Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wish I Didn't Know Now What I Didn't Know Then

I've Avoided This for Over a Year

Partly because I didn't have the money. Partly because I didn't have the time to figure out if it was better to go mono or stereo. (I mean, the mono mixes were the ones they labored over... the stereo mixes were tossed off quickly by assistants with most of the principles long, long gone.) And partly because I just don't know how many times I can be expected to buy certain Beatles albums in "new" configurations.

Sure, I read all about the remasters.

But I hadn't heard them.

Until a few days ago.

Maybe I'd hoped I'd win the lottery (or at least pay off all my debts).

And maybe I'd secretly hoped the remasters wouldn't really be that different. Or that good.

But I'm sad to report that the remasters are crisper and clearer. And just plain better.

Damn it.

Guess I'd better start buying lottery tickets.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lazy Lazy Lazy Road

Jack Be Nimble Jack Be Quick

"I love this song," she said.

Not possible, I said.

"No, it's cool. I love it."

But the lyrics.

"I don't care. I never listen to the lyrics."

It didn't last long, but there was a brief time in the late 70s and early 80s where Lindsey Buckingham seemed to live and breathe catchy melodies. That may just be the only possible explanation for this insanely catchy song.

And yet... to call the lyrics insipid is an insult to insipid people all over the world.

There barely are lyrics at all ("I found out long ago it's a long way down the holiday road" and "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, take a ride on the West Coast kick") and they don't seem like anything more than placeholders.

And sure, no one expects much from a song written for the movie National Lampoon's Vacation, but that was 27 years ago.

Wouldn't you think he'd have wanted to write some lyrics and make a real song out of this?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Shortest Night of the Year

The Druids Had it Right

Deep breath in. Hold. Deep breath out. Hold.

Anyone can breathe in and out. It's the holding where the magic happens.

The Druids knew this. So they celebrated the holding.

Most of the year we're breathing in. Or we're breathing out.

Twice a year, we hold.

And in the pause, anything's possible.

So after months of losing light, we pause. And in that pausing we can reflect light outwards. And then we start the long, slow process of gaining light.

And yes, the gaining and losing is part of a wonderful universal cycle.

But the pauses... the areas between.

That's where the rules are (briefly) thrown out.

And that's where (briefly) anything is possible.

So while others lament the shortest day of the year, the Druids would pause.

And make magic happen.

Happy Winter Solstice -- here's wishing you your own magic.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Leg Men

Awareness, like a wave, swept over us

Looking back, it's the suddenness that was shocking.

On Monday, none of us knew or cared.

On Tuesday, the awareness of female legs manifested itself in my 6th grade class. Suddenly, everyone was an expert on what made good legs and what were considered bad legs.

And then on Wednesday, the leg discussion narrowed. Because all anyone wanted to talk about was Carla's legs.

Or, more accurately her leg. The fake one.

It's hard to pinpoint where the knowledge came from. But within hours, every boy in my school was aware that Carla had a fake leg.

And we'd stare at her going down the hallway, then argue about which leg was real and which was fake.

We'd argue with great certainty that far eclipsed any of our knowledge of or contact with a female leg.

We'd discuss where exactly the real leg ended and the prosthesis (a word we suddenly all knew as if it had come down from the heavens) began.

We had the knowledge and the certainty. So we debated and discussed.

But we never questioned.

And the proof mounted -- she never rode a bike. She wouldn't go swimming. She didn't wear skirts.

Sometimes she'd catch us staring and she'd smile. Enigmatic. Carefully weighing whether to say something, then turning around and leaving us to our discussions.

We'd huddle together, daring each other to think of a way to find out which leg was fake, hatching dozens of plans, then chickening out before any of them came to fruition.

Her family moved away the next year. And that should have been the end of the story.

Except that my friend Greg loved strip clubs.

And last year he found himself in a strip club. In the middle of Kansas.

Where Carla was one of the dancers. And she recognized him. And gave him a private dance. For old time sake.

As she stretched out first one leg and then another, she could see Greg struggle and strain to see where reality ended and the fake leg began. But he couldn't. Not on either leg. Not on either side.

So he asked her what we'd all wanted to ask back then if only we could find the words. Or the courage. "Which one is fake?"

And Carla smiled, telling him both her legs were real.

"But you must've known what we all thought in 6th grade. So why'd you let us all think you had a fake leg?"

And she explained, over the course of 2 private dances and $85 in tips, that sometimes it's better to be noticed for something that's fake than ignored for something that's real.

Her logic was ridiculous. It didn't hold up. It didn't make sense.

Just like our 6th-grade debates. Which started on a Wednesday in the fall. Right after we decided we were all leg men.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anchorage International Film Festival Diary

Back to music tomorrow... meanwhile there's this:

Crossposted at

You might want to read part 1 and part 2 first.

Anchorage International Film Festival Diary (part 3)

I wake up early enough to shave (if I'm gonna be on TV, I probably should shave) and finally figure out how how easy it is to get to the Bear Tooth. Taavi is there and we talk about what he should see and do while he's in Anchorage. The TV crew shows up and interviews all the Snowdance filmmakers -- including the Beekeeper guys (who again arrive in a pack). While I'm there, they do a projection check of my movie and I'm thrilled to see how good it looks on the big screen.

I get back to the theater about 45 minutes before the screening and I'm thrilled to see a huge number of people already lined up to get in. I do a quick interview with Robert Forto from Dog Works Radio in the lobby; he's moved up to Willow from Colorado to train for a 2013 Iditarod run. I'm impressed by his digital audio recorder, which resembles an old-time radio microphone.

A bunch of the people I interviewed for the movie are there and I'm thrilled to see the movie with a packed theaterful of Alaskans. The short A Portrait of Nikolai screens first -- it's a fantastic look at a changing community put together by a group of Nikolai teens enrolled in a summer filmmaking workshop. More than once I find myself wishing I'd had their equipment! (And more than once I feel guilty about that wish.)

