Thursday, September 27, 2018

Pheaturing Andrew W.K.

Good afternoon, kids, and welcome to the Phile for a Thursday. Since the crack of dawn this morning, crowds of protesters have been gathering outside the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court to support Christine Blasey Ford and protest Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. As with most wide-scale protests, there are also counter-protesters in support of Kavanaugh. The protest was strategically timed to take place on the same day that Professor Blasey Ford... who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, and Kavanaugh himself testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. There is a lot at stake here, and the GOP's high demands on Blasey Ford to prove integrity while Kavanaugh is assumed innocent is both traumatizing and familiar to sexual assault survivors across the country. At the time of writing this, the protests are still going strong and accruing numbers.
As Dr. Christine Blasey Ford relives the most traumatic moment of her life looking into the eyes of crusty old men who made it clear that they don't want to listen, women are offering their voices of support. The sensitivity of sexual assault and the credibility of Dr. Ford's testimony is not stopping the conservative hot take machine, as they continue to look for reasons to call her a liar. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary outsourced their questioning to sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, because they figured their efforts to discredit Dr. Ford would look less bad coming from a woman (and the GOP has yet to ever put a female senator on the powerful committee). A few hours into the hearing, Mitchell pursued a truly bonkers line of questioning, which was basically, "If you suffered from anxiety and PTSD after being assaulted, then how come you've flown in planes?" Among the proponents of the Airplane Theory is Human Galaxy Brain Donald Trump Jr., who surprisingly is NOT a psychology professor.

Um, Don Jr., in the end she flew to testify. She's literally in Washington right now. That's where the hearing is happening. Don Jr.'s so stupid. He's not a psychology professor, but do you know who is? Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, that's who. Don Jr. has spent the rest of the day retweeting partisan attacks on a sexual assault survivor, because it's one of his favorite pastimes that doesn't involve rifles and dead elephants (NOT a metaphor for the Republican party). Why don't women come forward about their assaults when they can get such helpful insights into their psyches from the president's son? Am I right?
Okay, so, since Ford first went public with sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, two other women have come forward with allegations against the Supreme Court nominee. At the time of writing, Ford's testimony has been incredibly poised and clear, which is beyond difficult for someone reliving their trauma. Across the world, women (and men) who experienced sexual assault have tweeted out support for Ford's decision to speak out. It feels like a grave understatement to say her testimony is triggering painful flashbacks for survivors nationwide. Reporters have been sharing photos of the hearing online, and one particularly poignant photo went viral immediately. The photo shows Ford's view as she testifies about her own trauma, a view that shows exclusively old white men... the same demographic that hurt her. Check it out...

To make matters worse, her view faces exclusively GOP men, the very same men promoting her alleged assaulter. People were quick to compare the current day situation to the "Handmaid's Tale."      Others brought up the fast approaching midterm elections, and how they will hopefully shift the makeup of Congress. Naturally, there were comparisons drawn between Ford's experience and what Anita Hill went through years ago. Sadly, in many ways, nothing has changed since Hill testified, we can only hope the end results are different this go around.
Man oh man, conservatives on Twitter are searching for things to rip apart. One particular group decided to zero in on Ford's speaking voice... a depressingly common tactic for sexists who want to demean women. They're calling it "baby talk" and implying it's too high-pitched for their preferences. For some reason, a lot of them have wolves as their profile photos. One person seemed to be implying that her voice is fake. Why would someone fake a voice for a congressional hearing? I guess for the same reasons you would fake an assault accusation: so that idiots on Twitter will mock you and rip you apart. And one guy is trying to make some sort of sinister point about her coffee? Whatever. Dr. Ford's voice really shouldn't color anyone's perception of her testimony. It certainly wouldn't if she were a man. But one Twitter users acknowledged that some people who've been assaulted will adopt a higher-pitched voice in the aftermath. Another responded, saying they normally speak in an alto tone but automatically shift into a high-pitched voice when discussing their assault. The Twitter user later added that weight gain. Add this non-issue to the list of things conservatives think they have against Ford, but which completely make sense in the context of assault.
Okay, let's talk about something else... It's three to ten years in state prison for Bill Cosby. In the midst of the confirmation battle of an accused rapist nominated by an admitted sexual assaulter, it's easy to forget that sexual assault is illegal in the United States. But, the rumors are true! Men can actually face consequences for sex crimes. The 81-year-old Cosby has been sentences to three to ten years after being found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home back in 2004. Cosby has been under house arrested since being convicted in April, and will now be reporting to jail. He must register as a "sexually violent predator" and undergo mandatory counseling, and report to authorities for the rest of his life. It took sixty women coming forward and Andrea Constand's bravery to log him up, and the time has finally come. It's a powerful moment. But for many, it's not enough. We still have so far to go. One predator down, only hundreds to go.
Okay, so, if I had a TARDIS I would love to go to Nikola Tesla's lab and see his Magnifying Transmitter. Knowing my luck though I'll get struck by one of the lightning bolts or whatever they are.

They say if you go to Walmart I'm gonna see some strange sites. I didn't believe it until I saw this...

Ha. Hey, did you see the new Nike ad? If not, I have it here...

So, at work has anybody ever pulled a prank on you? Someone pulled a good on one person...

That's a good one. So, do you know who would do a better job as president than Trump?A penguin, that's who.

Speaking of Trump, do you remember when he fist pumped on 9/11? Well, that's not the only time he did that.

What an ass. Hahahaha. I love dogs, but some dogs sure can be assholes...

All together now... awwwwweeeeeee... So, do you like pumpkin spice drinks or food? Well, if you do you might wanna watch out for this guy...

That should have been a Mindphuck. Okay, it's Thursday. You know what that means...

Yeesh. That's not too bad of a pic. Okay, it is Thursday and it's time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.

Me: The Giants won! Hey, Jeff, the Giants won! Haha. Hi, how are you? Welcome back to the Phile. 

