Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Anarchy in the OK!

My son Tobin's Rock and Roll side showed up again today. At the Norman Music Festival, when the Sugar Free Allstars told kids to "Put your hands in the air," Tobin crouched and put his hands on the ground. When they shouted, "Jump around! Jump around!," Tobin stood stock still. When the Allstars urged their audience to "Spin around!" Tobin strutted, nay, swaggered through the toddler mosh pit giving half-nods to nearby parents and generally looking really fucking bad-ass for a two-year-old.


Tobin's punk attitude got started last summer, when he was about twenty months old. While driving him and his older sister to the grocery store, I told them to get ready for some rock and roll, then I blasted The Alarm's "Three Sevens Clash."

Apparently that song made an impression. At the store, when left alone for a quiet moment in the cart, while Cora and I wandered a few feet away to look at cereals, Tobin chucked his fancy new aluminum water bottle to the tile floor. When everyone in sight looked at him, he raised his fists and shouted--I kid you not--"ROCK AND ROLL!"

Oddly, "Three Sevens Clash" represents, for me, the energy an aging punk rocker can still conjure up when he's well into middle age. Mike Peters (The Alarm's singer) wasn't among the first wave of punk rockers, but he followed along soon enough. He's getting up there now, having survived a cancer scare or two.

When Tobin is ready, though, I'll start him on the Ramones.

When. He's. Ready.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

No Woman, Yes Cry

As a once-and-future hipster whose concert-going days have been overtaken by parenthood, I don't get out much. Let's see now--last time I saw a live band was...a year ago. Too long! That's why I am excited to attend the third annual Norman Music Festival with the whole family tomorrow. But I've redubbed it the No-Women Music Festival, and now I must figure out how to explain to my daughter the conspicuous lack of female singers among the fifty gazillion bands in the lineup.

Option #1: "Well, Cora, I guess girls don't make music."

Option #2: "Well, Cora, I guess the Norman Music Festival organizers don't like girls."

Option #3: "Well, Cora, I guess girls don't like the Norman Music Festival."

Tough choice. At least there's Sherree Chamberlain (of Stillwater, Oklahoma, I believe) on the Brewhouse State, Sunday at six. My wife--who deserves credit and/or blame for first noticing the lack of female artists--fell in love with Chamberlain's music last year:

But what's up with all the testosterone, NMF?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's That Time of the Semester

A heavy load at work and a renewed commitment to writing fiction in what little time I've had--these and one or two other factors have kept me from posting on the blog this week. By the weekend, though, I'll be back in action.

I leave you with Billy Bragg pulling a Zelig. (Couldn't embed it, I'm afraid.) (Yes, that's what she said.)

But speaking of Billy, am I the only Bragg fan in the world who hated his last album? I doubt it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"I simply hate, detest, loathe, despise, and abhor redundancy."

We interrupt our regularly scheduled speculation about a world with no hypothetical situations to bring you this breaking news newsbreak just in from the Department of Redundancy Department:

Exposing Glenn Beck as a Dangerous Fraud, Part 2

Because, you know, doesn't Glenn Beck do that on his own, every day?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Transcending Gender

CNN has a nice piece on transgendered identity today. Which reminds me: I haven't mentioned here that my new course, "Expository Writing: Transcending Gender" has been approved and listed for the fall semester. I can hardly wait to meet the students who enroll, whoever they may be. As of this moment--two days into early enrollment--the first student has signed up. Hooray!

Here's the course blurb as it stands, though, appropriately enough, I consider it in flux and open to revision:
From drag queens and pop stars to medical doctors and elected officials, transgendered figures pervade our culture, yet they retain the status of freakish outsiders. Since they rarely fit comfortably into the binary designations of male and female, their legal and social standing remains unclear and hotly debated. Authorities have recently used gender controversies to justify barring transgendered individuals from proms, sports events, and public restrooms. While some maintain that these restrictions are necessary to preserve traditional gender distinctions and maintain the social order, others believe that such discrimination has given tacit sanction to hate crimes and brutal violence. In recent years, however, the transgendered have pushed back against marginalization, demanding equal treatment, broader understanding, and social legitimacy. This course will explore the debates surrounding contemporary transvestitism, transsexuality, androgyny, and transphobia through texts drawn from gender studies, psychology, journalism, politics, literature, cinema, and pop culture. 
 Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait, can't wait...

The Most Beautiful Song

Dear Reader,

What is the most beautiful song you know?

I know, I know, it's hard to answer this question. Taste is taste. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Our musical proclivities depend on so many variables--our cultural affiliations, the times and places of our births, the company we keep, the moment in which we first hear a song. So what I'm really asking is this: What comes to mind when you think of "the most beautiful song"?

Upon a moment's reflection, I think of five songs:

1. The Cocteau Twins, "Donimo"

2. Lisa Gerrard, "Sanvean (I Am Your Shadow)"

3. Peter Murphy's rerecorded version (with Turkish musicians) of "My Last Two Weeks"

4. Antony & the Johnsons' "Another World"

5. This Mortal Coil, "Song to the Siren"

It seems my sense of beauty tends toward the haunting, or the haunted. Tomorrow I'll come back to this list and think, no doubt, why isn't Mark Hollis here?! Where's Miles Davis? Where's fill-in-the-blank?!

And, you, what are yours? Tell me.


Mother, Daughter

If I am not around when my wife nurses my son, she watches hospital dramas on television—not the crappy daytime soaps, but the better night-time ones. E.R. Grey’s Anatomy. House. That kind of thing. And OK, I admit it, I watch House too.

My daughter, Cora, makes me tell bedtime stories—not that I dislike telling stories. It takes little arm-twisting, on her part, to get me to tell them. When I give her a choice between a book and a made-up bedtime story, she chooses the story. When I offer two books or one story, she’s tempted but goes for the story. Three books, though, and my lazy brain is off the hook. When I’m tired, I tell her it’s a book night.

Our made-up stories began years ago, when I told her one about a nice monster whose pet mice constantly steal bites of her cheese. Cora asked for that story again the next night. Then, another night, she requested a different story with the nice monster and her naughty mice; then another; then the monster acquired a pet bat; and soon Cora inserted herself as a character in these stories. She would show up at the crucial moment, hug the nice monster, and produce a piece of cheese from behind her back. Cora’s arrivals invariably killed the drama and sapped the suspense from every scene I crafted; yet making life easier for this beleaguered monster gave Cora pride and a sense of power. So we kept it up.

Later, we developed new stories in which Cora and her friend Cowboy would travel through a portal to the Magic Kingdom, where she would rescue a hapless prince from not-so-nice monsters, witches, wizards, and dragons. In these stories, Cora is a knight who flies a Pegasus pony and wields a magic wand. The Prince calls Cora on her cell phone, pleading for help. Cora and Cowboy hurry through the portal. Cora uses her magic to turn the mischief-makers into something harmless, say butterflies or fluffy bunnies, then she and Cowboy escort the Prince back to the castle where the grateful King and Queen feed them all lunch. The End.

Then came the “Zoodoo” series, in which Cora helps a girl named Zoodoo return loose animals to their cages at the zoo. That was soon followed by the “Ziggy and Twiggy” stories, in which Cora counsels a pair of lazy, grouchy twins to get along.

No doubt I’m forgetting one or two other series. It makes me sad to know some of our characters could be lost from memory forever. That’s why I’m writing down, here, the premise of our newest series—the “Doctor Shocker” stories.

Patients come to Dr. Shocker with strange problems. They have measle-spots that change colors every few seconds and sting when they change. Perhaps ugly horns grow out of the patients’ heads. Maybe these patients have colds that cause flecks of banana to fly from their noses when they sneeze; or a hundred fuzzy caterpillars caravan around their necks; or they jump off diving boards into frozen pools, and icicles fall and become stuck in their noses. You get the idea. In these stories, Cora is the nurse at Dr. Shocker’s office. Cora asks the patients what is wrong, takes their temperatures and blood pressures, and fetches the good doctor.

Dr. Shocker invariably suggests radical cures for her patients. In fact, some might call Dr. Shocker’s treatments “silly,” or “dangerous,” or even “shocking.” Fortunately for all concerned, Cora intervenes with common sense advice. For instance, if Dr. Shocker prescribes sticking a patient’s head into a microwave to melt the icicle from his nose, Cora insists they dip the icicle into a cup of hot water. Sometimes Cora’s “common sense” is questionable. She might dump the hot water onto the patient’s nose or try to melt the icicle out with a Bic lighter; but, when the patient screams, Cora quickly comes up with a better way. As ever, she saves the day.

Think House meets Looney Toons.

My wife, Rachel, plies her trade as an herbalist. She also serves as a leader for La Leche League, as an Attachment Parenting group leader, and as a founder of a secular home-school group that meets weekly. Rachel’s energy knows no bounds. She is brilliant, sympathetic, and generous. I often overhear her on the phone, helping a desperate new mother whose infant won’t latch properly onto the breast, or (also by phone) suggesting that a friend try this or that herbal tincture for a health concern, or (yet again on the telephone) recommending an online educational resource for a homeschooling family new to town.

Think House meets Dr. Quinn meets… meets… meets I-don’t-know-what. TV has not made a show that does justice to my wife’s role in this world.

My wife, my daughter—as they save the world one case at a time, I am boundlessly proud and in love with them both.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cora's Afterlife

(a dialogue with my daughter, 12 April 2008, when she was three)

"What if you stop loving me?"

"I'll love you forever."

"Forever and ever?"

"Forever and ever."

"But nothing is forever."

"My love for you is."