The movie starts and I'm sitting in the back with my friend Jaime. Sue Allen, Mike Suprenant, Larry Williams, and John "The Poodleman" Suter (mushers I interviewed for the movie) are all here. Mary & Janetta (who used to run the B&B where my wife and I stayed the first time we came to Alaska) are here too -- although I don't get a chance to really talk to them. I've seen the movie so often I think I might know it all by heart and as it unfolds I'm bombarded with memories of filming the scenes and the months of postproduction on the movie. It looks good on the big screen and I'm relieved to hear people laughing at (most) of the things I thought they would laugh at. (It's also interesting that a few things get much bigger laughs from Alaskans than I expected.) More importantly, everyone is completely engaged and caught up in the movie. I've got too much nervous energy to sit still, so I find myself wandering in the back of the theater, lurking for on different sides, scanning the audience and watching them watch the movie.

It's over quickly and I go up (along with the Nikolai filmmakers) for a Q&A. The audience seems totally engaged and really into it. People come up to me afterwards and in the lobby and I feel like a rock star (even if it's just temporary). More than one person tells me it's hard to believe a non-Alaskan made a movie that captured the spirit of Alaska so well (which is just about the highest praise I could ask for).

I have dinner with my friend Jeanne Devon from the Mudflats blog and we indulge in pumpkin pie martinis. I'm completely exhausted but totally wired and happy. The feeling of seeing something that for years has only existed in my mind become a tangible thing that other people can experience is completely wonderful.

The rest of the trip is a blur: the next day I wander back downtown, stop and say hi to my new Facebook friend Star, have breakfast at the Snow City Cafe, walk back to the sled dog statue on 4th Avenue (that marks the start of the Iditarod), pop into a Starbucks to check email and run into Larry Williams (an ex-musher who's in the movie; he and John Suter are developing a movie based partially on Suter's experience running the Iditarod with a team of Standard Poodles) -- we have a great talk, then I'm off to meet Peter Dunlap-Shohl (who directed the fantastic animated short Oblivion 1964) for coffee, chat with several filmmakers who just got into town, have a great conversation with director Erik Knudsen (not to be confused with SAW actor Erik Knudsen; I'm sorry I missed Erik's workshop "Cinema of Poverty: Independence and Simplicity in an Age of Abundance and Complexity" and his interesting movie "The Silent Accomplice," which follows water on its journey from a spring out to the sea"), watch Stephen Greenberg's do "A Life Ascending" (the story of a mountaineering guide in the mountains of British Columbia), then head over to Out North for a sold-out screening of Journey on the Wild Coast, about a married couple who hiked, kayaked, and skied 4000 miles from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands. I had talked before with Journey director Greg Chaney, who sifted through hundreds of hours of footage shot by the couple to make the movie (for details, click here). Volunteer coordinator (and all-around amazing person) Beth managed to snag me an AIFF t-shirt from a previous year that I admired -- and she squeezes me into the packed theater so I can see the movie. More than one person I've met has said that Beth should be a line producer (or maybe a fixer in some war-torn country) because of her amazing ability to get the impossible done almost immediately.

From there, it's back to the airport -- where the TSA agents run my back through the X-Ray machine three times and gather around to stare at it. I realize they're looking at some of the film festival Swag -- a pair of handcuffs promoting a film that AIFF distributed to all visiting filmmakers. I start to say something, but the TSA agents just smirk, raise their eyebrows, and let me through.

My overnight flight from Anchorage to Seattle is fairly empty, so I get an entire row to myself and sleep most of the way. I've got a 5-hour layover at SeaTac, which I spend working (thanks, free wifi) before I catch my flight back to LA (I sleep through most of that one, too). I wake up just before we land, watching the sun shine brightly off the sandy beaches.

I know I'm still mostly in Alaska, because all I can think is: "How great -- it snowed here too."

Thanks for an amazing weekend, Anchorage!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You Can't Fit Denali Into Your Hand


Last spring, after I'd returned from Alaska filming things for my Iditarod doc MUSH, I was pouring over all the footage trying to figure out how to put everything together.

I knew what I wanted, but I wasn't sure it would all come together.

So I went to see Brandon Schott who was playing in Hollywood to celebrate the release of his "God Only Knows" single. There were a bunch of other people who got up and performed, including Matt Hopper.

Hopper's music is almost a lot of things without ever quite fitting neatly into any one hole. It's almost indie rock and almost Americana. It's definitely almost folk, but it's also definitely not folk.

We talked afterwards and I learned he was originally from Alaska and I told him about the Iditarod project and he told me he had a new album coming out with a song on it called "Denali" that might be perfect for my movie.

And it was.

So here it is:


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mooseward Bound

Again, I'm wondering if a flight can really be considered non-smoking if the airline chooses to have it depart at 4:20.

If that's too much to ponder, here's a little travelin' music from Marian Call Alaskan:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some are Mathematicians, Some Are Carpenters' Wives

And some order 178 pizzas in the middle of the night...

My hometown is in the news.

And not in a good way.

Bob Dylan performed this weekend at UMASS Amherst and, hours later, someone wearing a backstage pass walked into a pizza parlor in the center of town and ordered 178 pizzas for Dylan and his crew.

At 1:30 in the morning.

The staff of the pizza place (perhaps eager for the reflected glory from a music legend whose best days are decades in the past) agreed to stay late and make the pizzas.

The man with the backstage pass promised to return and said he would leave a huge tip on top of the $3900 for the pizzas.

This raises a lot of questions.

Such as: when did my hometown decide that a pizza should cost $22?

And why would anyone think that Bob Dylan would have a crew large enough (or hungry enough) to eat 178 pizzas in the middle of the night (or first thing in the morning)?

Do they think that Dylan has an entourage that numbers in the hundreds? (If everyone were to have 3 slices, that would mean nearly 500 people. Even if everyone ate half a pie, that's still 356 people. And if the average is only 2 slices, that's more than 700 people. Doesn't anyone do simple math anymore?)

And more importantly, why would anyone start a job like that without getting at least partial payment in advance?

As a friend of mine used to say, that's the problem with college towns -- everyone's really book-smart and totally lacking in common sense.

"It may be pepperoni, or it may be extra cheese, but you're gonna have to serve somebody..."

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's All Right...

George Harrison died 9 years ago

RIP doesn't seem right for George Harrison.

But any use of the word "Transmogrify" would seem pretentious...

So here he is with Pete Ham from Badfinger at the Concert for Bangladesh:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who Knew?

Season of Surprises

You live long enough you discover that real life is much stranger than you ever thought.

For example, who knew that Billy Joel does such a good Springsteen impression?

Bruce's impression of Billy Joel, however, is not so great -- but you gotta give him props for trying.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Orange Wallet

Better Hurry Cause It's Going Fast...

We were gathered, waiting.

It was the day, it was the time. The flyers in the paper told us where to go. The news reporters waited in the dark.

And then the crowd rushed forward. To the TVs, the laptops, the very limited selection of the very latest gadgets.

And he was first.

But he didn't seem to want to pay. He wanted make conversation.

At 4:32 in the morning.

He was stalling, not wanting the transaction to end.

Behind him in line, hundreds of sleepy shoppers grumbled and cursed him.

And then he reached into his pocket and took out a bright orange wallet.

And he withdrew a handful of cash. And he paid.

And the crowd was strangely quiet, suddenly noticing the man's bright orange hair. And his glowing orange pants.

What kind of crazy man carries a bright orange wallet? And wears glowing orange pants accessorized to his bright orange hair?

Clearly someone who marched to the beat of a drummer no one in their right mind would ever hear.

And he turned towards us, his eyes glowing with the madness of an idea that none of us wanted to know about.

We turned away. All of us.

Because, clearly, that man was insane. That sudden realization washed like a rogue wave over the crowd. The crowd who'd gotten up in the middle of the night for a $250 HD TV or a $300 laptop or one of two Viking Stoves that were being sold for $199.99.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

30 Years On...

No One's to Blame, I Know Time Flies So Quickly

Yeah, there's some whitewashing by certain people who've built second careers around milking the myth of their friendships with John & Yoko.

And yeah, he was probably a bit of an asshole more than some of the time.

And yeah, some of the music seems quaint and naive these days.

But there's something about John Lennon that is still larger than life.

Even 30 years on.

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wordless and Painful and Old

Even Tried Voodoo Right Outside Your Home

There was an author. He struggled for years writing novels that no one read.

Then, on a foggy night with a full moon out, he took a pen name. And started churning out short stories. Simple, witty, memorable pieces. Quick reads. And always centered around a tragic love affair.

And as the stories grew more and more popular, Hollywood came calling. Six of the stories were turned into movies. But the movies were all horrible and the author took his name off the credits of all of them.

Nearly all the stories were narrated by broken men, devastated by heartbreak and unwilling or unable to come to terms with their pasts.

For years, the author avoided interviews, until he learned he was dying and finally agreed to talk to the press.

The question they all wanted to know was how he could write such memorable and completely different women -- each of whom managed to break his narrators' hearts in completely different ways.

And each time he admitted that he had no special gift for female characters. All the women were the same woman. The one who'd broken his heart in a million pieces. The one he pretended he'd forgotten.

The one who haunted him every day of his life.

Because he thought that maybe, if he just talked about her, he could finally break free of the hold she had on him.

And it might have worked -- except that each of the interviews and articles ran long and had to be cut. And in every case, the fact that the different women were all the same was edited out before publication.

Which wasn't what he wanted... but was the way he would have written it himself.

Monday, November 15, 2010

MUSH (The Movie)

A Brief Cross-Promotional Post

So... I made this movie.

Longtime readers might know that I have a soft spot for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The last several years, I've gone up to Alaska for parts of the race (which runs more than a thousand miles from Anchorage to Nome, across some of the most beautiful -- and coldest -- areas of the world).

Although the race as a sporting event is amazing, I became fascinated by the rest of the race: the traditions, the rules regarding rest stops, the infrastructure of thousands of volunteers who come in from all over the world to make the race possible, and the inspiring personal stories of everyone involved.

The coverage of the race is great year after year (at least if you know where to find it), but there's very little coverage of all the other stuff.

I knew if someone could capture that other stuff, it would make a great movie. And no one else seemed to be making that movie.

So I did.

And now I'm thrilled that my Iditarod documentary MUSH will premiere in December at the Anchorage International Film Festival in December. Visit the movie's website and Facebook page.

I'll be up in Anchorage for the festival... so if you're around, come say hi.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hey Mother Earth!

I'd rather be back on the pad...

I watched the movie Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him) the other day.

Great movie. Ultimately a sad story.

In the movie, Richard Perry talks about how amazed he was by Nilsson's talents as a singer and songwriter. And how Nilsson became more interested in partying and making sessions into a joke.

Until what should have been a decades-long career of a superstar, instead flamed out after a few short years.

And yeah, there would be a few flashes of brilliance in even Nilsson's worst albums. But the last half of his professional life is noted for his devotion to epic drink-and-drug-fueled adventures instead of creating music.

Sad to think what might have been. What should have been.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Summer Turns to Winter Overnight

Or Basingstoke. Or Reading.

This is the most depressing day of the year. At least if you have a job.

The day after the clocks change in the Fall.

The sunset has been getting earlier and earlier. But you could maybe pretend it wasn't true. That you were still stuck in that endless summer lull.

But not today.

It's one thing for the sun to set at 7. Or even 6.

But when it's dark at 5 or 4, you know the winter's coming on.

And with it all the darkness the year has kept at bay.

It's a smooth, long glide into dead trees and snowfall.

And then the long, cold winter.

But maybe this winter will be the exception.

An endless railroad trip north. Farther north than you can imagine.

Until the sound of the wheels on the track fades away and the sound of ice and snow under your boots takes over.

And you wonder again, as you have every year around this time, if this is the year you finally push yourself over the edge to madness.

And you turn up your collar, brace yourself against the cold, and head home in the dark, knowing every day you'll lose a little more daylight.

And every night you'll have a little more time.

To dream.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hey Kinks!

I am in paradise

(With another h/t to Peter's Power Pop blog...)

You don't get this at Sadly.

I was in a used bookstore the other day. In a part of town that had 10 used bookstores 15 years ago... and now only has one.

It was 95 degrees and I didn't want to go back outside. So I hung around, thumbing through volumes in sections I ordinarily avoid.

