Saturday, February 23, 2008

I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me...

(...get crazy with the Cheez Whiz)

I'm sure I will look back upon these past few months as The Winter of my Discontent. Or The Winter That Saw Fit to Kick me in the Nuts Repeatedly for No Particular Reason. Let's take inventory, shall we...?

In early December, my very beloved feline companion, Tim, passed away. I'm still heartbroken over losing him and having not done more to prevent his passing. But then I've always been a champion at the art of self-flagellation.

Within days of Tim's passing, I also found myself having lost a very close human friend as well. I'll refrain from getting into the details behind that because I still can't do so without sounding bitter...though, I am working toward coming to terms with the latter "loss."

At any rate, it was a big punch in the gut to lose the presence of those two souls in my life so suddenly. Either one by itself would have been bad enough, but for both experiences to occur seemingly in tandem was particularly upsetting. For a few weeks - and Wendy and Cindy can attest to this - I barely knew the difference between up versus down, black versus white, etc. I felt like somebody'd shoved me into some room where this really ugly alternate universe existed. Bless them both for enduring my whiny second-guessing during that period...

Next up was that most unpleasant of milestone-birthdays (at least for the next decade): the Big Four Oh. There isn't anything I can say about this occasion that somebody else hasn't already said so I'm not gonna bother. I just handled the birthday itself the same way I usually observe ignoring it. Helped tremendously that the Super Bowl was going down on the same day (and even more that it turned out to be a damn good game).

But then came the big shocker: after more than fifteen years at the same job (pretty impressive - or depressive - when you consider both my age and the times), I became introduced to the exciting world of unemployment. On the one hand, it was pretty great because I've been trying to get away from those motherfuckers for years, and the atmosphere at that place had become increasingly grim, oppressive and insulting. But on the other hand, it would have been a hell of a lot more enjoyable if I'd have beaten them to the "fuck off" punch. I had a damn good collection of words compiled for my resignation letter that I was really looking forward to using...but, shit happens. And so now I spend a great deal of my time poking around for new jobs online. (If anyone has any leads or ideas, please don't hesitate to pass them my way!)

As it happens, the aforementioned shocker happened the day before I was scheduled to trek down to New Orleans to spend some time with Animal Rescue New Orleans before returning to Dallas with my new feline friends (see image at left) - themselves rescued strays born since Katrina in one of the many neighborhoods, Lakeview, still in recovery from the storm. (One of the more affluent neighborhoods, as it turns out...the cats were found living underneath the slab of a house next door to one of the New Orleans Saints players. So they totally scoreboard me in terms of lifestyle history. Well, except for the whole "homeless and living under the slab of a destroyed house" thing.)

Anyway, I proceeded with the plan as scheduled and returned on Monday with my new roommates and with five other piggybackers going to some Dallas-area foster groups. I had visions of spending ten hours driving with my soundtrack being a constant cacophony of disgruntled or anxious meowing, but almost everyone slept the entire time. Other than exchanging text messages with Wendy, it was actually one of the more peaceful road trips I've ever experienced.

So far, it's been a much easier transition for them than I had any reason to expect it to be. Two of them (Frank, at top; Mary, below) could very easily be described as being "semi-feral" (and were described thusly by the ARNO folks and the cats' fosters in the French Quarter). And the third, now christened Mack (at bottom) is pretty much just a spazz who's almost instantly social in any situation and requires no socialization effort whatsoever. But Frank and Mary and I have made tons of progress (another benefit to unemployment - lots of extra time spent on socializing my new friends) and I think, other than being a bit shy when new folks come around, they'll be living like "normal" cats in a "normal" household in no time. It's been educational, entertaining, and just a blast in general.

And so I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to my new pals. If you're not a fan of cats, just fight through it, please. But if you are, prepare for copious amounts of cuteness and "aww" moments to ensue...

See Frank sitting next to my printer on the nightstand in the bedroom watching the birds outside. He loves watching birds. Actually, he loves pretty much any activity that doesn't require...well, activity. (He's a bit on the pudgy side, so there will be some diet and exercise in his future. Not that I have room to make negative statements in that regard...)

