Friday, October 24, 2008

music to get laid (off) to

it's been a tough year for our department (as it has been most everyone, everywhere), and we've been worrying and whispering about potential layoffs for months. i've been alternately losing sleep and humming "que sera, sera," thinking about possible next steps, but really always hoping--most earnestly--that i wouldn't need to take them.

for the first time last week, the rumors became disturbingly focused: cuts would come within the week.


waiting for the other shoe to drop/the sky to fall/insert any "disaster" cliche here is no fun.

how to cope? i've been running (speedwork and hillwork to ensure just enough tiredness for a good night's sleep) and crying every chance i get. ok, not really crying. (not yet anyway.)

everyone has a song (or six or twenty-six) that provide mind-easing, soul-soothing comfort, for whatever ails them, yes?

or am i merely insane?

well, i've been listening to "crying"--track 2 on tv on the radio's "dear science" album--obsessively, morning to night.

i am digging the whole album, but "crying" is THE ONE, hooked me from the first funky cymbal shimmer. i was in car last weekend with my mom, driving to trader joe's, and i popped it into the cd player for a first listen. poor mom was mid-sentence (something about butternut squash soup?) when i interrupted her--"ooh, i like this, let's hear it again...ooh, ok! i love it! one more time! again!!"

i can't get enough of the funked out bass line, the falsetto and the horns (there's something sort of "fine young cannibals" about it. and prince, of course). it's groovy and hot and yearning. and it's actually sort of apropos (hold your breath through late breaking you cryyyyying, cryyying, oh whyyyyin', oh my my my).

it's irresistible. i HAVE to dance and feel good when i hear it.

i think it just might be enough to keep me from crying in the coming days.

(but i welcome more music therapy suggestions...)

(youtube video, courtesy of naughtysauce)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


natalie wood in nyc, photographed by william claxton, in 1961.

william claxton, whose stills of the west coast jazz scene in the 1950s are some of the most intimate and acclaimed, and whose portraits of chet baker chronicled and hastened the musician's ascent to stardom, died today at the age of 80.

i'm familiar with some of claxton's work (any half-decent poster or postcard shop in the city offers this image for sale in one form or another; who hasn't seen this one of sinatra? and this shot was known to me long before chet baker was) but i knew little about the man himself, or the breadth of his career.

and so today, i did some reading...

i learned from the nytimes' obit that he first became known for photographing his subjects, like sonny rollins, in "unorthodox" outdoor settings.

the la times' more anecdotal tribute (a too-amazing-to-imagine encounter with charlie parker) will pique the interest of fledgling photographers and jazz aficionados, and includes claxton's musings on the similarities between jazz and photography ("They're alike in their improvisation and their spontaneousness. They happen at the same moment that you're hearing something and you're seeing something, and you record it and it's frozen forever").

i was most surprised to find out that he was the art director at motor trend magazine for more than a decade. but after reading of his passion for sports cars, race cars, and motorcycles, which he shared with another of his oft-photographed subjects, steve mcqueen, it made perfect sense.

part of claxton's talent--and some might call this an art--was his ability to engender the trust of his subjects, by getting to know them, and letting them know him. and he promised not to portray them in a negative way. he was, in his own words, "dedicated to beauty" and he knew how to find it in his subjects.

these days, when photos can be and are so readily manipulated, and we, as a culture, delight in catching celebrities (and non-celebrities!) at their most compromised (and i can't say i'm immune to this phenomenon myself), and intimacy is often mistaken for being merely exposed, claxton's work takes on even more significance. his commitment to the expression of beauty, real intimacy, and honesty through photography is something that, hopefully, never gets lost.

for more on william claxton's fascinating life and work, and to hear "claxton on claxton," visit his site.