Instant Bluebird! She Is Kawehi!

Music artist Kawehi appears to have eight arms, all playing music.

Since we featured Kawehi on Bluebird Blvd.’s one and only 5-Minute Dance Party today, it seemed like a good idea to share a few more songs from Kawehi’s ear-friendly musical output. So, here’s a Kawehi playlist for you to enjoy offline at your leisure! The playlist is free to download*, songs courtesy of the artist. If you liked these selections, do check out more of Kawehi’s music on SoundCloud, BandCamp, and Kawehi’s official website.

*Caveat Emptor: You do have to sign up for a free with-no-strings-attached SoundCloud account.

Instant Bluebird: Frank Herbert’s Dune

Full-color front and back of an early Frank Herbert paperback.


Hey, did anybody bring some sunscreen?  I think I’m starting to get a little burn here.

It’s time!  Finally!  ARE YOU READY TO TALK… ABOUT DUNE?


To start:  I know Dune in June should have been in June, but… well, you know, June was rough.)


Still, we’re going to talk about Dune right?  Because it’s our tradition!


Here are the first juicy tidbits of the Dune in June in July season:




Do you remember when we talked last year about the roots of Frank Herbert’s Dune?  His original idea was sparked by an interest in ecology and stabilizing beach grasses.  Here’s what I didn’t know—  Herbert wrote a newspaper story* about these stabilizing beach grasses, a story that never sold, but bloomed into a book.  Read this great L.A. Times piece* about the whole thing here:  “Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ holds timely – and timeless – appeal.



In the last ten years, I have started to by early—not necessarily first— editions of books that I love.  The reason I do that has to do with the writer’s original intent.  With earlier editions, you know that the writer and his agent and the original publisher went through the galleys (pre-print copies) word by word, page by page to make corrections by hand.  I like to see the writer’s original intent and mistakes in these early editions because that puts me as close to the source of a creative work as I can get sometimes.  After years of dithering, I finally got one of the earlier editions of Dune— I mean, really early.  Same year, same book cover, but it’s Chilton’s Book Club Edition.  Do you want to know how much the real first edition of Dune happens to go for?  AbeBooks counted Frank Herbert’s Dune as one of its top ten most expensive sales in June 2011.





There’s a great short piece on Dune and the power of positive thinking based on theories of honest-to-goodness science— “What Frank Herbert’s Dune Can Teach Us About the Power of Positive Thinking.”  (Remember, your brain cannot control everything, but there is something to be said for everyday habit in ordinary circumstances.)  Okay, about this piece in iO9—  writer Maria Konnikova posits that Dune is an excellent illustration of synaptic plasticity, according to the traditional concepts discovered by the godfather of current studies on synaptic plasticity, Donald Hebb.  (For a brief overview of synaptic plasticity and Hebbian theory, see this infographic from McGill University)   Why I find this interesting and I think you will too—  this story is exactly what I was talking about earlier today in regards to our thematic discussion of Dune this year.  (Also, I am fascinated by synaptic plasticity right now, and finding a story that talks about two of my favorite topics at the same time— Dune and synaptic plasticity— nearly turned me cross-eyed with glee, I kid you not.)


Speaking of things that turn me cross-eyed with glee—


How would you like to write or create a themed piece about Dune for Dune in June (in July)?  Here are some of the verrry general topics I thought could be whittled down into smaller topics for short pieces (kinda like the one on iO9)—


  • Gender

  • Politics

  • Ecology

  • Language

  • Culture

  • Religion

  • Science


Here’s an example of a short Dune topic:  Why does the messiah in Dune have to be male?  What does Frank Herbert’s plot choice tell us about the role of gender in the Dune universe?

Do you have a specific idea for Dune in June on Bluebird Blvd.?  Wanna write a story, put up an audio piece, show a diagram, paint a picture, make a video about Dune in the next four weeks on Bluebird Blvd.?  Email me!  bluebirdblvd (at) att (dot) net.


Oh, and do I EVER have a special treat for yoo-oou!

Keep reading!

