EC #3: How to Start Your First Western Pennsylvania Garden in 5 Horrific Steps

Decide what you want to plant. It’s totally up to you! Wait, no, not that. That’s too hard. You’ll kill it.

Before you begin, throw on this most excellent playlist celebrating the glory of foliage.
    Sowing Seeds – The Jesus & Mary Chain
    Light Brang – Little Wings
    Pale Green Things – The Mountain Goats
    Garden of Serenity – The Ramones
    Flower to Hide – Catherine Wheel
Field Below – Regina Spektor
    Black Foliage (itself) – The Olivia Tremor Control
    Grass Stain -Waxahatchee
    In the Garden – Johnny Cash
Grotesquely Born Anew – Elf Power

1. Decide what you want to plant.
It’s totally up to you! Wait, no, not that. That’s too hard. You’ll kill it. You’ll kill it like you killed that poor helpless cactus. How does one neglect a cactus to death, anyway? It barely needs water. God, you’re a trainwreck. Anyway, how about wildflowers? They’re pretty hearty, mid-range plants. They already survive here.

They’re sure as shit surviving over there in the back corner of your yard already, where the grass is up to your mid-thigh because you don’t understand how to utilize a lawnmower in trying times. Maybe you can just dig those ones up and transplant them. Seriously, though, take care of that grass situation. Anything could be in there. Wasps. Scorpions. Pod people. Those girls who made fun of you in 5th grade for your baggy mom jeans. There are enough snakes in the grass, metaphorically and otherwise. Don’t give them shelter in your own back yard.


Nothing had been quite the same for Margaret since she'd uprooted that awful baby from her garden.

2. Purchase the necessary supplies.
Gardening gloves are about to become an essential element of your life. Remember when you got poison ivy in Louisiana? Teach you to be kicking around all slackjawed in the woods, that will. You didn’t notice until you were on your way out of that nice little cafe and looked down at your increasingly uncomfortable arms. To your horror, they were bubbling with a constellation of hard little white buttons.

On the flight back, you did your best to leave them alone, but you didn’t, did you? Those scars really complement your eyes. Think about that, and don’t stop thinking about it until you’re in the garden supplies aisle of Trademarked Home Improvement Store buying a pair of heavy-duty gloves. Better yet, dress entirely in chain mail. The resulting burns probably won’t even be fatal. Make sure you pick up a sturdy rake, too. None of that flimsy plastic bullshit for you.

3. Clear a space for your garden.
The thing about weeds, you see, is that the little fuckers will never be completely defeated. You can crawl around in the dirt for hours with a veritable Excalibur of a trowel. You can bathe in weedkiller and roll around in your yard (disclaimer: please do not do this). You can finance a cute little Cessna Ag-wagon and cropdust your own property with a healthy dose of Agent Orange. But there will always be that one stubborn little root that will not be displaced. Some may find that inspiring. You, however, will find it so aggravating that sudden death would be a blessing.

The best thing you can do for your own admittedly shaky mental health is to come to terms with the fact that your garden space will not be perfectly empty. Do not expect that from yourself or from the earth. Additionally, please avoid the temptation to write a shitty poem about the ruggedness of plant life as a metaphor for the strength you showed when you only cried a little bit after getting stuck in that traffic jam on the way to your therapy appointment.

4. Plant those seeds!
You’re standing in your yard, hand up to shield your eyes from the scorching midday sun. You’ve got your gun on your hip like Texas Jim and one of those frat-boy beer-siphoning hats filled with pure paint-thinning bathtub gin. It’s the moment of truth. These seeds shall never again see the light of day. Okay, now that you’re done picturing yourself as a badly photoshopped meme (why do you spend so much time doing this? It’s concerning), finish your damn Aquafina and keep your drooling hellhound locked inside to minimize potential damage.

Gently rake the earth to a depth of about 2-3 inches. GENTLY! This is not an Olympic raking competition. Yes, you are sweaty and tired. Keep going. It’s mindless, the sweeping swing and subsequent pullback, and your mind will drift. Let it. Don’t linger on the bad things.

