Macarena or MMMBop?

October 9th, 2009

Head on over to the Huffington Post to pick The Most Annoying Songs Of All Time. They’ve got quite a few doozies in there.

You know what’s been bugging me the last day or so? The opening lines to “The Way You Love Me” by Keith Follese & Michael Dulaney:

If I could grant
You one wish
I’d wish you could see the way you kiss

See it? See what I mean? If I’m going to grant you a wish, what does it matter what I’d wish?

Sorry. Little things like that in songs really grate on me.

For anyone who doesn’t know Wendy Jans, she’s an incredibly talented singer and songwriter here in Nashville, and she’s one of the first people Karsten and I met in town six and a half years ago. She’s done vocals on one of our demos, and has been a fun person to watch grow and gain momentum. Here she’s recorded a home acoustic performance of “Say Say Say” and I think you’ll like it as much as I do.

It’s never happened to me. But that’s exactly what happened to Lucas.

At Sunday night’s “Unwigged and Unplugged” show, featuring Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, the following brand-new things occurred:

* I was handed a live mic and allowed to address the artists on stage.

* My name was spoken aloud from that hallowed stage (twice, actually…)


* I was proposed to from said stage.

Let me interrupt to say: Lucas and I met at a party a few weeks ago, and we had a long talk about music, social media, and the digital economy (what a kickin’ party, right?). So when, from my balcony seat, I saw him and another friend, Yvonne, in the second row being handed a live mic to ask the performers a question, I was excited about his fun opportunity to interact with Guest, McKean, and Shearer.

It went well — he asked about who would play them in a J.J. Abrams prequel of Spinal Tap, and they ran with it.

Guest responded first by saying, obviously, Nigel should be played by comedian Martin Lawrence. Shearer, apparently unaware that Dwayne Johnson stopped going by this name a while back, said Nigel would be better suited being played by The Rock. Seth Green got thrown into the equation by McKean.

But then when McKean asked Lucas to marry him in a quick aside, I about collapsed. There’s more to the story: here’s the rest.

Not sure if I’ve ever talked about this here, but I just happened across this article about the Nashville Number System and wanted to point out how cool it is to watch session players use this. As the article points out:

So what’s so great about the Nashville Number System? Just realize that all of the musicians who play the guitar, keyboard and other parts you hear in the songs on all your CDs, use this system everyday when they record. When they do a session, there is no printed music. There are no sheets of paper with little black notes on lines on the page. No, they come into the studio, find a seat, take a pad of paper and a pencil and write themselves a number chart as the engineer plays a demo of the song they will record that day. What they are listening to in order to make their chart is a rough recording of the song. Many times it is only a guitar or piano and a singer. These musicians make up all the parts you eventually hear right there on the spot using their number chart as a guide.

(via How to Understand the Nashville Number System Part 1 |

It really is kind of a strange and humbling feeling to walk into the studio after spending sometimes countless hours on a song just to see it reduced to scribbled numbers on a single sheet of paper, and then played flawlessly.

From David Wild writing at Huffington Post: Honk If You Wrote Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” Too.

I would like to take the opportunity to claim that I wrote Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.” In fact, I wrote “Viva La Vida” just about an hour ago after hearing the news that my pal Yusuf — the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens — feels that the undeniable Coldplay smash is too close for comfort to one section of his “Foreigner Suite” from his 1973 album “The Foreigner.”

Interesting. I couldn’t quite place “The Foreigner” so I went to to give it a listen (the most relevant section starts around 3:36). Sure, I can hear the similarity, but I’m not sure it would have jumped out at me or anything. (I’m not even going to listen to “Viva la Vida” again for reference, as much as I love that song, because then it will be stuck on endless loop in my head.)

What do you think? Same song or merely similar in the way that many songs are similar?

It was a little bit of a shock to me to learn yesterday that Ticketmaster has decided to close Nashville-based Echo, which is a company I’ve danced close to for some time but never danced with, if you know what I mean. I have friends that work there, and have followed their trajectory for some time. But:

Staffers were told today they will lose their jobs in 60 days.

