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Scott Rosenberg

Opening-Night Playlists

Treble ClefAndy Warhol: Good for the Jews?, my latest collaboration with director David Dower, opens tonight (March 10) at Theater J in Washington D.C., and runs here through March 21.  For each of my shows, with the help of my friends (always including Scott Rosenberg, and this time also including great suggestions from my Facebook and Twitter peeps), I put together pre- and post-show playlists of songs that relate (sometimes very tangentially) to the themes of the piece.  I don’t care as much about these playlists as I do about the shows themselves, but I still care a lot: My adolescence was made livable by WNEW-FM, which allowed its deejays to play whatever they wanted — and the way they put together eclectic sets of music that they loved (especially my favorite, Vinnie “Bayonne Butch” Scelsa) delighted and educated me.  When we first became friends in Boston in the ’80s, Scott would put together mixtapes for me: In particular, I remember listening to one — which included a great Jonathan Richman song — as I walked in the early morning along Commonwealth Ave. after my father had died.  In those lonely hours, I popped Scott’s tape into my Walkman and learned that there still was joy and beauty in the world.

Anyhow, here’s the pre-show playlist for tonight (including such themes as wandering, commerce, strangers and strangeness, doors, imagination, God, art, knapsacks, and Andy Warhol himself):

  • Dion, “The Wanderer”
  • M.I.A., “Paper Planes”
  • The Doors, “People Are Strange” (a twofer!)
  • The Clash, “Lost in the Supermarket”
  • John Cale & Lou Reed, “Smalltown” (from Songs for Drella, their album about Warhol)
  • Johnny Cash & U2, “The Wanderer”
  • David Bowie, “Andy Warhol”
  • R.E.M., cover of The Wire’s “Strange”
  • Pete Townshend, “Let My Love Open the Door”
  • The Submarines, “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie”
  • Nirvana, cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World”
  • Public Image Ltd., “Public Image”
  • Bryan Ferry, cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
  • The Rolling Stones, cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”
  • They Might Be Giants, “The Statue Got Me High”
  • The Mountain Goats, “Jaipur”
  • Ida Maria, “Oh My God”
  • Amy Rigby, “Knapsack”

And here’s the post-show mix:

  • The Velvet Underground & Nico: “I’ll Be Your Mirror”
  • The Kinks, “Strangers”
  • The Slip, “Suffocation Keep”
  • Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, “Your Side Now”
  • Martha Wainwright, “Whither Shall I Wander?” (R.I.P. her genius mom, Kate McGarrigle)
  • T-Bone Burnett, “I’m Coming Home”
  • Cantor Jordan S. Franzel, “Torah Blessing” (which sounds remarkably similar to “It Ain’t Necessarily So”)
  • Jill Sobule, cover of Warren Zevon’s “Don’t Let Us Get Sick”

Feel free to offer me more suggestions — these playlists tend to keep evolving!

Saying Something About Say Everything

My dear friend Scott Rosenberg has written a great book, titled Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. Due from Crown (which also published his wonderful first book, Dreaming in Code) in July, it’s bound to instantly become the definitive account of weblog history.  (If you know of my background as a former copyeditor, you will appreciate the level of excitement that it took to elicit that split infinitive in the last sentence.)  But Say Everything is way more than that: It’s a also a page-turner about start-ups and falling-aparts (in love and business), the fascinating (and seemingly eternal) tensions between commerce and idealism, the awesome power of our urge to communicate, and the sometimes unbearable pain of being “flamed.”  And many other things — all of them happening to be vitally meaningful to me in my life right now.

To take one: the pitfalls of autobiography.  As a monologuist who makes a living talking about myself to strangers, I’ve had to navigate the border between public and private with increasing sensitivity.  Mostly, this has to do with my wife and son, who are at the center of my life.  I want to preserve their privacy, and also maintain a sanctified family space for myself.  At the same time, my natural impulse as a performer is to talk about what is most important to me — which would naturally include a lot about … my wife and son.  So there’s something of a dilemma.  The same goes with my early attempts here at blogging: I want to write with the kind of intimacy that will honor the attention of my visitors, but I am still determined to preserve that privacy zone around my family.

What to do?  Well, I haven’t figured it out yet.  But I’ve gotten an enormous amount of guidance (both inspirational and cautionary) from the stories told in Say Everything.  I’ve learned about bloggers who started out spilling their guts, then closed down completely to save their personal relationships, then found a workable middle ground (or didn’t).  I’ve seen how blogging — which Scott shows, thrillingly, to have emerged organically from the very DNA of the Internet — continually confronts its practitioners with a myriad of crises and opportunities (or, as Homer Simpson would call them, “crisis-tunities”).  And, as with all of Scott’s incredible writing — online and off- — in the end, I have found myself feeling profoundly hopeful, somehow.

In fact, among its many salutary effects, Say Everything has sparked me to get back to writing this blog — after a too-long hiatus — and not remain paralyzed by my usual (and often crippling) fear of my writing not being good enough, or too revealing, or too un-revealing.  By rejoining this remarkable movement of self-revelators, and by just doing my best, I am happy enough making my own tiny, imperfect, incremental contribution to a sprawling history of these times.  I don’t have to say everything: there’s a whole blogosphere for that — messy, democratic, running in reverse chronological order, and dodging trolls all the way.