In the early 1800’s this region was part of what was known as the “Burned-over district” denoting that evangelists had so thoroughly campaigned the area’s people that there was “no ‘fuel’ (unconverted population) left over to ‘burn’ (convert).” Later, in 1849, twelve miles from where I type this, two adolescent girls, Maggie and Kate Fox, began to hear, summon, or clandestinely produce knocking sounds that they claimed were communications from dead people. The Fox Sisters claims became a worldwide phenomenon and triggered the Spiritualist movement in America. During the peak of the Spiritualist movement even President Lincoln tested the waters, allowing Mary Todd Lincoln to hold seances in the White House, some of which he purportedly attended. There is a memorial obelisk dedicated to the Fox Sisters nearby, and you can trace a direct line between the two girls and any modern day scenario where you pay someone to communicate with the deceased for you. Point is, sometimes you think you’re just messing around in your parent’s house but in the right circumstances, your bedroom mess-arounds escape that house. Where did young people put their weird ideas before rock bands? Maybe you had to pretend you were summoning knocks and whispers from the dearly departed? I don’t know. Just an idea.
I would’ve loved to hear the Fox Sisters’ indie rock band.
Anyway, here we are at 1809 Studios making our fourth album! You helped us get here! Thank you! Yesterday was day 1 of 5 days of tracking. We have 11 or 12 songs to record here, which is a lot for 5 days, but we know this album backwards and forwards and we’re ready to let these songs be whatever they tell us they are (see the parallel there? I’m telling you, The Fox Sisters would’ve gotten “Best New Music” for sure). Dave Drago is producing here and he’s already made 6 suggestions which were real “Duh” moments for the recipients of the suggestions. Meaning, he’s real good at this. The studio is in a former tavern/inn built sometime around the time the Fox Sisters starting scaring the shit out their parents. The studio is gorgeous and there are built-in living quarters here, so we can literally roll out of bed and be in the control room in under five steps. If you were a fan of the television show L O S T think the hatch where Desmond lived. It’s kind of like that (Oh man, as I typed this the fire alarm just went off and it sounded exactly like the warning beeps that used to sound in the L O S T hatch, wow).
We tracked all day long yesterday, finally arriving at a Chinese restaurant attached to an apartment complex (what - why?) for dinner at 10PM. We were the only ones at the establishment and the food wasn’t that great (see my full review on Yelp). As usual, the fortune cookies arrived with the bill. Did you know that most of the world’s fortune cookies are made by Wonton Food, Inc. in Long Island City? Did you also know the the company’s president Donald Lau is the author of most of the fortunes inside the cookies (his daughter writes some of them too)? I have an interest in interviewing Lau. I want to know what he thinks about having such an influence on people’s lives. I want to know if he thinks gullible people are behaving in irrational way towards his casual mini-statements or if he believes himself to be an unwitting instrument of fate. Answer the question, Lau! (Seriously, I emailed him, and he wouldn’t write me back)
Each member of Hallelujah the Hills then read their fortune and placed it away for safe keeping. The challenge is to use the text of the fortune you received in normal conversation, sometime today. Band members who do so undetected will receive points, those who guess incorrectly will lose points. My fortune was pretty conversational, and I feel my chances are good.
Today’s recordings are dedicated to Donald Lau and The Fox Sisters. Because sometimes it’s a fine line between channeling something divine and just messing around with some bullshit. All the best bands reside on this fine line, I think, and so I say: Meet Me At The Fine Line Party.
Best, Ryan from the band Hallelujah The Hills
p.s. when we return from recording we’ll play live Feb 14th at The Lilypad in Cambridge with The Dazies, The Fagettes, and Nice Guys.
I wrote this story about a musician who figured out how to make money from music with ZERO hype. You’re gonna love this story - it just came out today. It’s also about where the ongoing music industry shakeup is headed next, I think…
I consider this story to be related, in a way, to my Overdub Tampering Committee article from 2012 in which, if you’ve read it, you know I was very closely involved in. That hoax was an exercise in an extreme and bizarre reactions to a quickly changing music industry/culture. I am so glad that someone went beyond a hoax and took an idea from the same ballpark and has run with it for years.
I watched the Richard Sherman post-game interview in a bar with the sound off as it happened, and then later with sound when I got home.I thought it was exciting- a real genuine moment. I enjoyed the Forbes piece I found on Twitter shortly after, and was especially delighted by the interview that piece linked to where Sherman called out a broadcaster for being a critic without ever achieving any of the feats he criticized. That’s a moment that all performers and athletes dream of, I’d wager.
It reminded me of the point David Foster Wallace made in his 1996 tennis article for Esquire:
“But it’s better for us not to know the kinds of sacrifices the professional-grade athlete has made to get so very good at one particular thing. Oh, we’ll invoke lush clichés about the lonely heroism of Olympic athletes, the pain and analgesia of football, the early rising and hours of practice and restricted diets, the preflight celibacy, et cetera. But the actual facts of the sacrifices repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up with bovine hormones until they collapse or explode. We prefer not to consider closely the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews or to consider what impoverishments in one’s mental life would allow people actually to think the way great athletes seem to think. Note the way “up close and personal” profiles of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life — outside interests and activities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what’s obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It’s farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one area of excellence." - David Foster Wallace
This is why Sherman’s outburst stands out. It’s the opposite of vapid. It’s language the matches the intensity expressed on the field (which is apparently rare). That’s why, I, as a well-worn non-sports person, is thinking about it all, I guess.
When I was 18 I used to work in a liquor store. This was a great introduction to the unglamorous sides of alcohol consumption and problem gambling.
There was the line cook from a few stores down who bought two Smirnoff nips every two hours (we had a line that went, “the smaller the bottle, the bigger the problem”), the scratch ticket addict who had to buy any ticket your hand “accidentally” touched on the way to getting their selection, and the old woman who would beg me not to sell her anymore lottery tickets and then scream at me when I obeyed her orders.
There was also a gentlemen who never spoke. He only grunted in our presence. He would grunt and point to which scratch ticket he wanted and tell us how many he wanted with his fingers. We had a bunch of guesses as to what his deal was.
One cold February day, every single person in line was talking about how cold it was outside. “It’s fahkin’ wicked cold out there!” etc. The grunting man remained quiet until the line dissipated. He looked me in the eyes and said the only two words he ever spoke to me.
"In this school of cognitive linguistics, we need to use more embodied, concrete domains in order to describe more abstract ones. Researchers assembled the linguistic expressions we use like "That class gave me food for thought" and "His idea was half-baked" into a construct called a "conceptual category." These come in the form of awesomely simple sentences like "Ideas Are Food." And there are whole great lists of them.”