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Feb 26, 07 12:23 PM

Jennifer Hudson Is Just Insanely Cute, Isn't She?

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Tremendous brunettes around, indeed. I am happy. And it snowed! And I'm writing songs! And going back to Berlin! Happy happy.

I went over to Scrap's in WBurg yesterday. We went through the songs we're gonna do at the Old Knit celebration on Thursday. He's a great guitar player. Marc Ribot used to use bass players as his guitar players in his circa-1993 group Shrek; now I see why. He doesn't suffer from guitar-player-ism.

Scrap is just a musical dude, too, unlike the majority of this planet's guitar players. He picks amazing notes to augment the chords. I keep encouraging him to get weird in the breaks, and when he busts out with some weirdness, it's giddy and divine.

I'm sure there are more guitar players than any other kind of instrumentalists in the Western World; I'm also certain there are fewer good guitar players than any other instrumentalist. What is it about that instrument? (ps, not that I'm absolving myself!)

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I told Scrap I'm going home to watch the Oscars.

"Is Matt Damon nominated for anything?" he asks.

No, I say.

"Then I'm not watching," he says.

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I am cramming the German. Going through flashcards of irregular verbs and adjective endings on the train. Pronouncing the words to myself, unafraid to look stupid.

I'm flying back to Berlin on Saturday night. Staying in an apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, which is exciting--being right there in the middle of my favorite neighborhood, living semi-real-Berliner style, not being in a hotel. Cheaper, too, which is key, as I need to get back there often in order to really get this Deutsch thing down.

My plan is to be constantly going to 12-step meetings (Orthodox 12 steppers please note I'm still keeping anonymity intact). That there are meetings all over the world--I've been to them in Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, you name it--is a fantastic resource for getting to know local people outside the traveler's circuit. All I can really say in German (that's pertinent) is something like: I did lots of drugs, I hated myself, I didn't want to die, I love life, I am happy now.

I intend to be stubborn and speak only German. Germans are generally really nice about this, and pleased that you want to speak their language, in spite of the fact that nearly all of them speak English flawlessly.

Expect photos of currywurst from Konnopke's Imbiß. And fries with mayo, WHICH I AM TELLING YOU IS DELICIOUS. Is their mayo different? What is it? When I was a kid, my Dad (military) was stationed in Europe, and we got into that combo. We tried to recreate it when we rotated back to the U.S., but it wasn't the same. Maybe it's not the quality of the mayonnaise, but some inherent pervasive cultural hoodoo imbued in the atmosphere that seeps into the food.

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Songs are coming easy. I'm not exactly sure what I'm writing them for; whether I'm going to call everybody back to the studio and record them for the new album, or keep that album what it is right now.

Dan's told me that Rick Rubin tries to push songwriters off that write, then record, then tour cycle; it becomes an endless wheel.

I said before that being brokenhearted wasn't going to affect my writing. I guess I was in denial. (Why?) All these bitter/tender/loving/spurning feelings are finding their way into the lyrics and the melodies, and it feels great to sing them out.

So many fights are about something so, so old; nothing to do with your boyfriend/girlfriend. I feel sometimes like a civil war re-enactor; you were you just a moment ago, but suddenly I've cast you as the Confederacy, slash, my Mom!

But when is it done, when is it done? I have thought it was done at every stage of this round, and been proven wrong. Marianne Moore used to re-edit poems at age 80 that she wrote at 35.

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I took an old country melody and I've been writing my own lyrics over it. It's so difficult, doing lyrics to this specific rhythm scheme. It's like writing a poem to a form, a sonnet or sestina. And yet, the tune is so elemental. There's nothing so hard in songwriting as simplicity.

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I am making my American Idol predictions right now. Final three: Sanjaya, LaKisha, and Stephanie.

I know you think I'm loopy, but I'm telling you: Sanjaya. What tone!

I have a good record with Idol predictions. I've gotten them right almost every year (I called Daughtry and Taylor as top two last year; and foolishly disdained Carrie Underwood in favor of Bo Bice, and I always make my call around Top 24 time, if not earlier. I called Kelly Clarkson on her first audition! Art be damned, that will be my legacy.

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I am recommending:

Sean Hayes. NOT the actor from Will & Grace, but a brilliant songwriter from San Francisco that I've been listening to, and taking a lot of influence from, lately.

The Lives of Others, which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Much to my joy! A German movie (yeah, yeah, that's why I went to see it, to hear the language and try to understand--which I'm getting better at!--and when you hear Germans speaking it, it just sounds so lilting and poetic) about the East German police monitoring a playwright and his actress muse. Just aching and lovely.

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Posted by Mike at 12:23 PM

Feb 16, 07 01:03 PM

Busking.

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Pat Dillett and I went down into the pedestrian tunnel between the 1 and the L trains on 14th street and did some recording.

This was the site of my first attempt at busking, when I was 19. I had a friend who was making a living playing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" over and over again on subway platforms. I made it all of ten minutes before I split, completely demoralized by the people rushing past without paying attention.

Now that I make a cushy living as a singer/songwriter, I make it a point to give two bucks to every busker I encounter in the subway. They're the hardest working people in show business.

Pat held a mic up to me, and I did maybe ten songs, sometimes between trains, when the tunnel was empty, sometimes when the tunnel was full of voices and footsteps, all of which I hope made it onto the tape. I haven't heard it yet, but there were certain seredipitous moments that I think would sound fantastic; somebody humming along tunelessly with their iPod just as I ended a song, drunk voices shouting between tunes.

I got lots of smiles, and made $3.10. Two dollar bills, four quarters, and a dime.

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I reconnected recently with my old friend Rachel Benbow Murdy. She was the girl who did the answering machine vocal on "Janine". She is amazingly sharp, crazy, and funny. She has an incredibly precise and psychedelic view of reality. She has a fantastic gift for connecting the dots. She used to videotape conversations, years ago, when we lived together, and then watch them immediately afterwards, cackling at all the perverse cosmic connections she saw.

We both just got out of relationships. Personally, I've been feeling like a sexual ghost; just not interested. I've met some beautiful women in the past couple of months, have tried to shake myself into pursuing them, and just can't do it.

I wrote that line in "40 Grand in the Hole," "What is a life without my heart at risk?" because I hadn't put my heart at risk in a long time. It is wonderful and amazing to do so, but this is an unexpected cost. I expected the pain, but not this kind of weird refractory period of being alone.

I broke up with her, then regretted it, and then she turned me down. I did it, of course, because I still love her, but also because, maybe, I just feel more comfortable being rejected than rejecting. People have been saying, "Oh, this will be good, you can write songs about it." But I've been writing songs about the same kind of composite, ideal psychometaphoric-shadow-woman for a long time.

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One-Sentence German Poems:

I've been writing these in the morning, to keep my Deutsch sharp, and because it throws my writing mind a curveball:

Sie hat die ganze Welt gegessen (She has eaten the entire world.)

Ich habe den reinen Prunk gesucht. (I have sought pure splendor.)

Sie hat die rauhe Stimme gedämpft (She has muffled the rough voice.)

Der Umriß deines Körpers (The contour of your body)

Der Henker wünscht sich Glück. (The hangman wishes for happiness.)

Du kriechst in meinem Hof. (You creep in my yard.)

Ich glaube an das mystische Rechteck (I believe in the mystic rectangle.)

Ein kleines Kind ißt ein kleines Ei. (A little child eats a little egg.)

Der Selbstseher wird die grobe Erde kauen (The Self-Seer will chew the rough earth.) *

Er hat das Ungetum gefressen (He has fed the monster.)

Sie fing meinen Stern (She caught my star.)

Die grüne Teufel hat mein weißes Herz getrunken. (The green devil has drank my white heart.)

I am recommending:

The Swedish singer-songwriter José González. Yeah, Swedish. He's from Göteburg. Yeah, that's what I thought, too.

The Japanese noise-funk duo Uhnellys. They've only got 229 friends on MySpace! Get in on the ground floor, people. Bizarre and fantastic grooves and Japanese rapping.

Plump, brassy 1960s German singer Trude Herr. Go, and click on the link for the mp3 of her song "Weil Ich So Sexy Bin." Amazing! Hilarity!

The Club der polnischen Versager in Berlin. Actually, there's many arty salon/bar/cafés to recommend there, but this one's called "The Polish Loser's Club." Opened by the same dudes who run Berlin's Kaffee Burger.

I'm going back to Berlin right after I play the Old Knitting Factory 20th anniversary show. I used to work there, as a doorman. I have funny histories with some of the artists on the bill. Joe Lovano was the guy who played the first night I worked there, in a trio with Paul Motian and Bill Frisell. I asked Marc Ribot to be in a band with me, a comical act of hubris for a 21 year old. And Don Byron once got so offended by a sign I put on a tip jar that he burned it. When I was working there, I couldn't have dreamed of being billed equally with the big stars of the scene. John Zorn! Unbelievable.

The Australian quasi-porn site Beautiful Agony is all video of people jacking off, but shot only from the shoulders up. Very hot, and most appealing to the performance art loving part of me. I learned about it when MySpacing, I saw a video on the page of a woman from San Diego who had two Guggenheims--New York and Bilbao--tattooed on her. The video is below--a compliation of clips under the song "Romantic Death" by the Ohio band The Sun.

[* = "Der Selbstseher" is an Egon Schiele painting that I saw in Vienna and loved, of a beautiful, creepy, haunted dude. I could write a concept album about the Self-Seer.]

Posted by Mike at 1:03 PM

Feb 12, 07 08:46 AM

Big Fat Congrats!

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To my producer and most beloved homeboy Dan Wilson! Who won a Grammy! Last night! For co-writing the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice."

I plan to address Dan from now on as "Grammy-award winning Dan Wilson." Excuse me, Grammy-award-winning Dan Wilson, could you please pass the bread?

Posted by Mike at 8:46 AM

Feb 4, 07 10:40 PM

Bowl.

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Scrap came over and we watched the Superbowl while his daughter Larry wreaked havoc. It was pretty ludicrous that the two of us got together to watch a sporting event. We shushed Larry when the commercials came on.

Prince absolutely stunned us. It was the best arena rock guitar-hero show I've ever seen in my life. In what, ten minutes?

Posted by Mike at 10:40 PM

Feb 2, 07 11:37 PM

Me: 1991.

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Sent to me by old friend Jeremy Wolff--see more of his at very.com

Posted by Mike at 11:37 PM
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