Posts Tagged Top 10

I don’t think Buddy Holly’s much of a waiter.

31 December 2012

You remember in 1994 when John Travolta appeared as hip gangster hitman “Vincent Vega” in Pulp Fiction?  Remember how it revitalized his career, bringing him back to the spotlight and letting us begin to believe him as something more than a pretty face who could dance?  Suddenly, he was able to pass as dark, quirky, and potentially even a badass in the right light (see Get Shorty, Face/Off, Michael, etc.).  It took something special though.  Not just the role, but the overall vibe of the movie.  It took the class and edge that directors like Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers bring to their features.  It’s not like Travolta didn’t have it in him all along — clearly he did.  But he needed the right opportunity.

Inspired by a conversation earlier this evening, I present my picks for actors that I believe deserve a John-Travolta-in-Pulp-Fiction style career resurgence.  Someone give these guys a chance to reinvent themselves and return to the spotlight!  I believe they’ve got it in them!

  1. Paul Hogan
    Yes, Crocodile Dundee himself.  I realize that maybe he was more of a 1980’s curiosity and one-trick pony, but he was charming as hell.  And though he must be way up there now (in his 70’s?), I feel like he’s got potential as a charming but menacing Bond villain or mob boss.  Someone get on that.  Time’s a-wastin’!
  2. Erik Estrada
    My love for Erik Estrada can be traced back to CHiPs and was in fact the subject of my very first blog post on MySpace many years ago.  I was briefly hopeful of a resurgence when he appeared in that great Butthole Surfers video in ’96.  Thought maybe he was getting hip again, but no such luck.  I just fucking love this guy.  He should be in every movie.
  3. Emilio Estevez
    Man, remember Breakfast Club and Young Guns?  This guy had just as much charisma as his brother or anyone else in the so-called “Brat Pack.”  There’s no reason Tom Cruise should be starring in these blockbusters year after year while we don’t hear a peep from Emilio.
  4. Ralph Macchio
    Perhaps “quirky badass” isn’t the direction to go here, but still, there must be something more we could be doing with Ralph Macchio.  It’s not like all his mega-appeal just suddenly dried up after the Karate Kid trilogy.  Couldn’t he find a place in a mob story or something?
  5. Robyn Lively
    Well since we’re talking about Karate Kid, ever since part 3 I’ve wanted to see more of Robyn Lively.  That’s all.
  6. Michael Keaton
    After Batman and Beetlejuice and several others through the early 90’s, he was all over the place.  Since then, it’s been all small parts or at least he’s been off my radar.  He’s totally ripe for a comeback, and as a real psycho too.  He used to do that well, and I bet he’d make an excellent brooding villain, assassin, or something of that ilk.
  7. Tim Curry
    He seems to be doing fine, but I think he’s vastly underutilized.  Look at Legend or It or Rocky Horror.  Aside from being one of my favorite actors, he has a natural creepiness that could be put to such great use.  I feel he’s being wasted on kids stuff these days, though that may well be by choice.
  8. Jeff Goldblum
    I know he’s been getting some work on television, and it’s not like Jurassic Park was that long ago, but still… Jeff Goldblum has a thing that only he does.  The same way Christopher Walken has a thing.  This thing Jeff’s got, well I’d like to see more of it.
  9. Clancy Brown
    Most memorable to me as the vicious Kurgan in The Highlander, his unusual look and sound have lent their talents to bit parts over the years, but I feel like he could really break out if given a central role — maybe paradoxically as an anti-hero — in a more serious film.  Why not?  The Highlander also introduced us to Chrisopher Lambert, who deserves honorable mention on this list.  Besides Highlander and Greystoke, I don’t really know his work.  But he was very entertaining in those.  Bring him back too, please!
  10. Tony Ganios
    I always relate to him as my first greaser role model through playing match-chewing “Perry” in The Wanderers, but he also appeared in the Porky’s movies and a few others.  I understand he’s retired from acting, and that’s too bad.  He had (and has?) more potential than we ever got to see him use.

Surely I’m forgetting some great actors and actresses, but these are the ones that occurred to me immediately.  Any other suggestions?

I’ll get the car, you get the night off.

20 February 2012

Every once in a while, I find myself wondering about my next car.  Do I need a new car?  No.  I love my car, and there is every indication that it will last me another 150,000 miles.  But if not now, then someday… I will need a new car.  And it’s not a small decision.  I can’t tell you how much thought went into the one I have now.  Like any red-blooded American male, I’ve had desires for various “dream cars” over the years.  These include:

  1. 1987 Buick Grand National “GNX”
    This was probably my longest-running dream car.  The Grand National was a special edition of the Buick Regal for a few years in the mid 80’s (the exact same years The Smiths were together, as it happens).  A luxury car’s body, but with high performance.  Only came in black.  Darth Vader in car form.  The final year, 1987, saw a further upgrade to the already menacing Grand National package.  There were just 547 of these “GNX” models, upgraded by McLaren.  It was the fastest production car in the U.S. that year.  Faster than the Corvette!  0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds.  And all while looking scary as hell.  When it finally came time for me to buy my first “real” car after getting my first “real” job, the GNX — rare as it was — was still in my price range.  But by that time, I’d grown up a bit.  And the not-so-modern interior wasn’t wowing me anymore.  I ultimately passed on the chance to own one.  I’m not really sure I regret it either, but damn they’re fun to look at!

  2. 1971 Plymouth Barracuda
    As I got more into the subject, I eventually discovered the golden era of American muscle cars.  There are many in this category to admire, and in the Mopar family specifically.  They had the performance but also the style.  The Roadrunner, the Super Bee, the Charger and Challenger.  Plus who else was releasing cars in stock colors like hot pink?  I eventually got my heart set on a lime green ‘Cuda, but for the same reasons I mentioned with the GNX, it just never happened.

  3. 1957 Ford Ranchero
    As much as I love old cars, I am also very lazy.  The idea of owning a beautiful and iconic vehicle is trumped by the impracticality of maintaining it in modern urban life.  As a second car, maybe.  And then I also don’t know much about doing it myself, so then what — hire someone to maintain it?  That wouldn’t be very greaser of me.  In the realm of what you might call “classic” cars, the Ranchero has always seemed like the most “me.”  Don’t get me wrong, there are countless cars of all makes and models in that era that I would die to own.  But the Ranchero is the one that speaks to me most.  It’s got unusual lines and trim.  It fits the time, but it’s definitely unique even among those classics.  So I’ll go ahead and take one in two-tone turquoise and white.  Please and thank you!

  4. Monster Truck (unspecified)
    When I was in high school, I badly wanted a monster truck, and almost got one a couple of times.  I would have been happy with an older Chevy Stepside pickup, or a Scout.  Or even a lift kit on my Chrysler New Yorker would have done me just fine.  As long as it had big, ridiculous swamper tires.  It’s probably a good thing I never followed through with that.  Hell, those tires alone are like $200+ a piece.  And imagine if you had a blowout on the freeway while up on those things.  Not to mention whatever it might say about me psychologically to drive something like that.

  5. Big Rig (unspecified)
    Then for a while in college, I thought about how funny it would be to drive a big old diesel big rig to school every day, but with nothing in tow.  It would be hilarious to me to be known as the guy who drove that totally impractical vehicle everywhere.  But not so hilarious that I’d ever actually do it.

  6. 1959 Cadillac Hearse
    As an adult, the totally impractical car I’ve often considered has been a classic Hearse.  I just like the idea of pulling up to gigs in one, and pulling all my gear from the back of it.  It’s not like I’m the first person to think this is cool or anything… there are whole car clubs dedicated to the Hearse.  And in fact it is from those clubs that I’ve learned just how impractical it really is.  My current care is huge and hard to park at about 18′.  Hearses tend to be more like 23′, and require a commercial drivers license to operate.  And because of their increased size, a lot of the parts like brakes, etc. are commercial grade… and are rare and expensive.  And then there’s the obvious issue of how many corpses have been through that car.  I understand a premium is charged for Hearses that have had very little… uh, professional usage.  I don’t know if I’d want to drive one that had ever been used that way!  And that tells me I’m probably not the kind of person who should be driving one.

  7. 1998 – 2002 Lincoln Town Car
    My final dream car was a black Town Car within a very specific range of years.  In my mind I’d pictured a plush, blood red interior (which they do not come with).  Something that evoked some kind of Victorian carriage… and maybe Dracula.  It was this car, minus that red interior, that I eventually came to own.  So hey, I’ve had at least one of my dream cars.  And the most practical one at that.