And there, in the poetry section, in a thin paperback of free verse, was a single, yellowed sheet of lined notebook paper. Folded over neatly, but thin to the touch -- like it had been unfolded, read, studied, and stored away again many times.

On that paper was this poem (or maybe a letter from someone whose identity was so obvious it wasn't necessary to sign it):

Your touch, light like the sun peeking through clouds
Your kiss tender and sweet.
You sprinkle smiles down on me from above
Making me so happy I forget you make me mad.

I struggle for words.
Of nonsense. Ridiculousness.

And then you smile.
Billions of years of evolution
To lead to your smile.
And I almost forget everything.

Remember this when you go away next week.
Remember the times.
Remember me.


There was no name in the book. No way to track down the former owner and find out what happened, how it ended, why it was finally time to get rid of the poem (or letter).

So I spun the tale in my head. Inventing dozens of reasons, excuses, and scenarios.

Dozens of possibilities. All hauntingly familiar, but none exactly sounding right.

And then I was late. And I had to get going. 95 degrees or not.

I tucked the book back into the shelves. Leaving it to someone else to find, someone else to unravel the mystery.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hey Lord, Don't Ask About Screenings...

Graham Parker via Michael Gramaglia

There's a certain irony in naming a documentary Don't Ask Me Questions, but that's the name of the just-completed Graham Parker doc. Directed by Michael Gramaglia, who did the amazing Ramones doc End of the Century.

Here's an account of the first (semi-)public screening from Graham Parker himself.

Can't wait to see it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hey Kid

Ridiculous stereo panning alert

I was in Whole Foods the other day and they played this song:

And all I could think was What is it about stuttering rhythms, absurd stereo panning of individual bleats, bass lines that go nowhere, and nonsensical lyrics about teenage longing delivered in an overly dramatic (but not quite melodramatic) style that desperately makes me want to buy overpriced artisanal cheeses?

Where do we go from here? Which is the way that's clear?

Who knows? But we do what we must.

Which, apparently, is rocking on.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Beyond the pale

You saw something.

You can't explain it.

So your mind works overtime. And you cling to something, anything.

Because you can't have it unexplained.

That way is madness. That way is horror. That way is terrifying.

Hundreds of years ago, this wouldn't have been a problem.

We knew there were a lot of things we didn't know. And yet our minds still spun in circles.

It's the explanations that were different. Otherworldly. Relying on magic and the supernatural to explain the most sublime of pleasures and the most terrifying of horrors.

We've turned away from that now.

Well, mostly.

Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Flags Over the Supermarket

Years Ago, We Watched the Flags

We stood in front of the supermarket. The one on the hill.

And there were flags on the roof. A dozen flags with the name of the supermarket.

No American flags. No state flags. Just the flags of the supermarket.

"Maybe the store is its own sovereign nation," I said.

And she thought for a second and shook her head. "I'm pretty sure we're still in California."

Years later, I stand in front of the same supermarket. On the same hill.

The name on the building has changed. One giant supermarket chain bought another one and rebranded all the locations.

And since I moved 3 miles away, I never go to the store on the hill anymore. The one that was "our" store, then "my" store.

The still have flags on top of the building, even if the name on the flags is different now.

I thought I heard her voice and turned. And she was standing there. Older.

"Isn't this the store you claimed was part of Nevada?" she asked.

And I smiled sadly. And shook my head, watching the flags flap in the ocean breeze.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking

Peter Brown called to say you can make it okay...

Over on The Beatles Complete on Ukulele, Tred weighs in with one of the weirdest Beatle covers in history. Declaring "The Ballad of John & Yoko" as the world's first tweet (albeit in song form and with a lot more than 140 characters), Tred deconstructs the song.

He also claims it's the precursor of today's societal inability to distinguish between celebrity's private lives and their art.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time and Again I Tell Myself...

Sordid details following...

In the black-light club, with the bass pounding, and the opening band screaming, she smiled.

And I thought again how beautiful she was when she smiled. How it was like a portal to another word.

And she did that thing girls do where they curl the hair in back of their ear. It's endearing as hell, especially if they can smile like the portal to another world.


The light flashed.

And I looked at her arm. And saw the scars.

"What are the scars from?" But she didn't want to talk about it.

And from then on, I was obsessed with those scars. In the light of day, they seemed to vanish. But I found myself sneaking glances at them.

Maybe it was nothing.

For a long while it seemed like nothing.

And then a few weeks later, the scars looked fresh.

"Why do you have those scars?" I asked again.

She turned away. Didn't want to talk about it.

But I grabbed her hand. And ran my fingers along the scars. The fresh scars.

"Okay," she said. "I don't want to do it."

And she took her hand back and pulled her sleeve down. "Every day I tell myself it will be better. And most days it is. But when it's not... it's really not."

And she smiled. A sad smile. Still the portal to another world.

But not a world she wanted to live in. And not even a world I wanted to visit.

No matter how endearing it is when she tucked her hair behind her ear.

David Bowie - Ashes To Ashes on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October Re-Run: The Waiting

Or, Why I Hate Rochester (originally published January 13, 2010)

She wanted me to come visit her.

So I did. I plopped down two weeks of pay for the plane ticket and went to see her over the three-day weekend.

In the days before cell phones and Skype, we talked twice a week that summer. We wrote actual letters. She proclaimed her love over and over. Said she couldn't live without me.

And I had a bad feeling, but I went. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)

It was a horrible weekend.

She ignored me, was distant, and pretended not to know what I was talking about when I asked her what was wrong.

I kept thinking I shouldn't have come. I should have listened to the bad feeling.

I told her I was going to go back to the airport. Fly standby and go home.

Suddenly, she was all weepy. Crying and kissing me and telling me she couldn't live without me. Begging me to be patient with her.

And things almost seemed normal until I left.

Then she wasn't around when I called. She wouldn't call me back.

And I was stuck in another state doing a stupid summer job I hated, earning next to no money and living in a crappy sublet apartment with almost no furniture, a great stereo, and two crates full of records.

I met a girl I liked. She flirted with me shamelessly, but I didn't do anything. I had a girlfriend. Right?

And so I waited. I wrote her letters. I tried to call. I tried not to pay attention to the sinking feeling.

