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50 Neko Case Drives Us Batty
(and the Canadians therein)
I just spent two months living in
Toronto mixing my album. I sure did miss it! I haven’t lived there
since ’98, so it was good to get back for an extended stay. The ladies
who work upstairs in the studio had an election party. They weren’t
kidding. Canada was voting Obama with bells on. People were crying and
cheering, not just in our little corner, but all over the country.
Canada was really rooting for us. I felt like the world still loved us
after all. It was even more moving than I imagined it could be.
2. Honeycrisp Apples
Rock ’n’ roll is wild. Believe everything you hear about it.
3. My Band
What can I say?! They’re adorable.
a bridge by my house under which live trillions of Mexican free-tailed
bats. I walk my dogs down there a lot and visit them. If you stand
still with a flashlight, they fly really close all around you and make
excellent squeaking noises. Sometimes they’ll graze my arm with a damp
little wing. I love that. They eat about 1,500 mosquitoes a night each!
Bats are having a hard time, though—pollution, habitat loss and wind
farms (huge turbines, also detrimental to birds and many other
sensitive, threatened animal species) are really taking a toll. Imagine
what would happen if we had no bats! Think of the mosquito-borne
diseases that would explode—West Nile, malaria. You can help fight
these diseases by putting up a bat house. Make sure you’re going green
in a responsible way, and question things. The word “green” has become
a major marketing catchphrase that’s sometimes used deceptively. Don’t
jump on board for “clean” energy if it ruins other things. Wind power
is great; wind farms are bad. Do lots of research and tell your local
and national governments what you want. Bats and birds can’t type, so
help them out. [si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/batfacts.htm and betterplan.squarespace.com]
5. My Pets
Yeah, yeah, I know.
You don’t wanna hear it. I can’t help it though; it’s been a tough
year. One of my dogs, Travis, lost a leg to cancer. Funny thing is, he
couldn’t care less. He’s almost as fast as he was on the track. It’s
mind-blowing to watch a greyhound—even a three-legged one—at full
speed! Dogs live for today. I love them for that. I didn’t make you
watch any of this on YouTube, so we’re even.
6. Hobby Farms Magazine
likes to read about goats? I do! You know, the Caprine subfamily?
Lowline cattle, anyone? Weeder geese? Guinea hens on tick patrol? Mini
donks? Draft horse logging? That’s what I’m talking about.
7. Books I Read While Making This Record
You always need a book to accompany you on a journey, to put your own
journey in perspective. Here are the books that kept me company while
working on Middle Cyclone:
The Living by Annie Dillard
Dillard’s writing. Invisible to the story, she inhabits both men and
women with no bias. I earmarked so many pages. I couldn’t help but go
back and re-read all the flawless passages and odd, mouthwatering
descriptions. It took me a long time to come down from this book, and
its characters are still hanging around. The story takes place in
Whatcom County in Washington state where most of my family lives. You
don’t read many stories about this place, so I’m really grateful.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
classic changed my life. It made me the ravenous reader I am today.
It’s even better when you read it as an adult. Hazel and Fiver are
always with me. Watership is based on a story about rabbits that Adams
made up for his daughters on a road trip. It’s so intricate and
engrossing. There are so many stories within the story; there’s even a
mythology for rabbits. I wish he was my dad.
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell
portraits of old New York, written in the cleanest, most matter-of-fact
style. Mitchell is so dry and funny. The characters are vivid and
salty, like potato chips. You can’t put this book down.
Flight by Sherman Alexie
and beautiful. Sherman Alexie is pretty much my favorite writer. He
says it all so plainly and poetically and goes to strange and funny
places with such seemingly unlikely characters, and makes them the
likeliest ever in the process. He just won the National Book Award for
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Way to go, Sherman!
Wise Children by Angela Carter
Timms of the Mekons turned me on to Angela Carter some years ago.
They’re a lot alike, I think. Sally bought me a copy of Nights at the
Circus, and I’ve never looked back. Carter is brilliant, nimble and
hilarious. I cracked up in a lot of restaurants while reading this one.
What It Is by Lynda Barry
The most generous book my eyes
have ever feasted on. Not only is it filled with nutritious
information, it’s also crammed with paintings, drawings and collages.
The book is based on Barry’s class, called “Writing the Unthinkable.”
I’ve taken the class several times, and I can testify firsthand that
this book does it justice. It makes you want to make stuff right now!
It’s gorgeous, funny and bizarre all at the same time. If you ever have
a creative logjam, Barry is the beaver to talk to about clearing it out.
Miss Nobody by Tomek Tryzna
book was written by a Polish guy about being a young teenage girl. No
kid’s book, it’s twisted and real. It’s the best description I’ve ever
read of the shitty-ness of being a teenage girl. The politics, how it
feels to be poor, how it feels to be poor in front of rich girls,
friendships, double crosses and intrigue. It’s like The Living in that
it has you by the throat long after you’ve finished it. It’s out of
print, but you can still get it at AbeBooks.com for cheap.