And then, on the same day, to learn that Passalong Networks is soon to be no more? I mean, not that any demise within the music industry is altogether shocking at this point, but the impact of both closures being announced on the same day makes it seem a little freaky.

I hope my friends who work at both companies are able to find work quickly.

Running with the muses

April 16th, 2009

I saw on Spence Smith’s blog where he mentioned that he goes out every so often for a run while listening to music that inspires him, and how creatively refreshing that is, and so on.

I do this, too, and have created playlists in iTunes and now in Pandora called “muse songs” and “muse artists”. In some cases it’s the songs that inspire me to write, and in some cases it’s the consistent genius of the songwriters.

Spence listed some of his muse songwriters:

James Taylor, John Williams, Sting, Bono/The Edge, Chris Martin, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Hornsby, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jacob Dylan, John Hiatt, McCartney/Lennon, The Rolling Stones…

And in fact, Spence’s muses and my muses overlap a bit, which is not surprising, I guess, since we’re both songwriters (at very different levels of accomplishment, mind you) looking to the undeniable greats of recent pop music for inspiration. My muse writer list includes (but as they say in legalese, is not limited to) Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Aimee Mann, Shawn Colvin, and several others. My muse song list includes “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell, “Everytime You Go Away” by Hall & Oates, “The Boy in The Bubble” by Paul Simon, “Ghost” by Indigo Girls, and again, several others.

Of course now having written this, I want to throw on some headphones and go out for a run and soak in the creativity of these geniuses. And I will, soon, but for now, I’ll start with just the part where I put the headphones on, right here at my desk.

I hadn’t heard about the Depeche Mode iTunes Pass fiasco:

Just recently, Apple introduced its iTunes Pass program with Depeche Mode, only to find the proposition dismantled by the internet itself.  The Pass builds extras around a formal album release date, and packages everything into a multi-week program.

But all of that is predicated on scarcity and control.  What happens when the album leaks?  That is exactly what happened with Depeche Mode, to the surprise of few.  Buyers were left holding the bag on an $18.99 extravagance, while those paying $0 were granted access to the entire album - and various extras as well.

(via Resnikoff’s Parting Shot: Not Your Father’s Release Schedule… — Digital Music News.)

Interesting attempts to innovate and consequences in the music industry right now. I’m just realizing I didn’t blog here about the Leadership Music Digital Summit Karsten and I attended a few weeks ago, and what my impressions of that were. This was basically it: there’s so much disruption in this industry right now, and some very bright minds are trying many different approaches to make something new work, find a new model, build out lucrative side businesses from that model, etc. But it seems that the disruption is happening faster than the innovation, and that’s really freaking everyone out.

I mean, truly, that was my overriding impression from that conference: not one of hope and excitement, but one of a general anxiety and fear about what happens next.

But the flip side of that is, it’s just about anyone’s game right now. Anyone with an idea could come along and innovate on behalf of music makers, and on behalf of music lovers. There certainly are innovators already. It’s just that there’s so much room for more.

I know I shouldn’t have a favorite, but I do. I can’t help it. I mean, just look at her:

More puppies - just waiting to be adopted! - over at Newscoma.

We’re back! And so far it doesn’t look like jet lag should be too much of an issue: I’ve been up since 8 AM this morning, which is a little later than usual for me, but only by an hour or so. Karsten is still sleeping, but this is fairly normal for a Saturday morning. He’ll probably be up soon, if my schedule was any indication.

Here’s the details of the sleep schedule, for those who are interested in jet lag avoidance:

We were up late on Thursday night at a bar called Velvet Lounge (kind of a gay bar, apparently, though a very mixed crowd), and didn’t get to sleep until 3 AM. Then Friday, as is my habit no matter how little sleep I get, I woke up sometime between 6 and 7 AM. Our flight out was at 6 PM (mind you: that’s 5 AM Central Standard Time). Around 10 PM China time, I started getting really sleepy, so I gave in and slept for about 4 hours, and then was awake until we got home around 10 PM Central time (which is 11 AM China time).

