Ms. Sandra Blackert from the lovely blog itsyour.life has given me the “Favorite Award” — Thank you very much! And I don’t have to do anything more than answer a few questions! Here you go:
1. How do you explain your blog to your grandmother?
I have dedicated myself to the search for the “True, Beautiful, Good and Daft.” But in reality that only means that I do what I want to do, and also would do. My grandmother was wonderful and very wise, she would have understood that!
2. What object can you not do without in your life?
It’s not pretty, but I must say: my asthma spray. A bit less prosaic: my dobrolele — a metal ukulele.
3. What reader question would you never answer?
Hmm, the only thing that occurs to me is this crazy question, which you always see being asked in women’s magazines: what part of your body are you most pleased with? And then all the supermodels and hot-shit actresses say something like: my wrists — I got them from my mother! And I always think: when is a woman just gonna write: my tits! I believe I have fantastic tits! The truth for me, by the way, would be: my hands. I got them from my mother.
4. What has been the biggest slip-up on your blog so far?
I shot six videos for my solo CD, and in each case announced a video premiere with great ballyhoo, brimming with pride. And there was a premiere, every time, but four out of six times the new video was blocked by Youtube after a few hours, and could only be seen again days later. Arrgh.
5. Do you write in advance or always in real time?
I always resolve to write in advance — I think that would also be a good approach for me, because with music other things tend to get in the way for months. But, despite that, I would prefer to feed my blog continuously, and under no circumstances let it degenerate into a “Music-Promotion Vehicle.” So I write on and off, when the muse strikes me, on demand — but not yet enough!
6. What talent would you like to have?
I envy people who can really sing everything! Who have this ease, which gives you the sense that it’s just flowing out of them… James Taylor, for example, or more currently: Ed Sheeran… What a physical delight it must be, to be able to sing like that. Sigh.
7. Which blog would you take with you to a desert island?
8. Which habit would you most like to give up?
Senseless tinkering at the computer.
9. Does your blogging have anything to do with your (former) career?
Hmm, yeah, sure. With Wir sind Helden I always had the feeling that the core of what I do — and want to do — is writing. The calling in the career, perhaps. And I always had the feeling that writing comes up short, because I spend much too much time hauling finished work all over the place. The blog is a way for me to stay “writing.” Moreover, and this sounds terribly romantic, of course: I would like to be straight with “my” people, and less dependent on the constricted, clogged channels through which you’d otherwise have to push your art, in order to deliver it to the people — and when it arrives, it’s all crumpled-up and gooey and disheveled. I don’t want that anymore. I also don’t want to proselytize. I wish I could send my music directly to the homes of all who are interested, and not bother anyone else with it.
10. What is happiness for you?
Peace. Profound rapture. Tina Fey’s book Bossypants.
And for my part, I’m happy to NOMINATE THE FOLLOWING BLOGS:
My questions for the nominees are:
1. Do you remember how and when you became a reader?
2. Do you remember how and when you became a writer?
3. How do you navigate that trying energy field between idleness/ non-doing and enthusiasm/ drive?
4. When do you most enjoy writing? Do you (still) have those moments of writer’s bliss? Describe one.
5. Is writing more flow or more fight? Do you (mostly) have to wrestle the words to the page or does it (mostly) come easy?
6. Do you sometimes hold something back because you know it would be a cheap shot? And does holding it back hurt, because it would have been really funny? I do.
7. Did you ever post something and regret it? If so, you don’t have to tell me what it was.
8. Do you ever force it when you don’t feel it? How do you deal with the unspoken promise of the blogger to, well, blog?
9. Do you still do a lot of handwriting, say, in a journal? Is there a difference in what you write when you write by hand?
10. What is the sound of one hand… nah, just kidding.
But seriously: what is the sound of one hand flipping the finger? I think it’s a lovely sound.
Thank you so much for your time and your inspiring blogs,
And here is how it works:
- Thank the person that nominated you for the “Favorite Award” (Liebster Award) and link the blog in your post.
- Answer the 10 questions posted by the blogger who nominated you.
- Nominate 3 to 8 other bloggers for the “Favorite Award”.
- Compile a list with 11 questions for the bloggers you’ve nominated.
- Include these rules in your article about the “Favorite Award,” so that the nominees know what they have to do.
- Inform your bloggers about their nominations and your article.
- You can download the “Favorite Award” logo here.
- Put a link to your article here in the comments.
As many of you know, I am a fervent admirer of Dolly Parton. And since she’s releasing a new album this week, Die Zeit has happily entrusted me with a detailed Parton-portrait! Yeah. Yeeehaw. Finally.
The article is in today’s edition of the real Die Zeit (on paper), and will be put online later.
But I’ve posted my favorite research discoveries for you on my YouTube channel in an acutely evangelistic playlist.
To the “mildly interested,” and to those with something a little different in mind, I recommend either the documentary at the beginning, or else: something from the top, something from the middle, and something from the bottom of the list.
To everyone else: a few snippets of ginger along the way, to cleanse the palate. Or a song by John Cage or System of a Down.
P.S.: My producer Ian Davenport sent the pretty picture above to me as a birthday card last year.
So. Here we go:
To begin, the total package: a beautiful, comprehensive BBC documentary, 50 minutes long, with many lovely clips from live shows and interview excerpts. It helps to link the young Dolly to the present-day Dolly, because you can better comprehend what, umm, came before. Anyone who doesn’t like clicking through YouTube videos that much, but would enjoy an introduction to the Partonian oeuvre, can just view this one alone and regard the rest as the liner notes to a compilation of Best Ofs (for listening).
Anyone, on the other hand, who would like to spend an entire evening with Dolly–and isn’t scared off by the “Whoa, what a hairdo”-aspect–might now like to follow me:
Dolly’s very first appearance on the Porter Wagoner show. The song is one of the few that she didn’t write herself, but no song could better sum her up: “this dumb blonde ain’t nobody’s fool.” Wagoner became her mentor–also apparently in matters of fashion, judging by his flamboyant outfits–and she became his sidekick on the show.
Jolene–probably the best-known and most agreed-upon Dolly hit in Germany. To me, one of the best songs ever written. Miss Parton says, incidentally, that she wrote it because she was jealous of a pretty, red-haired bank teller who chatted too long with her Carl. Dolly Parton’s husband, Carl Thomas Dean, is one of the best-kept secrets in pop–because hardly anyone’s caught sight of him in over 47 years of marriage.
Jolene at 33 revolutions sounds amazingly–fantastic! Which reinforces my perhaps absurd-sounding theory, that men’s and women’s voices in country music have virtually the same effect: let’s call it, umm, innocence. In any case, a drastically slowed-down Dolly is a country singer whose record I would buy.
One of the best-known (of many, many) cover versions…
…and one of the most beautiful…
Arguably her most famous and at the same time unknown hit (SHE wrote that???). She did. In fact, for her friend and mentor Porter Wagoner, whose show she left in a quarrel in the mid-70s, after far eclipsing him in popularity–not without singing him this song as a farewell during the broadcast. In the early 80s came the great reconciliation, followed by joint appearances. Porter died of lung cancer in 2007–with Dolly and his family at his side. Oh, and apropos dumb blonde: even Elvis wanted to sing “I will Always Love You”–but, because his manager wanted half of the publishing rights, Dolly declined. Her own version became one of her first big moves into the pop mainstream–and when she later passed it on to Whitney Houston, there was no more talk of transferring the rights.
The naturally better cover version: Beth Ditto (pre-Gossip) at a Dolly-party in Portland. Beats the pants off of Whitney.
Possibly my favorite song. Or no? Or yes? Still…? Yet, yet. If you chirp along with this in the morning, you’ll be tripping all day.
It’s hard to believe today, but this harmless little song had a tough time on the radio back then because it seemed to women’s-libby to stations. At the end of the clip, you can see a man right in the middle of the audience who doesn’t applaud.
A beautiful song, which shows the affinity between country and gospel. If you’re impatient, scroll down to the full-throated finale…
Here, once again, more pronounced gospel elements… It’s always darkest just before the dawn! Dolly wrote the song at a time when she had just rebounded from a months-long bout of serious depression. This depression was triggered by exhaustion, and the realization that she–for both professional and biological reasons–would have no children.
… and one more example of why country is known as “white soul.”
Announcing the Disco-era Dolly! From the rooftops. Beg pardon.
This one I included mostly for the “Aww, that’s hers too?”-moment, but you can also spend that moment dancing in the disco.
The title song to the film of the same name, in which Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda star alongside Dolly, who plays a secretary with a slight emotional overload. And a rifle. Just think: “Falling Down” as Feel-Good Comedy.
In conclusion, one of my favorite songs and an unbeaten Karaoke-favorite–even though it’s not easy to recruit a partner for the Kenny Rogers part (Martin Wenk, we still have an appointment!). My favorite moment in this live excerpt: when Dolly steps on her buddy’s foot, laughs, and says, “Scuse me, Kenny!” But he couldn’t have noticed it anyway, since Dolly once said: “Of course I have tiny feet. Nothing grows in the shade!” Barry Gibb of the BeeGees wrote the song; more recently, he earned new honor as “Ghetto Supastar” from Pras featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Mya.
That’s it! If I’ve been able to infect 0.2% of you, I’m happy.
I see-heee-eee-ee-eee the light of a clear blue morniiiiing!
GRACELAND … PAUL SIMON
(The nice people of the editorial office at Visions asked me to write a piece about my “Favorite Album of All Time.” After around three months of tearing my hair out I have come to a consensus with myself on this record. The beautiful thing: here on the blog I can supplement the text with a lovely, evangelistic Youtube playlist.)
My mother bought Graceland the year it came out, 1986, I was ten years old and carried away. Before I could name it, I fell in love with Paul Simon’s diffident, subtle singing, his understatement, his impossibly light groove. But mostly I was struck by the love and the fragility in his voice. Paul Simon may (also) occasionally have been–as many people warn–an asshole, but his voice is one of those that convey pure love.
The enthusiasm for Simon’s absurdist, heartbreaking and hilarious lyrics would come only years later, made possible by a knowledge of English that I developed for that express purpose.
The album was celebrated and reviled–people argued that Simon had broken the cultural embargo on South Africa–and there were nasty rumors of unfair copyright distribution arrangements that put the African artists at a disadvantage.
I, at the age of ten, decided that such profound, light, uplifting music must trump all doubts. In the coming years I was to become a butt-wiggling, hooting prime example in miniature of how music can open borders, when you let it.
Graceland established my enduring enthusiasm for African music–but my heart races most where African, American and French tradition meets: in the southern states, with Delta Blues, Cajun and Zydeco. “That was your mother”, a silly, bouncy, bittersweet little Cajun song about the love of grown-up people, is secretly my favorite song on the record to this day.
And here I’ve put together a Youtube playlist with live appearances by Paul Simon during the Graceland years:
“There is a girl in New York City
Who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I’m falling, flying
Or tumbling in turmoil I say
Whoa so this is what she means
She means we’re bouncing into Graceland
And I see losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody feels the wind blow
In Graceland, in Graceland”
…I’m gonna relax now in the train from Halle to Hamburg…
And on the occasion of this beautiful event here is a little documentation on the making of the album for you:
A festive Yeeeehhaaa:
I wrote this text for the Taz, the subject was, umm, my own sexual revolution, or some such thing. Maybe it was something completely different, something like… “Your opinion on the Grand Coalition,” and I just wanted to cut loose here. Whatever. In any case, I thought you’d certainly enjoy the piece, too:
Notes from Kreuzberg… 1980: Children of the Children of the Revolution
A child of the sexual revolution? Here! I was conceived on a shag rug, and after the birth my scruffy parents groomed the shaggy strands off my wrinkly body–along with their eight potential (and real) communal-/ sexual-partners, who basically can’t be distinguished from my father in my childhood photos.