5. Be good to your plants.
The great thing about outdoor gardens is that massive sprinkler system in the sky. Is it the weeping eye of the blood god? Is it aliens pouring chemical waste down upon us? Pretend you don’t know, especially when chatting with overly talkative passerby! It’s more fun that way. But when the temperature inevitably rises so high that the mercury shatters in your thermometer, don’t forget to water your little buddies.

Talk to them while you water them. Tell them fairy tales. Read them your gas bill. Reenact pieces of FROST/NIXON. They’ll hear it, and they’ll grow up healthy. Don’t let your dog sprint around tearing all the seeds out. Check for weeds on a regular basis, and repeat Step 4 if necessary.

And there you go! A lush field of wildflowers! Well, alright, it’s more like a scrubby half-assed patch of land with a few hardy souls peeking their porous little heads up over the dirt. You tried. It’s a lot like life, that way.

EC #2: I’m Writing the New Futurist Manifesto, And It’s Not Going Well


Creator/Destroyer – Angel Olsen
Comfortable Creatures – Otem Rellik
Blue Chicago Moon – Songs: Ohia
Sieve-Fisted Find – Fugazi
The Steel Step, Opus 41 – Sergei Prokofiev
Down Hill Pull – Victoria Spivey
2013 – Sunflower Bean
Blank Maps – Cold Specks
Albert Goes West – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Rabid Bits of Time – Chad VanGaalen

Listen along on Spotify

In his poem Weather Report, David Huddle paints a bleak landscape dotted with fear and contrition. Vultures, dead trees, distant acquaintances and the ever-fickle barometer (spoiler: it’s a metaphor) all make brief appearances. But at the beginning of the last stanza, just before the subtle turn in tone, he places himself into a state so familiar that my skin prickled when I read it for the first time. I’ll give you a few lines, and I hope, with all literary pretensions stripped (really), that it makes you feel something; anything at all.

Next day
it’s the big not, the mega-never.
& where are you breeze-blown death birds now that I need you?
This mean rain’s rotting the starch right out of me.

I watch from a window as the living walk by down below / Walking with quiet dreams

Sometimes, for no reason or perhaps for a big reason, a set of words just latches onto you and holds on for dear life. I read this particular poem over and over and over until it was burned into my memory. But those two dark places, those two bits of poor weather; well, they were everything. The big not. The mega-never.

I’ve washed my hands in foreign lands but I can never seem to get them clean / Every town is full of assholes, even God is stepping on broken beer bottles

I thought about them on the bus as it dipped through a maze of underpasses, dragging me through the city to a variety of destinations. I thought about them in the moments when my computer screen went black from a pointed lack of scrolling for at least 30 seconds and I saw the reflection of my chin folding attractively into my neck several times over. I thought them as I waited behind a woman with a fully stocked cart in the 10-items-or-less line at the grocery store. I thought them every time I broke a promise to myself. Not, never. Not, never. Not, never.

Out of the ruins / Blood grown heavy from his past

I sometimes feel as if I exist there, floating aimlessly in the Mega-Never. In the Mega-Never, time does not progress in a linear fashion. In fact, it does not progress at all. You can’t step in the same river twice in the Big Not. You can’t even step in it once, because there is no river, no motion, no larger pool to drift toward. That would require a unit of measurement, and man, we’re clean out.

Here comes another problem / All wrapped up in its solution.

Inventor Ray Kurzweil knows better than most what value time holds. He’s been making predictions for years; many of them frighteningly accurate. He’s pontificated on the subject of nuclear war, energy efficiency, elastic mortality and technology, but in a 2013 New York Times interview, he tells his audience this: “What we spend our time on is probably the most important decision we make.” Well, shit.


Don’t get me wrong — I spend a fair amount of time on important things, like hanging out with the important people in my life (yes, Anthony, I am talking about you), typing furiously in a vain attempt at exorcising a variety of unpleasant little demons and comparing the benefits of my herd of virtual monsters on my favorite phone game. But I spend quite a bit of time, well, unconscious. I sleep more than your average koala.

There’s an undercurrent somewhere, and I can’t put my foot on land / I dont seem to get nowhere no matter how hard I plan.

But it’s okay, because our buddy Kurzweil thinks we’re going to live forever. “The problem is,” he says, “I can’t get on the phone with you in the future and say, ‘Well, I’ve done it. I have lived forever,’ because it’s never forever.” I can almost picture the smug smirk punctuating the end of this sentence, and the reporter responding with a rictus of a smile and thinking, You KNOW that’s not what I meant, you uppity bastard.

We did it, Reddit!

What if I told you you would live to be one thousand? / Baby, would you like that?

He’s right, though. You will never cross the threshold that separates You, Right Now from Forever. There isn’t one. But the big difference between life and the Mega-Never is this: an infusion of meaning.

Well, I am, I am, I am a goddamn believer.

One of my favorite subreddits to browse in the moments between waking and sleeping is r/whereismyflyingcar. It’s a delightful lens into the futurist dreams of the past, and features visions of the ‘50s that are, of course, extremely comical in hindsight. “Where is my sky colony?” “Where is my nuclear-powered vacuum cleaner?” “Where is my pushbutton panel for my psycho-biological needs?”

The world is full of endless abstractions / And I won’t be responsible for my actions.

We always think technology is going to make things easier. Automation is autonomy, right? Actually, I’m wondering a few more basic things here: Where is my self-sufficiency? Where is my sense of inner peace? Where is my insight into the human condition? For fuck’s sake, it’s 2016. Technology has not, unfortunately, developed a whole lot of emotional intelligence thus far. And believe me, I’ve tried; I recently had a brief and extremely unhelpful conversation with ELIZA, a Rogerian psychotherapy simulator.

You’ve been dead for years, but you never knew. / The rabid bits of time have been eating you.

Clearly, technology hasn't quite reached the capacity for emotional intelligence.

Regardless, I’m going to need to check somewhere else than under my pillow. The sonic landscape I’ve laid for you today has a whole host of weather predicted, and I’m using it as a life raft to drag myself out of the Mega-Never every time I find myself slipping back into it. If nothing else, you’ll have someting nice to listen to while you watch those death-blown breezebirds flapping away. (And, of course, Happy LP9 Day!)

EC #1: Tom Waits Finally Let Me Out of His Basement, and We Shared a Roadkill Pie

From now on, Feedback Soup is going to be a bit different. I’ll be posting blog entries with accompanying playlists, and sometimes loose ends here and there. Read the following if you want to know why.

And, of course, don’t forget to listen along on Spotify.

So far, I’ve failed to maintain this blog.

Are you surprised? I’m not. I expect failure from myself. Perhaps that’s wrong, and perhaps it’s not. More likely, it’s somewhere in the middle, and the fault is pressed squarely between my self-imposed apathy and whatever chemical imbalance is bubbling away uncomfortably up there in my brain.

So supposedly I’m strong / And I cultivate a luscious lawn / But my crops can fail, I can also be wrong.

image[Art by Zdzislaw Beksinski, a Polish surrealist who refused to title his work.]

I could make you a long, long list of things I’ve failed at: Holding jobs. Staying out of trouble. Refraining from sobbing during inappropriate situations. Keeping anger at bay. Maintaining healthy relationships. Frying up that bacon the other day – man, I had no idea such a small room could be filled with roils of smoke so quickly. Good thing I also failed to install smoke alarms. Like I said: I could make a list.

We need the fire to warm up our sad bones / If we greet them with warmth, they may grant us welcome / Though each of us must walk all next to our lonesome.

But I’m not interested in that. I’m not interested in continuing to hold a spyglass up to my various failings, like Sherlock Holmes peering at a string of random numbers in a desperate attempt to find a pattern — or bumbling, well-meaning Watson, peering at a clear-cut pattern and seeing only a string of random numbers. Most days, I suspect I am the latter.