So I got to bed around 11 PM last night and was up at 8 AM this morning. Seems not bad for having been 13 hours off schedule for the past week.

ANYway, enough of that. I’ve missed the last few days’ worth of updates here, but it was a wonderful trip. I felt like we did just enough sightseeing to get a feel for the place and the culture without wearing ourselves out. That was balanced with getting a taste of living like locals (or at least like ex-pats) by doing things like going grocery shopping, etc. And that was balanced by getting out to lots of great restaurants and eating some of the best food of our lives. And all that was balanced by a comfortable amount of time in our friends’ modestly luxurious home, which gave us a very relaxed feeling of being on a sort of staycation.

Or perhaps more meaningfully, it also felt quite a bit like being on a cruise, where there are comfortable periods of time spent relaxing and enjoying the amenities of the ship, interrupted by excursions and sightseeing, all highlighted by wonderful food.

I think that’s a pattern that works really well for me, so maybe I’m a cruise-type vacationer after all. Only I think I prefer big city ‘cruises’ over tropical islands. I suppose that makes me weird, but hey. I’m just not that crazy about hot sun and sand, whereas exploring urban areas never gets old.

I guess, like anything, it takes experimentation to learn your ideal vacation style. I think we got pretty darned close to perfect on this trip. (Sure, it would have been better if I hadn’t been sick for the first third of the trip, but even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been had we not been staying in such a wonderful home.) And we both loved Shanghai enough to go back, which is saying a lot considering 1, how many other interesting destinations there are in the world, and 2, how long it takes to get there and back. But it’s an endlessly fascinating place and we only spent a little bit of time exploring its neighborhoods. We could easily do another two weeks there and not get bored.

So maybe we’ll try to squeeze in one more trip before our friends come back to Nashville or move on to wherever they’re going next. Or maybe we’ll put it on the list for some future year and just look for an apartment to rent or something. It’d be a totally different experience without a Chinese-speaking friend to guide us (so I should probably improve my own Chinese skills beyond numbers and simple greetings and ‘bu yao’ or ‘don’t want’ which is immensely useful in the shopping areas) and without a driver. But it would almost certainly shed more light on what it’s like to live in Shanghai.

At any rate, I would love to publicly thank Paris and Charles for their warm and wonderful hospitality and for not only putting up with our vegan pickiness but for making sure we were well taken care of. Because Paris spent all week with us, we enjoyed the luxury of having a trusted and knowledgeable guide as well as the wonderful company of a friend. Thank you so much, Paris and Charles!

And now: back to our normal lives, with taxes to file and deadlines to meet. But also kitties to pet and friends to see and favorite places to go. Vacation life is good, but our home life is pretty darned nice too.

This has been an odd vacation: I’ve been struggling with still being sick (I came down with a virus infection less than a week before we left) and with having no energy due to weirdness with the timing of taking my Synthroid.

The Synthroid thing really threw me — hard. Here’s the thing: this is a medication you’re supposed to take at the same time every day. And for me, I’ve found that I need to wait at least an hour and a half after taking it before eating, and then wait at least four hours before taking my calcium supplements, which interfere with the effectiveness of Synthroid. But I have also found that to go back to sleep after taking Synthroid seems to concentrate it in some weird, intense way, so that I wake up jittery like I’m on speed or something. So trying to juggle all those restrictions and requirements while 13 hours off my normal schedule? Not easy. I initially tried just taking it at the same actual time (about 6 AM CST), which meant evening here, but that meant I was trying to fall asleep when I was just starting to feel energized. Yesterday morning that meant that I woke up (well, I never really slept) all shaky and with my heart racing. So I waited through the time difference and switched to taking it first thing this morning, and am just now starting to feel more normal, but I’m still a bit weak and woozy.

