Tag Archives: Art

The New York Times And Me.



So. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Not only am I in a band, I’m writing a Middle Mojo-themed column for the New York Times. It’s called The Creative Mid-Life and it works like this: I call an artist, ask them questions about the impact of aging on their creative lives, and our conversation goes in the New York Times. Neat. I had an interesting talk with Tori Amos, who has some thoughts about anger and discipline and motherhood and taking a different route to the coffee shop. Read all about it.


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Warren Zanes orange shirt

Warren Zanes Collides With Midlife. Art Ensues.

Warren Zanes is getting a divorce. That would be a crackpot opening line if his new album,“I Want to Move Out in the Daylight,” weren’t a full-tilt explication of the wreckage. It’s also a smart, lean pop record that arrives nearly three decades after Zanes joined his brother Dan for a few glory years in the Del Fuegos. Today he’s a single parent with a PhD and a pair of master’s degrees, the resume of a rock brainiac (former Vice President of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, current Executive Director of Steven Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation), and an under-the-radar solo career. We spoke on the phone while Zanes was driving to court-ordered parenting class.

Q: How are you, Doctor?

A: I’m okay. Sorry, all hell is breaking loose at the job.

Q: We can reschedule if you’re in a crisis.

A: It’s only a crisis if I allow it to become one.

Q: Okay, I’ll be surgical. Your new record came out yesterday, right?

A: You know, it’s such a different age. It’s almost like an arbitrary point on the calendar as opposed to when boxes ship. The album has been in my life for awhile. I think it might have been released yesterday.

Q: There wasn’t a parade, then.

A: I took my boys up to Maine and did a house party playing solo this weekend. If there was a parade, that was it.

Q: Tell me about the album. I have to say the title blows my mind.

A: I euphemistically call it a midlife record, but really it’s midlife as triggered by divorce. I was unambiguous in letting it all hang out there. There didn’t seem to be any point in hiding behind figurative language. And part of me thought that there’s so many people who go through divorce and given the degree to which it shakes your life up, I’m surprised that there aren’t a greater number of conversations.

Q: I think there’s some kind of stigma, especially in pop music, attached to addressing adult issues.

A: John Prine always felt like somebody who got it, as far back as “Hello in There” [from 1971], a song about saying hello to old people. It struck me when I was younger that it took the pop song into territory that just is not typically associated with it. A more current example that’s really been striking to me is Nick Lowe. Odd to think that he’s a revolutionary just by virtue of the fact that he addresses his current life.


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The Essentials

My daughter Hannah sent this clip to me with a note: Yvonne Rainer is 44 years old in this video. As always, read into it whatever you will, but on me it makes an impression about pace and creation/creativity (Creativity?). And it also happens to be aesthetically captivating.

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howard gardner

How Does Howard Gardner Spell Creative Longevity? N-E-O-T-E-N-Y

Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist, is the Hobbs professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. We spoke in his office on campus.

Q: You believe that creativity can be learned and cultivated. You don’t buy into the myth of an individual being endowed with a gift –

A: I think that’s nonsense.

Q: Have we, as a society, conveyed that message effectively?

A: I would say that, in fact, America is probably where creativity is the strongest message in the society as a whole. I would say on Wall St, in Silicon Valley, and Hollywood – I mean that’s the message. Schools don’t particularly promote it, but it’s less important here than if you were in China 30 years ago where the message didn’t exist at all. I wrote a book 15 years ago about creativity in China and the United States, and I argued that – it sounds kind of simplistic, but I did manage to make a book out of it, which nobody read — that it’s important both to have skills and to be able to go beyond the skills. And the problem in America was people thought they were creative but they had no skills, and nobody was interested in what they were doing. And people in China had tremendously developed skills, but they were afraid to part from those skills. And what I learned from going to China was that it didn’t matter which order it occurred in. I had thought that you’ve got to play first, and then you pick up the skills. But in China, if you could develop skills and the message goes out to use those flexibly, people are good at it.

Q: So do you feel that in this country our emphasis on individualism is an asset when it comes to –

A: It has been an asset because creativity has been largely individual. I mean the good question, which you’ll undoubtedly run into, is to what extent is that changing because of the digital media or because we’re all in touch with everyone? 100 years ago, the assumption was that creativity was a germ that came out of somebody’s mind. And that may be much less true nowadays, for the reasons I just stated.  I think we’ve been successful for two reasons. One, we’ve had a frontier which then became a cyber frontier, and things like Hollywood, which is it’s own kind of frontier, and Silicon Valley. And because we’ve allowed immigrants. The flowering of creativity that occurred in the sciences and in other areas mid-century was when you had Europeans coming here and they wedded the theoretical orientation, the systematic thinking of Europe, to empiricism, which is what we do in Anglo-American societies. And that contributed enormously to all the Nobel Prize winners. I mean if you look at how many people who are purely Americans get Nobel Prizes, almost nothing. They’re almost all Italian American, Chinese American, Jewish American. And so certainly one thing that everybody who studies creativity will tell you is you don’t get it when you have little islands. This may be the Japanese problem. I mean England was an island, but it owned the world.


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Janeane Garofalo in Seattle

Janeane Garofalo Stares Into the Gaping Maw

Comedian, actor, writer, and political activist Janeane Garofalo called from a Los Angeles hotel, where she was staying while filming the CBS police drama “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.”

Q: Do you remember what your earliest professional dream was?

A: To be George Carlin. Just to be George Carlin. And also to meet and marry Bill Murray. That was an early one.

Q: Well, I would say you’ve failed.

A: Yeah, I never did marry Bill Murray. I did get to meet him, which was a delight, and he’s a very nice man. But you know what it was? I thought it was a safeguard against an unhappy life. To tell you the truth, I didn’t understand that, fully, that people that were in comedy are just like anyone else. And it’s not like I had a miserable childhood, I didn’t. It was just very garden-variety. I guess the main thing is nothing happened. A whole lot of nothing happened. And I also was, and still am in a lot of ways, frightened of life.

Q: That answers my follow-up question, which is what happened when you found out that it wasn’t the safeguard you had fantasized it would be?

A: Well, nothing, because there is no plan B. So that’s that. But it has safeguarded me. I always knew I never wanted to be married, have children, live in the suburbs, own a home, because I also thought not doing those things would be a safeguard against some of the pitfalls of family life. And again, I did not have a terrible childhood, I am not saying poor me, but there were definitely elements to it I would not want to repeat. So, in my child’s mind I thought, “Here’s what you do so you don’t have to do that. Don’t ever be married, don’t ever own a home. Don’t have a yard.” All these things I thought would be a safeguard against a repetition of certain aspects of my past, which were not very happy. And then I thought, “And you surround yourself with comedy people.” That’s the answer. I know that seems terribly ridiculous.

Q: I can see how to a young mind that it might make certain sense.

A: It just seemed like that’s the only way to break a pattern. And in some ways that’s got to be true. I don’t own a home, I’m not married, I don’t have children, so that has allowed me to avoid certain things I was afraid of repeating. But then that brings it to a whole other thing where you go, “What if? What should I have?” All that kind of stuff. But I think I’m fairly certain that was absolutely the right decision for me not to ever marry and have children. I mean, I live with my boyfriend of 12 years, so I guess we’re common-law married. But both of us have never wanted to have children or be married.


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