“Oral Fixation” tonight at the MAC

Oral Fixation includes a gay-themed story.

Nicole Stewart spent six years in L.A. working as an actress, but the ups-and-downs of her career made her realize the true-life stories of the real people she met were far more compelling than the scripts she was reading. That’s why she came back to Dallas to start Oral Fixation: An Obsession with True Life Tales — an occasional spoken-word series at the MAC. The second installment of the series, which starts tonight at 7:30 p.m., is called “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” and features a half-dozen or more monologue a la NPR’s This American Life, including a gay-themed story from Dallas Children’s Theater’s resident designer, Randel Wright.

Check it out now if you can — the series is on hiatus until March, when it returns with an installment called “One Night Stands.” (Click here for more information.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Laugh riot

Ellen cracks us up, on stage or page

……………

4 out of 5 stars
SERIOUSLY… I’M KIDDING
by Ellen DeGeneres
(Grand Central Publishing, 2011). $27; 241 pp.

…………….

Sometimes it’s hard not to laugh. When your 4-year-old says something hilariously profound, you bite your lip, knowing that you’d be in trouble if you bust a gut.  If your beloved does something silly but well-meaning, you twist your lips to avoid the outburst you know is coming. When your great-aunt shows up at holiday dinner dressed like that, you know there’d better not be even one “Ha!” to escape your lips.

Yep, sometimes it’s hard not to laugh — but you’ll want to when you read this book. “As it turns out, writing a book is hard,” Ellen DeGeneres says.

This is her third book, each one sharing the ellipses-in-the-title feature. She didn’t think writing it would be difficult because, after all, she has a lot to say every day for at least an hour. There’s a lot of talking on a talk show, you know.

There’s a lot of listening, too, and daydreaming is not allowed. DeGeneres listens to many famous people — one of her favorites is her wife, Portia de Rossi, who is “beautiful and one of the nicest people [she has] ever met.” No, she tells nosy people, they aren’t planning on having a family because “there is far too much glass” in their house. Besides, first you have to give birth.

“I won’t go into specifics,” says DeGeneres, “but ouch and no thank you.”

In case you’re thinking that this book is all fluff, you’ll also find useful advice in its pages. DeGeneres gives readers hints on being a supermodel and how to know what clothes will come back in fashion. She writes about polls and why people shouldn’t put too much faith in them. She offers several ways to gamble in Las Vegas, gives kudos to funny women who’ve paved the way for people like her.

But will you find laughs? Yes … but.

Seriously… I’m Kidding is like having a 241-page monologue in your lap. DeGeneres’ wicked wit beams bright from almost each page. But there are times when she dives below silliness. An entire page devoted to sound effects? Four pages of drawings for your child to color? Jokes like these and a few go-nowhere “short stories” may leave readers scratching their heads.

But if you’re a fan of DeGeneres’ talk show or standup, you’ll find a treasure-trove of classic humor that you won’t want to be without. For you, Seriously… I’m Kidding will be a hard book to miss. And we’re not kidding.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Lady Gaga debuts ‘Born this Way’ video

Lady Gaga released her video finally for the single “Born this Way” and in true Gaga form, it’s a mini-epic of a vid. She starts with a spaced-out monologue that’s laid over imagery recalling Xanadu, a lot of The Jacksons’ “Can You Feel It,” Dante’s Inferno, some Jem and probably many of the trips Charlie Sheen has in his head lately. With skeleton people, singing mannequin heads, kaleidoscopic images and the birth of a big ball of light, Gaga grabs all the attention she can in this seven-minute vid. The dancing is a bit rough and all over the place, but she knows how to keep your eye on the screen.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Scissor Sisters unveil ‘Invisible Light’

Dear Scissor Sisters,

Your new video for “Invisible Light” leaves so many questions. But the one question that leads all the others is, “What the fuck?” A kaleidoscopic mix of stigmata, hair hanging, animal decapitation and this poor lady getting either poop or mud flung at her. Throw in a butt turtle, carcass crucifix and coffin play and I just don’t know what to say.

If you wanted to shock viewers, you probably succeeded. You got some crazy shit in there. But what are you saying? Are you going beyond the edge because your album is more on the side of safe pop? Do we need to be reminded of how alternative you are? I liked the album. A lot actually, but I can’t say it conjured up these kinds of visions. Of course, you did have that cat skinning song.

And why no Ian McKellen? He did the monologue in the song, but makes no appearance here. Just a guy who ultimately shoots lasers out of his eyes. Hey wait, is that you, Jake Shears? We miss you looking like this, although I guess the facial hair doesn’t matter. You know, if that is you behind that disguise.

All I can really say is — I loved it! I want more and more of this gorgeous scrapbook of sick images. Not because they shock or strike a nerve, but because they cohesively play out like some elegant, gothic poem set to a dance beat. But what took so long? This was your first single off the album back in July. Thankfully, it was worth the wait. Otherwise, I don’t get it and I don’t care. It’s delicious and will get on my knees to beg for more.

Yours truly,

Rich

—  Rich Lopez

Sonic bookends: Scissor Sisters and White Widow

Scissors Sisters and Texas-based White Widow span a spectrum of styles

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Night Work • Scissor Sisters
Downtown Music

It’s hard to believe Night Work is only the third album from Scissor Sisters. They made an impression with their ’70s throwback sounds on their eponymous 2004 debut, followed by 2006’s Ta-Dah. Here, they make a stronger impression.

Sisters have worked with producer Stuart Price, and his synth-pop signature is all over the place. He’s given them a crisp overhaul — the band shines under his light.

They keep their retro sound, but Price flushes it out with an ’80s/early ’90s dance vibe that is also simple. None of the songs are overly complex, but like the title opener, there is a vibrant energy.

CUTTING CREW | Scissor Sisters go to the basics of dance music with success in ‘Night Work.’

Lead vocalist Jake Shears works his Barry Gibb falsetto masterfully in “Any Which Way,” but will recall the robotic vocals of Gary Numan and Devo in “Running Out” and “The Harder You Get.” Over the continual dance beats, the band makes a successful attempt at rekindling the new wave genre.

The Killers catch flak for their radio readiness, but when the Sisters mimic their sound in “Fire With Fire” and “Skin Tight,” they achieve a nice freshness. (The sound shouldn’t surprise — Price has worked with The Killers, too.)

The album’s only weak moment is Ana Matronic’s lead on “Skin this Cat.” The song slows the pace a bit and overall is forgettable. Shears glows so much that I want to get back to his energetic singing against an up-tempo beat quick.

Night Work’s lead single, “Invisible Light,” is worthy of “song of the year” lists. The captivating six-minute saga boasts hypnotic verses and an explosion of an inspired chorus. Throw in an Ian McKellen monologue and it achieves greatness.

Night Work makes you wish for the ideal dance floor: A DJ playing only these 12 tracks.

3 out of 5 Stars

Black Heart • White Widow
IODA

Austin-based White Widow’s album Black Heart is relaxed rock that grooves more than jams. The hollowness of it is so sexy it makes you want to take up smoking.

White Widow is Carla Patullo, who plays all the instruments, sings and produces. The out artist plays with confidence and there are pluses here. She asserts her singing with sublime smoothness in her cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Lady From the Mountain.” “In Your Life” is jarring because its acoustic touch differs from the tone and manages not to disappear into the overall fabric of the album.

But Black Heart also suffers by Patullo’s unwillingness to amp it up. Her songs bubble with harder rock flavor but never combust. Even what should sound edgier isn’t. The blues-tinted “Warriors” trails off into sleepy vocal runs missing the point of her own strong lyrics — we are/we are warriors.

White Widow did make a good album to get high to. Its ethereal attitude does call for some major down time. Ultimately though, Black Heart is one-note even with its bewitching quality.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas