Monday, February 25, 2008

Creative Inspiration: The Oscar Edition #2 -- Diablo Cody

So, of course, I'm going to find inspiration in a former-stripper-turned-Oscar-winner. Here's a great article from the LA Times tracing Diablo's rise to success. My favorite part is how she was discovered when an agent stumbled upon her blog, The Pussy Ranch, while he was googling names for female naughty bits. Don't be surprised if I soon rename this blog: CRAIG'S ENORMOUS TOOL!!!

Diablo pic cribbed from Just Jared.

Creative Inspiration: The Oscar Edition -- Marketa Irglova

"The fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, it's just proof that no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible. And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream, and don't give up. This song was written from the perspective of hope, and hope, at the end of the day, connects us all, no matter how different we are." -- 19-year-old Best Original Song co-winner Marketa Irglova during take two of her Oscar acceptance speech.

Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova - Once (Music from the Motion Picture) - Falling Slowly"

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Creative Inspiration: Dolly Parton

"I'll never stop trying. If this doesn't work, I'll try something else." -- Dolly Parton on her new album.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Craig's Obsessions: E.J. Bellocq

One of my favorite photographic inspirations is E.J. Bellocq who took pictures of prostitutes in Storyville, New Orleans' legal red light district that existed from 1897 - 1917. I particularly like the pictures with the scratched-out faces. Some see this as a visual representation of violence against women, and, while I'm not denying that, I like the pictures for the disturbing questions they raise about the relationship between violence and desire. It's almost as if Bellocq (if he's the one who actually did the scratching, something that is debated) wanted to erase his feelings for these women, that he wanted to rid himself of the sense of vulnerability and helplessness that often comes with being overwhelmed with desire. And on top of all that, the pictures are just so damn creepy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Craig's Playlist: 2/15/08

My most-played songs of the week:

1) Mariah Carey – "Touch My Body"

Yeah, I know this joint just leaked on Tuesday, but I've been playing it more than anything else. I love everything about it: the laidback, "snap music" beat, Mariah's rapid-fire verses, and the lyrical references to white tees (still, a staple of hood ready-to-wear), You Tube, and shock jock Wendy Williams. It also marks the introduction of a sexier and, dare I say, scarier Mimi with all that talk about wrestling, being thrown on the floor, rocking around your waist, and hunting you down if you put her on blast. This time, she's not only emancipated, she's coming to get your ass.

2) Janet - "LUV"

For me, the last couple of weeks have been all about the seductively lush "Rock With U," but this week "Luv" totally got me sprung with the combo of Rodney Jerkins' thumping beat and Janet's sweet crooning about being overtaken by romance.

3) Lil Mama with Chris Brown T-Pain – "Shawty Get Loose"

This cut did nothing for me when I first heard it. Plus, there's something about Lil Mama's image that rubs me the wrong way. Unless she's trying to appeal to pedophiles, I really don’t get the baby outfit with the blinged-out pacifier that she wore to the MTV Music Video Awards or lyrics where she calls herself the "young hot toddler." What's next? Sporting diapers to the BET Awards and rhyming about making a doodie.

[Also troubling are some of her lyrics, which come off as downright gross: "When I spit, it's like mucus. Gotta get rid of it." Really, girl, disgusting!!!]

But, anyway, after I saw the "Scream"-inspired video, the song's electro-groove started to win me over, and if mini-Mama's sleek, sexy new look is any indication, it seems as if she's already beginning to grow up.

4) Sheryl Crow - "Love Is Free"

O.K., so seriously, Sheryl Crow is, like, totally my hero. She's over 40 and as productive and vital as ever. What's more, she can still pull sexy younger guys like Lance Armstrong and then move on with grace and style when the relationship is over. (Hell, she even beat breast cancer.) I love SO many cuts from her new album, Detours"Shine Over Babylon," "Gasoline," the title track, and the poignant "Lullaby for Wyatt," which is about her baby boy even though the lyrics could apply to just about anyone who's stolen your heart ("You were mine for a time…But love is letting go, this I know…"). But this week I kept coming back to the upbeat "Love is Free" if for no other reason than it always makes me smile.

5) Janet - "Feedback"

I still can't believe this song wasn't a bigger hit with its sexy-as-fuck attitude. Frankly, I can't even remember what song I used to play to get ready to go out before "Feedback" was released. (The Moto Blanco mix of Mary J. Blige's "Just Fine" or Junior Vasquez's "In Da Club Mix" of Kelly Rowland's "Ghetto," perhaps?) Anyway, now that all of the mixes are out, I can listen to the song for, like, 45 minutes straight. (About how long it takes me to get ready to go out, anyway.) These are my favorite mixes:

"Feedback (Unofficial Remix with Ciara)"

Two years ago, there was all of this buzz about Miss Jackson doing a duet with Mariah. But this mix shows that a pairing with Ciara might be a better match. Apparently, Ciara did this mix herself as a sort of tribute to her singing/dancing mentor, and it works for the way their sexy cyber-babe voices easily meld.

[Also, one bonus for people who are still uncomfortable with the idea that women menstruate, Ciara has replaced Janet's classic line that her swagger is as "heavy as a first-day period."]

Janet - "Feedback (Ralphi Rosario Dirty Club Remix)"

A full-on mainstream dance club assault fueled by Janet repeating "'cause I'm sexy." What better message to hear while you're, say, standing in front of the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth, shaving, or trimming your nose hairs in preparation for a hot night out. (Or is this just me?)

Janet - "Feedback (Wideboys Club Remix)"

I love the sleazy electro vibe of this mix. Plus, it keeps those fierce, pounding drums from the original version and, in a titularly (don't cha love this word) appropriate move, it adds actual feedback.

"Feedback (Craig J Sassy Mix)"

Where the previous mix is sleazy (in a good way), this one is a sunny burst o' fun with its head-bopping beat and dreamy 80s keyboards.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

History Lesson: Yo "Mama"

With RiRi's ecstatic "Don't Stop the Music" still boogying up the charts, I thought it was high time to give a little history lesson about one of the first artists to sample M-Jack's irresistible "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" "Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah" hook. It was none other than Boy George with his 1988 joint railing against a proposed British law banning the "promotion" of homosexuality: "No Clause 28." [For you impatient, Generation YouTube-ers, the sample comes in about 2:30 minutes into the song.]

"Don't Stop the Music (The Wideboys Club Mix)"
"Don't Stop the Music (Solitaire's More Drama Remix)"

Craig's Favorites: Flashback 1988

In the months before my memoir, All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C., comes out in June, I'll be posting some of my favorite songs from certain moments in my life. When this joint came out, I was living in New York, basically hating life. But the song's uplifting vibe and I-don't-give-a-fuck lyrics always cheered me up a bit.

Creative Inspiration: The Daily Word

So, as most of my friends know, I'm completely addicted to the Daily Word. I don't start my day without reading the daily email and I'm known to forward the day's message around, much to the pleasure of some and the annoyance of others. (Fortunately, as my stint as a stripper--not to mention my decision to write a book about it--would suggest, I don't really care what other people think.) Anyway, I almost always find something thought provoking in each day's message. But every now and then, a message comes along that really strikes a deeper chord with me. Today's message speaks to exactly what I'm going through right now, with so many balls in the air and so many projects that I still want to get off the ground:

"At certain moments in life, I may feel that there are too many things needing to be done and not enough time to complete them. Yet all that such a thought does is add to my feelings of urgency. So I stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself that the spirit of God is within me and in the midst of each and every assignment, responsibility, and event in my life.

Placing my trust in the power of God to bring all things into divine order, I release my anxious thoughts and begin to actually enjoy the task at hand. As my mind clears and my emotions are calmed, I know that God is guiding me to choose what I contribute to life in every moment.

All is in divine order and will be done in its own right and perfect timing."

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. -- ”—Romans 8:28

Friday, February 15, 2008

Check Out...

my friend's...ok, ex-boyfriend's article on Michael Jackson in the new PASTE.

And just to show that I'm, like, a totally supportive ex, here's a link to an anthology in which he has a short story:

And here are some links to various things by Michael Jackson, who, for the record, I've never dated or even hooked up with:

Michael Jackson - Thriller - 25th Anniversary:
Michael Jackson - Thriller - 25th Anniversary

Michael Jackson - Thriller - 25th Anniversary (Super Deluxe Edition):
Michael Jackson - Thriller - 25th Anniversary (Super Deluxe Edition)

Cover Me!!!

Here's a first look at the cover for my book, All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C. -- which incidentally is totally pre-orderable.

Creative Inspiration: Gone Baby Gone

Just got Gone Baby Gone on Netflix, and while I haven't finished it, I really liked this Bible verse that Casey Affleck quotes at the beginning of the film. It seems like a good way to approach life and art:

"Behold, I send you out as a sheep among wolves, so be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves." -- Matthew 10:16

Creative Inspiration

Almost every artist I know is waiting for their "big break" no matter how successful they already are. But I think Martha Beck puts this idea in perspective in March 2008 issue of O:

"No break is big enough to end all of your problems, but consistently getting reasonably close to your objective, task after task, will put you far ahead of most other people."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Friday, February 8, 2008

America's Next Top Twinks!!!

Great NY Times article about how male models are getting skinnier. I don't want to encourage manorexia, but I can't say the guys don't look hot. The only caveat is that these bony boys mostly just look good from the front. It's all about the flat line of the chest. Because when you turn them around, babies most definitely don't got back.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fiercest Pictues Ever?

I think these are some of my favorite Janet pix since the Ellen Von Unwerth/Velvet Rope sessions. (See below) What I love about this whole project is the way that, even though her last album didn't live up to expectations, she's not playing it safe. She's continuing to be experimental and rising to her role as a pop music trailblazer. Kudos, really!!!

Janet - "Rock With U":
Janet - Rock With U - Single

Monday, February 4, 2008

James Frey's Return

Here's a lesson in never letting a good public flogging get you down. A Million Little Pieces author James Frey is returning with a novel, Bright Shiny Morning, and the accompanying marketing efforts seem kinda cool: Richard Prince is doing the cover and Terry Richardson is doing photos of, in Frey's words, "girls, cars, and guns" for a limited edition companion book. It's due in May.

Craig's Obsessions: Mimi

It truly doesn't get any better than this...Mariah at her crazy-ass-diva (and I mean that lovingly) best!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Craig's Obsessions: The 70s Supremes

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm more than a little obsessed with the post-Diana-Ross incarnation of the Supremes. What most people don't know is that the trio--which variously included Jean Terrell, Susaye Greene, Scherrie Payne (sister of Freda "Band of Gold" Payne), Cindy Birdsong, and, of course, Miss Mary "the Sexy Supreme" Wilson--recorded some of the coolest and most experimental girl group music of their time. (And, yes, R&B girl groups in general are another obsession of mine, but that's another post for another time...) My favorite album of theirs is the spacey disco epic Mary, Scherrie & Susaye. But I love just about everything they did. So imagine how excited I was when I was looking around on the EXCELLENT blog disco delivery and discovered some videos by the group that I'd never seen. (Who even knew they had made videos...I mean, aside for the disco delivery guy, obviously.) Here's my favorite and if you don't think it's fierce, we probably can't be friends, seriously:

"I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking"

Here are some of my other 70s Supremes favorites:

"Up the Ladder to the Roof""

"Stoned Love"

"Bill, When Are You Coming Back"

"All I Want (yep, the Joni Mitchell song)"

"I Guess I'll Miss the Man"

"5:30 Plane"

"Bad Weather" (written & produced by Stevie Wonder)"

"High Energy"

"He's My Man"

"Let Yourself Go"

Bruce Gilden in the NY Times

OK, so while I was on the NY Times website looking at the Paolo Pellegrin pictures, I stumbled across a great fashion story by Bruce Gilden featuring actress Kerry Washington in Washington.

Here are some of my favorite images from Gilden's portfolio:

Paolo Pellegrin in the New York Times

Cool photo essay of the Giant's locker room by Paolo Pellegrin in the NY Times magazine. The essay inspired me to look at some of his other work, which is amazing. Here are a few of my favorites:

A scene from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He describes his experiences taking the Guantanamo pictures here.

A couple of pics from his Fashion Week shoots.

Creative Inspiration

Cool article in the NY Times about striving for perfection. Gymnastics perfect-score-winner Nadia Comaneci (i.e. the flexible namesake of the theme to the Young and the Restless, which is sampled in the Mary J. Blige classic "No More Drama") has these wise words to say: “During my routine and even after it, I did not think it was all that perfect. I thought it was pretty good, but athletes don’t think about history when making history. They think about what they’re doing, and that’s how it gets done.”

Nadia's Theme:
The Hit Crew - As Seen On TV: Soap Opera Theme Songs - Nadia's Theme

Mary J. Blige - "No More Drama":
Mary J. Blige - No More Drama - No More Drama

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Diablo Cody on Writing

Just finished reading the shooting script for Juno and I enjoyed it as much as the movie. Of course, I've been following Diablo's career for awhile since she was a stripper and wrote a memoir about it (Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper) and I was a stripper and wrote a memoir about it (All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay D.C.). It's really great to see her career take off with the Oscar nomination and all, and I think what I like most about her story is how inspirational it is for other people who are pounding away at some creative project or another. I love how she wrote much of Juno at a Target Starbucks. I wrote much of my memoir at a Starbucks on the Brown campus and not a day went by when I didn't feel like an ass, wondering if I was wasting my time and if the project would ever truly come to pass. That's the thing about any creative project. You never really know if it's going to work or what it's going to ultimately be when you're in the process of working on it. All you have to go on is faith.

The other thing I like about the shooting script is the advice Diablo gives writers in the introduction: "Don't ever agonize about the hordes of other writers who are ostensibly your competition. No one is capable of doing what you do. No one else can ever be you..."

Creative Inspiration

Georgia O'Keeffe - Cow's Skull: Red. White, and Blue (1931)

"...I believe that to create one's own world in any of the arts takes courage." -- Georgia O'Keeffe, quoted in Joan Didion's The White Album