By the first day of communal pre-school I had long since been thoroughly enlightened, but in a worst-case scenario all accounts lay open for the sorts of entries that get high-ranking politicians into trouble these days.
When our parents sat in the kitchen, legs crossed, smoking, and discussed whether it was all right that Thinga had pulled the hair of Mabob, we children hid in a remote corner of the pre-school’s loft bed and played at shagging.
Obviously yearning for clear authority, we named one person (–usually the Thinga who had pulled Mabob’s hair–) as foreman, who loudly directed us as we practiced push-ups in earnest two-person combinations.
My own, real sexual revolution came later, when I noticed that during sex you don’t really have to somebody chanting One, Two! One, Two!
“Neeeelia, do I get Barbie?” ……. “No idea, do you?” Frustrated child-silence, aggravated child-eye-rolling, barbie-thin child-lips pressed together. But yes, obviously, that was the only appropriate answer to my question. “Do I get…,” naturally, was in fact a euphemism for “Are you buying me…,” just as “Neeeelia” was a euphemism for “Mama,” but my mother Cornelia took me at my word, as she so often did. And thus had every reason to ask herself whether I–her commune-socialized hippie daughter, disheveled on the inside as well as out–really got Barbie. I had clearly proven, a few weeks before, that I didn’t get patent leather shoes. I had grumbled for days on end. Then, for a few hours, I wobbled around triumphantly in the dainty grumble-begotten footwear, with the pained smile of an American child beauty pageant loser. Only to sheepishly admit, afterward, that I obviously just didn’t get them: patent leather shoes. And this despite the fact that we lived not in Berlin’s Kreuzberg quarter, but rather in the Breisgau city of Freiburg, where, I was convinced, a person could really use patent leather shoes. I had just started school, and because of my–attention: third euphemism— ”countercultural background” had just been christened with the nicknames “Punker” and “Nobody”–”Nobody,” naturally, because I had really never been christened and therefore technically did not exist.
From the depths of this psychosocial distress I undertook some initially tentative attempts to assimilate, and made contact with the dull, pink-skinned neighbor kid Sabine. And Sabine, clearly, got Barbies. Many Barbies. Barbie estates, Barbie horses, Barbie personal shoppers, Barbie catwalk, Barbie hair salon with Barbie Brazilian-Wax studio, Barbie townhouses, Barbie babies complete with the operating table for the Caesarean-section birth to preserve the Barbie cervix and the Barbie-like figure. And I had managed to get through multiple play dates safe and undetected in my childhood despair, through skillful mimicry. Just like Sabine, I had simply seized the Barbie briskly by the ankles and then marched her through the bright pink children’s room in that typical wobbly, foot-shackled Barbie gait. I had suppressed any cultural references to my brand-new favorite film, The Defiant Ones. And so by the end of these appointments, formally declared or not, Sabine had to have regarded me as almost exemplary. Probably she had simply chosen me as her imaginary friend.
And so now I stood in our six-square-meter attic kitchen and argued, with the audacity of despair, for my getting a Barbie. At least one. Behind my mother’s eyes a film seemed to be running, which played dramatic daughterly scenes from the past few months and years: the excessive, if cool-headed, use of carving knives; the building of huts and burrows; the grinding of dried beans into something almost edible; or the sexually charged role-playing games, set mostly on cruise ships, with my Berlin friend Aline. In which the last staging was the only one that represented no thinly-veiled version of the basic model, The Fugitive, with me in the role of Dr. Richard Kimble.