See Mack joining Frank for more birdwatching...this time in the living room.

The fact that all three are siblings was obviously quite helpful in getting them acclimated to their new home. If anyone's experiencing any anxiety (usually Mary who, in addition to having far and away the most complex personality, will take the longest to overcome any skittishness and fearful behavior), they all have one another to turn to and/or lean on. Which, as you can see, they do pretty frequently.

There are also plenty of Kodak moments like this last one. Frank usually takes on a "protective" posture or appearance in scenes like these, but that's really only by default. Being the resident large, chunky dude - at least in comparison to the other two - he's really not so much protecting as he is just being lazy. Either way, it's nice to see around the house.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to lately...minding new feline friends when not trolling for jobs online. Oh, and by the way...if there's anyone out there who doesn't understand the pain of losing an animal companion or the joy of gaining new animal companions, I have two words for you: fuck you. (Yes, I have someone specific in mind, but, no, I'm not identifying that person.) People who don't like animals or who don't react with empathy toward either humans or non-humans in the aforementioned scenarios are not to be trusted. Period. You can know everything you need to know about a person based on his or her attitude toward animals. That's one of the simpler rules of life that I've never seen disproved. But I digress.

(Oh, and also...if anyone happens to find themselves sitting on an extra ticket for the Ace Frehley show at HOB tomorrow night, please feel free to hook an unemployed brotha up...!)

Have a nice day...from the new and improved acs household.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

music good...poverty bad

Well, I do this every year...mostly for my own amusement. And I'm always late putting this together every year...mostly because I have to play catch-up and buy a bunch of CDs that I didn't get a chance to buy before the end of the calendar year.

However, personal dramas have given way to financial much so that, at least for the near future, "disposable income" will be but a quaint idea (becoming unemployed will do that to you). So all those usual rushed purchases unfortunately just ain't gonna get purchased. I wish I could think of genitalia large enough for this situation to suck. But...whatever.

So here are my favorite records from 2007. 'Twas a damn good year, musically. However, I'm still inviting the past year to suck my ass for personal reasons...

Non-local artists:

1. Biffy Clyro, Puzzle - They're my favorite band on the planet so, unless they just really fuck up royally, they'll always take home top prize.

2. Steve Earle, Washington Square Serenade - Lordy, I have missed the Steve Earle that is capable of writing songs like these. His past couple records have been among my least favorite from him, just because he'd been bending over backward to beat his political agenda into our ears. And while I agree with his politics and revere him like few others because of who he is and what he stands for, I very much prefer when he doesn't try so hard. Because, frankly, he doesn't need to. He's a fucking genius...period. Easily his best record since The Mountain, which was his best record since El Corazon, which was his best record. Wonderful stuff.

3. M.I.A., Kala - I think she's got the coolest taste in sampling since the very early days of the Beastie Boys or De La Soul. And she's got a bigger set of balls than anyone else I can think of in modern music...along with the talent to make them useful.

4. Ha Ha Tonka, Buckle in the Bible Belt - Now this was a surprise. Not so much that it's as good as it is, but that it's a debut record as good as it is. Having seen them open for the Meat Puppets this past summer, I can also testify that they're even better as a live act. And that is scary.

5. Kristin Hersh, Learn to Sing Like a Star - Probably the artist at the top of my musical heroes list...she never fails to inspire and amaze me. The music is top-notch - somewhere between her usually-quiet solo work and her noisier Throwing Muses stuff - and the lyrics, as always, are absolute genius. She thinks and writes in a way I'll never fully grasp. I wish I could borrow her mind for a day.

6. Queens of the Stone Age, Era Vulgaris - The last record was really great, though there was something oddly disappointing in it at the same time. Fortunately, whatever weirdness that was behind that vibe is missing from Era it's just a rockin' piece from start to finish. It amazes me that QOTSA has now exceeded the output and lifespan of Kyuss. Something about that is just wrong on a certain level...but I won't bitch.

