May 11, 2004

the asking meme

Idea spotted bouncing around Livejournal (where I'd be updating the signifier blog/collating bones a bit more often these days if audioblogs didn't have such an addictive hold on me right now):

If you're reading lacunae today or tomorrow, I'd like you to ask me something. Up to three questions, and anything goes--literally anything you want my answers to. I promise not to take offense at any questions, and to answer every one (either in the comments field or by private mail) as well and honestly as I can. If you want to ask your questions in public, put them in the comments field below; if you'd rather email them, there's that "WRITE TO ME" link below and to the left.

(Yes, this is partly my sneaky way of seeing who's reading these days.)

Posted by Douglas at May 11, 2004 2:21 AM

1. Is your insomnia as bad as mine? (Mine's pretty fucking bad.)

2. What do you think of the Necks' *Drive By*? (I love it.)

3. It's looking very much like you're the new Slate music columnist. Are you? (If so, congratulations, couldn't happen to a nicer guy, etc. If not, sorry to be presumptive.)

Posted by: M Matos on May 11, 2004 2:44 AM

1) When did you become a vegetarian/vegan? What influenced that decision?

2) Do you think that you'll ever do a regular radio show again, at WFMU or elsewhere?

3) What was the last record that you heard that you expected to be awful, but turned out to be quite good?

Posted by: Matthew on May 11, 2004 5:14 AM

Have you seen the new pepto bismo commercial where people are dancing next to a copy machine? What do you think of it?

Posted by: Brian on May 11, 2004 7:05 AM

1. are you still writing for the voice?

2. are you going to burningman this year?

3. where are you living again?

I'm flying in to portland to rent an rv to drive to bman this year.


Posted by: gavin on May 11, 2004 8:08 AM

Hi Doug,

Not a very exciting question, but one I've always wanted to ask:

Why was the Deadbeat Descendants Fall covers CD not released? Did MES putta block on it?

And a related question, I guess - have you heard the "Perverted by Mark E." tribute? If not, there's a lot of great stuff on it - would love to see your review.


Posted by: Stefan on May 11, 2004 8:37 AM

For Matos, first--

1) I actually don't have insomnia, usually--I'm just a night owl.

2) Haven't heard it. Must do so.

3) Nobody's told ME anything about it... thanks for the good wishes, though...

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 10:00 AM


1) Vegetarian, not vegan. I'd gradually been eating less and less meat over a decade, and finally realized that I felt a lot better, healthier and more energetic when I didn't eat meat at all--I think I probably stopped altogether about four years ago, maybe a little more.

2) I'd love to--as much as I adore WFMU, it almost certainly won't be there, since I'm now living in Oregon. But if I could figure out some kind of setup like and do it reasonably conveniently, I totally would. (Especially if I could somehow get live bands to play--that was one of the things I liked most about doing the show, getting to be a sort of junior John Peel...)

3) I had low expectations for that TIlly and the Wall album based on its cover artwork, but was very pleasantly surprised.

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 10:10 AM

1) Why do you go by Douglas rather than Doug?

2) Do you think you'll be a freelancer for the rest of your life?

3) Multi-part question. People often attach "nice guy" next to your name (see Matos's question above). Do you think you're a nice guy? Do you want to be a not so nice guy? Clearly nice guys do not always finish last (at least in your case) but perhaps nice guys are an oppressed people in a way I don't know? Are they?

Posted by: Caryn on May 11, 2004 10:13 AM

Brian--nope, haven't seen it (I actually haven't had a functional TV that picks up broadcast channels in many years, although we do watch a lot of DVDs).

Stefan--answered you by private email.


1) Check the "things I've published" column on the left side of the front page.

2) Almost certainly. Working on a potentially really fun art-installation piece.

3) Check the "about the author" link on the left side of the front page. (Short answer: Portland.)

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 10:15 AM

i would love to meme thus on my site, but i'm afraid most of my hits are folks searching for "concert flashers" and the like - pfoo.

i) when was the last time you cried?

ii) christina or britney? no "none of the above."

Posted by: lauren on May 11, 2004 10:28 AM

1. Who are some good music writers who aren't white or male?
2. What's your favorite fake Beatles song? (I saw your presentation at EMP, and I thought it was great; that's how I came across this website.)
3. What are some of your favorite jazz albums?

Posted by: Joel Hartse on May 11, 2004 11:07 AM

one question with a three-part answer: what's your top three releases of 2004, so far?

Posted by: jon kapper on May 11, 2004 11:07 AM

1. what is it about portland made you decide to move there?

2. what's the best book you've read lately?

3. what's your favorite piece of writing you've had published recently?

Posted by: annie on May 11, 2004 11:18 AM


1) I've always hated Doug as a name (seems somehow too jocklike for me), and liked Douglas. It still amazes me how I can sign an email to somebody "Douglas" and get back an email a minute later starting "Hi Doug..." There are a couple of people I've known for upwards of ten years who STILL haven't caught on.

2) In the sense that I can't really see myself ever having a permanent desk job again, absent a financial emergency, yeah. Although I'd be happy to be under contract to various periodicals, if it paid well enough. Does somebody who writes books count as a "freelancer"? And I'd like to retire someday, too, although as Walter Cronkite put it, that'd probably just mean I'd be "standing around in the dark, playing Space Invaders." (I can't see myself ever NOT writing, if that's what you mean.)

3) Thanks for the kind words, although I'm sure there are plenty of people who think I'm an arrogant jerk (they're just less likely to be reading lacunae, is all). I've been known to have the occasional evil-twin fantasy, and when I'm in a very bad mood, my personal anthem is Brecht/Weill's "Pirate-Jenny." ("grumble grumble und das SCHIIIIIFF mit acht seglen, und mit fünfzehn kanOOOOOnen... razzafrazzin'...") (apologies for the inevitable misspellings!)

I used to want to come off as a total hard-ass--although I always remembered the example of a friend of my ex-girlfriend, who had the general look and demeanor of a four-day-old kitten, and tried to make up for it with pointy hair, a leather jacket with razorblades on the shoulders, spiked collars, boots with poisoned daggers sticking out of their toes, etc. He ended up coming off like a four-day-old kitten adorably trying to look tough.

I've learned in the last ten years or so that there's a big big difference between "niceness" and "not being willing to ask for what one wants." But would life be easier/more pleasant for me if I tried less often to act honorably at my own expense, didn't scrupulously & ludicrously follow rules that aren't actually enforced, were more willing to treat people as means rather than ends-in-themselves, etc.? Almost certainly--except that I wouldn't be able to live with myself (and I get really frustrated/furious with the parts of myself that don't live up to those standards as it is).

Lauren--answered your questions via private email.

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 11:28 AM


1) Bylines I always look for, off the top of my head: Kelefa Sanneh, Monica Kendrick, Elliott Wilson, Susan Orlean, Sally Jacob, "Saki," Elizabeth Mendez Berry, Julianne Shepherd, Laura Sinagra, Mim Udovitch, Oliver Wang, Geeta Dayal. Note that this list is kind of light on the non-white front--that's because I don't actually know _who's_ non-white in most cases.

2) If I can stretch the definition a bit, probably the Blossom Toes' "I Will Bring You This And That" (more or less a direct rip on the Magical Mystery Tour-era style).

3) John Coltrane, _The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions_. Zorn/Frisell/Lewis, _News for Lulu_. Ella Fitzgerald, _The Cole Porter Songbook_. Sun Ra, _The Magic City_. Ornette Coleman, _Ornette!_. Pharoah Sanders, _Black Unity_.

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 11:46 AM

It still amazes me how I can sign an email to somebody "Douglas" and get back an email a minute later starting "Hi Doug..." There are a couple of people I've known for upwards of ten years who STILL haven't caught on.

That's the same thing that I deal with every day. Some folks just insist on calling me "Matt" and never get the hint, no matter what! I don't think that I've called myself Matt or signed my name as such since I was a teenager.