Jeff: Yes, the Giants won! Guess what else? The Steelers won! The Steelers won! The Steelers won! Always good to be back on the Phile. How ya been?

Me: Not bad. So, did you hear that Cowboys fans created a petition to have Dak Prescott and Jason Garrett removed from team? I think it's funny and it won't do anything.

Jeff: I hadn't heard that. But yeah, it's a silly on-line petition that won't matter in the long run. I'm sure they want Troy Aikman to come out of retirement as well. Good luck with that one!

Me: What NFL news do you have? A lot of serious injuries this past weekend, right?

Jeff: There's been a few injuries this week, but nothing worse than Jimmy Garappolo of the 49ers. He was traded last year to the team and signed a big contract. And now he tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the year. The other big news of the week is the ongoing drama in Pittsburgh involving Levon Bell. The team had said they had no plans on trading the disgruntled running back, but those plans have changed. But perhaps the biggest news of the week is the Browns won for the first time in over a year!

Me: Yay, Browns! So, the British have taken over another team...

Jeff: Good Day, Chief Redskin? I believe I will have some tea. Pinky's out!

Me: That one makes me laugh. I'm proud of the cricket bats. Okay, so, how dd we do last weekend? 

Jeff: Congratulations on your week. In addition to the Giants winning, you also went 2-0 in your predictions. While I went... 0-2. So you open up a 2 game lead over me!

Me: Yay!!! Alright, let's pick this weekends picks... I say Patriots will beat the Dolphins by 5 ending their winning streak and Jags by 5. What do you say?

Jeff: My picks are Falcons by 3 and Chargers by 5. 

Me: Alright, I will see you back here in a week.

Jeff: See you next week!

That's dumb. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, in the last entry I introduced you to a new character who is a professor of sex ed. Well, as you can imagine she was really popular and you guys want her back on the Phile. How can I say no to you, my dear readers? So once again here is...

Me: Hello, professor, welcome back to the Phile. I have to say you are pretty popular.

Liz: I'm so glad, Jason.

Me: Okay, so, what sex advice do you have today?

Liz: Years ago, I woke up one morning feeling like someone was stabbing my bladder with a handful of ice picks. Turns out it was only a bladder infection... something I later learned could have been prevented if I had gone to the bathroom after having sex with my boyfriend the night before. We received basic info about STIs, however, it would have been nice to be aware of different stuff that could happen to my body like bladder infections, yeast infections and the like.

Me: Oh, man. That's good to know for the women readers out there. Did you take sex ed in school, professor?

Liz: Yeah, my middle school teacher told the class that condoms were not effective at all for protecting against STDs and only worked 50% in stopping pregnancies, and that anyone who told you otherwise was a diseased pervert trying to trick you into sex. Abstinence teaching, ladies and gentlemen.

Me: Ha. Professor Liz Chickasaw, kids. Hope to see you back on the Phile again soon.

Liz: Thanks, Jason. Bye for now, everyone.

Some dogs are trained to provide emotional support for witnesses while reliving a traumatic experience on the witness stand or testifying in front of their attacker.

Donald Trump gave a press conference that was just as bonkers as you expect, if you expect Alex Jones-level conspiratorial ranting and a smorgasbord of statements that offend 51% of the population. Fresh off of being laughed at by the world in his speech at the United Nations, the president demonstrated just how wrong the delegates were to snicker as he free-associated on various topics and said that any woman who accuses a famous man of sexual assault is lying. Right out of the gate, Trump insisted without even a tiny-Trump-hand-size of evidence that the three women who accused Brett Kavanaugh are part of a "big fat con job" put forward by the Democrats. Asked directly if the accusers are lying, Trump said, "these are all false... to me, these are false accusations." "Thirty-six years, there's no charge. All of a sudden, the hearings are over, and the rumors start coming out. Then you have this other con artist, Avenatti, come out with another beauty today," referring to the affidavit linking Kavanaugh to gang rape as a "beauty." Despite having been recorded saying "grab them by the pussy," Trump insists that any and all accusations against him are Fake News and therefore, that can be the case with Kavanaugh. A reporter asked him how having been accused of sexual assault himself impacts his views on Kavanaugh, Trump basically said that they're part of the fraternity of the Accused and these bros gotta stick together. Among those bros? George Washington, whom as you may recall, literally owned people. "If we brought George Washington here, and we said we have George Washington, the Democrats would vote against him... and he may have had a bad past, who knows," he zinged. Ah, yes. Trump did leave the door open to withdraw Kavanaugh's nomination if Professor Ford delivers a performance that's good enough for him.

The 87th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Ben will be the guest on the Phile next Monday. Now for some...

Phact 1. During 19th century construction of Paris’s underground sewers, workers found lost medieval dungeons, jewels, and the skeleton of an orangutan that had previously escaped from the zoo.

Phact 2. Rhode Island School of Design’s hockey team is called the Nads, their cheer is "Go Nads," and their mascot is a giant penis with testicles.

Phact 3. Soviet psychology once classified “the struggle for truth and justice” as a symptom of paranoid, delusional schizophrenia.

Phact 4. Mongols were actually outnumbered in most of their victories in battles. They still managed to deceive their enemies by elaborate ruses like mounting dummies atop horses and tying sticks to the horses’ tails to create dust storms.

Phact 5. Italian singer Adriano Celentano released a song in the 70s with nonsense lyrics meant to sound like American English, to prove Italians would like any English song. It was a hit.

Today's pheatured guest is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and music producer. His latest album "You're Not Alone" is available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Please welcome to the Phile... Andrew W.K.

Me: Hey, Andrew, welcome to the Phile. How are you? 

Andrew: I'm good, thank you for having me.

Me: You're from New York, am I right?

Andrew: I actually was born in California and moved with my family to Michigan when I was four. I relocated to New York when I was eighteen.

