art and artists I appreciate

I’m a bicycle nut. So when I picked up a sweet old vintage bike at a yard sale this weekend for $40 I had the double-delight of finding a precious ol’ pedal for a pittance. I love classic old 3-speeds like this. And it didn’t take much to get it going. Pumped up the tires and made a few adjustments, added a bell and a front basket for my commute.

Today I found a site that dates it at 1953! This thing is in great shape for 60 years old, hardly any rust, the parts in good working order.  I rode it home from work today feeling smooth and stylish.

Cool touches: The fenders are like pinstriped fins on a 50′s car with a silver hood-ornament at front. Arrows down the forks. The white on black motif with solid black chainring and guard with white  stars punctuating the italicized bike name.

So I’ve got another great commuter… and I am supposed to be getting rid of bikes!

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WTF

by j on June 19, 2014 · 0 comments

in art and artists I appreciate

I have become a compulsive WTF listener. WTF is Marc Maron’s podcast. He started it in his late forties, does it primarily from his L.A. garage twice a week, and just passed his 500th episode a few weeks ago at 50. The format is a 10-15 min intro of his obsessive schtick (with commercials that he does for his shows, partners and sponsors woven in), a 60-90 min interview, usually with a comedian, musician, or actor, and a few final closing minutes of wrap-up and plugs.

marc-large-photo

I talk about WTF with most of my close friends now - Doug, Maile, Earl, Sam, Gray – because we’re all big fans inspired by its insight. And I’ve started recommending it to people regularly now, so I thought I should document its influence with an explanation. Here are things I love about it:

  • he started it himself and still does it largely himself, without needing anyone in the industry’s approval, no middlemen, he is in complete creative and strategic control
  • he started it relatively late in life, as a way to make things happen when they weren’t, and now gets millions of downloads a month
  • having struggled 25 years in stand-up, he can talk shop and the history of the scene with the best comedians, but also with musicians and actors because of their commonalities and love for those cultures
  • he’s a refreshing antidote to uptight interviewers like Terri Gross and is so unpretentiously authentic that even my old favorites like Ira Glass and Jad Abumrad come off as snobby hipsters in comparison
  • his Woody-Alleneque obsessive insecurities combined with his David-Lettermanish self-deprecation and humility make him a genuinely interested and compelling interviewer who consistently gets people to open up and engage on a deep level
  • he uses his own resilience and slow rise to fame to get his guests to map out exactly how they made it, fucked up, and learned from it
  • he uses his own drug and alcohol experiences as well as his 14 years of sobriety to relate with his guests, talk addictions, recovery and both laugh at and address demons and self-destruction
  • he is a guitar player with a rich history of music love, favorites artists and opinions about music history which he frequently uses to connect with guests, especially the musicians with whom he is a true fan not just a critic

I did not like Marc Maron the first time I listened to WTF, and skipped over the intro segment several times till I grew to know him from the interviews. But I soon came to appreciate the seamlessness of his evolving personal stories and even how he weaves in into his plugs and ads.

After discovering recently that there are a bunch of pirated episodes on YouTube, I’ve been putting them on while I work. Here’s a perfect example of a great WTF interview, with his old friend Louie CK. (For access to his archive pay $9yr for premium access via his site or app.)

This interview has a lot of the stuff that you will not find anywhere else.

  • A long shared history with the guest and the scene
  • The reconciliation of a friendship scarred with Marc’s bitter jealousy and the patient sense of humor with which he can discuss the past, admit his faults, and come to some resolution (or live with the ambiguity of the friendship). Many of his episodes end with his asking of the guest, “We good?”
  • His genuine expression of love and admiration and modeling of how two men can wade through a lot of pride and hurt by unpacking the past and seeing it from the other side

Ultimately WTF is a success story about how to make it as an artist, how Marc is making it, and how each of his guests made it. Instead of the usual emphasis on the breaks and the milestones, Marc maps out all the stuff artists like me need to hang in there, get out of our own way, and do our own thing.

No other interviewer  brings or brings out so much of the mess that everyone else is trying to hide. And it’s exactly what we need to hear. Bless this what-the-fucker for hanging in there, getting clean, doing his own thing, putting it out there and connecting with so many other artists and fuck-ups, from his guests to fans like me. Boomer lives!


7/1/14: I’d like to add this incredible interview with Todd Hanson (Onion writer) as an example of the type of raw reality that Marc illicits and facilitates. This is therapy.

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Thanks to Ron (of The Ron Museum) I’ve had an art-collector eye out for cheap art that makes me happy. Last night I found this on eBay and got it for $30, shipped from CA for $36.

Painting of cupid blowing a kiss to three trees

After a little sleuthing this morning, Ron helped me figure out that it is probably a souvenir painting from the House of the Vettii in Pompeii, which explains the brown, yellow and red borders and the floating platform cupid is on. It doesn’t explain why he’s blowing a kiss to these three fading trees, and I like that mystery.

The back of the painting says:

Brooks, my beloved
husband, bought this
in Pompeii on 7 June 1956.
A.D.

Details:

cupid

signature

back

Here are some similar images from the inside the Vettii.

Frieze of Vettii Cupids

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Our good friend Carlos “Los Monster” Lopez passed away recently, suddenly, unexpectedly at 43. Too soon, too young. Los backed me up many times over the last 15 years on kit and conga not to mention made me laugh hundreds of times hanging after the gig. And I’m just one of many musicians in our circle who Los backed up and entertained.

We gathered at my place recently for a memorial Ugi Breakfast and Los Monster Jam. Thomas brought over a great old interview with Los and we all sat around and listened. Los was with us.

los-ugi-bfast The Los Ugi Breakfast Club — with Jonathan Boyce, Victor Bustos, Maile Broccoli-Hickey, Kimberly Bustos, Jason Molin, Doug Snyder, Evan Bozarth, Thomas van der Brook, Callie Lillepad, Gray Parsons, Charles Dugger and Jarle Lillemoen.

los-and-j Los on the left, backing me up on conga at Skinny’s Ballroom

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UPDATE: After reading a bit more about the science behind what Pono proposes – see Why Neil Young’s New Pono Music Player Doesn’t Make Any Sense - I’ve cancelled my pledge to the Kickstarter project. This raises lots of questions about what all those stars in the video were hearing, why they testified, and their motivations for doing so. I’ll be eager to follow the Pono player reviews when it comes out, but I’m backing away from being a first-gen guinea pig.

Neil Young’s mission may still very well be a good one, even if it simply returns us to listening to CD quality songs on our digital devices instead of MP3s. We’ll see.


Neil Young is on a mission to save us from the mp3 and I’m betting he’ll get us kickstarted. His Kickstarter video for Pono (Hawaiian for righteous) Music is the most persuasive I’ve ever seen. Artist after legendary artist gets out of his boat of a car and testifies to their conversion on one listening. It’s like he got them all high on music! They’re all searching for the words to describe the vividness with which they experienced songs they knew but never really heard like this before.

I watched the video and had to hear what they were hearing. I pledged $300 for one of the 1st Pono players and can’t wait to get it in October (projected). I’m investing in this reversal of the lofi trade for convenience, back to hifi richness and sound quality. Like every one of the artists who hears the difference in the video, this makes me hopeful.

This whole project stuck me as a profound idea in many ways:

  • I/we don’t realize what we’re missing or the sound quality we’ve given up
  • I/we have spent the last 17 years listening to mp3s
  • hardly anyone hears  the quality of music that musicians intended, spent to make in the studio
  • everyone born into this age has hardly heard hifi sound
  • everyone who is old enough to remember isn’t just nostalgic, their music actually sounded richer
  • there is a huge opportunity for artists to bypass all the institutions that normalize sound quality compromises for business reasons
  • there is a huge business opportunity to satisfy a market that is being ignored: people who want great sound
  • it recognizes that young people are uniquely qualified to learn from and enjoy this reversal particularly because they have undiminished faculties, undamaged hearing, senses
  • we’re now at a point technologically that we can return to hifi sound and have the convenience of digital
  • hopefully this will usher in a new era of sound quality and new level of appreciation for music

This a great idea. Like a strong wind behind great a new wave of connections to music and musicians. This leap in sound quality, combined with the great leap in artist autonomy that this crowd-funded model represents is… righteous.

When I pledge this afternoon at 6 PM, there were 5K+ backers for $1.2 million (the goal was $800K). It’s now 6 hours later and it’s up to 7K backers and $2.2 million. This is going to be big.

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