7. Meat Puppets, Rise to Your Knees - I think a professional critic somewhere described this record as being more of a "getting back on our feet" affair than what we might otherwise expect from the reunited Kirkwood brothers...and that's pretty accurate. There are undoubtedly some terrific songs on here, but there are also things worth nitpicking the fact that more than a few song tempos are too slow, and the continuing, stupefying tendency that Curt Kirkwood has in choosing the most boring, unimaginative drummers he can possibly find. Derrick Bostrom was never John Bohnam, but Shandon Sahm first and now Ted Marcus sure make him seem that way. But the Meat Puppets have always been Curt's show, anyway, which is as it should be.

8. PJ Harvey, White Chalk - Polly continues her trend of creating music that makes you feel like you’re in a confession booth with her. She's always been one of my favorite guitar players so I'm sure I'll come to think of this as her "piano album." Part of her brilliance, though, is that no matter how she chooses to deliver a song, the end result will be awesome.

9. Low, Drums and Guns - An absolutely hypnotic and fascinating band and this album in particular careens back and forth between sometimes incongruous extremes; at times haunting, amusing, disturbing, creepy and beautiful. Similar to Polly's record in that such amazing atmospherics are created based as much on silence as instrumentation. Or something like that.

10. Saul Williams, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! - Very unfortunately titled, but brilliant in spots. Great sampling along with terrific, surprisingly restrained production from Trent Reznor, and biting lyrics from one of this era's true poets. Shame I'm gonna have to miss his upcoming show in Dallas, though...

11. Bjork, Volta - It's good to see her getting a little bit closer back to what passes for "traditional" Bjork music, although it's still a bit weak. There's some Asian-style instrumentation here and there that doesn't do much for me. And on two songs she's singing with some dude who...I have no idea who he is or where he came from, but he may be the most unappealing vocalist I've ever heard. Try to imagine a prissier-sounding Morrisey channeling Mr. Rogers while giving enunciation's just foul. Make him go away, whoever he is...

12. Johnette Napolitano, Scarred - I still love Johnette, though my love is starting to wane. She's kinda like Iggy Pop in that when she cranks out a good lyric, it can be really good. But when she swings and misses, she really misses. And subtlety has never been her strong suit.

13. Pig Destroyer, Phantom Limb - Now, you'd think with the name Pig Destroyer you can't possibly go wrong, right? Well, you would if you were me, anyway. And you'd be incorrect either way. This band is actually quite revered among thrash-metallurgists, from the press I've seen. But this was honestly too much for me to take. Or too little...I'm not sure. At least with even the thrashiest of thrashers, there's at least something to grab hold of somewhere...a riff or a beat or perhaps the slightest hint of melody. But I'll be damned if I could find anything on here like this. It just sounded like forty minutes of scrambled ideas that might have made decent pieces of songs, but not actual songs themselves. Or maybe I'm just getting old...

And those above, unfortunately, were the only releases from last year I was able to get to before the money up and left. Still more unfortunate is the list of records that I wasn't able to get to...many of whom are among my absolute favorite artists. Just on the off chance that anyone feels like taking pity on me or is a really good shoplifter, here's what I couldn't get my hands on:

From the "fuckity-fuck-fuck!" group...
Café Tacuba, Sino
Public Enemy, How You Sell Soul To A Souless People Who Sold Their Soul
Radiohead, In Rainbows
The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Is Is (EP)
Tomahawk, Anonymous
Son Volt, The Search
Prong, Power Of The Damager
Fishbone, Still Stuck in Your Throat

From the "not quite sure, but most likely fuckity-fuck!" group...
Dalek, Abandoned Language
Black Francis, Bluefinger
Imperial Teen, The Hair The TV The Baby And The Band
High On Fire, Death Is This Communion
Thurston Moore, Trees Outside the Academy
Crowded House, Time On Earth
Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta!
The White Stripes, Icky Thump

And from the "flip a coin 'cause the last record sucked" group...
The Donnas, Bitchin’
Fu Manchu, We Must Obey

And then there's the (probably unnecessary) category of local-ish music. Of the few I was able to get to, here what I thunk...

