[5-Minute Dance Party] Bitten By The Frost









I live for the lightning

to strike twice.




About a month ago, The Husband and I were watching the replay of final figure skating free skate for the Sochi Olympics. My competition background gives me sharp eyes for mistakes and successes in form and execution. I pointed out a few things to him that I found interesting about the competitors, and, as a result, we got into a discussion about failure and success in high-pressure situations.

Champions, to abuse a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, are different from you and me.


Well, yeah, you’re saying to yourself in a teenagerish voice. That’s because they’re champions, Courtenay. Duh.

Well, yes and no, y’all. From my background as a competition Irish Dancer and a career journalist, I can definitively that the elements that make a champion ultimately comes down to a list of traits.

 

Champions and future champions:

 

    1. learn from failure.
    2. practice every day.
    3. show excellent self-assessment and self-correction skills.
    4. perform consistently in high-pressure situations.


It would be easy to wail on about the advantages of money and good support. Yes, those things do help, but they don’t consistently produce champions. Not to knock the power of money—money can buy you the best equipment and the best training and put forth travel opportunities for competitions, and trust you me those things do help quite a bit, but they aren’t the absolute predictors of success.

You could also posit that past success predicts future success. But that hypothesis fails quickly in messy real-life situations. Besides that, hypotheses of that sort feel flat out ridiculous, don’t they? It’s the snake swallowing its own tail. Q: How do you succeed? A: Well, first you must succeed. (Bullhockey!)

Everyone has seen at least one low-ranked competitor break through to the top level of their competitive field due to some use or permutation of the traits of champions I listed above. My feeling on this phenomenon is that, in the right situation, failure can be a great teacher for a late-blooming champion.

What I don’t know is whether these traits can be learned from the ground up, or whether temperament and tendency predicts the ability to adapt, learn, and thrive in competition. (If you have any thoughts on this, let me know in the comments!)


While these five characteristics show up again and again in sports and competitive dance champions*, traits like this should but don’t always equally apply to accomplished artists in non-performance fields.

Take photographer W. Eugene Smith, for instance.

While Smith proved himself able to perform consistently under pressure and he practiced his profession every day (save the two years after his combat injury), he had that typical high ego-low self-esteem thing that can really throw an artist to the ropes, even one like Smith.


Regardless, this famed war photographer managed to succeed despite fear, to thrive despite failure, and to innovate despite the ridiculous attentions of fame.

I gotta tell you—I’d take a dozen W. Eugene Smiths over a thousand regular champions any day. There’s just more there there.




* Really, any performer whose abilities can be quantitatively and qualitatively measured fall within these margins also. (Like who? Competition-trained classical musicians being a good example here.)




UP NEXT! An Our Sunday Best about photographer W. Eugene Smith’s break from convention, his wife, and his suburban life!

Our Sunday Best is Bluebird Blvd.’s original award-winning feature series. Established in 2011, Our Sunday Best has covered everything from multimedia haiku to fantastic failure to Tenzing Norgay. For the last two years, Our Sunday Best has focused its lens on a history of modern photography.

Accept no inferior substitutes! And don’t take any wooden nickels, you hear?


PSST! And tomorrow being St. Patrick’s Day and all, we’ll have another wild totally CONFIDENTIAL Irish step-dancing story for your reading pleasure coupled with a St. Patrick’s Day 5-Minute Dance Party that’s been a guarded secret for weeks! (EEEEE! I can’t wait! Come on by! I’ll put the coffee on!)


ABOUT THIS SONG/VIDEO: Olly Knights (often misspelled as “Knight”) is a recording artist in the UK equally famous for his solo work as well as his work as part of the music duo Turin Brakes. This song comes from his self-produced release If Not Now When? (also available direct from the artist on the Olly Knights Etchshop. The video is by internet-savvy filmmaker/film tech blogger Philip Bloom.

[Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party] Third Uncle









*Uh, there may or may not be a rude word right at the beginning of this song—I can’t tell. It’s Bauhaus singing Brian Eno, right? You’ve got to expect a little ’70s redux grittiness, no?


This Bauhaus cover of Brian Eno‘s “Third Uncle” is one of my favorite songs in the world of all time, ever.

Yet every time I hear it, I feel like I’m listening to a completely different song.


You see, I can’t understand the words.

And I’m not alone: No one can understand the words to “Third Uncle.”


Does anyone know the exact words to this song?

To this one question, I can happily offer you a “yes.”


Exactly two people in the world know what’s going on here:

    Brian Eno, who penned the original “Third Uncle” and is notorious for withholding the lyrics to his music, and—
    Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, who basically made up a mostly different version…I think.


Since Brian Eno is infamous for not publishing his lyrics to his songs, Eno fans have been parsing his songs for nigh on five decades now.

“Third Uncle” is probably the most curious creation of the period, and that’s saying a lot because there’s some incomprehensible stuff in his 1974 full-length album, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).


Lovable proto-goth scamps Bauhaus covered “Third Uncle” in 1982 as a b-side to their single of the Bowie-penned “Ziggy Stardust.”

That funky bunch made it a habit to be rather soft-focused themselves about lyrics and meanings. Expect no help from the Bauhausian quarter—they aim to confuse.


Looking for exact terms like “Third Uncle Lyrics” on Google would be a waste of typing because you’ll find copies of the same, absolutely incorrect lyrics for both versions, thanks to those awful lyrics scraper sites, who do nothing but copy one another’s mistakes, and slather their sites with illegal amounts of Google ads.

(You couldn’t possibly be more lazy than those ad-crammed fake lyrics sites. Really. They’ve done their damage: Most songs have incorrect lyric sheets because of those fools.)


Based on nothing but three chords and the truth I’ve put together what I think may be the first stanza to the Bauhaus version of “Third Uncle.”

The intro to the Bauhaus cover of Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle” clocks in at 01:36, but the entire song only runs to 5:20.

After the 01:36 mark, Peter Murphy (lead singer and frontman of Bauhaus) sings (I think):

 

    There are t-ts

    There are sports

    There are legs

    There are jocks

    And a strong pair of hips

    No there’s nothing, but despite [but the spite?]

    There is you

    And then there was you


And that’s it. That’s all I’ve got so far from pressing my Sennheiser headphones against my head with the volume turned (more than slightly) up, playing the first stanza of “Third Uncle” over and over and over and over and over for about twenty minutes.

Even with all of that fuss, I still don’t think I got that lyrics snippet quite right.


Aside from the lyrics, there’s a lot to ponder in “Third Uncle.” I love the rangy, twangy flavor of Bauhaus’ cover version and the picked up tempo feels a little more mysterious and big than Eno’s original. Some folks, including me, think the Bauhaus version is the better version, but you can’t have the Bauhaus without the Eno original. So there’s that.