Me: Ahhh. Okay. Your fans are probably so happy you finally have a new album out after nine years. I read that some of the songs you have written quite recently and some stuff you worked on for a period of time, is that right?

Andrew: That is correct, yes.

Me: Why hold onto the songs, Andrew, were they finished or did you just sit on them?

Andrew: That's a good question, I don't know why some take the time they need to take. I thought about this quite a bit lately and I've answered similar questions and I wasn't satisfied with my answers. I think I could say I don't have answers, and it's all quite mysterious. Despite that it's fun to imagine what might be going on. I try to figure out this process of making anything, especially perhaps music, how it works, what are the mechanics of it. Part of me thinks it's a bit disrespectful to try to figure it out too much. It seems like I'm risking formalizing to it to a degree and I'll take away the mysterious aspects of it. It can be unnerving to not understand what I am doing, when I'm doing it, but that's also part of the fun of it. It keeps it interesting and surprising. Not just for the audience but myself. So I guess just putting that out there in advance I really don't have answers. I can just give possibilities, possibilities that are most interesting or entertaining to discuss. Some songs I don't know, it makes me kinda frustrated thinking about it. One thing was there was no album to record, so having the necessity to finish a work so that I to be released, in terms of the urgency that a contract, other people in business with me sense a pressure that's helpful. If there's not a real need to do the work sometime it could float there for a long time. But some of these ideas I thought were good. Most of these ideas are things I remembered, wasn't as if they've been recorded or written down. I think in a sense I rely on that certain type of proof that there's something of quality or I would've forgotten it. My dad always said that. He said he intentionally doesn't write down his best ideas because that's how he proves to himself they're worth while ideas. The ideas themselves won't allow him to forget them. So, some of these songs were there in my mind, there in some form since 2006 or so.

Me: Do you come up with a title or concept before you write a song?

Andrew: No, it's the exact opposite, I actually don't like thinking of any concepts or philosophies when it comes to the creative effort, except for a feeling, trying to follow a strong feeling, trying to generate a strong feeling. I don't normally have in me a strong feeling that I'm looking to express. I can find it in music. I always had a hard time relating to people who described the song writing process as expressing something they went through, or expressing something about themselves, or expressing their view or their experiences. For me it's almost the exact opposite. I'm wishing I felt a different way in making a song that in turn makes me feel that. The song hopefully is expressing what I don't have.

Me: You are very clever with your music, Andrew. The song "The Power of Partying" I thought was going to be some kind of anthem but instead it's an instrumental. Was it planned that way to start the album with an instrumental?

Andrew: It's largely instrumental. It does start with the word "party" repeating.

Me: True. There's also some spoken word on the album as well. Did you write those out in advance? 

Andrew: The motivational speeches were done at the very last second. To record anything in the album making process when I say at the very end I mean not at the end of the song writing process or the album recording process or even the mixing, I recorded those three brief motivational speeches in the mastering. Much to the chagrin and dismay of the mastering engineer, who of course at the end was very generous and gracious and allowed us. He set up a microphone, he said he didn't think he had a microphone, he never set up a microphone. We recorded right in the mastering studio.

Me: Why wait to the very end, Andrew?

Andrew: To be honest that's because I was putting it off for so long, that particular aspect. Having these three speeches was not my idea. I thought it was a very strong idea, but I guess to my own dismay it was because I was afraid of doing that. I actually thought a lot of recording an album of motivational speeches, just that, but the idea of musing it into an album of music was hard for me to comprehend. It was just a stark contrast. As I said the music, I make it to be as dense and overwhelmingly powerful as possible to try and compensate the weakness that I feel. I really rely on that music to give me that super human feeling, and to pile all the sonic power on top of my flawed human existence. The flawed human existence is laid bare in these motivational speeches, that's all there is, it's as dry and stark as it possibly could be in contrast to the music.

Me: Where did the idea to do these speeches come from then?

Andrew: The woman who suggested the idea, her name is Karen Glauber, I've been in touch with her. She was there at the very beginning of my first efforts, going all the way back to 2001. Now I work with her in the capacity of management, she is part of my management team. The just very gently, or a matter of fact, suggested the idea. I think it came to her in a sort of inspired way. As much as I hesitated I felt deep down inside it was the right thing to do. Which doesn't make it any easier, but I tried to set aside my own hesitation and doubt and follow that clear instinct that she was certainly coming from as well.

Me: Okay, so, how were they written, Andrew? I thought at one time I should make a spoken word album.

Andrew: I said them spontaneously, listened back, fine tuned them, wrote down that edited version, recorded them, and that was done. I was so on the verge saying we shouldn't do it. I was saying that as we were recording it. My manager said, "It's good, it's good, just do it." I had to turn off all my tastes, my own personality, to a degree, and turn myself over entirely to that feeling which was especially hard in this case because it is just me, but I had to remove myself from that even though it's just my voice.

Me: So, was it hard to come up with what you wanted to say?

Andrew: Well, it's what I say to myself, that's what I was focusing on, what should I say here. I thought okay, I just say what I was already saying to myself throughout each day in general, in day to day life. As I said, most of my work is based on trying to make myself feel better so those are really me talking to myself saying "do your best."

Me: The first single, "Music Is Worth Living For" has a good message I think. What was the idea behind that song? That's a great title by the way.

Andrew: That began as like most of the music I make as a piano part, with the chord changes. It was the same tempo but a different pace. It involved a descending arpeggio in the right hand, this rolling kind of feel. I liked it a great deal and I recorded a version of that with that.

Me: Do you do a lot of demoes for your music, Andrew?

Andrew: I don't think I can remember whatever I recorded what I consider demoes. I practice a recording and scrap that and start fresh if I like it even. I just started recording the song, working on it as that form. I always feel like it's a waste that of I started working on it, why do I have to start working on it again. Even if it's really extreme editing or changing the structure of the song, I try to do it with what I ever started. The journey that began the excitement of the idea, I want it to mean that, and there's something about it. If I abandon it and start to grow the same seed its the original seed that wants to stay within the song is completion.