Posted by: Matthew on May 11, 2004 12:07 PM


Arthur Russell's The World of Arthur Russell, The Thermals' Fuckin A, and Mission of Burma's ONoffON.

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 12:46 PM


1) It's green, it's pretty, houses are affordable, people are friendly, it smells really nice, and there's lots of amazing arts & culture stuff going on that you don't have to be 22 years old with a trust fund to get in on.

2) Still very excited about William Vollmann's "Rising Up and Rising Down."

3) I'm pretty happy about that piece about the so-bad-it's-good aesthetic that ran in The Believer back in I think March.

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 12:51 PM

when/where is your Cerebus piece coming out?

Posted by: Gabe on May 11, 2004 2:04 PM

pilfering is the sincerest form of flattery (why not?) - ask me something, ask me something (at!

Posted by: lauren on May 11, 2004 2:09 PM

(1) What are your thoughts about being a car owner? (I ask because I've been having some guilty feelings lately, especially living in Portland.)

(2) What would be the perfect cover song in your view? (Pick the song and the band who should cover it.)

(3) What is your favorite dessert? (I had to put parentheses here to match the previous two questions.)

I'm glad to hear about another positive experience at Gravy, a place I've been meaning to try.

Posted by: Jenny on May 11, 2004 2:10 PM

Gabe: It'll be in the Believer, um, once it's done, plus a while after that.

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 2:25 PM


1) I'm okay with it--partly because we got basically the most eco-friendly car there is, partly because it's not like we've abandoned public transportation altogether. (I still buy a bus pass every month.) But it's really nice to have the freedom of going to places that aren't necessarily served by public transportation, whenever we want. And to be able to give our friends rides.

2) Seeing Mission of Burma doing "Seven Deadly Finns" last year obviously set off some chain reactions in my head. As far as never-actually-realized ones... wouldn't mind at all seeing Antibalas do "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," I suppose!

3) Very fresh, perfectly ripe fruit of a kind that I've never tasted before.

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 2:33 PM

1) what is your dream book you really want to write?

2) so are you subletting your nyc apt? any ideas of returning?

the rest have all been asked. Nice idea.

Posted by: jen on May 11, 2004 5:50 PM

Here are my questions:

1. Any musical or pop culture guilty pleasures?

2. Do you have a criminal record?

3. Favorite black and white film?

Posted by: Jason on May 11, 2004 6:32 PM


1) I'd like to write some long piece of fiction (prose or comics) that would be really engaging and fun, and also gradually and significantly alter its readers' perception of what's happening in the book and in reality in general--"Labyrinths" via "The Invisibles" via Harry Potter. I'd also like to write a book on the theory of comics--it's distinct from literary/film theory, and while Scott McCloud did a good job with a lot of aspects of comics' formal mechanisms, there's a lot of stuff he didn't get into that I think is fascinating.

2) Not subletting the apartment so far--we're still back in NYC one week out of every five or six, so it makes sense to keep it entirely for ourselves, plus we have mountains of our stuff in it. Once we have a house here in PDX, that might change.

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 6:56 PM


1) I sort of have a problem with the idea of cultural "guilty pleasures"--you know, one likes what one likes, and I don't think distancing oneself from that is a good idea. That said, I do own a really unhealthy number of Frankie Goes To Hollywood records.

2) Nope. (See note to Caryn about fanatically doing what I'm supposed to do.)

3) "Rashomon," probably. Although if I were trying to go the obscurantist route, I'd say "Mighty Like a Moose."

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 7:01 PM

to bring the level of discourse down to a more manageable level for my distracted brain... the drunk game "marry, f*ck, kill" (must distribute to the names below)...
- ian mackaye
- courtney love circa 1996
- janet jackson's breasts

Posted by: julia k on May 11, 2004 7:48 PM


I hear and I see and I speak no evil; I wish none of them harm, and wouldn't want to spend extended periods of time around any of them. Can't I do 'em all? (Okay, can't I just have dinner with Courtney '96 instead?)

okay fine: marry Ian (he's probably a good cook, and he's definitely reliable & a good guy), fuck Courtney '96 (from that Rolling Stone interview: "I have a magic pussy. If you fuck me, you become a king." Plus, Courtney '96 wrote "Awful," what's not to like about that?), kill Janet's breasts (or specifically her terrible implants, please leave the non-silicon parts of her happy and healthy).

Posted by: Douglas on May 11, 2004 8:07 PM

1) What are the things you like most and least (but not nec. in that order) about music criticism? As a discipline? As a profession?

2) Will Edie still remember me enough to chew on my arm when I finally make it out to Portland?

(postscript on this is I spent today interviewing heroin addicts in Atlantic City -- then doing Nick Berg stuff when that news broke (harrowing) -- and I think some tooth marks, properly placed, might buy me street cred).

3) When will I be able to find your book in theaters near me, or fresh in my grocer's freezer?]

aieee, time for sleep.

Posted by: jess on May 11, 2004 11:35 PM

1) To quote somebody else's joke, "the wages of sin is death, but the hours are great and the perks are fantastic." Pretty much the same thing goes for music criticism--I get to sit around listening to records all day, tell people what I think of them, and get paid for it. Can't beat that. But beyond a certain point, there's not really much of an opportunity for advancement.

That's as a profession. As a discipline--well, I love wrestling with questions of aesthetics, & understanding art in its historical context, & being a guide to help others experience stuff, and music criticism is a convenient & fun route to all of those. (Plus: TUNES!) But I always have a problem with having a discipline that's interpretive far more than creative (that is, that collapses without primary texts to suck blood from), and space for music criticism tends to be tight enough to asphyxiate ideas. It's possible to write a totally functional 120-word album review (I do it a lot); it's very hard to write a 120-word album review that's much more than functional.

2) Of course! She mewls piteously for you in her sleep.

3) It should be showing on Cinemax 3 (around 3:45 AM, right after "Silk Swingers of Suburbia") sometime in August.

Posted by: Douglas on May 12, 2004 1:11 AM

Hi Doug...
(heh, sorry, just kidding, couldn't resist!)

1) What person, whom you have never met/corresponded with, has inspired you the most?

2) Any recommendations for art critics (who aren't pretentious/impenetrable/etc.)?

3) Does the 801 take requests? (Uhm, how about "St. Elmo's Fire" at the Knitting Factory? Pretty please?)

Hope you're doing well!

Posted by: Ernest on May 12, 2004 9:32 AM

Hi yourself, Ernie...

1) Among the living? Good question--my first impulse is to say Paul Morley, actually.

2) I wish I did. I don't know art criticism too well--Arthur Danto, maybe?

3) I suspect certain other members of the band would give me everything from dirty looks to daggers through my chest if I tried to suggest adding any more songs to our repertoire at this point, but I do love "St. Elmo's Fire."

Posted by: Douglas on May 12, 2004 10:54 AM

1. We met at Burning Man two years ago. I came to your camp to meet/visit Patti, whose radio show I grew up listening to. The homemade "Ask Me Questions" t-shirt I was wearing provoked much discussion - one of your friends drove me nuts with his intellectual questioning. What, if any, memories do you have of this meeting?

2. Is beatboxing the new jazz?

3. How do traveling circuses keep their bears awake in the wintertime?

Posted by: Dan Rollman on May 12, 2004 3:57 PM

1) What's the REAL reason that you like Burning Man?

2) What is the item of clothing that you secretly would love to wear regularly but are too modest to?

3) Will you introduce me to John Darnielle? He appears to be the smartest lyricist living.

Posted by: Liz on May 12, 2004 4:27 PM

1. What do you have planned for dbc in the near/distant future?

2. If you could play in any band, what instrument would you play and what would the band sound like?

3. What is your favorite language other than English and why?

Posted by: Scott on May 12, 2004 6:16 PM

Do you like face?

Do you drink as much water as you should?

Where would you go if you could go anywhere?

Posted by: Laura Elaine Wilson on May 12, 2004 7:01 PM

One question, in three parts.

Do you *really* believe that WATCHMEN will be successfully made into a film? If so, who are your dream choices to play

Dr. Manhattan
Night Owl

Me, I believe it should be a cable miniseries, a six parter or so.

Posted by: jodi on May 12, 2004 9:26 PM


1) Very few--I think I was pretty dehydrated at that point. I remember it going on (and I might have been taking some fish photos at that point), but my memories of that are kind of slim.

2) Not especially. Or not any more than shape-note singing is the old iPod DJing.

3) One bear drives while the other bear screams, like Pere Ubu said.

Posted by: Douglas on May 13, 2004 1:02 AM

Liz--answered your questions by private email.


1) More singles club stuff in the near future--I know it's been a few months, but lots of people who've told me they're recording singles for it have been delayed for one reason or another. Just got a thumbs-up from Barbara Manning, which makes me unbelievably happy. There's another Family Fodder full-length in the works, too (recorded over the past 20 years or so...!). Long-term? Well, probably a lot of things that aren't music-based, as well as of course lots of things that are, too--the original concept was 999 "joy-inducing objects," musical and otherwise, and I've only gotten through the first hundred or so...

2) I realized a few weeks ago that I _really really_ want to be in a band that the cool kids can dance to--seeing LCD Soundsystem made it clear that that's the kind of band I want to be in. (Also see: Flin Flon, Out Hud, ESG, Liliput.) People dancing in the audience. That's what I want. I'd love to be able to play guitar in more than a rudimentary way, but both my brain and my fingers are much more bass-oriented, I suspect.

3) I love the sound of Portugese, but as a written language I think I like French best. Not that I remember much of it.

Posted by: Douglas on May 13, 2004 1:28 AM


1) Wha??

2) Try to, especially when I'm somewhere dehydrating. These days I have a packet of Emergen-C in my water a lot.

3) Someday I'd like to go to southern India to watch the masters of vegetarian cooking at work.

Posted by: Douglas on May 13, 2004 1:32 AM


I can't see how it could be done right--so much of it is medium-specific. (I mean, "Tales from the Black Freighter" is crucial to the mood and meaning of the whole thing, and--it's a comic book! There's no way around that!)

But I could always be surprised, and if it were:
Rorschach: Harvey Keitel
Dr. Manhattan: Kyle MacLachlan
Nite Owl: the David Hemmings of 10 years ago

Posted by: Douglas on May 13, 2004 1:41 AM

1) Who's the last celebrity you had a (non-ironic) crush on?

2) What do you do with your hands when you talk in public?

3) Oh, gosh. I don't know. Superpower: invisibility or flight? Or did we already have this conversation? I can't remember any more.

Posted by: Liz on May 13, 2004 3:25 AM

1. What were the poems read during the ceremony of your/Lisa's wedding?

2. What is a secret ambition that you caress and don't generally share that is wildly unrealistic, but you caress it and have it anyway?

3. Explain to me the philosophy behind your business card, and tell me again what they say?


Posted by: Maya on May 13, 2004 8:57 AM

1. What were your answers to Liz's questions?

2. Can't the uncool kids dance to your new band too?

3. Do you think of yourself as a rock critic or a pop critic? (Show your work.)

Posted by: Franklin on May 14, 2004 8:44 AM

Did you ever get up to see Grandpa last week?

Does my Christmas gift actually exist?

Do you care if I get rid of the old filing cabinet (white w/bumper stickers on it)?

Posted by: Mom on May 14, 2004 2:53 PM

1. Rock writing's initial bid for credibility as "serious" criticism was predicated on the idea that pop music, beyond being a commodity, is also art. Now that that's a moot point, what problems do you see (if any) in critics devoting space to the products of a cynical music industry?

2. If you could force everyone in the world to sit down and listen to one song, what would it be?

3. Which past musical genre is going to be rejuvenated/co-opted into the next big crossover sensation?

Posted by: J. on May 14, 2004 9:06 PM

1. favorite member of Jud Jud
2. is Portland really as dreary (weatherwise) as everyone says it is?
3. favorite "Paul is dead" reference

Posted by: Aileen on May 14, 2004 9:46 PM

1)Weren't you and I on Fallnet together way back in the day?