I’d like to think that Eno’s written so many brilliant things, he can afford to give over on this one little alternate arrangement of one of his early greats. I know it doesn’t work that way, and it would piss me off should someone suggest that to me over something I’ve created. So there’s that, too, I guess.


Peter Murphy has been pretty straightforward in interviews about not revealing the lyrics of “Third Uncle.” Here’s a 2013 interview of Peter Murphy in the Miami New Times, which should give you a sense of what the man’s like.

Though I read this piece and a few others in order to research this Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party, I personally don’t enjoy interviews with Murphy. The nicest way I can think to put it is that he works best when he remains wreathed in a little simple mystery because he tends to get ahead of himself.

But don’t we all? I think that’s why I’ve liked “Third Uncle” all of these years—it’s a song that’s a list, a silly and awful list—categorizing who knows what, for who knows what reason. And yet it makes sense anyway, right?

Well, sort of.


AND THE MYSTERY DEEPENS: I originally had a completely different tribute video lined up for this song, but I had to pull that video completely and alert YouTube because the creator of the original Bauhaus “Third Uncle” tribute—(you’re not going to believe this)—slipped in a subliminal box with text in it somewhere between 04:39 to 04:41 of the video montage. It was a very bizarre thing after an entire story of bizarre things. Oh, “Third Uncle”! You always bring something weird to the party, don’t you?

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.

[5-Minute Dance Party] I’d Never Tell






Don’t send me postcards—

my blood runs too thick.



The startling talents of multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Kawehi is such a treat to share with you on this lovely Friday afternoon. Her versatility and her professionalism just amaze me. I love it when people succeed at something they do well, don’t you?


Kawehi’s most recent release is available for purchase on Bandcamp: From Kansas With Love. Stay tuned for some free music from Kawehi! UP next right here on Bluebird Blvd.!


Bet there’s real good dinner specials at the No Whiner Diner





The colorful No Whiner Diner in Carlsbad, NM


Are you the kind of person who shoots photographs out of car windows?   I am.


Sorry for the absence, y’all, but I’ve been reallyreallyreally sick with allergies all spring. (The truth is I’ve been a big sniffly, crabby spaced-out doofus.) The last four weeks have especially been sinus-hellish. But I live in hope: My insurance kicks in next month and I should be able to see a specialist. (HooRAAAAAY!)

Here’s a picture of a restaurant I shot out of a moving car with my phone last December and edited in Photoshop, Gimp and Lightroom. We were driving through Carlsbad, NM, where the famous No Whiner Diner is located. (When was the last time you shot a picture out of a moving vehicle? What was it? How did it turn out? And why did you shoot out of a car window versus stopping to take the shot?)

And just so you know—I’ve missed you a ton all these weeks. Inflamed sinuses can make a bluebird awfully lonely. I’m thinking of you tonight, and I am hoping you are well. A big hypoallergenic hug to you and yours.


PSSSSST! GUESS what’s happening NEXT SUNDAY! No, really! GUESS! BLUEBIRD BLVD.’S most POPULAR and completely ORIGINAL feature, OUR SUNDAY BEST, will be RETURNING to ITS REGULARLY SCHEDULED BROADCAST. Accept no inferior substitutes! And don’t take any wooden nickles, ya hear?

[5-Minute Dance Party] Safari









He couldn’t leave the flock—he couldn’t leave.

Always hugging the ground

And crying out for me


Here are the Breeders at their stripped-down finest. Although I love the entire Safari EP, the single, “Safari,” has both an infectious hook and a compelling lyric—and the song itself leaves a little taste of danger in the mouth. (Incidentally, “Safari” is one of the few songs in the Courtenay Bluebird Songbook that I will sing out loud, no matter who is around.)

The first Breeders album I bought happened to be their first full-length album, Pod*, which I purchased solely on the fact that the group had an (almost) all-girl lineup doing a version of The Beatles’ perfectly disturbing song, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” which is another all-time fave song of mine.

“Happiness” is written in both a minor and a major key, which very nearly roughs up your nerves a little bit (like all good rock and roll should). And the lyric is totally a Dadaist cut-up poem gone berzerk. If anything the Breeders’ take on this classic Beatles’ b-side is even more disturbing, so, of course, I love it to death.

I hope this great hard-driving little song finds you in good health and good humor today! Up later, a brand new post! See you in a little while!




*Although I posted a link to Amazon for Breeders’ Pod CD, I highly recommend you shop around because $27 is a ridiculous amount to pay for a normal-length album on disc. The download of Pod is a lot more reasonable at $9ish and some change. At this writing, the Pod LP is $22.85 (American), which is standard for vinyl.

These days, LPs are my preferred recording version because LPs do not chop off the top and the bottom of a musical recording the way digital recording does. You’re paying for the full sound, and you get the full sound. Perfect, eh?


[5-Minute Dance Party] 2014 Academy Awards Best Picture Trailer Mashup






C’mon!



Well, they’re polishing the little golden men in Hollywood right now in preparation for the 2014 Academy Awards. While the Academy Awards team scurries around sorting out the final details for this year’s event, let’s enjoy this fantastic montage of Best Picture Nominees created by Digital First Media. And after that check out these Bluebird-picked 2014 Oscars treats, selected just for you!.


Up NEXT!: An overview of online fun for Oscars Night!


[5-Minute Dance Party] Everything is Everything (Fantastic Lauryn Hill Cover)









After winter,
must come spring.
Change will come
eventually.


Music artist Andrey “Sun” Zaporozhet of SunSay did something I considered formerly impossible— he came up with a cover version of Lauren Hill’s soaring “Everything Is Everything” that is just as beautiful as the original.

Unbelievable, you say? Listen for yourself, darlings, and tell me where you think this sits on the scale of terrible-to good-to great covers.

To read more about this Kharkiv, Ukraine-born talent, Andrey “Sun” Zaporozhet, check out this entry on Andrey “Sun” Zaporozhet and SunSay on Last.FM



[5-Minute Dance Party] Stranger







Come on boys, I got to tell you true,

I’m a stranger here just like you.



Bluebird is humming and tapping her foot. Oh! Heeeey! I didn’t see you standing there!

Isn’t this song great? The Devil Makes Three is one of those genre-bending outfits that is guar-an-teed to get your blood going.

Since it’s Monday afternoon, I thought you might need a little waking up! If you’re still sleepy (or Monday moody or clock-watching), these 5MDP right here are known picker-uppers!


GET YER BLOOD UP, DARLINS’!


    [Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party] Misirlou It’s the Dick Dale and the Del-Tones classic—but have ever seen the young Dick Dale and the Del-Tones actually play it? It’s really cool!
    [5-Minute Dance Party] Many Moons You think you know Janelle Monae? Well, didja know that some major African-American musicians/producers in Monae’s community thought she was talented enough to back financially? (She’s on Sean “Diddy” Comb’s label!) Watch talent get rewarded in this strange and fantastic music video!
    [5-Minute Dance Party] Hollywood Mmmmm, there’s no one quite like Marina Lambrini Diamandis. Who’s that? Marina and the Diamonds, of course! This dark pop song by a true musical phenom is one of my faves, and I’m thinking it might make your faves list too!



The Marriage Interpreter [No. 49]




Picture of pot pie with Husband lyics.



THE HUSBAND is working at his desk. Monkey nudges his arm.

The Husband: Stop it, Monkey! I am Powerpointing and my arm is tired!

(A beat.)

Monkey: (Softly.) Woof?

The Husband: Powerpointing!


THE HUSBAND just got home from the ranch.

The Husband: Did you hear about my new band?

Bluebird: No, I haven’t

The Husband: We’re called “The Soggy Nachos.”

Bluebird: (Suspiciously.) What’s your hit song?

The Husband: (Quickly.) “Kittens Give Morbo Gas”*


THE HUSBAND is holding Monkey’s face, and singing:

“I love you, Monk, and you don’t care that I have my sweatpants on baaackwards!”


THE HUSBAND is singing while he shaves.

The Husband: (More or less on-key.) OHHHHH, young SOLDIERRRRR! GO and BLOW your HOO-OOOORN!

Bluebird: (Looking around the corner.) Is that a real song?

The Husband: (Still singing.) OHHHHH, young SOLDIERRRRR! GO and EAT a POT-PIIIIE! (A beat.) No.

(Bluebird sighs.)


THE HUSBAND is sitting at the kitchen table, studying.

The Husband: If I were a ceramicist—

Bluebird: (Looks up from computer) Yes?

The Husband: —I would open a shop called 50 Shades of Clay.

Bluebird: Oh, that sounds… wait, what?!?


THE HUSBAND is doing dishes and singing.

The Husband: Don’t LAAAAAY DOWN on the BED if there’s a PRICE on your HEAD!

Bluebird: What are you singing?

The Husband: The theme song from Shaft.

(Fifteen minutes later, Bluebird comes back.)

Bluebird: Okay, I looked everywhere. (Pause.) You totally made that up, didn’t you?

The Husband: (Looks up from last dish.) Chicken pot, chicken pot, chicken pot piiiiiiiiiie!




HEY! Have you ever heard the Chicken Pot Pie song? (The song is only five seconds long, but this is looped. Click it off right away, or you’ll hear it 30 times in a row and be annoyed. It’s really funny the first time though.)


*THAT’S A FUTURAMA JOKE, SON. Check out the Futurama wiki here. I wanted to show you that clip, but I cannot find one anywhere! Glaaah! Do you know where I can find the “Kittens give Morbo gas” bit?


TODAY’S MUSICAL PAIRING: [5-MINUTE DANCE PARTY] Brightness and Contrast by the Kleptones!


[5-Minute Dance Party] Brightness & Contrast (Massif Mashup)





*Heeeey! There’s one NSFW curse word right around the beginning.

Skip to 00:17 to jump over the no-no word—you’ll be dropped perfectly into the start of the song.


There was

fifty-seven channels

and nothing on.


There are so many fantastic songs slipped into this mashup, and yet it works as a cohesive whole. I love the Kleptones— they always take my ear somewhere I’m not expecting to go.

Wanna go with me? Here’s The Kleptones’ Website and The Kleptones on Soundcloud.




DUDE, WE’VE TOTALLY FEATURED THE SUPER AWESOME KLEPTONES BEFORE: [Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party] Shout My Name

[5-Minute Dance Party] Steady as She Goes









Well here we go again

You’ve found yourself a friend that knows you well

But no matter what you do

You’ll always feel as though you tripped and fell




ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH: The promo photograph for this story was made available by professional photographer Steve Appleford.


[5-Minute Dance Party] Ain’t Got No/I Got Life









I ain’t got no home.

Ain’t got no shoes.

Ain’t got no money.

Ain’t got no class.




I didn’t listen to Nina Simone sing, not really, until a few years ago. Of course, I fell in love with her and her music instantly. Her voice and her demeanor are so idiosyncratic and singular, that there’s no mistaking Nina Simone, ever, for another recording artist on this earth.

One of the pleasures of coming to a major artist like Simone as an adult— meaning someone with education and experiences, aka “a life,” is that I am able to enjoy songs like “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life,” while simultaneously catching all the nuances and references in Simone’s classic song.

You’ll notice that the first part of “Ain’t Got No” is all negatives. Simone lists everything she doesn’t have—and its a considerable lot of things, most of them more metaphorical than literal in her case. Simone bore the distinction of being raised in an educated and thoughtful household in North Carolina to parents— who did everything they could to further the musical education of their natural-born prodigy. (One of her first champions was her mother’s employer, who put money forth to further little Simone’s piano lessons.)


In the second part of the song, Simone continues her listing, but this time to the positive: it’s all about what Simone does have. Some modern listeners might find it strange to hear Simone listing body parts, but given that she is singing this song at the Harlem Festival in 1969, her listing-lyrics start to make more sense. Simone would not have been that many generations removed from African-American memories of slavery.

The language of self-ownership (“my body” and “my hips,” et. al.) was an important part of the African-American cultural experience of the late 1960s. Recognition of one’s self and roots also played an important role in emergent world-wide discussions about identity politics. Many countries, not just America, chose to denigrate sections of its own citizenry based on skin color or race—perceived or otherwise.

In any case, I hope you enjoy Nina Simone, who really gave a great performance, no matter the venue nor the year. Bluebird Blvd.’s 5-Minute Dance Party on Nina Simone today was made possible by the Estate of Nina Simone.


Headdress




Altered photograph of Courtenay Bluebird with circular faces.



This is exactly how I feel right now, you dig?

Did you ever have one of those weeks where you couldn’t quite get anything finished? This week has been one of those weeks for me. I have photographs that need editing and stories that are half-written and laundry that requires folding and let’s not even discuss the dishes or the dusting, okay?

When I get like this—that is, so busy that I’m turning in confused circles—I take out a legal pad and make a list of what absolutely has to get done— just for today. Somehow it’s a comfort to see the real deadlines on paper. It seems more “real” if I write it down rather than type it out. With my handwritten list, I can prioritize today’s tasks from top to bottom what needs to be done and what can be done and easily strike off anything from that list that really isn’t as time-sensitive as it appeared at first glance.


While I’m working out that “today list,” I also pull out another legal pad, put it farther up the desk, and scribble down every task that comes to mind: Tasks I’d like to get done someday; tasks that needs to get done soon, and any task I’ve been forgetting to do for more than a week or more.

However, that higgledy-piggledy everything-under-the-sun to-do list goes in a drawer to be pulled out a day or so later, at which time I pull out that ol’ legal pad a third time, consult the higgledy-piggledy “everything” list, and try to figure what needs to be done now, soon, and someday. That’s the point where I try to figure out the steps, supplies, and time needed to get each task done.


But here’s my problem, you all— my method feels outmoded and I haven’t found a suitable update that doesn’t seem either a) unrealistic or b) expensive. I’d love to hear how you manage your to-do list without getting overwhelmed, jostled, aggravated, domestically nihilistic, or whatever it is your brain does when there are too many to-dos on the page. Task management is a universal issue, right? I’d love to hear how you manage to get stuff done and stay (mostly) sensible.

Heck, right now I’d take somewhat or even not-quite sensible. It really has been that kind of week, okay?




ABOUT THIS PHOTOGRAPH: I shot this self-portrait with my iPhone in Hipstamatic, then edited it using several iPhone apps before sending it over to my Mac. The photo effect you see here was done using a combination of filters from my favorite premier open source photo editing and design software, Gimp, which is available for Mac and PC (and others, I believe).

[5-Minute Dance Party] You Me Bullets Love






The whole world is crazy in love with you.

There is still one bullet left in the barrel of this gun—

Oh darling, look this way.



Is this for real? You bet it is! The Husband heard “You Me Bullets Love” on NPR last week. He was so taken with the song and the band that he sent me this text: LOOK UP THE BOMBAY ROYALE! Schrmorerhrgh! (We’re not sure what the last part means, but it may be code for something.)

The Bombay Royale‘s standout single “You Me Bullets Love” came out right before its full-length same-titled album release in 2012. As big fans of that 1960s Bollywood Surf sound, we think this single is the tops. Bluebird Blvd. is looking forward to more Bollywood Surf-inspired classics from Melbourne-based outfit The Bombay Royale in 2014. (There are rumors of a sophomore album release sometime this year! So excited!)


Speaking of excitement…

Dance with me, darling! Get up and dance, dance, dance!

Happy Friday, everybody!



English translation: You Me Bullets Love

Hesitancy





Carl_Spitzweg_Der-Schmetterlingsjäger



SOMETIMES I forget to breathe when I’m trying to sort out an idea in my head. It’s as though my brain cannot handle an autonomic task and an intentional one at the same time. Breathing is something your body is supposed to do without asking your consent, but mine doesn’t do that. Mine thinks it’s either one thing or the other— you can either breathe deeply or think deeply, Courtenay, but not both— and I keep trying to tell my autonomic brain that I cannot think at all if I’m not breathing. But no one is listening to me.

When I’m feeling whimsical about it, I think the head foreman of my autonomic brain is always out to lunch when I come to make my case. The secretary too. I’m knocking at doors within myself, asking the central nervous system and the pulmonary folks if they’ve seen the foreman, and no one will say a word. Isn’t that just like a body to not speak to you with words.




THE CITY of my birth has grown an exurb, a city on its tip-toes, a Lego town against rough-cut cliffs, ready-grown trees, and wide, congested streets. I find myself driving on the freeway that circles the exurb the way I drove when I lived in L.A., which is to say smoothly and a little viciously. My sight extends three cars ahead in every direction, my posture bolts upright. I am attuned to my anticipation of unexpected movement. I thought I’d dropped this habit when I left California. I thought I would put my tense shoulders and my indignant face in a box out in the garage and move it around with the other unused things from time-to-time.

Despite myself, I did forget my tense shoulders and my indignant face for several years. But then, the city of my birth released its borders to the doctors and the lawyers and the businesspeople and their collective spouses and children, who rushed out to claim a little space away from the circular medieval streets of the 300-year-old city that raised them. Now they have good jobs and they drive terribly, sort of like Los Angeles drivers, if those drivers had just gotten smacked in the head right before taking the wheel.

Cars out here go 40 miles per hour on the 70 mph freeway while the drivers jabber on their phones. Drivers around here turn around and talk to their children during rush hour while their cars scrape up the curb. The local drivers break at yield signs and roll stop signs and do everything in their power to find new ways to flout the laws and confound common sense. These exurban drivers would know all of this if they could hear me shouting at them— because I talk in my car as if we are standing right in front of one another; I feel like a vicious fool: “What are you DOING?” I shout. And: “You aren’t—no, you aren’t! You’re really going to do that? What the %*# is WRONG with you?”

The drivers shrug and eat hamburgers and laugh and toddle into oncoming traffic as I give them the ol’ bug-eyed stare. I’m not breathing. I am so focused on this dance we’re doing together down this tricky little exit on a dangerous street that I’ve forgotten to inhale. Every other time I take this route I see a three-ambulance accident. My reflexes are tuned like harp strings—an insignificant wind will set my nerves neatly on point. I am moving in the right direction away from danger before I even know I am moving, and yet I do not know well enough to breathe.




THERE ARE traditions where the breath mates naturally with action. Barre work in ballet requires body, mind, and breath. Certain forms of mediation owe their shape to body, breath, and mind. Even firing an arrow at a target begins with mind, body and then, finally, a breath: an inhale for form and focus, an exhale to release the arrow shaped like a lean idea from one’s taut grip. There are songs and there are stories that we use to describe the body that deprives itself of its own breath. And none of these songs, these stories, end well.

I am driving through the exurb in the afternoon after an errand; at a stoplight I see a man with a sign. I roll down my window and call to him, “Hey! How are you?” The man, slim, small, careful, threads his body like a needle through the tense knot of traffic. I have money folded in my palm. We shake hands; I release the folded dollars from my hand to his like a magic trick. “How are you?” I say again—and I mean it. “How are you, sir?” He smiles at me so sweetly it is a shock. The man has the mild eyes of an Italian Renaissance Madonna, and he starts to thank me, but I pat his hand and I do not break my gaze.

“I’ll be okay,” says the man. “When the VA takes this out of me in a month.”

He points to a lymph node between his neck on his shoulder that is so enlarged it is the size of two fists held together. I gasp. I am not accustomed to missing essential details on the street. This man is an essential detail to me. “I’m so sorry,” I say, and I mean it. I regret the meagreness of the dollars I handed him. I regret the meanness of my driving that day. I tell him that I will keep him in my thoughts, and I will do it, but now I have put him in yours too because he needs all the good thoughts to land on him like a cache of butterflies. Because he needs a breath and another breath and you can help give him that. And I mean it.

The light burns green. I leave the curb and the man, but in a way, I do not leave at all. I’ve left my breath there, and it takes a moment for me to reorient myself. Here I am: I am a 39-year-old woman in a mid-range car in a well-to-do neighborhood thirty minutes from home. I am a driver moving through a stoplight, turned red, now green. I am my hands, steering my vehicle into traffic. I am my eyes, watching three cars ahead and three cars back and side-to-side— I am my breath, which burns in my throat. I am my nerves: I change lanes, I accelerate. I am my ears: an SUV behind me hurtles into a van. I am my foot, depressing the gas pedal, which moves my car out of the way of an accident.

The streets are still for a moment— hesitance is the natural child of shock. I check behind me to see whether the man whose hand I just shook a moment ago is all right. He is standing far away from that disaster, unshaken. Cars in two of three lanes move again, swarming around the accident, passing without hesitancy. The exurbanites drive these streets like white blood cells encircling foreign matter when they pass the wreckage of one of their own, but no one stops to see. I inhale; I exhale— but I do not look back again. I, too, arrange my thoughts, and move on.








ABOUT THE PAINTING: “Der Schmetterlingsjäger” (The Butterfly Hunter.) German painter and poet Carl Spitzweig. He’s the master of illuminating a particular kind of alert aloneness. It’s not sad at all—it’s poignant. I’d never heard of him before today, but I love his point-of-view and his composition style, and I think you’re gonna love him too. Whoa.

LA-LA-LA! ATTRIBUTION!: Carl Spitzweg 033” by Carl Spitzweg – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

[5-Minute Dance Party] Agent Double-O-Soul






I dig rock and roll music, yeah.

I can twine and jerk. (Yes, I can, now!)

I wear strictly continental suits. (As you can see!)

And high-collared shirts. (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)



There are these moments in rock and roll history that just about kill me. (I mean that in a good way, and you know it!) Watching Houston, TX-born Billy Preston dance and sing with Ray Charles to his (Edwin Starr-penned) Motown hit is one of the great highlights of popular music, don’t you think? (Can’t remember your favorite Edwin Starr hit? It’s “War,” honey. (But songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote that one. How about Preston? Remember “Nothing From Nothing”?)

I’ll see you a little bit later when today’s story goes up (around 10 p.m. CST tonight!), and meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this Billy Preston hit, which I saw first on Dangerous Minds from multimedia marvel Richard Metzger.




A NOTE: Look, I almost never ever post things similar to stuff other sites have posted first, so this a rare exception. (Why do I say similar and not the same? I went looking for a clearer audio-video recording and found a much better copy of this song elsewhere.) You should check out the Dangerous Minds, though, if only to listen to the audio for “Can’t She Tell?”— an early Sly Stone song on which you’ll hear music prodigy Billy Preston’s dynamic piano playing and soaring back-up vocals.

Dangerous Minds is a serious treat. At this writing, the site features over 7000 pages of pop culture goodies. If you haven’t visited DM before, let me warn you that you’re gonna wanna poke around for awhile because there’s so much to see. Have fun!



The Marriage Interpreter [No. 48]




The Husband looking at viewer, while the Underpants Lemur is checking out The Husband.



THE HUSBAND is talking to Ilsa von Dogovitch on the couch.

The Husband: You could be a superhero dog.

Ilsa: Bark!

The Husband: (Rubbing Ilsa’s head.) Yes, a superhero dog, with your little feet and your little carbon footprint….

Ilsa: ??? (A beat. ) Bark!




THE HUSBAND is washing dishes and talking to himself.

The Husband: Dingo got my tiara!




THE HUSBAND looks up from the TV suddenly.

The Husband: The movie “Goodwill Hunting” was about thrift store shopping, right?

Bluebird: (Rolls eyes upward.) Of course it is.




THE HUSBAND is drinking coffee and thinking.

The Husband: Why do we name undergarments after animals?

Bluebird: Like what?

The Husband: Garanimals… teddies… underpantlemurs.

Bluebird: There’s coffee in that cup, right?

The Husband: (Sipping coffee.) Wouldn’t you like to know.




THE HUSBAND walks in to Bluebird’s office, computer in hand, looking bummed.

The Husband: Textbook prices are exorbitantly lame.

Bluebird: I’m sorry to hear that. (A beat.) Did you say “exorbitantly lame”? Dude, that’s kinda awesome.

The Husband: (Brightening.) That’s because I’m exorbitantly lameawesometastic like that. (Singing and walking away.) Stupid textbooks! Are! Exoooooorbitantllllyyyyyyy… LAAAAAAAAAAAAME! Do-WOP-WOP, yeaaaaah!




TO COMMEMORATE THE GREAT DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. TODAY: MLK’s “But If Not” speech, courtesy of the Internet Archive. May Dr. King’s legacy live on in all of us.

[5-Minute Dance Party] Temples – Keep In The Dark








I feel relief when I talk, eventually comes

talk of our dreams. You surely have one.

Mind your head and keep your hand firmly pressed to the earth.


New psychedelia from bands like Temples is so wonderfully charming, don’t you think? The timing for posting this song couldn’t be better! Temples is releasing its first full-length album, Sun Structures, on Feb. 11 worldwide.


UP NEXT! A brand new Marriage Interpreter!


AUDIOBOOK VERSION: The Names of South Texas Plants








A NOTE: If you have any problems listening or downloading this reading, please head over to this page on Soundcloud, where you can listen to The Names of South Texas Plants. However, I didn’t realize you couldn’t share with non-Soundcloud users. I will have an easy-to-download recording available to you before the end of the day, y’all.)

ONE. This is a story I never intended to tell about my grandparents, but it’s all true. Feel free to download this story to enjoy offline. You can read along with the text here: A City Tree in the Afternoon -and- The Names of South Texas Plants.

TWO. No, my grandparents didn’t actually sound like that. My grandparents had a South Texas accent—which is flat and nasal and musical. I have tried and I have tried, but I cannot replicate anything like it! When I read their dialogue for this story, I think I sound like Fozzy Bear doing selections from “Slingblade.”

THREE: Do I sound spacy at the end? I recorded this more than 20 times because the best recording app I have only allows you to do one straight track with no stops and no do-overs. The track right before this one was perfect… and then my dog barked just as I was reading the last sentence. Ah, me—I hope you enjoy this less-perfect version. Happy Sunday, darlings.


[Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party] Sound and Vision (Beck’s BIG Version)






And I will sit right down

waiting for the gift of sound and vision.

And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision





Beck said to tell you to go and put on headphones for the best experience. (Don’t rush, we can wait right here.)

Did you get ’em? Okay, plug it in and hit play, Maynard! This thing is a serious wow!

Happy Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party!



A City Tree in the Afternoon -and- The Names of South Texas Plants



An evergreen tree on a Colorado street corner.

Click here for the audiobook version of The Names of South Texas Plants.

 

When I was a child, my grandparents were forever talking about every single species of tree and plant in South Texas that they saw. (It’s a plentiful region full of more plants than you’d ever think, let me assure you.) I’m embarrassed to say that I never got further in my education of the local flora than the wildflowers for which my region is famous, namely the bluebonnets, which have blue blossoms (or sometimes pink or white) with long stems. I can also spot with ease any and all “Indian Paintbrush,” another kind of wildflower where the flowering part—this time a sort of brushy-stuff—shows all the colors of autumn while sitting high on a green stalk. And that’s it. That’s the extent of my plant know-how of the South Texas region.

I don’t know how this happened. My grandparents grew up in that country. They were expert at what the land could produce with and without effort. But there were signs, I suppose, early on that I wasn’t learning anything from them. My grandparents talked all the time about something called “Buffalo Grass,” which I found out a few years ago is actually called “buffelgrass.” (I had been mishearing that word for more than 30 years of my life. You’re shocked, I’m sure.)

My lack of knowledge still stings— just ten minutes ago, I wasn’t even spelling buffelgrass correctly in my head. I thought it was spelled bufflegrass like truffles or sniffles, not buffelgrass like duffel or sorrel. Thank goodness I don’t have to rely on my wits for this sort of thing because I’d be totally boned.

 

Everything else my grandparents discussed plant-wise went whistling through my head without so much as a how-de-do? and a tip of a hat.

“Did you see that xerpsce ervy?” My grandmother would say to my grandfather while she drove her Buick down Main Street.

My grandfather would stop twiddling his large thumbs and squint at the side of the road. “Isn’t that weerly rert?”

With her hands at ten and two, she’d turn her head to him and reply, “Well, we’ll stop and look on the way back.”

 

In the back seat of that Buick, I would sit and read a book. I had no idea what was going on, but I could feel the signs of a fight brewing. I was like one of those house cats that can sense an earthquake. Were they still talking about plants or was that last retort code for something they didn’t want me to hear? Are they going to quiz me later or ask me if I saw it? Oh no. Please don’t ask me what I saw. I was watching a Woody Woodpecker cartoon in my head. That’s what I saw.

I’d start to sweat a little bit. Sometimes they did ask me if I was following the conversation. Sometimes they needed a tie-breaker—and I was the only possibility. (Poor them!) Sometimes, my grandmother would ask—

“Well, Courtenay, what do you think that plant is?”

“Is it grass?” I’d say hopefully.

“No.” My grandmother would wince. “It’s—”

 

“It’s weerly rert.” My grandfather would mumble over his shoulder. “You can tell by the leaves.”

“No.” My grandmother would start punching the brake pedal, then the gas pedal, then the brake pedal, then the gas pedal again, punctuating her answer with her foot.

“It is not—” (Screech!) “weerly rert.” (Zoom!) “You never get weerly rert—” (Screech!) “—this time of year—” (Zoom!) “and you know it.”

 

Her mouth would go flat and tight as a fitted sheet. She’d screeeeeeech! up to the curb by the little diner in the middle of town and park her Buick with one swift flick of the steering wheel.

I’d be green around the ears from the gas pedal-brake pedal-gas pedal-brake pedal-gas pedal treatment and scrambling for the door. My grandfather would step out of the car and stand there looking at the sky to get back his equilibrium. You can’t fight city hall if you’re nauseated, and that’s a fact.

The crazy part is that my grandmother never even noticed she was winning her argument by making us feel as though we were riding a swaybacked camel that got 36 miles per gallon on the highway, and maybe 27 in town. (And we weren’t about to bring up her angry quirk, either. She might offer to drive us home again while still in her crotchets.)

 

The horizon would stagger. My grandfather would look at me and shrug expressively. Out of habit, I would cover my smile with a hand. But my grandmother, pleased that the argument ended in her favor, would snap her old filigreed compact shut and toss it back into her big navy purse. Like a tipsy dancer, my green-as-green-paint grandfather would reach his hand out to help his wife from her car. Her green-as-spring-clover granddaughter (that’s me!) would be staring at the middle distance like a Stoic.

“What in the world is the matter with you both? The diner has catfish today and it goes quick, so hurry up, please.”

 

On second thought, I suppose there may have been two reasons why I have no knowledge of plant names.

 


 A POSTSCRIPT

 

We’ve come the long way around, I’m afraid.

I brought this whole tale up because I photographed a tree on my recent trip that I cannot identify. (The truth: There were lots of trees, I took loads of photographs, and I couldn’t get a clue about what they were even if you gave it to me personally in a gilded envelope.)

Still, hope springs eternal. I photographed this particular tree on our trip by leaning waaaay out of a passenger car window with my seat belt still on, going 30 mph in below 40 degree weather.

I have no idea what kind of tree that could be or might be in the picture I shot, but it is located in Southern Colorado and it appears to be a green tree of some sort.

I don’t know if that is at all helpful, but it is clearly the best I can offer you by way of an explanation.

 

[5-Minute Dance Party] Paint It Black (1966)








I see a red door and I want it painted black

No colors anymore, I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes

I have to turn my head until my darkness goes






If you like this original Rolling Stones version, you should hear what Marie LaForêt does with it. Dang.


Hey, darling— Here’s yesterday’s post, just in case you missed it: The Utter Infallibility of Love


The Utter Infallibility of Love





Courtenay looking to the right on the anniversary of her grandmother's death.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I have been in mourning for one year, a year tumultuous on its own terms, and plentiful with good silences. Above all things, it has been a year of longing suffused with the knowledge of absolute absence.

What makes life so sweet is its limits— you’re only handed over a certain amount of days and hours and seconds; a selection of birthdays and a spread of Christmases (or Chanukkahs or Ramadans or Holi Days); and enough sunsets to count across your hands eight or nine times over if you’re lucky.

But you never know how many of anything you’re going to get, so you try to savor each one without ennobling the fear of death— too much Death Fear dished out on a plate will make anyone quake.

So yesterday, I spoke a prayer to myself over and over again. I enrobed myself in exterior silence for most of the morning and the afternoon, and this is what I said to my grandmother as the light in my office moved from one wall to the other over a course of eight hours—

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

—until the words tumbled and tinkled like river water over the rocky bend I carry in my heart.


[5-Minute Protest] Bed Peace







HEY! This song is explicit. As in f-word and drug reference explicit. It’s not exactly festooned with f-words and drug references, but there’s the one f-word that’s actually used in its proper context for once, and nine or ten mumbly euphemisms for smoking pot. You’ve been warned.




I just heard of Jhené Aiko a few days ago. She’s beautiful and she has an amazing singing voice. And I respect and enjoy Childish Gambino (aka, Donald Glover). I’ve been following Gambino’s career pretty much from his first season writing for 30 Rock (one of my favorite shows), and because I love music (and y’all know that)— I have been following Gambino’s music career since he released his first song. He can be rough and he can get dirty, but the guy has got talent. I just bought his latest album today. It’s wonderful to watch his talent deepen.

And that brings us to today’s 5-Minute Dance Party Protest: Jhené Aiko and Childish Gambino are a couple. Or they’re friends. Or they’re working on projects together. Well, something’s happening, but I’m not sure what. (More on that later.)


In October, Aiko and Gambino made a song and a video together called “Bed Peace.”

It looks as though Aiko has penned “Bed Peace,” based on (sort of) the famous protest of the Vietnam War by Beatles’ member John Lennon and artist Yoko Ono in which the newly-married famous couple decided to leverage their fame and their then-shocking days-old marriage by staging a “Bed-In” to protest the Vietnam War.


If you are too young to know about it, the Vietnam War (known to Vietnamese as the American War) was a 20-year bloody conflict between the U.S. and Vietnam that had to do with, among other things, our fear that Vietnam and the countries that surround it would join a coalition with the U.S.S.R. (current day Russia, now not communist), and eventually, we’d all fight one another and detonate nuclear bombs and blow the whole planet to smithereens. Vietnamese communists from that tinderbox era had similar concerns about Western capitalists, and over these concerns and from these conflicts, the world sat on the brink of World War III for several tense decades. (I am oversimplifying for the sake of clarity about a larger point. It’s a lot more complex on both sides than I describe here, but we have places to be, people.)

The whole campaign was bloody and long; it terrified an entire generation, who were conscripted (drafted, made by law to go to war) by governments on each side. Their job was to fight and to die, with honor, whether they liked it or not, and they did fight and they did die, with honor— in the tens of thousands from 1956 to the beginning 1963, and in the hundreds of thousands from 1963 to 1974. There was no reason for anyone to think that the Vietnam (American) War would stop any time soon, or that the influx of young men and women sent in to fight, work, live and die in the conflict in Vietnam in 1969 would slow at any point in the near future. Worse yet, they were right to think so.


Still— in March of 1969, newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono walked into the lobby of the Amsterdam Hilton with the private plan of staging a major protest. They quietly signed into the register. They got into the elevator. They went upstairs to settle into the Amsterdam Hilton Honeymoon Suite, and they called up the press of various news agencies to let them know that John and Yoko were going to be in bed in the Amsterdam Hilton and the press were invited to come in and watch. “Watch what?” said the press. “Just come over,” said Lennon and Yoko. (These were simpler times, people. Guess what the press corps thought they were going to get to watch? No, really— guess!)

The press showed up expecting John and Yoko to be doing what newly married couples do in beds in hotel rooms, but instead they found the famous pair in bed… talking about peace. Which John and Yoko continued to do for two weeks, twelve hours each day, without a break, to the press, who listened and listened and listened some more.

And while John and Yoko talked to the press corps and anyone who could drop by, the war raged on in Vietnam and the countries that still surround it. American men were being drafted daily. Vietnamese men were conscripted hourly. Although anti-war protesters were everywhere in 1969, nothing good was happening and everyone was afraid: American politicians were afraid that their own country would be torn apart by generational fighting, and American generals worried that they would lose, not just to Vietnam’s communist North, but to the U.S.S.R., and we’d all end up bombing each other. And mothers in Russia worried about their sons. And fathers in the Netherlands sat up nights, dyspeptic over their daughters. And children everywhere lay awake in their rumpled beds, listening to their parents talking in soft tones in other rooms.


But in March of 1969, the minds and the hearts of the deeply conflicted world turned to watch John Lennon and Yoko Ono in white pajamas sit on a white bed in a bright hotel room covered in white flowers and white signs, make a point to talk about peace. To laugh about peace and sing about peace. And to hope and wish for peace. And in doing so, John and Yoko managed to give people something they had been desperately missing in a year’s worth of conflict, maybe more: Hope.

Just that: Hope.

It was, to put it quite gently, a really important moment in 1969.


In contrast, Jhené Aiko’s “Bed Peace” is sort of, well… kind of vaguely about peace and conflict. She and Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) have the white pajamas on like John and Yoko. Don and Aiko (clever, eh?) are sitting in the famous hotel room on a white bed with signs just like John and Yoko‘s, right? And just like John and Yoko (sort of) Aiko tells a (fake) reporter in her video that “You can’t help anyone else if you don’t have it together for yourself” (00:41) and sings towards the end “peace it up with this peace and love like peace and love in the old days.” (The 1960s being the old days in this lyric. Sort of.)

But that’s where Aiko’s peace stops and the real message begins: Aiko’s “Bed Peace” is a song about being in…something with Childish Gambino (who can’t seem to look up at the camera while his lady love is dancing around for “Bed Peace” and that’s all I can say about that).


Aiko, meanwhile, is the opposite of her deadpan man, she’s making moues at the camera, she’s flashing the peace symbol, she’s wearing the prettiest smile, then her sexy but serious face, then the smile again and a flutter of eyelashes expertly coated in mascara. All the while, she sings about orange juice and waking up at 2:30 in the afternoon right on key, no Autotune needed. And, oh yeah, getting faded— (smoking weed, anybody? ‘Cause that’s what peace and love people did in the “old days,” right Aiko?). And having sex. Actually, nope— she and Gambino are f——ing, she says, after the sex. And then she wants Gambino “to give me my space” afterward. (You got that, Gambino? Go play your Xbox or something, okay?)

The (fake) reporter smiles at Jhené Aiko and fakes interest with a fake nod toward a fake note in a real notebook. The internet rolls on another day. A fifty-year-old war where over a million people perished and where a famous couple sold their fame for the common good is gone now. The symbol of hope in the middle of that terrible war has been grabbed up to be used as the title of a song by a 27-year-old R&B singer talking about putting on makeup, but not ‘liking that fake stuff.” And her companion, the talented comedy writer and clever musical artist who has sex with her, he informs us “it’s not love, but it’s pretty close.” (03:05) The sun crosses the horizon on another day, peach and blue perfect in this southern climate on a standard January morning in 2014. I’m sad for all of us, and I can’t quite explain why. I miss John Lennon, I think. In times like these, he was always a ready man with a joke.










Achoo!





Barbra Streisand raising fingers like cat claws.

Wandering wind—

Winter sun, savage dancer.

Cedar, I hate you.




Well, darlings— it’s mountain cedar season here in South Texas, so I feel like I’m breathing chunky-style soup. And you know what that means— that air-soup is just full of my favorite condiment: allergens. Stupid allergens!

Do you have year-round or seasonal allergies? What’s the best non-medical thing you do for yourself and your loved ones if somebody gets super allergy sick at your house?




ALAS, ALLERGIES. I KNEW THEE WELL. The Condiments of my Childhood

*DUDE, THAT IS SO NOT A REAL HAIKU: This poem is a real haiku. Sort of.

[5-Minute Dance Party] David Lynch’s Dune… “Sweded”









My friend Phillip sent me this last week, and I just got around to watching watching Monkey Theater‘s version of Dune. It’s hilarious.

It’s all about— Wait… give me a sec. (Bluebird cracks up.)

Just watch it. Oh my gosh, just watch it, y’all. You’re going to tip over from laughing, I totally know it.

PSSST! It’s less than six months until DUNE IN JUNE! You know about DUNE IN JUNE, right?


POSTSCRIPT: “SWEDED” is a term I didn’t remember hearing before, but its origins are pretty cute. According to Urban Dictionary, a sweded film is a movie that has been summarized by a group of people, usually fans of the film, by utilizing the lowest budget props, cameras, and film techniques available. The origin of the word “sweded” comes from a movie I really love— “Be Kind, Rewind,” which you can read about on the Be Kind Rewind Wikipedia entry.

Well, I don’t want to say this, but my conscience insists: I don’t often use Urban Dictionary because its reputation is terrible for a number of reasons we can discuss at a later date. To be clearer, I do not recommend visiting Urban Dictionary, nor using it as a reference source if you can avoid it.

[Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party] Ход конем






HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWLLL!


When we like something around here, watch out! Our “like” sometimes evolves into adoration, and we flat out adore Russian children’s TV sensation Маша и Медведь (Masha and Mishka!)

There’s not much you need to know to get up to speed, but here are the basics. Masha is a little girl who lives up the hill from a bear named Mishka (literally, “Bear”). This high-spirited kid drives her grown-up neighbor half-crazy! Featured in this episode are her friend, the rabbit, and Mishka’s old circus performing colleague, the Siberian tiger. (Look, I don’t know the names of any of the secondary characters, so, once again— if you do… speak up!) (Okay, update: I think the Siberian tiger’s name may be Amur, which is another name for the kind of tiger he is, and the rabbit’s name is… I still have no idea what that rabbit’s name is. Maybe Rabbit?)

There are 39 episodes (or so) of Animaccord Animation’s Маша и Медведь, with plenty more on the way. You’ll notice these are in Russian—we’re rather partial to the talented Russian voice actors who do the original characters— but there are offical dubbed versions in English and Portuguese and many other languages. (It’s a very popular show for some very good reasons!)

That said, we seriously love this show so much at our house. Watch it on your own (or with your kids!) on the official Маша и Медведь YouTube Page! Go to the official Маша и Медведь Facebook Page! Check out Animaccord’s official Маша и Медведь website!



JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT! Today’s stories also include: [5-Minute Dance Party] Kopeika and Sonic Love (Or, why I listen to new music)!

Sonic Love (Or, why I listen to new music)




Jazz musicians Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, Max Roach recording in studio



Why do I listen to new music?

I listen to new music because I want to fall in sonic love sixty-seven times a night with brand new songs by bands I’ve never heard before.

I listen to new music because I like a walking bass line and a boogie-woogie chorus. I like it when you change it up; I like it when you slow it down. I like it when you whoop! right at the start and I like it when your voice gets a little sobby at the end.




Oh yeah, I listen to new music: I don’t care if you had lessons in the instrument you play or if you taught yourself how to play that thing— just gimme those three chords and the truth, play ’em well and play ’em with heart and you’ve got my attention.




I like it when you play standards. I love it when you play original compositions. I adore it when you take risks, and it breaks my heart when you bear your heart for all the girls to see.

Know I’ll always be right at the radio when you lay every little bit of what you’ve got on the line in a brand new tune.





Cab Calloway singing and characteristically tossing his hair.

Let me explain a little more emphatically: I listen to new music and old music and right now music and up-and-coming music.

I’m not turned off that you don’t have a record deal yet. I don’t care how old or how young you are. I don’t care if you’re pretty or if you dress trendily or if you’re dating a movie star. I don’t give a flip about your musicology degree; I’m glad you studied with Itzhak Perlman, but that’s not what impresses me.

So what if Deutsche Grammophon dropped you from their label? You know me and a thousand-thousand others, we’re still listening. (And we’re still buying too!)




Please know that I listen to new music now, but I didn’t always listen to new music.

I found my favorite independent record stores too intimidating when I was a youth and there were no radio stations for people my age when I was growing up. (And I was broke as hell.) Just like many folks, I found a few bands I liked and a bunch of old school stuff I loved, a bunch of jazz standards and some symphonic things to which I was utterly devoted. I finally got some cash together and bought some great albums. I thought I was set.




For about five years, I didn’t listen to new music and I kind of forgot how to do it.

And I could have kept on enjoying that great same ol’ same ol’ for years and years after that, but I chose to do something different.

I chose to keep listening, keep on listening, listening, listening to brand new music.




Every day I’m surprised by something I haven’t heard before.

Every day I wake up amazed at how diverse the melody can be and still, how familiar—

There’s a Balkan-style orchestra on the radio right now, and after that will be the newest hot guitarist from Sudan. There are six girls who’ve got a new punk riff that’s a riot; there’s a man with a concertina you’re not gonna wanna miss. They’re playing some mad-good rock in Beijing these days, and later, we’ll listen to one of those jazz songbirds from the 1940s, the one who wore a fresh orchid behind her ear at all her shows.





Billie Holiday, giving all she's got.

You see, every day I wake up in a profound silence. I don’t talk and the dogs don’t bark and not a single car passes down the street for hours while I work.

But when I turn on the stereo, it crackles to life and so do I.




So, each and every day, I listen to good music and terrible music and I love it all.

Every day, I’m ready to go a little bit farther into aural territory I haven’t visited before.

Every day, I revisit the places I’ve been, the songs I’ve learned to love, the artists I respect. And more than all that— I listen, I really, really listen to new music.

So, musicians, do me a favor: Break my heart. Send me soaring. Make me brood. Take me far away— but let me join you on the chorus. Will you let me join you on the chorus? Let me join you on this chorus (and we’ll say it all together now—)!




So now you know—

Yes, I listen to new music.




Why? (Oh, you know the answer!)

Because it’s there.

Because you created it.

Because it’s beautiful.

Because you made it timeless.

Because it’s wonderful.

Because it’s real.

And I’m going to keep listening to all your new music, musicians—

because I can.




Jazz musicians Larry Adler and Paul Draper hamming it up.




WHAT, YOU’VE NEVER SEEN THESE PHOTOS BEFORE? On Bluebird Blvd., we’ve taken the opportunity to post a number of things from the Library of Congress WILLIAM P. GOTTLIEB collection. William Gottlieb was a writer and (self-taught!) photographer who captured the spirit and the playfulness of the jazz era in the 1940s in writing and pictures. His story is quite remarkable, so if you get a chance, check out the Library of Congress site, William Gottlieb: Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz.

MUSICIANS in GOTTLIEB’S PHOTOGRAPHS, starting from the TOP:
First, CHARLIE PARKER, TOMMY PARKER, and MAX ROACH.
Second, CAB CALLOWAY.
Third, BILLIE HOLIDAY. (She’s the singer who fancied orchids, but many jazz singers wore fresh flowers in their hair— it was the style at the time.)
Fourth, LARRY ADLER and PAUL DRAPER.