Me: When you write and record a song do you have a plan or thought in mind on what you want to happen?

Andrew: What I'm going for is this deeply moving yet triumphant combination of all emotions. Being moved. It's not a happy feeling or a sad feeling, it's just intense.

Me: Okay, so, I have to be honest, I didn't know much about your music before this interview, and pretty much all I knew of you was when you were on "Conan" I think it was and the song seemed like a bunch of noise. Here's a screen shot from "Conan."

Me: Listening to this album I was surprised there's actually good music. What do you think of your music as a whole, Andrew?

Andrew: I appreciate your honesty. In my opinion it's extremely musical music. There's huge quantities and layers of music going on. But many people don't see it as that. I think all that music is serving an energetic feeling. Its not musicality for it's own sake actually. It's musicality for a means to an end which is a physical sensation. That is what should dominate and that is my vocals.

Me: Some of the songs you wrote with somebody else. What was that like, Andrew?

Andrew: I had the privilege to work with what I feel like is a faded destined sense with a musician named Doug Anson. I first heard his music what he was recording under the moniker of Aleister probably back in 2006 or so. I was completely blown away, it was one of those really, really powerful music encounters. He wasn't there, I was at a friend of his house and it was just playing in the background and I was stunned and stopped enemy tracks. I said, "What is this?" It was such a profound experience. I could tell as it was happening that this was gonna change everything. Not just changed my life now that I heard this. Hearing this is only going to led to another physical experience and actions and events are going to form from this. It was like destiny was prevuing for me saying get ready because I'm gonna have to have something to do with this, even if I like to or not. It seemed like his music was made just for me and I didn't know if I wanted to hear it. I wish everyone gets to have one of those experiences in their life. We ended up meeting and I ended up offering my services to him in any way I could. I recorded his music and worked on his music for his own purposes. He eventually called himself; Aleister X and we recorded a ton of stuff and I had such a good time with that I thought what if we flipped this and we work on my songs. He's just very generous and very open minded, he's an extremely talented singer and lyricist and visual artist.

Me: On this album you play all the instruments, which is crazy as there's a lot of music on there. I know you have a band you play with on stage so why do all the album yourself?

Andrew: Because there's no one being inconvenienced by my mess ups other than me. It helps feeling less painful and frustrating.

Me: So, how do you start doing it by yourself?

Andrew: I start with the piano, well, I start with a click track I guess. That's one of the longest parts of the process, trying to get the tempo right. I really I wanna get it right from the beginning. It can be easy to overlook and I pick a tempo that I just happen to stumble upon, but that's not usually the right tempo. I hear a lot of what I call strong music that has terrible tempo, because it's completely passive. Its not fast enough to be fast, it's not slow enough to be heavy, it's just a middle of the road all encountered for beat. It's so powerful, just the slightest adjustment.

Me: What was your first instrument you learned to play and how old were you?

Andrew: The piano. I started around age five. It's a very musical instrument because it's eurhythmic and it's polyphonic and it's quite dynamic. Its a fantastic instrument as a gateway into the musical universe.

Me: And you play a lot of instruments now then? 

Andrew: I would never say I'm a multi-instrumentalist. I could play what I am requited to play. To get the music made what I'm supposed to make. But for everybody else's music I would not be suitable. I could play bass okay, and I could play guitar in a convoluted way that allows me to recored this music. Similar with drums. I supposed I developed whatever limited skills I have o other instruments just enough to be able what I had to do. To this day if there's a part I'm trying to play and can't get it, I usually can get it in some convoluted way. Being just a million takes and piecing it together to get the part, but in the event I can't I'll ask someone else to do it. Sometimes someone else would do it and they just didn't get it right either, then maybe a combination of what they did and I did. I never want to give up on the part if the part wants to exist.

Me: So, you like recording by yourself?

Andrew: The only reason I record the stuff myself is that's the only way I get the best results I suppose in the most efficient way, There's something esthetically about the one man band approach that I don't like, I think it might be it starts to get distracting in terms of the presentation. I started that way and before I had a band I played solo shows, in fact I played solo shows throughout when I have had a band. It's not much the performance style, but the idea that it's not supposed to sound like it's just a band playing the album, it's supposed to sound like the whole population on planet Earth and beyond is playing. I want the listener to hear themselves in the recording.

Me: Your lyrics are very clever sometimes, Andrew. Do you write them down when you think of something?

Andrew: I have in the past, primally for album title ideas. Song titles sometimes or lyrics but I haven't done that in some time. The lyric writing process is always done at the very end and its usually after the music is done to the extent that I can have a feeling to sing about. All the music is about itself in that regard. Some of it is quite literal on an album like this, like "Music is Worth Living For." That song is singing about itself. I hope people feel that song has a powerful triumphant glory and that's what the song is about. That came at the end, in fact I remember the other day thinking at one point I was gonna call it "Music is Worth Dying For." I thought that was too morbid. It's sort of the same message I guess.

Me: Okay, so, I have to ask, where did the title of the album come from? How did that song get to be the title?

Andrew: Thank you for asking about this. This is one of the other co-wriiten songs. I was recording in the studio with my old band member Crenshaw, he just had one of those break through moments. He wrote the vocal melody and the lyrics and I was completely floored. The song at times became my favorite piece we were working on, and at times I thought it won't make it on this album, I'll save it for another album. To wrap it up... My manager, who I worked with for years, Pete, bless his heart, has not been that struck by the work we've done together. I don't mean that as a criticism, nor do I mean that to say that he should, sometimes I have working relationships where it's not about that. It's about completing tasks together. I don't really expect the other person to care, or be moved or to like it. He didn't say he didn't like it, I don't know what to say, it just wasn't what we were about. I had excepted that years and years ago. I wouldn't ask his opinion on does he like this or not. I would just ask him if this is what we should do. It was more about strategy than based on his responses to things on a personal level. Foe the first time in all the years we've worked together, it's been twelve years now, he started listening to some of these songs as they were coming together for this album. He was very moved and very honest about that. I was obviously flattered and excited and he said, "The feeling I'm getting listening to this music I feel that you should call the album 'You're Not Alone.'" At first I was a bit underwhelmed by that, I hadn't picked a title yet, I normally do that at the very end. I thought that was a very generic title which I suppose it is. I started thinking about it more because I realized that it could be a positive thing or it can be an unnerving thing. If you're at home by yourself and you hear a voice coming from the closet you're not alone... that would not be the most pleasant experience. If you're feeling very distraught, isolated and alienated and disconnected from the world having someone tell you you're not alone could be very encouraging. I always liked those contrasts, contradictions and at the same time both of them are true... equally true. As I was thinking about this something else was striking me and I realized that "your'e not alone" was one of the main lyrics in that song that song I've been working on and debating. I said that's amazing, because he hadn't either heard that song. I haven't decided to out it on the album and I said, "Whoa, not only should I put that on the album it is now gonna be the title track."

Me: Andrew, that's so cool. Thanks so much for being on the Phile. Please come back again soon. 

Andrew: I will. Thank you very much. Thank you.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Jeff Trelewicz and of course Andrew W.K. The Phile will be back on Monday with musician and author Ben Watt. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pheaturing Paula Cole

Hey kids, welcome to the Phile. How are you? It's fall, bitches. Time to arm yourselves with mugs, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin spice lattes to celebrate the best (in my opinion; sorry spring!) season. Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar is such an embarrassment to his family, six of his younger siblings are actively campaigning against him. In a series of campaign ads recently released ad by Dr. David Brill, his Democratic opponent for the 4th district Congressional seat, Gosar’s siblings, Grace, David, Jennifer, Tim, Joan, and Gaston all come out against their brother’s candidacy. “He’s not listening to you and he doesn’t have your interests at heart,” Tim Gosar, the Congressman's brother says in an ad. “I think our brother has traded a lot of the values we shared at the kitchen table,” the Congressman’s sister, Joan, says in another ad. “We’ve got to stand up for our good name, this is not who we are,” his brother, David, said. Gosar’s sister, Grace, a rural physician with cancer, recorded a heart-wrenching, two-minute commercial focusing on healthcare. Congressman Gosar has slammed the ads, telling CNN in a statement that the siblings featured in the ad are “liberal Democrats who hate President Trump” and slammed his opponent for engaging “in this shameful attack.” “You can’t pick your family,” Gosar added. “We all have crazy aunts and relatives etcetera and my family is no different. I hope they find peace in their hearts and let go all the hate. To the six angry Democrat Gosars... see you at mom and dad’s house!” Gosar’s siblings have split with him because of his strident anti-immigrant views and his dishonest embrace of troubling conspiracy theories. He has also called prominent current and former justice department officials investigating Russia’s attempts to undermine Americans democratic system, “traitors.” Gosar has also hell bent on constructing Trump’s wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and has railed against DACA. In October 2017, Gosar suggested that the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville was coordinated by “the left” and called Democratic donor George Soros a Nazi collaborator. Soros is Jewish. This prompted his siblings to lash out in an open letter in the Kingman Daily Miner. “Paul confabulated horrendous lies about Soros as a young boy who survived the Holocaust, and followed it with invented notions that Soros was behind the Charlottesville Nazis,” the siblings wrote. “Paul’s deceit was uttered without a shred of evidence.” “It is extremely upsetting to have to call you out on this, Paul, but you’ve forced our hand with your deceit and antisemitic dog whistle,” the letter concludes. Thanksgiving should be fun at the Gosar’s parents’ house this year.
If you haven't been ghosted yet, congrats on either, A) not dating as a millennial, or B) doing all the ghosting yourself. Ghosting, where one person in a budding romance (or friendship) simply ceases to return the others' communications, has become a bedrock of millennial culture. But just because it's as common as HPV doesn't mean it's not extraordinarily painful to experience. So a new "ghosted" Halloween costume making the rounds on Twitter has people in their feelings. Because it's simply too real. Here's the costume...

If this costume doesn't reawaken past trauma, have you even dated in the 21st century???????? Apparently the costume, with its design of familiar unanswered texts, has opened up a trove of old emotional wounds online. Now everyone's taking to Twitter to call it out for being wayyyy too real and relatable. One guy rightfully requested a men's version (since ghosting impacts people of all genders). Many feel personally attacked. One brave soul even tried to use the costume to reverse a past ghosting (it didn't work).
If you've spent time online recently, you're probably sick of hearing about Brett Kavanaugh. Not only does he have a generic white guy douchebag name that's worth mocking, he's been accused of attempted sexual assault and still thinks he should become a Supreme Court judge. Gross. Even more disgusting, there are plenty of conservatives angling for his appointment. In a misguided attempt to demonstrate support for Brett... puke, a group called Concerned Women for America embarked on a bus tour in August declaring they were "Women For Kavanaugh." Twitter user @elivalley posted a photo of the intrepid travelers, and there was something... off about it. Can you spot what it is?