Non-non-local artists:

1. Doug Burr, On Promenade - He's been far and away my favorite local live act since the first time I saw him...which might seem like a weird declaration. But just listen. And watch, if you can. My jaw drops every time. He's just flat amazing.

2. Red Monroe, ¡Policia! ¡Policia! - Right up there with Pleasant Grove with regard to being my personal, local music heroes. They defy description. (Although, everyone tries to compare them to Radiohead...I swear to god I hear traces of early Talking Heads on this record.)

3. Hogpig, Hold Back the Curse - Even the awesomely kick-ass band name wasn't enough to hold it together. Dammit...we hardly knew ya. Stay hard, Hogpig!

4. Daniel Folmer, Gloria - DdFW's most unheralded talent. In my humble opinion. I defy you to listen to "Serotonin" and ever be able to forget that song. Seriously...ever.

5. Eaton Lake Tonics, Vicodina / Hate When Bad Things Happen to Good Looking People (EP) - Low-fi fabulosity, virtuosity, curiosity and any other "osity" you can think of. Okay, and when I said Red Monroe defy description...this shit really does. It is literally all over the place while somehow keeping one foot on the ground at all times. Domenic is my hero.

6. Kristy Kruger, Songs From a Dead Man’s Couch - Okay, so this actually came out late 2006 and I was just late to the party. Sue me. It deserves additional props. Plus, she's totally dreamy, you know...

7. Lovie, Harshmellow - The more they gig, the more they write, the more they record, the better they get. They will rule the scene sooner rather than later. And can we all please show them some luv for a kick-ass album title...? (PS - They're all dreamy too.)

8. The Allens (self-titled) - This may have come out in '06 also...not sure. And Midland is local-ish, right? Whatever. It's good shit.

9. Jay Gummer, Push (EP) - Cheap Trick meets Weezer meets the Violent Femmes meets a bunch of other good shit I can't put my finger on. And he's got other nifty new stuff on his MySpace page now. So check him out already, bitches...!

10. The Hope Trust, The Incurable Want - Not without its flaws, but darn good. A more proper review will be appearing soon on an Important Local Music Blog That People Actually Read Regularly. Or not. But hopefully. (My review, I mean...not the blogsite.)

11. Fair to Midland, Fables From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True - All I can do is refer you to a previous post...if you give a shit. I certainly don't...

And I wasn't able to get to these sumbitches either, dammit...

The Crash That Took Me, Orchestrated Kaleidoscope
100 Damned Guns, Songs of Murder, Pain & Woe

...and probably another dozen or so that I either never heard about or am forgetting.

So there you go. I suck. But it wasn't entirely my fault. I'll try to do better in 2008. However, things aren't off to a particularly smashing start in that department either...


