Having Your Own Website Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Has this month been a pretty non-event month at The Magical Buffet or what? It looks like this month will only have 8 articles, quite the drop from the 13 articles that were published in May and June of this year. So what gives?

At the beginning of this month I intentionally ran myself into the ground trying to stay busy and not stress too much about my appointment with a specialist that took place on July 6th. It seemed like a good idea at the time. However, I came back to a household that had been neglected for over a week and a new too busy to breathe season at my office job. (A lady has got to pay the bills, ya’ know.) Add in the few mishaps with starting the beginning of a new treatment, and well, you end up with a lackluster Buffet month.

I had considered not saying anything and hope that no one would notice, but the fact is, I know I’ve been underperforming as of late and I felt I owed each and every reader a personal apology for kind of sucking out. Life happens, but still, I’m sorry folks.

Hopefully me, and The Buffet, will start getting back up to speed again, and I’m getting a little help from some friends.

When I switched The Magical Buffet over from its monthly spirituality focused format to this new whatever floats my boat blog format you guys stuck by me and that change. And let’s face it, we’ve been having some good times; The Colbert Healthcare Challenge, 10 Questions with Steve Kenson, The Quest for Fire: Flaming Mojitos in Our Time, and more. I’ve really enjoyed getting to share more of myself and my interests with you. I hope that from time to time I’ve made you consider something in a different way or perhaps introduced you to something entirely new. That said, there are two things I really wanted to do with this new format that haven’t really come to fruition.

The first thing is, that being a geek, I wanted to share lots of ideas and news from the geekier side of my life such as RPGs, comics, geek-like (or geek adjacent) movies and television, websites, and more. Despite a strong start with my interview with Steve Kenson and a few other assorted “geek” articles I find overall the site to be lacking. All the while, my friend John Sanders has been emailing his friends and I links to articles about all kinds of geeky news, products, or websites. One day I realized, he keeps tabs on many of the geeky things I would want to share with my readers, so I asked him if he would be willing to do that very thing, and he agreed. Readers might not be familiar with John, but they are familiar with a lot of his work. Many of the articles that I publish first get checked over by John utilizing his education in technical writing to my benefit. John works in tech support, which does nothing but elevate his geek cred. He’s currently working on his first novel which is fiction, but I still associate with him anyway. He will be a regular contributor with his own feature, “The Geek Month in Review”.

The other thing I wanted to make sure happened when I switched formats was that I would continue to provide articles of interest for all the wonderful Wiccan, Pagans, and Witches who supported The Magical Buffet from day one. Despite my best intentions, it’s safe to say that the site is lacking. Then one day I was reading a newsletter from Handfasting.org, run by my friend Shira Tarantino (who first appeared on The Magical Buffet in 2007 and again in 2009), and I found myself thinking, man, she’s good. Her articles are interesting, well researched, and generally have a taste of her great sense of humor. I found myself wondering how to get her on my website again. Then it hit me. Just like my friend John and his “Geek Month in Review”, maybe she would be willing to do a “Witch Month in Review” feature for The Magical Buffet. In what I feel is an extraordinary stroke of luck, she agreed. Since Shira agreed she has been sending me emails filled with wonderful ideas and boundless enthusiasm. I know that if you’re looking for news from a Pagan perspective there are great websites like The Wild Hunt (my personal favorite), and it’s associated Pagan Newswire Collective, and Witchvox but my goal here at The Magical Buffet is to offer loads of perspectives and introduce communities to other communities. The Wiccan that subscribes to The Magical Buffet reads the Steve Kenson interview, and my gaming buddies read The Wiccan Rede Project essays. This is a chance to hopefully more thoroughly introduce and integrate diverse communities, and I can think of no better emissary than Shira.

So not one, but TWO new features. See, I may not have been producing much, but I have been thinking about all of you. Now just like I fell behind, both of these guys have their own lives of family, friends, and work, so maybe we won’t see them every month (although I hope we do). I’m hoping that their contributions will make The Magical Buffet both more fun and more informative than it has been in the past. It seems like a good place to start. Both features will debut in August.

Psssst! I know, I know, I’m always about the “A Magical Buffet of Authors” event at the Barnes and Noble in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 11, 2010, but I just can’t resist mentioning it again. Remember, you learned about it here. You’ve joined the event on Facebook and MySpace, right? Good work gang! I’ll be able to thank you in person in September!

