This weekend in Brooklyn: Sound summer camp for badass young ladies!

Teen girls with headphones and microphones

When I took the Bushwick Daily assignment to write about SoundGirls.org’s Live Sound Camps for Girls, I thought it would be cool. Music, Brooklyn, empowering teenage girls—what’s not to like?

Well, I was right! There was nothing not to like about writing this story.

The end!

SoundGirls.org logo

No, no—of course there is more. But it’s the good kind of more!

It turned out that in addition to getting acquainted with an awesome nonprofit that connects female sound engineers the world over, hearing wonderful stories about girls learning to rock intimidating audio gear, and bookmarking the knowledge of this traveling summer camp program for the next time I meet a cool teenage girl, I also got to spend half an hour talking with the woman who’s been Pearl Jam’s sound engineer for the last 25 years: SoundGirls.org’s executive director and co-founder, Karrie Keyes!

I will pause to mention that, while I do enjoy me some classic Pearl Jam, I was even more stoked and awed to learn that Karrie has also worked with Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Neil Young, and did a 10-year stint as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ monitor engineer.

Waynes World not worthy

ANYWAY, what Karrie’s doing with SoundGirls.org is just as cool as all that, of course. Check it out, and if you know an NYC-area teenage girl who’d appreciate the chance to get her audio on this weekend, do spread the word!

Deconstructing guns with Of Note magazine & artist Jessica Fenlon

“Gun violence is a women’s issue,” begins editorial director Grace Aneiza Ali’s introduction to the latest issue of her magazine Of Note. Grace goes on to explain that while ‘gun culture’ in America is dominated by men, it’s women who bear the brunt of gun violence:

  • Every 16 hours, an American woman is fatally shot by a current or former intimate partner.
  • 80% of people shot to death by their intimate partners in the U.S. each year are women.
  • Women are 16 times more likely to die by guns in the U.S. than in any other developed country.

Yet the silence and stigmas that blanket most of our country’s gender inequalities continue to hamper efforts to combat the gun violence that hurts women most.

Of Note magazine cover with gun image

“The 10 multidisciplinary women artists in Of Note‘s ‘The Gun Issue’ engage the gun as an art object in their artistic practices,” Grace continues. “In doing so, they confront the infiltration of guns in our day-to-day lives.”

It would be tough to think of a more vital and urgent topic to write or read about. Couple that with the fact that I have long been a huge fan of Grace’s, and you can imagine my excitement when she asked if I would interview one of those 10 artists and contribute a story to Of Note‘s Gun Issue.

While I would have been eager to speak with any of them (you can see they’re all spectacular), I wound up feeling especially lucky to have been paired with Jessica Fenlon, a brave, articulate, and intuitive poet and visual artist, currently based in Milwaukee. Jessica uses a process she calls “glitch sabotage” to visually break images of guns in an effort to neutralize their danger. As she said it:

“There’s a feeling of power, of control, in that moment of, ‘Here’s this thing that kills all these people, and I’m just going to break a bunch of them!’”

Jessica went on to say a lot more interesting things as we talked—but please don’t take my word for it. If you’re interested in art, guns, women, technology, reading, thinking, and/or Pittsburgh, I hope you’ll check the story out when you have time for a sit-down read. Extra credit if you drop me a line to let me know what you thought.

Al Franken: Another person I don’t know, but like

Al Franken Giant of the Senate book cover

It’s funny that we say things such as, “Ooh, I like that Joan Cusack!” or, “Ugh—I can’t stand Shingy!” when we don’t actually know these people. At all.

Joan Cusack SRSLY gif

Srsly! I like you.

Well, I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but I myself have definitely said both of the above things, verbatim. It’s the vibes these people project, I guess, even from a screen. It’s the way we see them emote, the work they choose to do, the few and possibly decontextualized things we hear them say. Still, I realize that expressing these sketchily formed opinions, while it can make for easy conversational fodder with our friends (and foes), is kind of… dumb.

Nonetheless, I found myself issuing another hastily wrought impression of a celebrity recently, when I chanced to see Senator Al Franken discuss his new book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. I suppose I’d always had a basically positive impression of the man, though I never really followed Saturday Night Live, or Minnesota politics. But hearing Franken wax eloquent about the basic decency of Democratic values, the intractable Antonin Scalia, and the tough political row to hoe we all now have before us did genuinely endear me to him, though we’ve never so much as made eye contact.

Thanks for a fun and enlightening time, Senator! I now like you almost as much as Brooke Gladstone.

Brooke Gladstone WNYC knit hats project

OMG—remember when Brooke personally crocheted a bunch of hats as thank-you gifts to WNYC donors?! *swoon*

“I don’t want my education to make me just another educated person…

Drawing of a woman in black pants

I want to use it to help people.”

Thus spake one of the stellar Sarah Lawrence College students and recent graduates I spoke with for a feature called “Crafting Careers” in the spring issue of the college’s magazine.

Drawings of college students

A winning cohort!

Other highlights include the basketball MVP who volunteered with a domestic violence-combatting nonprofit; the human resources analyst who started college as a poet, then got into film and TV writing before finding his career groove in HR; and the unlikely management advisor who landed her gig by recalling what she’d learned in college psychology classes.

Read more about these fabulous young people who are making their mark in a host of industries, and restore some of your faith in humanity!

“…as i hit the gas and crash it through a store front window.”

So goes the last half of the last sentence of what is so far my favorite vignette in the very great Rick Berlin’s newish book, The Paragraphs.

Musician Rick Berlin at the Midway Cafe Boston March 2014

Rick at the Midway Cafe, March 2014

I’ve known Rick since my college days in Boston, and have had the joy of seeing many of his live performances, attending the first Jamaica Plain Music Festival (which he helps to organize), and writing about him a few times. I also once convinced the doorman in his old Piano Factory apartment building to let me sleep in the basement when I didn’t have anywhere else to go! Yes, Rick and I go way back.

Over the years, I’ve been the lucky recipient of much correspondence from Rick—both of the personal and email blast varieties. His fearless writing (as I was stoked to be quoted as saying in the opening pages of The Paragraphs) is vital and disarming, and it makes me so happy to know that some of it has finally been anthologized.

Read more about Rick in this awesome Boston Globe article from last month (written by the also great Joan Anderman, @middlemojo) and git your copy from Jamaica Plain’s own Cutlass Press. It’s a great companion on the subway, while waiting for the doc to see you, and in bed at night, when it’s the last thing on your mind before you fall asleep.

Two Shameless Feminists

When my friend Angela Altus—of Bushwick Daily and Shameless Photography—spread the word that she was looking for volunteers to man up in front of the camera for a project called “This is What a Feminist Looks Like,” I was all ears.

“The purpose of the project is to showcase the many faces of feminism, and how shared values span gender, age, race and so much more,” she wrote. While my combined characteristics peg me as just about the most predictable feminist in the world, I still wanted to represent! Thankfully, so did my fabulous husband.

Feminists in bike helmets

In our bike helmets, OF COURSE

The shoot took place at Shameless’s awesome space in an old industrial building in Dumbo earlier this month (site of countless body-positive boudoir photo sessions!), and has so far resulted in some gorgeous documentation on the studio’s website and Instagram; I wouldn’t be surprised to find some of these brilliant shots on billboards soon!

Big ups to all the ladies and dudes involved in this uplifting creative project. The organizers said it best themselves: “No matter our differences, if we can come together around equality, we can accomplish great things for the world.”

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Also: My friend Kaitlin Archambault of Incendiary Designs recently redesigned Angela’s website. Wonderful, isn’t it?

A good sign: The Women’s March on Washington

Of course, there were about a BAJILLION good signs there, which is the focus of this post.

But the pun is not lost on me that this event was also a good sign of broad support for women’s rights (oh man—”broad support for women’s rights”? they just keep coming!) as well as for human rights, environmental stewardship, and general common sense and decency across the board.