So I have truly been in the apartment almost the whole time we’ve been here. The only exceptions were on Saturday morning when we went out for a walk around the block (which wore me out) and for lunch when the driver took us to a Thai place for lunch, and we briefly walked around the Xantiandi area (which also wore me out). Yesterday I just resolved to stay in all day and let myself recover so I don’t ruin my whole week with this half-assed weak crap, but yesterday was also the day I was hardest hit by the Synthroid timing discrepancy, so while I was off my feet almost all day, it wasn’t exactly restful.

Nonetheless, I think the virus infection is almost gone (I still have slight sinus congestion and a trace of a cough, but it’s very minor) and I expect I’ll have my strength fully back within a day or two. Of course, we’re only here three and a half more days. So I’m going to try getting outside today, and see how it goes.

Shanghai skyline

In the meantime, I have to say, if you’re going to be stuck indoors, our friends have an awesome place to be stuck. I’ve taken a few pictures from their panoramic picture windows and have played with ColorSplash on the iPhone with the one shown above. More pics are here, and more will be added in the coming days, I’m sure.

Idea borrowed from Jae from her updates about her most recent vacation. I love the idea of documenting highlights, but not bothering to write up whole sentences and paragraphs to describe what can be 90% summed up in loose phrases.

Day 1:

Survived 14 hour flight with massive head congestion: blew through 3 pocket packs of kleenex; stayed high on Sudafed; read several chapters of ‘War and Peace‘ (seriously!); watched ‘Burn After Reading‘ (good stuff); ate too much; slept a bit. Happy reunion with Paris at airport (Charles is away on business but will be back Saturday mid-day). Introduced to Tom, their driver. Rush hour traffic into town.

Tour of apartment (wow!) & shown to our guest room suite (wow!). Paris should win awards for being super-thoughtful friend and hostess. It helps that their place is amazing.

Much-needed sickie nap for me while Karsten & Paris chat over snacks & wine.

Dinner of vegan fried rice and dumplings with tofu & spinach (and more wine), prepared beforehand by housekeeper apparently despite confusion because  “egg is not meat” so it should have been OK to include. She did an awesome job anyway. Can’t wait to meet her and thank her for such a delicious meal.

Amusing overview of content on Chinese TV stations. Introduced to ‘True Blood‘ - watched first 2 episodes. Alan Ball is a genius. Belgian chocolates and yet more wine. Paris points out that we can see The Bund from where we’re sitting in the living room. Have I mentioned their place is amazing?

Off to bed. Cozy with Karsten. Not a bad night’s sleep.

Day 2? Coming soon.

Interactive meatspace

March 4th, 2009

Interactive meatspace

Originally uploaded by Kate O’

The woman sitting next to me in the doctor’s office waiting room
noticed all this writing on the cover of this issue of Newsweek. Maybe
people are so used to commenting on blogs that they can’t resist
defacing property to make their voices heard. Or maybe this cover was
just too irresistible. Whatever the case, I knew I had to take a
picture of it and share it.

Maroon 5

February 18th, 2009

Maroon 5

Originally uploaded by Kate O’

I know you can’t tell but this is Maroon 5 at Omniture Summit. They’re
better than you might expect. Cool show. :)

Teaching girls how to make a video fir YouTube. Rock on.

From the cushiony comfort of my home office chair. Bill paying can

Cover of "Sacred Songs"
Cover of Sacred Songs

Never seen h monthly before, but they came up on a Google News alert for Daryl Hall (yes, I do care that much, shut up) and had a well-written quick review of Hall’s Sacred Songs album:

So, in perhaps one of the most befuddling pairings of all time, Hall teamed up with King Crimson’s prog-rock progenitor, Robert Fripp, for his debut solo album, Sacred Songs.


The results of this unlikely pairing are strangely brilliant. Hall’s soaring vocal delivery is complimented by Fripp’s maniacal guitar work and layered production, and Fripp’s experimental touches offer some intriguing soundscapes that leave you to ponder what Hall and Oates would have sounded like if Fripp was in the group.


Oh, and we can’t forget the glam-punk songs [...] that could have endeared Hall to the 70’s punk scene if the album had been released in 1977 (when it was recorded), instead of 1980 (RCA apparently didn’t know what to do with it and shelved it for three years).

It’s such a cool alternate reality to imagine.

On being in tune

February 2nd, 2009
Shadow of a Writing Hand
Image by lowjumpingfrog via Flickr

From an article on writing the perfect pop song in the Guardian:

For Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, songwriting is not a choice, but a therapeutic necessity. “When I’m not writing songs, it’s cryptic crosswords and Countdown on the telly. Everything gets a bit fuzzy, a bit bleak.”

Yeah. I’ve been in a funk lately, and I think this is partly why. I need a healthy dose of songwriting fairly regularly to make sense of, well, everything else.

Is everyone like this in some way? Is there some thing that you need to do for the world to be right? What is your thing?


January 25th, 2009

(I can’t believe it’s been THAT long since I updated here.)

It was a crazy productive weekend, and to reward myself for my diligence yesterday, I spent all evening writing lyrics. By hand. On paper. With a pen!

Last one out’s a rotten egg!

December 27th, 2008

Last one out’s a rotten egg!

Originally uploaded by Kate O’

See this stuff? This Kala Namak black mineral salt? I bought it
because the copy on the packaging says "The distinctive smell and
flavor of eggs makes this salt unforgettable."

Unforgettable is right: I added it to my vegan French toast batter
this morning, and all was well until I stirred in the soymilk.
Apparently, when you wet it, it somehow activates the smell. The
kitchen filled with the "unforgettable" aroma of nearly-rotten eggs.

Karsten, who wasn’t interested in the French toast anyway, had to
leave the room. That was 40 minutes ago. He still hasn’t come back.

Note the oil burner going strong in the background. Vanilla Spice.
Hopefully it’s potent enough to overtake rotten egg smell. Ugh.

Thing is, the smell largely cooked off, and the French toast was
really good. So now I have a real dilemma whenever I want to make
anything that could benefit from a fake-egg flavor. Is it worth the
short-term stink and driving Karsten out of the room for the rest of
the morning? I guess I’ll play it by ear, or maybe by nose.

Inbox at zero, baby!

December 26th, 2008

I finally got an inbox to zero! It won’t last very long, so I made sure to take a screenshot.

I’ve still got my work inbox to whittle down, but that’s for later. I have to go dance a little jig first.

The holidays smell so good!

December 24th, 2008

Chanel - Chance

Image by Mail Order Bride via Flickr

My coworkers gave me a bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume from my Amazon wish list during our holiday party last week. Karsten gave me a bottle of Prada perfume (also from my Amazon wish list) for my birthday yesterday morning.

And then our neighbor who works for Chanel left me & Karsten each some cologne in a gift bag on our doorstep last night. Woo hoo! I’m not sure why so many gifts have been fragrant this year, but I’m sure not complaining.

Hope you have a very merry Christmas, or happy Hannukkah, or festive holiday of your choice, or just a relaxing time off from work. I’ll be celebrating the latter, for the most part, and gearing up for the new year. I’ll be deciding on my songwriting goals for 2009 very soon and announcing them here, so that’s on its way in the next few days.

Happy holidays!

Posted in holidays | No Comments »

Everyone who knows I’m a Hall and Oates super-fan keeps asking if I saw them on the Daily Show the other night. Never fear, I just did.

I loved it! (OK, I loved it in spite of it seeming like they could have maybe used another rehearsal of the song.) They’ve made guest appearances on other shows in the past, but they usually don’t get to interact much before they launch into whatever song they’re there to perform. It was fun to see them have a little comic setup before they played.

And “the only non-douchebag on that show”? Gold.

Pimpin’ our talented friends

December 3rd, 2008

Levi on the floor surrounded by his instruments

Levi Weaver (image from

Excerpt from a cool review of our friend Levi Weaver’s 10/21 show at Alphabet Lounge over at the CMJ Staff Blog:

Weaver is one of those artists you need to see live to appreciate

Very true. But you should still buy his recorded music.