In It, To Win It: Cooking Well

Frequent Buffet readers know that I am an Anthony Bourdain fan. Bourdain is best known for his book that put him on the map, “Kitchen Confidential” (which I’ve still never read!), and his television show “No Reservations” (which I watch all the time). Not too long ago I got to have a brief meeting with him at an event where I had him autograph the article I wrote about pho. I regularly read his blog on the Travel Channel website for further insights from his travels and for often comical posts about other odd occurrences in his life. He also wrote a fantastic post about the passing of Harvey Pekar that I can’t help but share.

A few weeks back I saw a post on Bourdain’s blog titled “In it, to Win It”, which brought to my attention that Bourdain’s publisher, HarperCollins, is holding a contest to be featured in the paperback edition of Bourdain’s book “Medium Raw” when it releases. (By the way, “Medium Raw” is my new favorite Bourdain book. I recommend it highly.) Not only will the winner get published, but they also win $10,000!

The first thing I did was email the link over to my friend Greg from What Greg Eats. Being a writer and a foodie, I knew he would have some thoughts on what to write to answer the contest question of, “What does it mean to cook food well?” And indeed he did, a few days later he submitted “Timeless – My Father’s Kitchen”. In an odd coincidence, although talking about entirely different ideas, my father also came into play when I set out to write my essay.

Whereas Greg’s essay is a sentimental tribute to his father’s cooking, mine focused on the myths and misconceptions on cooking well that I started to learn about when my father developed heart disease. I came up with something honest that I believe in greatly when it comes to food. Oddly, I guess my essay could also be considered a tribute to my father.

Here’s the deal folks, the preliminary round of the contest will be judged on the following criteria: creativity (30%), originality (30%), writing style (30%), and (10%) will be determined by the voting of visitors to the contest website. Based on these criteria, ten finalists will be selected. The ten finalist selections will be read by Anthony Bourdain, who will select one essay as the final contest winner. It seems highly unlikely that I’ll win, but I’m still excited to participate. It’s nice that voting has such a small percentage, so it doesn’t turn into a clicking contest as opposed to a writing contest. Of course, that said, I’d love it if you guys took a moment to read my essay here. If you like it, please take a moment to vote for it. You can vote once a day, so if you’re feeling charitable you can go back and vote for me again tomorrow, or you can vote for my friend Greg’s great essay, or a combination of both! Also, if any other Buffet readers enter the contest, definitely leave the link to your essay in the comments section! I’d love to support my readers!

Religion and Politics

If I ever decided to write an autobiography or some sort of memoir I always imagined I would title it, “Whatever You Do, Don’t Ask about Religion or Politics”. It’s an idea that frightens me and motivates me. It’s the seed of apprehension that somehow managed to grow into The Magical Buffet.

Where does this common piece of social wisdom come from? I don’t recall any time in my life when my parents, friends, educators, or anyone else, actually told me this cultural truism. Yet, I knew it wasn’t supposed to be done. Somehow you, me, everyone, be they friend or co-worker, know that it just isn’t done. More so now, in this era of risk management political correctness, will you intrinsically be trained by society to absolutely, under no circumstances, ask anyone about their religion or their politics. It’s a good way to lose friends and gain enemies. I can’t help but feel that this generates a climate of fear in our society. How are we supposed to become a global community and not engage in conversation about the things that could potentially divide us the most? The simple answer is, we won’t.

Here’s another societal truism, people fear what they don’t understand, and fear becomes hate, and the next thing you know I’ll start quoting “Star Wars”. It’s true of course, people fear what they don’t understand. How else is the human animal meant to survive? I don’t understand those crackling lights ripping the sky apart, I’m going to hide in my cave. Right on my primitive brother from another mother, you get your prehistoric butt into that cave and preserve the human species! Emotions like fear and hate, come as readily to us as love. Only humans can experience love or hate in precisely equal measure. It’s what we do with those most potent emotions that define an individual, their community, and their society. It’s taken the better part of my adult life to not automatically default to hate when presented with an intolerable situation. At sixteen I hated Tipper Gore and her cadre of censorship cronies. That’s right, I said it, I hated Tipper Gore. (It’s as if I hear millions of liberals cry out, and then suddenly be silenced. See, more “Star Wars”!) I even wrote a terrible, horrible, utterly embarrassing poem forever preserving my righteous hate for her that was published in my high school newspaper (Go Bombers!). How dumb was I then? So painfully naive. I was not worthy to have anyone read my writing, I was not entitled to think I could educate others. It was with time and experience that I learned hate just isn’t an option. Hate doesn’t solve problems, hate creates problems. (And if you ever watch the television show “Burn Notice” you know that guns make you stupid, but duct tape makes you smart.)

