I Get a Kick(Start) Out of You

As a kid, I loved going to the public library.  In fact, I first fell in love with New York City at the Wasilla Public Library, devouring books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and the All-of-a-Kind Family series.  The library was near my dad’s office, so I could ride with him to work, then walk to the library and spend my afternoon among the bookshelves.  Bliss!  There was just one problem: I had to cross the street at a four-way stop to get to the library.

The four-way stop was, to my 9-year-old self, a daunting intersection to navigate.  I found the traffic rules intimidating, and usually just stood nervously on the sidewalk until a kindly driver waved me across, at which point I ran for my life and exhaled with relief upon reaching the other side.

All these years later, I still love New York City and the public library.  I’m also happy to report that I no longer find four-way stops to be challenging.  The intersection of art and commerce, on the other hand, is riddled with complicated questions: how can I make a living as a musician?  How are the arts funded in the United States?  How can I support the arts?  How can I garner support for my own creative endeavors?

The answers to these questions have never been definitive, but KickStarter provides some interesting options.  KickStarter is an online platform that offers unique ways to both support and be supported by the creative community.  I’ve backed several projects on KickStarter, and I’m also smack dab in the middle of my own campaign as I prepare to make my debut solo album, The Great City.

What I like about KickStarter is that it’s a two-way street.  You make a pledge to someone’s project, and you get something in return.  The “something” that you get, as per KickStarter rules, has to be generated by the project you’re supporting.  In my case, people who pledge toward my album will receive signed advance copies of The Great City, copies of my Christmas CD (in time for the holidays, of course!), album art, liner note credits, and in-home concerts, among other rewards.

So today, on Cyber Monday, please consider joining my KickStarter campaign and becoming a part of my album.  When you visit my KickStarter page and make your pledge, you’ll be giving and receiving the gift of music; what better way to spread holiday cheer?  I’ll meet you there, on the corner of art and commerce.  Happy holidays!

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Miley & Me.

Once upon a time, in a faraway era I’ll call the 1990s, you had to walk to your computer, turn it on, and search for information on the internet. Then we got laptops, so our computers could travel with us. Now we have iPhones and Blackberries so we can have instant access to information and communication in our pockets, wherever we find ourselves.

Having a personal online presence seems to be a necessity for everyone in the 21st century, from elementary schoolers to Baby Boomers. MySpace gave way to Facebook, often called “Face-Crack,” because of its addictive properties. Cyber-stalking may well be the next Olympic sport. And Twitter, that festering bastion of narcissism, is increasing in popularity.

Tween star Miley Cyrus recently created a firestorm when she deleted her Twitter account. Shortly afterward, she gave an interview to a Chicago radio station and said, “Twitter should just be banned from this universe. You don’t end up living your life and you end up saying things that really is (sic) no-one else’s business.” Preach on, Miley.

I’ve seen “tweets” and “status updates” that were clearly sent from people who were driving, as well as from hospital delivery rooms. Really? There is nothing, as in not one goddamned piece of information, that is so crucial that it must be “tweeted” while driving a vehicle. And if I were in labor and saw my husband posting information about my cervix to the online faceless masses, I’m pretty confident his electronic device would have to be surgically removed from his ass.

Now, I’m not a Luddite. While I can rail on and on about the perils of internet addiction, I consider the internet to be a hugely powerful resource. When we log on with intention and purpose, we literally have the world at our fingertips.

But how often do we really log on with intention and purpose? Online, instant gratification is the order of the day. It always starts innocently enough: you want to make cookies, but only have brown sugar in the house. Is brown sugar interchangeable with regular granulated sugar? Google will know! The next thing you know, you’re listening to D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar. “Ooh, D’Angelo. I wonder what happened to him,” you say to yourself. So then you google “D’Angelo” and wind up spending half an hour on Perez Hilton.com, awash in a sea of licentious gossip and self-loathing.

The internet has, without question, sped things up for all of us. And, for all its flaws, the internet has the power to connect us in countless ways. From online dating to social networking to blogs that inspire, infuriate, and amuse us, we can reach out and be reached more than ever before. This is, as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing.

But after evaluating my own internet habits, I am newly resolved to log on less. I’m challenging myself to make my virtual connections more meaningful and mindful. Who knew? Miley Cyrus and I have something in common.

Home again, Home again.

“What if I stopped, just for awhile, to see where the sun goes?” -the bird and the bee, “Spark”

I just got back from a couple of weeks in Italy.  I lived there for about a year when I was 17 and hadn’t been back to visit for, well, a long time.  Happily, my ability to speak Italian came back almost immediately, which was the only thing that happened in a hurry during my vacation there.

I had left my cell phone in Brooklyn, so there were no calls to answer or return.  I didn’t check email.  After our morning swim, we’d eat al fresco at our Italian host’s picnic table, our senses awash in the simple pleasures of a summer day.  CIMG3083

Every lunch was accompanied by perfectly ripe tomatoes dressed in a grassy extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  As a light breeze drifted through the trees and across our foreheads, the only noise was the soft hum of the bees in the wildflowers underscoring our gentle conversation.

This was quite a contrast to the culture from which I’d just taken a sabbatical.  Stateside, we’re inundated with books, websites, and workshops dedicated to helping us be more authentic, more creative, more ourselves.  Perhaps this culture of “identity acquisition” is a by-product of the great evil and obsession of the Western world: multi-tasking.  

We’re on our cellphones all day.  We send “tweets” about our groceries, spouses, and commuting woes.  We link the “tweets” to our Facebook pages and amass hundreds of “friends.”  Meanwhile, sitting down face-to-face with an actual friend has become a rarified privilege.

I have nothing against technology; I love the Internet, in fact.  But I believe that we are most authentic and creative when we put away all our goddamned digital devices for a few days and, instead of reporting the minutiae of our daily lives to faceless cyber-masses, we actually enjoy and inhabit the minutiae of our daily lives.  

Because the minutiae is pretty fucking great.