As I anxiously waited for her verdict, my mother seemed to reach the end of her nostalgic little Super-8 filmlet and immediately began to draft in her head the obligatory morally-amused master’s thesis in storytelling: “Barbies… Don’t we all carry a little Barbie inside us? For many….” I saw the corner of her mouth twitch, but I didn’t understand what could have been so funny about it: I had just graduated from The Fugitive to The Defiant Ones. The most normal thing in the world for a six-year-old.
And my mother, in her unending wisdom, realized instinctively what was at stake for me. She kept her thesis to herself. She even refrained from the obvious Barbie/patent leather shoe comparison. And a few days later she presented me with my foot-shackled, curvaceous gift. How I loved my cowboy-mother at that moment! Despite my tender age I was humbly aware of what an effort of cultural adaptation it had to have been for her to submit herself to a Barbie sales specialist at Karstadt’s Department Store. And she definitely sought advice, because what I held in my hands in that moment of feverish anticipation was in fact a Premium Barbie, blond and long-haired and solidly-sinuous like she was supposed to be–and not, as I had imagined in the nights leading up to then, some Barbie-substitute, or one of Barbie’s shabby female sidekicks, who were in fact manufactured only for Barbie-bewonderment.
With racing hearts, Barbie and I disappeared into my room. I closed my eyes and in my imagination quickly painted everything pink: the snot-green secondhand children’s furniture, the been-there-done-that carpet, the picked-apart spider plants and avocado palms. All my mangy stuffed animals got bound up with imaginary little bows, in my mind’s eye I filled my entire bookshelf with Wendy novels. Now it could begin. I boldly gripped Barbie by the ankles. Take a deep breath. Focus. We need a goal. We need… a… we need… a… we need… we need… we need. Oh, dammit.
I didn’t want to admit it, but after only a minute and a half alone with the doll the Barbie Principle had revealed itself to me in all its cruelty: With a Barbie you can’t play, with a Barbie you can only need. Or, at the most: have.
A house, for example! But we didn’t have one. A horse! We didn’t have that, either, only a hippopotamus, which quickly seemed to moan under its dainty load. One single Barbie-bewondering sidekick? My favorite cuddly toy, a homemade Snoopy with sock-ears and dead sock-eyes begged off. “Personal differences.” I resolved to give up all hope for outside help and simply integrate Barbie into my old games. Full of misgiving, I tried to push the handle of my bean-grinder into Barbie’s hand. Too big! I made Barbie totter on her little feet into the fort I had built the night before. She rolled her eyes. And anyway the look of the little lady, dressed to kill, seemed a bit out of place in this rustic setting–bear in mind that back then there were no “Celebrity Jungle Camp” TV shows yet. Setting beetles or bloodsuckers loose on Barbie’s face, an entertaining idea, didn’t occur to me either. My gaze wandered to the carving knife. Horrified by the visions that rose to my mind, I turned away from it immediately.
After a minute of silence I resolved to assign to Barbie a rather passive duty in the landscape of my play-universe: returning to my old favorite subject, I offered her the role of Dr. Richard Kimble’s murdered wife–and she, in a realistic appraisal of her alternatives, accepted. I lovingly laid her on the windowsill, her head in a decorative marmalade stain, a bean-stained telephone receiver in her pleading, outstretched hand. There she would stay, in her marmalade stain. Except for a few brief moments of resurrection, for example, when Mother came in unexpectedly and I paraded the deranged and marmalade-haired Barbie around the room. Or for occasional visits to Sabine, for whom I even washed the marmalade out of the hair. Until a few weeks later, anyway, when nobody was allowed to play with me–because out in the yard I had brewed tea from herbs, such as ivy, and had then offered them to Sabine and her friends, saying, “With this you can make yourself totally disappear.”
P.S.: Behind the picture you’ll find more beautiful Barbie-balderdash.
P.P.S.: The piece has already been published, in an abridged version, in Freitag:
… and in somewhat longer form by the Freiburg Literature Office: