Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Boss and The City of Light ...

Doreen, the woman I have to thank for my Bruce obsession (and yes, I'm aware of the fact that this blog has become very Bruce-centric), wrote earlier today to mention a contest to win tickets to see Bruce in Paris. Paris! Doreen is going to school and working full-time, and is being very good about not skipping classes. So good that she will miss Bruce on his "Devils & Dust" tour because the dates she could attend fall on school nights. But Doreen loves Bruce, and Doreen loves Paris. "I could miss school for THIS!" she wrote.

So I entered, too, to double our chances. And was just telling L.A. Dave about the whole spiel, when he said, "Bruce in Paris? Does that make sense? Paris is elegant ..."

"And Bruce is so salt-of-the-earth America?"

"Yeah," he said.

"There are aspects of the elegant about him, in a rough-hewn way," I said, and as the words passed my lips, I got up off the couch and headed into my office to type that before I lost it. It's the kind of sentence that belongs in a blog, at the very least.

So there it is.

Later The Same Day ...

As I was saying: Unfathomable talent ...

The show was outstanding. Bruce. Just Bruce. And his guitars. And his piano. And his harmonicas. Simple set. Moody lighting. Bruce, in his own time, just walked out on stage. Took the mic, made two announcements: 1) Please turn off your cell phones. "If I hear one of those idiotic jingles, I'm gonna go homicidal." 2) "Please don't clap along." He said his sense of rhythm alone up there is pretty delicate, and he needed us to stay quiet. Most of us obeyed.

The first tune wasn't so much a tune as it was art. The man sings with his soul. Using the heel of his boot to stomp on the stage and create a rhythm, he cupped a harmonica in his hands and played and sang "Reason to Believe" from "Nebraska." If you've heard "Reason to Believe" from "Nebraska," let me tell you: You haven't heard this song. I didn't recognize it. My musician friends will have to explain to me the effect he was using on his mic to create -- words fail me here, but let's call it a haunting echo. It was mesmerizing. His image was on the screens flanking the stage, but he didn't look somehow real. As I've said before, he doesn't look like a man. He looks like a legend.

He used his mic to extremely good effect (Jeff, my host, longtime pal and the most rabid Springsteen fan I know, commented, once we got home, that Bruce uses his microphone as another instrument), singing off mic to echo himself and otherwise create moods in the songs.

"Devils & Dust" didn't hit the stores until today, but we had a preview last night: He played nearly every song on the album. Given that it was all new material for us, he spent a lot of time talking about the songs, what motivated him, what gave him the idea, what he was doing when it was written, anecdotes from him life. I can't tell you, adequately, how endearing it is to hear Bruce Springsteen, "rock poet," as Time magazine calls him, tell you how much he wanted a pony when he was a little boy. But given that he and his family lived in the middle of a New Jersey town, he had to be satisfied with a man who would come down the street with a pony and a cowboy costume. Bruce put on the costume and sat on the pony with his sister and had his picture taken. And held onto that picture for years.

I bought a copy of the album before I got on the road to come home. "Devils & Dust" is indeed a great tune (I've been listening for a couple weeks not, having grabbed it from iTunes), but my favorite cut is shaping up to be "Long Time Comin'." "Reno," you may have heard, is the song that necessitated a label: "This song contains some adult imagery." That's for sure. It's not as graphic as I expected it to be. Still, as Bruce said last night before he played it: "For those of you who brought children, now would be a good time for them to check out the fine T-shirts in the lobby." It's not for little ears.

The CD is DualDisc, CD on one side, DVD on the other. For those who weren't able to score tickets to one of his shows, consider the DVD a five-song concert.

I'll see him again in Chicago on May 11, my fifth Springsteen show in two and a half years. I am a lucky girl.

The Boss and The Motor City ...

Unfathomable talent.

Last-minute trip to Detroit today to see Bruce open his "Devils & Dust" tour.

Simply unfathomable talent.

More tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Dreaming of Bruce ...

I just woke up, earlier than usual. Just after 5:30. Too early for me. But I'd been dreaming of Bruce Springsteen, and I decided not to go back to sleep, lest I lose the memory. I got up to write about it instead.