Come visit me / Come visit me / In the back of an ambulance / A saline communion / That I held like a seance on the blacktop

Instead, I’m going to shift the focus here. I’m afraid I was a bit overambitious with Feedback Soup, both in aim and execution. Playlists? Excellent. I make playlists every day. Nothing makes me happier than scouring the recesses of the internet looking for those sweet, sweet fresh tracks. Artist interviews? Hmm, maybe every once in awhile. Weekly concerts? No. No, no, no. I’m not trying to enable my own mild agoraphobia here, but there’s a big difference between navigating baby’s first steps and Evel-Knieveling myself across the Grand Canyon after my first spin across an empty K-Mart parking lot on a borrowed motorcycle.

But I digress.

Did you know? / Did you know? / I ate all the rivers / I ate all the rivers

Instead, I’m going to level this into more of a normal blog-type situation. I’m going to shape my posts around my playlists, and weave in reviews, interviews and concerts wherever I damn well please. I’m no longer focusing exclusively on local music, though I’m hoping to maintain my own mental stability for long enough to crank out some reviews and interviews — Pittsburgh’s scene is truly unique and very, very cool, and I’d love to amplify it where I can. It’s just not a project I’m comfortable taking on at the moment.


And you know what? That’s okay. Knowing limits is okay. I’m learning how to build up, how to move on, instead of standing with my back firmly to the future, my eyes fixed on whatever idiotic mistakes I made last week or last month or last year or last decade. Several years ago, I spent a bit of time attending recovery meetings, and at the time, I scoffed into a closed fist at their little slogans: One day at a time. Easy does it. First things first. This too shall past. Keep on (motherfuckin’) trudging. But you know what? They were right. God help me, they were right. If we don’t force ourselves to cut the fuel source for the various trashcan fires burning along our own lonely highways, we will never move forward.

Wake and rise and face the day and try to stop the day from staring back at me / Busy hours for joyful hearts and later maybe head out to the pharmacy.

If you’re still reading this (hi, Anthony! hi, Mom!), please accept my very long-winded and low-key apologies, and I hope you’ll stay tuned for what I’m cooking up. LaweYou can look forward to my first Real Post sometime this weekend, and it’s about a subject very dear to my heart: Laying Down on the Ground and Going to Sleep, Because Fuck It, There Isn’t Any Other Option (featuring Concrete, Night Buses, Tree Stumps and A Very Large Trash Bag).

I always get out of the trouble I’m in / I want to walk away and start over again.

And last, but certainly not least, my tracklist for this rambling bundle of apologetic introspection will keep to the theme of failure and redemption. It is not, regrettably, of the Shawshank variety, but hey, I got out of bed this morning. What else do you fuckers want?

Everything dies, baby. That’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.

TRACKLIST: Tom Waits Finally Let Me Out of His Basement And We Shared A Roadkill Pie

1. There’s No Invincible Disguise That Lasts All Day – The Microphones
2. Fire Dream – Adrian Orange & Her Band
3. Blacktop – Julien Baker
4. Is Water – Jordaan Mason & the Horse Museum
5. Window to the Past – Chihei Hatakeyama
6. Romans 10:9 – The Mountain Goats
Walk Away – Tom Waits
8. Atlantic City – The Band (Bruce Springsteen cover)

A word from Red Pen Mama: Pittsburgh Guest Blog Event

The following post is courtesy of Dawn Mangine, aka Red Pen Mama, a Pittsburgh writer and mother extraordinaire. It’s part of the Pittsburgh Guest Blogging Event, a yearly endeavor where a whole bunch of us Pittsburgh bloggers trade words for a day. Dawn, queen of the red pen, exhorts you to see local music, and I wholeheartedly agree. 

PghGBE Image

Go See Good Music

I won’t lie to you: it has been some time since I saw live, local music.

Don’t make my mistake.

Live music is still very much something I do, but not with the regularity with which I used to do it. I lived on the South Side for 15 years, so seeing bands was not difficult. I could stop in at Nick’s Fat City, the Horseshoe Inn, or the Lava Lounge if I wanted to catch a band. Heck, for a number of years, I dated a musician, and the only way I saw him on Friday or Saturday night was to go to a show.

I had my favorite venues back then, with Graffiti and Rosebud topping the list. But for every venue that closed in the intervening years, at least two opened. StageAE, Mr. Smalls, and the Rex Theater — which was a movie theater when I lived on the South Side — are all great venues now.

When I started dating my now husband, seeing live music was something we loved to do together. He is a big Affordable Floors and Clarks fan, while I dragged him out to see New Invisible Joy.

Affordable Floors performing “Wedding Ring” at Graffiti

Invisible Joy, “New Orleans”, from Pale Blue Day

I’m sure we’ve seen more bands than we can keep track of. We always like checking out who’s playing the Three Rivers Arts Fest, which is great for new music and because we can let the children join us.

I’ve certainly lost track of local bands, but they are still out there! WDVE does a Friday feature with local music, the DVE Coffee House And of course this blog features videos by local artists as well. I should get up to speed, and start taking my own advice.

2000 Miles – Pay the Rent

In the preface to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke ponders The Great Question: What else is out there?

How many of those potential heavens and hells are now inhabited, and by what manner of creatures, we have no way of guessing; the very nearest is a million times farther away than Mars or Venus, those still remote goals of the next generation. But the barriers of distance are crumbling; one day we shall meet our equals, or our masters, among the stars.

Will we?

It’s difficult for me to extricate Pay the Rent’s sprawling 2000 Miles from the idea of space, the Great Vacuum, peppered here and there with the zap of a synthesizer. As it builds from quiet, almost Loscil-like ambience, the track gains traction until the main melody casts an otherworldly sheen across itself. It’s a cycle, building, rebuilding, building.

Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

The World Is Coming to an End – Alexander Sands

The end of the world is not a squadron of black-eyed Venusians descending upon New York City. It is not a tear in the space-time continuum somewhere in Bullshit, Nevada. It is not a nuclear war.

It is walking out of your childhood home for the last time. It’s a mediocre pie you don’t remember eating baked by a long-deceased relative for Thanksgiving dinner when you were four. It’s the exit you didn’t mean to take, but it’s so late, you’ve been driving for hours, you’re still at least a hundred miles from your destination and in your frustration, you must have misread the sign.

“No one there to ask you for a quarter that you wouldn’t give anyway,” sings Alexander Sands, who also plays keys and sings for local band Coronado, against the soft, lilting rhythms of a piano. It’s as stripped down as it gets – a soft voice and a penny-arcade structure. It’s soothing, sinister, and melancholy, and in this way, it’s just like the end of the world.

Show Shortlist, 2/21 – 2/27

Hello and welcome to Feedback Soup’s very first Show Shortlist! Every Sunday, a handpicked list of the ‘Burgh’s best shows for the upcoming week will be posted. And don’t worry — nothing listed will ever cost over $15, because I care about my wallet and yours. Have a burning desire to add an upcoming show to a future Shortlist? Shoot me an email and I’ll check it out.

Sunday, Feb. 21

It It
Thousandz of Beezz
@ Spirit, 9pm, FREE

Monday, Feb. 22

Morgan Erina
Heather Maloney
@ Pittsburgh Winery, 7pm, $10

Tuesday, Feb. 23

Carol Blaze
Mass Gothic
@ Club Cafe, 8pm, $8

Wednesday, Feb. 24

Kelly McCafferty
Laney Jones & the Spirit
@ Pittsburgh Winery, 8pm, $10

Valerie Kuehne
Cook, Garofalo & Molinaro
Arvid Tomayko
@ Spirit, 9pm, FREE

Thursday, Feb. 25

Burnt Sugar Arkestra
Michael Canton
@ Thunderbird Cafe,  8 pm, $10

Friday, Feb. 26

Shaky Shrines
Pet Clinic
@ Spirit, 9pm, $5

Saturday, Feb. 27

Meeting of Important People
Paul Luc
Molly Alphabet
@ Thunderbird Cafe, 9pm, $10