Saturday, March 13, 2010

Recipe - The Amazing New ProTools Plugin!

I have an idea for a new plugin for ProTools and other, ahem, digital audio workstations — you know, the applications that enable people like me to produce records on their computers. Sort of in the way AutoTune or Melodyne adjusts pitch according to the user’s instructions, this plugin, which I might call Recipe, or Ingredients, or Hidey-Ho, would enable the user to transform the sounds of whole completed tracks by entering certain values in little boxes.

Say, for instance, that you wanted to sound like the Rolling Stones of Out of Our Heads. You might add 30 percent Muddy Waters to 30 percent Chuck Berry to 20 percent Motown to 20 percent Otis Redding. Or how about the "Surf Safari"-era Beach Boys? Let’s say 20 percent The Ventures, 25 percent Chuck Berry, and 55 percent The Four Preps. Tom Petty? 45 percent Byrds (themselves, in their classic original incarnation, 50 percent The Beatles, 50 percent Pete Seeger), 45 percent Stones, 10 percent Dylan. Prince? Let’s try 33 percent James Brown, 33 percent Jimi Hendrix, and 33 percent Sly & The Family Stone.

Are you getting the hang of it yet? The early Beatles? Does 15 percent The Marvelettes, 10 percent Chuck Berry, 15 percent Little Richard, 15 percent Buddy Holly, 20 percent the Everly Bros., 15 percent Carl Perkins, and 10 percent Tin Pan Alley sound about right?

Where this is really easy is for slavishly imitative acts, or those just starting out. Motley Crue? 50 percent Kiss and 50 percent Aerosmith. Early Dylan? 100 percent Woody Guthrie. Janis Joplin? 50 percent Ma Rainey and 50 percent Bessie Smith. Where it’s extremely difficult is for one of those acts that’s managed to become much more than the sum of its influences. You could give yourself an aneurysm trying to concoct the recipe for the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles.

In any event, all I need now is a team of brilliant software engineers who are happy to work on spec.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pictures of Lily (A Nation's Shame)

Well, it’s not nearly as bad as their having re-elected Bushandcheney in 2004, but I’m still beside myself. The people have just voted the sublime Lily Scott off American Idol. In the UK, which has always had infinitely better taste in pop music, she’d have made the Final Two. In the UK, they'd be carrying her around on their shoulders. A nation’s shame!

There wasn’t anything about Lily I didn’t love. I loved her weird, distinctive singing, and her musicality. I loved her ash-blonde hair, cut so as to evoke Jane Fonda’s in Klute. I loved that she looks like Claire, and I love her immoderate eye makeup; pictures of Lily made my life so wonderful!

She could have been the new Cyndi Lauper, that invigorating, that delightful. Instead, we've got Siobhan Magnus, who's occasionally wonderful, but nowhere near as original; the competent, implacably dour Bowersox (lips that touch the repertoire of Tracy Chapman shall never touch mine); and the firm of Wacky Hairstyle, Tearful, Boringly Precocious, and Just Plain Boring, But of Color.

I'd love to stay and keep chatting, but I have to send letters to all of Idol's sponsors advising that I will never buy their products again. I'd sooner starve, or take the bus.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Good Man Whom I Admire

After the stroke that immobilized him, my mother wouldn’t let my dad come home for fear there’d be a fire and she wouldn’t be able to drag him to safety; he found himself in the same grimy Santa Monica convalescent hospital where my mother's mother would soon die. I left these decisions to my parents, and will go to my own grave filled with shame for having allowed my dad to die in such a miserable setting.

Not that he’d have been easy to move. He might have been severely disgruntled, but not to the point of considering spending money on himself, not this second son of one of those Jewish families in which all hopes had been pinned on, and every spare cent invested in, the firstborn son. When I spent a day taking him around to other care facilities in the area, all of them brighter and fresher-smelling, he rejected them on the basis of their being more expensive.

That my parents spent so little on their own comfort almost certainly had to do in large part with their wanting to leave me and my sister as much as they could. What they left, given the frugality they taught me, might have lasted the rest of my life if not for the fucking recession. How deeply infuriating to think of all my parents’ (and tens of millions of other parents’) years of self-denial coming to nothing because of the greed and megalomania of the million-dollar-bonus boys on Wall Street.

My dad had hoped as a very young man to be a medical illustrator, but it didn’t work out for him. Once having allowed my mother to talk him into relocating to LA (from Washington, DC), he sold toys in Westwood Village and equestrian supplies in Santa Monica before getting a drafting job at Hughes Aircraft, where he spent the next 35 years; in the world my dad lived in, a job was a lifetime thing, as too was a marriage, however loveless. Not counting my mother's ever-more-naked loathing, he hardest thing I ever saw him have to go through was an extended period of unemployment in the early 70s when Hughes’s aerospace division tightened its belt and laid him off. I think he felt invalidated, confused and adrift. A part of me is glad he didn’t live to see how intimately his own son would come to know those feelings in his own life.