Bruce was doing a CD signing, but it was low-key. A guy from his camp was selling the CDs behind where Bruce was sitting, signing them. The chair the guy was sitting in was a chair my mom has in her living room. The CDs were stuck between the the arm and the seat of the chair. I wanted two, but he wasn't taking credit cards. I got out my wallet to see how much cash I had on me as he announced that discs were 30 bucks. Someone I didn't know handed me a $50 and I bought a disc, planning on getting her her money from my dad, but that never happened in my dream.

So I got behind a few people who were hanging around while Bruce signed their disc (now he was sitting in the chair from mom's house) and I held it up in front of me, trying to be casual, as if trying to ask, as the people before me walked away, "Will you sign one more?" Bruce gave the OK sign, narrowed his eyes at me and smiled slightly, nodded his head as if to say, "Sure, baby. One more." I handed my brother Brian my purse and my digital camera (I don't own a digital camera in the waking world) and crouched down to Bruce's left for a picture. Bruce motioned for my brother to give him the camera, flipped it over, started pushing buttons on the back.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "Are you looking at the pictures I took? Oh God, Bruce is looking at the pictures I took."

He came across a shot I had taken of Gwen (my voice teacher) and then a shot of pottery I'd taken in an antique store near my house. "It's a place full of crap," I said. "If you want to write a song about crap, I can show you crap," I said, kinda smacking his left arm with the back of my right hand. Gently. He laughed.

Suddenly, from somewhere, he had a vase someone had been painting for me. He also, somehow, had a brush. Started adding short, horizontal lines to the design already on the vase, then swirled the brush around to connect the lines to each other, forming a a perfect swirl. It was like magic. Like Bruce has magic in him. Which, of course, he must.

"Let me see that baby blanket you had with you," he said. I said to my brother, still holding my purse, "Just give me the whole thing." I got out the baby blanket for Bruce, along with an assortment of pens, because he wanted to write something on it. He was fascinated with my blue no-photo marker. (When I worked at the Tribune, we'd use them to literally sign off on pages before they went to the presses. A camera took a picture of the page, and created a plate as the negative. The blue ink doesn't show up in photographs, so you could write on the pages but the ink was invisible to the camera's eye.) As he was deciding what pen to use, I rummaged through my purse, which was even bigger than normal, but which I explained to Bruce that I'd made instead of a portfollio. He seemed to like the idea. I found some FruitStripe gum. I thought about offering a piece to Bruce, but didn't. I thought he'd like lime (it's my favorite), but then, in my dream, realized that sugary gum would be bad for his voice, so I put it away.

I woke up shortly after that. My dream had moved on to another scene. I looked at the clock. Early. Too early. But I can always take a nap. I wanted to get this down. It was the first time Bruce and I hung out in my dreams.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Anti-Stress ...

I don't receive many comments on my blog. Perhaps those who read it are simply awe-struck by my brilliant prose and rendered temporarily incapable of typing. Perhaps few are reading. Who can know?

But today, I received a comment from Dr. Leonard McCoy (he of "Star Trek" fame -- you can imagine my delight!), calling me out on my use of asterisks to emphasize words in "More Than A Movie ... ." Dr. McCoy -- aw hell, this is a blog, it's informal, he won't mind if I call him Lenny -- suggested that it's "a fairly common trait among writers who are trying to find their voice."

Which would seem to suggest that Lenny doesn't think I've found mine.

So I thought I'd take a moment to reassure him that I don't use asterisks in my professional writing, and that my voice feels rather firmly found.

Still, at a time when the First Amendment teeters, terrifyingly, on the brink of oblivion, it's nice to see someone taking the time to tell me he thinks my asterisk usage is not nifty.

For what it's worth, Lenny, I had a teacher in college who allotted each of her students, for each of their entire writing lives, only two exclamation points, and I've completely blown that, too.

3-Day Update ...

Time really does go faster, the older you get.

It's been more than a month since I signed up for the Breast Cancer 3-Day. And in that month-plus, I've had the privilege to write many thank-you notes to many friends who have so generously contributed to the effort.

