Monthly Archives: January 2010

… in which Johnny Marr finally gets to meet me.

29 January 2010

Wednesday night, I went to the Cribs show at Bimbo’s 365.  I’d be lying if I said I was there for any reason other than to see Johnny Marr up close.  Of course he was making it look so easy up there.  I was studying the technique, the posture, the banter.  Taking notes, you know.  After their set, we waited first in the main room, until the staff swept us out.  Then in the foyer, until the staff swept us out.  So we found ourselves waiting out front in the cold, where the tour bus still sat.  I ran into Tom, who was waiting for Johnny too.  I wasn’t too nervous, but in a kind of dream state, finding it hard to believe that after years of poring over Johnny Marr’s every word and note, there was an excellent chance I was about to see him face-to-face.  As the minutes dragged, we got anxious and started making our way towards the alley where I knew the backstage door to be.  After about 45 minutes, the band finally came out.  The rest of the Cribs filtered past us (and into the clutches of the girls), while we intercepted Johnny in the alleyway.  I could hardly believe it was happening.

I freely admit to being totally starstruck and blurting out stupid things.  I’m really not the type, but come on, we’re talking about my #1 guitar hero.  You’ll have to grant me a little teenage girl fantasy here.  Tom got in there first, and I was in line right behind him.  There were several more people who eventually came around after us, and to my horror, they started just butting in and taking Johnny to themselves.  Now, I can understand people getting excited and all, but they were being shameless.  I was seeing self-preservation and every-person-for-themselves vividly and hideously played out in front of me.  I couldn’t believe what disregard people had for each other (and for me!).  I was trying to be cool and not make a scene, especially because Johnny was being so patient with everyone.  I didn’t want to start making nasty “me first” comments to the people around, or throwing richly-deserved elbows.  But at the same time, this was Johnny fuckin’ Marr standing in front of me, and I had no idea how long he was going to stick around before hopping on his bus and disappearing.  As I neared my limit and started to get a bit aggressive, I finally got my turn, and I held on until I felt I’d had my fair share of his time.  We Smiths fans are a selfish bunch I guess.  It reminded me of the disappointment I sometimes feel in the cut-throat fans that fill the pit at Moz shows.  How they can sour what should be such a positive experience.  But no more dwelling on the negative here.  The point is: I did get my turn, and I met Johnny Marr!

When I finally got in there, the conversation — severely paraphrased for continuity’s sake and also remembered incompletely and probably incorrectly — I think went something like this (with Johnny in blue)…

I like your shirt.
Thanks!  [unzipping my jacket to reveal the rest of the T. Rex “Electric Warrior” album cover shirt]
I know what it is.
It’s such an honor to meet you.  I just have to tell you that your music was the inspiration for me taking up the guitar seriously, and it’s become a huge focus in my life.  So thank you!
Well, that’s the best thing to hear really.  I’m glad.
Working out and playing your songs has brought me years of pleasure and headaches.  Trying to figure out all those parts.
As long as you’re having fun with it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finally worked out some difficult part and said “that sneaky fucker, look what he’s doing there!”
[laughs] Well, I tried not to make it too tricky.
[laughs] Well, you failed!  Hey, do you mind if we snap a photo?
No, not at all.  [picture is taken, hands shake]
Also, I hate to trouble you, but could I get pick?  A lucky charm?  If it’s a hassle…
Oh sure, let me see.  [digs around and gets a pick out of his pocket]
Thanks so much!  And again, it’s really a pleasure to meet you!

It may not come across in my faux transcription there, but he was so gracious and approachable.  He made time to talk to everyone who was waiting for him, and happily signed autographs, posed for pictures, and spoke freely even asking people about themselves.  He seemed genuinely interested in all of us.  So laid back, and just could not have been nicer.  It was an absolute honor and pleasure to meet him and chat with him.

I listened in to the conversations he had with others.  Someone asked him about the tab books that are out there, and he said he isn’t too familiar with them, but one of the things he’d like to do when he revamps his website is to take some time to show people how he plays certain things… tabs or videos or something.  “But I don’t want to give away all my secrets.”  I screamed “YES PLEASE!”  😀

Of course, now that it’s over, I’m second-guessing myself a bit.  First off, you may notice I didn’t mention This Charming Band.  When I first walked up, I was with Tom.  Tom went first, and Johnny asked him if we were in a band.  Tom said no of course, and I didn’t want to be like “well actually I’m in a tribute band.”  So I just let it drop.  If he’d asked me point blank, I would have fessed up.  But I wasn’t sure if he’d be flattered or repelled.  I’ve read something to the effect that he doesn’t like tribute bands.  Don’t live in the past and all that.  I gather the other three Smiths are more on the flattered end of the spectrum.  Who really knows how he would have reacted?  I didn’t want to risk tainting the experience.  As it was, we talked for a moment about love of the guitar, and that was enough for me.  I might have liked to ask him about a riff or two.  Or twelve.  But it wasn’t really the venue for that kind of discussion.  Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to really pick his brain.

The other thing I kicked myself for is an autograph!  I’m really not an autograph kinda guy usually, and having an autographed album or picture from him wouldn’t do that much for me.  But damn… I should have brought a guitar for him to autograph!!!  And strum!  And bless!  There isn’t a guitar in my collection that I wouldn’t happily have allowed him to sign, and there aren’t many on the planet I can say that about.  Can you imagine having Johnny himself strum your guitar, and mark it?  Damn.  I really should have done that.  But these small regrets aside, it was an amazing night.  Special thanks to Jamie and Lourdes for waiting with me in the cold and taking pics!

Surreal.  Only real.  There isn’t a person alive that I’d want to meet more than him, and here it’s happened.  If touching the hand of Moz was like touching the pope’s vestments, then meeting Johnny was like sitting down with Yoda.

Playing the guitar means everything.  Know what I mean?

— Johnny Marr

Tin Cans And String

27 January 2010

After days and days of dealing with open source tech support (who are helpful but ultimately not on the hook for anything), I finally figured out a way to get this “subscribe” feature working.  At the end of the day, I had to actually downgrade to an earlier version.  It’s not as fancy as the newest version, but at least it’s working.  I won’t bore you with any more than that.

In theory, if you submit your email address in the field off to the right there, you will get an email whenever I post something new here.  I’ve heard stories about multiple emails getting sent.  Let me know if you’re experiencing any weirdness like that, and I’ll see if I can find a cure.  So yeah, hopefully those two or three of you out there who are interested will be able to keep up with me here without having to remember to check back all the time.  Let’s hope it works.  Fingers crossed!

In other news, I need to come up with a new name for this thing.  “Soapboxing” is tired and lazy.  I’ve been focused on the tactical of just getting it up and running.  Time for some strategy and vision.  Stay tuned…

Lovin’ Lovecraft

24 January 2010

I just wanted to share that H.P. Lovecraft has has been rocking my socks lately.  If you’re not familiar, he was a horror writer in the early 1900’s, probably best known for writing the influential and mythos-spawning The Call Of Cthulhu, as well as inventing — yes, inventing — the Necronomicon.  He had a big impact on Stephen King and his work, but apparently that influence extended well beyond books,  showing itself in everything from Metallica songs to well, virtually everything Guillermo Del Toro has done.  There’s even a little steampunk crossover in there.

I only picked up this short story collection because I had that Seattle trip coming up and needed something to read.  Normally, I latch on to authors that I’ve had good experiences with, but there wasn’t anything jumping out at me from my usuals like King, Palahniuk, and Silva.  I have heard Lovecraft’s name many times over the years and vaguely knew something about Cthulhu, but I never felt compelled to seek him out.  But I am so glad I did!  His short stories are genuinely creepy.  I was so sure that anything written that long ago in that genre would be way too tame for me, but not so!  He really focuses on concepts that  personally find the most shuddersome… ancient or dilapidated places… and vast, unnameable evils.  He is every bit as good as King, and in some ways even better.  I’m only half way through one small collection of his short stories, and I have yet to be disappointed.  I’ll keep reading this and other collections of his until I am.

As a bonus, Lovecraft is known for his antiquarian language, using archaic spelling and terms that were old even in his time.  As a result, and “wordophile” that I am, I’ve kept a list of 100+ words that I’ve needed to look up or that I just like so much that I want to remember them.  Can you believe it?  Over 100 noteworthy words, and I’m not even halfway through the book yet!  Clearly, this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with a great new/old author.

Don’t Let’s Be Silly

20 January 2010

So, I finally saw Avatar last night.  Imagine Dances With Wolves as played out by the offspring of Nightcrawler and Jar Jar.  It’s a cultural event now, you know.  Like The Matrix, it’s one of those things that’s going to be referenced and parodied for years to come.  You kinda have to see it, if for no other reason than to educate yourself in preparation for all the references you’ll see to it in the future.  I hear it won best drama at the Golden Globes.  I admit, it was better than I expected.  But best drama?  Really?

Really?

Couple that with the Democrats poised to lose in Massachusetts*, Kraft poised to buy Cadbury, the ongoing Conan vs. Jay saga, and this week’s torrential rains (I hear Deanna’s building an ark)… the world’s gone crazy.  The end of times may be upon us.

* Obviously, I’m pretty liberal.  But holy shit, Dems.  You’ve had this crushing majority for a year, and what have you done with it?  Goose egg.  What’s the excuse?  Trying to reach across the aisle?  How much reaching did the GOP do over the previous eight years?  What a shame you didn’t take this opportunity to exercise your power to effect real change while you had it.

Lazy Sundae

18 January 2010

Cold Stone to be exact.  It’s no Baskin Robbins, or even Swensen’s.  But it’ll do in a pinch.  And as expected, as soon as I ate it, I wish I hadn’t.

Today we (me, Booty Lou, and the Balls Family) were supposed to be seeing Conan O’Brien live in SF.  This was all planned and in the works well before this latest drama happened with him and late night.  Just when I thought we were going to be in the right place at the right time.  I mean, what are the chances we’d be seeing Conan precisely when the world spotlight is on him (see: David Bianculli)?  Well, slim as it turns out.  Needless to say, he called it off and there was no Conan today.  I don’t blame him.  But I did I hear he got a $30 million check from NBC today.  Good!  Fuck ’em.  Go Conan!

So instead we had dinner in the East Bay, later the aforementioned Cold Stone, and eventually saw Daybreakers which wasn’t bad.  This weekend has also included sushi, Guy Ritchie’s slick Sherlock Holmes with Shel, and an 80’s dance party for charity.  Normally, I’d never do the corny dress up thing, but I’ve been dying for an excuse to peg my jeans, and I so totally did.  And also won a staggering three raffle prizes on only five tickets.  I think Shel must have rigged it.  As the night wore on, the 80’s party dwindled, and the bar turned into the Jersey Shore.  When the fist pumping began, we split.  Anyhoo, the three-day weekend isn’t even over yet!  More big plans for tomorrow…

The music in Sherlock Holmes got me thinking of The Dresden Dolls and what a great experience it was when I first saw them.  That got me to thinking about my favorite (or most life-changing?) concerts of my life so far.  I know I’ve forgotten a lot, but the say top three that come to mind right off the bat are:

  1. Erasure on the Union Street tour (5/11/06).  Quite possibly the best live show I’ve ever seen.  I mentioned this at the time, but I’d always considered them disposable synth-pop.  Suitable for dancing and not much else.  But this show changed my mind about them completely.  To this day, I listen to that CD regularly.  Two pieces of applicable trivia.  First, this show was at the Herbst Theater which is where I was supposed to see Conan.  Second, the next date on Erasure’s very limited tour was at the Showbox in Seattle, where TCB just played on New Year’s.
  2. Morrissey.  It’s hard to pick the best one.  They were all amazing for different reasons.  I might point to the first time I saw him live, with Jessica in Berkeley (9/14/02) where we cried along to “There Is A Light,” or the Stockton show (4/27/07) where I first got close to the man himself, spoke to him and touched him even… both of these shows recounted here.  And then there was the magic of the Hollywood Bowl show (6/8/07), footage of which was eventually used for the “That’s How People Grow Up” video.  Applicable trivia:  As I was in the front row for that show, my massive head — along with Sus’ and Nick’s — can be clearly seen a few times in the video.  Can you see me?  So many Morrissey memories these past few years, it almost doesn’t seem real.  To think how much my life has changed in the last five or so.
  3. The Dresden Dolls on New Year’s Eve at the Sea Of Dreams (12/31/05).  It may have been a combination of all the weird things I saw that night, the burlesque, the holiday, I don’t know.  It was one of the weirder nights of my adult life.  But what I do know is that I was blown away by their show.  Applicable trivia: I went to Sea Of Dreams again the year after, and it wasn’t nearly as good.  I hear this year though, both Olin as well as Maya (and friends) went.  Go figure!

OK, that’s all for now kiddies.  You may be wondering what happened to that “year in review” I planned on, and that I’ve done for several years.  It may still happen, but I’m just not feeling like taking stock lately.  We’ll see.

The Story So Far…

16 January 2010

For continuity’s sake, I figured I should start by linking us to the past.  I’ve never kept a diary or a journal.  Not really.  I guess I never saw the point, or maybe I just wasn’t the type that found any solace in confiding in an inanimate object.  Either I keep it to myself, or I confide in someone else… for their reaction… validation… absolution… whatever.

Somewhere along the line, the emotional exhibitionist in me was lured into sharing whatever was going on in the form of a blog on MySpace.  But as I mentioned before, “DrySpace” traffic has started to dwindle lately, and now that this blog lives on another site completely, I may get virtually no readers at all.  Out of sight, out of mind, and all that.  But oh well.  In truth I guess it was mainly a diary anyway, albeit public.  “Dear Diary, I wore my new party dress tonight, and nobody even noticed!”

Which reminds me, I need to come up with something clever to call this thing.  I’m tempted to use “Dear Diary.”  Or maybe something with those hater Muppet Show critics, since I seem to bitch a lot.  I dunno, something will come to me.  In the meantime, it remains simply “Soapboxing,” in deference to the original name of my old MySpace blog.  And shit, the whole point of this entry (which has gotten away from me) was to provide the link back to that in case you want to retrace history back to 2004.  Because unless and until I find the time to copy/paste all those old MySpace blog entries over here — and I don’t see that happening — that old link will be the only way to see those past few years of musings, and all the wonderful comments you left there.  So, yeah, here it is:

http://blogs.myspace.com/thischarmingben

OK, enough of all this meta-blogging.  Next time, something interesting.  I promise.  I hope.

This is the last song I will ever sing…

15 January 2010

CONVERSION NOTICE: This is one of 250+ blogs that originally appeared on MySpace. I’ve done my best to represent it with as much historical accuracy as possible, but there are limitations. Read about it in the FAQ.

Current Mood: cold disappointed

No, I’ve changed my mind again!

My blog, or more specifically my blog on MySpace, has come to an end.  Don’t worry, I’m not leaving MySpace entirely.  But with less and less people on here these days, and the growing concern I’ve had that all of what I’ve written here is “stuck” here and at the mercy of their admins to delete at will… I feel like it’s finally time to make the leap to my own blog.  So I’m moving to the proverbial “international waters” of my own domain, where I’ve just set up a new blog:

http://blog.smartestmanever.com/

It’s less than 24 hours old, so it’ll be a while before I learn the ropes enough to pretty it up and really make it my own.  I do wonder/worry that moving onto an independent site may make things just enough of a hassle (for what few occasional readers I may have) to forget about me altogether.  But I’m hoping that some of you will still keep track of me there.  And though it may be slightly more of a hassle to comment, I hope you still will.  Because now those comments — as well as whatever I put up — will be administered by me alone.  So I can say what I want, post what I want, and regardless of the future of MySpace, come hell or high water, this new blog will remain.  (Can you hear George Michael’s “Freedom” softly playing in the background as you read this?)

It’s been an awesome five years sharing with you here.  According to MySpace’s counters, this is my 262nd blog.  In that time, I’ve received 865 blog comments from you, and over 26,000 views.  I hope that if you’ve made a point to read any of them over the years, you learned something.  Or were at least amused.  And I hope you follow me to my new home.  All the best, kiddies!

Goodnight, and thank you.

The Dawn Of A New Blog

15 January 2010

Welly welly well… it’s 2010, and here I have finally moved off of MySpace’s blog, where I started all those years ago.  I’m just starting to get my bearings here, but I think I’m gonna like it.  I can already see that there is a lot of flexibility with all the features and add-ons here.  And I gotta figure that with something like WordPress, whose whole business is bloggin’s, I’ll have freedom here that I could never get with MySpace.  I’d be lying though if I said this move wasn’t largely motivated by what appears to be the sudden and sad decline of MySpace.  As Facebook steps up to be the latest leader, it’s time for me to move to a blog platform that is independent of that constant churn.

This blog will live under my Smartest Man Ever domain, and I will have complete control over the content.  I’ll be able to back it up, and even move it if I ever need to.  I had rare run-ins with MySpace where they would delete my blogs (likely because a certain rival band complained about the opinions I expressed about them, but that’s another story).  Anyway, we’ll have none of that here.  This ain’t red China.  This here’s the free press.  And everyone is entitled to my opinion!

I’m looking forward to learning and finding my way around this new blog.  Presumably it will get prettier and slicker as I get used to it.  Hope you all continue to read me, if you ever did.  Onward and upward!

… in which I run off to Hollywood to make it as an actor.

3 January 2010

CONVERSION NOTICE: This is one of 250+ blogs that originally appeared on MySpace. I’ve done my best to represent it with as much historical accuracy as possible, but there are limitations. Read about it in the FAQ.

Current Mood: chipper accomplished

Well it was a lovely Xmas / New Year’s vacation, kiddies.  So much to tell.

You know, that last week of work before Xmas, I went bowling with some coworkers.  First time I’d picked up a bowling ball in 2+ years, and the very first time it left my hand, I scored a strike.  Ended the game with a strike too, and at one point bowled three in a row. Finished with a 168, far and away the best score of my life. (Do bowling skills just naturally grow with age despite zero practice?)  Anyway, maybe I should have taken that as a sign of good things to come…

Home For The Holidays
After being stuck at home for Xmas last year, while the rest of my family was at Disneyland, it was nice to get to spend it with them this time around.  I got to see my sister’s new place and hang out with her rugrats.  Spent a couple days with my mar and par.  Was somewhat dismayed that the best reaction I got from any of the gifts I gave was from my grandma when she opened her 2-liter of Bombay Sapphire.  As always, it was nice to “unplug” from my usual daily stresses and just mellow out in that alternate universe that is my family life.

Hollywood Swingin’
Staring down a whole week off, I started to think that maybe I should, you know, do something.  I decided on a spontaneous trip down to SoCal the day after Xmas, being the first time I’d taken my current car there, not to mention the furthest I’ve driven in a couple of years now.  A good challenge, and an excellent chance to catch up with the friends that I only ever get to see when TCB plays down there, and briefly at that.  I stayed on Sunset at the same place TCB used to.  Fabi and Megan were kind enough to take me around to a couple of excellent honky tonks, as well as an unbelievably delicious meal at P.F. Chang’s of all places (kung pao with five-spice tofu instead of chicken… good gawd!).  Oh, and they taught me the proper way to pronounce the local baseball team’s name: “Los Doyers.”  I met up with Jessica and her man at The Cat & Fiddle (no Moz sightings), and then Amoeba (saw Forest Whitaker there).  Sadly, I missed Colin altogether.  🙁  And there were others too that on short notice I just couldn’t hook up with.  Next time though!

On the way out of town, I hit up Sunset’s Guitar Center and Sam Ash, places that historically have been rushed stops during TCB show trips.  Here I got to take my time and explore.  Saw the array of Gretsches that dwarfs Bay Area guitar stores, as well as a ton of vintage gear… LED Rics, 12-string 335s and Coronados, Vox 2×15 AC30s, and on and on.  Candyland, basically.  Anywho, I was surprised to find the drives there and back were both easier even than I remember.  And I’m so glad to be a comfortable with that again, because I’d like to make little weekend SoCal trips a regular occurrence like they used to be.  Too many friends down there to let so much time go by between visits, you know.

New Year’s Eve In Seattle
I popped out for a quick 24 hours in Seattle to spend New Year’s Eve playing the Showbox (SoDo) in Seattle.  We were staying in a dodgy area near the airport, with strange people milling around outside for no apparent reason… reminded me a bit of the hotel from that first Fresno show a few years back.  But I quickly forgot about all that in dealing with the constant waxing and waning rain all day and night.  Made driving a bit of a hassle, but for once I got tremendous use out of the rental car’s GPS, and I have a new found respect for them.  If I drove my own car in unknown areas more often, I might even pick one up for myself.  Pretty neat.

The show was more fun than I expected, with a highly entertaining bill that included Dead Souls, Love Vigilantes, and Fascination Street.  All the bands’ members seemed to be in good spirits, and we all got along great.  I joined Love Vigilantes as the fake Johnny Marr in a successful rendition of Electronic’s “Getting Away With It” (which I had picked out last minute in my Hollywood hotel room earlier in the week).  Some of us went to eat afterwards and found a former Denny’s.  You ever seen “Coming To America?”  Well this was the McDowell’s of Denny’s.  Nick and Orlie can attest.  It was hilarious.  Instead of “Moons Over My Hammy,” they had “The Rising Sun Sandwich.”  But the menu was identical in terms of content.  The building, the fixtures, everything.  Denny’s, but not.

One note about logistics.  I got it from all sides at the airports this time around.  On my way home, I was almost arrested for wearing a belt buckle that looked like brass knuckles.  They were not in any way functional, but apparently they were enough to earn me a stern talking-to along the lines of “do you know how stupid it was to try to bring this on an airplane?”  I am not a thirty year old man; apparently I am a 15 year old Beavis.  Oh well, just doing their job I guess.  My guitar was swabbed by TSA for bomb residue, and they almost wouldn’t let me bring on my pedalboard until a musician working there vouched for what it was.  And aside from all this, I have never received so many disapproving looks from old folks in the airport, brazenly inspecting the stickers on my pedalboard (none of which are very offensive, save the “I <3 Hunting Accidents” one).  Apparently images of Mozzer and Marc Bolan offend them.  But they looked at me like I was a gutter punk moonstomping through their garden party.  All hilarious to me, because I’m probably a more stand up guy than their own sons and grandsons, but whatevs.  It’s the way of the world.  I’m sure in their day, old folks used to fuss at them when their dresses showed ankle.  Someday, I will be fussing at young’uns for whatever they’re up to.  Hell, I probably already do.

It was an interesting way to ring in the new year.  And a major change from last year.  See last year, I didn’t want to leave the house.  Too anxious.  This year I flew to Seattle in the rain for one day to play a show in front of hundreds of people.  What a difference a year makes, huh?  🙂

I don’t usually take a lot of long vacations.  Most of my days off are used to make three-day weekends for TCB trips and such.  I gotta say that this last week off is one of the few vacations I can remember that feels like it was really well spent.  In a single week I made it to see the family for Xmas, drove all the way to SoCal and back, flew to Seattle and back, visited with countless friends, and learned and played a lot of music.  Even made it out to New Wave City and Leisure this weekend.  Oh, and I saw The Road yesterday, too.  (Super creepy and also amazing.  Check it out.  Do it.  Do it.)  But yeah, I’m feeling like I really made the most of this time off.  If only every week could be so action packed.

flyer-100108

OK, so hopefully I’ll get to my “new year” blog next time.  It’s been so busy, I haven’t even had the time to sit down and reflect yet, much less make plans and resolutions for 2010.  But I’d say it was a pretty good trade.  Nice to be spending my life lately actually living it rather than just busy planning it.

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
— W. C. Fields