MySpace Archive

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.

… 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

The Four Horsemen Of Acapulco

18 December 2009

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: tired tired

It’s been a strange couple of weeks, no doubt.  Drama and changes with friends, “friends,” work, you name it.  Things appear to be settling down though, and I’m looking forward to the holiday break.

I boosted my holiday spirit last night by seeing El Vez and Los Straitjackets.  I’d never seen either of them live, but I was at least familiar with LSJ’s music.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was still surprised.  The Independent was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and the show was hilarious.  Fun, but very, very weird.  LSJ was acting as El Vez’s backup band.  They’d occasionally break in with a Christmas instrumental, and the encore was mostly just them.  El Vez went through several wardrobe changes during the course of the night, from a Santa zoot suit to a shiny black jump suit with monstrous faux fur cuffs.  At some point he was dressed as a toy soldier, and there was also some sort of full body rainbow shiny suit that made him almost too reflective to look at.  He was at all times flanked by the two Elvettes, who sang as well as performed small bits of campy theater with El Vez and LSJ that reminded me some of a burlesque show.  The music was mainly mash-ups of Christmas songs and oldies, with some pop songs mixed in (such as Oasis’ “champagne supernova in the sky” though sang as “super Chevy Nova in the sky”).  So to recap, the stage was a mix of many things that you don’t normally see together… surf music, suits and lucha libre masks, Christmas music and iconography, sung by a flamboyant Mexican Elvis dressed in sparkly lamé, joined by two pinups singing, dancing, and joking.  All overtaken during the final encore by a pair of giant inflatable Santa and Frosty.  My favorite moment of the night was El Vez trying to introduce the band… “these are the four horsemen of the apoc… acop… copa… Acapulco.”

(Maybe the strangest part of the night was the crowd.  It was surprisingly older and kinda nerdy.  I guess maybe this is the “novelty act” crowd?  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like the crowd we saw at Tenacious D a few years ago.  Now that was a nerdy crowd.  That reminds me, I know they’re played out now, but I saw the Tenacious D movie on TV recently, and I’m sorry but those guys are fuckin’ funny.  They are still underrated in my book.  And is that Dave Grohl as the demon?  But I digress…)

Well Christmas is here yet again.  I know I say this every year, but this must have been the fastest of my life yet.  I can’t believe we’re here again, and that it’s almost 2010.  Even though it went by in what seemed like an instant, looking back I can see a lot has changed for me in the last year.  Panic is largely behind me, and I’ve had some fundamental shifts in my outlook on life, what direction I want to go, and what I might be ready for.  Maybe I’ll get more into that next time, but yeah… hello and goodbye 2009.  We hardly knew ye.

As I have in recent years, I continue to discourage Xmas shopping for me.  I too will be doing precious little shopping for anyone else this year.  The economy still sucks.  Many of my friends and family are out of work, or have been.  And as always, I have too much crap as it is.  For those few who are close enough to me that you’d even consider getting me something, believe me when I say I’d be just as happy to grab brunch or dinner with you.  So let’s do that instead, umkay?  But to keep the tradition alive, as I did in 2007 and 2008, I put together a list of some of the silly material things my heart secretly desires this Christmas.  So if you’ve got loads of cash and you’re looking to buy my love, look no further… this is between you, me, and Sandy Claws:

  1. A 2010 monthly calendar for my wall at work.  The theme of 2008 was bulldogs, and 2009 was wildlife.  2010?  You tell me, Santa.
  2. A fretboard belt buckle.  These unique creations are available at Black Crow Arts, and though they’re a little on the unnecessarily expensive side, I can’t deny I still want one.  Ideally one set up to match my main guitar, that 335.  I think some configuration of the GB-FV2 model ought to do it.
  3. An Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.  With a compass in the stock, naturally.  (Which reminds me, how are we a week away from Christmas and I’ve not heard a single mention of this movie on T.V. yet?)
  4. Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards: Funk & Disco Grooves.  This is a tab book that covers a bunch of Chic songs, and I would love to get my hands on it… but they don’t sell it outside of the U.K. and will not sell it to me.  I’ve tried.  I may have to call in a favor from some U.K. friends.  Who can find it here:)
  5. A pair of “convertible” mittens.  I have never actually seen these in person, but I’ve heard rumors of their existence.  Apparently these are mittens that you can somehow fold back to expose you fingers for temporary dexterity.  This is great, because my hands are always the first things to freeze when it gets cold out, and regular gloves don’t really seem to help much.  Mittens though I think would do the trick.
  6. A new storage solution for CDs.  Any ideas?  After nearly two decades of collecting, I think I’m pushing a thousand, and I’m about to start putting them in cardboard office boxes.  Someday, a simple (if large) shelving unit would be the answer.  You know, if I had like… a den.  But until then?
  7. A plane that loops the loop, or perhaps a hula hoop.  Oh come on, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.
  8. A 1979 Gibson Les Paul Pro Deluxe.  Goldtop, please.  I’ve fancied the idea of getting a guitar from the year I was born.  You know, to grow old with.  And I’ve also wanted a goldtop LP with P-90’s.  So with this combo, I could kill two birds with one stone.  Made for only a few years, and surprisingly not too popular on the vintage market.  They pop up on eBay, but rarely.  (Alternatively, I wouldn’t mind one of those bronze, steampunk creations by Scott Walker.)
  9. Any number of things from that German rockabilly site.  You know, this one.  I particularly like the Sun Studios and Wanderers belt buckles.  And though I don’t want it, I love the fact they have a replica Wanderers jacket for sale.  Their prices aren’t bad, but here’s the catch: the shipping is astronomical.  How do I get this shit to the U.S. without paying more in shipping than the items themselves cost?  Santa, of course.
  10. A professional painted portrait of myself.  Big enough to hang over a mantle someday.  Ideally, I’m thinking something in a dramatic Soviet-era propaganda style, but photorealistic like something by Alex Ross.  Because yes, underneath it all, I really am every bit as egotistical as I let on.

Speaking of Xmas shopping, I must confess to doing a little for myself.  For reasons I’ve mentioned here before, I generally avoid buying DVDs these days… but on Amazon, the complete series of Kids In The Hall fell to about $40, and I figure even if I only watch it once, that’s worth $40.  I’m looking forward to vegging out with that sometime soon, maybe over Xmas vacay.

Oh yeah, so I’ll be off on vacation between Xmas and New Year’s.  I think that’s too late to catch the Dickens Fair (which I missed again this year), but I still plan on taking full advantage of this time off.  Sleeping in, visiting with friends and family, seeing all those movies I’ve been meaning to, and above all just relaxing.  If you’re gonna be in town and want to make some plans, let me know!  I might even be down to travel some.  Maybe SoCal?  And then near the end of this little break, it’ll be time for TCB in Seattle on New Year’s Eve!  More on that next time, but should be a blast!  If I don’t get to it before next week, hope y’all have a great Christmas, Hanukkah, whatevs!

“When she calls me, I do not walk, I run.”

Prêt-à-Porter

4 December 2009

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: tired tired

My chief fashion consultant took me shopping the other day because I needed a few new work shirts.  By “work shirts,” I mean button down Oxford style shirts, a.k.a. “consultant wear.”  In my consulting days, the rule was always to dress one level more formally than your client.  So I was basically always dressed in these shirts.  Even though I’m in a stable cube farm these days, and could easily get away with jeans every day, I’ve never given up my habit.  It’s become like a uniform to me… I never wear street clothes to work, and I never wear work clothes other than to work.  I think it helps me mentally keep those two worlds and sets of responsibilities separate.  Anyway, because I view them strictly as “work clothes,” I don’t worry too much about them.  Simple solid colors.

You see, I have exactly five of them in my rotation.  The means I have a Monday shirt, and a Tuesday shirt, and so on.  So if you only ever meet with me on Tuesdays, you might think I wear the same shirt all the time.  I realize that even introducing one more, a sixth shirt, would skew that whole cycle so this Monday’s shirt will be next Tuesday’s shirt, and the following Wednesday’s shirt, etc.  But again, this isn’t a fashion show.  It’s just my work clothes.  I don’t care.  And in fact, some of these shirts are 12 years old.  I’m not kidding.  As they’re getting a little frayed, I figured it was finally time to get some more.  The last time I bought shirts was like 2005, and they were around $60 which I thought was expensive.  Do you know that she helped talk me into buying a pair of shirts for $250!  I know there’s been some inflation, but what just happened?  I guess with the amount of use I appear to get out of my work shirts, it’ll average out to like $0.02 per use, but still, that was a hard pill to swallow.  And they’re both purple.  This is the kind of power some people have over me.  It’s mystifying.

I now have six viable shirts in the rotation, which means my five-day cycle is broken.  It’ll be anarchy, but I think I can handle it.  In response, I think I need to finally relent with my consultant wear and just do casual Fridays like a normal person.  The thing is, Converse and tattoos at work?  It seems like a CLM (career limiting move).  Subconsciously, I think the constant consultant wear gives off a vibe of heightened professionalism to my coworkers and management.  Dress the part and all that.  What happens if they see me in cuffed jeans?  The spell could be broken for them, even just subconsciously.  Thoughts?

In other news, I’m almost done with Stephen King’s latest short story comp Just After Sunset.  Notice these pages are flying by, unlike the Mozipedia.  It’s an interesting and I’d almost say more “mature” collection.  Highlights so far include “The Things They Left Behind” which is a really moving story around 9/11, and the profoundly disturbing “N.” which deals with OCD and slipping into madness.  Maybe it just hit too close to home, but I found myself having to put it down a couple of times.  Pretty powerful stuff.

Alright, holy hell, I write about some boring things sometimes.  I’m knocking it off right now.  Goodnight!

Because we must.

3 December 2009

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: contemplative contemplative

Well this time, he didn’t cancel.  He wasn’t sick.  He didn’t collapse.  He didn’t smell any meat.  No one lobbed a cup at him, and he didn’t tell anyone to go fuck themselves.  It was a real, honest-to-goodness show!

Since this was Morrissey’s only Bay Area show, people came from far and wide to be there, and I saw a ton of people I know from around here as well as Sacramento, Fresno, and beyond.  I ran into friends, coworkers, ex-band members, and several folks from TCB shows.  Damn near everyone I can remember coming to a TCB show ever was there it seemed.  It was like “TCB, this is your life!”  It was great to visit with them, and meet the friends of friends.

We had the best seats in the house, and when I say that, I literally mean we had the first seats on the center isle, front row.  The actual and literal best seats the venue offered.  We have only Sus to thank for this magic.  I’d never heard of the opening band “Dolls & The Kicks,” but they were fantastic.  I can’t think of many occasions where I buy the opening band’s CD, much less get an autograph but I did both.  Apparently this was their first time out here?  We need to get them on Popscene’s radar ASAP.  I particularly fancied “Doll.”

Of course as soon as the opener finished their set, everyone in the pit started suspiciously eyed one another for one moment of stillness before someone stirred and spooked the lot of us into action, as we all rushed to stake out our own piece of stage-front real estate.  Sus, Shel, and I were right there, chest to stage to the left of Moz’s monitors.  And me a head taller than everyone else.  I could not have dreamed a better situation.  So as we’re all standing there waiting for the first band to move off the stage and Moz to start, we notice that my massive head is the only thing tall enough to cast a shadow on the backdrop (which you can see in my “skyline” profile picture at the time of my writing this).  I later heard from several friends seated all over the venue that my head was all but in the way throughout the show.

When Moz came out and the show started, it was wonderful of course.  Being so close to him really is mesmerizing, as silly as that sounds.  His voice was strong, and his spirits seemed high.  During the course of the night, Shel got her Cemetry Gates, Shel got her Loop, we all got Ganglord, and we all three got handshakes from the man himself.  Sus got a drumstick, and we shook some band members hands at the end as well.  For any other band, I’m the first to admit that this would be ridiculous and indefensible sycophancy.  But this is different because it’s Moz.  Among the best — if not the best — of my Morrissey concert experiences so far, and that’s saying something considering the charmed 2007 I had on that front.  Amazing… thanks Moz!  Thanks Sus!  Thanks Shel!  Thanks Balls family!

Makin’ Lights

30 November 2009

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: busy busy

A very merry unbirthday to you all.  Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.  I did!  Got to relax and visit lots of friends in what was probably the least traditional Thanksgiving of my life so far.

Before I forget, Morrissey on Wednesday, bitches!  I’ll see you all there, I’m sure.  He comes by so rarely these days, you know.  Who knows when we’ll get another chance!  In other news, due to an unfortunate ticket mishap, I will most likely miss the Cranberries on Saturday… unless I come across some reasonable prices and soon.  Fiddlesticks!

The Popscene show was fun as usual.  We stuck to the Smiths and we stuck to the hits, mainly to keep it accessible and efficient.  Rest assured though that we’ve been extra busy learning new songs, and we should have plenty of surprises for the next show (Red Devil Lounge on January 8th).  At this moment, we’re just six songs away from knowing all 72 Smiths songs.  Holy shitake, that’s amazing, is it not?  Anyway, yes the show was fun.  Lots of friends showed up.  Not my luckiest night though.  Ten seconds into “How Soon Is Now?” I broke a string… normally I’d stop the song, but that’s not one that you stop once it starts, you know?  Luckily we got through it relatively unscathed.  Then while cleaning up, my main gitter (that black 335) fell over or was knocked over.  After assessing the damage at home, it’s got a new ding on the side, and a tuner was yanked halfway off the headstock.  Tuner’s shot and its screw holes are stripped.  So that’ll be $65 in parts and ??? in labor to get it fixed, damn it.  At least it’s got more character now, right?  That’s what I’m trying to tell myself.  And for the hat trick, I went to load in my car as I left the club only to find my car with a flat tire!  Thank God for AAA and real men.  Could I have changed that flat?  Of course, but why am I paying for AAA?  Let them come out and do in five minutes what it would have taken me a half hour to do… at 3am… in the cold Thanksgiving night… alone in a back alley… after wearing myself out at a show.

The good news there was that Big-O replaced it free, aside from the cost of my time the next afternoon.  While I was out driving that next day, I caught my self weaving in and out of traffic a lot around the city.  I had to wonder, do I really drive that fast?  I don’t generally care if I’m zooming along at top speed, I’m just concerned about makin’ lights.  (I gotta make those lights, son!)  It drives me nuts to miss a light because someone else is not paying attention.  For some reason, the city was full of the clueless this weekend.  And while I’m rambling about city driving, I saw a guy on a Van Ness island asking for spare change/food… and talking on a cell phone!  I mean, was someone making a political statement here?  Was this like performance art?  Or was it real?  Because I think it was real.  I thought it was pretty shameful, but am I just out of touch?  I guess maybe a cell phone really is considered a bare necessity these days?

And now, a dedication to a friend who just moved to Oakland this weekend…

So I finally finished Goddard’s Mozipedia — all 500+ pages of it — and I am happy to report that it was well worth the effort.  It took me August through most of November, but I learned a ton.  I really enjoyed the tidbits on songs that never were.  Some of my other favorite entries were the ones covering Mozzer’s more controversial viewpoints, and in fact my favorites were the entries on vegetarianism and Margaret Thatcher.  If you read only a few entries, I recommend those.  I wish I could reproduce them here for you.  Powerful stuff, I thought.  My only criticism of this massive textbook is that it’s a little heavy on the actors/movies/television influences, all good stuff to know, but not always so interesting to read about (speaking personally).

And finally, a question I’m afraid to ask: is MySpace dying?  I continue to prefer it to all those other sites.  I like the flexibility, and I like the robust music infrastructure.  But I can’t deny that in recent months I’ve noticed a rapid and growing lack of activity among my friends here, while Facebook seems to become more popular.  I don’t see the appeal of having to rebuild everything for yourself over there when it’s already in place here.  What happens when the next big site comes along and FB dies (remember Friendster anyone)?  Then off to a new site?  Rebuild your whole network again?  All these competing social networking sites just seem to dilute the value.  If a site came along that could “talk” to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. so you’d have a one-stop-shop, now that would be valuable.  Then you wouldn’t have to maintain statuses on several sites, etc.  I know, I know, one world currency, communism, etc.  Whatever.  I’m just saying… too many cooks spoil the broth.

“Lord, I confess I am not what I ought to be, but I thank you, Lord, that I’m not what I used to be.”
— Maxie Dunnan

The Lost Weekend

22 November 2009

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: sick sick

I’d been feeling… I’ll say “weird” since the middle of the week.  Flushed, but with no detectable fever.  I made it through work most of the week, but then Thursday night it started to worsen, and by Friday morning, I was in no shape to go into the office.  I had to stay home.  Frankly, I didn’t feel up to doing much of anything this weekend, and that included leaving the house.  I’m feeling a bit better today, so I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to get back to work tomorrow.  I got the flu shot this year, which as I recall can help prevent or lessen the impact of the flu.  I don’t know what a “mild” flu feels like, since whenever I’ve had a flu in the past, it kicked my ass unequivocally.  But this weekend I had a headache, a stiff neck, moderate fatigue, and a mild fever… with virtually no congestion, sore throat, or cough.  That certainly sounds like a mild version of flu symptoms more than it does a cold, right?  So maybe I did have a mild flu.  A mild swine flu even.  A piglet flu.

But as I said, I was in no shape to lift a finger.  That’s one of the shitty things about being home sick.  You’ve got all that free time to do stuff around the house you’ve been meaning to do, but no energy to actually do any of it.  I haven’t even shaved in days, and I think I have the closest thing I’ve ever had to a beard right now.  So anyway, I ate oatmeal and watched movies.  Whatever happened to be on, really.  This included The Fog (1980), Dead-Alive, all three Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, that Brothers Grimm one, The Pathfinder, and parts of both Troy and Mr. And Mrs. Smith.  Others too that I think I’m forgetting.  I also dusted off and reconnected my old Playstation for about a half hour.  When I finally had the energy to do more than sit, I worked on learning a couple new songs.  And here I am with the energy to type again — lucky you!

Moving on… a general comment to Hollywood: please stop pissing all over my childhood. I understand there is a Clash Of The Titans remake in the works. Never mind the Karate Kid mess of the fact that a golden G.I. Joe opportunity was wasted. I’ve even heard stirrings of a Rocky Horror remake. I’m sure there are countless others in the works too that I don’t even know about. Trying to be more level-headed about it, to be fair, the Clash remake looks like it might not be terrible. I’ll try to approach it with an open mind. (Assuming they do something about that soundtrack.)

Speaking of me being old and crotchety, surely you’ve heard the kids these days say “redonkulous” as an extreme version of “ridiculous.” Well I heard the word “milkdonkulous” on TV last week. And while I know this means that “redonkulous” has jumped the proverbial shark, and the last thing I want to do is be duped by somebody’s lame marketing campaign (least of all the dairy industry), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t secretly love this word “milkdonkulous.” I can’t say why, but it just speaks to me. I’ll do my best to use it judiciously.

I think it’s time that I just face the fact that I’m completely fascinated by the English language.  I don’t think that’s a new thing for me exactly, but it’s only been a couple years that I could put a name to it.  I realize that I keep ongoing lists of words, phrases, idioms, and quotations that I like.  I find myself admiring (and even envying) writers whenever they’re able to perfectly capture and convey an idea so clearly.  I’m constantly looking up new words, linguistic concepts (like the retronym)and even the typographical symbols that we so rarely see anymore (like the tombstone or the preposterous asterism).  I’m even interested in syntax and grammar.  Somewhere along the line, this all became a small hobby of mine, and though it’s exceedingly nerdy, I’d argue it’s not much different (though way more useful) than crossword puzzles and sudoku.  I don’t really enjoy those types of puzzles, but I love researching language.  Alright?  So sign me up for ΛΛΛ.

That’s had me thinking recently… did I choose the wrong path?  That whole “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” thing, you know.  I guess knowing what I know now, if I had it to do over again, I would have probably majored in English and music.  Assuming I had the balls not to go the safe route.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved CogSci in school, and I feel it was all very valuable.  But looking at what “work” I truly enjoy these days?  It’s language and music.  But then, it’s my nature to build the safety net first.  Have a backup plan.  That’s why I had the band after I finished school and had a steady job.  I skipped the whole garage band thing, for better or worse.  I made sure I could support my hobbies, rather than rely on my hobbies to support me.  The safe route has its pros and cons I guess.  And then who knows where I’d be now?  Maybe not nearly as happy.  What about you?  Knowing what you know now, would you have done things a little differently?

flyer-091126

Coming up this Thursday is This Charming Band’s fifth Thanksgiving Popscene appearance on their Smiths tributary “Meat Is Murder” night, and it also loosely marks our fourth anniversary as a band.  My, how the years fly by (especially evident at Popscene where the crowd stays young and beautiful, but the band gets older every year).  Hope to see you there friends!  And while you’re pondering what to eat on Thanksgiving before the show, and what the future might hold for us all… consider this article.

“It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”
— Oscar Wilde

… in which I pass judgment on The Beatles.

6 November 2009

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: happy relieved

I have now listened to all of their studio albums — most of them for the first time — in all of their 2009 remastered glory, alongside each of the period-correct singles and b-sides culled from the “Past Masters” volumes.  And I think I’m ready to rule on the matter.  (I’m sure Paul and Ringo are anxiously awaiting my opinion.)  Again, I took this on as an academic exercise to fill a glaring deficiency in my pop music education.  The Beatles are of course one of those bands that you just are supposed to know about.  And I knew something about them, but this was me really going in with both feet.  A crash course in their music, with only a limited knowledge of the stories behind it (most of which were filled in for me ad hoc by Nick and Colin).  So after two months of listening critically and strictly chronologically, each album at least twice before moving on to the next, what do I think of the music?  In a word: excellent.  By anyone’s standards, the amount of quality work they put out in a relatively short period of time is remarkable.  Unquestionably more hit than miss, and clearly a massive influence on literally thousands of bands.  Not many can claim that!  To be fair though, The Beatles weren’t as important as Elvis, and neither of them were as good as The Smiths, but I digress.  :)

What did I like?
Most of all, and maybe most obviously, I appreciated their strong pop melodies and arrangements.  More often than not, the songs are full of memorable hooks, in fact some of the most memorable in pop history.  Interspersed in there too are many moving ballads, some of them quite famous of course.  Now, I didn’t always buy the emotion in Paul’s or John’s voice, and the lyrics didn’t always hit the same emotional depth for me that I get out of a lot of other music… but really, how often am I that moved by bubblegum music from that era?  (I mean, it happens… but it’s not usually the first place I look.)  They also had a lot of inventive stuff going on that sounds fresh even today, and I would assume they were the first ones doing some of those things.  How much of that was studio trickery (where credit might be more due to George Martin?), I’ll leave to the experts.  The record collector in me loved the big album concepts and album art in the later part of their career, and I can imagine it was a lot of fun being in that band and putting those together.  Finally, historically speaking, it was really interesting to hear the influence on other bands that is clear in these recordings.  For example, The White Album was a major part of the sound of The Smiths’ Strangeways, Here We Come.  And there are more blatant lifts, such as the “Sexy Sadie” connection with Radiohead’s “Karma Police” (pointed out to me by Colin), and stylistically as in… well all of Oasis’ music (listen to “Hey Bulldog” and tell me it doesn’t sound like an Oasis song).  I’m sure there must be websites dedicated to documenting these influences and “borrowings,” and these are just some obvious examples.  The more subtle impact of The Beatles on virtually every band that followed them must be immeasurable.

What didn’t I like?
In those first few albums, the original compositions were wonderful, but there were so many covers.  And to my ears, they were, almost without exception, dreadful.  Not least because I’m quite familiar with most of the original songs, and so The Beatles’ versions had much to live up to with me.  Some were more excruciating than others.  One exception I can think of though is “Twist And Shout” which is probably more famous than the original.  I also was turned off by their penchant for what I would call “silly” songs.  Little tunes throughout many of their albums that sound like inside jokes or just the band fucking about in the studio.  Maybe they’re just jokes I don’t get because I’m not from that place and time?  Not my thing, anyway.  And that ties in with the fair amount of filler on a few of their albums.  Not that most bands aren’t guilty of that from time to time, but for the greats (in which I assume The Beatles should be included), I expect more.  For instance, I can’t think of a single filler song that Led Zeppelin ever recorded, let alone The Smiths.  All just a matter of opinion of course.  Similar, but not exactly filler, were the occasional psychedelic songs that seemed to go on too long and just waste time.  And then in their later albums, there were a lot of songs that were trying hard to sound soulful and bluesy and were just not pulling it off.  Sorry Fab Four, blues and grit maybe not your forte.  OK, last bit of poison to spit here: almost the entire Let It Be album.  Yikes!  With the exception of a couple of good ballads and the fantastic “Across The Universe,” I think I view this as their worst album.  But in fairness, I think I get it, I guess they were falling apart at the time, not to mention recording it all in front of a television crew.  Poor guys…

Some Lists…
With the sheer volume of material we’re talking about here, any attempts to rank or list anything is going to be problematic.  But just to get something on the board here…

Top Three Albums
1) Revolver (edgy, rockin’, experimental, dark; me gusta)
2) Abbey Road (the most consistently good; apparently their real “last album”)
3) Rubber Soul (Revolver lite; similar but not as edgy)
Honorable Mention: Help! (another great one which I liked especially for its folky darkness which at times reminded me of Simon & Garfunkel)

Top Ten Songs
I was surprised at the songs that jumped out at me.  Some of them I don’t think I’d heard before.  Probably not your average hits.  Of course there are loads of good ones, too many to cover.  Presented here in no particular order.
1) I Saw Her Standing There
2) Across The Universe
3) I’m So Tired
4) Tell Me Why (bubblegum, but I love it)
5) Happiness Is A Warm Gun (proto-glam?)
6) While My Guitar Gently Weeps (epic!)
7) Helter Skelter (maybe their ballsiest number)
8) I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (not lyrically, but musically proto-Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, with some Cream)
9) Norwegian Wood
10) For No One (one of their more touching lyrics)
Honorable Mention: I’ve Just Seen A Face, Girl, Taxman, most of the medley at the end of Abbey Road, Something, Here There And Everywhere, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, You Can’t Do That, And Your Bird Can Sing, No Reply, Julia, Come Together, Mother Nature’s Son, Revolution, Don’t Let Me Down, and yes… Yellow Submarine.

Top Three Surprise Learnings
1) Just how many songs I knew!  It was literally an endless slew of “oh yeah, they did this one too!”  Lots of childhood memories of hearing this stuff in mom’s car.
2) The breadth of styles they covered in their catalog!  Bubblegum pop to folk ballads to wall of sound torch songs to blues to country to psychedelic freakouts.  And still it always sounds like them.
3) The same old boring hits that I’ve heard a million times in my life, possibly due to the remastering job, sounded new and fresh to me.  Amazingly rich and lush production.

Open Questions
So I listened to the stereo boxed set, but what about this mono boxed set?  The completist in me has urges, particularly because I know there are significant differences like different intros, guitar solos, etc.  But I don’t like this band enough to need every version of every song.  I don’t need it.  It would be an inexcusable and irresponsible waste of money.  (This is what I’m telling myself.)  Besides, I dislike mono so much.  I so prefer stereo versions where I can hear every instrument more clearly, and where I can have the experience of being immersed and surrounded by the band, rather than a one-dimensional wall of sound blaring at me from one direction.  Stereo feels so much more alive and “real” to me.  Thoughts?

I haven’t done the analysis, but based on the songs I liked in the list above, anyone know if I’m leaning more towards Paul or John… vocally or writing-wise?

Once I bought a compilation of John Lennon’s solo work (I think at Lala’s behest).  There were some gems on there, but overall I wasn’t blown away.  On the subject of pop music education, do I need to delve into their solo work too?  I can’t think of much that Ringo has done?  George had “My Sweet Lord” and “I Got My Mind Set On You.”  Paul did a ton of stuff, right?  Off the top of my head, there was that Christmas song, the James Bond song (“Live And Let Die”), a couple collaborations with Michael Jackson, and that “Vanilla Sky” song wasn’t bad.  That was probably a sacrilegious summary of their combined post-Beatles catalog, huh?  Well… do I need to know/hear more?  Or can I skip it?

Final Word
I expect my opinion on this stuff will change some over time.  When I first heard The Smiths, I knew I liked it, but it was so different… I didn’t fully understand what I was hearing.  It took me some time to get my head around it and really fall in love with it.  I don’t anticipate the same experience here, and I don’t expect I’m ever going to be a huge Beatles fan… but maybe with more listening, I will come to appreciate them more?  50,000,000 Beatles fans can’t be wrong, right?  Anyway, it’s all been very educational.  And now I can go back to listening to other artists again.  Thank you, and goodnight.

“Half of what I say is meaning less…”

Happy Halloween, bitches.

29 October 2009

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

Courtesy of Wally himself:

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So who’s going to this Zombie Morrissey night on Friday?  And what are the big Halloween plans?

The Caterpillar

26 October 2009

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: exhausted exhausted

Today happens to be Taylor’s birthday.  This is dedicated to the memory of her snail, Huey.

When I was a kid, maybe five years old, I was living in a condo complex in the South Bay.  My dad used to play tennis a lot, and when one of his buddies would come over to play, I’d usually follow them on my Big Wheel and hang out in the surrounding park.  This particular afternoon, I found a big green caterpillar that I was playing with, and when it was time to head home, I guess I thought I’d keep him.  I set him on the Big Wheel equivalent of a dashboard and set off down the hill towards the house.  Well, I didn’t get very far before he of course was rumbled right off of the dashboard… and right onto my front wheel.  I had squashed him.  I don’t remember how upset I was, but the actual event is one of my most vivid memories from childhood.  I remember feeling responsible.

Almost 20 years later, I’m walking around the Cal campus on a break between classes.  There’s the main thoroughfare that gets a ton of foot and bike traffic all day, and I’m walking along headed who knows where.  For whatever reason, I’m looking down and I see a green caterpillar inching his way across the walkway.  I avoid stepping on him, but I don’t stop.  I take a couple more steps, and it dawns on me that it’s a very wide and very busy walkway that he’s crossing, and there’s no chance he’s gonna make it all the way across without being crushed.  That Big Wheel memory comes flooding back, and I think: this is my big chance to save this caterpillar and make up for the one I killed when I was little.  Sounds dramatic, but honestly, that’s what hits me.  Not more than three or four seconds have gone by before I stop and go back to where I had just seen him inching along.  And it’s already too late.  There he is, squashed onto the pavement.

At that moment, I learned one of the most important lessons that I’ve ever learned in the realm of “my place in the world.”  I usually hear it summed up with something along the lines of, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  Now, I realize that there was no “evil” at work here, but the spirit still applies: laziness, selfishness, indifference, isolationism, even simple neutrality can all be “evil” depending on the context.  In the same way that not telling the whole truth is basically lying… not doing the right thing is doing the wrong thing.  In those couple of steps, that three or four seconds when I was thinking to myself that it wasn’t my responsibility, that I was in a hurry to get to wherever I needed to go… that caterpillar died.

I know I’ve alluded to this story at least once in the past.  I imagine to most of you, it sounds utterly ridiculous, but it’s hard to write about even now.  It was one of those seemingly-small life experiences that really and profoundly shapes who you are.  It’s why I try to be gentle in all things.  It’s why I’m so infuriated by the tyranny of the big guy taking advantage of the little guy.  For that reason, it’s why I abhor hunting.  And I guess by extension, it’s part of why I went vegetarian.  In any situation from nation vs. nation to man vs. man to man vs. caterpillar, when you are the one in power, when you have all the advantages, it is your absolute and sacred responsibility to help protect others who are not so fortunate.  And even when in conflict, when the balance is already far in your favor, ideally both parties recognize that, and a vulgar display of power is unnecessary.  The end result of all this is that I try my best not to abuse power in situations where I’m fortunate enough to have it.  I do what I can to help the proverbial little guy.  I don’t ever kill anything purposefully.  And when I see a caterpillar in danger, you can be sure I pick it up.

A side note: Part of what moved me to write this tonight is I randomly had occasion to look up Saint Blaise this afternoon.  We share a name, but I always remembered him as the patron saint of throat ailments.  Not exactly glamorous, but you know.  Anyway, digging more into it today, I discovered that he is also the patron saint of wild animals and veterinarians… known for healing and saving animals, including a story in which he saved a pig from a wolf that was attacking it.  Anyway, it all seems fitting enough.

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