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Neko's Laugh


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#1 Andy Whitman

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 12:57 PM

I am back from Michigan. I had a great time. I had an exhausting time. I want to sleep for about five straight days. I heard some wonderful music. I heard some inspiring thoughts. I networked with people famous, not-so-famous, and perhaps infamous. But I dont really want to write about the conference, at least for right now. I want to write about my daughter.

This weekend I spent time with my daughter Katryn, 20 years old, home for spring break, and reluctantly embarked on a road trip with the old man. And that roadtrip certainly highlighted some of our differences. I am academically oriented, theoretical and abstract. Katryn wants to have fun, and has told me in fairly matter-of-fact terms that this Christianity business impinges on her ability to have fun, and that shell take a pass for the time being. On the downside, I think shes missing out on a rich life. On the up side, I think its quite possible that she has more fun than I do, and not in the obvious hedonistic ways, either. Shell see a situation and laugh at it, while I seriously evaluate it and analyze it. That, in essence, is what makes us different.

Katryn loves great music, and she has extraordinarily good taste in music, if Im allowed such a boastful, proud papa claim. Shes less enthralled at the prospect of dissecting music, discussing it from every literary and theological angle imaginable. And the conference we attended was a mixture of both. Katryn is a joy. Katryn is a handful. Shes opinionated, shes articulate, and she has little trouble communicating exactly what her current likes and dislikes are. This weekend some of her dislikes included arrogance, pompousness, intellectual pretension, and abstract thinking that seems to have no relevance to the real world. And that was just me.

Against that backdrop, my favorite conference moment occurred during a session in which Neko Case was being interviewed. Neko Case is a singer/songwriter, and a very good one. She records her alt-country/folk noir albums under her own name, and her rock n roll alter ego contributes greatly to one of my favorite bands, The New Pornographers. How ironic is it that a member of The New Pornographers should appear at a conference about Christianity and music, you might ask. Pretty ironic, Id say.

At any rate, the interviewer asked Neko a very convoluted, academic question, read a fairly extensive quote from William Blake, compared her lyrics to Blakes poetry, and wondered if she had ever made those connections. Neko looked puzzled for a moment, then said, No, not really, but it sounds cool. And then she laughed; a big, hearty laugh that was not demeaning in any way, but that probably took in the absurdity of an aging punk with dyed hair sitting center stage at something called The Festival of Faith and Music. I think that laugh was my favorite part of the conference. My serious, sensitive side was probably a little taken aback by it. The side of me that wants to be a better father told me that Id better get used to it, or something like it, and that if twenty years hadnt done the trick yet, we had some more time to work it out.

Dont get me wrong. I loved the conference, I have great, great respect for the interviewer, and Im sure Ill have more to say about what I learned in the days to come. But my best times this weekend took place in a minivan, during the twelve hours it took Katryn and I to travel from Columbus to Grand Rapids, and from Grand Rapids to Kent, Ohio, where I dropped her off at Kent State to conclude her spring break. We didnt talk about the difference between propaganda and art. We listened to Neko Case, whom we both love, and we cranked up the volume and rocked. It was challenging at times. But mostly it was cool.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 02 April 2007 - 12:59 PM.


#2 Hugues

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 02:54 PM

I enjoyed reading this.

About Neko: lately I've been listening to all my CDs chronologically. Yes, I can do that, I don't have that much (1000 at best). I started last November. It's part of my current radio show project. It also makes me listen to at least each CD I have purchased (some I hadn't yet).

And so far, Neko Case is among those who best stand the test of this game. From Furnace Room Lullaby to The Tigers Have Spoken, including Canadian Amp and Blacklisted and the Austin City Limits DVD, it's all consistent and mindblowing.

And I'll join you for the New Pornographers as well. I like Mass Romantic and find Twin Cinema brilliant (and their best so far) - I was just disappointed by Electric Version.

Final word: Neko rocks - and am sure her laugh rocks too!

Edited by Hugues, 02 April 2007 - 02:59 PM.


#3 run

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Posted 03 April 2007 - 08:30 AM

Check out Neko at Chicagogo



#4 ruthie

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Posted 03 April 2007 - 04:20 PM

QUOTE(Andy Whitman @ Apr 2 2007, 10:57 AM) View Post
Katryn loves great music, and she has extraordinarily good taste in music, if Im allowed such a boastful, proud papa claim. Shes less enthralled at the prospect of dissecting music, discussing it from every literary and theological angle imaginable. And the conference we attended was a mixture of both. Katryn is a joy. Katryn is a handful. Shes opinionated, shes articulate, and she has little trouble communicating exactly what her current likes and dislikes are.


Your thoughts are beautiful; I think it is sad that more people can't have fathers who write about them that way -- that honest and loving way. From this paragraph, Katryn sounds like just about everything my dad would have me be if he could have his druthers...but he can't.

I don't mean to make a dramatic or sentimental post because my father is not un-loving; what I am saying is that your post makes me ache for a moment like that where we can stop someplace together and enjoy a hearty laugh: maybe someone else's and maybe our own, maybe a laugh not too distinct from a cry (as Fredrick Buechner likes to submit). It makes me ache for my dad to find a way to communicate that he's happy with me.

I've seen on the Buechner thread that you've read some of his work, but have you read Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairytale? There is something in your description of a laugh that reminds me of his thoughts on laughter in this book.



#5 Andy Whitman

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Posted 04 April 2007 - 07:32 AM

QUOTE(ruthie @ Apr 3 2007, 05:20 PM) View Post
Your thoughts are beautiful; I think it is sad that more people can't have fathers who write about them that way -- that honest and loving way. From this paragraph, Katryn sounds like just about everything my dad would have me be if he could have his druthers...but he can't.

I don't mean to make a dramatic or sentimental post because my father is not un-loving; what I am saying is that your post makes me ache for a moment like that where we can stop someplace together and enjoy a hearty laugh: maybe someone else's and maybe our own, maybe a laugh not too distinct from a cry (as Fredrick Buechner likes to submit). It makes me ache for my dad to find a way to communicate that he's happy with me.

I've seen on the Buechner thread that you've read some of his work, but have you read Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairytale? There is something in your description of a laugh that reminds me of his thoughts on laughter in this book.

Thanks for your kind thoughts, Ruthie. Yes, I'm a big Buechner fan, and I've read many of his books, but I haven't read the one you mention. I'll certainly look for it.

I hope I'm not coming across as some sort of uber-father. That wouldn't be true. I've screwed up many times. Being a father is challenging for me, just as I'm sure being my kid is challenging for Katryn. I do love her, though, and I'm fairly sure I communicate that to her. She drives me crazy at times. I drive her crazy. But I miss her when she's gone, and I call her, or she calls me, two or three times per week. I'm immensely proud of her, and I really do treasure the times when we can hang out together, as we did this past weekend.

For what it's worth, I hope your dad gets over his reticence, or whatever it is that causes him to not communicate that he's happy with you. I think that's a pretty important thing to communicate, and I hope you get to hear it.

#6 Jason Panella

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Posted 04 April 2007 - 11:08 PM

This is a great thread, Andy. I love your writing so much.

And I'll agree--Neko's laugh won me over. I'd never really gave her music more than a brief listen, but after her laugh--and great concert--I'm a fan.

#7 N.K. Carter

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Posted 06 May 2007 - 11:13 PM

First off, let me say, since I'm finally posting, that I love your writing, Andy, especially on music. Your contributions here and at Paste are always thoughtful, engaging, and beautifully written.

And I don't mean to derail from the original thoughts of this post, because they're wonderful, and I'm glad you found such a sublime moment with your daughter there, but I couldn't think of any other place to ask, and I'm dying of curiosity.

Given that Neko said something to the effect of "Don't give me Christianity-- give me something real" in Spin about a year ago, I'm interested in what Calvin College's thought process in bringing her as a headliner was. Not that I think they shouldn't have-- obviously, it was great for you-- but it surprises me, and that makes me want to know more. Did they talk any about the irony you mentioned, or their thinking in inviting her and hers in accepting?

#8 Andy Whitman

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Posted 07 May 2007 - 05:44 AM

QUOTE(N.K. Carter @ May 7 2007, 12:13 AM) View Post
Given that Neko said something to the effect of "Don't give me Christianity-- give me something real" in Spin about a year ago, I'm interested in what Calvin College's thought process in bringing her as a headliner was. Not that I think they shouldn't have-- obviously, it was great for you-- but it surprises me, and that makes me want to know more. Did they talk any about the irony you mentioned, or their thinking in inviting her and hers in accepting?

Thanks for the kind words.

Someone affiliated with Calvin College may want to give you a more official answer, but my understanding is that Calvin invites both Christians and non-Christians to their Festival of Faith and Writing and Festival of Faith and Music. That was certainly the, umm, case at the music conference, not only with some of the performers, but with some of the speakers/workshop presenters as well.

My guess for the rationale is that it sparks some interesting dialogue, and that non-Christians clearly have something of value to contribute to the arts, and to the discussion about the meaning and importance of the arts. I actually thought it was pretty brave of Neko to show up for such an event, and to sit through what I'm sure was a fairly uncomfortable interview in front of a thousand or so Christians. Her concert Saturday night bordered on the sublime, if not quite the divine, and regardless of her response in Spin, there is plenty of evidence that God has bestowed some real gifts on her, even if she finds nothing real in Him. I hope that occasions like the Festival of Faith and Music are catalysts for further questioning, that some of the stereotypes got shaken up a bit, and that Neko continues to look for something real.