Saturday, March 25, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Everything's Coming Up Roses"

The classic from Gypsy, via Rita Moreno in The Ritz. Get a new song every day here.

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Sarah McLachlan and Hypatia of Alexandria

March is Girl Women's History Month.

Fact: girls can do things too!

Fact: girls can't do rock and roll, or so one might conclude from the paucity of females inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "We've got Randy Newman!"). Real fact: girls can do rock and roll (some of them).

Since I am enjoying getting on my high horse (or getting high on horse), I'm going to double dip with a series of girl-on-girl posts. It's a combination of a female musical act (or a band with a female member [possibly more]) that merits* induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a female who did something like bake a cake or killed a guy (Laura Bush killed a guy).

Sarah McLachlan's contributions to the world are more than just very sad commercials for the ASPCA (but the commercials she makes for the ASPCA are OMG SO SAD!!!). As a musician she's released 3 multiplatinum albums, 1 platinum and 2 gold, and received 3 Grammy awards.

She also produced the Lilith Fair concert tours, which was just smart considering how everyone was a lesbian in 1992.



I think it's incredibly charming that a mathematician and philosopher whose life from somewhere between 400 and 300 B.C. has this Wikipedia entry: "her exact year of birth is still under debate, nonetheless a probabilistic model has been proposed, giving 355 as the most probable year (approximately 14.5% of the probability) and - more generally - the interval of years between 350 and 360 as the one with approximately 90% of the probability."

She headed the Neoplatonist School in Alexandria, and she may or may not have been a witch a practitioner of magic, astrolabes and musical instruments, and a minion of Satan. Regardless of what she did while alive, her death is more complicated and more detailed (here).



* There is a wide spectrum of rock & roll gravitas for the artists included in the 31 I will include. I feel like a reasonable case can be made for each, and everyone one of these is at least as worthy as Randy Newman, 2103 inductee.

Song of the Day: "Regret In Your Tears"

Nicki Minaj just broke a 4-decades old record held by Aretha Franklin for most Billboard Hot 100 singles by a female. Minaj now has 76 to Franklin's 73.

Nice work from both!!!



Song: "Regret In Your Tears"
Artist: Nicki Minaj

Friday, March 24, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "When She Was Mine"

Get you therapy every day here.

Notes on Logan

Holy shit was that a good movie.

Apparently the only movies I'm making an effort for are Marvel comics or Star Wars. I did also see Arrival last fall, but that was as much about finding a group outing option as anything.

Logan is the second big action movie of the last 2 years clearly influenced by (or referencing) classic Westerns (the other: Mad Max: Fury Road). Shane is such a reference that the movie is beautifully displayed on TV in a hotel room during the trio of protagonists' journey. As with MM:FR, Logan is a chase movie, but it's also a "grizzled old man and feisty young girl" movie, a la Little Miss Sunshine or Paper Moon (movies specifically mentioned by director James Mangold).

It's also dark, deeply satisfying and a bit cathartic the way that Kingsman: The Secret Service felt cathartic nearly 2 years ago to the day.

If there's a complaint, it's that everything seems to be 10% to 15% more than was necessary. It could have lessened the length of the movie, the body count, the intensity of the fighting and viscera, and delivered a crisper movie. The movie goes at a solid and steady pace, it just feels bloated from time to time.

Still, solid work by director James Mangold, and the collection of writers (Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green). The hair and make-up (especially the make-up, and especially the teeth) are fantastic; detailed, authentic but not showy. The production design is fantastic, a believable glimpse into the near future, the shiny and promising along with the decayed or decaying. The costume design was invisible (it didn't occur to me that there were costumes which is probably the hallmark of a good design)l visual effects and sound both solid.

Hugh Jackman continues to do really great work in the role of Wolverine. Patrick Stewart is as good as he's ever been (on par with his work in Jeffrey) and newcomer Dafne Keen is one of the best young performers I've seen in a long time (it reminds me of 1994/95 when Brad Renfro, Kirsten Dunst and Anna Paquin (and more, like the cast of The Little Princess and at least one other movie I'm not remembering all showed up giving really amazing performances). If I were planning an Oscar campaign for the movie I'm not sure whether I'd slot her for lead or supporting, but either way she's worthy of a campaign.

Stephen Merchant and Richard Grant do fine work in their respective roles. I was surprised to see Eriq LaSalle's name in the credits, and Boyd Holbrook, who I'd never seen before, is solid.

It's not quite Civil War-level excellence (possibly because of the body count, it's well into 3 figures), but it's really damn good.

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Pixies and Janet Reno

March is Girl Women's History Month.

Fact: girls can do things too!

Fact: girls can't do rock and roll, or so one might conclude from the paucity of females inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "We've got Randy Newman!"). Real fact: girls can do rock and roll (some of them).

Since I am enjoying getting on my high horse (or getting high on horse), I'm going to double dip with a series of girl-on-girl posts. It's a combination of a female musical act (or a band with a female member [possibly more]) that merits* induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a female who did something like bake a cake or killed a guy (Laura Bush killed a guy).

I'm perfectly happy accepting a band with a lone female member in my tally of female acts in the Hall. Pixies (Kim Deal was in the original line-up) or Sonic Youth (Kim Gordon) work, and the bands are probably similarly influential on grunge and post-grunge music in the early and mid-90s (although maybe not in 1992 when everyone was a lesbian). 

Kim Deal answered an add looking for a female bass player who liked both Peter, Paul and Mary, and Hüsker Dü. Hmm, I didn't know Black Francis (nee Frank Black) specifically wanted a female bass player. That seems a little weird. Sexist? Like why not place an ad for a good bass player?

My appreciation for the band didn't exist until after the late 90s, after they stopped recording new music, and even then is isolated to specific songs (that I fucking love) and opposed to entire albums.



Janet Reno was Bill Clinton's third pick for US Attorney General. Both Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood had "nanny problems" (as in they both employed undocumented workers as nannies). It's weird that Clinton was so determined to appoint a woman as AG (wait, is it? maybe it's not [okay, listen to the second video clip, it explains why a woman]). Maybe what's weird is that Reno was the only one of the 3 that was a prosecutor. And as a single woman with no children, she had no nanny problem, thus proving the third time's the charm.

Reno is the first female Attorney General of the United States, and her tenure from confirmation through George W. Bush's inauguration makes her the second longest serving AG in US history. During her time in office she oversaw:

  • the 2 month long siege at the Branch Davidians compound in Waco
  • the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City
  • the Centennial Park bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta
  • the 1993 World Trade Center bombing
  • conviction of the Unabomber
  • sending Elian Gonzales back to Cuba to live with his father
  • charges against Microsoft for violating antitrust laws and establishing themselves as a monopoly

Will Ferrell's imitations of her wasn't the best thing he did, but she learned to embrace it and showed up for the final sketch of her tenure as AG.





* There is a wide spectrum of rock & roll gravitas for the artists included in the 31 I will include. I feel like a reasonable case can be made for each, and everyone one of these is at least as worthy as Randy Newman, 2103 inductee.

Song of the Day: "Hotwire the Ferris Wheel"

Jens Lekman reminds me of his existence by teaming up with my beloved Tracey Thorn. Well played Jens.



Song: "Hotwire the Ferris Wheel"
Artist: Jens Lekman/Tracey Thorn

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Suzanne Vega and Lucy Stone

March is Girl Women's History Month.

Fact: girls can do things too!

Fact: girls can't do rock and roll, or so one might conclude from the paucity of females inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "We've got Randy Newman!"). Real fact: girls can do rock and roll (some of them).

Since I am enjoying getting on my high horse (or getting high on horse), I'm going to double dip with a series of girl-on-girl posts. It's a combination of a female musical act (or a band with a female member [possibly more]) that merits* induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a female who did something like bake a cake or killed a guy (Laura Bush killed a guy).


I remember an awkward interview with Suzanne Vega, on the local UHF music video channel (WVEU, channel 69)I think the dude called her Susan 3 times before she corrected him. I was embarrassed for her. No, frustrated; I was frustrated for her. 

Two years later, when "Luka" became an international smash hit, Vega paid to have that idiot killed. Well, she should have.

Suzanne Vega's career covers a variety of folk/rock subgenres including folk/rock pop; folk/rock industrial; post-grunge folk/rock; folk/rock rock; folk/rock acapella; folk/rock acapella remixed as a dance track which hits #1 in Switzerland, Germany AND Austria; folk/rock songs about divorce; folk/rock wait, is that jazz music; and folk/rock whatever Leonard Cohen does.

In addition to some unlikely pop hits and amazing albums, she's won a Grammy (like many of the best female songwriters of her generation, she won in the category of Best Recording Package because girls are good at art [it still counts as a Grammy win, Liza]), won a Peabody award, and written a play about Carson McCullers with Duncan Sheik (as one does). She also collaborated with Joe Jackson on one of the best movie soundtracks from the last 50 years, and to celebrate she sports some sexy eye-shadow (and other make-up, yikes, the hair, this screams "my A&M A&R guy made me dress this way" [which is how "Luka" became an international hit, so clearly that dude was right... he probably manages a Best Buy now]).



Lucy Stone is the member of 19th century American triumvirate of suffrage and feminism that you haven't heard of (because you know who Susan B. Anthony is, and you've heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton even if you're not sure when or how). She was an abolitionist, was the first woman in Massachusetts to earn a college degree, and kept using her maiden name even though she was someone's property wife.

While teaching in district schools she complained (girls, amirite?) that she was paid less than male teachers. When she substituted for her brother Bowman, teaching every subject that he taught, she only earned half of his pay (what do you expect without a penis?). Later, when attending Oberlin College (the first college to accept girls and Blacks) she worked in their manual labor program to cover tuition and noted that girls made half the pay that males did. She confronted the school about its policies while requesting the same pay for teaching that 2 less experienced males earned. Oberlin, recognizing her lack of a penis, laughed derisively. 

Stone resigned because, fuck them.


Her students said "no, fuck them" (which is the same them, really) and pressured Oberlin to do the right thing (in this case hiring Stone back at a pay equal to her male peers [aka special rights!!!]).

She was a fashion icon, adopting a pants-under-short-skirt look (aka the "Turkish costume") that would give rise to the Bloomer. Later when she stopped wearing the style she was criticized, making her a prisoner of her wardrobe.

Despite her tireless efforts fighting for the abolition of slavery and equality for women, she is best known for her refusal to take her husband's name at marriage. No one put an "I voted" sticker on her grave last November. Possibly because she was cremated. 



* There is a wide spectrum of rock & roll gravitas for the artists included in the 31 I will include. I feel like a reasonable case can be made for each, and everyone one of these is at least as worthy as Randy Newman, 2103 inductee.

Song of the Day: "An Answer"

I've decided that the new Mark Eitzel album is a reference to the Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx and "Banana Boat Song (Day O)".



Song: "An Answer"
Artist: Mark Eitzel

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Labelle and Valentina Tereshkova

March is Girl Women's History Month.

Fact: girls can do things too!

Fact: girls can't do rock and roll, or so one might conclude from the paucity of females inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "We've got Randy Newman!"). Real fact: girls can do rock and roll (some of them).

Since I am enjoying getting on my high horse (or getting high on horse), I'm going to double dip with a series of girl-on-girl posts. It's a combination of a female musical act (or a band with a female member [possibly more]) that merits* induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a female who did something like bake a cake or killed a guy (Laura Bush killed a guy).

Labelle's existence as one of the earliest funk bands is more remarkable when you consider the musical journey the ladies (Patti Labelle, Sarah Dash and my beloved Nona Hendryx) took to get there. They started as a Philly soul/doo wop girl group, originally the Ordettes, then the Bluebells, The New Originals, then the Blue Belles, then, encouraged by a lawsuit Patti switched from Patti Holt to Patti LaBelle and the band became Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles, the Thamesmen, Patti LaBelle and her Blue Belles, then LaBelle or possibly Labelle (later they would be Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, then just Michael McDonald). 

Their rebranding as Labelle happened just before they sang with Laura Nyro on one of the most unlikely and amazing albums of all time. Their partnership with Nyro came about because Patti was the cook on her 1970 tour. Oh, yeah, Patti can cook.

In 1971 Labelle started wearing space suits on stage; sometimes feathers. Not at the same time, that's just silly. Space suits or feathers, not space suits and feathers.

Among the songs the band recorded for their Nightbirds album was a song with some lyrics in French that a young and innocent Patti LaBelle (nee Holt) didn't understand. Patti was inviting you to have sex with her in the song "Lady Marmalade." Let's just call "Lady Marmalade" a classic, shall we?

The band disbanded (the disband, hah!) in 1976 with Sarah Dash singing with the Rolling Stones; Nona Hendryx creating rock, new age, and house music albums, and working with an avant garde theater troop; and LaBelle becoming a solo superstar and later the Cobbler Queen. They un-disbanded in 2008 which is when they recorded their take on this Sylvester classic.



Valentina Tereshkova was a textile worker by day and a skydiver by night (or, you know, on the weekends). Her background in skydiving gave her that certain something that prompted Soviet officials to select her as America's Next Top Astronaut to be the first woman in space (that we know of). More than 400 women applied and Tereshkova was able to eat more beets while driving a tractor than any other Russian stereotype of the time.

She had no experience as a pilot, but all 5 finalists received training to fly the MiG jet fighter, along with courses in the physics of rocket science and physical training on the actual experience of lift off and weightlessness. The beets really helped. 

When she blasted off in Vostok 6, June 1963, she was 10 years younger than America's youngest astronaut. Her 3-day flight, 48 orbits of the earth, was longer than the combined flights of every American astronaut to that point. 

And she had to do the dishes afterward.

Gordo Cooper never even bothered to clear his own place.



* There is a wide spectrum of rock & roll gravitas for the artists included in the 31 I will include. I feel like a reasonable case can be made for each, and everyone one of these is at least as worthy as Randy Newman, 2103 inductee.

Song of the Day: "Anything I Say to You Now"

Ryan Adams's new album, Prisoner, is being called on of his big break-up albums. This is how I learned he and Mandy Moore divorced.



Song: "Anything I Say to You Now"
Artist: Ryan Adams

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Lucinda Williams and Halet Çambel

March is Girl Women's History Month.

Fact: girls can do things too!

Fact: girls can't do rock and roll, or so one might conclude from the paucity of females inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "We've got Randy Newman!"). Real fact: girls can do rock and roll (some of them).

Since I am enjoying getting on my high horse (or getting high on horse), I'm going to double dip with a series of girl-on-girl posts. It's a combination of a female musical act (or a band with a female member [possibly more]) that merits* induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a female who did something like bake a cake or killed a guy (Laura Bush killed a guy).

In 1994, shortly after the Grammy awards, I sent 2 fan letters to musicians I'd loved for years and who won awards that year. Nanci Griffith won Best Contemporary Folk Album and Lucinda Williams won Best Country Song for "Passionate Kisses", a song Lucinda 
recorded for her self-titled 1988 album and covered in '93 by Mary Chapin Carpenter.  

When she released Sweet Old World in 1992, the record label released a promo CD with some of her older tracks and Williams wrote a little something about each song to give it perspective. For "Passionate Kisses" she just wrote "sometimes you have to believe that you deserve to have it all." This comic strip was on my refrigerator door for most of the time I lived in Dallas.