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Sunday, February 03, 2008

XL...30-10 club...holy shit

On this day in history:
* 1690 - The colony of Massachusetts issues the first paper money in America. - The Kennedy family almost certainly enters politics shortly thereafter.
* 1783 - American Revolutionary War: Spain recognizes United States independence. - I wonder if they'd like a do-over...
* 1809 - The Illinois Territory is created. - The Illinois Territory has not been kind to me over the years...
* 1870 - The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, granting voting rights to citizens regardless of race. - Politicians immediately begin pretending this didn't happen.
* 1913 - The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, authorizing the Federal government to impose and collect an income tax. - Not so much from rich people, mind you...mainly regular folks.
* 1917 - World War I: The United States breaks off diplomatic relations with Germany a day after the former announced a new policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. - I had to do something similar myself, recently...
* 1930 - The Communist Party of Vietnam is established. - I wonder if they'd like a do-over...
* 1941 - World War II: Nazi Germany forcibly restores Pierre Laval to office in occupied Vichy, France. - Serve, you Frenchy bitch...serve!
* 1944 - World War II: United States troops capture the Marshall Islands. - Which we would then go on to obliterate with nuclear tests. Go team!
* 1945 - World War II: The Soviet Union agrees to enter the Pacific Theatre conflict against Japan. - The U.S. proceeds to nuke the shit out of Japan, anyway. Go team!
* 1959 - A plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa kills Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. - Bye bye, Miss American pie...
* 1966 - The unmanned Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft makes the first controlled rocket-assisted landing on the Moon. - NASA currently working on plans to retrieve the craft for auction on Ebay.
* 1967 - Ronald Ryan, the last person to be executed in Australia, is hanged in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne. - Fortunately, we're more civilized here in America.
* 1969 - In Cairo, Yasser Arafat is appointed Palestine Liberation Organization leader at the Palestinian National Congress. - Didn't I hear he was gay or something...?
* 1974 - Science fiction author Philip K. Dick reportedly has a gnostic religious experience or theophany, later recounted in his books Valis and Radio Free Albemuth. - Uhhh huh-huh. His name was "Dick."
* 1988 - Iran-Contra Affair: The United States House of Representatives rejects President Ronald Reagan's request for $36.25 million to aid Nicaraguan Contras. - Really put him in his place, didn't it?
* 1989 - After a stroke, P.W. Botha resigns party leadership and the presidency of South Africa. - Almost twenty years later, Dick Cheney miraculously continues to tell the Grim Reaper to go fuck himself.
* 1998 - Karla Faye Tucker is executed in Texas becoming the first woman executed in the United States since 1984. - We are pioneers, after all...
* 1998 - Cavalese cable-car disaster: a United States Military pilot causes the death of 20 people when his low-flying plane cuts the cable of a cable-car near Trento, Italy. - The few, the proud, the Ugly American.
* 2007 - A Baghdad market bombing kills at least 135 people and injures a further 339. - In America, nobody notices.

* 1811 - Horace Greeley, American journalist, editor, and publisher (d. 1872). - Wonder if he regretted that whole "Go west" thing...
* 1859 - Hugo Junkers, German aircraft designer (d. 1935). - I've flown in some Junkers.
* 1874 - Gertrude Stein, American writer (d. 1946). - Was more fascinated with vaginas than any human being since. Wait, that was Georgia O'Keefe. Whatever.
* 1894 - Norman Rockwell, American illustrator (d. 1978). - Introduces "quaint" as a bona fide artistic technique.
* 1904 - Pretty Boy Floyd, American gangster (d. 1934). - Given nickname by parakeet.
* 1907 - James Michener, American author (d. 1997). - Took one word and ran with it. Repeatedly.
* 1913 - Richard Seaman, British racing driver (d. 1939). - Uhhh huh-huh. His name was "Seaman."
* 1918 - Joey Bishop, American entertainer, member of the Rat Pack (d. 2007). - If not for Sammy Davis, Jr., he'd have been the least sleazy member.
* 1920 - Henry Heimlich, American physician. - An impressive maneuver on his momma's part.
* 1940 - Fran Tarkenton, American football player. - Ran around on the field like a chicken with his head cut off; later hosted "That's Incredible!", which was anything but.
* 1941 - Neil Bogart, American record executive (d. 1982). - Gave us Kiss and Donna Summer. Or paid for them, anyway.
* 1943 - Blythe Danner, American actress. - Excellent name.
* 1945 - Bob Griese, American football player. - Terrible name.
* 1947 - Dave Davies, British musician (The Kinks). - For whatever reason, The Kinks have always whipped my ass.
* 1950 - Morgan Fairchild, American actress. - And Dallas native. We're having a party at Medieval Times together tonight.
* 1952 - Fred Lynn, American baseball player. - Go BoSox!
* 1956 - Nathan Lane, American actor. - Greatness.
* 1956 - Lee Ranaldo, American musician (Sonic Youth). - I did not know this. Priddy friggin' cool.
* 1968 - Vlade Divac, Serbian professional basketball player. - I'm guessing that made Vlade very happy. (Lost on anyone who's not a regular Ticket listener...)
* 1968 - me, American...guy. - Asks everyone to please not do the math on this one.
* 1972 - Mart Poom, Estonian football player. - I declare "Mart Poom" the greatest name in the history of names.

* 1468 - Johannes Gutenberg, German publisher. - Is personally responsible for James Michener and Norman Rockwell.
* 1924 - Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, Nobel laureate (b. 1856). - He's in my top three...
* 1959 - Also known as The Day the Music Died because of the deaths of:
Buddy Holly, American singer (b. 1936)
Ritchie Valens, American singer (b. 1941)
J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, American singer (b. 1930)
- Buddy Holly, for sure. The other guys...sorry, that's harsh.
* 1985 - Frank Oppenheimer, American physicist (b. 1912). - Wonder if we gave him a 21-nuke salute somewhere...
* 1989 - John Cassavetes, American actor (b. 1929). - What's Yr Take on Cassavetes?
* 1996 - Audrey Meadows, American actress (b. 1926). - Sent to the moon.
* 1998 - Karla Faye Tucker, American murderer (b. 1959). - In your face, Australia!
* 2003 - Lana Clarkson, American actress (b. 1962). - You know, it's entirely plausible that there were worse possible outcomes from hanging out with Phil Spector...

This time next week, I should be making acquaintance with my three new roommates. That is a gift.



Saturday, February 02, 2008

How gay am I...?

Answer: pretty darn.

First off, I'd like to express my thanks and sympathies to my bestest friend, Wendy. She's had to endure two months solid of listening to me and my various existential crises. As a person...she just rocks like no one I've ever known.

At any rate, in the midst of my whining to her, I rapid-fired her the lyrics to a song that became stuck in my head because at least a few of the lines in the song were speaking to my particular issue of the moment. To my horror and her shame - they're the kings of midwestern, 70s-era cock, for crying out loud - she couldn't place the song. So for her edification, here it is...

So here's where the gay part comes in. (I'm just a thousand pounds gay in a dozen different ways. I know this...I embrace it - or at least acknowledge it. But this relates to a really specific example of my gayness.) I love Tommy Shaw. Total man-crush. I've always had it and I'm sure I always will. And I'm not a huge fan of Styx as a whole...just Tommy's stuff. The reasons for this...

a) He rocks. He was always the only decent set of balls that band ever had. Without him, they'd have veered off into concept-album, Broadway-based ridiculousness much sooner than they did.

b) There are certain singers that have this really hard to describe "pure" quality to their vocals. George Harrison had it, Juliana Hatfield has it, David Gilmour, Kim Deal, Serj Tankian and probably a few others I'm forgetting...they all have this quality. And, as you might guess, I believe Tommy Shaw has it as well.

c) He's rock-star-purdy.

I think my disturbing affection for Tommy Shaw kicked into high-gear when I saw him smash a guitar on stage during Styx's very ill-received set at the 1983 Texxas Jam. (Note the "trivia" listed underneath the band lineup listed on the previous link.) He didn't just smash the guitar...he destroyed it. Just gave it hell for a solid minute or so until it was nothing but shrapnel. I learned later, courtesy of VH1's "Behind the Music" episode about Styx, how that particular show was the beginning of the end for the band. Tommy's guitar-smashing tantrum was undoubtedly his way of releasing his frustration and angst from that whole Kilroy Was Here bullshit. And to say that set went over like a lead balloon would be a huge understatement. Literally, half of the Cotton Bowl audience fled in horror during their set. My friend and I were able to move from somewhere in the balconies to about ten feet in front of the stage during that set. Anyway...his histrionics were awesome.

But whatever. Apparently, I'm gay for Tommy Shaw. Sue me. I still think the dude is cool. And I could do worse, right? I mean, at least he's not Rhett Miller or something...

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Happy Groundhog Day

However, I'm really only wishing it to this particular groundhog. Whoever you are, Mr. or Ms. Groundhog, you're damn hell cute. So have a good day. You've earned it...

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