I truly cannot say enough nice things about my Town Car.  There are lots of cool rides out there, but my personality is so wrapped up in the big black Town Car.  It says so much about me.  I don’t know if I’m ready to let that go.  Being both ominous as well as totally anonymous in a city filled with identical black limos.  A certain authority and mystery that comes with this particular model and color.  I’m ignored by cops.  Practically invisible.  Thieves must assume its an off-duty livery vehicle and unlikely to contain anything of value, so it has never been broken into.  Of course, it also means I’m constantly being flagged down by drunks wanting a ride 2am, a problem unique to my car.  But because of that livery tie-in, I am fortunate to have found a repair shop that specializes in Town Cars only, catering to the areas many, many limo drivers.  A whole (huge) shop dedicated to my model.  What other car can say that?

Come to think of it though, all of that is stuff I hadn’t anticipated.  It was all bonus.  So why did I actually choose this car?  When I finally had a “real” job and could afford a real car, I looked very seriously at what was on the market, but it was clear this was the only choice for me in terms of new cars offered in those days.  It was the first car that was really nice when I got it, so I was motivated to keep it nice.  Nearly 10 years now.  Top quality window tinting.  Upgraded stereo.  Kept it clean and well-maintained.  I will miss it someday when it’s gone.  I guess if I’m being honest, I was a bit enamored with the black Town Car as the quintessential hitman / mafia / g-man vehicle.  The kind of car you don’t want to see coming.  The kind of car where you might be asked to get in the back… the way back (i.e. the trunk).  And the Town Car has what you might call a “three-body trunk.”  You know how trunks these days have a little pull tag to release the latch in case you get stuck inside?  I used to joke that the first modification I made to the car was to snip that right off.  Because if you find yourself in my trunk, you’re there for a reason.  (Have you ever looked at the icon on those pull tags?  It pretty much says it all.)  But most of all, I can’t describe the feeling of getting behind the wheel of my car, especially after a plane trip where I’ve spent a week in a rental… like floating on a soft couch rather than riding in a simple car.  It’s unlike anything else I’ve been in.  Those of you who’ve ridden with me can attest.  The buttery smooth power steering that requires almost no effort, you could just blow on it to move it.  Turning it feels like you’re navigating a ocean liner.  I grew up on hand-me-down beat up luxury cars, and when it came time to pick one of my own, what was I gonna do?  I chose luxury over performance and have never regretted it.  A vision of terror and salvation all at once… a shining and steaming machine, a slick black carriage emerging from the silent gray abyss of a cold and foggy San Francisco night.  How could I ever give that up?

On August 29th of last year, the final Town Car rolled off the assembly line, discontinued after all these years.  This despite it winning the hilarious and bizarre Rental Car Olympics (where we learned that it may be the fastest car made… when it comes to driving in reverse).  I just can’t see myself ever getting rid of mine.  Maybe I’ll keep it forever as a hobby, to restore someday even after I have another car to replace it as my main vehicle?

OK, so how about a more realistic list of cars I’d consider when Town Car is some day laid to rest?  Modern cars have some really cool stuff, you know.  Luxury cars often get cutting edge features first, but these days my Town Car’s bells and whistles are standard on nearly everything on the market.  I want some new stuff.  I was in a friend’s car recently and it had a camera on the rear so you could see if you were about to run into anything while backing up… plus it overlaid dotted lines to show where your reverse path will take you based on the current orientation of the steering wheel.  So you could see the exact angle you needed to back out of a tight spot.  How cool is that?  So let us consider:

  1. Chevy HHR Panel
    Now I fully realize that virtually no one gets what I see in these things, but I am really drawn to these little guys.  The panel version only, though.  It’s little and practical, plus it looks like a cross between a delivery truck and a PT Cruiser.  And they’re cheap too!  Only problem is they were discontinued after 2011.  Well hell, I guess they’ll be even cheaper used!

  2. Dodge Challenger
    The modern Challengers are amazing looking beasts.  With Mopar’s history of innovative and retro cars like the PT Cruiser and the Prowler, leave it to them to reintroduce a 70’s muscle car that actually still looks like a 70’s muscle car.  I applaud what they’ve done with this, and the only reason I could see not to snatch one up right away is the fact that I’d never be able to transport my guitar equipment in it for shows!  Otherwise, I’d be all over this thing.

  3. Electric Car (unspecified)
    The idea is that these are the cars of the future, and my next auto purchase ought to be ready for what’s next.  I like what Tesla is doing, but all other electrics and hybrids are kinda boring.  If they made an electric Town Car, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because I’d already own one.  Or even more ideally, I’d love to convert a classic (how about that ’57 Ranchero?) to an electric, with modern suspension, brakes, etc.?  I know that can be done (doesn’t Neil Young do it?), but it’s probably prohibitively expensive at the moment.  But someday…

  4. Smart Car / Mini Cooper
    On the same wavelength as an electric car would be something tiny and infinitely parkable in San Francisco.  Enter the Smart Car and/or Mini Cooper.  Ultra practical and — at least in the Cooper’s case — potentially even cool lookin’.  But again, where would put my guitar gear?  If I’m gonna go this small, I might as well get that motorcycle I was talking about.

  5. Ford Mustang
    Now hold on just a moment.  Let me preface by saying that in general I find Mustangs very uncomfortable to drive.  The complete opposite of a smooth Town Car.  However, given their current 70’s styling, all the cool internal lighting features and color changing stuff they can do, and most importantly the fact that they are the perfect convertible Maui car for when I move there eventually, I can see myself in one.  On the island though.

And remember too that I can always make any of these cars my own by adding some of those special touches.  Now when I was much younger, I dreamt about “cool” stuff like adding neon lights under my car, an obnoxiously loud subwoofer, or those kits to make flames shoot out of your exhaust pipe(s).  I’d like to say I’ve grown out of that stuff, but really my tastes have just changed some.  I still like obnoxious things.  I’d like to install black lights in the car’s cabin just ‘cos I think they’re sexy.  I’d love to set up a CB radio to talk to truckers while on road trips but that is also connected to a hidden PA so I can scream at jaywalkers.  I used to want to install a big rig truck horn just because I thought it would be funny and unexpected.  Nowadays, people install train horns, and even cruise ship horns.  Go look on YouTube and see.  I know there are a lot of reasons why that is a very bad idea.  But I still want to do it.  I mean imagine unleashing that on one of those urban brazen jaywalkers that look you in the eye challengingly even as they fuck you out of your right of way.  Makes me giddy to think of it.  I wouldn’t mind a crosshair hood ornament for pedestrians.  I remember when I was more into funk, I wanted to cover my car with mirrors like a giant disco ball, where all you’d see is blinding light as I rolled down the street, but I don’t guess that would be legal.  I heard the Loco Gringos had a Cadillac Hearse with — among many other decorations — a tequila bottle mohawk.  If I were a bigger drinker, I could go for that.  I also used to think it would be cool to have a replica of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel airbrushed on my car’s own ceiling, maybe so that the hands of Michelangelo’s God and Adam touched at the dome light.  Yeah, I was a weird kid.

A small digression… Prior to the Town Car, I used to drive a burgundy 1990 Chrysler Le Baron convertible.  The Mopar family isn’t exactly known for reliability.  My previous cars (an inherited Fifth Avenue, then a turbo-charged New Yorker) were both Chryslers and did not last long.  But good old Le Baron managed exactly 155,432 miles before I parked him for good.  I chose to donate him to PETA through a third party car donation program.  That was when the troubles began.  The donation company came with a tow truck, but decided first to try to start Le Baron.  He would not start.  Then they took a full jump box to charge him to get him to start… but the moment they touched it to Le Baron, it was immediately drained and rendered useless, something the tow truck driver had never seen.  They eventually got it onto the truck.  I later heard that they managed to lose the pink slip, which I had 100% for sure given them.  Could be coincidence, but I prefer to think that these events were examples of Le Baron’s curse.  The final proof?  Well, I took my plates off Le Baron, for use on my next car.  They were then registered to that new car.  Years later, I found out from the city of San Francisco that there was a recent parking ticket attributed to my licence plate number, in a neighborhood I never go to.  In researching the ticket, it was attributed to a burgundy two-door sedan.  So to recap… I donate a burgundy two-door sedan in the East Bay, physically removing and re-registering the plates to a black four-door.  Years later in SF, I am informed I received a ticket on a date and place I was not at, attributed to my same (and still current) license plate number, matching my old car’s description.  Could the DMV mistakenly have re-issued my plate number to my old (and I guess refurbished?) Le Baron such that there are two cars on the road with the same plates?  And that they’d get (and not pay) a parking ticket in the city I just so happen to have moved to?  It all seems impossible.  I maintain it was… the ghost of Le Baron!!!

Incidentally, I feel like I could and should write some memories of my first three cars, which are flooding back to me even as I type this.  Perhaps that’ll come in the future.  At that time, you’ll read about how we used to pick up roadside junk or even race the unsuspecting using passing gear.  The massive disco mirror ball I had hanging from the rear view.  Or how the New Yorker could talk (his voice was immortalized in the song “Malfunction“).  Or how Le Baron’s passenger door fell off, while its ragged rag top admitted more spiders than you would believe… which I had strategies to address (e.g. a tee-ball bat, a spray bottle of “Spider-B-Gone,” etc.), and only once nearly crashed the car when startled by an eight-legged hellion.  Ah, but another time.

The completely unrelated quote of the week comes from the archives… sometime last year, I think.

Friend: “Ryan Reynolds was just named People’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ this year. What do you think my chances are of being next year’s sexiest man alive?”
Me: “I dunno dude. You’d have to kill, like, a lot of people.”

I’ll be your Santa Claus…

7 December 2011

Another year has gone by, and it’s nearly Christmas time again.  I know I always say it, but it continues to be true… and it bears repeating: the years come faster and faster every time.  There’s no denying that my blogging pace has slowed down considerably.  In fact this is only the 10th — and likely final — entry of the year.  And only the third since May!  I’ve settled in to where I only post when I’ve got something to say, or really to document.  And my annual Christmas list falls into that category I think. 

But since I’m here, I might as well throw in a quick rundown of current events.  Let’s see… Morrissey was set to play in Oakland last week, but he cancelled literally just hours before the show.  I was crushed, as was virtually everyone I know, but life goes on.  Brian Setzer is coming to Santa Cruz later this month, and it’ll be a great opportunity to go to a concert with dad, which we almost never do together.  Plus Jared is coming to town, so I’ll get to catch up with him!  What else… I already posted about Vegas last time, but another fun trip is on the horizon: Maui for New Year’s!  More on that as it becomes clear.  I’m looking forward to having some great vacations in 2012.  I am too lazy and maybe too risk averse to plan real vacations, or at least I have been for years.  I want this year to be different, and so in addition to my recent and upcoming trip, I’m looking at Cuba, Europe, Vegas again to finally make it out for VLV, and then even a meditative Buddhist retreat!  Other things under consideration or the G.I. Joe Convention in New Orleans in June, and a visit to swim with the manatees in Florida when they return in the Fall.  Doesn’t even sound like me, right?  What can I say?  Time to get busy living.

One more thing… Trader Joe’s has just started offering Speculoos Cookie Butter, which is like peanut butter except for it tastes like liquid gingerbread cookie dough.  I ate a whole can in a couple of days.  I expect it to be a part of my routine for the foreseeable future.

It being the holiday season and all, this is usually the time I am creating a yuletide mix CD as a gift for my close friends.  I have ideas for this year’s stockpiled, but realistically I just don’t know if there’s going to be time to make it happen.  I hate to say that, because it really is fun to put them together, but I may have to take a break this year.  As a matter of fact, I don’t know if I’m up for any Christmas shopping.  I’m swamped as it is, and we’re already just a few short weeks away from the big day.  So unless and until otherwise notified, let’s plan on no gifts this year.  Besides, you know how much I hate shopping out of obligation.  If anything, let’s continue promoting Scroogenomics (summarized here), specifically the idea of giving donation gift cards of a specified amount where the recipient gets to choose the charity the funds go to.  That way, we’re both meeting our gift exchange obligations, and instead of either of us getting junk we don’t need or want, that money goes to a worthy cause.  Perfection, I say.

But I do like my things, and I did pretty well with my list last year.  My folks blessed me with a Dirt Devil.  Kelly’s folks got me a mouse rug.  I bought myself the Monkey Island set (which I have not had time to play even once all year!), and then just recently Jared pulled off the gift of gifts by nabbing me the Nile Rodgers sheet music that I had been hunting for years!  I’ve been documenting a “gimme” list for a few years now (2007, 2008, 20092010), but this year was a real struggle to come up with even 10 items.  I guess maybe that’s a good thing?  Plus half the stuff on here is kinda silly anyway.  Maybe I finally have enough stuff, or maybe I’m actually getting less attached to material possessions?  Or maybe I’m just too lazy to even think of stuff for people to buy me.  How American is that?  OK, so Santa, friends, loved ones, admirers… I command you to shower me with the following:

  1. Lords Of Death Sunglasses
    If you’ve seen “Big Trouble In Little China” (and if not, why not?), you know about the amazing white slanty sunglasses worn briefly by a member of the “Lords Of Death” street gang in the kidnapping scene.  Reminiscent of the iconic 1965 André Courrèges Eskimo shades.  Anyway, those Lords Of Death glasses… this year, I decided I must have them.  Well, it turns out that they were only made in the 80’s and are all but impossible to find.  The obvious place to look would be the best merch site dedicated to an obscure movie ever: The Wing Kong Exchange.  I’ve purchased the Jack Burton tank top, and I love it.  But they have little to offer when it comes to the glasses.  It’s not their fault though.  There just isn’t much information out there.  They ultimately direct you to what is far and away the closest thing available, being iJaak Eyewear’s handmade Eskimo glasses.  I traded some emails with the artist who makes them, and he was super nice and accommodating, but in the end for the high cost, the result just isn’t quite close enough to the real deal.  They do have an excellent blog with some good information and pictures on the originals though.  If you see these pop up on eBay or anywhere else, let me know!
  2. Johnny Marr’s Signature Fender Jaguar
    I’m leaving this one on here from last year because there was a delay.  I’m told it will finally hit the market in January 2012.  I have to say, from what I’ve seen, it amounts to a stripped-down plain old white Jaguar.  And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but unless I find out there’s something really special and amazing about it, I may have to pass.  It’s not that I don’t want to support Johnny, because honestly who supports him more than I?  But I have too many guitars as it is, and even the considerable weight of Johnny’s signature may not be enough on its own to justify a purchase of that magnitude.  Time will tell.
  3. White Ghost Cactus
    This summer, I had the pleasure of seeing the “Wicked Plants” exhibit at the Conservatory Of Flowers at Golden Gate Park.  There were a lot of what you’d expect — Venus Flytraps and the like — as well as some unusual suspects.  One that caught my eye was a rare variation called euphorbia lactea variegata or the “white ghost” cactus.  It’s basically a low-maintenance plant that grows up to six feet tall, is a striking alabaster white, and is mildly poisonous to the touch.  Seems like the perfect conversation piece / Bond villain-esque pet for me to keep on my patio.  And you can even buy them on Amazon.  What’s not to love?
  4. Vegan Pewter Dr. Martens (which don’t exists)
    It was only a few months ago that I bought my first pair or genuine Dr. Martens, and it was only because they’d finally reintroduced their vegan line.  You are probably aware that I won’t buy leather for ethical reasons, and while I’m comfortable with that decision at the moment, it does come with a cost.  There are many fashion statements that I would love to make, but cannot because suitable cruelty-free options do not yet exist.  Consider the fantastic pewter finish that I would love to strut in, not to mention the dozens of others.  I tell you, if the vegan option were there for more than just two colors (as is the case now), I would own more pairs of these shoes than I would like to admit.  White, powder blue, red velvet… the list goes on.  All call out to me, but I have yet to hear an argument that will allow me to buy these and still sleep at night, sadly. 
  5. ████ ████████
    So I’ve had a nice ████████ ███████ for a while, though I haven’t done much with it yet.  I’m thinking I ought to at least ████ ██ and get some ████████ before adding another ███████ to my life.  So hopefully that will happen soon, and I’ll be more certain that I really want this and am ready for it.  (Please excuse the redaction; I had to sanitize this for the public.  But me and Santa both know what we’re talking about here.)
  6. Multi-System Flatscreen T.V. / DVD Combo
    As with smart phones, which I’d successfully resisted until this last summer, I’m thinking it’s time I finally join the free world and get a modern television.  You see, I don’t watch it that much, and I don’t really play video games on it, so I’ve been happy with the same old CRT for years now.  How many years?  Well, it’s the one Jared left with me when he moved six years ago, and who knows how old it was before that?  It’s tiny, but I really don’t mind.  Seeing how cheap the technology has become and how nice some of my friends’ big flatscreens are, I’m starting to get the itch.  Because I upgrade my technology so very rarely, I guess I ought to get something big enough to last me a while.  Get it all done at once, you know.  I suppose it ought to support HD, since things seem to be going that way.  And I guess the new DVD player ought to support Blu-ray, since things seem to be going that way.  The only hitch for me is that I want a “multi-system” DVD player that will play all region codes and a “multi-system” T.V. that will display both NTSC and PAL formats.  Just so that I can watch my few import DVDs on something other than a computer.  You’d think with all the digital technology these days, those concerns would be a thing of the past, but they’re not.  They do make multi-system flatscreens, though they’re not super common in the U.S., and for the same price, you can get a much bigger “regular” flatscreen.  So to get one that’s both multi-system and also big… well let’s hope Santa’s loaded.
  7. Buddhist Alarm Clock
    I’m keeping this one on from last year too.  I’m still waking up every morning to the sounds of the local 80’s R&B station.  I need to get more sleep, I know, but I also think waking up more peacefully wouldn’t hurt either in terms of reducing stress.  So again, I find myself wanting to explore either the gentle bell to gradually wake me, or the synthetic sounds of harbor noises and the like.  Anyone have experience wth these?
  8. Puppet Master T-Shirt
    It seems like every year, there’s some hard-to-find shirt on my list, and I have struck out with all of them so far.  This year’s entry is an awesome design that was once offered by some company called “Lucky Threadz” which is now apparently known as “Loiter?”  All I know is that every official site I could find for them (and there was more than one which is a bad sign) was down/deactivated/abandoned (which is another bad sign).  I have very little hope I’ll ever get one of these in a men’s XL, but if your Googlin’ skills surpass mine, please do me the great honor of finding me this shirt!
  9. Triumph Rocket III
    At a Reverend Horton Heat show a couple years back, I saw a motorcycle parked out front with a custom paint job designating it as “The Baron.”  I don’t know enough about them to know what kind it was, but the dim photo I was able to snap with my old phone helped my friend Sean determine that it was likely a Triumph Rocket III or something from the Boss Hoss family.  What struck me about it was that it didn’t look like a normal bike.  It looked like it had a small car engine in it, rather than the usual motorcycle guts.  Take a look at that Rocket III, and you’ll see what I mean.  I’m not 100% convinced what I saw that night was a Rocket III, but it will do.  Sean advises me that this is too much bike for most men, and certainly for a novice like myself.  But since when do I listen to reason?  Vroom vroom!
  10. Red & White Striped Paper Straws
    On a recent trip to the delicious Straw restaurant, I was amused by the kitschy retro straws they provided with their drinks.  They were of that barber pole style, and strangely (to me, at least) they were made of paper.  Turns out, these are not hard to find.  Amazon sells a box of 144 Kikkerland Biodegradable Paper Straws (red and white striped) for under $7.  I haven’t picked any up yet, but I’m dying to.  Then I want to lay out by the pool and drink from a can of Diet Coke using one of the straws… hmmm, I feel I’ve said too much.  I don’t know why, but I still get excited by the prospect of getting things for the home like you see in restaurants.  For instance, I recently got rocks glasses at BevMo, along with an ice tray that makes perfectly geometric cubes of ice (as close as you can get to that super clear restaurant / bar ice without buying a heinously expensive professional ice machine — trust me).  Seeing the perfect ice in the perfect little glass has actually caused me to start drinking more alcohol at home.  For reasons like this, the glassware at BevMo and Cost Plus rocks my socks.  Somehow I think this is all tied to OCD, but I digress.

Aside from all that ridiculosity, there are always the essentials:  I can always use some Eternity for men (that’s my scent, yo).  And then a new year means a new wall calendar for work.  For 2011, the theme was manatees.  For 2012?  You tell me.

In all seriousness, obligated gift exchanges are recipes for disaster and anxiety.  I don’t know what you want, and you’re not going to buy me a motorcycle.  Let’s avoid the stress, and for Christmas let’s just catch up over a meal instead.  Your treat, of course.

Shall we play a game?

20 February 2011

It seems like these days video games are a more socially acceptable entertainment choice than ever before, even for adults.  Now of course growing up when and where I did, I played a ton of games in arcades and eventually Nintendo, Sega, PC, etc.  Make no mistake, I was way into it when I was little.  But I can’t remember the last time I had a bunch of free hours to kill playing a Playstation.  I mean, my days and nights are jam packed with other commitments, and I thought that was pretty normal for adults.  Who are all these people with tons of time to play?  How do they ever find the time?

I saw in recent months that Red Dead Redemption has been released.  It’s the highly-anticipated follow up to the last game that I really got hooked on back around 2004: Red Dead Revolver.  In honor of this new sequel that I don’t have the time to buy and play, I thought I’d run down some of the notable games that hooked me over the years.  I will confess though that with this new PC, I did carve out a couple hours to install and play Hitman: Blood Money, which came out in 2006.  With this new hardware, I was able to run the game with all the graphics options maxed out, and it ran without a hitch.  I only had time to play a couple levels, but wow… I really missed out back then.  My old machine would barely run this thing.  With this suped up 2011 PC, the visuals were stunning!  And again, this is a game from five years ago.  It makes me wonder in the last half decade how much more incredible games have gotten… and I’m not sure I want to find out.

I’m about to geek out on video games as I never have and never will again.  If there were a way to block girls from ever reading this post, I would invoke it.  I’ll do my best not to just list every game I ever played, meaning I’ll attempt to focus on just the ones that really impacted me in terms of my creative development and even just the time and financial investment.  Before I proceed, big ups to San Jose’s “Aladdin’s Castle,” Pleasanton’s “Game Station,” and the many pizza parlors, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and 7-11s that I frequented in my youth.  In those days, my friends and I kept close track of what arcade games were where.  These days, I just watch a YouTube video of the walkthrough of an entire game and I’m just as happy.  And finally, check out the KLOV for details on pretty much any game ever made.

Scroll down for the simple top 10 list (top 1010?), but for those of you who care to come along for the whole journey, here’s a brief-ish history.

In The Beginning…
My earliest video game memory is of the Atari 400.  It had a keyboard built in so as to allow some primitive form of word processing, and there was even something music-related with a cassette tape peripheral.  The salesman had told my dad that it was “the last computer [he’d] ever need.”  Not quite, I guess.  But these were the earliest of games.  We were rocking the classics like Pac-Man, Centipede, Joust, Frogger, Space Invaders, Pole Position, Donkey Kong, Dig Dug, and Missile Command.  I also recall Jungle Hunt, a billiards game called Rack ‘em Up, some mission-to-Mars something or other, and some kind of fifteen puzzle game I can no longer remember.  Oh, and of course Krazy Shoot-Out!  This was the game where my dad famously pranked the family by recording himself playing very well on the new VCR (also a marvel at the time), then had me pretend to be playing while his recording played.  “OMG, everyone look how good Benji is playing!”  OK, I’m pretty sure he didn’t say “OMG,” but the rest happened.

Then came the original Nintendo.  The classics here were Duck Hunt and of course the Super Mario Bros. series, which I was never way into… though I do remember a certain anticipation of part three tied in with that Fred Savage movie “The Wizard.”  Other memorable titles include Pro Wrestling, , Excitebike, SNK Baseball Stars, Super Dodge Ball, Ice Hockey, Legendary Wings (which I was playing when the 1989 earthquake hit), and my friend Olin’s mainstay The Guardian Legend.  In those days, I’d rent a lot of Nintendo games from the local video store.  More than I could possibly remember… though as I sit here typing, the titles are coming back to me.  Must… resist… urge… to… list them all.  Without question though, the best Nintendo game of all time is a dead heat between Contra (U, U, D, D, L, R, L, R, B, A, START anyone?) and Tecmo Bowl (as well as later, Tecmo Super Bowl).

Somewhere in the mid-eighties, we got our first “real” home computer of the Amiga variety.  I don’t guess I know how you’d classify it in modern computing terms, but I suppose Amiga had their own OS.  The peripherals were what you know and love.  A monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, a floppy drive.  It had a real word processor, some basic midi, a program that would “speak” whatever you typed, and Deluxe Paint (think ancient Photoshop).  As far as games went, there were some notables.  Marble Madness comes to mind.  Battle Chess of course!  Temple Of Apshai, Barbarian(whoa!), Roadwar 2000, Arctic Fox, Bomb Jack (which I have a vague recollection of winning at school?), some flight simulator, and one of the first text/graphic adventures games — which I was too young to win, but would recognize and admonish you for entering cuss words.  And around this time in school we were playing the famous Oregon Trail and Odell Lake on Apples.

My So-Called Life
In my teen years, I got into the Sega family.  Those systems came and went so fast, they kinda blur together for me.  I know for sure it was the Genesis that had the original Sonic The Hedgehog, as well as a ton of amazing sports games that happen to hit me right in those early nineties years when I was actually into sports (such as R.B.I. ’93, and the many EA series like Madden FootballNHL Hockey, and several basketball games based on Lakers vs. Celtics… gotta love those signature dunks!).  At some point, the Sega CD came out, followed by the Saturn, and eventually the Dreamcast.  I had all of them, and I can’t recall for certain which games were on which systems as it all bleeds together in hazy memories of my dusty bedroom at the family home in the East Bay.  But one of the favorites that strikes me first is the second Eternal Champions, full of time travelling historical figures, fighting and killing each other using elements of the backdrop.  My sister and I found rare common ground with our love of The Horde, featuring Kirk Cameron!  Then the peerless zombie shooter House Of The Dead, which I fondly recall having two controllers for and starting up players 1 and 2 and going John Woo style.  (P.S. Just so you know, 1:06 is how you handle a zombie.  Owned.)  I remember Jared and I used to play this amazing basketball game (NBA 2k1) where you could create your own players.  Of course mine was a 7’6″ white guy with an afro, star-shaped sunglasses, short shorts, and knee-high socks.  He could dunk without hardly jumping.  Jared’s guy was more true to life height, but he’d sink half court threes all the time.  Which brings me to a couple of killers: the Virtua Fighter series and the Soulcalibur series.  Those series both spanned into the PS3 world, and spoiler alert: they’re both in my top 10, so more on them below.

During this time, I should mention I had my stint working at Blockbuster, and so I had many, many late nights after closing playing Twisted Metal at Donnie’s house, and later GoldenEye in the manager’s office with The Horsemen.

So then I finally broke down and got the PlayStation 2 everyone was raving about.  It didn’t disappoint.  In addition to introducing me formally to the Tekken series, it brought another pair of my top 10s into my life: Gladius and Red Dead Revolver.  There was also a cool WWF game that let me build my own wrestler and furnish him, of course, with the camel clutch… which I believe at the time I dubbed “the Ugly Clutch.”

Keeping It PC
After the Amiga days, my family got into Windows 3.1, and then when I started buying my own computers, it was Windows 98, then XP, and now Windows 7.  People bitch about Microsoft (“where quality is job 1.1″ ha ha!), but I’ve generally been happy with their products.  I don’t want to get sidetracked with this, but besides my short love affair with HyperCard on the school-owned Macs in middle school, I’ve never cared for Apples, much less owned one.  To me, they’re computers that assume the user is completely non-technical and shouldn’t be allowed to tweak anything.  And if that suits you, then great, but it comes across like Fisher-Price to me.  I digress.  My point was that PC games deserve their own category, though chronologically speaking, it spans from around 1990 to present day.  The first PC game I remember being enamoured with was the first (and later second) of the Monkey Island series.  Similar to this (and created by the same company, LucasArts) was the excellent Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis.  All of these LucasArts adventure games were done with such class and quality, you just can’t find a fault with them.  Every little detail is perfect.  (Incidentally, LucasArts was also responsible for PS2’s Gladius, mentioned above and below.)  Sierra made their share of great adventure games of this style too, and while they weren’t quite as polished, they were still a lot of fun.  There was the famously sleazy Leisure Suit Larry series, as well as Police Quest and the masterful King’s Quest VI.

There was SimCity, which later spawned The Sims — being a ridiculous game in which you dress and design virtual people and houses and then tell them when to eat and poop.  Jessica and I shared an obsession with it in 2002, even mimicking their language, and I believe my Sim Benjamin cheated on her Sim Jessica with Sim Morrissey.  For a few years, I got into first-person shooters like Doom and Hexen, then later had my one and only foray into online gaming with Half-Life and Counter-Strike.  Later came the Hitman series, which was way up my alley.  I confess I did play the geeky Vampire Masquerade game for a while, which I maintain was awesome.  There were some crazy driving games like Carmageddon, where you would race, demolition derby, and annihilate pedestrians all at once.  Or Interstate ’76, a hilarious and cinematic take on doing battle… in muscle cars… in the desert… in 1976.  (Someone posted all the cutscenes back-to-back here: parts one, two, and three.)

Insert Witty “Arcade Fire” Pun — Which I Am Too Tired To Think Of
Also deserving of its own category, all video game obsession in the eighties and nineties started with whatever was new at the local arcade.  In fact some of the titles already mentioned first landed on my radar in the arcade.  And some of the ones I’m about to talk about I also had in some form at home.  And hell, these days an enterprising PC user can find “free” emulators like MAME to get hundreds of old arcade games working on your computer.  But I don’t even know where to start here.  I mean, there were so many I played over they years.  Maybe I’ll group them by theme?

Side-scrolling fighting games — also known as “beat ‘em ups” — were the real bread and butter of my young arcade-going life.  Double Dragon was probably the earliest as well as the gold standard.  Other great titles like Crime Fighters and Final Fight followed this format, as did several lesser ones like Bad Dudes and Two Crude (though it was fun to throw cars and beat up a soda machine for more energy).  Once you start throwing swords and magical powers into the equation, you get Altered Beast (rise from your grave!) and Strider.  There was that Indiana Jones game too that covered all the coolest parts of the Temple Of Doom movie.  Awesome ninja games like Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden (which spawned a Nintendo game I forgot to mention earlier; its intro sequence still haunts me to this day).  TMNT had a well made arcade game similar in style to The Simpsons.  Another fave was the Splatterhouse series which essentially let you take on the role of Jason from Friday The 13th.  Then the barbarian movie trend of the eighties no doubt influenced the creation of games like Gauntlet (wizard needs food badly… wizard is about to die… you are it!), Gauntlet Legends, and the Golden Axe series (of which The Revenge Of Death Adder was the crown jewel).  When it came to side-scrolling shooters, there were dozens more.  Most etched into my memory are Rolling Thunder, NARC, Sunset Riders, and ESWAT.

Arcade driving and racing games weren’t usually my thing, but there were a few notable exceptions.  I think the earliest one I liked was the classic Spy Hunter, famously featuring the Peter Gunn theme.  I remember Super Off Road a little, and have a similarly vague memory of racing my sister on Toobin’.  Later in life I found love for them though, while peeling out in a ’56 Chevy in Cruis’n World and going nuts in Crazy Taxi.  I could even appreciate the amout of environmental controller feedback in the choppy waters of Hydro Thunder.

I was only really into sports for a few years in the early nineties, and frankly it took the form of video games and baseball cards more than it did actually playing the sports.  But in those days, besides the sports games on home consoles I already mentioned, I was all about NBA Jam.  The cartoonish format and ridiculous dunks emphasized everything I liked about the sport.  Prior to that, I enjoyed the medieval football brawl of Pigskin and the skateboarding classic 720° (skate or die!).  The best wrestling games ever (WWF Superstars and WWF WrestleFest) were found in arcades in those days, helping to feed my insane childhood wrestling fandom.  And then of course the blockbuster Punch-Out (which had a long life on Nintendo as well).

My final days in the arcade were centered around one-on-one type fighting games.  There are a couple of “kings” of this genre back in the golden age.  The first was Street Fighter II which really did seem to revolutionize gaming and spawn dozens (if not hundreds) of imitators.  It wasn’t the first game to use that format, but it was the slickest and most sophisticated by leaps and bounds.  The same company (Capcom) produced another of my favorite series (just barely missing my top 10) called “Darkstalkers.”  It was basically the SFII format, but with better art and animation, more in-depth backdrops and characters, and of course… they were all monsters (vampires, werewolves, mummies, etc.).  This was one of several games Jared and I were very competitive with each other on.  Along these same lines were the later Marvel vs. Capcom games, which brought a ton of Marvel Comics characters into the world of 2D fighting, against various characters in the Capcom universe.  Just before SFII hit the scene in 1991, it was actually Pit-Fighter that first caught my eye.  It used digitized pictures, and while it was a little clunky, it gave rise to the second “king” of early fighting games: Mortal Kombat.  The first and second games in that series were hugely influential and controversial, if you recall (FINISH HIM!).  The SNK/Neo-Geo company got in the mix throughout the nineties.  They were mostly known for their several SFII also-rans like the Fatal Fury series, but they hit a high point there with the King Of Fighters series, bringing together characters from many games in the SNK universe.  Their ultimate achievement in my eyes though is far and away the Samurai Showdown series, which is on my top 10 below.  Their attempts to capture that magic again with the Last Blade series were also admirable.  There were many, many other similar fighting games over the years that held my fancy for a few weeks.  Some silly, some pretty good.  But far too many to research or mention.  The whole decade was dominated by these games.

