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the writing & filming of the song ASTRONAUT.


getting ready for three straight days of shows and radio in london and we’re happily camped out in imogen’s apartment like two little squatting city mice.

if you didn’t get the last mailer re: the upcoming madness of added shows and the EAST COAST TOUR!!! go HERE. [also, if you need to go there, that means that you’re not signed up for the mailer (which you should be)…do so HERE]

we did the webcast from imogen heap’s flat night and made (at last count) almost $9000. thank you to everyone who tuned in and bought things, large and small.

will fill you in on what went for what when the numbers come in.

beth made it in at the VERY VERY last minute since her flight was delayed by TWELVE hours from new york. the poor girl is still in the next room, sleeping like a rock since she’s going to be doing merch at union chapel tonight.

bless her soul.

back to DVD blogging…..


Shiny wrote: “… one thing, what region will the DVDs be coded for? im assuming region 1 (for america), however i’m in region 4 (australia) and it won’t work here.

what can i do? i really want to get a copy! :/”

they will work in a lot of newer players and most computers but the DVDs are coded for region 1. sorry about that.

the price of the DVD is a low, low $7 plus shipping to wherever you are.

that is the cost of one martini at your average american bar. just sayin’.

buy it HERE.


in the “technical” dept, pope just emailed this to me:

“How To Direct by Michael Pope”, Lesson #2194837281020

Repeat “Fuck! Yes! FUCK ME!!! Yes! YES!! FUCKING YES!!!” Start slowly and quietly and let the volume and enthusiasm grow beyond quantifiable levels over the course of the scene. Even and especially if you know you need to do it again.

If recording sync sound do the above mentioned silently, with growing body english, then simply scream “FUCK ME! FUCKING YES!! FUCK!!!” once at the top of your lungs after calling cut.

Somehow the rest will all take care of itself.


pretty much he’s right.


so, astronaut.

Acquainted with the Night

by: Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;

And further still at an unearthly height,

O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.


“astronaut” is, i think, my favorite song on the album, mostly because of how beautiful and slammingly perfect ben folds’ production turned out. i love his drum playing, the manic synths, the crashy percussion.

i wrote this song away from home, which is rare for me. i remember what came first: it was what we called the vamp…the poundypoundy section that intros the song and keeps returning. I mut have come up with it during the dolls “no virginia” tour, because i was always banging it out during soundcheck, it had such a satisfying sound. i went to record with …and you will know us by the trail of dead around that time, in austin, and i was banging out the vamp on the grand piano in the studio and conrad said: “is that yours?” and i said yes and he said “finished?” and i said “no” and he said “but it’s goin’ to be good” and i thought “hell yeah, it does sound like he beginning of an awesome song.” then i had to write it and make sure it was awesome.

the chorus hit me one day (but you are, my love, the astronaut) and the pieces started slowly formatting. i wasn’t sure where the astronaut came from. he sounded good. it made sense enough to me to fit him into my non-relationship of the moment. i had a terrible crush on a singer from a band. we had been dating but he vaguely vanished into thin air. he was unfindable, literally…he had no phone. he was handsome and smart and i’d finally let myself fall a little tiny bit in love for the first time in years. i felt gypped. i’d drawn his right arm, the back of it, which had a tattoo on it that I was attached to, one day when we were on a picnic by the river.

so some of the lyrics had come together, but i hadn’t quite finished. i’m bad at finishing. he was coming to see the dolls at a show in portland, oregon, at the crystal ballroom, because his band was in town playing the next night. things had already torn apart quite far, and i was hoping the relationship was salvagable, and there is nothing to motivate the finishing of a song like an audience of one for whom it is intended. so i hauled my practice keyboard into the brewery room of the crystal ballroom (where the huge painted beer vats were, smelled very malty) and forced myself to finish it before the show come hell or high water. and i did. he heard it. i don’t think it did much good.

sometimes you write songs and you know what you mean and sometimes you just don’t and sometimes it’s both.

it was him that gave me the bill bryson book (a short history of nealy everything).

i stole some of the lyrics from there (namely: “random frantic action”, which was one of the most beautiful explanations of how electrons work….).

if you have that book, find the passage. if you don’t have the book, i highly suggest reading it.

the lyrics that fell out of my mouth of this song brought me into a few free associations, ones that came out in the video much more clearly.

one was the challenger blowing up when i was 7. i remember my mother coming into my room and telling me and she was crying and she held me.

another one was a rocket-making summer camp i attended when i was about 9. this was 1985 we’re talking about, back before tacky suede ankle boots were in AGAIN (that didn’t happen until about 2 years ago).

we made our own rockets from scratch, then launched them from a field.

my mum was, of course, on hand to take pictures of The Big Event. after she heard the song on the record (and possibly after she’s seen the video), she sent along these pictures. i’d forgotten. and she wrote a little story.

here’s an excerpt:
…and all those images brought me back to the fall of 1985, when john and i had enrolled her in a ‘rocket making’ class, the first and last of its kind in our town. we were about a 2 hour drive from christa mcauliffe’s town of concord, nh. it was three months before the launch of the challenger, Jan 28, 1986. my memory of that time was that the pressure was really on to get christa mcauliffe, the first teacher in space and the space crew up before reagan’s state of the union address. it was a close call. there were problems. would they be fixed by january. yes, they would. or so they said.

but before that, in the fall of 1985, amanda was attending her saturday making-a-rocket class. she was so happy in the class. and the last saturday of the class we all went to see her and her mates’ rockets’ go off.

hers launched. some didn’t but that didn’t matter. all the kids were happy to just be a part of this wonderful experience to watch their little creations go up a few feet.

three months later i was at work when i heard the news. i left early to be sure i was home way before the kids arrived.

amanda was the first home. she came in the door and i hugged her with all my soul and i wept in her arms. how can you tell a little kid of 11 what had happened that day?

i love the kid in the green sweatshirt holding his rocket like he’s about to stab the instructor. i think that’s mike conti.


this is me with my stopwatch.

and my favorite purple ripped stockings


the launch. i know, it doesn’t look that awesome. but making something with your own hands that goes that high when you’re 9 is quite exciting.


it was just a few months later that the challenger exploded off the coast of florida.

there were lots of terrible jokes circulating the 4th grade classroom that year…mostly made about christa mcauliffe (“what color were christa mcauliffe’s eyes?? blue! one blew left, one blew right!” “where did christa mcauliffe take her vacation?” “all over florida!”).

i had an image in my head, for whatever reason, of an astronaut’s wife, waiting on a beach for her husband’s return, only to watch as his body parts landed on the beach in front of her.

but at least she’d have something – some reminder.

i had almost nothing. i had a single page in my journal with a fantastic sketch of the back of an arm that i drew at a picnic by the river.

i told pope about this story and he went off and got some kids of our friends to play the two rocket-launchers in the video.

the footage in the background is stock footage of the challenger explosion.

the dress is from elizabeth freund, a wonderful woman i’ve known for years in new york. she’s ringo starr’s publicist (she used to be the dolls’, for a heartbeat), among other things, and we always get together and talk life and work and balance. i was at her joint in brooklyn one day and she said “you know…i have this vintage coat i bought in vermont and i NEVER wear it…” it fit like a glove. it also ended up on the record cover.

the video was shot on the stage of lexington high school (the same stage you see in “guitar hero”, and the same stage many of you saw when you came to see “with the needle that sings in her heart”).

desi – who also did hair and make-up- took a bunch of fabulous stills …. one of them also ended up being the cover for the DVD.

this is me and desi, color job by the des-man himself….


stills from astronaut….

the projection:

it’s very possible (this has just occured to me) that this was the same grand piano that played the first song i sang before a huge group of people (when i was 17).




and the video:

is it enough to have some love

small enough to slip inside a book

small enough to cover with your hand

because everyone around you wants to look

it is enough to have some love

small enough to slip inside the cracks

the pieces don’t fit together so good

with all the breaking and all the gluing back

and i am still not getting what i want

i want to touch the back of your right arm

i wish you could remind me who i was

because every day I’m a little further off

but you are, my love, the astronaut

flying in the face of science

i will gladly stay an afterthought

just bring back some nice reminders

and is it getting harder to pretend

that life goes on without you in the wake

and can you see the means without the end

in the random frantic action that we take

and is it getting easy not to care

despite the many rings around your name

it isn’t funny and it isn’t fair

you’ve traveled all this way and it’s the same

but you are, my love, the astronaut

flying in the face of science

i will gladly stay an afterthought

just bring back some nice reminders

and i would tell them anything to see you split the evening

but as you see i do not have an awful lot to tell

everybody’s sick for something that they can find fascinating

everyone but you and even you aren’t feeling well

but you are, my love, the astronaut

flying in the face of science

i will gladly stay an afterthought

just bring back some nice reminders

yes you are, my love, the astronaut

crashing in the name of science

just my luck they sent your upper half

it’s a very nice reminder

it’s a very nice reminder

and you may be acquainted with the night

but i have seen the darkness in the day

and you must know it is a terrifying sight

because you and i are living the same way


more soon.



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