Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In a pay-it-forward interview meme-scheme, our good friend Leonard asks:

1. Who's your favorite historian, and why?

C. Vann Woodward is my favorite, by a nose. The guy wrote history like a good novelist, with an eye for detail, ear for narrative, and tasty turn of phrase always at the ready. He took the South seriously, and thought hard about what great sweeping historical movements like populism and Jim Crow meant for little guys at the bottom, and that's what it means to be a good historian. Lawrence Goodwyn, who would probably not balk much (but definitely a smidgen) to be called a follower of Woodward, is my second favorite, because he took Woodward's humanism and curiosity (along with his own experiences as a left-wing journalist involved in the Civil Rights Movement) and applied them to mass movements like the Farmer's Alliance (from whence the Populists sprang) and Solidarity. Smart, smart guy.

2. How in God's name do you support a huge state like Texas with no income tax?

It's impossible. I'm not just being flippant. The state is constantly struggling to figure out how to finance some of the sloppiest social service offerings and lousiest public schools in the country. And basically, what happens is that standards fall and Texas's huge population (check out how many of our cities are in the Top 25 most populous cities in the country, keeping in mind that the Dallas Metroplex is represented twice) struggles to get by more or less with minimal or no state support. It's a ridiculous situation.

3. What's the hardest thing about parenting? What's the most fun?

The hardest thing is not losing my temper, especially when my son is being extra-stubborn about something at 2 am. I'm not very good at this, and it shames me. The most fun thing is hearing his sounds of joy when he's playing (by himself or with one of us) or singing or some other something that he's just discovered is really, really fun.

4. What have you learned from the process of writing a book?

That I'm a slack motherfucker. I've let minor setbacks set me off my work for major swaths of time. I've gotten derailed on a chapter and not revisited for months, at which point I want to start over with a new focus instead of finishing it in current form. I've second-guessed myself into reflexivity. I've chosen to let some leads lie fallow rather than admitting that I'm a terrible interviewer. Fiction is easier.

5. When are we gonna play some damn poker? Or failing that, Catan?

To Leonard: You wanna come up this weekend or next? I'm not a poker fan, but I love me some Catan. If it's the following weekend, I might go ahead & buy the Cities & Knights expansion set. Wait, that's the weekend I'm going to see Richard Thompson. Maybe the weekend after would be better.

To everyone else: leave me a comment and I'll post 5 questions for you to answer at your own little corner of the world.

10 comments:

Andy 10:21 PM, February 23, 2007  

Ack... posted this reply in the wrong spot.

Anyway. I'm game.

Fire away.

(Now that comment may make sense.)

Hayden Childs 10:57 PM, February 23, 2007  

1. What's your favorite show you've seen at the Ryman?

2. What was the point of telephone deregulation with the benefit of hindsight? Does it have a future?

3. Do you have a favorite place to take photos?

4. Mike Watt & The Pair of Pliers (Watson/Meghrouni) or Mike Watt & the Black Gang (Baiza/Lee)? Why?

5. Will the Dems take Tennessee in 2008? Which Presidential candidate has the best shot and why?

Apologies for not being as good an interviewer as Leonard. I try, but know my failings.

Andy 11:56 PM, February 23, 2007  

1. What's your favorite show you've seen at the Ryman?


Oooh, you are already establishing yourself as a tough interviewer. I would have to say the 2004 show featuring Elvis Costello and the Imposters, where they were touring behind their release of The Delivery Man. Costello really showed up for that show, which he so often does when he's in Nashville. One of the most memorable moments was when he sang "A Good Year for the Roses" without any amplification. I was sitting in the rear of the balcony and heard every note.

Runners up would include Wilco in 2003, Steve Earle & the Original Dukes 25th Anniversary of Guitar Town reunion/concert, Merle Haggard in 2002, and the Johnny Cash public memorial.

(There's a quick top five instead of one. I love many of the shows there for many reasons.)


2. What was the point of telephone deregulation with the benefit of hindsight? Does it have a future?

Well, the point of it was to provide universal, cheap access to communications and information services. At least, that was the public face of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. There were some positives there, including the establishment of the Universal Service Fund and of e-Rate, so that schools could take advantage of the emergent Internet. That, in and of itself, would have been enough.

However, the point was not as dramatic as the outcome. The outcome, of course, was the re-consolidation of big incumbent local exchange carriers. That was helped along greatly by the robber baron philosophy of Bernie Ebbers -- and as the robber that he was, he wound up being sentenced to 25 years in prison for fraud.

Now, what we are witnessing in the industry today is the death of long distance and the emergence of IP. The two most lucrative markets left: 1) wireless, and 2) broadband access.

This is a much abbreviated history.

But in answer to the second question, the short answer is "yes." I think that regulation has a future, and its name is "net neutrality." I don't think that it has much of a future, but I must commend Commissioner Adelman and Commissioner Copps for standing up to AT&T and making sure that NN provisions were attached to the BellSouth merger as a precondition.


3. Do you have a favorite place to take photos?

I try not to limit myself, but I find myself taking most photos when on hikes. Trees, flowers, birds, sunsets, landscapes. I probably don't take as many pictures of people as I could, unless I'm at a concert.

As far as a single favorite, I'd have to say that Alaska has really captured my imagination. This year's vacation will be to Galápagos, however, so we'll see if that remains at the top of the list.


4. Mike Watt & The Pair of Pliers (Watson/Meghrouni) or Mike Watt & the Black Gang (Baiza/Lee)? Why?

Black Gang -- but the version of the Black Gang that I saw (on the "puttin' the opera to bed" tour) was Bob Lee and Nels Cline.

And now that you know that, I think the answer should be obvious. That's the show that made me a Nels Cline fanatic.

I'd still probably lean towards Baiza & Lee if that was my only choice. As long as Watt's in the mix, though, it's all good.


5. Will the Dems take Tennessee in 2008? Which Presidential candidate has the best shot and why?

Depends on what the Dems are attempting to "take" in Tennessee. The senate seat, currently held by Lamar! Alexander is going to be tough to take back. Right now, the D's have a majority in House seats (5 of 9 of TN's districts), they hold the governorship (nominally, since Bredesen is such a sellout), they continue to hold the TN House, and are within a couple of seats of taking back the Senate. Since the governor's office isn't vacated until 2010... I'd say they hold 5 seats in the House delegation unless Davis (TN-4th) runs for Lamar's seat.

Among presidential contenders in TN... hm. Let's just go with who I think will win the prez primaries, given who's in right this moment: McCain (R), Obama (D). I don't think there's much chance for Hillary to win here unless she is riding a huge wave, and even then, it'll be tough.

Maggie Osterberg 10:56 PM, March 02, 2007  

Man, I could use a good jump start to my brain and my blog and so I'm game if you are, Hayden.

PS: More kid pix! He's a handsome lil' bugger!

Hayden Childs 12:03 PM, March 05, 2007  

Hey, Maggie!

First, there won't be any more kid pics here for a while. Some creepy pedophilish sites were linking to pictures of my son, who, I may add, is not out of diapers yet. So: fuck you, Internet assholes! And, as always, if whoever is reading this is associated with one of those sites, please seek help immediately. I'd suggest giving all your assets to a charity for abused children and then undertaking chemical castration.

Now, to Maggie:

1. What combination of guitar/pedals/amp provides your perfect tone? Please mention pickup configuration, whether the pedals are true bypass, and how you set up the amp.

2. Guitar-heavy skronk-rock or lush orchestral-pop (like Jens Lekman or Sufjan Stevens)?

3. What would you improve in OS X? In Mac operations in general?

4. Why haven't you been updating your blog as much as usual over the last month or so?

5. If you were a comic book villain, who would you be?

maggie Osterberg 7:18 PM, March 06, 2007  

Man, that's awful about the kidpix!!! Once again, a few jerkoffs ruin the fun for the rest of us. damn.

Give the wee one a hug from me, OK?

Answers to questions in a day or two! Thanks!

maggie Osterberg 1:45 AM, March 13, 2007  

1. What combination of guitar/pedals/amp provides your perfect tone? Please mention pickup configuration, whether the pedals are true bypass, and how you set up the amp.

Man, this is a more difficult question than I thought at first. Why? Well, what is "perfect tone?" What is my "perfect tone?" Do I even have a "perfect tone?" Do I want one?

I've run my guitars through all sorts of effects; distortions, delays, filters, flangers, echos, reverbs and some stuff that I'm not even sure what they are exactly, but they sounded cool at the time. Having a DAW (running Logic Pro) with lots of plug-ins further complicates the matter, or signal chain, such as it is.

For instance, on this track, "No Promises", my Jazzmaster is run through an amp sim (set to a Vox-y distorto setting), several chained virtual delays, a ring modulator and a reverb. It works for that song, but it's not what I would call a perfect or even necessarily "signature" tone. Don't get me wrong; I like it a lot.

But, it's quite far from the electric guitar tones on my song Goodnight", which is my Jazzmaster (again), but this time it's being run through (via Logic plug-ins) a compressor, a Fender Champ amp sim a stereo delay and a reverb. It's a whole other beast- the main character of this tone comes from me using my fingers instead of a plectrum for the lead lines and then using a pick to play the strings behind the bridge and above the nut to get the chiming and ringing tones. It's a real wires and wood sort of sound, but the compressor and the delays play a big part of what at first seems to be a pretty basic sound.

Maybe even more basic is the guitar on "Stupid Rain": a Danelectro with 40-year-old lipstick pickups, driving a Fender Deluxe Reverb with a bit of plug-in reverb added to the rhythm guitar and a Z. Vex Fuzz Factory added to the mix for the lead guitar lines. That's a pretty meat-and-potatoes sort of tone, even with the freaky, sputtering, snarling Fuzz Factory (turn the "Stab" knob to around 3 o'clock and stand back!) doing its thing.

But are any of those favorites my idea of the "perfect guitar tone?"

You know, not really. I like 'em, but they're not quite my Platonic, default idea of what an electric guitar should sound like. That sound, which is ridiculously specfic, comes from a long relationship with a single guitar and a single amp, one that's endured for over twenty years and through all sorts of experiments and trades and fads. My perfect tone? Easy, now that I think about it.

It's the sound of my 1983 Fender '61 re-issue Stratocaster, plugged directly into my 1983 Fender Deluxe Reverb II amp. It'll be set to the first channel, the "clean," typically Fender-voiced channel and the volume will be around 4 or 5 on the amp, with the bass and treble at 6 and 5 respectively. The presence knob will not be pulled out but it will be set at 4 and the reverb will be anywhere between 4, for most playing, or 8, for more surf-y sounds. I'll ride the guitar's volume knob with my pinky, keeping it around 8 for most stuff and bring it up to 10 for solos and I'll have the bridge and middle pickups selected for that classic Stratocaster "quack" that Richard Thompson and Mark Knopfler made famous. Sometimes, for leads, I'l flip to the neck pickup, which is a 20-year-old Seymore Duncan Vintage Strat pickup, and which does an excellent imitation of Tom Verlaine's Jaguar and Jazzmaster. That's my perfect tone. My pal, Skippy The Wonder Beast, plugged into an amp I've had since college. When I think "electric guitar" I think of my two old friends.

2. Guitar-heavy skronk-rock or lush orchestral-pop (like Jens Lekman or Sufjan Stevens)?

I've been on a Jens Lekman spree and have really been digging it and I think I might actually be too old and genteel for skronk-rock anymore. It seems like I don't seek that sort of adrenal rush that comes with the stankin' loud skronk and look for more subtle pleasures. I've gone from The Wooster Group to Chekov. From Jackson Pollack to Matisse. Oh my.

3. What would you improve in OS X? In Mac operations in general?

I'd make it more processor-efficient and speedier. I see the beachball of waiting too much.

I'm not sure that I have any complaints about Mac operations in general, but I wouldn't mind seeing other companies support the platform more comprehensively.

Oh, and Roger Linn Design needs to bring out an Adrenalinn II patch editor for OSX!!!

4. Why haven't you been updating your blog as much as usual over the last month or so?

Oh, a combination of disinterest, disengagement from the world, a lack of any thoughts worth sharing and having Michael Berch here in Nebraska for the last 2/3rds of February.

5. If you were a comic book villain, who would you be?

Galactus! Because I HUNGER!!!!! (Also, purple looks good on me.)

Hayden Childs 1:22 PM, March 13, 2007  

Thanks, Maggie!

FWIW, my default guitar sound is the bridge/middle Strat quack config running straight into my Princeton with the vibrato set at speed 4/intensity 6. I also switch to either the neck or bridge p/u for leads and generally play leads through an MXR distortion + (for heavy screaming) or a Dano Daddy-o (for light).

maggie Osterberg 5:51 PM, March 13, 2007  

My DR II is pretty close to to the Princeton and I reckon that the Princeton's vibrato adds a nice bit of Thompson-esque skank to the proceedings. I think I'd like your current sound quite a bit!

Oh, I forgot to add that for leads, my 1980-something RAT (one of the first ones in the small enclosure, but with the original circuit) in front of the DR II sounds great with my Strat and bloody fantastic with the Jazzmaster. (I go back and forth between the neck and bridge pickups for leads on the JM and only use the middle position for clean jangle)

i.p. pavlova 1:24 PM, March 20, 2007  

Hayden, that's awful news about the pictures. I was looking forward to seeing more of them.

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