And what I'm struck by, every time I write such a note, is that the spirit of this event (which is nearly overwhelming for the three days in which it takes place) really begins the moment the first donation arrives (Justin can claim that honor, for contributing, literally, within moments of finding out that I was participating) and it just keeps making itself known, every time someone adds to the total.

It's very heartwarming, the pledges of support for such a worthwhile cause. Daily reminders that the world is full of kindness.

My continued love and thanks to you all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More Than A Movie ...

So I watched "Suspect Zero." I'm a *big* Ben Kings ... oh, excuse me, *Sir* Ben Kingley fan. (If you've never seen his performance in "Sexy Beast," you're really missing out.)

I can see why it didn't do better at the theaters, because the hook of the movie is *really* dark.

But the cool part of the movie is that Sir Ben is a remote viewer. Which means he does remote viewing. I am *fascinated* by this. I now know it's been around for a long time, but this is the first time I've been exposed to the concept. And there's an extra on the DVD in which the film's director does a remote viewing session and gets seriously wigged out when he realizes that he correctly identified a target.

So of course I've been online tonight, reading up on remote viewing. It's a skill that can be taught, though I suspect that the more open you are to the idea, the easier it would be to access. But I know that I really want to try this!

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, remote viewing is defined by the International Remote Viewing Association as "a novel perceptual discipline for gaining information not available to the ordinary physical senses. Used extensively by so-called 'psychic spies' during the Cold War for classified military projects, it has a long history both as an intelligence gathering tool and as the subject of research and applications in the civilian world. Remote viewing has now taken a long step into the public domain with the formation of a professional association to propose standards, test performance, and promote peaceful use and development of this unique human mental capacity."

Nifty, no?

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Very Key Thought ...

Yesterday, before the Davenport's show, I watched "Being Julia," starring Annette Bening.

In the film, Julia is the shining star of London theater in the late 1930s. She goes to see a play to watch the performance of an ingenue who wants to be part of the next play staged by Julia's husband (Jeremy Irons; I *love* Jeremy Irons). On the stage that night with the ingenue is another actress, less polished, more nervous. She forgets a line and is visibly shaken.

Later, backstage, Julia comes to their dressing room. The ingenue is fawning, but Julia steps over to the other actress to reassure her and says, "Nerves are the respect we pay our audience."

I love that line. And I couldn't have heard it at a better time.

Tonight ...

It's morning now. Early morning. I'm just home from Davenport's.

Tonight was my first-ever performance at Davenport's as one of the WHQODJY (We Haven't Quit Our Day Jobs Yet) singers. I've sung at Davenport's before, but at the open mic. Tonight, I was part of a show.

First, credit where it's due: Gwen (by now you all know Gwen is our instructor extraordinare) pulled off a *terrific* show. The theme of the evening, "Sentimental Journey," was really lovely. Each singer had submitted photos of themselves and a family member in advance, and Bo, one of Gwen's students, built a fabulous PowerPoint presentation that was projected behind us as we sang. Pictures of all of us in the programs, too. A *tremendous* amount of work goes into these events, and Gwen does it all simply because she cares. She wants her students to have the opportunity to sing on a stage with a mic in front of a crowd. We all love Gwen.

So I picked up mom and dad and we tooled downtown, and wouldn't you know it? We hit absolutely *no* traffic. Walked into Davenport's only to find out that the 7 p.m. show started late, because a show that was scheduled *before* the 7 p.m. show, which had nothing to do with us, ran really long, so the 7 p.m. show didn't kick off until 8 p.m. Gwen, of course, is a master of pacing, and she kept her singers coming, one to the stage right after another, and wrapped up the first show in enough time that the 9 p.m. show started before 10 p.m.

Gwen doesn't tell you, in advance, when you're going to sing in the show. She just plays your song's intro and you come up and sing. Briggetta asked Gwen yesterday if she'd tell us if we were in the first half or the second half. Gwen said, "Wellll, you're kind of in the middle."

After class, I told Briggetta, "I think we're probably like 5th, and she's just trying to fake us out."

Nope. We were right around the middle. Just when I think I have that woman figured out, she goes and tells the truth!

But the best part of the evening was how calm I felt. I took the advice of a musician friend (Iva, if you're reading this, that's you!) and focused on my breathing before I went on. Deep breaths in. Deep breaths out. Kept myself centered. So when it was time to go up on stage, I wasn't convulsing with nerves. (And lest you say, "No one convulses with nerves," let me say, "Oh, yes I do." Once, on my way to a first date, I couldn't stop shaking in my car. But I had none of that tonight.)

My picture popped up on the screen behind Gwen's piano (with the *most* glamorous shot of my mom alongside my photo, taken when she was much younger than I am now) and Gwen started our intro. Have I revealed the song yet? "Moonglow." It was assigned. We didn't pick it. But I have to say, of all the songs in the class repertoire, it's one I do really like. So Gwen was kind, giving us such a classic.

Briggetta and I, seated together, made our way onto the stage, adjusted our mics, and waited for our cue.

We start the song together for eight measures, then it's me. Just me. Singing. By myself. Into a mic. On a stage. In a roomful of about 90 people. My voice wasn't as strong as it could have been at first. But then it was Briggetta's turn to sing. (She sounded flawless.) I gave myself a little pep talk in my head. I knew I could do this. So when I took it back to the top for the second time through, I tried to banish the nerves and sing stronger and hold my notes like I knew I could. By the time she took her part over, I was quite enjoying myself up there. And we nailed the harmony at the end!

The crowd was great. The first thing I heard after Gwen's last note on the piano was someone in the audience say, "Yeah!" Lots of applause. I put the second mic back where it belonged, out of the way. Then back to our seats.

I told mom on the way home (dad was sleeping in the back seat) that I almost wish we could do two songs, because the song is over so fast, and then you have to deal with the mics and get off the stage, so you don't actually experience the moment. And then it's over.

But it went well. Another hurdle in my rearview mirror.

Next show will be in July or August (Gwen's starting to lean toward August; July is too soon) and the next time, as a "veteran," I'll be allowed to pick my own material. Gwen always has power of approval, but she's pretty lenient, rarely vetoes someone's request.

I have a song in mind.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Tech Two ...

Left my house at 9 this morning, got home a few minutes past 11 tonight. Long day. Good day.

Went to both voice classes today. In the first class, Briggetta and I did our song and Gwen told us we sounded scared.

"We are scared," Briggetta said.

"It's fine to *be* scared," said Gwen. "Just don't *sound* scared."

Right. Good advice. So for the second class, I tried to sound less scared.

It worked.

And then at the tech rehearsal, we sounded even *less* scared.

In addition to the enormous amount of work Gwen puts forth for these shows, she also performs at Davenport's on Friday and Saturday nights, so a group of us hung around after rehearsal to listen to Gwen.

Well, Gwen played a lot of the songs from class that are in the show (and many, many more that we just know), so we sang along with her for most of her set.

It was very, very fun.

And it reinforced my realization that I *never* should have given up piano and organ lessons when I was a kid. I wish I could play like Gwen plays. She's amazing. Check her out at www.gwenpippinmusic.com.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tech Rehearsal ... Oh, How Cool ...

Tonight was my first-ever tech rehearsal where singing was involved. Gwen, our instructor extraordinare, reserves the cabaret at Davenport's for we students, and as a reward for staying up late (this rehearsal started around 9:30 p.m.), we get some good mic tips and get to practice our "blocking" on stage (which is really just what to do with the mic stands) and get to sing a bit of our songs.

I'm not sure if it was because I had things to focus on, like adjusting the mic and where to stand, but once Briggetta and I sang our parts and sat down, *that's* when I felt kinda shaky. When it was over. Not really before. Not at all during. It was a weird realization, after the fact, that I wasn't nervous when I was up on stage.

Two words: Woo hoo!

Two classes on Saturday then another tech rehearsal Saturday night, and then Sunday night is the big event. For the later show (when Briggetta and I sing), the crowd should number about 95!

Not even nervous thinking about it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

180 Degrees From Bruce ...

Three years ago, I saw a trailer for "UnFaithful." In it was a piece of music that made me sit up and say, "What's *that*?!" I listen to a lot of music. My CD collection hovers in the 800 range. But rarely am I so taken with a particular tune.