Those sentiments came across loud and clear in thousands of amazing handheld signs and banners. (Which is quite fortunate for me: if a sign is worth a thousand words, and I tried to convey the meanings of thousands of signs… I’d have loads and loads of words to write!) If only I’d been able to capture more. But here’s a decently representative sample:

Womens march protest sign

Mega-love to all the amazing people out there! It was a miraculous day suffused with positive vibes, politeness on all fronts, and even the responsible disposal of litter!

See you at the next.

Family at Womens March on Washington

A tryptophan-laced Quote-n-Meme-fest

According to some possibly-reliable source I just encountered on the internet, “tryptophan [the notorious turkey-derived soporific] is an essential amino acid needed for growth and development, producing niacin and creating serotonin in the body… Lots of other foods contain as much or more tryptophan as turkey, and do not cause drowsiness.”

This is especially good news given that I’m a longtime vegetarian and haven’t cracked into a T-Day turkey since high school. Conveniently, tryptophan-heavy pumpkin seeds, soybeans, and lentils are all staples of my everyday diet already. Niacin, here we come!

All this talk of chemically-induced healthy sleep and stable moods is leading up to something other than a series of funny turkey memes, though…

Hillary Clinton turkey gif

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Albeit there will be those, too.

Mostly, I wanted to leave you for the upcoming holiday weekend with three quotations I’ve read or heard in the past couple of weeks that have helped me envision the path forward after this upending presidential election.

First, from ioby, a revolutionary platform for starting and supporting neighborhood-based projects (and one of my favorite clients):

We believe that getting to know our neighbors, and working together to solve problems, is a transformative act of healing.

We need to remind ourselves that democracy is not just about voting and protesting; democracy is also giving, leading, doing, and inviting others to participate in building the social and physical fabric of our society. The neighbor-led change we support every day is civic engagement. If we work together, we can — and will — heal and shape the future of our communities.

Older man with turkey hat gif

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Next is the venerable Malcolm Gladwell, with his podcast Revisionist History. I listened to episode 10—”The Satire Paradox“—at the gym today and enjoyed its parting shot:

Nothing of consequence gets accomplished without courage.

[Speaking to the stories in the first 10 episodes of the series:] You can’t educate the poor without making difficult choices, without giving up some portion of your own privilege. You can’t be a great basketball player without being willing to look stupid. You can’t heal your church without sacrificing your own career. You can’t even drive a car properly unless you’re willing to acknowledge that you sometimes make mistakes: stupid, involuntary, dumb mistakes.

The path to a better world is hard. Is that depressing? I don’t think so. I think what’s depressing is when we ignore everything history is trying to tell us.

Psychedelic turkey gif

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And last, a quote -slash elegy for the late, great Leonard Cohen, who I learned over the years to revere, if not always like. This one came to me from my internet buddy Pooja at Life’s Fine Whine:

Leonard Cohen quote

Hope you enjoy the holiday, everyone. See you on the other side.

Laurel Snyder’s solosarehardtomake makes wildly good sense

Dancer Laurel Snyder screaming

Laurel Snyder wails in solosarehardtomake

Read my review in Bushwick Daily!

The first thing I said when I spoke with dancer, singer, and musician Laurel Snyder on the phone before seeing her solo work solosarehardtomake was, “Thank you for writing an artist statement that makes sense.”

Don’t get me wrong: I feel quite sympathetic to anyone tasked with writing about their art (even writers!), but some of the blurbs I read go beyond just not illuminating the work; they actually muddy the waters with a bunch of big words and esoteric constructions and make it harder to understand. Yikes!

So when Laurel stated that the multiple creative disciplines she works in allow for “layered expression,” and that playing her field recordings during shows “invites performers and viewers to exist within the same world,” it made sense to me on the page—and then it enriched my understanding of her performance when I saw it on stage.

That’s brilliant! That’s the point!!

And, as a bonus, my heightened understanding of her work didn’t at all detract from its innate sensational-ness: it’s a wild show with lots of spontaneity and emotion, packed to the gills with nuance. So “getting it” didn’t break it down or make it boring. It just made it like a Beck song: orchestrated chaos I can get into.

My favorite.