Wednesday, September 11, 2013
That being said: I am going to be devilishly hard to get ahold of for a while. Forget about phoning me for the foreseeable future, and forget any email address you may have on file.
The best way to get vital correspondence, paying propositions, and serious queries to my attention is via [jack dot feerick dot says at gmail dot com].
Idle or fatuous inquiries, as always, will be ignored.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
There are thirty-odd chapters still in the archives, and I may eventually put some up on the workblog (which I really ought to update, I know), but you'll have to dig for them yourself. If you are sincerely put out about this, maybe drop me a line on jack dot feerick dot says at gmail dot com and I'll see what I can do about getting a manuscript copy to you, when such things are ready.
In the meantime, again, you can usually find me on Twitter, often in the process of losing my mind. Thanks for reading.
Monday, May 06, 2013
Not sure what I'm going to do with this place, to be honest. It's mostly just collecting comment spam for boner pills now; and I've got to wonder how long Google will continue to support the Blogger platform anyway. The model seems, if not actually dead, then certainly dying.
This is the curse of being a consistently late adopter — getting onboard with a service just as it inevitably begins to crumble under the weight of its own limitations. Sometimes I feel like a harbinger of the apocalypse; as soon as I get into something, it goes away.
That's why I'm still not on Facebook — as a mercy to all of you who are. Because I would kill it for sure.
Anyway. Now you know where to find me; I'll see you around, maybe.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Taking a skip week for Fiction Friday. Longtime readers (hello, both of you!) may remember that I've been pretty much dumping stuff straight from the longhand notebook into MS Word; but Chapter 55 — currently entitled "The Morning Brigades" — has undergone some offline tweaking, and I'm taking some time out from posting for transcription, reshuffling, and minor surgery to this chapter and the next two (to be called "Iron To Sharpen Iron" and "The Queen's Remedy").
Absent any new writing content, enjoy a couple of fresh mixtapes, both themed, both kind of funny (IMHO) and both featuring some pretty rockin' tunes (IM incredibly subjective and easily-discreditable O).
Sunday, July 03, 2011
- An impromptu a cappella tear through “Bohemian Rhapsody” that starts in ragged three-part harmonies and collapses into helpless laughter on the kitchen floor.
- Tiny sidewise flick of the wrist answered by the hiss of fishing line on the reel and, much later, a faraway splash.
- The passage from full sun into leafy shade, and the incremental temperature drop.
- A tug on the starter rope yielding a finely-calibrated resistance and then the satisfying roar of a small gas engine.
- The thump and smack of baseball into mitt.
- An idea, then another, turning in your head like 3-D puzzle pieces, then locking together. Then another. And again.
- Cat’s sandpaper tongue against your thumb.
- Cottonwood tree’s leaves rippling in a stiff breeze like half a million little green flags, and banishing Cole Porter from your mind’s ear long enough to hear it for what it really is.
- First sip of shandygaff, mixed cold in a plastic cup on a hot day.
- Success against odds; virtue rewarded. The first and truest of pleasures.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
(a play in one act)
CURTAIN RISES on a gathering SCHOLARS of soul music. They are discussing the work and legacy of Michael Jackson.
…at this point, the contribution of Quincy Jones cannot be ignored. It really ties Michael into the continuum of great American music.
Oh, agreed. Those vocal harmonies on the bridge—they’re arranged like the saxophones on an Ellington tune. Just sublime.
While the Scholars are conversing, a WHITE ROCK FAN enters.
WHITE ROCK FAN
How dare you discuss the legacy of Michael Jackson without mentioning Eddie’s solo on “Beat It”? That was a watershed moment! It was an unprecedented fusion of rock and R&B! It introduced hard rock to an entirely new demographic!
The WHITE ROCK FAN stands, pale and sweaty, as the SCHOLARS stare at him for a beat.
Well, yeah. But we’re talking about Off the Wall.
WHITE ROCK FAN
(a moment of dumbstruck silence: then suddenly shouts, throwing the horns)
VAN HALEN 4 LIFE!
Runs madly for the exit, leaving the SCHOLARS bemused.
Viz. (scroll down for the comments)
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Today is D’s birthday. The piece up at Popdose today does not mention that fact, though it does mention that it was she who gave the CD under review — Famille Nombreuse, by les Négresses Vertes, a record that looms improbably large in my personal pop pantheon.
I might have made more of that fact, though. Because it occurs to me that my takeaway from Famille Nombreuse — the joyous spirit of collaboration, the raucous democracy of voices, above all the marvelous, terrifying feeling of Us vs. The World, the feeling that all life is a bloody gang war and that your survival is primarily a function of who you’ve got in your gang — lines up pretty clearly with the lessons of 25+ years of knowing her.
Happy birthday, darlin’. This is a pretty grand adventure wherein we find ourselves, after all.
Monday, June 06, 2011
My review of Simon Pegg's memoir Nerd Do Well is now live at Kirkus Reviews. I have nothing witty to say about it right now, but I do have some thoughts on British TV comedy and the nature of the collaborative process that will (I hope) soon form the basis of a substantial post. So, y'know, there's that.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
- Make it your own, and
- First, do no harm.
For most of the singers on American Idol and The Voice, the second rule never seems to occur to them. Part of that comes down to a cultural difference; most of the interpreters I love best come out of the traditions of folk and jazz, where the central creative activity is the writing and collection of songs, and the performer is generally conscious of his or her role as a keeper of the canon. (This is true also in rock, though to a lesser extent.)
In the modern R&B model, though, the division of labor is different. The focus is all on the individual singer—her flash, her melisma, her technical chops and outsized personality. The songwriter, who is often also the producer, tailors the material to suit the artist with whom he is working. A song is never just a song—it’s a part of the total packaging of the singer, and as such is almost unworthy of consideration as an object in itself.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, and sometimes it can work spectacularly well. The songwriting and production teams behind Beyoncé or Katy Perry or Rhianna have created bodies of song that convey distinct personas. The flipside, though, is that the song is inextricable from the performance. It is less an artistic statement in itself than a vehicle; it’s not about letting the song shine through—it’s about letting the singer shine, period.
The problem comes when the two models collide. Given material not specifically tailored to them, most performers in the diva mode—male or female—will respond by trying to pummel it into submission with sheer technical brilliance, and the results can be ghastly. Mary J. Blige was never going to disappear into U2’s “One,” but her attempt to turn this thing of solemn beauty into an explosive celebration of her own fabulous Mary J. Blige-ness sounds, to my ears, just cringeworthy.
On the other hand, when a great song and a great singer do come together in the right spirit, amazing things can happen. But it takes audacity, and the greater the potential for genius, the bigger the risk of an utter trainwreck. So whenever a show like Idol gets close to a song that I love as a song, I go to a default position of horrified optimism—hoping for something transcendent, steeling myself for a hot mess. It’s especially true of theme nights and guest mentors. I didn’t catch any of this season, but memories of the Beatles night from a few seasons ago are still fresh. The music of the Beatles, of course, is incredibly sturdy, and has already put up with a lot of abuse; but the threat of hearing an all-time favorite mauled gave the evening a real charge.
(The disaster never occurred, really, which was in some sense a disappointment—none of the contestants showed the fearlessness necessary for a real overreach, and the whole thing left me fantasizing about how much more daring they could have been both in song choice and approach. I remember there was a beatboxer guy that year, and I started thinking about what Beatles songs, if any, could stand up to that kind of extended vocal techniques. Imagine a performance of “Tomorrow Never Knows” that segued into a prolonged break of Mongolian-style throat singing…)
And, y’know, it’ll never happen, but I still hope for (and fear) a Richard Thompson theme night. With a songwriter of such tremendous range and versatility, with such a vast catalogue in such a multitude of styles, a careful musical director could find something to suit any conceivable kind of voice and performing style. Bonus points if Thompson himself could somehow be persuaded to appear on the show as a coach; what a splendidly awkward two hours of television that could be, all blank stares and simmering contempt.
Even better is The Voice, which announces the supremacy of the performer over the song right in the title. What’s interesting is the insight that it gives us into the coaches—this season it’s Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo, C&W cipher Blake Shelton and that scumbag out of Maroon 5. They pick the initial group of singers, select material for them, and work up arrangements. Shelton and Christina tend to stay in their respective wheelhouses, while Cee-Lo is almost ridiculously eclectic in his tastes and has a sure hand across genres.
Maroon 5 guy, though, seems overwhelmed. It took him forever to assemble his team, and now, saddled with young R&B style singers, he keeps saddling them, with ill-fitting rock material. Last week, he had two big-voiced divi facing off on a rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.” It was ambitious but spectacularly wrong-headed. I’ve written before about the pitfalls and temptations of covering Radiohead in general but “Creep,” man, “Creep”—how deaf to nuance do you have to be to take a song so steeped in self-loathing, such a visceral expression of low self-esteem and shattered self-confidence, and turn it over to singers whose default mode is swagger, to be transformed into a vehicle for showboating?
That’s the problem with most of the alt-rock canon—there’s an element of chill and vulnerability that’s going create an inevitable emotional disconnect between the singer and the song, and it’s going to be embarrassing for both parties. That being said, I cast my mind over thirty years to the New Wave, looking for something that would combine the cool factor of an unexpected song choice with the emotional maximalism that would best showcase these singers, and I came up with this…
…which is so crazy that it just could work.
Oh, and one last thing, not precisely related—maybe it’s just me, but I think the Glee kids could absolutely tear up this one:
I am old, I know. But is this just the Alzheimer’s talking?
Sunday, May 29, 2011
So I'm standing at the self-service bottle return, feeding empties into the machine one by one to the satisfying crunch and cymbal-splash of broken glass. I'm reaching down into the cardboard box that of late held a double dozen of Sam Adams longnecks, and I see at the bottom of the box there's some loose change. Two dimes and a nickel, in fact. And God help me, the first thought that occurs: Holy shit, they've been redeeming themselves while I'm not looking.
Which is pretty much how it should be, isn't it?