I am sure some folks will be annoyed that a struggling government enterprise like Amtrak has announced its plans to host an expanded #AmtrakResidency for writers. (Thanks to Tom Feister for making me aware of this.) For my taxpayer money, I love to see it used in this nontraditional manner.
To quote Amtrak:
“#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.
Residencies will be anywhere from 2-5 days, with exceptions for special projects.”
Here’s hoping it is so successful that, as my pal Feister has suggested, they offer a similar program for artists.
When I was a kid in the 1980s, I was introduced to I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down through Paul Young’s cover of it. Back then I had no idea it was originally performed by Ann Peebles.
So for your consideration, here is the original (well a 1989 performance by Peebles of her 1970s song); a cover by Graham Parker and the Rumour; and finally Paul Young’s version (a horrible Top of the Pops lip synch performance).
As she co-wrote it, I think Peebles is the default winner–but I have always been partial to Young’s version. As I get older, my appreciation of Graham Parker’s version increases however; particularly as the 1980s Young version becomes increasingly dated with every passing year.
The description says it all: “Jimmy & the Muppets perform The Weight by the Band for the last waltz of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
Animal as Levon Helm makes perfect sense, honestly.
When I can make it, once a year I try to make the Sixthman Cayamo cruise. This year it was a seven-day musical cruise with a lineup that cannot be easily summarized (but can be found here). It just wrapped yesterday–and in the next couple of days I hope to post videos of past performances from some of the talent that caught my attention this year.
First up is Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams–and a video from Cayamo 2013. Judging by this video, I am supremely bummed that I missed last year. Glad I caught it this year. Williams’ voice is a powerhouse that could fuel the cruise ship all by herself.
Over at my Tumblr page (see the stream on the side) I am posting photos of Peter O’Toole, who left this earth after a long illness. His death feels like the loss of a beloved family member I never got to meet.
The day of the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon seems like the perfect time to tell folks about Mary Jo Pehl‘s (aka Pearl and so much more from MST3K, as well as Cinematic Titanic) Kickstarter for Awesome Music For Awful Movies. This is a project she has planned to record (as described by her) “an album of original songs that pay homage to bad movies of Mystery Science Theater 3000 . . . The songs will be written by veteran Twin Cities musicians Michael Warren, Claudia Hankin, and Tony Balluff, and performed by yours truly in a variety of genres such as power pop, ballad, pop-country”. There are seven days left in the Kickstarter, which seemed like the ideal time to chat with her about her plans. I consider myself fortunate enough when I get to catch up with Pehl.
Tim O’Shea: When and how did you decide you wanted to team with Michael Warren, Claudia Hankin, and Tony Balluff to pursue this project?
Mary Jo Pehl: Over the past several years, many people came up to me after Cinematic Titanic shows and told me how much they loved “When Loving Lovers Love” from “Overdrawn At The Memory Bank.” I’d been trying to come up with a new project that might push me past my comfort zone, and let me work with people who were smart and funny and whose work I admired.
It has been some 20 years since Gene Wilder has made a film. So to stumble across this June 2013 interview with him by the great Robert Osborne (at the 92Y) was a delight to find. Enjoy.
It is always good to catch up with a musician I interviewed in the past, to see how their work had evolved in the interim. The last time I interviewed Karyn Oliver was nearly three years ago. The mid-2013 release of Oliver’s new CD, Magadelene, prompted this new series of questions. A great deal has changed for Oliver in the past three years–but I will let her tell you about that.
Tim O’Shea: Since we last spoke in late 2010 (for your previous album, Red Dress) you got married. Has that major life change influenced any of the songs you wrote for this new album?
Karyn Oliver: Well, sure. Anytime you change, your writing changes with you. “Red Dress” was all about a major life change – I was getting divorced, so the album was all about transition and overcoming and becoming. I think “Magdalene” is a far more empowered album. Even the heartbroken songs have some sense of personal power. My narrator is a bit more mature, a bit more confident.
The new MSNBC Friday night interview show, Up Late with Alex Baldwin, debuted in early October. I missed the premiere, but fortunately MSNBC has offered it a great deal of the content online for folks like myself.
Judging by the most recent episode, with 2001: A Space Odyssey stars, Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea (discussing the film classic’s long-term cultural influence), Baldwin is going to book some obscure guests. That’s a trend I hope continues. Past guests support my impression considering that Debra Winger was the focus of one episode.
Periodically, I will go scanning for an interview of a favorite writer of mine. Today, I stumbled across a gem of an interview with novelist John Irving in the Summer-Fall 1986 issue of The Paris Review.
Before following the link, consider this excerpt:
Titles are important; I have them before I have books that belong to them. I have last chapters in my mind before I see first chapters, too. I usually begin with endings, with a sense of aftermath, of dust settling, of epilogue. I love plot, and how can you plot a novel if you don’t know the ending first? How do you know how to introduce a character if you don’t know how he ends up? You might say I back into a novel. All the important discoveries—at the end of a book—those are the things I have to know before I know where to begin. I knew that Garp’s mother would be killed by a stupid man who blindly hates women; I knew Garp would be killed by a stupid woman who blindly hates men. I didn’t even know which of them would be killed first; I had to wait to see which of them was the main character. At first I thought Jenny was the main character; but she was too much of a saint for a main character—in the way that Wilbur Larch is too much of a saint to be the main character of The Cider House Rules. Garp and Homer Wells are flawed; by comparison to Jenny and Dr. Larch, they’re weak. They’re main characters. Actors know how they end up—I mean how theircharacters end up— before they speak the opening lines. Shouldn’t writers know at least as much about their characters as actors know? I think so. But I’m a dinosaur.