A few final and meaningful standards that don’t fit in anywhere else… Paperboy (where yes, you were actually a paperboy) was hard as hell to control, and it had an infectious theme song.  Another vocational was the ancient table top game Tapper, which serves me often as a metaphor when I’m describing my life.  Rampage put you in the shoes of Godzilla, King Kong, or a giant wolf… and then let you tear apart city after city.  And finally, one of the most recognizable early arcade hits: the controllable cartoon known as Dragon’s Lair.

The Top 10
And after all that, I just know I’m forgetting dozens of great games.  I’ll probably be coming back to update this posting for weeks as I randomly remember more.  It’s so hard to even settle on 10, because at one time, I had a minor obsession with each of the games described above.  Way more than 10 of them.  I thought about them a lot.  I daydreamed about them.  I coveted codes for them, and watched gaming magazines to find out about new discoveries and sequels and strategy guides for them.  A lot of my young time and thought spent, now just reduced to a hyperlink somewhere in the last several paragraphs.  I can still remember the magic of seeing a new game in the local arcade, pushing the envelope of graphical capabilities, and watching the demo reel over and over.  And begging mom and dad for quarters.  *sigh*  So here they are in rough chronological order… the games I miss, my favorites of all time:

  1. Monkey Island
    I think I first saw The Secret Of Monkey Island as a playable demo at a Circuit City or something.  Later I found my friend Jonah had it, and I played it a while at his house.  One day I got a copy for myself, as well as Monkey Island 2 .It’s not like I wasn’t ever captivated by a game before this one, but this is the first one that I can remember felt magical even beyond just the novelty aspect which I think drove me on those early arcade games.  I discussed the magic a little on #10 on my last Christmas list, and I did end up getting them for myself.  But I have yet to actually install and play them because who has the time?
  2. Street Fighter II
    As I mentioned, SFII revolutionized gaming, and I definitely drank the Kool-Aid for that one.  I learned all teh moves for all the characters, learned their backgrounds, competed in the local arcades and convenience stores.  I’d have to say that it’s actually Street Fighter III and its variations that were my favorite, particularly with the much smoother graphics and weirder characters.  (Dudley would easily make my list of favorite game characters of all time.)  Though maybe that’s all revisionist history, as I was never really obsessed with the third one the way I was with the second.
  3. Mortal Kombat
    Kind of simultaneously with SFII, I began my obsession with Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II.  I was so into every character, every move, every secret in the game.  I lived and breathed it for a while.  I played with G.I. Joes as though they were characters from the game.  I played it until I was somewhat competitive.  The later games in the series looked neat enough, and maybe it was just my age, but after part II, my interest waned considerably.
  4. Samurai Showdown
    As I was getting into martial arts in real life in the mid nineties, my interest in the associated weaponry expanded.  It was right about this time that I discovered the first in the Samurai Showdown series.  When the Samurai Showdown II came out, it was phenomenal.  I was all about it, and got to be relatively competitive with it.  The later games in the series were not common in local arcades, but over the years I’ve discovered that they are “available” via emulators.  The graphics improved each time, and I guess now they’re up to part VI.  I need to get on that.
  5. Virtua Fighter 3
    When the first Virtua Fighter arrived, it was ugly.  But it was something new: a completely 3-D game.  I played it a little, but it wasn’t until Virtua Fighter 2 came out that I went nuts with it.  Aside from poring over every move and graphic, I got good at this game.  Really good.  I would posit that playing as “Kage” on Virtua Fighter 2 was the best I’ve ever been at any video game.  VF3 made another leap in graphics and interactive backdrops and was probably my favorite of the series, and though I was great at it too, I never dominated to quite the extent I did on part 2.  There have been several more sequels in this series, but I have failed to follow them.
  6. Half-Life / Counter-Strike
    OK, I’m cheating by putting Half-Life and Counter-Strike together here, but they’re closely related.  I first discovered Half-Life in my interning days around 1999 I think.  Some of the guys I worked with were way into it, and they got me hooked too.  We’d play competitively long nights in the lab there.  I learned to camp.  I learned about snarks.  We downloaded skins like Party Bear, which you had to wear as punishment for various things.  We madecustom tags to spray all over the maps.  We spliced Tommy Boy quotes (“Bees!  Bees!  Bees in the car!  Bees everywhere!  God, they’re huge and they’re sting crazy!  They’re ripping my flesh off!  Run away, your firearms are useless against them!”) into the game to play whenever you got hit with the hivehand.  We replaced the remote bomb skin with the healthpack skin.  (“Hey, how come I can’t pick up this healthpack!?”  BOOM!).  Yeah, it was a fun little cult we had going for a while there.  Later, Counter-Strike came along which I played more from home.  Jared got in on it, too.  We had a lame little clan.  I never was great, but I was decent.  My best score ever was 64 and 11, just before we went to Ireland.  Yes, I wrote it down and have been waiting for an excuse to document it somewhere so I don’t have to keep track of it anymore.  Yes, I was a secret nerd.
  7. Hitman
    The Hitman series… what can I say.  Sneak around, trying to off people in exotic ways and places?  Like consulting, but with a silenced pistol.  Me gusta.  I can’t pick just one.  I love them all.
  8. Soulcalibur
    Soulcalibur was another 3-D fighting game series, like Virtua Fighter but with swords.  The first two or three of them I played with Jared, Dad, and a few other friends, and I think that next to Kage on Virtua Fighter, my Cervantes on Soulcaliburs I, II, and III is my most formidable showing on a game, competitively speaking.  I could whup some monkey ass with those two swords.  This fact made its way into inside jokes like “going Sosa-vantes” when swinging my Wiffle ball bats around, or “going Lipton-vantes” when threatening to teabag someone.  And my Astaroth wasn’t bad either.  The games were not as sophisticated as Virtua Fighter, but they were definitely epic.
  9. Gladius
    Another fine showing by LucasArts, Gladius was an amazing and tragically overlooked gladiator-themed tactical RPG.  It being from LucasArts, every little detail was attended to.  The artwork, the characters, the gameplay… nothing lacked depth.  It almost touched the level of Monkey Island in terms of immersion, and that’s saying something.  At the very least, it remains the best gladiator game ever produced, and I don’t dare plug it in anymore lest I lose another several weeks of my life.  It swallowed up my dad for a while too.
  10. Red Dead Revolver
    Now we come full circle.  The last game that got a hold of me was one I ran across by accident.  It wasn’t hyped too much, and it was long after I paid any attention to gaming magazines or websites.  I don’t remember exactly how I heard about Red Dead Revolver, but it might be on my top 5 ever.  Or even top 3.  It’s made by the same guys that brought you Grand Theft Auto (which I’ve never played), but it is instead a spaghetti western.  And boy did they do it right.  The plot and characters, the backgrounds and weapons, all perfect recreations of spaghetti flicks.  The music was breathtaking, culled from real soundtracks (and I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I tracked down every one of those hard-to-find Italian soundtracks and built my spaghetti music collection on it; I am less ashamed to admit it had a hand in me trying to start a spaghetti wester band a few years ago).  Even the screen flickers and blurs like an old film.  It feels like you’re in a movie!  I regret that I don’t have the time to jump into the new sequel and all of its expansion packs.  If it were 10 years ago, I’d be all over it.

After looking at everything I just wrote… holy shit, I played a lot of video games in my life.  And these are just the ones I played often!  God knows how many more there’d be if I were just trying to name everything I could remember.  What possessed me to even write all this out?  Pointless reminiscing about silly things.  It’s a sickness, what can I tell you?  Perhaps I should have spent this time playing Hitman instead of blogging…

You’re ruining Christmas!

1 December 2010

Well it’s that time of year again.  As in the past, this is what I am submitting to the collective Santa of my friends, family, and benefactors.  Tongue in cheek though.  It’s a reminder to me (of things I want to buy) more than anything else.  But if you are unshakably resolved to buy me something, at least now you’ll have a few ideas for things you know I’ll love.  If there’s one thing I hate, it’s buying a gift out of perceived obligation knowing full well that I have no idea what the person wants or needs.  What a waste for all parties involved, you know?  I’m intrigued by Scroogenomics (summarized here), and particularly the idea of donation gift cards where you give a gift in the form of a donation of a specified amount to a charity of the recipient’s choosing.  How perfect is that?  We both meet our gift exchange obligations, and instead of either of us getting junk we won’t use, that money goes to a worthy cause.  Seems ideal to me.  I really hope that catches on.  But until then…

If you’re curious, this list is a tradition I started a few years back.  Although the recently re-vamped MySpace has broken all of my old links to my blog there, as well as destroyed all my formatting — which stresses me out too much to deal with right now — you can still view the previous years here: 2007, 2008, and 2009.  I eventually got a lot of that stuff, but there’s also some great stuff on it that I have yet to get my hands on (like a belt buckle from Black Crow Arts, a bucket of IKB paint, or exclusive Wanderers merch from the insanely-expensive German site Rockabilly Rules).  But I’m going to do my best to keep it new and exciting this year.  Though I’m coveting far too much to leave any room for my traditional jokes (see previous years).  So without further ado, my wish list for 2010, in no particular order:

  1. Dirt Devil
    I have a vacuum I inherited from Jared when he moved over five years ago.  Since then — I am embarrassed to admit — I have used it very rarely.  It’s just a hassle to drag out, and I think it’s old and probably needs to be emptied, which I’ve never done.  I need a convenient solution here to ease me into the idea of cleaning my carpets.  What I’m imagining is a powerful but handheld vacuum like a strong Dirt Devil or Dustbuster.  Something I can use to get the dust bunnies and cobwebs, powerful enough to do the floors, but easy to wield, manage, and empty.  For I am very lazy.  And for all my considerable powers and victories in life, I am relatively helpless when it comes to this stuff.
  2. Johnny Marr’s Signature Fender Jaguar
    For over a year, there’s been chatter of Johnny Marr finally getting a signature guitar model.  I’ve even read him talking about the specs.  But it’s not on the market just yet.  Though I wish it was going to be a Gibson or even a Ric, these days he’s playing Fender Jaguars.  And Fender, as usual, is way more on the ball than Gibson.  Unfortunately.  But I’ll take what I can get.  Do I already have a Jaguar?  Yes.  Do I need another one?  Absolutely not.  Am I gonna get one anyway because it has Johnny’s blessing?  Of course I am.
  3. Nile Rodgers Tablature
    I tried my best not to re-list anything I’ve mentioned in previous years, but this one bears repeating.  It’s an awesome guitar tablature (sheet music) book covering the stylings of Nile Rodgers… but it can’t be bought in or even ordered from the U.S.!  I need some international help on this one.  Or if anyone knows how to get around the international restrictions, please clue me in!
  4. Jewelry (Rose Gold, Lapis, Tumbaga)
    I’m not really a bling kinda guy, you know.  I don’t wear necklaces or rings.  But I’ve had a bracelet this last year that I’m really digging.  And secretly I’m mesmerized by the pink hues of rose gold and the near orange gold color of tumbaga.  And I’ve had a life-long obsession with dark blue lapis.  Do they make chunky chain bracelets that use any of these materials?  Or short of jewelry, what other useful item could I find that incorporates precious metals and stones?  Ideas?
  5. Navy Vinyl Jacket
    While we’re on the subject of fashion, my latest jacket obsession (which has lasted over a year now really), is the need for a dark navy blue pleather/vinyl jacket.  I’m talking about the shade of blue that’s so dark that it’s almost black.  I see leather jackets in this color every so often, mostly on women.  Someone somewhere makes a non-leather jacket in my size in this unique color.  I just wish I knew how to find them.
  6. Seven Layer Caramel Cake
    A few months back, a coworker received a cake shipped all the way from the East Coast.  I had a piece and almost passed out.  This place Caroline’s Cakes will ship you a cake in ice so that it arrives here in California fresh and ready to eat.  Their caramel cake has frosting that tastes like a See’s “Bordeaux” (which incidentally is another dynamite gift idea).  If not for Christmas, this would also be a great birthday idea for me or for anyone whose birthday party I’m attending.
  7. Buddhist Alarm Clock
    A couple years ago when I was in the thick of my battle with anxiety, I was desperately exploring ways to reduce stress in my life at every level.  Trying to find ways to improve my mental health and sleep habits, as well as just getting to where I didn’t wake up every morning in a state of undefinable dread.  Well those days are gone, but I still wonder about one of the options I never followed through with.  You see, I wake up every morning, as I have for years, to the sounds of the local 80’s R&B station.  Don’t ask me why.  I honestly don’t know.  But the idea of peacefully waking up each morning to the sounds of a gentle bell or harbor noises sounds magnificent.  Assuming they’re powerful enough to rouse me from my notoriously deep torpor.
  8. Demolition T-Shirt
    Though I’ve tried to curb my t-shirt habit this last year, one is still eating away at me.  While going through my storage unit stuff recently, I came across a dozen or so WWF wrestling magazines from 1988 and 1989.  I gave them to the only actual wrestler I know (Virgil), but not before I flipped through them for old time’s sake.  In them, I saw ads for vintage WWF merch, including t-shirts for many of those classic wrestlers.  Since then, I’ve desperately wanted a Demolition shirt.  Why them?  They were among my favorites when I was little, but also they’re just obscure enough that only a fan would recognize the shirt.  The web is crawling with crappy bootleg shirts, but if Santa can find me a classy one in men’s XL, I will be one happy camper.
  9. Mouse Rug
    It’s a mouse pad that’s designed to look like a little Persian rug, complete with fringe.  Seriously, there’s a company dedicated to making these.  Open sesame!
  10. Monkey Island 1 & 2 “Special Edition”
    By and large, my days of playing video games are over.  Frankly, I don’t know how people my age find the time!  But there are a few from the past that hold a special place in my heart, and the Monkey Island series may well be at the top of that list.  The music and just the whole mood of those first two games is hard to put into words.  It was — at least for me — as magical as any movie experience has ever been.  I want to live in that game.  But we’re talking early 1990’s technology here.  That is, until the last year when they released “Special Editions” of those first two games on PC, which include all new artwork and music… while still retaining the option to switch back to the “classic” mode.  I must have this.  And you must buy it for me.  (As far as I can tell, they are only available via direct download.  And they’re cheap!)

That’s the most exciting stuff, but as always, a sure winner is a 2011 wall calendar.  I hang calendars on the wall at work, and I leave it up to my loved ones to choose what monthly pictures I’ll be staring at for the next year.  So surprise me!

Despite my attempts to rid myself of excess “stuff” this year, somehow I ended up with an overflowing “want list.”  So much so that I had to work hard to narrow it down to an even 10.  (Plus the wall calendar which I guess makes 11, but never you mind!)  Of course narrowing down means that there were some other things I strongly considered but ultimately rejected.  If you care, these included:

  1. Fireproof Safe
    I wanted this to store a backup hard drive so that in the event of a disaster, all my writing and pictures wouldn’t be lost.  I guess it’s not a ridiculous investment, but at the end of the day, if I were to lose all that stuff… it would be tragic but maybe also liberating in some way.  My life might take a new direction if I were free from that stuff.  So I’ll continue to be careful, but I will leave some of it up to fate.
  2. Professional Camera
    I like photography, but mostly I just like pictures of myself.  I’m secretly jealous of the quality pictures my friends are able to take with their high-end digital cameras.  There really is a shocking difference, and it shows.  But I also know that I am way too lazy to carry one around and use it much.  And I can’t exactly snap myself all the time.  Maybe what I should have asked for is a full-time personal photographer with a professional camera.
  3. Black Velvet Painting(s)
    What self-respecting rockabilly boy doesn’t like trashy exotica and kitschy art?  I’m enamoured by the gaudy black velvet paintings I see at bars, and I want some really sleazy ones for my place.  But then, I’m not really into decorating that much.  So this is more of a “someday when I buy a house” type wish, along with diner furniture, a giant Alex Ross heroic portrait of myself, etc.
  4. Operation Shirt
    This actually would have easily made my top 10, but sadly I have such little hope of ever finding one that I didn’t even bother to officially include it.  I’ve so desperately wanted this Operation design… long story short, the search for it is what first led me to Threadless where I’ve since bought tons of other shirts.  But by the time I got there, production of this particular shirt had already ceased due to a lawsuit.  If you ever find one in men’s XL on eBay or whatever, you buy it for me!  You do it, Santa!  You hear me?  I will pay you back, whatever the cost.  Best.  Shirt.  Ever.
  5. The Lament Configuration
    Which is to say, the puzzle box from the Hellraiser movies.  There are several companies that aim to make replicas, but I think I’ve found the best one.  Of course I want the fancy model and a dome to display it, but perhaps I could settle for the Rubik’s version.  Sure, it all looks cool, but it’s just another useless trinket.  I mean realistically, where the hell would I put it?

So there you have it.  As I said, I’m not really into gift exchange because of all the gray area.  I don’t know what you want, you don’t know what I want (except I just told you), and we don’t know what we’re each spending on each other.  Or even if we’re getting each other anything at all.  Why put ourselves in that situation?  I continue to advocate just sharing a meal for Christmas.  Let’s carve out some time to catch up.  That’s plenty of present for me this year.  Well, that and Monkey Island.

Show mommy how the piggies eat!

28 June 2010

Before I begin, how is it I write about food so much on here?  I didn’t intend that to happen, but somehow it has.

Anyway, it came up again the other day that over the years, so many of my favorite sinful foods have disappeared off of menus and shelves — often not long after I discover them to begin with.  So for no reason other than pure junk food nostalgia, my top 10 delicious-yet-extinct snacks:

  1. Cheddar Beer Kettle Chips – Kettle Chips are pretty fantastic in general, but they’re made better by the fact that they occasionally release strange flavors that are suggested to them by customers.  Well for a few years (2005-2007?), they had such a flavor called Cheddar Beer which sounds disgusting but actually tasted exactly what it sounds like.  There was a malt aftertaste!  So weird!  I don’t really even like beer, but I was obsessed with them and had them with lunch almost every day for a couple of years.  Then, for no reason I can guess, they were retired.  I was, and remain, crushed.
  2. WWF Superstars Ice Cream Bars- This was the prize of catching up with an ice cream truck.  Never mind if you weren’t into wrestling.  You could ignore the trading card that was included, and even the wrestler that was stamped on the bar itself.  The point was the ice cream sandwich that was chocolate on one side and a to-die-for shortbread cookie on the other.  I am sadly aware of no substitute for these.
  3. Peanut Butter Boppers- Sugary peanut butter rolled in chocolate chips?  Yes, please.  This was one of my original “long-lost foods,” and no one I knew remembered them.  Thanks to the information age, we can easily find proof of their existence, but for years my only evidence that I wasn’t crazy was the brief appearance of a box of Boppers in grampa’s fridge near the beginning of The Lost Boys.  which reminds me: this Wednesday Corey Feldman and his band will be hosting a screening of The Lost Boys at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (where the movie was filmed).  I am so there.
  4. Tato Skins- Back to chips here, these Keebler snacks were amazing.  Really thick almost like a cracker.  I thought they disappeared completely, but I saw a bag in a vending machine in the Midwest a few years back.  I guess it’s one of those things where they stopped selling in certain markets?  According to Wiki, they may be related to T.G.I.Friday’s chips?  Must research this.  This is all reminding me of some other long-lost chips.  O’Boise’s?  Chachos?  Both also made by Keebler.  Keebler apparently ruled my chubby little world in the late 80’s.  Thank God we all still have lime Tostitos to fall back on.
  5. The Potted Plant – For a short while, the Hungry Hunter restaurant had a desert on their menu that was as follows: vanilla-cheesecake custard served in a clay-colored plastic bowl that was shaped to resemble a flower pot.  It was then covered completely with crushed Oreo.  Finally, a plastic flower was stuck in the top.  The overall effect was that they’d set a potted flower down in front of you, and as you ate it, it would at first appear that you were scooping up soil and eating it with a spoon.  As a kid, this was beyond fascinating to me… not to mention insanely delicious.  With a lot of effort, I suppose I could reproduce it.  When it went away, I instead ordered their Bailey’s Irish Cream pie.  Which was an excellent backup, and was my gateway into drinking Bailey’s and eventually real drinks.  So if I’d turned out to be an alcoholic, just think, I could have blamed Hungry Hunter for nixing the Plant!
  6. Chocolate Lasagna- While we’re on the subject of chain restaurant deserts, did you ever try this creation from Olive Garden?  It was just several layers of chocolate cake, butter-cream frosting, and chocolate chips.  Seriously delish.  And since I liked it so much, of course, they took it off the menu.
  7. Cookie Sandwich – OK, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it.  Me liking a dessert has proved to be the kiss of death time and time again.  The Elephant Bar’s awesome and massive chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich went the way of the dinosaur as well.  I know there are even more than these last three examples, but I’ll end this theme.  Just trust me, if you like a dessert, never introduce me to it or else the chef will make it his highest priority to stop making it.
  8. Out Of The Blue-Berry Snapple- I used to be a major lemon iced tea junkie.  These days, I can rarely drink it anymore because it’s so sweet.  But there was a short-lived variation around 2007 that used blueberry flavor instead of lemon.  It’s with us no longer, and my attempts to reproduce it with my own ingredients have failed.  But it did serve to hook me on blueberries which I now eat all the time in all forms.
  9. Orbitz Cola – This was basically like a fruit drink with little balls of like gelatin floating around in it.  Come to think of it, I only had it a few times.  I think some girl I liked talked me into it.  Well, these days we have bubble tea, and it’s actually probably better.  So maybe never mind on this one.
  10. 1980’s Cereal- This is a simple three-way tie between a trio of my faves among the scores of entertainment-themed breakfast cereals of the era.  Smurf Berry Crunch were red and blue and tasted very much like what is modernly known as Cap’n Crunch Berries.  E.T. cereals had a peanut butter thing going for it, not unlike the modern Reese’s cereal.  Mr. T cereal tasted pretty much like modern Cap’n Crunch, and has the added distinction of being featured in a memorable scene in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.  I’d have also mentioned Count Chocula, but all the monster cereals seem to get “re-issued” every so often.

There’s a good chance #1 on this list would have been Mother’s Cookies, had they not been miraculously resurrected last year.  They’re back in stores, so we can all rest easier.  But they deserve honorable mention for sure.  And you know on second thought, those may not actually be the top 10.  But they’re the 10 I can think of at the moment.  I’m sure more will come to me later.  And I know there are whole websites dedicated to discontinued foods of the 80’s and 90’s I could look to.  How about you?  Any bygone dishes you still long for?

I’ll leave you with this bizarre one from the early days of the internet.  G’night kiddies.


8 March 2010

So, a friend of mine has a Stratocaster-esque guitar that he’s building.  He’s set on this particular body he bought long ago (has to do with the type of wood I think), but it’s routed to have three pickups and he only wants two.  So he’s got this hole routed in the middle of his guitar.  (For those of you who don’t know guitar anatomy and have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s the middle pickup indicated below.  Now I’m quite sure his guitar isn’t pink and probably looks nothing like this.  But if I’m going to show a Strat on my site, it’s gonna be pink, damn it.)

Because of the special type of wood and finish he’s planning, he can’t just fill in the hole and paint over it (which was my first thought).  So he needs to get creative.  Here were my ideas for what to put in that hole, in descending order of normalcy:

  1. Put a gold plate over it.  OK, so that was actually his idea.  Just fashion a shiny gold plate that covers the whole space between the two outer pickups.  Not bad.  Depending on the color scheme, could look cool.
  2. A “fake” pickup.  A facade, really.  Just because you have no use for that middle pickup doesn’t mean it can’t still be there.  Screw it in so it looks normal, but just don’t wire it to anything.  No one has to know it’s dead.  Presto!
  3. Smoke machine.  As much as I hate hate hate the band Kiss, they did have one good idea.  Ace’s smoking guitar.
  4. Lasers.  If there’s smoke, there’s gotta be lasers too, right?  Why not mount some laser pointer type things in there to shoot out into the crowd and blind anyone who looks directly at your guitar?  Alternatively, you could have a tiny flood light in there blasting your fans with your heavenly brilliance.
  5. LED.  You could have a little light board in there that displays messages to the crowd.  You could even set it up wirelessly to accept text messages from your audience, and their messages could scroll on it.
  6. Cubby hole.  Who says you have to put anything permanent in there?  Just leave it as is, and use it for on-the-go storage.  Keep some extra picks in there, maybe a rolled up set list.  Heck, what better place to store your doobage (if you’re into that sort of thing; I am not).  Of course if you’re going to go that route (ha!), you might combine with a version of #2 above and have some sort of fake pickup cover to hide your stash.
  7. Camera.  Check this out… put a live camera in there aimed at the crowd.  Then have the video image projected on the jumbotron!  Then the crowd can see themselves larger than life on the screen behind you while you’re playing, and I can only imagine the kind of interaction that would encourage.
  8. LCD screen.  Hell, this is 2010.  Just mount a whole LCD screen in the space between your pickups.  Then you could have some trippy swirling visuals running on it the whole time… a technicolor vortex hypnotizing the audience as you shred your ass off.
  9. A glass eye.  Ideally, this would be a large and active eye that would move around while you played.  The intended effect would be to not only make the guitar seem alive (and possessed), but also to creep the crowd out completely.  I feel like this is something Gwar would do.
  10. Fish tank.  OK, I know, it’s too small to hold a fish tank.  You’d have to settle for like… some sea monkeys.  And really, that’s not very rock and roll.  A goldfish would be better, but for that I think you’d need a full glass guitar.  Hey, there’s an idea!  Aquarium guitar!

Alrighty folks, that’s all for now.  Clearly, I should have been in a hair metal band.  Just look at that list.

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…

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 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.”

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