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Evelyn McDonnell Can't Look Away from Cat Power: The Straight Q&A

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Evelyn McDonnell, tattooed feminist, author of Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids, & Rock 'n' Roll, and former Herald pop culture critic speaks Sunday at 12 p.m. at the Miami Book Fair.

New Times: What do you think about today’s music? Coming from the 60s and 70s, where good music was so easily accessible, do you think music fans nowadays have to assert more effort into finding good music?

McDonnell: I came of age in the late 70s where they played Blondie and The Pretenders on the radio, but everything else I got from printed media. Or going to record stores and just talking to people. Like then, it demands a certain commitment from music lovers.

NT: What about mainstream music?

EM: Mainstream is not for music lovers anymore....

I’m not saying there’s not some good mainstream, but radio is about selling commercials, not music. Anyone in radio will tell you, they’re just trying to find certain demographics to sell stuff to. Satellite radio is a great place to find music, though. I believe in the Long tail theory – that what’s been driving culture for so long is mass cultural things. But now, because of digital distribution, more and more esoteric audiences are going to develop. Which is fine, but I also like the Water Cooler Effect of everyone talking about the same music.

NT: Speaking of the Water Cooler Effect and mainstream music, what’s your take on the current state of Britney Spears?

EM: I think it’s just really, really sad. One the one hand, her whole career has been built upon a lack of self esteem. She’s been put out there as a completely objectified singer with this pornographic image. And once the porn or pop appeal is gone and you don’t have a business mind to step back on, like Madonna did, you’re a goner. It also pissed me off that MTV put her out there --they made her -- and then hung her out to dry. They put her on that award show and watched her bomb so they could make fun of her. They set her up with that whole Sarah Silverman thing.

NT: Being a mom, what do you think of her parenting skills?

EM: She was obviously not prepared for children. There’s a lot of bad moms out there, but where’s her record company? God knows they made enough money off her. None of them can keep her in rehab? They pumped all the money they could out her, and now they’re putting their claws into her fake balloons.

NT: How does being a step-mom, to two daughters (19 and 17) differ from being a mom?

EM: They know I’m not some kind of moralistic prude, so if I tell them I don’t like something, they take it more seriously than daughters of other moms might. But, I don’t have as much authority over them as I do with my son. They have to follow the rules of the house, but I’m more of a lame duck.

NT: Do they share your musical tastes?

EM: They’re growing up in a different cultural time, they identify more with thuggish hip hop, which is their way of rebelling.

NT: On your Book Notes entry for your memoir, Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids and Rock’n’Roll you say “Some people fantasize about who will play them in the movie of their life. I think about the soundtrack” which was listed on the blog largehearted boy. But we have to ask the question you avoided -- who would you want to play you?

EM: I finally started watching Weeds, because everyone said I was Mary Louise Parker kind of mom. I’d also like Angelina Jolie, because then the movie would be a box office gold.

(laughs).

I think she’s a great mom. She’s made a lot of same stands as I have but stronger because she refuses to get married. Maybe even Janeane Garafalo, although I’m not nearly as funny as she is and she has really good taste in music.

NT: In your book you mention that you’re a fan of PJ Harvey and her boisterous voice. What do you think of her new album White Chalk, where she experiments with a new sound that’s high, whispery, and accompanied by a piano?

EM: Sounds like Cat Power.

NT: What do you think of Cat Power?

EM: I feel like it’s like watching a train wreck with her. She’s not an image of a strong woman. A friend of mine calls her “Scaredy-Cat.” Plus, I think when she walks off the stage during shows sometimes, its insulting to her audience. Some of her songs are very beautiful and haunting, and good on a play list, but not as an entire album.

--Elyse Wanshel

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