Two weeks later she finally called me back. When I asked what was wrong, she said "I thought we broke up two weeks ago."

As my world collapsed beneath my feet, I thought exactly three things:

1) It would have been nice for you to f*cking tell me.

2) Tom Petty was wrong. The Waiting wasn't the hardest part. Not by a long shot.

And 3) I am never going back to Rochester.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Dale Bumpers Post

A Story About A Story Explaining Nothing (and maybe everything)

When I was growing up, Senator Dale Bumpers from Arkansas ran for President. His campaign seemed to last for about five minutes (and couldn't have stretched beyond a few weeks).

These days with the Google and the Wikipedia, you can learn all about Dale Bumpers in a few clicks. But for many years, all I knew about Dale Bumpers was this:

When he was campaigning to be President, a reporter asked him why he was running for President. He paused, then told this story:

There was a guy who was infamous in my home county for being the best fisherman around. When others would come home empty-handed, he would always have fish.

One day, the local Fish & Game Warden decided to investigate. So he followed the Fisherman out to a local lake. As the Warden watched, the Fisherman reached into a bag, picked out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and threw it in the water. A second later the dynamite exploded and a bunch of dead fish floated to the surface. The Fisherman calmly scooped them up with a net.

The Fish & Game Warden ran up to him, sputtering and furious. "You can't do that," he bellowed. "It's against the law, it's fundamentally unfair to the fish, and it's just plain wrong."

The Fisherman nodded, reached into his bag, grabbed another stick of dynamite, lit it, and handed it to the Warden. "I just have one question," said the Fisherman. "Are you gonna talk or are you gonna fish?"

There's a lot that I love about that story -- it's folksy, it's colorful, it's memorable, and it shows a healthy disregard for authority. But the best thing about might be that in no way does the story come close to answering the question.

Still, there are times in life when you need to ask yourself if you're gonna talk or are you gonna fish?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Craigslist Ads and the New Wave Songs That Love Them #6

Number 6 -- now with added Ska

Missed Connections

You -- all jittery and paranoid, on a twitchy, coke-fueled bender that left your narcissism intact.

Me -- Looking for salvation for my past sins, wanting to explain the extenuating circumstances, knowing you'd listen if you could take your mind off yourself for two, maybe two and a half minutes.

You weren't hot enough to keep staring at yourself to the point where you didn't even notice me. Or were you staring at my reflection behind you?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

All the Debutantes in Houston, Baby

Dueling 70s Action in my Brain

I think I gotta get some more sleep.

For days now, I've had two songs dueling for attention in my brain. Both songs were big hits. Arguably one of the songs is some kind of classic. But both are ultimately insipid and have unspeakably stupid lyrics. And both feature a ridiculous use of the word "baby" in their lyrics, baby.

You can nearly hear the excess dripping out of the speakers when you listen to "The Long Run" by the Eagles. Nothing about the song seems finished -- the lyrics might have been dashed off in a coke-fueled 4am surge; the music never quite goes anywhere, and the groove isn't really that great. (The bass line, however, is pretty freaking great.) Joe Walsh's guitar playing is nearly great, but just a pale shadow of what he'd done before. And even if the harmonies are pretty, when you're repeating some of the more inane lyrics in rock, it's hard to be cool.

Maybe the problem was that, by 1979, the partying had become so much more important than the music that paid for the partying. But even the partying wasn't much fun and the band called it quits after the tour to promote this record -- although they did produce a live album with Glenn Frey and Don Henley mixing and doing overdubs 3000 miles apart form each other. (The credits for the live album include five different attorneys -- which is both hilarious and sad.) Listen here.

In another corner of my brain from the opposite end of the 70s is Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. With another song filled with insipid lyrics.

Where the Eagles were largely a self-contained group of musicians, singers, and songwriters, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds were the last gasp of old-school pop (with music written by outside writers, shaped by producers, and made glossy with strings and horns). The band would have one more (even bigger) halfway through the decade (the far sappier "Falling in Love") -- and even though Reynolds had left the band and been replaced by Alan Dennison, the group retained the unfathomable name "Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds"

And while I never could figure out how big this band was (apparently it's a trio -- Hamilton and Reynolds are the last names of two of the members and Joe Frank is the first and middle name of the other one), the horn part in this song is one of those amazing hooks that is instantly identifiable.

I've always thought a slightly edgier version of this song that kept the amazing horn parts would be a huge hit. Listen here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Non-Summer Rerun

It's too late for summer reruns... but I couldn't get this song out of my head, so I'm reaching back into the archives (originally published January 5, 2010):

I was making great time...

...until the car caught fire.

I was trying to make it to Cleveland. And from there sleep and a good days drive into Massachusetts.

But I was also trying to save money, so I was on a small deserted highway a few miles from the turnpike (because I didn't want to pay tolls).

I saw smoke coming from under the hood, but there was no good place to pull over, so I thought I'd crest the small hill first.

When smoke started pouring in through the steering column, I figured it was time to pull over. And when the flames licked out at my legs, I knew things were getting serious.

I thought I could put the fire out. Maybe blow it out.

But when the windshield started to melt, I gave up on that idea. I was having an out-of-body experience. Shocking. And surreal.

I should've gotten my bags out of the back, but I was afraid the gas tank would explode. (It eventually did, but minutes later.)

And as I was trying to process what was happening right in front of me, a guy with a cell phone pulled up and called 911 (and this was back before everyone had cell phones). We stood and watched flames engulf the car. And waited. And saw the gas tank explode.

The fire truck came a few minutes after that. They put the fire out quickly, but everything inside the car was gone. I knew the car used to have windows and tires, but I couldn't see any sign of them.

I finally realized I wasn't going anywhere near Cleveland. My plans flickered in the night, then vanished in the smoke. It was all like a dream, like the darkest dream in the world.

I wanna be Robyn Hitchcock in a future life.

Not just because I want to have floppy silver hair and be a cult hero traveling the world with a guitar and a bunch of stories.

Not just because I want to have everyone in my band switch instruments and record an off-kilter, we-can't-really-play-these-new-instruments version of "Rock 'n' Roll Toilet" as a CD bonus track.

