about losing a friend a friend in the woods. Morgan was incredibly funny and just so great to watch.

Becca Blackwell's monologue centered on her relationship with her vibrator, from when it first entered her life to her present day involvement with it. Her humor is delivered in a polite, unassuming manner, but at the same time it's unapologetically in-your-face.

What made both performances so incredibly great was how amiable and conversational they were. They are just both very charismatic and talented artists.

Monday, April 6, 2015


I just finished a beautiful book, Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric.

The prose poem is a meditation on contemporary black experience and subjectivity -- the endurance of racism and it's omnipresence into so many layers of human life and interaction. The loveliness of Rankine's writing is a wonderful enigma, that through such beauty she exposes such ugliness.

Citizen presents her words in juxtaposition with many haunting images, such as the art of Glenn Ligon, Nick Cave, Carrie Mae Weems. These images dialogue with the reflective prose in a particularly powerful way. Citizen confronts the racist murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner. It moves in and through these horrors with writing attempting to make sense of it -- but there is such senselessness:

"because white men can't
police their imagination
black men are dying."

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Last night I watched Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. This documentary about the controversial organization was a little monotonous (certainly not as engaging as The Jinx!).

Because I had read A Queer and Pleasant Danger, I was already familiar with some of the stuff, about the audits and the levels, and the Sea Org, etc. Going Clear focuses on the voices of former Scientologists, many who had been in the religion or organization for decades. Their stories, about the absurdities and abuses, were very interesting. I would have liked to have heard from current, practicing Scientologists as well.

One of the things that particularly disturbed me is that once someone reaches the highest level they get a locked briefcase filled with the handwritten writings of the mad man, L. Ron Hubbard. This explains the creation myth about a world like 1950s America that gets taken over by an overlord and tons of bodies are frozen and dropped into the earth... very crazy shit. But, is it really any crazier than any other religion's creation myth?

My take on it is that Scientology is a mix of religion, psychological treatment, fascism, and science fiction.

The Jinx

I forgot to write about The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, a 6-part documentary I wanted last month.

I found this story of Robert Durst, suspected of two murders and acquitted of a third, to be so fascinating. 

It was filmed in a dramatic way that was very effective. I normally cringe at reenactments, but I think they worked very well here. The story could easily be told in 2 hours, but, except for the final episode, I didn't feel like it was drawn out. I was literally on the edge of my seat while watching this.

The day the final episode aired, Durst was arrested in New Orleans. In that final episode he was confronted with an envelope he had addressed, which exactly matched the handwriting of a note sent to the police after one of the murders. It was very damning evidence. But the real drama came after the interview was over. He went to the bathroom and without realizing the mic was still on, he mumbled all this stuff, including "killed them all, of course". It was so dramatic!

I am one of the few people who did not here these mutterings as a "confession" -- It seemed to me more that he was echoing what he presumed people were now going to think. I assume a good lawyer would be able to make this argument successfully in court. But maybe not.