Now that I’ve detailed two of our societies’ greatest truths: that we are not to discuss religion or politics despite their importance in many people’s lives, and that we fear what we don’t understand and that fear becomes hate, I’m here to offer a pretty obvious solution.

Fuck ’em. People who somehow send you the signal that you are never to discuss religion and politics can bite me.

That’s right folks, for the first time ever, I’ve dropped the f bomb in writing. (Those who know me personally are probably surprised it took this long!) I don’t mean to offend you, but to instead in the most graphic way possible, express my utter distaste for some of the worst ideas ever. Ever.

We know that people fear what they don’t understand and that fear can easily become hatred. For better or worse, this is coded in our DNA. No matter how loving or how enlightened an individual is, the potential for fear of the unknown other is always an option. So how about this idea, we work to make it so there is less to fear? If fear can potentially become hate, and hate is bad, why not attempt to lessen the amount of fear in the world?

But Rebecca, how on earth are we going to do that? As a start, I highly recommend asking people about their religious and political beliefs. But it makes things awkward, and potentially uncomfortable. You know what I say to that? Get over it. In my experience, if you’re polite, if you’re respectful, and if you’re honest about your lack of understanding, people will genuinely surprise you. You will find that yes, there are things you disagree on, but often you’ll also find that there are things you can agree on. (And before you say that is a cliché’, I’d like to state, for the record, that I have personally found common ground with Conservatives, Republicans, Evangelical Christians, and just about any other group you think I wouldn’t.) You learn about other perspectives, you learn about other points of view. You may not like them, you may not share the same beliefs as them, but you’ll also gain understanding about them. Those things that cause fear, those things that become hate, they become merely a differing view, from another person. Just another person.

Take notice all of you who are profiting from fear, anger, and hate. We’re not buying what you are selling anymore. I’m tired of being force fed outrage on a daily basis, and not for the “good fight”, not for “our children’s future”, but to turn a quarterly profit. We are ready to learn. We are ready to discuss. We are ready to get out there and find out for ourselves what is going on. We’re going to talk about religion and politics, and you guys are going to go find a new job.

NNYPRS Tech Council: Hi! My Name is Brian

It’s no secret that I have the internet organizational equivalent of a bromance with the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society. I wrote quite the love letter to them last year in anticipation of their first expo, so I’m not going to rehash it all now because you can just read it here. (Besides that, it’s mushy and I have a reputation to uphold.)

One of the big hits of the expo was the NNYPRS displaying and discussing the assorted tools and technology they use to investigate paranormal claims. I was lucky enough to have a corner behind their booth to rest at and while there I would watch all the people gathering around to learn about all the widgets they had out on display. I was impressed at how good they were at explaining what each thing did, how it did it, and why it mattered. I know that a lot of folks that read The Magical Buffet belong to their own paranormal investigation groups and/or have serious interests in investigating the paranormal, which is what has brought about the article you’re about to read.

Brian Leighton, the head of the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society’s Tech Council, has agreed to share information about some of the tools (many of which are custom made) that he and his teammates use to investigate the paranormal. And he’s letting Buffet readers help him and the rest of the Tech Council decide what to discuss! Here Brian introduces himself and shares some quick thoughts with you. If there is anything you’d like to learn about, or have a tech question you want answered, just post it in the comments.

Some NNYPRS tech from last year's expo! What is it all? These are the kinds of questions that will be answered!

Well, I guess this is where I introduce myself. My name is Brian and I am the team leader of NNYPRS. I am also the head of our illustrious Tech Council. You may ask, “What is the Tech Council?” The short answer is it’s a bunch of big kids that love to let our inner geeks out to play. The long answer is basically it consists of several of our investigators who discuss theories related to the paranormal, and ways we can build or modify gear to test these theories.

Now the Mistress of the Magic Buffet was crazy kind enough to allow us to contribute to her awesome site. So what are some of our theories? Well, one that we are actively working on is a better way to catch EVP’s. For people that don’t know, an EVP is an Electronic Voice Phenomenon; something that is caught on tape that isn’t heard when the recording was done. This is by far the most common form of evidence we collect while on investigations. Anyone can go out and purchase an inexpensive digital or analog recorder and with very little effort catch what may sound like an EVP. However, the big question is whether it really is an EVP.

There are several ways that we can verify an EVP. They begin with the start of the actual session that we are recording. We take careful steps to eliminate any false positives by not allowing whispering. They end with careful review using software to view what frequency the recording took place in. Was it infrasonic (below the human levels of hearing) or ultrasonic?

Here is a theory for you to ponder. Animals supposedly have the ability to sense the paranormal; their hearing also allows them to hear infrasonic sounds (lower than 20 Hz). Is there a connection? Animals can also hear ultrasonic as well. This is one connection we are trying to validate with our group.

If you would like to learn more about the paranormal, please feel free to check out our website. Also, mark your calendars for October 16, 2010 to visit our annual Paranormal Expo in Plattsburgh, NY where our Tech Council will have our tools on display for all to see. Until next time, SEEK TRUTH!!!

(Hey, Rebecca here. First, the NNYPRS motto is “Seek Truth”. That ending is way better now, right? Also, The Magical Buffet will be at the expo, and by Magical Buffet I mean me and my husband. Regardless, if you’re in the area you should stop in and say “Hi”. Lastly, I can’t help but point out that David Pitkin, first ever guest author on The Magical Buffet and A Magical Buffet of Authors participant, is going to be at the expo. As you’ll see if you attend the September event, Pitkin is great in person. If you can’t make the Magical Buffet of Authors event, you should definitely try to make it to the expo to see him. Heck, even if you see him in September you should see him again in October, he’s just that good. For reals yo. I’m outtie.)

Robyn’s Body Talk: Part One

Readers may remember two years ago I reviewed Madonna’s “Hard Candy” album. In that review I discussed the always evolving role of music producers in an artist’s album and stated, “Madonna wants you to dance, even if it means sacrificing herself on the altar of the producer.” I didn’t think it was a bad thing, and I still don’t. However, I just got done listening to Robyn’s new album “Body Talk Pt. 1” and I have to say, despite working with some big name producers, I feel as if the producers were sacrificed on the altar of Robyn’s pop music vision. Of course, what else would you expect from a pop music star who on her previous album said she’s “gonna’ make your balls bounce like a game of ping pong”?

Now before I launch into all the details of why I love this album, because I do love it, I first have a little beef with Robyn. Her new album “Body Talk Pt. 1” is one of three albums she will be releasing this year. It has only 8 tracks. In doing some poking around on line I see that this is all by design. It looks like the plan is that the three “Body Talk” albums are part of this rolling, evolving plan where she tours with the new songs, while testing out even newer stuff on the road, while leaking some tracks on line, to come together for an album, continually repeating until all three albums are out. It’s genius. This is the out of the box thinking that is going to save pop music. While labels are in a panic wondering how to engage a new technology savvy generation, Robyn is out there with Konichiwa Records doing it. If I think it’s so gosh darn awesome, what is there to complain about? Robyn, meet me in the next paragraph….

Robyn, ROBYN, I love you! You kick so much ass it is not to be believed. So I need to ask, why are you torturing me? TORTURING ME! While you’re out there shooting adrenaline into a tired music paradigm with your live shows and leaked internet tracks, I’m stuck in the United States. Yes, AMERICA. You know, where you’re barely touring, where much of your online stuff is blocked. While Europe is out there partying their way through your year of “Body Talk” I’m stuck in the U.S. with an album with only 8 songs! I can’t imagine it’s personal. You were 100% adorable in your appearance on “The Daily Show” a year or so ago. So why, oh why must you hurt me so?

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at “Body Talk Pt. 1”. I was hoping that the new album would open with a new version of “Curriculum Vitae” but alas, there is no one there to remind us that Robyn “is listed in section 202 of the United Nations Security Act of 1979 as being too hot to wear tight sweaters in international airspace.” The opening song is “Don’t F**king Tell Me What to Do”. It’s a quirky song where Robyn lists off things that are killing her over a techno beat but then tells you “don’t f**king tell me what to do.” It’s an all right track but personally I would love to hear what some remixers could chop it up into. (Robyn did do a neat Twitter contest where you tweeted what was killing you and it may end up in the music video for the song. See? Engaging through new technology.) Next up is “Fembot” which has a catchy 80’s breaking beat and insanely clever lyrics, “My superbrain is a binary. Circuitry and mainframe tin-foil hair, I’m sipping propane topped with a cherry. In fact I’m a very scientifically advanced hot mama, Artificially discreet no drama, Digitally chic titanium mama. I’ve got some news for you, Fembots have feelings too. You split my heart in two. Now what you gonna’ do?” You know at some point a producer was like, you want to do a song about you being some sort of sex robot? And Robyn was like, don’t MAKE me, make your balls bounce like a game of ping pong. Lyrically speaking she, or someone she works with, is way up on their tech talk because you groove while she sings about CPUs, calculators, and space cadets.