"What if I'm not here?"

"I'll love you wherever you are. Where will you be?"

"Under the sea."


"No. Under the... the... ocean. I'll be under the ocean."

"What will you be doing under the ocean?"

"Taking care of animals."

"What kinds of animals?"

"All kinds. I'll take them to the vet."

"Maybe you'll be the vet."

"Me? The vet? No. I want to be a lots-of-things mommy, and lots-of-things mommies aren't vets."

"What are they?"


Home Sweet You

I met a cab driver today who had not only heard of the band Fishbone but loved them, seen them multiple times, and regretted missing one of their shows. He makes his own hip-hop music and records it old-school, on analog equipment. (Enjoy: Capn Fresh and the Stay Fresh Seals.)He knows John Zorn's music and recognized the band Woven Hand when I mentioned them.

Which is odd. Because cab drivers don't usually want to talk. They don't usually want to talk to me, anyway.

I spent three days in Denver. I love Denver. I cherish my time there. It's good to be home.


Here's David Eugene Edwards of Woven Hand doing Bob Dylan, albeit reluctantly:

I wish to hell I had more to share at the moment, but it's very late and my thoughts are whirling. Back to blogging this week, and to work on the book. And to reading. And to non-whirling thoughts.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mike Scott, "Beatles Reunion Blues"

If you've ever wondered how a Beatles reunion concert would come off, Mike Scott of the Waterboys has your answer. Sadly, though, Youtube reports that embedding has been disabled for this video. (That's what she said.) "Beatles Reunion Blues" was the B-side to the Mike Scott solo single "Bring 'Em All In" from 1994. Here, at least, is the A-side:

I saw The Waterboys in concert in Boulder, circa 1991. Great show, by the way. Mike played a very sweet song, solo, for one of his encores, about his small child or children (can't remember) crawling into bed with him during a thunderstorm. Wish I could hear that one again. With this storm, it would be perfect for tonight.

Shattered Hearts: Runaway Teen Window Shoppers

My alter-ego's handiwork:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gothic Americanarama

I've had little to say in the past couple days, so I'm saying it. To fill (or to emphasize) the silence, here's David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower and, more recently, Woven Hand, with his ancient mandolin banjo outside someone's shed in Seattle:

This is the Stanley Brothers with the Clinch Mountain Boys, sharing a tip on how not to wake the old battle-ax when you're sneaking in late on the tail-end of a bender, as featured on Pete Seeger's TV show:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Acting and Writing: A conversation with Jeffrey Draper

Last weekend, my friend Jeffrey Draper and I had a good conversation about acting and writing. Jeff is a gifted stage actor whose work I've admired since we went to high school together. He now teaches acting at a private school in the Bay Area and treads the boards of various stages in the area. Our discussion took place on Facebook, of all places, and was sparked by a video link Jeff posted to a lecture by master voice and Shakespearean acting teacher Patsy Rodenburg. As with everybloodything else on Facebook, the constant waves of updates, notices, friendships, invitations, links, and likes quickly swept our conversation under. I would hate for it to disappear, though, so with Jeff's consent I post it here. First up, we get Patsy Rodenburg discussing what she calls first, second, and third circles, followed by my conversation with Jeff. He introduced the video with this comment:

My theater goddess. "Be present. Don't try to be liked. Play the TRUTH. That's why I do theater." That's why I do theater too!

Eric Bosse: This is valuable stuff, Jeff. Thanks for posting it. I miss acting. It has been too long. After watching this, it occurs to me that some of my recent struggles with Facebook arise from the way this venue and other virtual environments keep us dancing back and forth between what Rodenburg calls the first and third circles. There's too little second circle here. Too little everywhere. I'm curious. As an actor whose work I have always admired, do you think in these terms about your own acting?

Jeffrey Draper:  Hi Eric. Patsy Rodenburg has always been one of my favorite "teachers" in print. As has been Uta Hagen, who was first introduced to me by Betty Gardner [our legendary high school drama teacher].

I do think that true, deep communication comes in the second circle, and this is where the best actors find (or learn to find) a place to play. It requires vulnerability, trust, and even faith to take risks here, so many actors resort to the first and third.

The same is true in life, I guess, and there are some people who use first and third (Facebook, email, Skype, etc.) instead of any true human interaction. As "connected" as we all are, I'd say that, you're right, people have never been more disconnected.

As for my own acting, I have learned to love the moments when I can truly engage with another human being onstage. I love listening and reacting to exactly what I am given by the other human up there with me (second). When I lose confidence, I do retreat into the safety of myself or to the bad habit of pushing the performance out past the footlights in a presentational style.

Last night, I was able to be present about 90% of the time, resorting to technique or reacting to fear a little. It's not even that binary, however. I can have a moment in two, then push a joke with technique in three, then stumble and pull into one for a line, then back to two for the bulk of the scene, ...