 The good stuff is below the rambling bit.



*Look, I’ve been meaning to say this for a year, and I’m getting around to it rightthissecond:  My first professional work was in newspapers.  Newspapermen and -women don’t really call anything an “article.”  It’s a story or a piece, if one is speaking generally.  If that piece happens to be a particular type of story, one can call it by name:  a feature story, a sidebar, an op-ed item.

The jargon is similar but not the same in the the magazine world—  you have copy or content or a spread.  (Also, body copy or text.)  In literary circles, the language around poetry and fiction and essays will circle back around to pieces and stories, but literary people who do not write for the general public will refer to a newspaper or magazine story as “an article.”

For writers who work in more than one category— newspapers, magazines, poetry/short fiction/monographs/essays/theory,  (plus a fourth:  blogging!),—are called working writers (versus a specialty, such as being a poet, or a features writer.)    However, there is an exception.  (Always an exception to the rule, right?) Sometimes a   writer works in several mediums, but is well-known in one area.  Example: David Sedaris is called an essayist, but he also writes fiction and he writes for radio.  What is he usually called?  An essayist or a radio commenter.


Okay, the good stuff.



DUNE in JUNE in JULY  Due to all of the mishaps of June (and a little bit of early July), we will be doing Dune in June… in July (and a little bit of August) this year.  Now, here’s what’s changed— last year we did Dune chronologically.  This year, we will be doing Dune thematically.  Ever since last year, my plan has been to put out an open call to writers who might want to do a special topic on Dune.

Two special things—  ONE, we have our own Bluebird Blvd. Google Group!  So, c’mon over and we can talk about DUNE IN REAL TIME!  (WOOT!)

TWO, consider this the OPEN PITCH for DUNE in JUNE… in JULY.    Interested?   Email me:  bluebirdblvd (at) att (dot) net.

Length and type of thematic Dune story are variable.  (Audio, video, and image-based entries  definitely encouraged!)

30 STORIES in 30 DAYS   I am writing  30 stories in 30 days covering a range of subjects from Dune (of course) to a piece on the nature of genius in pop music for the Bluebird Sessions to the reboot of Our Sunday Best‘s ongoing special edition on photographers to some new entries in the Bluebird Dictionary.

It’s going to be a blast!

I hope you think so too!

HEY!  KINDA IMPORTANT!  I have switched to a more functional RSS feed because the native WordPress version was not working correctly, and I don’t know why.  The new feed is from Feedburner, which will be our mainstay unless it becomes glitchy, or Google shuts it down.  Before I chose Feedburner, I tested five other RSS management systems, some paid, some free, and wouldn’t you know it, Feedburner still worked the best out of all of them.    Enjoy the NEW BLUEBIRD BLVD. RSS FEED — embedded videos!  Links!  All the bells and whistles we know and love!



Instant Bluebird! Make the Song Go Bang! (A Quick Lester Bangs Primer)

Lester Bangs singing. He had quite a set of pipes.

Music reviewers were of several stripes during Lester Bang’s heyday. Some of them were just yes-men with press badges, others were imitators of Hunter S. Thompson and all those wannabe Gonzo journalism guys, and there were people like rock writer Nick Kent, who could be considered rock criticism’s unintentional stuntman.  (He’s been beaten up by just about everybody.)

And then there’s Lester Bangs— he looked like a slob, he sounded like a college professor and he ate other rock critics whole to amuse himself.


Really, Bangs still stands out from his peers: His dedication to the writing craft and his ardent never-gonna-let-ya-go-baby love of music proved to be a potent mix for future generations of rock music listeners.

Without further hooha, here are a handful of rich sources to help you find your inner Lester Bangs:

A word of caution, though— at unpredictable moments you will find that his writing will be NSFW. (I mean really NSFW. It’s a brand new world of NSFW. You think I make up words? I’ve got nothing on this guy. Mine are totally SFW, though.)


Richard Hell, originally of the seminal NYC punk band, Television, wrote this moving essay, “The Right to Be Wrong,” for the Village Voice when “Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste” was released in 2003.