After that this mini album really hits its stride with “Dancing on My Own”. This is every thing you want from a pop song: driving beats, broken hearts, anthemic choruses, and the angelic bridge leading you into the banging drum to chorus. Check it out here (please note, I LOVE the song, I’m pretty whatever about the video):

This is followed by another bubble of pop perfection “Cry When You Get Older”. “Hey girl in the strobbing lights, what your mama never told you, love hurts if you do it right, you can cry when you get older.” That pretty much sums up the hybrid of the best pop songs in recent history. Following that are the songs “Dancehall Queen” and “None of Dem”. What I love about these songs are how petite, Swedish, feminine voiced Robyn manages to come across as threatening in these tracks. Some how Robyn creates Swedish pop music that contains a hip hop swagger.

Robyn slows it down for the last two tracks, “Hang With Me” and “Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa” (Which I believe is a traditional Swedish folk song, but I may be wrong about that.). Both songs are lovely. Robyn has such a delicate, light, airy voice that is well suited for the material, but I have to admit after Robyn kicking your ass for 6 songs, it is a little hard to switch gears. If there had been another couple of songs on the album it may have transitioned better.

As I hoped, Robyn came back just as strong as ever. Yes, the album only has 8 tracks, and that does make me sad, but I’d rather have 8 songs than none at all.

By the way, I wasn’t kidding, Robyn was totally likeable in her “Daily Show” appearance.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome Pt. 1
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

The Deborah Blake Bias: A Book Review

Some of you may recall a post I wrote back in 2009 about how The Federal Trade Commission will now require bloggers and celebrities to clearly state when they receive cash or “payment in kind” for endorsing a company’s products or services. So in the spirit of 100% absolute disclosure, let me say this.

I am not “fair” or “balanced” when it comes to Deborah Blake. I guess like most media outlets these days I carry an obvious bias, and that bias is, I love me some Deborah Blake. I’ve done interviews with her, she has commented on many of the articles here on The Buffet, she’s written original pieces for me, she’s generally been a champion of all things “Buffet”, and so believe me when I tell you that when it comes to Deborah Blake, her support is definitively “payment in kind”. Oh, and by the way, I just about jumped out of my skin when I saw that I, humble little TheMagicalBuffet.com, is a featured pull quote at the beginning of Blake’s latest book, “Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook: Wonderfully Witchy Blessings, Charms, and Spells.” That’s right folks, if you go to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of “Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook” and look under “Praise for ‘The Goddess is in the Details'” you will find, “[A]n engaging read with a lot of heart. -TheMagicalBuffet.com.” Which reminds me, I have a pretty good relationship with some of the folks over at Llewellyn and they send me free stuff to review, including “Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook”.

Which leads us to the obvious question, why should you bother to read my review of Deborah Blake’s new book when it’s obvious without reading another sentence I’m going to like it? There are two answers to this question. One, I only publish reviews for stuff I like, so you knew without reading anything that I must have liked the book if I wrote a review for it, and two, I sometimes say some funny shit, and occasionally even insightful stuff, so you should just go ahead and read it.

Like most spiritual practices, you can ask 100 practitioners of magic their thoughts on buying spell books and probably get 200 different answers. Some practitioners love big books of spells to read over and use, some love books of spells for inspiration and innovation in their practice, some think that any spell you cast should be written personally, and many more mix and match on any variation of those themes. I don’t practice any magic myself, so I can’t speak on the topic with authority. What I can tell you is that I love reading spell books! For a person who has never cast a Circle, sparked some sage, or called the Corners, I have a hefty selection of spell books. I find them informative and entertaining. Each author brings a different sensibility to their spell book. Truth be told, I think you can tell a lot about an author by the way they discuss their spell work, and Blake’s “Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook” is no exception.

So what do we learn about Deborah Blake when reading “Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook”? Quite a bit. First, as I learned from her book “The Goddess is in the Details”, Blake is not a part-time Witch. There is no halfway, there is no subterfuge, Deborah Blake is a committed Witch and carries her spirituality with her in every thing she does, including in writing this book. How can I tell this from her book? How can you be sure I’m not just saying this because I know her? How many questions will I ask before finally quoting the author? The answer is three, and here’s the quote, “This is a spellbook for the everyday Witch: the one who lives their Pagan beliefs all day, every day, 24/7.” This mission statement guides the selection of spells the book contains. When you live in the spiritual space that Blake does, you find that you need some of the classics, such as spells to open yourself up to finding love, and some more mundane and little discussed ideas such as a spell for easing PMS.

That last spell example brings us to another we learn from Blake’s spell book, she has a sense of humor. Any author can write about working with an animal familiar, but not every author would have the familiar write their own section on working with familiars. You can tell Blake is a proud pet parent as she explains in the voice of her cat Magic, the dos and don’ts of familiars, including a begrudging wish for happiness “even if it is a dog”. By the way, spells that could be appropriate to do with your familiar are marked with a paw print. If the number of paw prints I see is an indicator, Blake’s cat Magic has a pretty busy schedule.

“Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook” is accessible to all levels of experience. There is a section at the beginning of the book that covers much of the basics when it comes to casting spells: crafting the perfect spell, when it’s appropriate to cast a spell, writing the perfect spell, casting the perfect spell, and more. Great for beginners. However, she doesn’t bog down the book with those discussions, so for those of you who know the basics you can quickly get into the nearly 200 spells contained in the rest of the book. What does this say about Blake? She knows how to write a book for everyone. I suspect that’s why she’s had several books published with more on the way (“Witchcraft on a Shoestring” is out in September!)

In my opinion, you can never own too many spell books, so whether you have a shelf full or are looking for a good start, I can highly recommend “Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook”.

By the way, did you guys know that Deborah Blake will be at the “A Magical Buffet of Authors” event September 11, 2010? Hey folks, I told you I was biased at the start of this!

Rethinking the Remix

I know it’s hard for you to imagine, but sometimes things over here at The Buffet do not go according to plan. For instance, my mythical interview with my all-time RPG heart throb Robin Laws, the man behind all that is good and right with table top roleplaying games (Can you tell I’m a fan?). I had the heart stopping pleasure of doing a 30 minute phone interview with him. He was absolutely everything I hoped he would be; intelligent, quick witted, and inspiring. At this point you’re probably wondering where you can hear/read this interview. Well, you can’t. In theory it is still locked away in the little device that recorded our interview, but alas it seems to defy transcription. For those of you who feel inclined, you can start a letter writing campaign to my husband to see if you can help him get it into a useable format. For me, the Robin Laws thing is pretty heartbreaking. Even after all this time my gut turns at how utterly unprofessional this is. Laws must have come to the logical conclusion that I am just some crazy hack that just wanted to say I talked to him. Not too far off base.

At least that interview took place. (I swear, I’m not lying!) I don’t have the time to go down the list of the dozens of interviews I’ve attempted that have failed from lack of response from the interviewee. They all started out promising. They all said they would do it. And then, they fall off the face of the earth. Or at least I hope they did because if you can’t find the time to answer 10 softball questions via email, your ass had better be out orbiting the Earth. Out of all the failed interviews I’ve had, after Robin Laws there is only one other that I truly regret not happening.

Last year the folks at Disinformation mailed me a handful of DVDs to review for The Buffet. You actually read, or can now go and read, two of them. However there was one movie, “RiP! A Remix Manifesto” that I found very compelling and a complex mine field to try to explain and discuss, so I approached my contact about interviewing the director Brett Gaylor. My contact at Disinformation told me to go ahead and put together the interview and he would get it taken care of. And then nothing happened. Not only did the interview not happen, but I haven’t received any other promotional items since then. It’s okay, I’m sure if I borrowed my friend’s telescope I would find the guy drifting in space, occasionally bumping into satellites or other missing interviewees.

Without the interview I kind of just gave up on talking about the film. Although I sometimes try to present a neutral outlook on things, I tend to like to know how I feel about something I publish. I like this. This is unfair. I dislike that. The simple fact is, when it comes to the issue of remixing, I am of two minds on the issue.

For those of you who don’t know what a remix is (I’m impressed you found your way to “the internets” and were able to navigate through it’s tubes via “the Google” to find my site), Wikipedia has a pretty concise definition for you. “A remix is an alternative version of a song made from an original version. This term is also used for any alterations of media other than song (film, literature etc.).” And there lies my dilemma.

I worked in music retail for years. Many a time I told a youthful shopper scoffing at paying for a CD how musicians only get around $.05 per album sold. This is why they tour, because unless they want to live on ramen they have to get out there and sell some tickets, and more importantly, some t-shirts. The long and short of it is, what is still considered the industry standard for record labels is a pretty raw deal for the musician, unless they get lucky and blow up. That is changing, but that is a whole different post. I love music. I am passionate about it, and grateful to the folks that make it possible. I buy my album, and my t-shirt when possible.

However, on the flip side, copyrighting has always rubbed me the wrong way. I always like to tell the story of poor, talented, and totally hosed Biz Markie of “Just a Friend” fame. The recording industry used Biz Markie as an example of what happens when you use unlicensed music in your songs. Gilbert O’Sullivan claimed that the Biz’s song “Alone Again” featured an unauthorized sample from his hit “Alone Again (Naturally)”. Biz Markie’s album was pulled, and the fall out greatly hindered his career. By greatly hindered, I mean most of you probably don’t know who Biz Markie is. (In an odd bit of fate, shortly after writing this TMZ actually mentioned Biz Markie!) The ruling of Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records, Inc. altered the landscape of hip-hop, finding that all samples must be cleared with the original artist before being used. I understand. I really do. I mean, we all remember that nonsense when Vanilla Ice tried to prove that he didn’t rip off Queen’s “Under Pressure” to make “Ice, Ice Baby”. It was painful. They totally robbed Queen. And yet, I can’t help but feel that those sorts of lawsuits create a climate of fear within artistic communities. Sure, Vanilla Ice verses Queen seems pretty straight forward. But how far does this go? At what point does one song end and another begin.

Let’s take this scene from “Rip!” as an example:

That guy at the end with a computer and a dancing crowd is Girl Talk. Actually, his name is Gregg Gillis, but he performs under the name Girl Talk. Girl Talk is central in “RiP!” and with good reason, Girl Talk’s music is created entirely from other artist’s songs. He is a giant lawsuit waiting to happen. Here’s what Girl Talk does:

The question is, where does Elvis Costello end and Girl Talk begin? Can you tell? (By the way, I love his girlfriend laying in bed trying to sleep. You know she’s all like, Gregg, take your laptop and your friends with the cameras somewhere else now, okay?)

As I said earlier, I love music. As a fun challenge I decided to see how many artists I could recognize that went into constructing Girl Talk’s 14 track, 54 minute, album “Feed the Animals”. (I just want to say that I did not cheat and read liner notes or do internet searches or anything. Anyone that knows me personally will tell you that I do not play around when it comes to music, so as much as it pained me to sort of recognize a song but not know a name to add to the list, I did not falter and cheat. That also means I may have gotten some wrong here, but I feel pretty confident.) Here we go: UGK, Twisted Sister, Sinead O’Connor, The Ting Tings, Butthole Surfers, Michael Sembello, Blackstreet, Kanye West, The Band, Steve Winwood, Ace of Base, Cassidy, Kenny Loggins, Busta Rhymes, The Police, Faith No More, Paula Cole, Jackson 5, Queen, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Grandmaster Flash, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Missy Elliot, Digital Underground, Nu Shooz, Public Enemy, 2 in a Room, what sounds like Boy George singing the Cheap Trick song “I Want You to Want Me”, Jimi Hendrix, that song “New Soul” that was in the MacBook ads, Eminem, LL Cool J, Soul II Soul, Beastie Boys, Pras/ODB/Mya doing “Ghetto Superstar” which is ironic since that song lifts from Dolly Parton and Kenny Roger’s “Islands in the Stream”, Diana Ross, Carpenters, Metallica, Styx, Janet Jackson, Snap, Prince, Ice Cube, Tag Team, The Cardigans, Rick Springfield, Big Country, Afrika Bambaataa, Michael Jackson, Roy Orbison, Salt-n-Pepa, Deee-Lite, Nirvana, The Beach Boys, Rick Astley, Kool Moe Dee, K7, Daft Punk, Lil’ Mama, Tone Loc, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, 2 Live Crew, M.I.A., Cranberries, Quad City DJs, Kelly Clarkson, the bass riff that became the intro to the MTV logo back in the day and it KILLS me not remembering where it came from (Metallica maybe?), Soulja Boy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Foreigner. GASP!

I can easily say I didn’t get even half of what went into making the album. If Girl Talk wanted to create a legal version of the album, he would need to buy the rights to use every song from the 72 artists listed above as well as the probably 100 others. Girl Talk could bankrupt himself just to make one album, let alone the other three albums he’s done. Not to mention if just one copyright holder refuses to grant permission, the entire album would be flushed.

I know, I can hear you now, “But Rebecca, you just said that he used other artist’s work. You actually listed them!” I know! I KNOW! I hate it. I hate feeling all confused and vexed like this. It’s just, yes, he used music from all 72 of the artists I listed, but you can’t even really tell he did. I mean you can, but you can’t. Here, take a look at this video a YouTuber made for the song “In Step”:

As frustrating as it is, I don’t have any apt conclusion to end this article. I am as true blue of a music supporter as you could hope to find, and yet, for my birthday I asked my husband to get me a few Girl Talk CDs. In my defense, Girl Talk is a giant nerd with a laptop that makes totally hot dance music; I am incapable of resisting something that pushes all the right buttons for me.

Do yourself, and me, a favor. Watch “RiP: A Remix Manifesto” and come back here and share your thoughts with me. I need all the help I can get on this one!

The Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Summer is here, and what an odd, mixed up, mess it is. In a few days I’m going to be visiting a shiny new specialist conveniently located 4 hours away. The constant bummer that is my health, paired with the huge amount of stress this appointment is laying on me, is making me distinctly un-fun to be around. However, for you guys I’m mustering up my best Pollyanna because yes, my health sucks, but there is still a whole lot of generally awesome stuff I want to share with you.

First, in August I’m going to see Public Enemy live! Never as a teenager listening to “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” did I imagine there would be a day when I would get to hear, in person, Chuck D say, “Bass, how low can you?” Perhaps there will be some zany antics to write about after the event.

While discussing zany antics, my friends at the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society have got a film crew following them around for a documentary! A trailer just went live on You Tube for it.

As you’re aware, if you read this site regularly, my friend and partner-in-crime for the “A Magical Buffet of Authors” event at the Saratoga Springs, NY Barnes and Noble, Crystal, passed away. It’s been a challenge to wrap my brain around the idea of this event happening without her support and guidance. That said, I am pleased to reassure everyone that Barnes and Noble has confirmed that the event will still be happening!

For those of you unfamiliar with event, go here to see me break it down for you.

If you’re on Facebook, join the event here, and be sure to invite any of your Facebook friends that you think would be interested.

If you’re on My Space, the first online home away from home for The Buffet, join the event here, and again, invite any of your My Space friends that you think would be interested.

Hopefully soon I’ll be touching base with Barnes and Noble to see what the promotional plans are like, and how the event is firming up. Count on me to share it all with you guys as we rapidly approach September 11, 2010.

As Crystal’s death pointed out to me, the friendships forged on the retail sales floor can be pretty potent stuff. Whether it’s loaning a spot on your website to a former retail cohort, or writing an overly sentimental essay on the nature of said relationships, the cat is out of the bag; us current and former retail workers have a sentimental streak and can be prone to nostalgia. Perhaps knowing all of that, you won’t find this a surprising statement, but I certainly can’t believe I’m about to make it.

This summer I am officiating not one, but TWO weddings. Yep, your read that right. Not one, but TWO different couples have decided that I am qualified to oversee the beginning of their new lives as couples. With the lead in, I doubt it will surprise you that I know both couples from different tours of retail duty. So yes, if you are so inclined, you may call me Reverend Rebecca (Let’s give it up to my home state of Illinois for hooking me up!). Of course, what’s funny about this is that I’ve attended very few weddings in my life. Also, I’m not chained to a formal religious text for wedding ceremonies, so writing a ceremony has proven to be a pretty big challenge. It doesn’t help that my husband offers such gems of wisdom as, “You should wear a name tag at the wedding that says, ‘Hi! My Name is Officiant!’” Then I get caught up in whatever silly stuff I can get away with, and then I realize this has offered nothing productive to the process. Funnier still, when my hair stylist found out I was now a Reverend her immediate response was, “You totally have to do my funeral! That would be a riot!” That is I, spiritual shepard to those in service industries. Perhaps I should start my own church? A spiritual movement could certainly help move along my plans for global domination.

Design by Than Saffel

While on the topic of religion, The Pluralism Project at Harvard University is having a photo and video contest! The Pluralism Project’s mission is to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity through research, outreach, and the active dissemination of resources. They invite you to participate in their first-ever Pluralism Project Photo & Video contest! They are looking for high-resolution (300 dpi) digital images and digital videos (max. 3 min.) that convey the vibrancy of religious diversity in the USA.

Photos/videos might feature: religious practices and rituals, religious centers, including festivals and center openings, participation of religious groups in American civic life, interfaith encounter or social action, and women’s leadership and participation.

One photographer and one videographer will be selected as grand prize winners, each receiving a $250 cash prize. The winning photograph and video will be spotlighted on the Pluralism Project homepage, www.pluralism.org.

Additionally, 50 photos and 10 videos will be selected from the submissions to be featured on the homepage. The photo/videographer’s name, as well as the location of the image/video will be included as a caption. The winning photos/videos will be featured over the course of one year, beginning September 1, 2010.

For contest details and how to enter, visit their site here. It would make my day if some Magical Buffet readers contributed, and I’d be extra super happy if any of you guys won! Go forth and photograph!