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Thursday, October 31, 2013

A scary song for Halloween: Lamkin, or, a very good reason to pay your contractors promptly.

A few years ago I cobbled together this version of the Child Ballad "Long Lankin" using three of the many (wonderful) tunes it's been set to over the years. We always loved this song but it's so spooky and awful there were not many times or places where it was appropriate. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Let's not and say we did, or, how I didn't do my Groupon due diligence and ended up wasting $19 (except it was worth $19 not to go to Glamour Shots)

I had stopped falling for Groupon deals after letting a couple of them lapse. But one day there was a Groupon for a $19 photo shoot at Glamour Shots and I thought, "Why not? Be spontaneous!" Since I have no sweetheart and no likelihood of ever having one again, boudoir shots would be of no use to me, but I thought a new photo of me with my violin, with actual makeup and hair styling, might make me feel like less of an old hag. So I fell for it.

I got a notification that the Groupon was about to expire so I called yesterday. They said they were booked up until halfway through December. I said, "Oh, well, let me know if somebody cancels."

They called back later and said they had an appointment today at 1.

The Glamour Shots location is in Raleigh at the Crab Tree Valley Mall and I usually don't go to Raleigh unless I get paid to. Also, I've been sick in bed for four days and thus am not looking my best. But I decided to continue being spontaneous so I staggered out of bed, changed out of my pajamas into actual clothes, and then...

... finally sat down to read reviews of Glamour Shots from all over the country.

Well, this is the most uniformly grisly collection of reviews I've ever seen. I won't quote (you can find them yourself) but to summarize: the poor women who come to get boudoir shots for their husbands sit on the concrete floor in their undies; every session takes four hours or more; makeup which is "airbrushed" on (!!!) looks about as you would expect.

Why didn't I notice when I signed up for this Groupon that they would be airbrushing me?

Here's an odd thing several people mentioned: Glamour Shots cameras are set up to make you look especially blemished and wrinkly so you'll pay more to have all those blemishes airbrushed off. Hmm, this is now two levels of airbrushing, what are the chances you would end up looking like a human being?

The part that didn't worry me, because I am very tough and very cheap, is that many people who go in with $19 Groupons come out having spent multiple thousands of dollars.

For your $19 you get one picture, which takes weeks if not months to come. Oh, and you have to pay $7 to have it mailed to you.

The killer for me: if you want "ownership" of your picture, ie if you want to be able to use it on a website for instance, if you want it on a cd, it costs $140 or more. For one picture.

So I let them know I wasn't coming and forfeited my $19.

So my son said, "Well, I'll take your picture." But I objected: "I just took a shower, my hair is wet." But he reassured me: "That's OK, it will look like you're using PRODUCT."

We went out on the front porch. No makeup, no hair styling, no airbrushing, but ... it took 2 minutes and cost nothing.

In conclusion - I think it was worth $19 not to have to go to Raleigh.

Next time I will read the reviews first.

Below: a "retouching" gif my son sent on this same subject.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In which (in my opinion) many unwelcome new words and concepts illustrate a First World problem

These days, anybody with something to sell (which seems to be most everybody) is goaded - or guilted - into online promotion. In addition, thousands of people who don't make stuff but who for whatever reason don't want to work in office buildings - or with shovels or wrenches - are sitting at their computers trying to make a living on-line.

Online marketing! Wherever you turn someone's trying to sell you
  1. Click-bait headlines so you'll click and please their advertisers;
  2. Services or expertise;
  3. Somebody else's stuff (so they get a cut);
  4. Their own stuff.
I'm in that last category, and I have to say, those of us who make stuff have a tough row to hoe because it's easier and more fun to make cds (or metal flowers, or macrame wall hangings) than it is to sell them. It's already expensive to create them, then you have to spend more money (and more and more) to enable you to get rid of them so you can make more.

There are only so many boxes of books or potholders that any attic can hold.

There are more artists and artisans in the world creating stuff than there are customers. Well, and, actually, there are too many pizza places and there's too much commercial office space and too many cars and houses and shoes. The first time I ever saw an indoor mall I was dumbfounded to see seven shoe stores. I asked my then-husband: "WHO CAN POSSIBLY BUY SO MANY SHOES?"

Not a new question! Samuel Johnson and Dickens remarked on it, and see, here, from a no-longer-famous Yiddish song from the 1930s (Men leygt arayn un men nemt gornisht aroys):
These are terrible times, everybody knows it. I know a lot of people whose businesses are going under. There's more merchandise than there used to be. ... Good brothers, hear me out. You put in, but you get nothing out. From hard work and running around, each trying to sell something to the next, the unhappiness is great.
Hence the desperate shilling of every era. Hence, for us, the weird concept of "social media." Anybody who uses that term is trying to sell you something.

'Social media' relates to real human society the way "hog lagoons" relate to real lagoons. Let's stop and have some pictures because we're told people don't want content without pictures.

Hog LagoonLagoon

And hence...
  • People are now "eyeballs" that can be sold to advertisers. As we are continually reminded, "If You're Not Paying for It, You're the Product;"

  • "Content," whether it's poetry or op-ed or or tedious mechanically churned out bullet-pointed paragraphs, is primarily google-friendly filler used to frame ads and "calls to action.". "Content" is valuable primarily because it makes search engines think 1,000s of blogs and "make money online" websites are "fresh." WHO CAN READ SO MANY BLOGS? There are not enough eyeballs.

  • If you have macrame or web services or books to sell, you won't succeed unless you "forge personal relationships" with people you've never met. You need not just a blog but of course a website, and a google+ "presence," and a facebook page - and a twitter account and some Pinterest pinning wouldn't hurt either. You should spend several hours a day at it.
I'm not exactly opposed to any of this. After all, if it weren't for the internet, I would never have heard from people in Germany and Israel and Poland willing to help me with my ridiculous quest to find the melodies for long-forgotten Yiddish songs. And I have made some friends on the internet whom I've met in the real world and enjoyed greatly.

And it's not like the old-fashioned alternatives were so great. I know artists who've spent hundreds or thousands of dollars buying display tents and paying for slots in outdoor crafts fairs and who sit in the heat for hours and watch the "eyeballs" walk past happily eating buffalo wings and ignoring the beautiful pots and encaustic paintings.

If you're going to fail to sell your macrame it's easier to do it in your house.

I'm just another old fart regretting the current pendulum swing away from "face time." Wondering whether people notice that "social activity" taking place in your empty room is actually kind of lonely, and that it might be better "social activity" to change out of your pajamas and put on shoes and a hat and go out and talk to actual people.

Is there a point to this? Not really. But if you have a point, I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Kick My Habits - my current favorite website design

Click on the picture to enter the delightful world of bad habits in England.

Kick My Habits Interactive Tool from Leeds Building Society

Kick My Habits by Leeds Building Society

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Two Yiddish theater music concerts in North Carolina: December 19 and December 21

Roger Lynn Spears did this poster for us and he also plays piano with us!
The first concert is at Carolina Meadows, address 100 Carolina Meadows, Chapel Hill, NC 27517. They have a lovely stage and we'll be trying out the material (which we have recorded but never performed). Performers at this show will be Jane Peppler, Randy Kloko, Ken Bloom, and Roger Lynn Spears. Tickets are available at the door or in advance, a mere $5 for this hour-long concert.

The second concert is at the Artscenter, address 300 E Main St Carrboro, NC 27510, at the West End Theater in the back. This will be a combination of the new Yiddish material from the Itzik Zhelonek project and our Cabaret Warsaw cd. All of Mappamundi (Jim Baird, Ken Bloom, Jane Peppler, and Beth Holmgren) will be performing, plus Randy Kloko, Aviva Enoch, and Roger Lynn Spears. Tickets are $10 at the door or $7 in advance (click here):

We will project the song lyrics over the stage line by line so you won't miss any of the jokes.

Our cds are available for purchase or preview at our record label site, Skylark Productions. Thanks for supporting local music!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The song that made my son decide to start buying music instead of using bittorrent: "Charity Case" by Frontalot

Long ago I had someone come up to me and say, "Wow I love your music, would you make a tape of it for me?" when our music for sale was sitting on a table right in front of him.

I am a musician and because my field is obscure I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure out of every single purchase of my cds or even a single song. (You can see our stuff for sale at our Skylark Productions record label. But on to Frontalot, who got famous with his song "Stoop Sale" - but did he profit?

oh man, I try to dodge fans but they keep swarming.
mc frontalot's heart's huge; let's have a housewarming.
I love you so damn much i'll sell ya CDs.
i'm greedy to get loved back like ally sheedy
in wargames. I got more sayings and turns of phrase
in my communist handbook than in my -- damn, what'd
I do with my ledger? I'll never get paid now!
that distributor promised me checks but didn't say how
he was gonna locate the Front.
it's the anonymity I'm a little bitty bit late to shun.
hate to run; can't be tardy to my rally:
"Art Must Be Free" is the decree. The finale
is my lecture on the evils of the R-I-double-A,
how they gonna sue you every single time you hit play.
they're lame! must revolt! what's that you say?
kids are pirating the frontalot? oh no, I got betrayed!

it's true
frontalot's destitute
I need you
to buy my CD so I could buy food

I been a charity case to my fan base for years:
in tears at my show, "somebody buy me ride home."
now I got something I can barter for services.
yo don't let the major labels get word of this.
I'm girderless, free falling towards riches;
gonna sell so many CDs that I can afford britches
and a shirt, AND a hat to go with it.
I get specific -- 'cause my fantasy is that vivid.
I'm gonna buy gadgets that don't do anything but beep
and blink, then I'll go out in public & buy drinks --
but it's contingent on your ponying up.
wait, you got my record on bittorrent? fuck!
might seem like there's no DRM but I'll explode
your computer like COBRA done to GI Joe
on the episode about computer viruses.
oh look, there's the ledger: overflowing with minuses.
my spinelessness in the face of the starvation
projected by my cashflow erodes the hesitation
I once harbored as regards the tune vending.
if only the nerd kids' aversion to spending
money on data got inverted somehow
I'd be making my way through all my dollars with a plow
but instead I'm down on ground on my knees
begging y'all to believe my CD isn't free.