Category Archives: What I’m Up To

guitar therapy

I try to hang out with my guitar a little bit every day because nothing really takes your mind off shit like noodling around on the strings until your fingertips are numb.  I put a lot of work into writing my own material, but no matter how much time and energy I expend on creating my own stuff, the songs I always end up coming back to and playing over and over again were written by other people.  I’m hardly a musician, but I guess I do have a little bit of a knack for deconstructing punk rock songs down to their bare bones — that’s what I do in Cunt Sparrer, and it’s what I’ve been doing lately when I get frustrated with my inability to come up with my own tunes.

So, for lack of anything else to post about, here are a couple of my super-rudimentary punk rock covers, which I record periodically and upload to my Youtube account, saraplayspunksongs:

“All This & More” (with apologies to the Dead Boys):

“Adult Books” (with apologies to X):

“Don’t Mess With Cupid” (with apologies to the New York Dolls):

As you can probably tell, I can only play a handful of chords, but I make do with what I got.  And what I got (as one of my original songs says) has got me to the gettin’ place.

My buddy Kevin Seconds liked my New York Dolls cover enough to ask if I want to record it and include it on a new comp he’s putting out for his upcoming Arms Aloft Musical Roadshow tour, so that’s pretty cool.  (Actually, it’s really cool…like, a-little-bit-beside-myself cool.  I’ve known Kevin for a couple of years now and he’s watched me make a complete drunken fool of myself in more than one southwestern state, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over being able to collaborate with someone who has been a huge icon to me for, like, my entire punk rock career.)

A comment I hear pretty often from girls, both here on this blog and out at my shows, is that they’d like to be playing music but they think it’s “too late” to learn or that they don’t have the innate ability they think is necessary to get the hang of an instrument.  I really get this.  I used to feel like this too.  I didn’t start teaching myself to play guitar until I was 20, and I was almost 25 by the time that Cunt Sparrer started performing.  I still don’t feel like I have much more musical skill than I did back on the day I took my old Daisy Rock acoustic out of the packaging, but the point is that over the years I’ve managed, somehow, to fake it.  Listen — I really don’t have any illusions about my talent or lack thereof, but I used to not know how to strum a lick, and now I can get a guitar to do pretty much what I want it to do.  And it feels good!

It’ll probably be several more years (if ever) before I stop correcting people when they refer to me as a musician, but I’m at least starting to get used to the idea that talent is what you make of it.  There are detractors — there will always be detractors! — but having the confidence to put your shit out there is seriously way more than half the battle, and you never know, it could end up dumping some cool opportunities in your lap.

I think it would be cool to hear from female musicians (and aspiring female musicians!) in the comments.  What are you guys doing and playing and creating and covering and recording?  What projects do you have in mind for the future?  Show and tell!

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odds and ends

I haven’t gotten many outfit photos lately (shocking, I know) so I did some quick drawings of a couple of things I’ve worn in the past few days:

What I wore for a girls’ night last weekend with some of my friends — Blood Is The Neck Black tank top, a buffalo-check wool peacoat from Gap that I’ve had for a couple of years, skintight leatherette pants and black suede platform heels.  I looked a little fancier in person than in the drawing above…but not much, honestly.


On Sunday I went with some friends for a picnic at the gravesite of our friend Lisa, who passed a year ago. She was a fabulous, flamboyant dresser with a penchant for dramatic skirts and outrageous hats, so I figured it was only appropriate to try to dress in Lisa fashion, in a sheer skull-print blouse, floor-length jersey skirt, floppy wool hat from Forever 21, and big sunglasses.

    

I’ve been kinda under the weather the past few days so I’ve just been laying low, messing around with my lap steel guitar and totally devouring 1Q84 on my Kindle.  I’ve got a friend coming into town for the weekend tonight and another coming out next week so I’m enjoying my last few hours of downtime before what’s sure to be a hectic but fun few days ahead.

hello 2012

My new year got off to a pretty auspicious start, seeing X perform at Slim’s in San Francisco along with my friends Sean & Zander and the Black Tibetans!