My dad’s greatest pleasures were in drawing caricatures and in flirting with women. At one point, he hooked up with an agent of some sort who’d get him caricature bookings at different events, fairs and corporate wingdings and so on. I think it was very aggressive flirting that caused this agent to stop representing him. It must have broken my dad’s heart.

There was bacon in my household when I was a child, but never pork per se, eating which had famously sickened my dad at one point in his early twenties. But when I invited him to lunch one day in my 28th summer, he scanned the daily specials, ascertained that a pork dish was the cheapest thing on offer, and ordered it. He’d have given me his last dollar, but couldn’t bear the thought of my spending a dime more on his meal than I had to.

On approximately a million occasions, I’d go outside — my mother forbade him to smoke inside — to ensure my dad was still breathing after my mother had sliced him up with her tongue. He would blithely remind me that all married couples argue; I felt as though living in a Lewis Carroll novel. After my dad's death, my mother told me all she’d ever wanted was to see if just once she could make him stand up for himself. For my dad, though, any attention was as pleasurable as any other. He might actually have been more comfortable with my mother’s avid contempt; when I got old enough to be able to embrace him at the end of visits and tell him I loved him, he was mostly embarrassed.

I failed during their lifetimes to even begin to appreciate how much my parents loved me. I post this in honor of the 93rd anniversary of my dad’s birth — and a couple of days after the eighth anniversary of the last time my daughter deigned to speak to me. What goes around really does come around.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Money-Making Idea!

It remains my belief that people don’t watch American Idol for the music. If someone wanted to hear terrific singing, there are literally millions of tracks he or she could download from iTunes, my own among 'em. What attracts a huger viewership to Idol than any other program on TV, I'm convinced, is the opportunity to witness real humiliation and real courage.

Certainly sports fans get to see lots of humiliation. But whereas the quarterback who’s thrown a virtually game-ending interception, the batter who’s struck out with the bases loaded and his team behind in the bottom of the ninth, and the basketball player who misses free throws that might have tied and then won the game with half a second left on the clock are all allowed to cry or upend the water cooler in the locker room before they confront the press, the Idol contestant who’s just sung his or her little heart out is expected to stand there grinning bravely while the judges tell him how awful he was — and then be tearlessly thoughtful and philosophical when Ryan Seacrest asks immediately thereafter if his fresh wounds hurt!

For my money, the 17-year-old girl who manages not to burst into tears while being informed that her song choice was idiotic, her singing shrill and off-key, and her hairstyle unbecoming demonstrates far greater courage than the college football coach who, 30 minutes after his heavily favored team was beaten, finally emerges from his office to snarl at reporters about how they wouldn’t be asking such stupid questions if they understood the game a tenth as well as he.

If my analysis is correct, the idea I’ve just had will enable some enterprising TV producer to make a great deal of money: Let children compete, with the understanding that the judges will pull no punches because of a contestant's age. It’s really just a case of incorporating into the present Idol format juvenile beauty pageants of the sort that became notorious after the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

Can’t you just picture hundreds of millions of American being riveted by the spectacle of Randy Jackson advising the recent winner of, say, Little Miss Chocolate Drop that her rendition of Aretha’s "Natural Woman" “just didn’t work for me, dawg; know’m sayin’? I just don’t think singing’s your thing, dude.” After the countless thousands of dollars’ worth of lessons! After the cruelly truncated childhood! Picture Ellen Degenerate telling a five-year-old who’s just emoted her way through Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself” that the song might have been a little old for her. How could you not watch? Picture a 7-year-old tarted up like a 22-year-old listening with meticulously glossed little lower lip all a-tremble while Simon Cowell complains that her version of Nilsson’s “Without You” sounded like a kitten being tortured.

Now, that would be entertainment!

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Cherlize Theron and the Shuttle to Oblivion

Let’s imagine, just for the fun of it, that a superior (what a tall order!) race of aliens informed the White House that if we Americans don’t shoot the 1000 most despicable among us into space within 96 hours, let’s say, they were going to use technology unfathomable to even the most brilliant terrestrial physicist to extend Mexico’s northern border up to Canada’s southern one.

I believe any right-thinking American would suggest Dick Cheney, our Great National Villain, for the first seat on the shuttle to oblivion, and the Goldman Sachs and like greedheads responsible for the recession for several rows of their own. Then you’ve got your Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs, your Hannitys and Bill O’Reillys, your Michelle Malkins and Ann Coulters, that whole bunch.

Here’s where it gets interesting. I would reserve several seats for persons who make their livings by, for instance, ridiculing the dresses various female movie stars wore to this or that awards ceremony or other red-carpet occasion. Is there a lower form of life than the woman who mocks for money the Oscars dress choice of, say, Charlize Theron, who is presumably 40 million times more attractive and talented than she’ll ever dream of being? I'd be willing to bet that most such women have as husbands or boyfriends guys who, at the sight of a mullet, jump up and down as though four and drool all over themselves with delight at the prospect of getting to disapprovingly gurgle, "Mullet!"

And while we’re at it, how about those talking heads on the Fuckups of the Superstars shows you see on VH1 and the like? There’s one, a whiney little Asian who looks as though somebody tried to push the front of her face through the back of her head, but lost interest in the job halfway through, who’s forever rolling her eyes about the brattishness of the Lindsays and Britneys of the world. The Lindsays and Britneys of the world do indeed seem brattish, if we believe what we’re told about them; wat bothers me about the whiney little Asian is that she works so hard at giving the impression that she was right there in the passenger seat, privy to Lindsay’s faintest moodswing. She’s every star’s confidante, you see! My guess is that she knows no more than you or I do, and you and I know only what we hear on Fuckups of the Superstars.

Speaking of Cheney, his extremely attractive and talented daughter Liz, the non-lesbo one, recently accused nine Justice Department lawyer who’d represented accused Guantanamo detainees of being the "al-Qaida Seven," employees of the "Department of Jihad.” In This Great Nation of Ours, as that other great American, Sarah Palin, puts it, Daddy’s Little Girl seems to agree that everyone is entitled to a vigorous legal defense — unless he or she is known by one of the Cheney family, with exactly as much first-hand knowledge as the little VH1 Asian has about Linday Lohan’s sobriety, to have been guilty of terrorism.

I personally would like to see La Cheney tarred and feathered for her public opposition to the Sixth Amendment, but would settle for her being disbarred. Or maybe she’d enjoy a nice rocket ride, right alongside her handsome papa.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Strange Rigidity of Floppy Disks

In November 1974, during his famous months-long Lost Weekend estrangement from Yoko Ono, John Lennon famously did a lot of drinking at the Troubadour in West Hollywood with Harry Nilsson. On one occasion, they were thrown out for loudly urging the Smothers Bros., on stage at the time, to fuck a cow. On another, a drunken Lennon, having zanily affixed a sanitary napkin to his forehead, asked a waitress who was clearly not enjoying serving him if she knew who he was. “Yes,” she is said to have said, “an asshole with a Kotex on his head.”

Nearly 36 years after the fact, FAITP is able to disclose that the quick-witted waitress, Jacqueline (Jacqui) Ginsberg, now a successful chiropodist in Marin County, California, didn’t actually say that at all. “What I said,” she recalls, “was, ‘Yeah, an asshole.’ I did know who he was — I’d been a huge Beatles nut, though more of a George person — but was too intimidated for long-windedness.”

She wonders if the Kotex addendum was the work of the same unseen press agent responsible for Lennon’s own famous quote from Foyle’s Literary Luncheon in 1964. Following the publication of In His Own Write, a collection of his Thurberish cartoons and pun-filled prose, the then-Beatle was feted by London’s most prestigious bookseller. After lunch, he was supposed to get up and address the assembled literati. He stumbled up to the dais, mumbled, “Uh, thank you all very much. God bless you,” and returned to his seat. In the papers, though, he was reported to have cheekily advised his audience, “You have a lucky face,” as English beggars used to do when someone dropped a coin in their cups.

Months after the incident, attorney Gloria Allred, who’d heard about the incident in Rolling Stone, managed to deduce from interviews with members of the Troubadour staff that it had been Ginsberg who’d let fly the celebrated Kotex quip. She urged her to allow him to file suit against the former Beatle, alleging that he’d caused her emotional distress, “but it just didn’t seem right at the time. If one of us suffered emotional distress, it was John, who obviously wasn’t used to being spoken to as I’d spoken to him, and who was visibly bummed until he sneaked out of the club maybe 15 minutes later after leaving me a $20 tip.”

It was only 15 months later, after discovering she was pregnant by one (or another!) of the club’s bartenders, that Ginsberg reconsidered. She was crestfallen to learn, though, that a statute of limitations precluded her suing for emotional distress more than one year after the precipitant incident. She had her daughter, Pisces, out of wedlock, was disowned by her mortified Jewish parents, and fought alcoholism while trying to establish herself as an astrologist to the country rock stars.

Eventually, she realized, as all rational people ultimately must, that astrology is sheerest poppycock, and got herself a job in the human resources department of a company that manufactured what were called floppy disks even though many of them — the smaller ones — were actually quite rigid. She was wooed by and wed the company’s warehouseman, who’d been more of a Paul person, and from whom she kept her participation in the famous Lennon/Kotex incident secret for years. “I was surprised,” she admits, “by how, well, arousing he found the whole thing when I did finally tell him; our sex life took a real upswing there for about a month.”

Following their divorce, Ginsberg studied chiropody first by mail and then on line before becoming a licensed chiropodist in mid-1993. “Ever since the Troubadour days, when I was on my own for hours at a stretch, I’ve been fascinated by feet.

“Without them, what would we stand on?”

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