That's right, folks: the image contains more men than women. Seems women aren't quite as enthusiastic about his nomination. We can't imagine why that might be. Once Eli, an artist and writer, shared the photo on social media, the incredulous responses began pouring in. Though it's simply another twist in the stupidest possible timeline of American politics, I still feel like I'm taking crazy pills! If you're not actively trying to prevent Kavanaugh's confirmation, at least light a candle or something for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We need that lady to remain alive, full of dissenting liberal opinions, and poised to block misogynist bullshit at every turn.
When a dead whale washes up on the beach it isn’t just sad, it’s a massive pain in the rear for the cities that have to clean up the carcass. In 1970, a town in Oregon figured the best thing to do to get rid of a smelly, rotting sperm whale carcass was to blow it up with dynamite. That resulted in one of the most embarrassing fails of the 20th century. Last Monday morning, a two-ton, 16-foot juvenile minke whale washed up on a beach in Rye, New Hampshire. Ashley Stokes, manager of the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue Team, said it’s possible the whale died after being caught up in fishing nets. To learn the whale’s exact cause of death, the city decided to haul it off to a local marine research facility. The carcass was first removed from the beach to a nearby parking lot with a front-end loader. Later, the state arrived with a dumpster to transport the whale. The problem is the city never gave the state the whale’s measurements. But city officials decided to try and dump the poor whale into the dumpster anyway. The result was a horrifying failure.

Unable to move the whale, the city put blockades up around the dead beast and let it sit in the parking lot throughout the night. Representatives from NOAA Fisheries, Fish and Game, and state and local officials arrived at the site on Tuesday morning and assisted with its removal.
Starting college is a scary time for a young adult. Most incoming students enter the campus with a deeply confusing combination of high school-fueled bravado and utter terror. While the terror never truly leaves their bodies, the bravado quickly simmers once the bleak reality of academia settles in. The inevitability of terror is why I firmly believe that schools should do everything in their power to cultivate a welcoming environment where students can flex their curiosity and learn. One way to NOT welcome students is with a highly-gendered promotional material that references blow jobs. A student welcome packet from the University of Sussex has received reasonable backlash after including a sexually overt promotion for a toothpaste brand. As seen here, the image shows a woman with an open, frothing mouth alongside the caption: "Whether you spit or swallow as part of your (twice...) daily oral regime, place your oral health on autopilot with Brushbox."

People were quick to point out how demeaning it is to welcome female students with an image referencing blow jobs. To make matters even grosser, the image of the frothing mouth includes a nose-shaped cut out, presumably so students can hold it up to their face and take a "dirty" selfie. After seeing the backlash, the University of Sussex attempted to shift the blame despite the obvious fact that they had to approve the promotional materials before gifting them. It seems beyond baffling that the University of Sussex needed to "review" the materials and didn't opt to simply remove them ASAP. But then again, the school's response is a classic deflection tactic.

This whole debacle further proves the importance of diversity in marketing teams. Plus, swallowing toothpaste is strongly discouraged by dentists, so the double entendre doesn't really work for the promotion, it's just a blatant blow job reference. At the time of writing this, the school has yet to actually apologize and remove the materials, which is unsurprising but also deeply obnoxious.
You know, instead of doing this blog thing I should be listening to this album...

Ummm... maybe not. So, ever see those tip jars in restaurants or bars? Some places get really creative with them...

Hahaha. Ever play the game Connect 4? Well, there's a new version out now.

That's so stupid. That's as stupid as...

Can I be any more obscure? Man oh man. Haha. Do you know what I think is funny? Old people wearing inappropriate t-shirts. Like this woman...

If I had a TARDIS I would go back in time and find Dorothy Counts who was the first black girl to attend an all white school in the United States. I would defend her from being teased and taunted by her white male peers at Charlotte’s Harry Harding High School.

Arseholes. So, have you seen the new Nike ad? No. I have it here...

So, I was thinking who or what would do a better job that the president. You know who would? I fucking penguin...

I love that pic. So, I love dogs so much, but some dogs could be just plain assholes...

Ha. So, remember when Trump fist pumped on 9/11? Well, apparently that wasn't the first time.

Okay, it's fall, kids, and here's your starter pack...

I said it before, I can't stand the taste of pumpkin. Back in my day pumpkins were drawn on or carved... not put in candles, cookies and coffee. Sheesh. So, I mentioned in the monologue that people are pointing out a major problem with a Women for Brett Kavanaugh photo. Well, there's another group of people as well that are for Kavanaugh...

Hahahaha. Now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Rejected Business One Liners
5. A day without sunshine is like night.
4. A disagreeable task is its own reward.
3. A donkey is a horse designed by a study team.
2. A fail-safe circuit will destroy others.
And the number one rejected business one liner is...
1. A flying particle will seek the nearest eye.

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, before I continue I have to mention something sad. Chas Hodges, from Chas & Dave, who has been on the Phile a few times had passed away. Despite receiving successful treatment for oesophageal cancer recently, Chas suffered organ failure and passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of Saturday September 22nd. Chas & Dave have a brand new album out called "A Little Bit of Us" and he was set to be on the Phile in a few weeks. I was very honored to have him on the Phile a few times and I will always cherish the autographed book he sent me. Chas will be missed.

Alright, so about a month ago I introduced you to a guy who loved the 90s so much he still lives there... in his mind. Let's see what he has to say today. Please welcome back to the Phile...

Ed: Hey, Jason, I'm so glad that Paula Cole is here today. I love her hit song "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" "I will do the laundry if you pay all the bills, where is my John Wayne, where is my prairie song, where is my happy ending, where have all the cowboys gone..." What's up, how's it bangin'?

Me: Ha. Me too. Not bad. So, how are the 90s treating you?

Ed: Good, man. Remember these?

Me: Those plastic girls shoes? Slightly...

Ed: Yeah, when you wanna walk away from your problems but you can't cause you'll get blisters.

Me: Ha.

Ed: Alright, homey, I have to bone out. Cath you later, man.

Me: Ed Enistink, the guy who lives in the 90s, kids.

Like, this has to be too good to be true! It's almost like nothing can be more Canadian than this, not even hockey or the Barenaked Ladies. Alright, now for a story about...

College brochures paint an academic world full of race and gender diversity. We are presented with well-dressed clean cut smiling groups of strangers who are presumably taking a break from researching the cure for cancer, a post-racial portrait of progress. But unfortunately, the reality of the world of academia tends to be a lot less diverse. In fact, the French art school Émile Cohl in Lyon is so homogenous their diversity campaign strategy involved photoshopping students to look black, so essentially, digital blackface. News of the alteration went viral after a former student shared a side-by-side of the original photo and the altered photo on Twitter.

She zoomed in to show some of the examples of the digital blackface, which is not only supremely racist and weird, but also a very subpar photoshop job.

Since reaching viral status, access to the U.S. website has been shut down and the communication company was terminated from their contract. The rest of the Internet is collectively taking minute to loudly ponder how the hell anyone thought this was a good idea. Going forward, the obvious solution would be for the school to work harder to actually be racially inclusive, rather than creating an I Spy side-by-side from corporate hell. The communications company has yet to speak up and explain their decision to blackwash the students, they're probably too busy watching Soul Man.

The Museum of Broken Relationships let's you anonymously drop off items that remind you of your ex, then turns your story into an exhibit. The displays have helped thousands of people heal by giving them the "chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creativity." Starting as a traveling art project in 2006, it's now seen over 45 temporary (and 2 permanent) locations around the world.

The 87th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Ben Watt will be on the Phile next Monday. Okay, so, I'm not sure if sex ed is still being taught in schools, and I believe no matter how old you are sex ed could be handy. So, I thought I'd invite someone onto the Phile to teach us something, Please welcome to the Phile for the first time...

Me: Hello, Professor Chickasaw. How are you?

Liz: Hi, Jason, I'm good. How are you?

Me: Not too bad. So, what can you teach us today?

Liz: Guys masturbating is considered “ha ha funny” (think the movie American Pie), whereas when it comes to women pleasuring themselves, it’s still looked upon as something slightly shameful. When I finally worked up the nerve to go buy a vibrator in university (after I watched that one episode of "Sex and the City" that everyone has seen) it was this clandestine, secretive act. Now that I own a whole drawer full of them, I realize it’s not a big deal at all. Toys are actually really empowering. I wish more people knew this. Plus, teachers always told us to have safe sex. Having sex with yourself is one of the safest kinds of sex around!

Me: Okay. Anything else?

Liz: A clitoris is not a type of dinosaur.

Me: Ha. Thanks, Professor. Professor Liz Chicksaw, kids. She could have moved her arm down. Ha. Now for some...

Phact 1. Donkey Kong got the name because Miyamoto thought “donkey” meant “stupid” in English.

Phact 2. It is possible to get a World Passport from the World Service Authority, a DC-based non-profit who promote “World Citizenship." These have been accepted as travel documents by a small number of countries across the world.

Phact 3. A 12-year-old girl in Queens, New York was arrested, handcuffed, and detained at a police precinct for several hours for doodling on her desk in class.

Phact 4. Japan’s occupation of Hong Kong back in WWII caused the population to drop from 1.6 million to 600,000 in just three years.

Phact 5. Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles sang the studio recording of “Eternal Flame” completely naked due to the producer pranking her by telling her Olivia Newton John had done the same thing. He later told Hoffs he had been lying the whole time.

Today's pheatured guest is an American singer-songwriter. Her single "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1997, and the following year she won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Her latest album "Ballads" is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. Please welcome to the Phile... Paula Cole.

Me: Hey, Paula, how are you doing? Welcome to the Phile. 

Paula: Sure. Thank you so much, Jason.

Me: Your new album "Ballads" is a jazz album which is surprising to me. What made you decide to do a jazz album, Paula?

Paula: It's not my brain that makes these decisions. Its my soul, it kinda guides me there unconsciously. It's just long overdue that I made my own jazz album. I kept singing on other people's jazz albums and I started as a jazz singer. A few people know that but not too many. I needed to do it, my father's getting older and this is for him too as much as it was for me. It was on my bucket list and I needed to do it next. In my heart I knew it.

Me: There's so many genres that you adapted to your jazz style. Billie Holiday to Nina Simone to John Coltrane, even Bob Dylan. How did you go about picking the songs?

Paula: That was so hard. if you came to my own studio you'd see pieces of paper plastered all over the walls with my pen scratch notes. I probably started with about forty songs and we recorded thirty-one. Thirty out of those songs I'm really happy with. I just have too much material, the poor guys thought I was a slave driver. I just had so much to say about and I have waited so long in my life to do it I needed to record a lot of material everyday.

Me: Was it hard to adapt the songs you chose?

Paula: Well, I had arrangements in my head, I wrote them out, also my piano player, she's so amazing, she just did some charts. Most of it was my arranging. I had the consent, I was just trying to widdle it down.

Me: Out of all the songs you recorded how did you end up with the twenty on the album?

Paula: It took a lot of listening to think of what songs go together. I could of skewed it more American, I could of skewed it more jazz. For me one of the big things of the album is to combine these things, the classic America music. It's the great American canon and I think "Ode to Billy Joe" absolutely should be next to "God Bless The Child." A lot of it is blues based, but these are beautiful American classics that I felt should be side by side, regarded side by side. Let's break the genres a little bit, and let's look up the classic nature of these beautiful songs.

Me: What era are the songs on the album, Paula?

Paula: They span the 1930s to the 1960s.

Me: You produced the album as well, right? What was that like?

Paula: Yes, yes. It's very much in my wheel house anyway so I can think about it for a long time before the session, make arrangements, form the band... I've been doing that my whole career for the most part anyway. It's just very much a natural extension.

Me: Some of these songs have been recorded a lot of times I think and some are more unknown... to me anyway. Why do you think that is?

Paula: That's because of all my years listening to a lot of classic singers. I had my own book and my own charts. A lot of it comes from the melody, or do I relate to the lyrics. There are a lot of standards that I don't relate to the lyrics. These songs I put together because I love the lyrics. I heard Billie Holiday sing "I Cover the Waterfront" with the long verse intro. I knew I needed to do that, it's a very old song.

