Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Turnabout

Turnabout is fair play.

I love being interviewed. It’s a forum for me to talk about myself without appearing really egotistic.

I fantasize about Barbara Walters interviewing me. I would be dressed in Armani and she would be dressed in a gorilla suit. We would be bathed in glow of diffused light; the Vaseline-smeared lens would blend away all my imperfections like my large pores, my blackheads, my chinky eyes. Once, I tried doing the Vaseline trick in a home video, but there was too much pubic hair in the jar. I ended up looking like Chewbacca.

I am also ready for those wacky questions Barbara likes to spring on her guests like “‘If You Were a Color, what would you be?” (blue); “If You Were a Tree...?” (willow tree); “If You Were a Fruit...?” (Liberace).

A reader, Harriette, wrote me an e-mail asking if I would like to be interviewed for an article she’s writing:

"Dear Paul, I've been an avid reader of your blog for more than a year. I am currently writing an article on the gay rights movement in Chicago. Would you like to participate in an interview?"


Do birds fly? Do dogs lick their balls? Does privatizing Social Security bridge the gap between the projected shortfall and enable high income individuals who normally wouldn't benefit direct these funds to private accounts that are eligible for their heirs to inherit? I was only happy to comply.

The questions were tougher than I thought, but once I had a couple of shots of tequila, I was able to loosen up my sphincter and the bullshit started to flow.

And because I’m an extremely modest mouse, and in the spirit of Gay Pride Month, I thought I’d share it with you all.



Start Interview: Hairdressers turn to the Dark Side

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Here's an older interview I did way back when...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Friday, June 17, 2005

Thank U, Alanis

I can’t even remember what I was doing ten years ago. Oh, I remember now, my best friend was fucking my boyfriend of three months. Yeah, that was bad.

I was so angry I saw red. I was green with jealousy. And then I saw yellow--a yellow discharge oozing out of my dick. They had given me the clap.

I felt terrible. In one fell swoop, I had lost a lover and friend. In the following weeks, I searched my soul even as I searched for a good urologist. I pondered my exes and I pondered the whys. I still am not sure how it all happened, even though the signs were plain as a zebra’s stripes.

I had even told them I was happy they were getting along so well. I thought it was a sign that the relationship was going very well. I guess it was, just not mine. Hindsight would’ve been on 20/20 if I had gotten to the knife drawer before they ran out of my apartment, dragging along whatever clothing they were able to grab. I would’ve filed a lawsuit, but I didn’t know their last names.

Ever since then, I have made a decision never to introduce a new guy to my friends until I got to know them first. I want to make sure that I found the craziest homo I could find so I wouldn’t feel so bad if they slept with him.

That’s what’s bad about gay people. It’s hard to trust anybody. Good men are so rare that everybody’s always trying to steal your boyfriend. I can’t say I blame them. I’ve knowingly slept with guys who were already in relationships. Karma, right? It comes back to bite you. You just hope it has had its rabies shots.

Eventually, I got over my anger and disconsolation. It all evens out in the end. Or at least that’s what it says on the box of my medication. In any case, I got over it.


And after ten years, Alanis Morissette also got over it.

In the ten year anniversary of her groundbreaking CD Jagged Little Pill, she has released an all-acoustic version of the CD. You can buy the CD now at Starbucks, six weeks ahead of the record stores. Alanis observed that the calm, relaxing atmosphere of the coffee chain is the perfect place to access her latest album. I agree, it gives me something to listen to while I am sitting in Starbucks’ bathroom--coffee just makes me shit, y’know?

This move is not without its conflicts. Record store chain HMV retaliated by pulling all Alanis titles off their shelves, which in my mind, probably won’t hurt Alanis that much since her last CDs So Called Chaos and Under Rug Swept didn’t exactly fire up the charts.

Last Saturday, in her concert at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Alanis mocked her own image of an angry, spurned woman. She noted how a couple of songs (“Forgiven” and “You Oughta Know”) on Jagged Little Pill made her the poster girl for a whole movement of riot grrlz.

If you’ve listened past “You Oughta Know,” you’d know that the song is really quite uncharacteristic of her. “Ironic” and “You Learn” are very gentle and introspective songs which are more in tune with her onstage persona: shy and very self-deprecating. She is not Avril Lavigne or Lindsay Lohan partying it up with Paris Hilton, dancing on top of tables.

The set looked like a very comfortable den: it had a grandfather clock, a couple of couches with throw pillows and blankets. All it needs is cat hair all over the place and it could be my living room. The persian rugs, the small buddha gave it a slightly eastern flavor (whereas I only have to stand in the middle of my own living room to give it some eastern flava). A little end table with a small lamp sat on the front of the stage next to the mic.

The whole vibe of the concert was as if the band were spending an evening at home, playing music together. It felt very intimate, very tight. A fart would’ve been disastrous.