2) Do you think Mark E. Smith's wheelchair tour is the ultimate in postpunk cool? How much will you be bidding on his dentures when he inevitably auctions them off at e-bay? Have you heard the Mekons' remake of their cover of "Dan Dare" yet and does it not give you hope that senior citizens can rock out?

3) Do you have any idea how to cure a rye-whiskey 8-beer mosh-pit hangover that seems to have progressed past the 12-hour stage? Besides icepack on swollen cheek, drinking more tap water and burning up the stomach lining with aspirin, I mean.

Posted by: mark desrosiers on May 16, 2004 7:38 PM

what's your favorite county?
what's yr take on hammer, in hindsight?
are you five oh thrizzy for life, or are you just there for now?

Posted by: Matt C. on May 17, 2004 8:03 AM

Liz G--

1) Whatsername who plays Brenda on "Six Feet Under."

2) Grip the edges of my prepared script, very tightly.

3) Invisibility all the way. I am Mr. Legion Espionage Squad.

Maya--answered by private email.


1) Recursion will get you nowhere...

2) Sure, just as lots of people who aren't Chuck Jones can watch Chuck Jones cartoons (cf. his statement "I didn't make my cartoons for children. I didn't make them for adults. I made them for me"). Also n.b. my definition of "the cool kids" is not the same as many people's.

3) I secretly think of myself as a comics critic who keeps getting asked to write about music. Is rock a subset of pop? Whichever sphere's bigger.

"Mom"--I think you are actually the mom of someone else who linked to this blog...

Posted by: Douglas on May 17, 2004 3:44 PM

1) Wha??

I guess you aren't the giving type!

Posted by: Laura Elaine Wilson on May 17, 2004 3:59 PM


1) It's a concern, obviously, but the product of a cynical music industry is not necessarily the work of a cynical artist, & it seems somehow more appropriate to address the work itself separately from its economic apparatus/superstructure, as long as the latter still gets addressed. And I'd like to see a lot more [rock/pop/whatever] writing that bid for credibility by being... credible itself, but that's a whole other thing.

2) My first impulse is to say the Soul Stirrers' "All Right Now," since it's everyone in the world, rather than everyone in the U.S. You know, a little cultural exchange program, courtesy of Sam Cook(e) & Rev. Julius Cheeks.

3) That whole Daxophone thing from the mid-'90s--David Newgarden predicted it years ago...

Posted by: Douglas on May 19, 2004 7:32 AM


1) That would be the right-hand Jud.

2) It's not at all. Well, it is in winter (it rains pretty much every day for an hour or two in the morning, gently, and then freshens up again with a little sprinkle in the afternoon), but lately it's been mild and sunny almost every day, and the whole city smells like flowers.

3) The license plate on Abbey Road--"28IF," as in he'd be 28 if he'd lived. Except that he'd have been 29. This shows the importance of never letting facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

Posted by: Douglas on May 19, 2004 7:35 AM


1) Yes indeed! The traffic got to be too much for me, and now I just read 's news section every so often.

2) Pretty sure Jarvis Cocker did a wheelchair tour w/ Pulp many years ago. I've heard the new "Dan Dare" (it's a Mekons original, isn't it?), but prefer the original...

3) Sadly, no. Not nearly enough drinking experience.

Posted by: Douglas on May 19, 2004 7:38 AM

The 801 *did* play "St. Elmo's Fire" last night and IT WAS AMAZING. The whole set was fabulous! I was grinning like a madman the entire time. Thanks, Douglas + the 801!

Posted by: Ernest on May 20, 2004 9:10 AM


1) I want to say Multnomah, but I think for sentimental reasons it has to be Queens.

2) Interesting industrialist; pity he never actually bought the appropriate division of Procter & Gamble.

3) I suspect so--we're looking for a house now...

Posted by: Douglas on May 22, 2004 6:35 PM
Post a comment