Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Rachel's Audio Blog About How Ken Dumped Barbie for Bob the Builder

This relates to the audio blog which should follow.

Rachel and I were in the bathtub tonight when she began to regale me with this wacky story about how Ken dumped Barbie for Bob the Builder. Her bathtub version was much longer and more involved and had moments where Bob the Builder picked his nose and stuck the buggers in his hair as ornaments. In the original version, Ken really bought the dress for Bob the Builder from Sam's for $1.99. She says she hates the way she sounds in the blog because she is using her "boy voice" at times.

She's in bed next to me right now and, out of nowhere, just told me that she was in the army when she died. I asked her what that was about and she said that it was before she was born, and she was a boy. She also thinks she was a weird looking boy. She covered her head and with the sheets and said it was what she looked like before they out her in the tomb. She also said they put her faced down because people might look at her and cry and cry and get tears all over the floor. She said she died in her sleep and she was not in any war, even though she was in the army.

She just told me that she wasn't sure if any of it was true and that she started making it up after I asked what the remark was all about.

I said before that she can be difficult and that is true. But she is wonderful the rest of the time. And thoroughly entertaining.

Rachel's Audio Blog

this is an audio post - click to play

Low-Down Sunday Morning

The Seven Deadly Sins have their own website. I'd send them a letter of congratulations but that might make them feel pride in their own accomplishment.

I felt like I needed a refresher on them, since surely one of them is behind every joyfulness-killing blunder. Which one this time? According to
their site:

Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.
Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.
Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.
Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.
Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.
Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.
Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

I think Pride may have killed my Fun Saturday Night.

First, given my previous post, I was thinking along the lines of how it might be fun to document what a suburban Super Walmart looks like after 2:00 am. The purpose of our trip was to buy birthday gifts for two 8 year-old friends of my daughter. We needed to get them that night for a swimming party to which we'd take her at the God-forsaken-jive-hour of 10:00 am the next morning.

Then Pride reminded me of other approaches to the photo shoot. It told me I should feel "special" because I can so happily bask in a heretofore unknown experience of bliss with a man I'd known for twenty years before figuring out such a thing was possible.

Then Pride said, "Take pictures of your man in action and show how silly you both are how much fun you have. Never reveal that it is not always blissful. Never reveal that when it's not, it's usually because of me, Pride, masquerading as self-importance and telling you what to do. Now, be a good girl and listen. Do what I say. Paint the lovely picture of your Walmart escapades and maybe my sister, Envy, will visit others. Oh, forget I said that because then you won't do what I want you to do. Now. Go out and document your fun times with photos and we'll visit later."

I obediently listened.

"Renard, let me take your picture in the empty Walmart parking lot."

He said he'd rather not be photographed. OK. I didn't tell him why I wanted to take photos and he didn't ask at first. Nice shot of empty aisles. He's becoming curious about my mission and I give him some kind of brush-off.

Off to the toy area. As I look around, he jumps on a banana bike and rides it around the aisles. SNAP. Damn! He's too fast. I'm trying so hard to get a good shot with my little cell phone camera. I get one that's okay, not great. He's becoming suspicious now. What's up with this photographic fervor?

"Renard, ride the stick pony for me!"

Now, it's so obvious that I have a secret motive and I've completely ignored the fact that these moments, while occurring frequently, must occur spontaneously. I'm so attached to getting the picture I want that I am killing every chance of having the rest of the night be magical. I'm not getting my way and now I'm MAD.

Pride just cleverly tricked me into inviting brother Anger to join us. Anger is the boss of the Party Poopers Union. He wins in most negotiations and then the fun is over. Uptown Saturday Night ends in Low Down Harahan Walmart, despite Renard's eventual appearance on a stick pony, parading in front of the sulking Lisa who is now sitting on a Walmart park bench near the cereal aisle. I refuse to photograph him. The thrill is gone. Shame on me for eschewing this good man's efforts to whip Anger's ass and send him back to whence he came.

I'm a true idiot if I don't learn from this.

As always, Renard and I work our way through a bunch of things and come out better in the end. I'm truly thankful that we can do that. I just hope, humbly, that we will never lose this. I have had a feeling for a long time now that I am supposed to be diligently working on the deconstruction my ideas of who and what I am so that I can replace them with their higher truths. The dynamics of a relationship seem to put these things right in our faces, if our eyes are open to them. So, as much as I hate having to confront these ugly moments of myself, they are tremendous opportunities for growth. And for that, I am most grateful for Renard and his part in at all.

Now, this is what Super Walmart looks like around 3:00 AM...including a picture of him on the banana bike, presented with his permission.

This is by far the BEST time to visit this store.

Renard found the perfect gift for the birthday girls.

My man, caught in a moment, doing his thing.

Ride a white mare in the footsteps of dawn...

Keep it clean.

Keep it stocked.

And I appreciate that they keep it open 24 hours a day and keep it cheap.

Up next, The Epic continues.
Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Uptown Saturday Night

I'm long on blog promises and short on delivery. Got lost last night reading other people's blogs and didn't write any more. Got tied up today with household business and the trying nature of my adorable but sometimes incredibly difficult just-turned-eight-years-old daughter. I know I was not an easy child, but I was nothing like she is. This statement is not a self-concept preservation tactic but a simple fact, according to the witnesses of my childhood days. She's wrung me out. I'm dropping her off at Granny's for the night (along with her 16 year old brother) so I can spend the rest of the evening doing things I want to do.

First on my agenda is to do some tracking in my little neat-o-home-studio. Too many unfinished songs. I'm always inspired at the beginning of any semester when I teach music marketing and have great intentions to get things in some form that I can share without a dozen disclaimers.

The bass track isn't right.... The D string is out of tune from the 5th fret up. This bass still has intonation problems, despite my many efforts at remedying them.... I had a cold the day I did that vocal track... Oh, the mix is terrible on this. I'm still working on it... I still don't have lyrics except on the chorus for this one and I'm just noodling around.

I understand that I am not the only one afflicted with this disease of not feeling one's music has reached a state where it's worthy of the scrutiny of the masses. My love-man-and-ultimate-partner (that's a cell phone picture of us below) has been working for almost two years on his solo CD. Working solo, as well. He is an amazing guitar player who also plays trombone and percussion as well as some bass, drums, trumpet, and enough keyboards to do what he needs to in the studio. So he's doing everything himself, including engineering, in his studio which is the real thing, unlike mine. He used to operate it commercially several years ago. Now he spends countless hours there trying to perfect everything. He's got guest vocalists (including me in a few background spots) and a sax player on it, but everything else is him. We're all waiting for the day when he decides it's good enough to be finished. Pray for him.

I haven't been working on my own music for a while because I haven't really had the inspiration. I'm feeling a bit of it now, but I work better when I am alone and when I have the free time. I have the kids around more often than not.

So, I'm off to drop them at Granny's. Then maybe I'll work on some music before Renard gets here for our Saturday Night Scrabble and Love Fest. He wants to spend some extra time in the studio, so that will give me a little extra time to actually work on my songs. Afterwards, we might even squeeze in a 1:00AM trip to Super Walmart tonight to slow-drag in the liquor aisle and play with the ponies-on-a stick. This is what jaded New Orleans musician-couples do on an off Saturday night. Okay. So it's really only Renard who rides the toy pony, doing a most enviable impression of those Calvary guys from obscure Louisiana towns who parade their horses in awkward sidestepping trots through Mardi Gras parade routes.

God, we have so much fun together!

Don't expect me back for the next 36 hours...

Friday, August 27, 2004

Once Upon a Time, Musically- Part One of the Epic

I realize that it's time I get over my little irk about the lost posting effort and find my way from my musical then to now, as promised. The inspiration generated by my new batch of Music Marketing students and my self-flagellation for not tending to this blog have done their job. So, on we go. It's a long read, so get comfy.

To say that music is and has been an large feature in my personal landscape would be a huge understatement. I come from a very musical family. Everyone sings and sings well, with the exception of my brother, who plays drums and actually studied music in college. To this day, he is the only drummer I know who can actually read charts. My dad apparently showed such great promise on the trumpet that a renowned teacher offered him free lessons as a teen, but decided it was too much effort to make the short ride on his bike to Loyola University every week. I think he regretted this decision all his life.

With the exception of my brother, someone in the house was always singing, and oftentimes it was all of us at once. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my high chair as my dad directed each of us to sing a note. He'd point to one of us and say, "You," then would give us our note. "Lahhhhhh." Next person. "You. Lahhhhhhh." Next. "You. Lahhhhhhhh." Then he'd let us know what his note was. "Now, on the count of three.....one.....two.....three...." And all together we'd sing, "Lahhhhhhh," and this beautiful chord would be heard. Yes, I could participate and hold my note even in then. There are lots of amusing stories of me toddling up to friends and strangers alike if they occurred in groupings of more than two, pointing at them, and in a very authoritative tone, commanding, "You! Lahhhhhhhh."

I also remember being stood on top of the coffee and comanded to sing for visiting company. I was a just toddler and I don't recall having any particular emotion associated with this. I do remember a great joy in the long car trips with my parents (my two siblings were off to or finished with college by the time I was in second grade) where we'd sing songs in three part harmony.

No one ever questioned the fact that I had a good ear. I think I owe that, for the most part, to my dad, his genes, and his vigilance in exposing me to a variety of music all my life. I picked up my sister's guitar when I was about five and began playing around with it. Then one day I found her Mel Bay guitar instruction book and figured out how to read the tabs. Soon I began playing songs I'd heard on the radio by ear.

My mother recalls me making an announcement when I was about 6 or 7 years old that I needed to be at a certain Sunday mass, which she found quite irregular since I usually refused to attend church services. I informed her that I had to go because I was playing guitar in the mass. She was stunned, having had no idea that I even knew how to play. (My parents were pretty well occupied by that time with working to pay for my siblings' college tuition and little Lisa had developed a very rich secret life, about which they knew little.)

Around the same time, my parents decided to buy a piano, which thrilled me. As a kid, the only elder relative that I ever really wanted to visit was the aunt who owned a piano. They couldn't pry me off of it when it was time to leave. Finally, we had one of our own and I set immediately to the task of figuring out how to play some songs. My dad exposed me to just about every kind of music and classical seemed to be the easiest thing for me to figure out. I watched a family friend play Fur Elise and decided I wanted to figure it out. I did, but since I'd only heard it played through a few times, I didn't remember it exactly the way it was played by someone who could actually read the music. Consequently, like most things played by ear, my version sounds a little different then the version found at the link, which I assume is the way it's supposed to sound. I like my version better, probably because it's the one I'm used to. I think it flows a little more smoothly, too.

I followed Fur Elise with lots of different parts from Bizet's Carmen overture, then on to my own versions of Bach and Scarlatti pieces, and on and on and on. It's always my own version, though. My parents did try to have me properly trained in the instrument, at one point. They hired this really goofy guy that my brother found somewhere. I learned the notes that correspond to the bars and staffs (or whatever they are properly called) through cute little pneumonic devices like "All Cows Eat Grass" and I learned to associate names with what certain chords sound like, (major, minor, augmented, diminished). By the third lesson the teacher figured he had drilled me enough on the staffs and notes and that I should now begin reading music. Being the impatient child I was, I felt like that just took too long. So once I read the first couple of notes and recognized the song, I just played the rest by ear. The teacher protested, insisting that I read the music. I demanded a good explanation for why I should have to do all that work. Wasn't I playing Moon River? Didn't what I was playing sound right? Did it matter whether or not whether it was being played exactly the way the sheet music had it notated? I wanted some good reasons to do it his way. The teacher didn't seem to have any and finally got so frustrated by this 8 year-old's demands for logic that he quit after the third lesson. (My parents were pretty wimpy, and that probably explains a great many things about me.)

Those three piano lessons constitute the whole of my formal musical education. I kept on doing things my own way and it wasn't until many years later that I realized how valuable it would have been to have learned to play properly and to read music, particularly with the ear I have. Real piano players cringe when they see all the bad habits I've acquired and can hardly fathom how I play with the incredibly weird and funky fingerings I use. And given the fact that I play only sporadically and only recently figured out the reality of how valuable practice is, (though I'm still not sure I have the attention span for it), it's amazing I can bang out anything at all on those keys.

So, the music played on in our household. My brother was always gigging with one band or another and rehearsals were often held in our garage. I used to visit these and I recall he and his bandmates playing improvised chord progressions upon which I would lay my spontaneous vocal inventions. My lyrics would emerge from whatever happened that day or was on my mind and they got a big kick out of it. Some of these sessions were recorded on reel-to-reel tape and one day I will work on finding someone to take what might be a one-shot opportunity to transfer these to a more lasting medium.

It was during one of these rehearsals that perhaps the most formative moment of my musical self-perception occurred.

An attractive female showed up at our house one day for rehearsal. No one in my household had seen her at around before and when asked who she was, she gave her name and announced with great confidence that she was a singer. I only recalled males singing in Michael's bands, and though there would be other females singers to come, this was the first I would experience in person.

She was so very confident and self assured. "I'm a singer," she said. The words reverberated in my head. The real thing. A real girl singer. I was much intrigued, so I decided to spy on this rehearsal session to see what this real singer in our midst had to offer. If I had known the repercussions, surely I would have decided differently. But I didn't.

And then it happened.

She started singing. Oh, God! This isn't good! Oh, God! She's terrible! She's off key! (I may have been little, but I'd always had an ear.) She thinks she can sing! How can she not know how bad she sounds??? No one has ever told her??? Maybe I think I can sing and I really sound like that and just don't know it!!!

It was the last time she was ever seen at a band rehearsal, so I guess I wasn't the only one hearing what I heard. But the damage was done. The seed of doubt had been planted. Now I had been poisoned by the knowledge that it was possible to really believe that you had some kind of talent when you didn't. This idea was confirmed recently when the Warner Brothers network decided to do their inverted version of American Idol. The show's producer, Mike Fleiss, pretty much sums it up in this review:
These people believe they're the next pop superstar, even though they're horrible singers," Fleiss joked to Daily Variety. "It's not funny seeing bad singers doing karaoke. This is about people who are clearly delusional and watching them butcher song after song." "I swear, the finale is the most incredible 20 minutes of television I've ever seen," he added. "People will be calling their friends saying, 'You won't believe what they're doing.'

Needless to say, I was mortified by the concept of the show and even more so by the apparent magnitude of cluelessness exhibited by the contestants, many of whom thought they were surely among the greatest singers/performers to ever have graced this planet. I still don't get it. How can you not know?? How??

Anyway, my experience with the real girl singer was the first real breach in the structure of my self-confidence. And then something else started to happen. I guess it was no longer adorably cute and entertaining to have me performed for my family or visitors. No one stood me on the coffee table anymore and commanded me to sing. No one cared what I could do with any of the household instruments. And if I felt like I accomplished anything that I thought was special and wonderful, I got brushed off with one of those "that's nice" type responses by everyone but my father. He just admonished me to stop showing off. It seemed like every time I felt good about some ability and accomplishment and wanted/needed it validated, I was told by the man who nurtured all my desires to learn and create to stop showing off. It's so unbecoming. So, I stopped. Unless I thought it was safe and I had a chance to have it sincerely acknowledged from someone I could trust.

I turned into what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way calls a "shadow artist." She puts it like this:
Shadow artist is a phrase that I invented to explain the fact that very often people who are extremely gifted will put themselves in the proximity of other people who are officially more gifted. And I want to be clear that they are only officially more gifted. Very often a shadow artist is the person who does the work at the office... or someone who maybe dates a person or marries a person who is pursuing the desired art form.
Ouch! Did you feel that?

Lisa Palumbo: sister of musician, friend of many musicians, girlfriend of musician, wife/former wife of musician, musicians' advocate and manager, professor of music marketing, and girlfriend of musician revisited.

In the cracks between these places I've occupied, I have managed to actually step out of the shadows and play real musician from time to time, always struggling with the demonic voices from the past that whisper of doubt and showing off.

And the person who dragged me out from my hiding place is the one who inspired me to write here.

Still with me?

Now, the you'll understand what a big thing it was that he did, whether he knows it or not.

Stay tuned. David is next. I might even get to it tonight!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Recent Irks and Delights

Irk: Grading, grading, grading.
Delight: Being finished with grading.

Irk: Typing.
Irk: Browswer suddenly quitting after I had just typed a long blog entry without having saved it. (I know, I know. There are many ways around this.)
Irk: Trying to remember HTML tags when I haven't published a web page using anything but Dreamweaver's WYSIWYG interface in years.

Delight: Four guilt-free days of post-semester decompression spent doing little or nothing productive.
Delight: Sleeping more than four hours a night. (Although I admit that my body has become so accustomed to the short shift that I actually feel better with less sleep than more.)
Delight: Discovering that Netscape for Mac supports WYSIWYG blogging, so I don't have to remember those HTML tags for formatting, linking and inserting pictures. This means I'll be more likely than not get on with my blogging pursuits. But I think I'll take a nap first.