I could go on about her Grammy nominations (15 in total, 3 wins) or how Time named her America's best songwriter in 2002. But I'll leave it with Lynda Barry's closing: "Right on and thank you to Lucinda! for your message of you are a girl!!! so rock out!!!"



Halet Çambel, a Turkish archaeologist and professor, was pivotal in translating Hittite hieroglyphics, and worked to preserve Turkey's cultural heritage. In 2004 she received the Prince Claus Award for her rescue excavations of endangered heritage sites"... also there's a Prince Claus Award.

But before that, before the education at the Sorbonne, Halet was an athlete. She was the first Muslim woman to compete in the Olympics. Those happened to be the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. She was invited to meet Adolph Hitler during the games. 

She refused on political grounds.




* There is a wide spectrum of rock & roll gravitas for the artists included in the 31 I will include. I feel like a reasonable case can be made for each, and everyone one of these is at least as worthy as Randy Newman, 2103 inductee.

Song of the Day: "Going Backwards"

We're going backwards
Ignoring the realities
Going backwards
Are you counting all the casualties?

Clearly Depeche Mode are paying attention.



Song: "Going Backwards"
Artist: Depeche Mode

Monday, March 20, 2017

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Cher and Phyllis Diller

March is Girl Women's History Month.

Fact: girls can do things too!

Fact: girls can't do rock and roll, or so one might conclude from the paucity of females inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "We've got Randy Newman!"). Real fact: girls can do rock and roll (some of them).

Since I am enjoying getting on my high horse (or getting high on horse), I'm going to double dip with a series of girl-on-girl posts. It's a combination of a female musical act (or a band with a female member [possibly more]) that merits* induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a female who did something like bake a cake or killed a guy (Laura Bush killed a guy).

I originally thought I would propose Sonny & Cher here. That somehow the Sonny & Cher music was decidedly more rock & roll than her solo stuff (although clearly the Hall welcomes disco, along with rap, folk, reggae, R&B, Farrell's commercials, and pop) -- it might be in terms of proportions, but not in terms of volume.

Celebrating Cher is easy if you can be selective in what you consider. She has plenty of great stuff (music, acting, live performances) in her body of work, even if most of that stuff (music, acting, live performances) isn't great. If we grade her on a pass/fail basis I think she does fine, like at least half of her stuff is solid. But if we assign grades and something like "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" (which, after reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, established her as the only artist to have a number-one song on a Billboard chart in each of the past 6 decades), or, even worse, Faithful, would really bring her grade down.

But even the more cynical among us should probably admit that Cher's made a great career out of the talent she has. Saying that isn't insulting is it? While she and Sonny aren't the first celebrity couple to divorce, they are probably the first celebrity couple who came into our homes every week as a couple to divorce, then, to make us happy they put aside differences to keep coming back, still singing "I Got You Babe" even though we were all just going through the motions at that point. The roller coaster of her music career, of her acting career, her high profile relationships, Sonny's untimely death (Sonny died the same year "Believe" made her world famous again). 

Hell, she's probably one of the first famous parents of a transgender child.

It's a multidimensional roller coaster, and along the way she's won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Grammy. She's a Tony award away from EGOT and I think it's entirely possible she can make that happen (years ago I thought Cher and Cyndi Lauper should do the musical Mame on Broadway; since then Cyndi's picked up a Tony)

She's a survivor; her and Keith Richards. That's pretty fucking rock and roll.



Phyllis Diller is a comedy legend, an icon and a pioneer for women in show business. Lucille Ball's career began earlier than Diller's, but Diller really was the first female stand-up comedian. She was every bit as funny as Milton Berle or Don Rickles... I'll just leave it at that.

On a side note, I think there's something genius in her make-up and wig. I think she navigated life under the radar when she wasn't dolled up like that. I'm pretty sure Dolly Parton does the same thing.

And on another side note, Diller bequeathed items from her career to the Smithsonian Institute. Among those, a giant steel cabineet with more than 50,000 index cards, each with a single joke. The Smithsonian is currently transcribing these via a large scale request for assistance.



* There is a wide spectrum of rock & roll gravitas for the artists included in the 31 I will include. I feel like a reasonable case can be made for each, and everyone one of these is at least as worthy as Randy Newman, 2103 inductee.

Song of the Day: "Castle on the Hill"

Summary of my recent call with John: "who's Ed Sheeran?"; "OMG he's the best and you're an idiot for not knowing his music"...

I trust John enough to sample the music he recommends. I'm not sure he would put this track on a short-list to introduce me to Ed, but it was the track I found most interesting among those from his new album Obelus (the obelus is the name for ÷, which is what Ed is using as a stylized way of writing Divide).

The shimmering guitar and driving percussion crossed with the lyrics makes me thinks of some U2 tribute band with Kenny Chesney-esque lyrics, There are far worse ways to spend an evening.



Song: "Castle on the Hill"
Artist: Ed Sheeran

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Sinead O'Connor and Sandra Day O'Connor

March is Girl Women's History Month.

Fact: girls can do things too!

Fact: girls can't do rock and roll, or so one might conclude from the paucity of females inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "We've got Randy Newman!"). Real fact: girls can do rock and roll (some of them).

Since I am enjoying getting on my high horse (or getting high on horse), I'm going to double dip with a series of girl-on-girl posts. It's a combination of a female musical act (or a band with a female member [possibly more]) that merits* induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a female who did something like bake a cake or killed a guy (Laura Bush killed a guy).

Sinead O'Connor doesn't seem to want adulation. She doesn't seem to give a fuck about celebrity except when she's getting on a soap box and leverages the last of her 15 minutes to write an open letter to Miley Cyrus about how the music industry treats women, or to accuse Arsenio Hall of providing Prince with the drugs that he overdosed on, or to revise her professed sexuality, or to tear up a photo of the Pope. That kinda shit.

She also followed her multiplatinum I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got with Am I Not Your Girl?, a collection of covers, largely standards and show tunes. It's an album I like but can't imagine I'd recommend to anyone. Oh, and she tried reggae for a bit.

You've got to admit, there's a lot of rock & roll in her not giving a fuck.


Sandra Day O'Connor was the first girl to sit on the US Supreme Court, succeeding Potter Stewart in 1981. She served on the Stanford Law Review while studying law at Stanford (so cliché). After graduation, at least 40 law firms refused to interview her because she was a girl (you know bears and the menses). It was 1952 and bear attacks were everywhere.

O'Connor worked as a county attorney, a civilian attorney in the Army Quartermaster Corps and then became Assistant Attorney General of Arizona. From there she moved into the state senate and became the first girl majority leader. She served as judge for 2 courts of appeal before being tapped by Ronald Reagan to be the first girl!

And because she was a girl, men who don't like abortion didn't like her! Pro-life and religious groups opposed her on the assumption that she wouldn't overturn Roe v. Wade. Despite much bluster from many Senators (male Senators, duh) she was confirmed 99 to 0.

O'Connor's approach was to frame each case as narrowly as possible. Also she was very racist and refused to join any of Clarence Thomas's dissent opinions. She always wrote her own dissent opinions and refused to spend time alone with him.



* There is a wide spectrum of rock & roll gravitas for the artists included in the 31 I will include. I feel like a reasonable case can be made for each, and everyone one of these is at least as worthy as Randy Newman, 2103 inductee.

Song of the Day: "Take It All Back 2.0"

I'm not sure if the versioning (or the suggestion of versioning, which is how I interpret the 2.0) means that he's re-taking it all back. Or if it's a wry redundancy.



Song: "Take It All Back 2.0"
Artist: Judah and the Lion