Here’s a delicious quote from Hell’s short essay:

Nevertheless, of all the most highly regarded rock journalists (say Tosches, Robert Christgau, Marcus, and the execrable and excremental Richard Meltzer) Lester was the only one who valued self-doubt and who actually seemed to like the music more than he liked himself. Lester was a critic who reserved the right to be wrong, which seems to me admirable.


Cousin Creep maintains a full copy of a really rare audio interview with Lester Bangs being interviewed by Sue Matthews. A full transcript is also provided. You can find short interviews on YouTube, but most of them are rehashes of some drunken things he said about Roxy Music’s Brian Ferry. This interview is much more comprehensive. I am so glad it exists, and so grateful that blog Cousin Creep maintains this legacy.


While doing the research for my Lester Bangs Mash Note, I discovered a new resource on WordPress called Rock Critics. Rock Critics created this scrumptious list of Lester Bangs-related links. The sources are comprehensive and fair-minded. I considered other possible sources before choosing this one. What I discovered, though, is that many blogs copied a single Bangs’ essay in its entirety without any source attribution. Go to Rock Critics and be pleased to note that RC uses legit sources with real attributions and links.


To round off this Instant Bluebird, I found a gorgeous and heart-glowing audio recording on YouTube of Lester Bangs and his protégé, rock musician and writer Peter Laughner, goofing off and playing music in the offices of Creem. The link is to part 1 of 10.


We really should write about rock writer Nick Kent sometime soon. He’s a little bit more complex than my pithy statement up-top implies. I think what I like about Kent as a rock writer is that he used to be intentionally gullible for a story.

Blithe doesn’t really cover this sort of thing, and insane is overreaching. You see, Kent would wander into situations that he knew were seriously hazardous to his own health/sanity/bank book, and then write about them after.

I don’t recommend this lunatic method he employed in his youth— I’m just amazed that he managed to pull out of a nosedive each and every time and make his deadlines with that dogged journalist’s commitment to good writing that has always been the gold standard for print publication work. Love it.

Instant Bluebird! Ghosting the Lens— Books and Films on Modern Photography



I promised you last week that I would give you a list of the juiciest books and documentaries that talk about this special period in early modern photography.

Like this photograph of Glacier National Park by Ansel Adams, you’ll be surprised by how broad, and yet, how detailed, this history of photography can be.

And juicy! And lush! And fascinating!


The two fundamental texts on the history of photography are On Photography by Susan Sontag. This book that is short and rich and dense.

My mentor, Donald Ewers recommended the second book— The History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall.


As I mentioned in the endnotes Part Two of “The Time Ghost,” Stieglitz gets shortchanged by history, yet he is the GODFATHER of modern photography. Your options for reading about him include one book— Stieglitz: Camera Work Ed. Ute Kieseyer, et. al.

The FANTASTIC documentary by (American) Public Broadcasting Television (PBS) almost makes up for this appalling lack of history on Stieglitz. It’s called The Eloquent Eye— I have some clips in Part One of “The Time Ghost.” (This documentary was recommended by Donald Ewers also— it’s SO GOOD!) If you are in a country that has Netflix— Netflix has it!

An additional late entry from Donald Ewers today— (I’m excited about reading this myself!)— Alfred Stieglitz— An American Seer (Dorothy Norman). (Yes!)


Donald Ewers recommended Adams autobiography, which I have not read yet! It’s now on my list, though. Ansel Adams: An Autobiography.


I found this book, Imogen Cunningham: Ideas Without Photographs, but haven’t read it. As I told you last week, Cunningham is not as well-known as she used to be, but all great artists are discovered again and again in contemporary history.

Her granddaughter, filmmaker Meg Partridge, created an award-winning documentary on her grandmother called Portrait of Imogen.


Read The Daybooks of Edward Weston for starters. There are so many things out there on Weston that are decent But, really, to do justice to the man and his art— start with Weston himself. He is an elegant writer in his own right.










*BOOKS & FILMS on Early Modern Photography

As always, all of my work in this area is inspired and informed by my mentor, photographer and writer Donald Ewers.


Instant Bluebird! The Fosse Legacy vs. The Michael Jackson Controversy



My mother and I had a pretty serious artistic debate over the clip you are about to watch.

Go ahead and click the button and then get back to me when you finish viewing.

(And clear some room around you because your jaw is gonna drop.)



Okay… are you watching yet?

What you are seeing is Bob Fosse in The Little Prince in 1974 set to “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson from 1982.  

The point that the gracious creator of this mashup was making is that Michael Jackson’s moves and style were suspiciously similar to Fosse in this particular movie.

A movie he could have seen as a young kid as the youngest member of The Jackson Five.

Now, here’s my mother’s argument, as best I can remember it— was Jackson’s choreography his own?  Or did he have a choreographer?  We need to consider how his choreographer factors into this picture before we start accusing Michael Jackson of artistic theft.

Here’s my counter-argument— Jackson would have been aware of Fosse as a living person, and a much older, established artist.  C’mon.  His first costumes even look like Fosse’s in this clip.   Down to the socks!

Several months later, here’s what I know, thanks to my mother’s sleuthing and my own follow up research.  

His choreographer was Michael Peters who studied under (or knew— the connection isn’t entirely clear) Ben Vereen, who exemplifies the Fosse style.

Michael Peters choreographed for most of the big up-and-coming MTV stars. You can see his work, and him, in “Beat It”— he choreographed the whole things and performed as the gang leader in white—

In this music video, you can see flourishes that do not fit the Fosse style.

Some of it has the Fosse signature gestures. I can’t account for the MJ’s conscious or unconscious appropriation of Fosse’s fashion style in The Little Prince, which you get in full in the original “Billie Jean.”

My answer? I don’t know. More research is needed.


Fosse’s influence turns up in the oddest places.

Beyoncé and her choreographer had to acknowledge that they “borrowed” extensively from Fosse’s “Mexican Breakfast” for “All The Single Ladies.” (Yeah, I know. You borrow a cup of sugar, not choreography.)

What do you think?

Is Fosse that much a part of the American consciousness that his style permeates and choreographers do not need to acknowledge the signature Fosse look?

Or do these people need to start saying up front that this is an homage? Michael Peters isn’t around for us to ask directly.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Inquiring Bluebirds want to know!

Instant Bluebird! Six Months of Bluebird Blvd. in Six Posts (With Anecdotes! With Love!)

1960s woman stands in front of postal delivery boxes, trying to figure out which one to use.

Where's the mailbox for Bluebird Blvd.?

Today I am celebrating the six month anniversary of Bluebird Blvd.

Thank you so much for being here today!

Would you like a cup of coffee? I just put on a fresh pot.

I thought to celebrate today’s mini-milestone, I’d offer you six quick links to six different touchpoint posts on Bluebird Blvd— with extra special personal anecdotes! Anecdotes that ran much longer than I originally intended! They’re more like megadotes!

Here’s your coffee! Feel free to skim my mega-anecdotes, my friend.

Ready? Steady! Go!
My first writing post was an essay about my early childhood— I was a dreamy child. Since many of my first readers were real life friends and colleagues, it cheered me greatly to have their support and their voice on my blog. Starting a blog was a terrifying prospect. I really had never written in this form before— my background is in print publications. Having so much support so quickly gave me hope that Bluebird Blvd. might be my new home.

Although I started playing around with my regular feature, The Marriage Interpreter, early on here at Bluebird Blvd., it wasn’t until The Marriage Interpreter (No. 3) that I felt as though I had hit my stride. In this dialogue, The Husband speaks to me in his sleep. I was so surprised that night. This never happens. I ran off to my notebook to take notes. He didn’t remember having said any of this at all.

In the first few months of Bluebird Blvd., I published a lot of drawings. I have been studying drawing off and on for most of my life, but studied art somewhat seriously in college. Vic improves his mind is a landmark for me in a number of ways— it’s my first full-scale pastel drawing; one of my first drawings to be shown to the public; and it was a point at which I started to feel really at home with drawing again. (Of course, I haven’t done any drawing in the last two months. You’ll be seeing more quite soon. Instead, I’ve been posting photography— an art form that is my first true love.)

Another regular feature I started quite early is A Bluebird Dictionary. I love to make up words. Coinage is a large part of my writing process. What I had never done, though, is write down these words and create dictionary-like entries for my coined language. Because This Word Should Be In The Dictionary— fooky-mooky was my first Bluebird Dictionary entry. I’ve had great reception on these posts, and I love to write them.

One of my biggest surprises, personally, has been the popularity of Bluebird Blvd.’s 5-Minute Dance Party— I have a dance party every day, and a secret dance party on Friday nights. (Shh! Tell everybody!) My plan this year is to have no single repeats of artists in this feature. I have a large catalogue of music that I listen to at home, and I am constantly seeking out new sounds and thrills. This unusual post is one of my favorites so far— 5-Minute Dance Party | Le Snob.

On January 3rd of this year, two months after starting Bluebird Blvd., my essay The Condiments of My Childhood was “Freshly Pressed” by WordPress. In just four days of “Freshly Pressed,” Bluebird Blvd. hosted over 7,000 visitors. Nearly 10,000 visitors stopped by to read this essay in a two week timeframe. I made a lot of new friends that week— friends that I have to this day. WordPress is wonderful— I am grateful for the friends I’ve made this first six months, and I look forward to making new friends as Bluebird Blvd. spreads her wings.

What I didn’t realize when I started Bluebird Blvd. six months ago was how much I would love doing everything involved in blogging.

Unlike writing for newspapers and magazines (which I adore), writing for Bluebird Blvd. is both immediate and intimate— I’m not merely a freelance writer typing away at home and talking by phone with editors (whom I adore)— I get to talk to you— my lovely friend, my fellow writer, my companion blogger, my stout-hearted reader— every day.

Because of you, I sit down to work in my office every day of the week knowing that I get to interact with some of the best people on the planet— literally and figuratively.

I am one lucky Bluebird. Thank you so much for everything.

Would you like me to refresh your cup of coffee now?

Instant Bluebird! Famous Poetry Out Loud


Jean Weil in ABC studio making international phone call


One gorgeous pleasure of the internet is the amount of art available right beneath your keyboard-tapping fingers.

The problem, of course, is that there’s so much art! Everywhere! And for some special items, you have to dig and dig. (And dig!)

With that issue in mind, let me give you one set of quick links to poets reading their own work as well as other famous folks reading (or singing!) poetry:

Have you ever wondered what Robert Frost sounds like reading his own haunting “The Road Not Taken”?, the main site for The Academy of American poets, has a free reading of this famous poem by Frost himself, and so much more.
One of the poets I adore is Phillip Levine— his work is tactile and unexpected. Levine is a featured poet on The Poetry Foundation’s audio recordings of Essential American Poets, which you can listen to right here.
When I went scrambling around looking for Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died” (one of my favorite poems of all time), I found this fantastic audio recording of O’Hara’s poem read by poet Phillip Levine! (Thanks synchronicity!) Courtesy of the WNYC radio station, you can hear this breathless piece of poetry yourself on the radio station’s website.
Now that I think about it, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite ’90s recordings of Vanessa Daou reading/singing Erica Jong’s poetry on her full-length recording, Zipless. This poem in song, “Autumn Perspective,” is a delish delight I break out every October:
And! Wow! I have a special treat for you all! This rare recording of Bollywood star Lata Mangeshkar singing a ghazal, which is the most famous (and the most strict) form of poetry in ten languages!
Poetry was first designed for the ear, then for the page. The best poets can straddle the distance between the two. On the page, you’re dazzled by what you “hear” internally. Out loud, you “see” what may appear on the page. It can be magical.
For today, today though, I tried to sift through famous poets and others famous folks reading well-known poems in a way that I hope will grab gently at your imagination. (The Bollywood clip is famous in context of Indian film, not poetry, per se.)
Ah! Yes! Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go listen to some intoxicating poetry.

Care to join me, my friends?  YAY!  Let’s listen to some POETRY!


HAR-de-HAR-HARRR UPDATE: I was poking around the internet (when I should be writing) and I found that a big famous blogger-type person had posted a link (I really should be writing right now, y’all), and I scurried right over here to share it with you (because after I post this, I need to start doing some heavy-lifting type writing and revising):

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency presents Poetry FAQ.

(Or, as I am going to call it, everything you remember about poetry in college, and oh!, so much more.)


Instant Bluebird! Four Little Things to Improve Your Monday


Hoover's Happy Hustling Helpers--County Agent, A.R. Chase and County Supt. C.T. Bonney with the Wasco County Canning Team, ca. 1917


Laugh loudly on Monday and Friday will be right around the corner laughing with you!

That’s my theory, anyway.
So, quickly, now let me give you a few things to help you up your happiness quotient for the day:
Joyfully, I thought of Lynda Barry first thing this morning. If you still haven’t had a chance to read One! Hundred! Demons!, you can start at’s Lynda Barry page for a taster of a little Lynda Barry magic! (Lynda Barry rocks! I’ve written about her quite a bit!)
Luckily, I saw this amazing collection of circus photographs from the mid-20th Century a few months ago on Retronaut. (A major burst of happiness for everyone!)
Strangely enough, if nothing else is doing the trick, this one page might fix your day. (I promise, it will help!)
Finally, I have been informed by Phillip Lozano that Community is coming back mid-season!

To celebrate the first day of the week, I give you this clip of a parody of an ’80s movie done by one of my favorite shows!

(Bonus— The Husband and I do this bit all the time! Lurves it!)


Instant Bluebird! Five Concepts about Texas on the Day of the Republic’s 175th Anniversary

A woman in 1906 levels her pistol at the camera lens.

1) All native Texans believe the following:

You are Texan first,

American second,

and everything else a distant third.

2) Young residents of Texas must take Texas history three times while attending school—

a semester in fourth grade (equivalent to Year Four in standard UK primary school);

a full year of pre-history-to-1877 in eighth grade (equivalent to Year Eight/UK);

and finally, a full freshman high school year of Texas History post-1877-to-present-day(equivalent to Year Nine/UK).

3) Of course, history can be a slippery, funky slope.  Generally speaking, there are “histories,” plural, not a single history.

With that in mind, consider that the board of education and teachers’ curricula may vary.

If you are interested in studying Texas, may I suggest this jewel of a poetic history of recent vintage: Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation   (John Phillip Santos)

4) Mythic structure is part of the larger schema of Texan lore.

Instead, chew on these facts:

Texas is the second largest-in-size state in the U.S.,  after Alaska.

Texas can now claim to be the second most populated state,  after California.

Three Texas cities fall under the top-ten most populated cities in America,  according to the 2010 U.S. Census.*  The only other state that can claim three in the top ten?   California.

5) Because Texas was a republic before it became a state,  and it was another country before it became a republic,  Texan attitudes will generally reflect a sense of intense selfhood.

The words “native Texan” carry weight here. A great example is this link discussing various Texas presidents. Their native Texan roots are emphasized, where applicable.

To finish out our Instant Bluebird Texas Tour,  let me offer you Girl In A Coma,  all native Texans,  as directed by Robert Rodriguez,  also a native Texan.

Recognize this cover?  (A lovely take on David Bowie, don’t you think?)

*All of these facts either come from, or were verified through, the most recent 2011-12 U.S. Census data.


Instant Bluebird! Five Biopics About Poets


C.J. Dennis, poet, journalist and comic, ca. 1910 / photographer unknown


Would you like a little poetry and movie fix?
I may have just the thing on hand to soothe that pretty need!
Before Night Falls
The Hours
Tom and Viv

*Yes, I’ve seen each of these films personally. But you know biopics and you know poets— these aren’t the happiest movies I ever watched. They were brilliant, though.