I was an English major with a focus on poetry writing at Harvard, and my poetry teacher gave me Joanna Newsom’s first CD– he was like that teacher who totally changes the course of your life. So I was super into The Milk-Eyed Mender, and then my friends invited me to go see Joanna Newsom play live when Ys came out. I felt like I’d been transported to another world. Ys has a lot to do with the death of a loved one and discovering your own creativity, all done through very mystical poetry, and I was also dealing with those same things. I felt like she was speaking directly to me the whole concert. I was like, “How can this happen?”
I listened to that album on repeat for so long. I could spend days trying to figure out just a single complex metaphor. The one that stands out to me is: “In the mud cloud, mica-spangled, like the sky’d been breathing on a mirror.” It’s like John Donne, who was a really early metaphysical poet, or Yeats. That image has so many layers and the ideas you can draw out of it are also manifold.
The main thing I learned in college is that if you’re going to make a piece of art, you’d better have some emotional urgency behind it; otherwise, it’s not worth making, and you’ll never accomplish anything with it. When I think of a performer who’s willing to be super weird and super naked and always writes with some kind of urgency, I think of Joanna Newsom. It’s a good lesson in being yourself. Live, she makes these faces, and she squats a little bit, and she is very physically involved with the instrument, which is cool. I try to do all that stuff, maybe not consciously, but I like to think that I’m not just standing around and staring at my shoes. I don’t really care about keeping up with appearances—I’ve pretended that the guitar is a machine gun and shot the audience with it. I saw a nine year old do something similar at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls showcase concert a few weeks ago. It was a little shocking.
Comedy writer Jessi Klein is best known for her stand-up and her work as head writer of Inside Amy Schumer. Now she has a book of essays called You’ll Grow Out Of It. She spoke to Terry Gross today about what she calls the “thong industrial complex,” having to pump breast milk at the Emmys, and the competition between pregnant women about natural birth plans:
“In my contact with other pregnant women or women who had had kids there did feel sometimes like this game of one-upmanship that would be happening around just how holistic and perfect a birth anyone could have. That idea of like, “I’m going to give birth at home.” “Well, I’m going to give birth at home in a giant bowl of lentil soup that has been made from organic lentils that I bought at Whole Foods.” “Well, I’m just going to give birth at Whole Foods.” It just felt like there’s this contest. …
A friend of mine, at one point, really helped me out, because she said, “What are you trying to win?” And there really is nothing to win. … I think this also goes into other aspects of women’s lives too, I think we often feel like we’re in a contest of some kind, and the contest is generally kind of a bummer, and the prize is usually also an illusion and is false.”
What we’re doing when we exclude women from rock and roll, and from the sense of rebellion that rock and roll promises, is disallowing women that independent perspective. We’re never giving them the chance to think critically about the world, and about the systems that oppress them. When we take women out of the arts, and take them out of art’s ability to critique the way things are, we’re making sure that women keep swallowing the status quo, day after day, and it’s the status quo that keeps us down.
New Jersey's Titus Andronicus playing at the Olympic Community Hall during Halifax Pop Explosion. Afterwards, guitarist Amy Klein announced via her website that Titus’ two Halifax shows would be her last with the band. She’ll be missed.
Jessi Klein, head writer for Inside Amy Schumer, spoke to Fresh Air recently about the genesis of the ‘Last F**kable Day’ sketch:
“That was an idea that definitely came out of conversations in the [writers’] room. I guess there was an Us Weekly floating around the room and we were looking at pictures of actresses in the “Who Wore it Best?” [column] and everyone looks amazing. And we just started talking about at what point do people start to age out of being in those magazines [and] kind of start to end up on the covers of the really kind of lowbrow ones with pictures of them at the beach and “Oh, look who is aging terribly!” — when that same person two years ago was so hotsy totsy in the middle of the magazine? I guess we started talking about what would happen if you took that idea all the way to its conclusion. …
It was funny for me to think about what if there’s this sort of Malcolm Gladwell-y tipping point that’s really specific? We kind of age slowly, but how does it work in magazines and how does it work in Hollywood? What little visual change is suddenly too gross to see on a magazine or in a movie or in TV? So that’s kind of how that idea got taken to that place.”