The concert wasn’t strictly acoustic. The bass and drums gave the songs a fuller sound and the organ created a gospel undertone. There are no surprises here, no radical re-imaginings of the songs. But I think that these arrangements brought out how personal and touching some of the songs were.

My wussy friend Joe cried during “Perfect,” a song about trying to live up to someone's expectations: “how long before you screw it up / how many times do I have to tell you / to hurry up?” I loved the way she captured the awkwardness of falling in love in “Head Over Feet.”

Alanis also throws in some choice cuts in between JLP songs. I loved the conversational tone of “Hands Clean” and the stark “Uninvited.” She updates “Ironic” to reflect the new freedoms in her country, Canada: “It’s meeting the man of my dreams and I’m meeting his beautiful...husband.” The crowd cheered.

She closes the show with an exuberant “Thank U,” thanking providence for letting her get this far.

And if I stopped to think about it, I’ve a lot to be thankful for as well. Losing a lover, losing a friend was necessary to bring me where I am today. If those things didn’t happen, I still might have been wondering how I got the clap.


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Buy the CD:

Friday, June 10, 2005

Extraordinary Machine

As I listened to Fiona Apple's unreleased album Extraordinary Machine, I pictured Fiona, face heavily painted, alternately banging on trashcan lids, playing an accordion and the armpit fart, while a monkey scampered about her feet, dressed in a marching band suit, playing an organ grinder.

It's Fiona gone vaudeville. Or a western saloon.

Extraordinary Machine was reportedly shelved by Fiona's record label Sony since late 2003 because it had been deemed 'uncommercial.' I guess when they were thinking 'surefire hit,' they were thinking Mariah Carey's Charmbracelet. I think this proves that you can't predict what the public will like, because the only thing different about Charmbracelet and any of its predecessors is Mariah's increasingly trampy outfits.

A fan, desperate to get Extraordinary Machine released, started the Free Fiona campaign, hoping to pressure Sony to release it. It's an uphill battle of biblical proportions, like the David vs Liza Minnelli-Gest divorce proceedings.

Fortunately, the whole album was leaked to the internet in March, purportedly by Fiona's camp. Fans had been buzzing about how amazing it was.

Like everyone else, I started trying to find sources where I could download it, but Sony had shut down many sites which had provided it. It was just by luck that I happened upon a site which had posted a high quality rip of the album for a very short time.

I wasn’t really sure what to think about the album. The only other time I’ve heard anything like this was when Barbra Streisand sang "The World Is a Concerto/Make Your Own Kind of Music," accompanied by an orchestra made up of strings, horns and household appliances. Barbra, in a long satin white gown with long sleeves and a bouffant, sang her heart out while typewriters, vacuum cleaners and blenders all clacked and whirred along. Yes, it was that gay. Throw a Pucci apron on her and she’s your average domestic goddess.

Many of the fan-created CD cover artwork had been very literal: robotic Fiona, Franken-Fiona, Fiona-and-a-rotisserie-oven (appliances again). But no, the album isn’t electronica or Nine Inch Nails; it’s more like Fiona meets Tin Pan Alley, emphasis on the tin pans.

At first listen, the album is all dissonant chords and jangling percussion, very difficult to listen to, very distracting. Remind me never to play this in a BD classroom or within twenty-five feet of Robin Williams. I thought it was terrible, I don't think you can blame me.

"Red, Red, Red" was Fiona channeling Yoko Ono. She played jarring, fat-fingered chords on the piano in "Oh Sailor." "Better Version of Me" had me looking around to see if Christopher Walken was going to suddenly burst in and yell, "More cowbell! I need more cowbell!"

But, the album did get better as I listened to it more. The pot had nothing to do with it at all.

I would say it took about eight tries before I was able to get past producer Jon Brion’s extravagant flourishes and the Fiona we all know and loved emerged: the broodiness and melancholia, the sudden tempo changes, the crazy ex-girlfriend who gave you herpes--on purpose.

This album is very similar in spirit to When The Pawn, but nowhere near it’s accomplishment and artistry. I think a lot of folks prefer Tidal, which was more mainstream. For these folks, Extraordinary Machine will probably not suit.

The title track, "Not About Love" and "Better Version of Me" are very good songs, but there is no "Criminal" or "Limp" here, but that shouldn't be a reason why this album should be held hostage. I think it deserves to be heard. I mean, we had to listen to Hillary Duff sing for chrissakes, the suits owe us this one.

I turned to my boyfriend Brian and asked him what he thought about the album. He said, "It makes me angry. Shut it off."


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Note: This post is about the unreleased version of this album. Subsequently, upon the official release, I had a chance to listen to this CD again, with producer Mike Elizondo's polish. I've grown to truly love this album.

Listen to Music Critic Ken Tucker's interesting review of the CD at NPR.
Listen to NPR's story of the release of Fiona's CD

Watch Christopher Walken's SNL Cowbell Skit (wmv)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

My First Time

by Annie

When first approached by Paul to write a guest blog I was flattered.1 Alright, maybe I wasn’t “approached” in the Angelina-Jolie’s-been-approached-by-producers-to-reprise-the-role-
first-made-famous-by-Phoebe-Cates-in-'Lace' sense so much as I was barraged with the usual flurry of Saturday morning at the laundromat questions (What are you doing after this? Do you want TBP? Did you watch Best Week Ever? Do you want to write a guest blog? Are you going to Gap?). And maybe I wasn’t flattered in the If-I-can't-have-the-girl-I-really-want-you-know-you're-my-number-two sense so much as I wasn’t really listening. I thought he'd asked to borrow a color catcher or if the venti latte made him look fat – laundry day stuff. Paul stuff.

Then he began using strange words – flatulence, butt-plugs and boobies were replaced by deadline, moniker and bitch better not fuck this up. Luckily I recognized his ulterior motive – one crap guest post will only make his public’s love and adoration multiply. I can see him adding to his wish list now. Thinking otherwise made me nervous.

Picking a topic? Easier than I am on a Tuesday!2 I mean, what is NMP about if not the everyday, sometimes mundane events treated with humor, irreverence, and the occasional meat tenderizer ("Yes, exactly -- IRREVERENT!!" Paul seemed shocked but pleased that I’d decoded his secret Filipino recipe)? Seeing as my life is nothing but a series of everyday, mundane events treated in the above manner, the hardest part would be choosing what not to write about.

Television was too obvious yet so close to my sad black heart that it assumed frontrunner topic status. The season's end has been weighing heavily on me. Although it has made room for Dancing With The Stars! If the marketing geniuses could please remove their collective monster heads from their collective monster asses for two minutes, maybe they'd see this as the opportunity to sell America what it's been waiting for: the potential for Trista Rehn to get Gillooly’d on live television.3,4,5

Then came the helpful hints, beginning with, "hey, just so you won't be pressured..." which is basically shorthand for "hey you with the astigmatism and small bladder, you need to do an emergency tracheotomy on this sick little girl's puppy – STAT!"

On cue, I started feeling all this...pressure. I mean, I'm no blogster or blogstar or any other kind of –er. Truth be told I'm a big ol' blog virgin. Not that I'm not proud of who I am; it's one of the last spaz frontiers I haven’t conquered and now what? Not only am I getting screwed by Paul but am sure I owe someone upwards of $6000 for having been so sure I'd never need that sentence.

And did you read the last entry? Apparently there are people who read this thing ON PURPOSE. People who don't do laundry with the author. And Paul's become some sort of blog guru (note to self: trademark "bloguru"), and actually...has answers and like, rules (Dear No Milk Please, Is it possible for a blog virgin to get blog burnout just from thinking about it too much? P.S. When does the itching stop?), rules that might have helped my current situation had I known about them sooner.

I would've put more blog-thought into that last cock-sucking session and been done with it already (second note to self: cannot pull off self-referential mentions of cock-sucking on world wide web without envisioning shame on mother's face. Third note to self: do not let mother get computer).

And then there’s the whole comments issue. Topic schmopic, let's worry about something else! The concerns, I think, are obvious – people are going to make comments. I will not like these comments as they will be mean and hurtful. Fortunately, I can anticipate and avoid a comment like nobody’s business. I’m the freaking ________ of comment avoidance.

Okay so I can’t think of a famous comment avoider right now but you know what I mean. Orrrrrrrrrrrr...no one will make any comments. Why isn't anybody making any comments?????? And what the hell is a moniker anyway and why do I have to have one for his blog? I know it's something bad that he’s trying to hide in a word that sounds like musical simians.3,4

Only the first time is this uncomfortable, right? Next time I'll know: more lube.

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Here's No Milk's Blogging for Dummies, or as he likes to call it, "helpful hints." The numbers in my text refer to what rule(s) has/have been compromised. In my defense, there is a clear implication to rule #6 in the very first sentence. It really went to shit after that.

1. start out with your strongest line - it needs to bring in the reader into continuing.
2. exaggerate, stretch the truth, to get your zingers in. it's irreverent and humorous, not autobiography.
3. make sure to not make the paragraphs too long, put in lots of white space. i personally zone out when there's too much wordiness going on. cut it into several paragraphs.
4. the "story" is important. i know i am guilty of digressing. but it helps when you're editing your post to think about this.
5. Don’t write about what happened on a TV show unless you have a point of view
6. write about poop, farting and puking--people seem to like that a lot.

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Annie is the first official NMP guest blogger. On Saturdays, she and Paul meet for coffee, laundry and crosswords. These are her boobs.