Monthly Archives: February 2010

It’s Only Tuesday

23 February 2010

For days, I feel like I’ve been in a non-stop slew of work, meetings, errands, and appointments.  Paying bills, working on taxes, learning songs.  There have been short, lucid moments where I think I have a handle on my massive “to do” list, but they’re fleeting.  It’s been a busy week.  And as Jared pointed out to me, it’s still only Tuesday.

But there is a silver lining.  I’ve got Friday off to relax and prepare for the TCB show in Santa Rosa!  This new club “Chrome Lotus” just opened up, and we’re gonna give it a go with Luv’n Rockets.  I realize this is the North Bay, and it’s a bit remote.  But if you’re anywhere north of the Golden Gate and south of the Oregon border, what else you gonna do Friday night?  Hope to see ya!

The times, they are a-changin’ folks.  In all areas of my life, things are shifting it seems.  I guess that’s always the case, but there just seem to be a lot of balls in the air at the moment.  New risks and opportunities abound.  New paths to follow at work.  New connections to make.  Some interesting travel possibilities coming up for the band.  For those, my instinct is to stress and be hesitant and skeptical.  But those trips — almost without exception — turn out to be fun.  In hindsight, some of my favorite memories over the last few years are trips I didn’t expect much of to begin with.  Portland/Seattle.  Reno.  Good times with some of my best friends.  They’re adventures.  Those trips, at first I don’t like them, but I often end up loving them.  But then, no is always easier than yes.

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.

— Samuel Johnson

We’re like crystal — we break easy.

15 February 2010

I tell ya, aches and pains just come too easily these days.  My friends tell me “welcome to your 30’s.”  It’s really astounding how little physical exertion can cause me to be sore all over for a day or two.  It’s pretty much a given the day after playing a show, for instance.   Even walking around in a hilly neighborhood.  It used to be that I thought well if I’m sore then at least I’m building some muscle.  But something tells me that’s not what’s going on here.  At least not anymore.

It was a fun weekend!  We spent an afternoon at a John Hughes movie marathon at the Castro Theater.  It was actually really interesting to watch Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club in a theater and listen to the collective cheers and sighs.  Clearly, there was a lot of love in that room.  I think it was also settled once and for all that I’m so much more Jake Ryan than Farmer Ted.  At some point, we found our way into a sex shop where I finally picked up the bear flag sticker I’ve been looking for for years.  Then later in the evening we caught Balls’ Dead Souls show in Menlo Park.  Yes, Menlo Park.  Also made it out to the Tonga Room for the first time ever, and it was incredible!  Reminded me of Don The Beachcomber’s in San Jose, which my dad took me to once when I was little.  (That particular location eventually became a gay bar, then burned down, then was paved over for a freeway on-ramp.)  Anyhoo, the Tonga Room and the Fairmont in general were pretty spectacular.  And of all people, we saw Joe Montana dining and dancing.  Go figure!

If you’re around this week, Seattle’s Love Vigilantes will be at Popscene on Thursday night (2/18).  Aside from the fact that they currently include TCB‘s Nick and Paul in their ranks, there’s a good chance I’ll be making a brief guest appearance as fake Johnny Marr for a song or two!

One of the first shows I ever went to as an adult was when I went and saw The Knack at Slim’s.  They had the number one hit of the year I was born, you know… not to mention one of the biggest hooks of all time.  I remember laughing my ass off when someone tried to hand the lead singer (Doug Fieger) a joint, and he flipped out, threw it back, and went into a tirade about how drugs were for losers.  Not exactly your typical rock star behavior, but I loved it.  R.I.P. Doug!

Speaking of hooks, I’ve had this guitar riff in my head for days.  I wish I wrote it, but I’m almost positive it’s from a song… and for the life of me, I can’t remember which song.  It’s killing me!  For this sort of thing, it’ll usually come to me in a day or two (along with a huge sense of relief), but no luck so far.  I’ve been listening to The Black Angels, Rage Against The Machine, The White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, anyone who might be responsible for this crushing riff in my head.  In trying to figure out where it came from, as I said, I’ve found myself listening to The Black Angels again.  They sound like The Doors and Joy Division got together to cover Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks.”  And that’s a recipe for success.

An Incontrovertible Denouement

10 February 2010

Well it was a very successful weekend from a TCB perspective.  We sold out The Blank Club, and in general had an awesome show.  We played a lot of newer songs (for us anyway), and Shel finally got to hear “Asleep.”  Also in attendance were several friends I don’t see that often, so there was a good vibe in the room.  I was stressing out leading up to this particular show, but it ended up being nothing and the whole thing went off without a hitch.  And when all the dust had finally settled, I felt like a million bucks.  Sing Blue Silver had a triumphant re-debut which included our own Nick.  Most surprising was their singer, who is an uncanny sound-alike to Simon Le Bon.  Well done!

My weekend continued with more live shows, including unexpectedly seeing a 10-piece soul band out of Santa Cruz called “The Inciters.”  I imagine Colin would have dug it.  The crowd there were the expected Northern-Soul-by-numbers types.  Funny how that homogeneity really stands out when you look in at other scenes, but it’s harder to spot among “your own.”  I suppose an outsider looking in on some rockabilly show would just see me as part of a sea of identical pomps and cuffed jeans.  And for the most part, they’d be right.

I even got out on a Monday to see The Dirt Daubers, a bluegrass side project from Col. J.D. Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers.  I knew about the project and picked up the CD months ago, but I was blown away to see they were coming through town.  They put on a very entertaining show, albeit pretty tame by Shack Shakers’ standards.  Even they were surprised to see the big crowd on a Monday (and they said as much, indicating they were very happy to be in S.F. which was nice).  Only problem was that much of the crowd were young hipsters, dancing inappropriately to the music with a verve that was clearly contrived.  You could almost see them thinking “look how ironic I’m being!  I’m at a bluegrass show!”  I ran into Orlie there, and he pointed out that the lead singer from the Dead Kennedys was standing behind us.  We met him briefly, which was cool… though I must confess that it didn’t mean much to me as I’m not what you might call a punk aficionado.  I stuck around for a few songs from the headliner (Scott H. Biram), but I wasn’t feelin’ it so much, so I skedaddled.

Before I sign off, what is this fuss about Lost lately?  It seems like so many people these days have shows they just have to watch every week.  Somehow I never got on that train.  The idea of a Tivo is just baffling to me.  Really there aren’t any shows I watch regularly save for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and those aren’t the kind of shows that you have to see every episode of.  I will admit to one guilty pleasure though.  While I don’t watch it religiously, I’ll usually stop for Burn Notice when it’s on.  Aside from it being deliciously clever and chock-full of spy trivia, it also stars Bruce Campbell himself.  Me gusta!

I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night.

— Greek proverb

You have no power over me.

8 February 2010

I was giving some thought the other day to why there were so many fantasy movies in the 80’s.  And seriously, there were a ton, do you remember?  It seemed like that’s most of what I watched in those days.  Just a steady stream of Jim Henson puppets and hand-drawn post-production lighting effects.  I guess we still have fantasy movies today.  The Harry Potters and the Lords Of Rings and all that.  Somehow though it doesn’t feel the same.  Today it’s darker, or maybe just more sterile.  They’re big and flashy, but they don’t capture that wonder the way they used to.  Too much CGI, and not enough Muppet.  Or maybe I’m just old.  (Some are better than others, of course.  I think the Hellboy movies did a decent job of getting a little of that wonder and mystery.)

How or why were fantasy flicks so huge just for that era?  I didn’t really come up with any answers, but it did inspire me to list all the ones I had considered.  So here it is, my top 10 fantasy movies of the 80’s…

  1. Labyrinth — One word: Ludo.  Oh, and David Bowie.  But mainly Ludo.
  2. The Neverending Story — Too many great scenes to mention.  Laser-eyed oracles, wolves, luck dragons, racing snails, and a giant sneezing turtle!  And P.S. the mom’s name, once and for all, is “Moonchild.”  How that question haunted me as a kid!
  3. Clash Of The Titans — Claymation at its finest, and Laurence Olivier slumming it.  There is absolutely no need to remake this movie.
  4. Legend — Tim Curry as the best devil ever put to film.  Tom Cruise in his younger days.  A great dark atmosphere, and two soundtracks from Jerry Goldsmith and Tangerine Dream.
  5. Willow— Dwarves, sword fights, a giant two-headed monster, and an entire army being turned into pigs.  Pigs, I said!  You’re all pigs!
  6. Conan The Barbarian — Really either of them will do.  And here they’ll have to represent the legion of “sword and sorcery” films that followed.  The 80’s were practically drowning in them.  By and large, they were terrible (Beastmaster?).  But the two Conan films are untouchable.  The definitive barbarian saga.
  7. Time Bandits — Terry Gilliam seems to have a pretty good handle on fantasy.  Two of his movies are on my list here, and even his more recent stuff like Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas is almost fantasy.
  8. The Dark Crystal — I think I need to watch this again.  My memories of it are hazy, but I know I saw it in the theater.  So I would have been what, three years old?  Yeah, hazy memories.
  9. Return To Oz — Fairuza Balk before she grew up and got hot, a headless witch, and a bunch of creepy henchmen with rollerblades on their feet and hands.  Very nice.
  10. The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen — He rides around on cannonballs.  And Robin Williams plays the man on the moon.

There are many that deserve honorable mention.  The Princess Bride comes to mind, though that was a little more like a romance.  The Goonies, though that was almost in John Hughes territory.  Definite honors to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, representing the best of the countless post-apocalypse movies that were also so popular in that era.  Maybe Ice Pirates or Dune to touch on the sci-fi trend, like those Ewok made-for-T.V. movies and all that.  That could be a whole separate list!

You could even include the more general adventure movies with fantastical twists, like Innerspace and Howard The Duck.  Or cartoon hybrids like Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  OMG, remember Pete’s Dragon?  I guess technically, that was the 70’s.  OK, clearly that are tons more I could have named on this list.  What am I forgetting?  Dozens, I’m sure.  Feel free to share your faves too.  It all just goes to show what a golden age the 80’s were for this kinda stuff.  Ah, the good old days.  Nice reminiscing…

Wanna bet?

3 February 2010

Mankind’s moods and behaviors have always been influenced by time.  Circadian rhythms.  Hibernation.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Well you can add one more thing to that list: Boudin’s seasonal soup of the day.  You see, their Wednesday and Sunday “soup of the day” slots each week are reserved for the seasonal soup.  In the Spring and Summer months, this is a good though unremarkable “Spring Asparagus” soup.  But in the Fall and Winter months, the Bay Area is treated to something… magical.  Boudin’s “Butternut Squash” soup is so special, that I think it actually improves my temperament for the roughly six months it’s available every year.

Now, I’m not crazy here.  It does not escape me that it’s unusual and even absurd to talk about a food in this way.  But this is not just another soup.  This stuff will change your life, I’m not kidding.  Their Butternut Squash soup is sweet and savory.  Every bite delicious.  Topped with walnuts and dried cranberries.  Served in a bread-bowl if you so choose.  (And if you’re extra hungry, I’d be remiss not to mention their stellar grilled cheese sandwich.)  I’m trying here, but truly, it can’t be described in words.  You have to have it for yourself.  And it’s not just any butternut squash soup.  I’ve tried the others and have found them wanting.  It has to be Boudin.  The Boudin chain, part of San Francisco history that it is, has locations all over the Bay Area and even a few in SoCal.  You need to go find one.  You need to go and have this soup.  Do you realize that it’s technically Wednesday as I’m writing this and that it’s soup day?  You can have it for lunch today.  And who knows how many more weeks we’ve got access to it before Spring Asparagus comes back and casts us into six months of darkness?  There’s no time to waste here!

You might imagine that with this kind of fervor, I might have developed a certain reputation when it comes to this soup.  You’d be right.  The staff at the Boudin near my office knows me by name (“Norm!”).  My friends and coworkers are well aware of my position on the matter.  I’ve got a frequent buyer’s card.  This is serious stuff.  And believe me, everyone laughs at my enthusiasm.  Initially.  Then they try it, and the very next week they’re proselytizing just like I am.  I wish I had a photo to share here to give you an idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised if — like ghosts and angels — direct photos of this soup never seem to come out.

Then there’s “The Bet.”  Somewhere along the line, when trying to convince someone to try the soup, I offered a wager.  “If you don’t love the soup, I’ll reimburse you.  But if you do, you have to buy my soup next Wednesday.  Honor system.”  Do you know that I’ve had streaks of as many as three weeks where I didn’t have to buy my own soup?  The victories are too many to count.  And I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I’m batting 1.000.  It’s like an Amway pyramid scheme.  Or my own little butternut ponzi thing happening here.  Try it on your friends.  To this day, I’ve got a troupe of converts, soupin’ it up every Wednesday with me.  Bringing it home to their kids.  Trying to recreate the recipe for their families.  Making more converts every day.

OK, OK, laugh it up.  Brush me off.  But would I make such a fuss over nothing?  I’m telling you, when you finally do try it, you’ll curse all the squandered Wednesdays from this day to that.  Before you know it, it’ll be Spring.  Go before it’s too late!

King Of The Mountain

1 February 2010

So, I know I’m a week late on this, but did you all watch the state of the union address?  The White House must do its research, because I have to admit, Obama said damn near everything I was thinking (and had in fact spoken at length about just days before while lunching with my folks).  There’s plenty of blame to go around, but my general view is that the Republicans are being the dicks they always are (shame on them), and the Dems have been too stupid to recognize that, accept it, and work around it to actually get something done (shame on them).  I was entertained by how different the comments and angles were as I flipped back and forth between Fox and MSNBC.  Both ridiculous in their own way.  The address itself was good I thought.  It struck me as relatively candid.  The official Republican response was comically empty.  It was delivered with absolutely no charisma, and it said nothing whatsoever.  The only thing I heard of any substance was a rehashing of Obama’s own points as if they were somehow fresh counterpoints.  It was embarrassing.

I was particularly caught by the whole bit about the failure of virtually everyone in Washington to put the good of the people ahead of their career self-preservation and political posturing.  It sums up so much of what’s been wrong (and getting worse) in American governement the last few decades.  And it’s not just Republicans.  OK, it’s mostly Republicans.

As I recall, the founding fathers were not career politicians.  They were business men who worked in government out of duty and necessity.  It was a burden, not a reward.  And when the work was done, they wanted to get back to being business men.  I’m reminded of that scene in Gladiator where the emperor Marcus Aurelius offers to make Maximus his successor.  Maximus refuses, and the emperor says, “that is why it must be you.”  In today’s world, every one of those fuckers in Washington gets their position and spends the rest of their career doing what they have to to hold on to it.  It doesn’t matter what’s best for the people and nation that they were hired to serve.  Because it all takes a back seat to their own ambitions.  It’s sickening.

This is not supposed to be “king of the mountain.”  It’s not supposed to be that once you get into power, you just use that power to help yourself.  Getting into office isn’t supposed to be like winning the lottery.  It’s not a reward.  It’s a job.  You were sent there to do a job.  You were sent there to represent me.  I didn’t vote for you and give you that power because I felt like you’re such a swell guy that you deserved to be rich and powerful at my expense.  No, I sent you there to do a job.  If you are unable or unwilling, then step down and make room for someone with the integrity and sense of duty to try to help their country instead of themselves.

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

— Greek proverb



UPDATE:  Just after I posted this blog last night, the Colbert Report had something poignant to add — hilariously illustrating the sad fact that many politicians will resist a thing not because they think it’s a bad idea or because it won’t benefit the people… but simply because they don’t want the other side to get the credit or look good.  It’s incomprehensible to me.  What a disservice to those poor people they dupe into following them.  Because those poor souls all think you’re on their side and working for their best interest.  But you’re not, you’re working for yours.


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Siren Song
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

Now You’re A Man!

1 February 2010

First, I bought a pot (08/16/07).  Then I bought dinnerware and gave up paper plates and cups (early 2008?).  I even fixed my old couch once upon a time (03/20/06).  And here we are at the next step of my maturation.  Ladies and gentlemen, I bought power tools.  And used them even!  I had some metal work I needed to do on a guitar (which I’ll discuss in a minute), and I needed a Dremel and a power drill.  Well after three trips to hardware stores to get equipment, drill bits, and screws, I was all set.  I spent two nights in my apartment making sparks like it was Flashdance, and now not only is my guitar good to go, but I think I felt my balls drop too!  Where’s that grunting Tim Allen when you need him?  Because if I’m not mistaken, I think I just became a man!

(P.S.  I so loved looking at those old blogs… reading what was going on with me in those days as well as my friends’ comments.  Le sigh!)

This Friday (2/5), This Charming Band will be playing at one of my favorite venues: San Jose’s Blank Club.  We’ve got a lot of friends in San Jose, and the shows there are a hoot, almost without exception.  Starting with this show, you may have noticed our flyer format has changed.  There are a few benefits to this, not the least of which is that they’re way easier to put together.  It also allows for a more modern and sleeker consistency, as well as a lot more room for including show details.  There are pros and cons.  True, the overall effect may be slightly less “Smithsy” than the old format, but it was getting harder and harder to find workable images and prepare those things.  With this new approach, the full picture can be seen, without having to creatively sneak in all the details in and around it.  Of course, I still love those old flyers, and I’m profoundly proud of some of them.  But we’re trying something new, and here’s the result… what do you think?  (Incidentally, this one’s a tribute to the ailing Dennis Hopper.  We love ya, Frank!)

So I hope to see you all at The Blank this weekend, where I plan to “hang out with my twang out.”  That’s right, those of you who come will bear witness to the re-debut of El Twango, my long-forgotten Fender Telecaster.  See, I got him many years ago, but frankly I was too green to contain him.  Telecasters really cut through the mix and have a very different tonal quality than any of the guitars I regularly use.  I always had a hard time dialing in a good sound, and every little flub was painfully obvious.  So after just one use in the first year of TCB, El Twango was banished to guitar collection purgatory.  Not sold off, but not played regularly either.  And there he remained for years… until I found he was the natural choice for my short-lived spaghetti western project (absolutely nails that Alessandroni-esque tone by the way, though he himself reportedly used a Strat).

So that was all in the back of my mind.  Then recently I decided that maybe it was time to give him another shot in TCB, and to my great pleasure, I found that the Tele actually “fits” me now.  And not only that, but it sounds like the vicar’s knickers on a lot of the old Smiths stuff.  “This Charming Man” was largely recorded with one, believe it or not.  Teles were also used extensively on the “Meat Is Murder” album, and they’re a favorite of Boz Boorer.  So it just makes sense.  I’ll be including El Twango in the roster on Friday, and I expect him to make regular appearances for the foreseeable future.  A new (but old) guitar, how exciting!