From Dec. 07: Dead Fred & FAQ’s

03/10/2009 at 5:59 pm | Posted in General Nerdery, Just for Fun, News & Explanations, Stories from Alaska | 1 Comment

Once upon a time, there was a very pretty 747 jumbo jet, and this jet was packed full of thousands of Christmas trees. It was headed right over North Pole, Alaska to Honolulu, Hawai’i. The shiny jumbo jet landed at Anchorage International, the busiest cargo airport in the world, to refuel for its long journey to the tropics. But while it was resting on the tarmac, a mean old inspector picked through all the trees, and what did he find? A little dead yellow jacket! So the trees couldn’t go to Hawai’i after all. They had to stay in Anchorage. The jumbo jet was sad to abandon its important mission and lose all its friends. And Hawai’i was sad because it had no trees. Some trees went to live with pilots, some went to live with flight attendants, and some went out to the Alaskan Bush, where you can imagine how difficult it is to find a tree stand (let alone a vacuum cleaner).

We had enough trouble finding a tree stand, and we live right downtown. We got this pretty, costly tree for free, and we haven’t had one in years — and all I could think was, “It’s dead! This tree is dead and it only died to stand in our living room and shed needles everywhere! What a waste!” We also have no tree skirt or vacuum cleaner. Unlike bush Alaska, however, we have Wal Mart and Frd Brfl (Frd Brfl is what I have always called Fred Meyer for no good reason. Albertsons = Snostrebla. Backwards).

But the tree actually makes me really happy in a little kid kind of way. So when life gives you a beautiful and expensive douglas spruce for free, make lemonade (or eggnog). We got a tree stand AND a vacuum, and it was probably about time we got one of those anyway — the sticky lint roller wasn’t working so great on the carpet. Took forever, too. What happened to our old vacuum, you ask? Well, if I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that if you’re ever tempted to suck up a whole sackful of powdered sugar that’s turned your entire kitchen white, RESIST. You’re better off licking it up off the floor than letting it eat your hoover.

For lack of ornaments, my husband put his ski cap on the top — where the angel ought to go — and his motorcycle goggles are resting in the branches just beneath that. The only other decoration is the broken brown shoelace that’s acting as a fu manchu moustache. Our tree is named Fred. Dead Fred. Well, it’s not dead yet, but it’s gonna be. Fred has lots of attitude.

In answer to some questions that I’ve been promising to answer for some time, Jewel Staite-style:

1) So how are things? Sales, promotion, etc.? When will I hear Vanilla on the radio?

Things are moving very slowly — I’d say about 3mph — and it’s all I can do to keep up with that pace. When you do everything yourself (promotions, website, e-mail list, writing, recording, mixing & mastering, rehearsal coordination, and makeup, to name a few) you really get to appreciate why people get together and form labels. I’m so glad I started Song of the Month, because otherwise I’d never do any actual music.

2) Is your hair red?

This is the color that by rights my mother should have passed down to me, and I’m sticking to it out of pure bitterness that I did not actually inherit her hair. So I’m a faker, but a justified faker.

3) What’s with the name?

I’ve been explaining this a lot and promising to blog about it, so here goes. No, Marian’s not my real name, but yes, it is how I’m introducing myself and what I will be called by most folks from here on in. Marian Marian Marian. Spelt with an A.

It’s not like I think I need a stage name, it’s just that my real name is about as common as Jane Smith. That makes for issues on Google and Myspace. I actually know one other gal with my name — she’s a PhD from Stanford in Psychology, and totally brilliant — and I don’t want the studies she publishes and the albums I record competing for top search results. She’s too nice. Also, I hear there’s this musician in Minneapolis with my same name who’s totally psycho. Is that a pot I want to stir? Not really.

The name is partially the result of a contest I held among family and friends back in March. You should have seen some of the entries — “What should my band be called?” “Sheep go baa. Comfy chicken nest hat hat. The craning necks. Belts, no! Suspenders, yes!” What do they all think of me? Goodness. I almost chose Marian Lexicon, because I wound up with a list over a hundred words that could follow Marian. In the end, I picked Marian Call, because to me it describes my philosophy about art and it has a nice syllabic ring it has to it — I’m really into feet and iambs. And I really feel like I can answer to Marian and it’s actually “me.”***

Phew. Now when people ask I can just refer them here.

4) Will you come and play where I live?