So I tracked down the artist -- ah, the power of the Internet! -- and wrote down the name: E.S. Posthumus. Actually, E.S. Posthumus comprises two composers, so it's a duo, not an artist, per se. The song, "Nara," is from an album, "Unearthed," but I couldn't seem to find the album anywhere.

And so I stuck the Post-It note on the wall of my office and there it stuck, until recently when I decided to search again. And you know what I found out? The album is being released May 3! How exciting! I'll own it at last! Off I went to bn.com and pre-ordered a copy.

Then, last night, something made me poke around online and do a little more research. And I found the Web site for the small label that's distributing "Unearthed," and I could buy it. Right then. I didn't bother to look and see if I could have bought it all along, for the past three years.

But wait. I read further and learned that the album is available on iTunes. Nuh uh. I've looked. I looked again. And there it was. Which meant I could have the album immediately, with a few clicks of my mouse. And then I saw it. "Nara (Theme from Cold Case)" -- my tune, my special I've-Been-Searching-For-It-For-Three-Years tune -- has gone commercial. I don't watch "Cold Case" so I've never noticed my song stumping for the show. Shouldn't there be an original theme for "Cold Case," like most shows have?

Still, I bought the album. It's heavy-duty. Music to sacrifice virgins by in some places -- intense chorals and driving drum beats -- then a melancholy Scottish pipes piece, almost straight out of "Braveheart." But in the world of iTunes genres, this albume falls under Electronic, which is fair.

E.S. Posthumus, Unearthed. Find it on iTunes, or find it in stores May 3.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Bruuuuuuuuuce!

Saturday, I refused to leave my house. At least not until after 1:05 p.m.

Springsteen tickets were going on sale at 1 p.m. Saturday for his "Devils & Dust" tour. A solo tour. An intimate, solo tour. No way I was gonna miss out on tickets. My friend Jeff, in Detroit, had written earlier in the morning that he had scored two pairs, and that the show sold out in 5 minutes.

At 12: 38 p.m., I called Dave, just to be sure he hadn't forgotten. I called his cell. It rang four times. "Voicemail?" I thought. "Where the hell is he?"

He answered.

He mentioned that tickets were going on sale in 22 minutes. He had enlisted his daughter, even, to help him man their four computers.

As the clock on my computer ticked toward 1 p.m., I started refreshing my browser. Constantly. Because what if Ticketmaster's server clock was ahead of mine? I couldn't miss out on precious minutes. My heart began to race. With every click of the mouse, every refresh, I might be in.

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Dammit. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

And then I was in. I selected two tickets. I was taken to that infernal screen where you have to type in the word in the box, the distorted word in the colored box, striped with crossed lines. I couldn't read the word. I typed in what I thought was right.

I was wrong.

Dammit.

Back to the main page to start over. Enter.

No tickets.

Again.

No tickets.

Over and over again, no tickets.

It was 1:03 p.m. No way I could be shut out. No way.

I kept trying. I decided I'd try for at least 10 minutes.

Tickets. Two seats. No idea where. Didn't take the time to look. Didn't matter.

Bought them.

Looked at the confirmation. Last row, balcony.

The phone rang. Dave. He had a second pair. Main floor, way better seats.

"Buy them!" I said. "I have last row, balcony."

"OK," he said. "I'll call you back."

Moments later, my e-mail confirmation arrived.

Six minutes later, Dave forwarded the confirmation for the seats he scored for me.

Then he called.

"Has your heart stopped racing yet?" I asked.

"No way. Yours?"

"Nope. How did you get them?" I asked.

"I got through a second time," he said. Simple.

"But there's a two-ticket limit. Did you use a different credit card? Did you ship them to your office?"

Crestfallen silence.

"Wait," I told him. "Jeff got two sets this morning. Can you hold on?"

I grabbed my cellphone out of the next room, and with Dave on my landline on my left ear (yes, I know my phone has three-way calling on it, but I didn't realize it at the time), I dialed Jeff's house on my cell.

His wife Sherry answered. Jeff was home but indisposed and had to leave to go pick up one of their daughters.

"Maybe you know the answer this," I suggested, and posed my question: How did Jeff get around the two-ticket limit?

Sherry said, "Wow. I don't know. Hold on. Jeff!" I heard her muffled voice as she explained why I was calling. She came back on the phone. "Well, *that* got him moving. Hold on!"

Jeff got on the phone. "Beth," he said, the way he does, stretching out my name. I repeated the issue, told him I had Dave on the other line, Dave who was listening, getting only half the conversation.

Turns out, Jeff used the same credit card, and said maybe he wouldn't be getting both pairs after all. He figured that the ticket limit was just to discourage people from even trying to get more tickets. But he had to go. So he went.

I hung up with Jeff and returned my attention to Dave. Our Bruce-ticket elation was fading fast. Dave was concerned that Ticketmaster would cancel both his orders.

"What delivery did you use?" I asked.

"For yours, the ticketFast. But for mine ... ." He paused.

"You got the great seats, didn't you?"

"How did you know?"

"Because you have the best concert karma of anyone I've ever met in my life. Where are they?"

"Eighth row center."

Typical.

"Which ones did you buy first?" I asked.

"Those," he said.

"Then you're fine. You have those seats. I have my seats. We're fine."

I told him my take on concerts: It really doesn't matter where I sit. I'm in the same room with the person I'm there to see. Unless Bruce calls the first eight rows up on stage with him. Then I might have to change my tune.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Wise Man Named Weissman ...

One day, long ago, when I worked for the Chicago Tribune, I worked for a man named Randy Weissman.

Randy had a birthday, one day, long ago, when I worked for the Chicago Tribune, and I took him to lunch.

And Randy, genuinely interested in what I was planning on doing with my life (his curiousity nearly equaled my own), asked me what it was I really wanted to be doing.

"I should work for Martha Stewart," I said.

Randy smiled. "You don't want to *work* for Martha Stewart," he said. "You want to *be* Martha Stewart."

The interesting thing about those two statements is the duplicity. What he was saying, I believe, was, "No, if you're going to follow that domestic-diva path, you should strive to be the best." But what he said can also be taken very literally, as declarative sentences. Rephrased: "I don't want to work for Martha Stewart. I want to be Martha Stewart."

Humph. Look at that. My friends all seem to think the same thing. I cook. I bake. I write. I decorate. I make interesting invitations and throw good parties. I can grow things in my yard. Though I must say, I don't raise my own chickens for their farm-fresh eggs.

One wonders, then, what's holding me back?

That is another topic for another time.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

What Happened to "Spanglish"?

Please, please, please don't let this be a case of an inept movie-going public. Please let there be another reason that "Spanglish" – James L. Brooks' most recent film – didn't do better at the box office. It cost somewhere around $80 million to make, and it made just over $42 million in this country.

It is one of the most delightful films I've seen in *years.* It's brilliantly written by Brooks. It's brilliantly acted by Tea Leoni (this woman needs to get more work), Paz Vega (Penelope Cruz better watch her back), and Adam Sandler. Yes, Adam Sandler. The same Adam Sandler who endeared himself to me singing "Red-Hooded Sweatshirt" on SNL and then who dashed that endearment on the rocks with all the stupid, sophomoric films he made when he became famous.

And then the Sandler pendulum swung wide the other way, and "Punch Drunk Love" just left me shaking my head. "There must be something in between," I mused about his acting.

I was right.

"Spanglish" is it.

Adam Sandler has a long career in front of him if he can hook up with scripts like these.

Then again, scripts like these don't come along every day.

Maybe that's why the movie didn't do nearly as well as it should have. Maybe those of us who thirst for great films have become so disenchanted with the chum that Hollywood dumps into the theaters that when something special comes along, we're looking the other way.

Stop what you're doing and rent this movie.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

One Of My Favorite Things ...

... about iTunes are the Celebrity Playlists. I love them because some of the celebrities are kinda wacky, and I love them because the creator of the playlist writes about why he or she chose particular tunes.

It's completely fascinating to see someone's life distilled down to a handful of songs. (Some artists included their own work in their playlists. I'm not sure if I find that completely egotistical or admirable. Hmm. Yeah. I'm gonna go with completely egotistical. Especially when you're RuPaul. Alice Cooper almost gets a pass for including "Be My Frankenstein" – almost. Hey! Alice! Get over yourself!)

Playlists aren't just the purview of the rich and famous, however. Anyone can make a playlist and post it. So as an exercise for the evening, I went through my iTunes library and pulled songs into a playlist of my own.

I have 2,122 songs in iTunes. My first pass at a playlist ended up with 60 tracks. Too many. But to make the cutting easier, I decided to make a second playlist, devoted solely to instrumentals.

Still, I had to whittle. I made it down to 18. I can't cut anymore. It's really, really hard. How do I pick *one* Springsteen tune?, I wondered. But I did. Sting gets two entries, but I figure, his work with The Police and his solo work are very different.

A worthwhile exercise. An 18-song snapshot of my musical life.

The List And The Logic ...

... not that logic has anything to do with why I love the music I love. Asterisks (*) denote songs that are available on iTunes.

In no particular order, then:

* “The Fuse,” Bruce Springsteen: The moan in his voice on the last word of the bridge is the most sensual thing ever recorded. I love almost everything Bruce has ever done, but Bruce is so much more than his music, I knew the cut I’d choose would come from “The Rising,” his balm to soothe a shattered country – and, I suspect, himself.

“Slave To Love,” Bryan Ferry: There almost aren’t words to convey why I love this song. The beat, the tempo, Ferry’s voice ... You just get lost in it.

* “Hysteria,” Def Leppard: I was *such* a Def Leppard fan in high school, though my hair-band hair was still in its formative stages, hitting its stride my senior year, when it was really more of a Robert-Smith-of-The-Cure knock-off, and then it was out of control by my sophomore year in college. But I digress. Love this tune. Love the beat, love the chorus, I can relate to the lyrics.

* “Blue Eyes,” Elton John: Just my opinion, of course, but the perfect showcase for Elton’s voice and piano.

* “It’s In The Way That You Use It,” Eric Clapton: Like so many musicians on my list, Clapton has done so much that’s so good, it’s almost impossible to pick one tune. And some will argue that this song is too pop, that it doesn’t show off his guitar prowess, but I don’t care. I love it. Everytime I hear it, I crank it up as loud as I can.

* “What Is Love?”, Howard Jones: This was the first song of Howard’s that I fell in love with. I’ve always been a sucker for keyboards, and I love a guy with a British accent.

“Crazy,” Icehouse: “Man of Colours,” the album that features “Crazy,” is one of my all-time favorites. When I was younger, when cable was young, when we had a Sony Betamax!, I taped the “Crazy” video off of “Friday Night Videos” and fell in love with the long-haired guy singing. I had no idea, at the time, that his name was Iva Davies. Years (and years) later, I was editing the music section of an entertainment publication and decided that the time was nigh to find out what Iva was up to. I assigned the story to myself. Interviewed him. Told him about the video. He laughed and said, “Yeah, I don’t look like that anymore.” But he’s aging very well, and we still trade e-mails. One day, I’m going to Sydney. Have to try to meet him.

* “The Water Is Wide,” James Taylor: Sting chose a JT song for his playlist, and wrote that James has been “blessed with a voice that can melt ice caps.” There is no way I can top that description. A very traditional song that I can’t imagine being sung by anyone else, ever.

“You Believe In Me,” Jeffrey Gaines: An acoustic triumph, if you ask me, which you didn’t, but I’m telling you anyway. Written and sung in a perfect key for me, so one of my favorites for singing along. And I love the messsage. We should all have the faith in ourselves to be the self others see. “Well, I must stand as tall / as I am in your eyes ... No more will I question / what it is you see in me.”

* “Cry Love,” John Hiatt: Songwriter to many, knockout singer in his own right. I love his voice. And please, like you’re gonna find cooler guitar?

* “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” Journey: Steve Perry is one of my all-time favorite voices, maybe my favorite voice in rock. I’ve always had a fantasy of singing this in a karaoke bar and watching people’s jaws drop.

* “Forever,” Kenny Loggins: I can’t tell you why. It’s a secret.

* “Even Flow,” Pearl Jam: Hard, here, too, to pick one song. “Do the Evolution” was tied with this until the last second. But this song is just too perfect. (Eddie is a very good friend of a very good friend of mine, so I’ve been privileged to hear inside stories over the years, though – ahem! – I’ve never met the man.)

* “In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel: How can one song be so closely identified with a very particular time, yet be so timeless?

* “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” The Police: Classic sound, that brilliant, innovative, pioneering sound that set Sting and the boys apart, to the betterment of musical history. I love how well this song tells its story. The original verision, please.

* “Why Should I Cry For You,” Sting: “Fragile” was the obvious Sting choice – it’s perfect down to the last note. But everyone picks “Fragile.” This song is another excellent showcase for his voice, and I love the change on the bridge. Another sing-along favorite.

* “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” Tears for Fears: This song was a big part of my ‘80s existence, and came to play another role, many years later. Every time I hear it, I’m reminded of one of the most transformative days of my life. How could I not include it?

“Over You,” H2SO4: The 2 and the 4 should be subscript, as the band’s name is the chemical equation for sulfuric acid. We’ll see if the formatting shows up when I publish this online. This song was selected for my initial list, then cut, then added again. These guys deserve more press, so this is me, doing my part. Of course, the album, “Machine Turned Blues,” isn’t on iTunes. But do check it out somewhere.

Monday, April 04, 2005

This Is Not A Revelation ...

... for most people reading this, I'm sure, but today I came to know the joy of DSL.

I had a lot of plans for the day.

Almost nothing got accomplished, so enraptured was I with all the things my computer can now do at near-lightning speed.

I downloaded "Devils and Dust," the single from Bruce Springsteen's upcoming album, from iTunes. Downloads from iTunes on my 56K dial-up used to take about 15 minutes. I was listening to Bruce's tune in 40 seconds.

And don't even get me started on the streaming audio!

Funny how technology makes me feel like more of a grown-up.

What Does Go On In My Head?

Someone, please, get me a dream dictionary!

Last night, aside from dreaming that my friend Tracy and I were going to London and stopped at a kiosk in an airport where you could buy songs that could be downloaded to your iPod or to a CD and the tune I bought set me back $41, I also dreamt about sitting in my office and noticing kids in my backyard.

I have a pretty big backyard, but I have no kids. So in my dream, I went out onto my deck (and encountered a very large Boxer -- dog, not gloved fighter) as well as nine children and a woman I don't know. I was thinking that she must have thought that I wasn't home during the day, so it would be OK to bring kids over to play, but they weren't just running around the yard. They had toys -- big toys, like a Lil' Tykes kitchen and washer and dryer (cuz nothing says "fun" like pretending to do chores!) -- lined up along my fence.

I asked the woman what she was thinking, bringing these kids over to play without getting my permission. And then -- our litigious society exists even in my subconscious -- I asked if she was willing to accept liability if anything happened to any of them while on my property.

Eventually, a guy showed up, the head of whatever organization the kids were part of, and he laid a massive guilt trip on me. Piled all the kids up in a minivan and had them all wave and look sad as the van pulled away.

What's *that* about?!

Skew(er)ed Perspective?

The death of the Pope hasn't entirely sombered up morning television: Diane Sawyer and Liz Smith are talking about her new book, "Dishing," all about stars and food. Paraphrasing: "Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton loved chili!"

I mean, come ON. You can't spend every moment on a live shot of the Vatican, but maybe today isn't the day to be dishing about which celebrities love chicken fried steak.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Wait. What Just Happened?

So there I was today, in my second voice class of the day (my duet partner can't make it to class next week, so we doubled up today), and Gwen started, literally, playing our song just as we sat down, so we got up, went to the front of the class, which today was set up with all the chairs facing us, to reinforce the sensation of singing in front of an audience, and sang our song, and you know what was really weird? At some point, while we were singing -- knock something -- I realized that my experience shifted from being nervous to having ... fun. FUN. it was fun. It was fun? Yeah, I know. I don't believe it either. It actually felt fun.

My voice was strong. Her voice was strong. We sound really good together. And I was having fun.

I do believe I have cleared an enormously high hurdle.