And not just because I want to throw myself a huge party when I turn 50 and recreate a concert that's still whispered about decades later.

Among the many, many reasons I wanna be Robyn Hitchcock is so that I can call up my favorite band and convince them to get back together and make their first record in ten years. Which they will insist that I produce. So I'll come to town a week earlier than I need to finish my album and bang out their record in five wonderful days.

Oddly enough, I believe this might just be possible. Because everyone has to believe in something.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nightmare Cover

I was gonna post something over the weekend... then I saw this. And I've been having nightmares ever since.

I mean, if you're gonna cover the Ramones on Ukulele, you may as well do it right.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dreaming of Willow

Not Willow from Buffy, Although We've All Had Those Dreams

In the 1970s, anticipating the cash that would rain down upon them from the not-yet-built oil pipeline, the good citizens of Alaska voted to move their capital city. They wanted a capital city that could be reached by road (unlike Juneau, where you had to fly in or arrive by boat), but didn't want to move the capital to Anchorage, the state's largest city (and home to more than half its residents).

This fueled a lot of land speculation as investors prepared for the wealth that would come when the new capital was built.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that future. Despite planning commissions and architects and schemes of various types, Alaska never moved its capital. So you still have to fly or sail to Juneau (which still is not on the road system).

The investors were stuck with land that quickly plummeted in price when it became clear in the early 80s that not much was going to be built in Willow beyond a few stores and gorgeous houses on lakes.

Today, Willow is probably most famous as being the start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Technically, there's a ceremonial start in Anchorage, but it doesn't count. The real race begins the next day up in Willow, population about 1700. It may never be the state capital, but for one day a year, it's the dog mushing capital of the world.

At some point while Alaskans were contemplating moving their capital, my father was offered a job in Anchorage. He turned it down for a lot of reasons. And I find myself thinking a lot these days about how different life might have been if my family had moved to Alaska from New York.

I posted this song before -- but I have a related announcement coming in a few days, so the time just seemed right to post it again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Without and Until

It's Great, It's Strange

Joan played clarinet.

In High School, she was a star. No one played better. And no one was smarter.

There were definitely girls who were prettier, but that didn't matter to her.

We were friends briefly at the start of college. She lived across campus in one of the two dorms that was segregated by sex.

Well, kind of. There were four floors -- two male only and two female only.

It certainly wasn't unusual to see guys on the female floors or girls on the male floors -- but I guess it gave some people a sense of propriety. Or modesty. Or something.

Joan had a crisis the first month of school. She discovered that she wasn't that great at the clarinet and was encouraged not to join the band. She felt lost in most of her classes (and realized for the first time in her life that there were people who were smarter than her). And her roommate wasn't necessarily prettier, but was lots more fun and outgoing.

Joan felt lost.

She called me late one night and told me she was going to drop out and go back to Chicago. She said there was a train she could leave in a couple hours that would get her there in a couple days.

I went over to the single-sex (by floor) dorm and talked to her for several hours about all kinds of things. Music. Her dreams. The guy we both knew who had a southern accent so thick we both thought it was a put-on.

After a few hours, she played a little clarinet for me. It sounded pretty good -- but what did I know about the clarinet?

At some point her roommate came home and we all sat around talking about our classes for another hour or so.

Joan never brought up the train that night.

But I stayed there until ten minutes after it was scheduled to leave.

Let's Active - Waters Part
Uploaded by EMI_Music.

(Side note: yeah, that's Don Dixon with the metronome at about 1:50.)

About a week later, we had lunch together. And I asked if she was still thinking about going home, if she still thought about getting on the train to Chicago.

"I was never going to get on that train," she said. "I just wanted you to come over and talk to me."

"You could've just asked me," I said. "I would have been happy to come over."

She shook her head and told me that girls don't do things like that.

I was floored. Is this really the way girls act when you get out of High School?

We drifted apart after that.

I never again went over there late at night. We stopped having lunch together. And she dropped the one class we had together.

Just before she left for Christmas vacation, she came over to my dorm and gave me a present -- a jazz clarinet cassette.

I carried that cassette around with me for two years, but never even took off the plastic (never mind listening to it).

It was like an artifact from a planet I didn't understand (and wasn't sure I wanted to understand).

Ironically, I'd lose it on a train in my junior year. Maybe someone took it from my knapsack. Maybe it just fell out. It took me a week to realize it was gone.

At which point I looked up at the stars, wondered what had happened to Joan, and hoped that whoever found the cassette would take off the plastic and enjoy it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mobilze Some Laughs with Just one Call

Nothing matters but the weekend from a Tuesday point of view...

When I got to college, I bonded over music almost instantly with Sarah, a total Beatles freak who also worshipped the Ramones. No doubt my bizarre collection of punkish vinyl from the 60s (and my Badfinger obsession).

But there were always things she loved that I just didn't get.

And things I loved that were perplexing to her.

One of them was the one-hit wonder The Kings. Amazingly, the band is still going strong after more than 30 years, still playing "This Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide."

Yeah, the lyrics are shallow, the boasting is sophomoric, and the Bob Ezrin production lends a late-70s synthy blandness to the proceedings.

But I never could resist the hook. From the first time I heard the song while driving through the woods in Western Massachusetts in my Mom's car. I pulled over to listen, wondering to myself what the hell band this was.

As I was sitting on the side of the road listening, an Amherst police department crusier pulled up behind me and a rookie cop questioned me about why I had stopped. When I told him, he listened to a snippet of the song and sneered. "That's the Kings," he said. Then a moment later, he added: "I hate this song," walked back to the cruiser, and drove off. I bought the album two days later.

When I went to college, I lugged the record with me (along with albums by Badfinger, the Beatles, Joe Jackson, and the original double-LP vinyl release of Nuggets. When Sarah's little brother Alec came to visit, he made a point of thumbing through all my old records. Mostly he nodded approvingly. Then he pulled out The Kings are Here and taunted me with it. "What the hell is this?" he demanded.

"I love that song," I said.

Alec stared at me, then looked over at Sarah. "I thought he was cool," he said, then shook his head. "I thought he cared about music. I guess not." With that, Alec put the record down on the floor and left the room.

Years later, Alec would join a country rock band that played Skynyrd-like songs with the intensity of the Sex Pistols. They got a record deal and toured all over the world.

Guess he showed me who's cool.

And maybe this song has slipped from the unabashed love column to the guilty pleasure column. Maybe Alec and the cop were right. But when the needle drops onto the vinyl, the chugging T-Rex-ish guitar starts, and the organ kicks in, it's like I'm back on Route 9 again, pulled over on the side of the road, listening carefully and wondering "what the hell is this anyway?"

Update: John Picard, who plays guitar with the Kings under the nom-de-axe of Mister Zero and co-wrote this song, noted in the comments that the video for this song, which Warner Music had taken down (to call them overzealous about this stuff is being kind) is back up. So please click here to enjoy the video (and a very short Dick Clark intro).

And pop over to their website to order a 40-minute documentary about the making of "This Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide" on DVD.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Been Around the World and Found That Only Stupid People Are Breeding

I Wanna Publish Zines and Rage Against Machines

There was a period of about three years in the 1990s when nearly every big studio movie released in the U.S. included this tasty little song by Harvey Danger.

Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta

Sadly, the band is gone now. They broke up, reformed, and broke up again.

But the song lives on -- and if you've ever had a day job where your boss is so stupid and incompetent that they wouldn't recognize good work if it fell on them like a piano from 5 floors up, it deserves another listen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just for One Day

Nothing Will Drive Them Away

Over on the Pleasant Valley Sunday blog, Mister Pleasant posted the rare U.S. single mix of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel," which I'd never heard before.

Great flange effects, weird phased vocals, odd instruments that wander drunkenly in and out. It's a pretty great and adventurous approach to a very familiar song that makes it really jump out all these years later.

Speaking of David Bowie, I was listening to his great song "Heroes" today.

Really listening. Maybe for the first time. Which is weird since I've heard the song thousands of times on the radio in the past few decades.

I knew it was recorded in Berlin -- part of Bowie's trilogy of Berlin albums he made with Brian Eno. I knew the song had a swirling swath of synths and Robert Fripp weird-ass guitar parts. And I knew it was a lot less of a traditional pop or rock & roll song than a lot of his 70s hits.

But I'd never really listened to the words.

It's the story of two doomed lovers kissing in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. He bravely proclaims that they can be Heroes.

And yet...

The vocals are so filled with yearning and desperation. The singer doesn't believe what he's singing for a minute, but hope to convince himself (and his lover) by the sheer act of singing these words.

Not only does the vocal fit in beautifully to the music, but the desperate tone fits in perfectly with the ironic lyrics. And Bowie must have known this because he put the title in quotes to draw attention to the fact that it was never quite what it seemed.

But even the singer's resolve falters. By the end of the song he declares: "We're nothing, and nothing can help us," adding "Maybe we're lying -- then you better not stay." But as the guitars and Eno's detuned low-frequency synth notes swallow up the couple, the singer ambiguously wants something (maybe anything) just for one day.

Years later, the song would largely lose its irony. The Berlin Wall would come down (and the very idea of what Berlin means artistically would change drastically). Bowie would sing the song unironically at Live Aid (which he says is his favorite version of the song) -- that version leaves me cold, although I think it's cool that the band included Thomas Dolby on keyboards and former Soft Boy Matthew Seligman on bass). Bowie would sing the song at the Concert for New York City following 9/11 -- again without the irony. And despite its failure as a single in the 70s, the song has found a second life through commercial and film licensing (and at thousands of sporting events).

But for me the original version is the one that resonates. We've all had moments of intense longing and desperation. Moments when we speak our desires as loud as we can, knowing the chances for success are practically zero but hoping against hope that the proclamation will carry us through.

Even if it's just for one day. (Click for the higher-quality YouTube version or watch the 9th generation copy below.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Three Blind Mice -- I Might As Well Be Asking Them For Stable Advice

I Don't Want to Change the Course of History...

On a sunny day in early September anything is possible.

The school year opens with a wave of possibilities. You see old friends, you talk about your summer, you dip your toe into a bunch of classes.

And the girl in the shorts playing Frisbee? She's important, she's part of it.

No one knows who she is, but the future unfolds in front of you and it's clear she'll be part of it.

So you watch for a while. And you imagine your life together stretching out before you -- one long extended wonderful life.

And mentally you laugh at yourself stretching your imagination so far into the future when it's based on nothing.

Then, uncharacteristically bold, you get up and march over there. Determined to talk to her, put a verbal down payment on that future together.

But when you get there, she's gone. And no one knows who she was or where she came from.

All that year you look for her, rushing over whenever anyone's playing Frisbee. But you never see her again.

Until 15 years later, you spot someone who looks just like her, playing Frisbee a thousand miles away. And you're halfway over to her when you realize it's not the girl you saw before. Because the girl you saw that one time is 15 years older.

And so are you. Even if you still feel the same. (Embedding's disabled, so you just have to click for a cool-ass video of long, uninterrupted steadicam shots.)

(h/t to Peter's Power Pop for turning me on to Thirsty Merc.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

"I Never Died," Says He.

It All Amounts to Nothing if Together We Don't Stand

Happy Labor Day.

In between enjoying the day off, back-to-school prep, and barbecues, try to take a few minutes and think about what this holiday is all about.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

High School Never Ends

Her CD Changer's Filled with Singers Who Are Mad at Their Dads

Even with High School (and college) becoming smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror of memory, the end of summer still makes you sad.

The back-to-school ads mock you, even if you don't need notebooks or pens.

Summer vacation is over. Even when you have no summer vacation anymore.

When I was a kid, they said everything will change when you get to college.

Well... yes and no.

"You should stop listening to that music," she said, the first week of freshman year.

And you want to ask why, but she's beautiful (and she's talking to you for reasons you don't understand), so instead you just nod.

"It's high school music. You have a chance to start over. Make yourself into something different. Someone cooler."

Because that's what she did.

So you try for a little while. You hide the old albums. You try to go along with whatever's new and trendy.

You hope she notices.

But she won't. And after a few weeks, you notice that you never see her anymore. She's always off somewhere with her new friends. Doing something cool.

Because she's still her. And you're still you.

You wouldn't have liked her in High School. You shouldn't like her in college.

If you think about it, that would stop you.

But it won't. Because you won't.

And that's the real circle of life.

Still, to paraphrase George Santayana (who, I'd like to claim, is Carlos Santana's real father, "those who do not learn from High School are doomed to repeat it all through the rest of their life."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In 22 seconds

Exactly one month late for Peter O'Toole's 78th birthday

Back to music tomorrow.

But it's late summer and I'm too hot and too tired. So I go flipping through channels on cable and up pops Peter O'Toole.

I've probably seen The Stunt Man a dozen times. It's a great movie about movies (like Inception, only without the cool special effects and dreams-within-dreams-within-etc.).

It's a movie about what we see and what we want to believe.

Every time it's on cable, I'll watch it all the way through to the end. And Peter O'Toole is amazing (he should've beaten out DeNiro to get the Oscar for this).

So this is a movie I've seen a lot.

But I'd never seen this:

If you can get past the 70s hipster style, Richard Rush is pretty great here (and very meta).

But if you really want something cool during the dog days of summer, you need a tall drink of this:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Craigslist Ads and the New Wave Songs That Love Them #5

Number 5, from where the sound of bass reverberates.

Missed Connections

I watched you at Peet's, long hair messy and gorgeous, as you hunted through your purse for crumbled bills.

On my home planet, you'd be worshipped as a goddess. Cities would erect statues to you and poets would compose sonnets about your eyes and elbows. Eventually, you'd be voted too perfect to exist and would be hunted down and killed.

Maybe that's why I moved here.

PS: I had the double-shot with soy milk and you smiled at me as if you were thinking only someone from outer space would order that. And you were right.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time Doesn't Exist When You're Paranoid

Gonna Drift into that Void...

So I did something stupid.

Feel free to rip me to shreds... as long as you've never done anything stupid.

I went to the grocery store -- not my usual grocery store, but the one painted to look like tinker toys. Usually when I go to the tinker-toy store, I park on street level. But it was crowded, so I had to go down into the garage. Where I parked next to a pillar.

When I came out with my groceries, my mind was going in a million directions. I had a thousand things to do. I wanted to get home and make dinner. I wondered if there was time to go to the gym.

So I backed out. And turned the wheel hard.

A second later, I heard a crunching sound.

Because of the pillar. In the place I never park below the store I rarely go to.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And I pulled forward, fearing the worst.

Got out to look at the car. There was a big, ugly dent in the front fender. And what looked like dozens of streaks of white paint.

It looked horrible.

I stood and stared at the bumper, which had been pristine (although dirty) five minutes before.

I wondered how bad it really was, trying to figure out if the bumper had become detached anywhere.

And how much it would cost to fix it.

And whether I needed to call my insurance company.

A guy came over and looked at it with me. He told me about how he'd backed into a pole himself a few months back. "Maybe you can just bang out the dent and repaint it," he said.

He walked away and I kept staring at the dent, feeling stupid.

And then...

I heard a "pop" sound. And the dent in the bumper reversed itself. So all that was left was the white paint. Dozens and dozens of stripes of white paint.

And I licked my finger and ran it across... and the white paint came right off.

So I drove home and got some paper towels and very gentle spray cleaner. And more than 95% of the paint came off.

I'm left with a few small scratches and a very small area where the paint from my car was peeled completely off.

The next day, I told the story to someone. At the end I shook my head, remembering how stupid and horrible I felt at the time... and how lucky I was that it turned out not to be so bad.

In a split second, I realized that this was an important metaphor -- a sign from the universe. Message received.

(Thanks to Peter's Power Pop blog for the song and the cool-ass video -- perfect for the waning days of summer. Wish I could claim the retro-cool points, but I'm one of the people who'd never heard this until yesterday.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Odds and Ends

Missing out on fragrance and taste...

A few things from the intertubez:

Via Swedesplease, it's Top Sound (with a video that pretty much looks exactly like what would have happened if MTV had made The Blair Witch Project):

From Cracked magazine (yes, apparently they're still around) with a h/t to Uncle E, it's William Rowntree's dissection of every album every made:

Stevie Ray Vaughn died 20 years ago. Here's a remembrance. And one more.

And finally, the Kickstarter campaign to fund Michael Gramaglia's Graham Parker doc Don't Ask Me Questions just ended -- they raised more than $50,000 (three grand over their goal). And if you missed my Graham Parker story, read part 1 here and part 2 here.

More late-summer dreaming tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ali Handal Rocks

Hey, Southern California -- I'm Talkin' to You

If Ali Handal didn't exist, I'd be tempted to make her up.

She writes cool songs. She shreds on lead guitar. She sings in a cool, sexy, sultry voice.

Yup, Ali Handal is a rocker chick in all the best senses of the phrase.

She's also smart and beautiful. (And her cat has his own section on her website.)

She might have been the female Billy Joel until she heard Led Zeppelin at an impressionable age and decided to become the female Jimmy Page.

In the past few years, she's made three albums, had songs placed on numerous TV shows and movies (Daryll Hannah strips to one of Ali's songs in the movie Dancing at the Blue Iguana). And if you've seen The Price is Right any time in the past few years when they've featured an electric guitar as a prize, Ali was the one shredding like a madwoman to demonstrate how great it is.

Performing Songwriter described her as the love child of Ani DiFranco and Jimmy Page, adding "Handal has the guitar chops and fierce voice to knock you on your butt."

And, as if that weren't enough, she does an epic cover of the Knack's "My Sharona," reimagined as a slice of Blue Cheer-esque heavy-metal blues-rock.

So, if you're in L.A. (or want to be in L.A.) this weekend, Ali's playing at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills. She's opening for the Fab Four (possibly the best Beatles tribute band in the country).

Best of all, if you get your tickets direct from Ali, you get her set, the Fab Four and a copy of her new album. Go. Buy. And I'll see you there.

Here's a taste of what's in store:

Yeah, if Ali Handal didn't exist, I'd definitely have to invent her. Of course, I'd also give her the power to fly (but maybe that's just me).