Yes! Tell me where to play and I’ll go there! I’m new to the performing live thing, but as I build up a band and get used to touring, I want to play where you are and probably meet you. Unless you’re a spammer or a robot. By the way, I hear I’m better live than on the recording, so if you like the recording, come out to a show! And watch me make newbie attempts at between-song banter. That’s definitely a learned skill. My bass player is threatening to make cue cards for me.

I will officially be in the Bay Area in mid-May and in Southern California in early June 2008. I will possibly be in Austin in June as well. If you live there, e-mail me! Let’s hang out. If you know somewhere I should play, e-mail me! I want to play there. Even if it’s at your house. House concerts are the best.

5) You’re gonna be in a movie?

Yes: “Lessons in Skagway.” Look for it in the Anchorage Int’l Film Festival next year. I have a bit part — I’m sort of a seemingly nice passive-aggressive bitchy office lady. Like if Pam were actually Angela on the inside. More than this I cannot say. My life is getting weirder by the day!

6) Where did you disappear to this month? Did you just go crazy and fall asleep?

About a month ago my manager, C., kindly observed that due to about a year of extreme stress and food/sleep deprivation, I was deteriorating into a maxed-out neurotic blithering mess of a person (what my husband refers to as reverting to Stanford Mode, or the way I acted in college). According to Webster, to blither (v) is to talk long-windedly about nothing, to speak nonsense. Which is pretty much all I ever do. I should be a politician. But I digress — C. asked me when I last took a day off, and made me look through my planner to prove to her that I actually had taken a whole day off. I got back to March without finding a single instance of a work-free day, and she sort of sweetly smacked me upside the head and told me we’d meet again after I slept and took time off. I never did find the day off that I swore I took…not in 2007, anyway.

But, see, the thing is — I’m terrible at not working. I have no talent for chilling out. But I’m working on it; I have now taken five days off. Well, almost five. And I’m much better slept. C.’s talk with me gave me a sort of permission to be less stressed. Part of that, unfortunately, is that I have released myself from corresponding as much as I want to, so I’ve missed some of you guys. A lot. I think you’re going to have to be happy with periodic comments and letters more often than daily chats. But I still LOVE hearing from you! And I’m wondering what’s going on with everyone, since I’ve had less time to browse. Keep me in the loop if you can.

7) Your website is not as cool as a real nerd’s website should be. There is no flash and no spinny GIF thingies. Are your claims to true nerdhood legitimate?

First of all, my website is very cool — probably cooler than the last time you saw it. Some people ain’t lookin’ for flash.

I took a Nerd quiz recently in Geek magazine, and while I scored a very respectable 59 out of 100, the questions were very much skewed to measure Techie nerdiness (which can be defined as the ability to build one’s own computer from paperclips and ramen) and not Fuzzy/liberal arts nerdiness (which would be marked by the ability to hum every single NPR show theme song and/or the drive to punctuate even myspace comments with almost religious zeal). That bias bothered me a little, and made me want to do some research and present my findings to Geek Magazine. I think that reaction alone should be good for a few points. Paying top dollar for an old typewriter should get me something, too.

8) Do you have self image issues? Do you really think you’re not sexy?

This is the part where I politely disagree. I’m grappling with a very narrow definition of sexy in that song — the Pink/Christina Aguilera Bad Girl version (and that’s a descriptor, not an insult). I’m not fishing for compliments, and I don’t have an eating disorder. Though I’ve been consuming a lot of Orville Redenbacher’s lately…I might develop the popcorn lung.

I could go on and on about gender issues and even venture into music history and linguistics and international cuisine, but that’s a sure way to extract every drop of humor from my unsexy predicament. So I will mercifully stop there. If you like to discuss that kind of thing, message me, and you’ll have a lifetime sparring partner. Suffice it to say that if you’re hearing lots of layers in the music, it’s because they’re there. Like in parfait, or onions, or Waiting for Guffman.

9) Malcolm Reynolds or James Tiberius Kirk?

Come ON people! I can’t believe someone asked me that. Kirk is such a short wussy womanizer compared to Mal. I do wish we knew Mal’s middle name, though. Would it be sacrilege to make one up? And does Jean-Luc Picard have a middle name?

I’ve got to get cracking on the next song of the month, so it’s time to proofread and post. Thanks so much to all of you guys! And merry Christmas! Or happy Solstice! Happy thoughts to you, in any case.


***Plus, Marian Call is an anagram for “Cranial Mal.” I can burn the land and boil the sea — with my brain.


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  1. Thank you very much for this article. It very interesting.

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