from Wednesday, August20th of the year2008.
On this tour, we have been variously staying in hotels and with friends “” one of my favorite things about staying with people is when they have a dog. We have been very lucky on this trip: our hosts in Sebastopol, CA have a border collie / Australian cattle dog, Ace; our hosts in Portland have a frisky Weimaraner called Castle with googly eyes, and finally, our hosts Eddie & Willie (is there anything more fabulous than gay couples with matching names? I know a Nora and Laura in LA, too) have an eager pitbull, Rider. There is no better thing than being woken up by an eager dog’s snout snuffling on one’s person; I have been promised “big” dogs at our hosts’ house in D.C. tonight and am very excited to see what that means. A Newfoundland, I hope! The tour was off to an auspicious start because Thomas’s little sister came over to our rehearsals with her dog, Katrina Bartlett:
Ace (he had burrs in his tail which I removed; which reminded me very much of my childhood, where a burr on a dog was one of those trust games where you had to convince the dog that you had its best interests in mind when ripping something from its fur):
We are all six of us hurtling from LAX to Washington, DC on Virgin America; I am stuck in one of those Rules & Regulations emotional disasters where my seat won’t recline because it is directly in front of an empty exit row and the famous power outlets are on the fritz; I can’t move to the empty exit row because the Nice Lady pursed her lips in a particular way and said that she “just couldn’t let me sit there.” I need to track down the exact quote, but I remember Gayatri Spivak once speaking (or writing?) about a ticket agent saying “I can’t let you on board;” she wrote that a better way to phrase it would be “the regulations are against it, thus, we are both victims.” Actually, here is the original:
“… I was supposed to take the airplane from Heathrow on Sunday. Air Canada says to me: ‘we can’t accept you.’ I said: ‘why?’ and she said: ‘You need a visa to go to Canada.’ I said: ‘look here, I am the same person, the same passport… ‘ Indian cultural identity right? But you become different. When it is from London, Indians can very well want to jump ship to Canada; I need a visa to travel from London to Canada on the same passport, but not from the United States. To cut a long story short,[…] I had to stay another day, and telephone Canada and tell them that I could not give my seminar. I said to the woman finally before I left, in some bitterness: ‘Just let me tell you one small thing: Don’t say “we can’t accept you” that sounds very bad from one human being to another; next time you should say: “The regulations are against it”; then we are both victims.'”
Quite so: in a situation like this, I can either a) stage an Episode and make a scene or b) sit back (theoretically, rather than actually, as this seat doesn’t recline) and pretend it’s not happening or c) try to befriend the Nice Lady and hope that she will turn the other way as I claim one of the empty seats. Is there any merit to any of this circular thought? Am I going to end up poisoned by stress? Should I just order a canister of Pringles and a glass of white wine and shut my pie hole? All this has reminded me of is that I wish Gayatri would just blog; she is so wonderful when she deals with the anecdotal, the Barthesian Mythology rendered severely Marxist and Feminist. The para-psychological peripatetic shuttling of the aboriginal subcontinent is the kind of stuff that she & Terry Eagleton can fight out in the academy; I want her to blog about Heathrow and the Subway and Yoga Pants and shit. Maximum length, 450 words. 123 go.
I’ve been very happy with the reception of Mothertongue in general, it’s been really positive and kind and indicative of good listening and productive curiosity. It’s a weird album, a difficult album, and I am really interested to see what people get out of it. I did an interview with a guy in Seattle ““ totally random, I had never met him before ““ who had such a smart, interesting read on the piece, I wanted to gay marry him right there on the phone. On the other side of things, I got a very mean review on Pitchfork by Jayson Greene (whom I think had interviewed me before), which is too bad, because it would have been nice to have a good one from them. Every time I get a bad review, I always take it to heart, because what they’re saying is usually stuff I tell myself in the middle of the night or in Glummer Mómentz. What’s particularly unfortunate about that review, though, is that it obsesses over other press coverage that I’ve gotten, of which, of course, I am neither author nor source. I’m happy to be evaluated by the notes, the rhythms, the sounds, and the textures but not by something that’s been done to me, like my height or the way I spell my name (for instance, it would be a similarly low blow for me to discount anything Jayson says because he spells his name in that silly fashion, in the same fashion that disgraced New York Times reporter did! OMG! j/k, j/k). Here, I am being called to task for the way the music relates to the press materials, which I suppose is “fair” but not necessarily in what we call good faith (or, for that matter, is going to make me want to gay marry you on the phone). Anyway, read it for yourselves and see what you think. In retrospect, I should have taken a more aggressive stance about how to write the press release for this album, because I can see how it can be reinterpreted as Pretentious and Overambitious Faggot Makes Indefensible Artistic Statement rather than OCD Church Musician Gets Archive Fever (which is the spirit in which the album was meant), but when the release was getting written, I was feeling really overwhelmed with the whole thing. This is not to say, however, that there is nothing to be gained by a bad review. In fact, if Pitchfork had loved on it, it would have seemed too easy, too much of a sweep of enthused press. Jayson makes a lot of good points about the chaotic nature of the album as a whole, and essentially tells me not to quit my day job, which is good advice, because I really like making arrangements for people. Read it and tell me what you think. Check out his use of the word “apparently” in case there’s any doubt of the attitude behind the review; it is viciously barbed and occupies a proud grammatical ledge in the sentence. Oh grammar: hoisted by my own pétard!
I had a funny encounter last night in the men’s room of the gig “” sometimes, venues have different areas for performers and audiences and other times, not so much. One of the totally fascinating things about touring like this is to see the kinds of people who turn up for these shows. I had been doing an interview just before the show and was looking around at the people who were streaming in, buying beers, leaning against the side wall. I decided to find out as best I could who these people even were; I talked to a few people who had read about it in the paper. One woman, a fashion designer wearing a really good Rick Owens cropped leather jacket, seemed to have heard about it through friends. Anyway, in the bathroom, a tall, handsome younger guy with decidedly LA hair (floppy, blond, fully over the left eye) emerged from the stall and was like, “Nice Show” and I sort of half-aggressively said, “okthanks how come you came here?” Evidently he had seen a piece of mine at the Los Angeles Ballet and liked it and bought tickets to the show; this, to me, is amazing and really, really heartening not just personally but for the way that music is disseminated.
One of the advantages of getting all of this press has more to do with the idea that a young composer can make people pay attention to the fact that we exist; ideally, everybody should know a composer, just as everybody should know a butcher and a place to get your shoes re-soled. The fact that I’ve gotten a lot of press is, obviously, useful for me personally, but I hope that the net result is a wider interest in people in their 20’s who are thinking seriously about classical music, thinking about notation, thinking about being responsible citizens of not only the musical community but the world. If part of this includes a backlash against me, that’s fine; I’m a big girl and I know how these things go. Anyway, I like the crotch on the idea that people I don’t know are behaving in a non-cynical, almost linear way with music (“I saw this thing that I liked, I want to go see more of that thing that I liked, even though I don’t know much about what-all is going to happen”) rather than in a jaded, non-exploratory way (“new music is bullshit, whatever”). If you like something, find a path through it and then follow the path outwards, to other pieces, other composers, other musics. If you don’t like it, close your eyes and think about Brahms; it soothes the mind and calms the bowels.
Speaking of the Bowels & Pétards, this has not been the most adventurous culinary tour. Thomas and I are both huge enthusiasts of Taco Bell, despite their insane advertisements. We have discussed how their meat is the Ultimate Braise: slow cooked over, presumably, days in its own oily juices. I’ve had a Cambodian ground beef with a similar texture that had been on my friend’s mom’s stove for a long weekend; you won’t hear me complaining about eating a Crunchwrap Supreme. That said, yesterday, we wandered around Hollywood and found the most delicious bouge-gasm taquerÃa called La Loteria, where we had The Margarita of Necessity and the Tacos of Gluttony, which set the tone for a really good show (click through for a review with good pictures) last night. One of the tacos consisted of pork rinds in a poisonously green puréed tomatillo sauce. It was really, really good ““ so good that Thomas and I called Nadia and Dan from their coffee & internet stop to come and partake.
Photo by Dean Wenick
While we were driving from Portland to San Francisco (which is a long-ass drive; don’t do it!) we pulled over in a dire little town called La Center, and had lunch in the restaurant attendant to the casino. The following interchange took place:
Nico: Hi, could I have a burger with bleu cheese, medium rare, please?
Waitress: Oh, we don’t cook to order. Yeah, um, in the restaurant industry, you can’t cook anything to order anymore. It’s not medium rare, rare; it’s just cooked.
I love this idea of an industry-wide moratorium on cooking to order. Julius, a gay bar that time forgot, on the corner of 10th street and WaverlÃ½ in New York, is one of the skuzzier places in the universe (I think the only time I have witnessed a true Crime against Nature was in the corner booth there) still cooks a burger to order, although maybe they haven’t gotten the memo from The Industry yet. The other amazing thing that happened on that leg of the drive was that we espied a boobie that exists in a sort of Zaha Hadid architectural universe. It reminds me of spilt amoxicillin, or that runaway breast in Sleeper. Maybe you had to have been there to appreciate it, but here is a picture anyway:
I have not been able to watch a single Olympic; I sort of watched a gymnastic out of the corner of my eye in some random Sheraton in Seattle, but for the most part the whole thing has been so chattery that I can’t really deal. When newscasters take the Olympic Tone it is really unspeakable; I wish more coverage was of the explicitly sexual variety:
Indeed. Don’t they have editors to deal with this kind of thing? Or maybe there was an editor, Travis or Chad or some shit, who is giggling in a hot tub right now. Or at Julius.
Sam and I are continuing our Modern Dance Extreme Poses”¦
And two final thoughts: An advertisement for Viagra just said, “Ask your doctor if you heart is strong enough for sex.” Can you imagine the way your doctor would say that to you? “I’m sorry, your heart is not strong enough for sex. Also your cholesterol is a little high.” That sounds like a really good goth album I could make with Ben Frost. I’ma call him the minute I land. The other thing is that in all this discussion of Estarbucks, Essheraton, Escoop, I realized that it works like that in Arabic too, where the definite article “al-” takes on certain initial consonants of the words to which it is attached. Instead of saying, for instance, al-salaam, you say as-salaam, and the s sound is doubled, with a shadda, which looks like the tiniest, most italic little w hovering over a consonant. Es-strawberry. Ø§ÙØ³Ù‘Ø·Ø±Ø§Ø¨Ø±ÙŠ ““ I wonder if that would be the proper way to render this out in English.