Relearning to Listen -Or- What Ever Happened to the Album?

So I’ve been thinking bout this for awhile now but an encounter today was really what nudged me over into actually writing a post about it. I hate writing about what I think people should be doing or how they are fucking up. I don’t really know what the hell is going on either, I’m just observant and malcontent. Having said that, the strangeness of the encounter left me feeling weird, frustrated and worried. I was trying to have a short conversation with a woman who we are hiring to do some work inside our house. I realized once the “conversation” was over that she had literally heard 0.000000% of what I had said. We all know about those people who do not listen<em they are just talking and then waiting to talk. My mom does this. I do too sometimes but am working on it. The last few weeks I’ve been thinking about how much of a real skill listening is. And how bad most people are at it. Everyone wants to be heard. They are dying for someone to connect with, for someone to care about their shit. That is partially the essence of our humanity.
There is power in listening. When you listen close enough you can almost hear people’s thoughts. They tell you so much with their face, voice, words, body. Teaching kids to truly listen and harness the power that comes with it is handing them a special tool that not everyone possesses.
Unfortunately, being “a good listener” in our current culture really means following orders or directions. And we all know that’s bullshit. Unless of course it is from us. Cause parents authoritarianism is totally exempt from my education industrial complex derision. Naturally.
On a different but related tangent I really like to listen to albums. Don’t get me wrong, I put on some pandora when we have company over or are engaging in a raging family dance party. But really my heart is with The Album. When I put on an album, especially like as an event, when the listening is all I’m doing, no dishes, no driving, nothing but laying there and listening its like the band telling you all its secrets. Its a wonderful way to practice real listening. It’s like stepping into someone’s mind, taking in their vision- one played out through a collection of songs and artwork or whatever is on the cover of the album. I actually boycott singles. But hey- so did Zeppelin. I mean does listening to the song Money by itself slammed against some other unrelated songs treat you the same way as if you quietly took in the whole of Dark Side of the Moon? No. I mean the things you hear in albums when you are truly listening to them are incredible. The crosstalk between band members in the background, the inhale exhale of vocalists, the real emotion in a voice, a tiny misstep in timing that tells you that humans are playing the music- somehow making it even more beautiful. We hear music constantly but i feel like we rarely listen to it. When I really listen to music I feel like I know those people. After all they just laid it out there- hopefully everything they got- for us. It’s like reading a great book. When you give it your full attention it can become part of you. And maybe people can too…
So in a nutshell I am a (probably) one woman movement to revive the art form of the album and release music listeners from the dreaded purgatory that is iTunes single song purchases. And slow down and really listen to what people are saying (fing revolutionary, I know). Aaaaaaaand teach kids about these things. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand because I can’t resist a good list here are a few cool things I’ve heard lately really listening to some of my albums. Please forgive my problem with italics.

1. The incredible sad beautiful tuning on Stephen Stills guitar on the Buffalo Springfield songFor What It’s Worth.

2.”and now I will proceed to untangle the entire area” muttered stonily from David Crosby right as Almost Cut My Hair starts on Crosby Stills Nash and Youngs deja vu album.

3. The airplane noise and comments made by my boyfriend Robert Plant between Boogie With Stu and Black Country Woman on Zeppelins Physical Graffiti, easy to miss.

4. The tender manly soulful rad texture of Paul Rodgers voice in the early years on the Free album Fire and Water.

Happy listening! I mean listening.

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I’m BACK and There’s More To Life Than Barney…

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So I know- I suck. It has been way too long since I posted anything. I could unfurl a whole list of excuses like a toilet paper roll dropped at your feet- but why? You don’t care and neither do I. Instead I’ll just say this… I’m BACK. You’re welcome.

I listened to a lot of great music with kids over the holidays and realized that maybe this is weird.  My mom for one was somewhat shocked that my 3 year old daughter could identify the voice of Robert Plant on the radio. I loooooved it. I never really felt like I was taking a stance on on the way we pander to children, but apparently I am. Just cause they are little doesn’t mean they can’t experience rich things. I think I exposing them to more ( with discretion obviously) helps them more fully develop their own thoughts and feelings. I’m not saying force your tastes on your kids but there is a compromise between Custard Pie and Barney. Amiright?

My son, who is 1, loves Boogie with Stu from Zeppelins Physical Graffiti, Dr. John, and the album Rumors from Fleetwood Mac. They are all upbeat and fun. I see him developing rhythm listening to them. He claps and car seat dances when we are driving. And so do I. so much better I would think than silently screaming when Wheels on the Bus comes on AGAIN.

My daughter, the Viking princess, goes a little heavier. She really likes “almost cut my hair” from Crosby stills Nash and youngs Deja Vu album. Actually she’s pretty into the whole album. Such a good album… She tells me how her brother is helpless when Neil youngs ” helpless” comes on and how we are all helpless or helpful sometimes. That’s some deep shit for someone who sleeps in a princess pull up. That is a pretty fucking cool 3 year old if you ask me. 

I think hearing authentic people expressing authentic feelings and ideas has to have some good effect. Plus dad and I like it and enjoying quality stuff together makes you a stronger family I think.

Do you guys have any ideas for rock albums kids might especially like. Like I know The Wall wouldn’t go well but The Last Waltz might. Know what I mean?

Thrifting With Little Kids

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So. I looove thrift store shopping. I go once a week usually while The Viking Princess is at preschool so it’s just me and The Magical Wizard.  Just as the thrift store can be a mysterious and enchanted land of plenty it can also be a semi- creepy place full of peril and unholy filth. Yeah – you know what I mean, who buys used pantyhose and wigs for god sake ? So I have a little list of pointers for shopping at the thrift store with your little partner that can give you some peace of mind about the disgust factor and also on keeping them busy *cough* (bribery) *cough*.

1. Someone get me cart cozy, stat!
Having a cart cozy thing really helps me feel better about the whole thing in general. You know – one of those covers that goes over the shopping cart seat and handle. It gives The Wizard a sanitary area. God only knows what is on normal shopping carts, let alone skeevy thrift shopping carts. Have you seen some of the other shoppers?- yeah. It also helps catch any miscellaneous snacks/toys/general child detritus that might be dropped while shopping cause there’s only so much you can re sanitize a lollipop dropped in a giant dust bunny.

2. Prioritize prioritize prioritize
Lets be honest. No matter how many snacks you bring your kid has an expiration time in any store. The thrift I go to is HUGE. I get distracted pretty easily. I don’t need to look through the pantsuit section and you probably don’t either. Save yourself for really diggin into what you like them most – t shirts, boots, jeans, whatever.

3. I’m not above bribes – even at 9am.
The Wizard is pretty food oriented. He stays totally happy and busy if there are snacks involved. I start out healthy and then slide into a downwardish spiral. It’s like string cheese, banana chips, then goldfish crackers, aaaaand then m&ms. No shame – parenting is also pragmatics.

4. Let them learn the skillz
As the magical wizard is slowly getting over the whole thing we let him pick out a small toy or bag of toy cars from the kids section of the store. I know what you’re thinking… Omg she lets him touch those germy toys! Nooooooo. I always have those antibacterial wet ones in my bag. I wipe the shit out of whatever he picks. I’m talking detail work here like nooks and crannies and overall twice at least. This way he is part of the adventure and gets something to buy me another 10 minutes as we wrap up and pay. The wipes are good too in case they drop something else important on the questionable thrift store floor.

I don’t know, maybe this is no brainer stuff for other people, but once I finally came up with a system we were both much happier. It’s sort of like a weird bonding time for us now because its so regular every week.

Hopefully this helps some thrift mama out there who is wary of thrifting with the babe but really misses it like I did. rock on thrift mamas.

Ps. Always check out the kids costume section of the store or just the kids section for costumes especially this time of year. Even if your kids don’t use them for Halloween there’s great stuff for year round dress up for dirt cheap usually.

I’m Just Analog Like That

First, let me recognize the irony and possibly even hippocrasy inherent in this post. Im gonna talk about the non use of technology while using said technology to deliver it and for all y’all to read it. So – ok, having said that…
Sometimes I think that the instant availability of information on my iPhone/pad really mostly leads to dissatisfaction and impatience. It is something in the immediacy of getting the exact piece of info you want or the instant acquisition of an object. Sometimes instead if actually thinking out a problem my first instinct is to google it. That is scary. Most people are idiots. Most of the people I know are idiots. Why in the world would I take their collective advice instead of using my own knowledge and experience? I’m not sure but at least I am able to refrain from the actual googling of things like “keeping toddler seated during dinner” or “why is my husband being an asshole” most of the time.
When I talk to people about this, about not automatically clicking into devices and remembering that the world and people around us are what is REAL, they usually say something like ” yeah I know what you mean” and then pull out their phone to answer a text or check email.
And I totally do it to. I’m not preachin’.
I’m just saying that my feeling of fulfillment with life is greater when I don’t endlessly compare things online, check email 12 times a day, and access an answer to every banal question my little head comes up with. My life is not better for instantly knowing who played the dad on Different Strokes. It just isn’t.
So my proposition for myself and anyone else who cares is to really use this stuff as tools and not fucking oracles. It’s hard. Harder than you think. It is part of everyones life. Its a huge cultural habit. But habits can be broken. It is “what people do” and takes a will to resist.i don’t want to be a sheep- staring at a little blue rectangle while the world passes by. I still look up Popsicle recipes for my kids and do this blog and buy stuff. I just try not to get sucked in, to go there first, to check out mentally and subscribe to whatever groupthink answer is on Wikipedia.
My brain feels better. My kids get more attention. We are more creative. Try it, you’ll like it. Lets get back to “be here, now.” Every moment is pregnant with possibility and beauty- if we aren’t too distracted to look for it.

In honor of breaking the shackles of mental conformity and taking a step back here are some great movies along those lines…

1. Cool Hand Luke.
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If you’ve never seen this – it is my #1 rockandroll attitude movie ever.
You gotta love smokin hot young Paul Newman with an attitude problem.

2. Harold and Maude
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I don’t know if this a cliche choice but its a great movie both for flipping social norms and fantastic 60s styling. Try to get over the creepy old person sex factor.

3. It Might Get Loud
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A documentary featuring three amazing guitar players- jimmy page, jack white, and the edge from U2. They all really developed their own true sound and style both in music and life.

4. American Movie
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I freaking love this movie! This guy has blazed his own trail, done things completely different than any other sane person and turned making horror movies into his own sort of zen.

Well there you have it, a weird post with some weird movies- enjoy!

A Hot Mess After my Own Heart

Here is a great article I ran across while looking for the exact wording of the Lester Bangs quote in my last post. The author took the words right outta my mouf. Bangs was perfect in his ability to just be authentic, something that is inexplicably harder than it seems.

href=”http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/08/how-lester-bangs-taught-me-to-read.html&#8221; title=”Great Lest Bangs Article” target=”_blank”>

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Cut the Bullshit

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Before I was a parent I was both a less patient person and a more patient person. I was less patient with things not being the way I wanted them or had imagined them to be. I was more patient with other people. I’m not sure what happened but pretty much as soon as I brought The Viking Princess, my daughter, home from the hospital I stopped having ANY tolerance for other people’s bullshit.
I think there’s something in the urgency of daily needs when you have kids that allows no time for the decadence/narcissism/martyrdom of anyone else. I just don’t care. I never really did actually but I was able to at least be polite about it. Now not as much.
Maybe it’s an evolutionary adaptation. You need to be able to withstand some pretty gnarly manipulation by your kids so they don’t grow up to be assholes. I can spot instantly when someone is trying to manipulate me, guilt me, or coerce me. In kids it’s part of learning how to deal with other people. In adults it’s embarrassing.
Its actually pretty awesome. Having a family makes you think about and wrestle everyday with what is actually important and necessary. It releases you from caring about stupid things. It excuses you from giving a shit about reality tv, or your acquaintances lame Facebook posts, or what everyone else is doing. It galvanizes what you believe and how you wanna live because you have to impart that to someone else now.
And you know what? Not giving a rats ass about anyone else and being committed to your vision is what rock and roll is, in its very essence.

“Rock ‘n’ roll is an attitude, it’s not a musical form of a strict sort. It’s a way of doing things, of approaching things. Writing can be rock ‘n’ roll, or a movie can be rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a way of living your life.”

― Lester Bangs

Escaping your Family with Music

Well.. I have been caring for two sick snotty and CRANKY toddlers for about a week now. Sometimes as a parent what you think you need when the going gets tough is relaxation.  It’s not.  What you need is escape.  Like total, don’t need to even think about, hear, care about anything escape.  Other than drugs and hot sex, the only other way I know how to do this is with music. I know it sounds a little corny but trust me. Get reeeeeaaallly comfortable, turn the light down, and put in those earbuds baby so you can listen to it loud.   And listen to the whole album!. Mind blowing, I know. The art of the album has come to be so underestimated. Take it all, drop out.


And so without further ado, some of my best choices for escaping your family:

1.  Led Zepplin- Led Zepplin

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Let me just say that listening to “dazed and confused” has lent me some psychological stability at times. As sad as that is…


2.
Blunderbuss- jack white

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This is a great album for when you are feeling frustrated and beat down but know there’s hope. And it rocks of course.

3. Nirvana – unplugged

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Ok ya got me. I’m a 90s kid. It’s still a great album to listen to with your eyes closed.

4. Blue- Joni Mitchell

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If you wanna squeeze out some quiet tears and pretend you’re a poet too, then this is it. Again, a beautiful album – even Zepplin loved it.

5. Trout mask replica- Capt. Beefheart

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Let me be clear- this will take you somewhere else for sure. I know I am weird.

So that’s a few to start with.
What do you guys escape with musically, I wanna know.