I’ve gotta say, it’s kind of hard not to feel optimistic about 2012 when you’re watching one of your all-time favorite bands perform “Auld Lang Syne” with balloons flying everywhere and the floor all sticky with cheap champagne.  After the show I somehow worked up the drunken nerve to approach Exene and tell her how amazing she is.  She was nice about it and squeezed my hand and said “thank you” and “happy new year” before wandering off in her adorable purple cowboy boots and rhinestone tiara.

So — it’s a new year!  A fresh start!  A clean slate and all that.  My friend Jennie says New Year’s is her favorite holiday because, as she says, “the only things you have to do are party and set some goals.”  In the past I’ve been inclined to think of the whole new year’s resolutions thing as kind of trite, but this year, whether it’s because 2011 was pretty transitional for me or just because I’m getting older, I’m on board and ready to move forward and create some positive change in my life.  So, as self-serving as this type of post may be, here are my goals for 2012:

 

I’m going to utilize my strange little menagerie of musical instruments (currently in my stable: two guitars, my beloved Magnus Diamond chord organ, an accordion, a glockenspiel, a couple of analog synthesizers, a harmonica and a shiny new white mother-of-pearl lap steel guitar) to their utmost this year.  I’m going to get better at playing all of them, I’m going to expand my ability to play other instruments, and I’m going to try to write a song a week, no matter how much it sucks (both the songwriting process and the resultant song itself).

I’m going to write more.  I’m going to fucking finish the goddamn novel I’ve been working on since I was 21.  I’m going to explore direct publishing on Amazon as a way to try and sell some of the shorter fiction I’ve written over the years via the Kindle store.  I’m going to put out some small zines (Jennie and I will actually be at L.A. Zine Fest in February, promoting and selling our first issue of Library Sciences!).  And — most relevant to you, my readers — I’m hereby pledging to update Cartoon Heart at least once a week.  Feel free to get on my ass about this if I slack off.

I’m going to be good to my family, my friends, and myself.  Every year it becomes clearer to me that there are very few close relationships that are sustainable in one’s life — the ones that you have are worth protecting til death.  I’m fortunate to have an incredible group of people surrounding me and this year I resolve to be as proactive as possible about letting the people who are important to me know that they’re important to me.

I have other goals that are smaller or more private or more complicated just silly, but those are the big three for me this year.

What are your resolutions for 2012?  Think about it — tomorrow I’ve got a special giveaway that’s going to depend on hearing some good ones!

Happy 2012!

on the road again

I’m going to be gone for a couple of days playing a handful of shows with my band Cunt Sparrer and the incomparable Kevin Seconds of 7 Seconds.  I’ll be back on Wednesday.  If you’re in any of the following locations you should come out!

Tonight (Sunday 11/13) at the Bunkhouse in Las Vegas:

Tomorrow night (Monday 11/14) at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, AZ:

Tuesday night (Tuesday 11/15) at the Slidebar in Fullerton, CA:

The shows are going to be a rowdy good time and Jennie and I have matching stage outfits that we love to wear, so come out if you can!  I’ll be back to posting when I get home on Wednesday.

working hard or hardly working?

I’m stoked to be pretty much moved into my new workspace!  Today was another day of organizing and hanging and running around, so I was going pretty laid back.  It’s also finally starting to get chilly out, which is nice because coats and boots are my favorite.

H&M Divided coat and beret, Forever 21 top, Cheap Monday jeans, Frye boots, GoJane glasses.

I bought this shirt a while ago under the impression that it was long and loose-fitting (that’s how it looked on the model), so imagine my surprise when this boxy crop top arrived.  I’ve grown to like its weird shape with my higher-waisted stuff.

Also this yellow coat is my favorite.  I was on the hunt for a mustard-colored heavier coat for the colder seasons and when I found this one in the Divided section at H&M I lost my breath for a second (seriously) because it is exactly what I imagined, and cost half what I’d paid for the Missoni for Target coat that did not fit the bill at all and was subsequently returned.

The beret is also from H&M and I’ve been wearing it a lot lately; I fear I’m becoming a hat person.  I’m aware it looks a little ridiculous but that’s kind of what I like about it.  I feel a little like Judy Funnie when I wear it.

And here’s the beginnings of my little workspace in the new studio I’m be sharing with my dang ol’ friend Jennie:

Getting everything organized and having a place to work is already making me feel so much more productive.  I got a couple of new Hippie Speedball designs done in the past couple of days that I want to share with you guys soon, and some other things in the works as well.  Having a place to do it all, and sharing it with one of my favorite people in the entire world, is going to be pretty rad.

office space

For the past four months, I’ve been operating Hippie Speedball out of my kitchen, and it’s starting to get a little out of hand.  So I’m really excited to be moving into a studio space with my friend Jennie this weekend — it’s small, but having a place to spread out my work and get everything feeling a little more professional is going to be hugely motivating.

In reality, I know the space will be pretty bare bones for awhile, nothing glamorous (I’m broke, after all).  But here are a few things I wish I could have right away — some more attainable than others:

1.) Half my work is printed out on millions of pieces of paper that are currently stacked in random piles on the kitchen table, so a standing file with some drawers like this one from CB2 is going to be a must when I move.

2.) I’ve always had this fantasy of owning a Louis ghost chair, and Lexington Modern has a cute knockoff for under $100.  I don’t know how comfortable this would actually be, but it is adorable.

3.) I talk on the phone while I’m working on the computer a lot, and trying to cradle my smartphone between my cheek and shoulder while I type is unreliable and leaves blush smudges all over my touchscreen.  I really want one of these old-school handsets that connects to your cell phone via USB — I would have receptionist flashbacks in a good way.

4.) I spend a ton of time emailing files to myself right now so I can print them on separate computers because can you believe I don’t own a flash drive?  I want this one because it’s Hello Kitty and it can hang on my keyring where I know I won’t lose it.

5.) I’m obsessed with fonts and hand-drawn lettering.  I would love to have Hand Job: A Catalog of Type on my desk for reference and inspiration.

6.) I just really like this fist pencil cup from Urban Outfitters.  All my black Pilot Varsity pens (obsessed) would look great in there.

7.) In my new space I’m going to have easier access to my apparel in the screening stages and I’d like to have an instant camera so I can photograph and share what I’m working on with people without having to use the computer.  The Fujifilm Instax is exactly what I want.

8.) This is an oversized eraser that looks like a balloon poodle.  Sort of Jeff Koons-y, no?

9.) I’d like to be able to do my invoices and things on an old typewriter — maybe that’s a little precious, but I’ve always loved them and it would be nice to have a reprieve from the computer screen for a while every day.  Etsy is crowded with them; I like this simple midcentury Sears model.

10.) I’m selling this drawing of mine as a super cheap print and I want to frame and hang one over my desk so when I’m feeling like I can’t do anything I can look at it and remember at least I can draw naked ladies and little cat faces.

11.) This Ikea desk with built-in shelves is perfect.  I need it!

 

on fashion blogging

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while and the words just haven’t been coming.  But in light of several emails and tweets I’ve gotten from my readers recently (thank you so much, and I apologize for not responding to each one personally!) I figure it’s time to try to hammer it out.

As regular readers can’t have failed to notice, I’ve been MIA from Cartoon Heart for about a month.  It’s not because I got a job or otherwise fell off the face of the blogosphere — honestly, it’s more related to the blogosphere itself.

When I started WAITIN ROUND 2 BE A MILLIONAIRE in 2007, fashion blogging was hardly new, but it was far less developed than it is today.  Over the past five years it’s evolved from a quaint real-world concept into an unstoppable industry juggernaut.  While this is excellent news for the thousands of people out there who’ve managed to make names for themselves and transition from Internet hobbyists to career bloggers, it’s been giving me an increasing amount of blogging ennui.  The commercialization of fashion blogging is awesome in a lot of ways, but in my opinion it’s also dulling the point of why people started doing this in the first place.

There’s a TJ Maxx commercial airing right now featuring a blogger named Lindsey Calla, who runs a site called Saucy Glossie.  Before these commercials started running I’d never heard of Lindsey or her blog (and based on this discussion it appears I’m not the only one), but of course I was impressed by — and not a little jealous of! — the recognition she’d received.  However, something about the commercial rubbed me the wrong way.

What made me give this commercial — and by proxy, the entire blogging industry — the side-eye is Lindsey’s proclamation that she likes to think of herself as “the voice of real girls.”

This alone doesn’t bug me.  As a fashion blogger I’ve been using the exact same “voice of real girls” line myself since I was 22 years old (hell, I’m even quoted in Genlux magazine as saying that fashion bloggers represent “real” people).  The thing is, I think the majority of fashion bloggers start out intending to be some kind of voice for “real girls,” so much so that the sentiment is a bit of an eye-roll-inducing blogger cliche at this point.  But at what point do these “real girl” bloggers stop representing “real girls” and just start representing…bloggers?

In the TJ Maxx commercial, Lindsey follows up her line about being the voice of real girls with this oxymoronic statement: “Because I post new looks almost every day, I have to shop almost as often.”  And right there is where she loses me as far as being “the voice of real girls.”  What real girl can afford to shop almost every day?  Even if you are shopping exclusively at discount retailers, that shit adds up quick. Real girls don’t shop every day.  Real girls can’t shop every day.  Real girls aren’t heading to TJ Maxx and making it rain in the shoe department on their advertiser-assisted salary.  Therefore, I resent that this Lindsey Calla person (or, really, whichever TJ Maxx drone wrote the commercial’s script) thinks that she represents me.

But it’s not Lindsey’s fault or TJ Maxx’s fault or even the fault of the new agency dedicated exclusively to representing bloggers (one of whom, interestingly enough, is Lindsey Calla herself).  It’s simply that over the past couple of years the fashion blogosphere has evolved — or maybe the word is devolved — into a creepy, insular, self-obsessed, self-aggrandizing, self-congratulatory world.  Where fashion bloggers were once on the fringes of the industry, looking in and offering their unique outsiders’ perspectives, people like Rumi and Tavi and the like are now the insiders, the tastemakers.  Fashion bloggers have their own defined look — there’s a polish involved now that replaced the rough-around-the-edges quality I used to like about blogging.  The idea that established fashion bloggers represent real people is at this point fucking laughable.

Sure, I’ve always felt isolated from wealthy, upper-echelon bloggers like Jane from Sea Of Shoes, because I couldn’t possibly imagine having their capital or closets.  But now I feel equally isolated from the bloggers who claim that they represent real women with real budgets.  And I believe that the reason is because where fashion blogging in its infancy had no rules, it’s now an Industry in and of itself, and in order to be successful you have to hit a certain amount of checkpoints.  Everything is starting to feel eerily similar.

Having been blogging for years, and having remained essentially at about the same level of “success” (read: pretty much none, but with a small passel of much-appreciated and much-loved loyal readers) for most of it, this whole commodification has been starting to stunt my ability to write for Cartoon Heart.  When I made the moved from WR2BAM to this site it was with the intention of writing about more than just fashion, but it’s been difficult to shake my perception of my site as a fashion blog.  And as far as generating content, fashion is easy to write about — at least, it should be, right?

But lately I’ve been feeling like the title “Fashion Blogger” doesn’t represent me.  I feel like I need to fit into a certain niche in order to be taken seriously, to gain more readers, to keep people coming back to my site.  And that in turn makes me feel bad about myself as a blogger, because I never started blogging with the intention of making money at it (and the fact that I’m still here five years later, still with no ads and still with no TJ Maxx commercial, is proof of that!).  What has always appealed to me about fashion blogging is that there was a sense of the organic.  Now it feels manufactured, and I feel like I’ve been trying to fit into this manufactured role of Fashion Blogger and that has stunted my ability to write.

I really did start blogging with the intention of being “a voice for real girls.”  (Insert eye-roll here.)  And I think what has kept me going for as long as I have — and what’s brought me back here after my monthlong hiatus — is that maybe I really can represent what some people are looking for in a fashion blog.  Not all people, and not Digital Brand Architects or the Times, but certain people.  People who are discouraged by the continued commercialization of what used to be outsider territory and “real girls” who can’t, as it turns out, afford to shop almost every day.

I still want to write about what I’m wearing and what trends interest me and what I want to spend my (small amount of) money on as far as clothes are concerned.  But I think I need to stop considering myself a fashion blogger, and stop considering Cartoon Heart a fashion blog.  I’m just not sure what direction to go in, and I really appreciate the continued feedback and input of my readers.  I apologize for disappearing for so long and I’m going to try my hardest to get back into this swinging hard with both fists.