Me: Okay. Paula, when did you first start singing?

Paula: I started off being a jazz singer in the lines and the clubs of Boston and Cambridge area all through my student days.

Me: I never heard the song "Never Will I Marry." Why did you pick that one?

Paula: Because I'm just a fan of jazz and Cannonball Adderly and Nancy Wilson. It's just an usual tune, we don't hear it very often. It's probably the most swinging upbeat tune, that's got layered trumpets on it. That's just me being a fan of f it. Singers like Nancy Wilson and Billie Holiday, just listening, being a jazz singer, living inside the songs.

Me: Have you sang any of these songs before in the past?

Paula: I've sang some since my late teens, in jazz clubs, or the airport Hilton lounge in Boston at Logan airport. Haha.

Me: Ha. What about "Farewell My Friend"? Where did that come from? That'll be a good song to play at my funeral. Hahaha.

Paula: I've done some on-line research and I don't know. It comes from the 1800s and it's traditional. That's the oldest song that's different from all the others. Like I said earlier, they are mostly from the 30s and the 60s but "Farewell My Friends" is a traditional piece that was brought to my attention. I'll be glad to sing it live at your funeral though.

Me: Thanks. Okay, so, what does "Naima" mean?

Paula: I wish I knew myself. I have these jazz standards book at home by the piano and I've been leafing through them since I was 17-years-old. My dads fake books and real books too, and I came across "Naima," I mean I would just go through the A's, the B's and the C's, get to the end and there's "Naima" and it was just so different from other songs.

Me: If you started out singing jazz standards, Paula, why did you become a pop singer so to speak? 

Paula: Because the lyrics weren't always right, I wanted to write my own lyrics.

Me: Okay, so, the album is called "Ballads" but not all the songs are ballads. Twenty ballads would of been boring I think. Hahaha. Did you plan on just having ballads on the album?

Paula: No, not at all. As a producer and someone thinking about the whole of the project. I need release, I need uptempo songs to sequence the album well. I needed uptempo, different feels, different keys, but I love ballads. I do ballads best, me singing a standard ballad has always been my mother's favorite thing that I do. I don't know, I think it's one of the specialties for me. I knew my favorite songs were a majority ballads. I looked up the definition of a ballad and it's not necessarily a slow tempo song. It's mostly the telling of a story. For instance, "The Ballad of Hollis Brown" by Bob Dylan, it's the tittle of the song from "The Times Are A'Changing" album. He's telling the story of the poor farmer and his five kids and his wife on the South Dakota farm. A ballad is more than a slow tempo piece of music. We also come to know it as a slow piece of music, yes, it's the second definition, but it's all those things. Again I wanted to break down the confines of what we think music is. Some people think "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" is a country track but if you play it next to what Billie Holiday's version is it sounds pretty much the same, and yet we think of jazz or country is more Americana. What are these things? Music should be inclusive and I think it's more breaking down of genres and bringing people together.

Me: Okay, let's talk about some other stuff. I didn't realize until I read your bio that you sang back-up for Peter Gabriel. What was that like?

Paula: That was such an amazing experience for me. I love his music so much. I was just so grateful for the experience. I learned so much, and I learned too that I wanted to be my own artist. He was an amazing teacher. I just felt so lucky to be there.

Me: How did you get that part, Paula? Did you have to audition?

Paula: A producer named Kevin Killen who produced my first album "Harbinger," it was Kevin who gave it to David Rhodes who is Peter's best mate and the musical director of his touring band. David is very picky and Peter trusts his judgement a lot. David heard to and said, "You need to listen to this, Peter." "Harbinger" was recorded and in the can waiting to be released, I'm touring around in coffee houses in America but its not released. Peter heard it and just point blank called my answering machine and asked me to join the tour. He had that much faith in it that. I think he did ask Kevin if I could handle this and he said absolutely. I was flown to Germany on Halloween in 1993, I had one rehearsal with Peter. We sang "Don't Give Up" and that night I was thrown out in front of 16,000 Germans. I had to be ready for that, I've seen the tour a couple of times. There were two stages, lots of moving parts, and I was ready because I was such a fan of the music.

Me: You went to Berklee like so many people I interviewed over the years here on the Phile, but you now teach there, am I right?

Paula: Correct. I'm a full time professor. I'm there two days a week and they allow me to sub out so that I can work. That's a wonderful arrangement and I feel appreciative by them. It's my alma mater like you said, and I have beautiful friendships, people that I went to school with are my friends and also faculty so it's a wonderful community, special place in the world. its very good to be back, and I have in the academic year to go to and be involved in the next generation. I learn a lot as much from them, it's a changing world and I'm looking at it through their eyes as well.

Me: Cool. So, what do you teach?

Paula: I teach how to communicate with a band and ensembles. I do teach some private voice, but mostly I teach songwriting, It kinda is a therapeutic process, generally we do listening and I try to give them some of the great artists like the Joni Mitchells and the John Lennons, these are autobiographical writers who are courageous and who changed over the course of their career. They were brave to change and lose some of their fan base, like Joni did, when she did her "Mingus" album. Or John Lennon when we went into primal scream therapy, quit the Beatles and found Yoko and came out with the Plastic Ono Band. It happens to be one of my favorite albums and I think it's important that people see the arc of a life time of a real artist, someone who is questing and thirsting to change and was brave that way. I'm trying to put them on a course for thinking outside the box and look within.

Me: So, what's next for you?

Paula: I want to write a book but that's getting a little demanding for me in my subconscious. And another live album. There are definitely some things on the bucket list, and when the feeling hits I will be writing and gathering material.

Me: Cool. Paula, thanks so much for being on the Phile. When your book comes out I'll have you back on the Phile. Take care and continued success.

Paula: Thanks, Jason, I'd love to come back. You were wonderful.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Paul Cole for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Thursday with singer Andrew W.K. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker