Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

There's nothing scarier than Danzig.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dress Code And Sphincter Relaxation

TO: All Cedar Rapids Employees

FROM: Human Resources Council

RE: Halloween Dress Code Relaxation

DATE: October 9, 2008

The dress code and your sphincter will be relaxed for all employees on Halloween, Friday, October 31st so that anybody may wear Halloween costumes. Otherwise employees will continue to dress in a manner consistent with policy found in the Employee Handbook. Since Halloween falls on a Friday, this is a “Jeans Day.”

In choosing your Halloween costumes please remember company policies and practices regarding non-offensive attire. Please refrain from wearing anything containing a political message, a message of social commentary or any other similar kind of message. We want this to be an enjoyable time of the year for everybody. Please remember that regardless of the day on the calendar we are in the financial services industry and even in a relaxed, holiday environment rules of taste and decency should be observed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Someone Lights A Fire Under Paul McCartney's Ass

Holy. Fucking. Shit. I dug Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full. It was a nice slice of McCartney weirdness, a fuck-all smoke a bowl if you got one and hit record. But nothing…NOTHING…Could have prepared me for what McCartney is cooking up now.
The Fireman is a project featuring Youth and Paul. Their collaborative album Electric Arguments is described as a spontaneous slice of material with each song written and recorded in the span of one day. This is a gritty as I’ve heard Paul in over thirty-plus years and indicates that age (the man is in his mid-sixties) hasn’t impacted his voice, passion for creative growth, or ability to surprise.
This is the only track I’ve heard from the album, but it’s fucking awesome.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Politics As Usual

I voted last week.
You probably know who for.
One of the votes I cast was on the ballot measure to reword the Iowa constitution to a more politically correct statement. Currently, the language that describes a person who cannot legally vote is an “idiot or insane person.” There is an individual who has working for many years from that understandably harsh statement to “a person adjudged mentally incompetent to vote.” Changing the constitution is a lengthy process, and if the measure passes, it will take two consecutive legislative sessions before the wording changes.
I actually voted to keep the wording. I like the idea of politically incorrect wording from a bygone era (as long as it doesn’t make us look racist or stupid) and this wording suits me just fine. Plus there’s a bit of juvenilia in my decision too.
People may think that I vote straight ticket during elections, but I don’t. I feel that the process seems more blind faith when I do, so I take every candidate into consideration. There may be elections where I vote for all of the candidates in one political party, but I’ll mark each one individually because of those aforementioned feelings.
Admittedly, there are probably a handful of times in which I voted for a Republican candidate. I’ve voted for Grassley a few times and then endured my father’s complaints after the fact. The funny thing is, when Grassley helped him out with something later on with a bill he was trying to get support on, my Dad thought he was just awesome. I also casted a few ballots for Jim Leach during the day. That is until the Republican Party strong-armed him into the entire Clinton Whitewater investigation, and then I realized that he was just a sap for the party line.
The irony here is that the Republicans later threw Leach under the bus in the last election and he was (finally) defeated by Dave Loebsack. Now Leach, in an apparent “Fuck you too” to his old party, has leant his support to Barack Obama. At first, I thought that maybe he was getting back into the groove to run again, showing us that he really was “independent,” but now I think that he’s cozy in his new life at Princeton. For those of you who don’t follow Iowa politics, Leach dug an early grave with the Republicans by not allowing the R.N.C. to distribute anti-gay political mailings to taint his opponent. Social conservatives pulled the plug on his 18th run towards the House and Loebsack, an unknown who was essentially a write-in candidate for the Democratic ticket, pulled a stunning upset.
It was kind of a big deal in my area of Iowa.
There was also that time where I voted for Nader in ’96, a ridiculous attempt at lofting a “protest” vote to the Democratic party because I felt the lines between Democrat and Republican were getting too blurred.. Since Nader is obviously such an egotistical weirdo…as evidenced by his obvious glee with being the 2000 spoiler…I’m now embarrassed by my decision to support such a fuck stick.
There seems to be a pretty obvious line with this election, one in which I can’t fathom why anyone would even be on the fence. Humorist David Sedaris speaks to this recently in the New Yorker. Sedaris questions how anyone could be an undecided voter at this stage of the game.
“Then you’ll see this man or woman— someone, I always think, who looks very
happy to be on TV. “Well, Charlie,” they say, “I’ve gone back and forth on the
issues and whatnot, but I just can’t seem to make up my mind!” Some insist that
there’s very little difference between candidate A and candidate B. Others claim
that they’re with A on defense and health care but are leaning toward B when it
comes to the economy.
I look at these people and can’t quite believe that
they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen
who want a lot of attention?
To put them in perspective, I think of being on
an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and,
eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she
asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how
the chicken is cooked.
I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?”
The argument could be made that one could question how anyone could be a supporter of John McCain, but to each his own even when they are inherently insane when it comes to politics.
And as the Iowa constitution currently states, those people aren’t even allowed to vote in the first place.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Around The Dial

It’s pledge week on public radio, which means that the morning and evening commute is jacked because if it’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a bunch of bleeding heart liberals asking me for my fucking money.
It means that I’m forced to listen to commercial radio for an entire week.
I’d listen to the obligatory classic rock station, but I’ve heard “Stairway” more than I care to imagine, so I changed it over to KRNA, the home of shitty current rock. I was anticipating a little bit of “Dwyer & Michaels” action in the morning, but to my surprise, I was met with a little bit of…you guessed it…getting the “Led” out. Thankfully, the Zep tune was “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” one of the many Page/Plant tunes that hasn’t been raped from excessive AOR burn, but it struck me that KRNA didn’t play tunage, other than brief bumper music bullshit, when the comedic genius of Dwyer and Michaels are on the air.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with Dwyer and Michaels, they are as incredibly unfunny as any typical medium/small market morning show complete with interviews with stupid people and the pair waxing poetic about hot topics.
I’m sure they’ve made a few comments about Sarah Palin looking like a MILF as discussing the finer points of her political agenda isn’t really a ratings grabber.
It doesn’t appear that their morning fodder was much of a ratings grabber either as the duo was nowhere to be found after the Zeppelin. In fact, the station promo sweeper identified mornings on KRNA as the equivalent of “less talkin’..more rockin.’”
I really don’t know the details of why the “two idiots” are no longer in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City airwaves. My guess is that if they were a huge success, the station would have insured that they would still be on the air. I do remember some rumblings about them getting sued by Clear Channel for a non-compete violation when they began broadcasting here after getting booted from their original Quad Cities home.
Who knows, maybe they’re back on at the Q.C.
The website doesn’t address this and two stations are listed on their website’s links.
Factoid: the Quad Cities actually has a higher Arbitron market rating than the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area even though Cedar Rapids is the state’s second largest city and Davenport is built upon a foundation of clay sand and fecal matter.
Have I mentioned how much this market’s radio choices suck? For fucks sake, people own iPods with 5,000 song playlists and these stations are still rolling over the same fucking 900 songs continuously.
Wanna know why radio is losing listeners? Even two dorks can figure that out.
And then there’s this recent bullshit, at least on KRNA, where we’ve got radio “personalities” with clever one names like “Shark” and “Static.” Since I don’t listen consistently, I can only comment on the brief amount of experience I’ve had. And that, my friends, is with “Shark,” a name so stupid that you don’t even care how he got it. “Shark” had a comedian on one afternoon who happened to be a little person and who happened to have a show going on that evening at a local comedy club. The comedian drew attention to his height, stating that he could get away with things like grabbing girls’ asses. Shark thought this was funny and laughed at every word the comedic dwarf said even though nothing was even remotely humorous.
Compared to Shark, Dwyer and Michaels are like Bob Fucking Hope. They’ve been mainstays in Eastern Iowa, specifically the Quad Cities, but only because they invented the genre of morning show for us po’dunk Iowans. In the late 80’s, the best you could get were an announcer and the newsreader to chitchat about some bullshit AP news of the weird stories for a few minutes. Dwyer and Michaels expanded that concept for an extra forty minutes and, as a result, they’re viewed as deities even though 90% of their shtick ain’t even funny.
I would encourage readers to figure out why Dwyer and Michaels are not on KRNA anymore, but by the time you do, pledge week will be over and I’ll be back on the public radio tip again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cat Power - Jukebox

I think it is important to begin this review by admitting that I have more jpeg images on my hard drive of Chan Marshall than I do of my wife. Now before you label me as a creepy fanboy of Ms. Marshall, understand that I’ve only been married a year now, had my laptop for nearly four years, and been a fan of Cat Power for even longer. I would also like to point out that pictures of my kids trump the jpeg totals of my wife and Chan by a long shot.
After this, you’re probably assuming that I’m going to loft a heapin’ helpin’ of praise on Marshall’s second collection of covers, Jukebox, and my friends, you’d be absolutely correct. However, I do believe that I’m able to discern my infatuation with the aural reality that Jukebox is a brave collection of remakes that continues to reaffirm how Marshall has become one of the consummate voices of her generation.
The journey to that point is a great tale, but it’s hard not to miss those early albums of frailty and to miss in an almost curious way those days where on-stage breakdowns were part of the allure. That fragility was also documented well on her studio albums, but starting with the brilliant The Greatest, Chan transitioned herself into a full-fledged performer, arguably as strong a vocalist as Dusty Springfield with that last album being just as good as Dusty In Memphis.
Even though Jukebox isn’t on the same level as The Greatest (it isn’t meant to be), it does point to the fact that it is time that we start providing Chan Marshall with the respect that she is due as a performer. While the covers record displayed her as a unique interpreter of other’s material, Jukebox takes steps in making other’s material her own.
It stumbles out of the gate, with a run-through rendition of “New York,” that’s essentially two minutes of trying to sound novel while being little more than an idea that’s better left on the drawing board.
I’m also a bit underwhelmed with the update of “Metal Heart,” perhaps my favorite Cat Power song of all time, which means that it may have been destined to fail before the ‘record’ button was even hit. The Moon Pix version was a testament of beautiful imperfection. The Jukebox version brings a newfound strength to the arrangement, which ironically weakens it in the process. As admirable as the original idea may have been, this is another selection that was better left untouched.
Then there are those that work: Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ (Wo)man,” James Brown’s “Lost Someone” and Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Lord, Help The Poor And Needy” are all challenging choices and they’re perfectly executed with heavy reverb and minimalist arrangements.
Marshall takes on one of Bob Dylan’s lesser known tracks, “I Believe In You” (from Slow Train Coming), originally a declaration of his new found Christianity, but turned into a Stonesy-stomp that will have you contemplating what else you may have missed when Bobby was walking in the presence of the Lord.
But the jem is “Silver Stallion,” a Lee Clayton track later covered by The Highwaymen. Under a gently strummed acoustic and haunted by a background slide guitar, Marshall’s smoky baritone ends up delivering the track in a definitive light.
Marshall is primarily backed by the Dirty Delta Blues Band, who are admittedly less tactful than the Memphis Rhythm Band on The Greatest. But what they lack in refinement, they excel in consent: The Memphis Rhythm Band provided Chan with the esteem boost that she needed in order to become as strong as she appears now. The Dirty Delta Blues Band allows her enough space to go explore her newfound authority.
And, aside from a few small stumbles, Jukebox demonstrates that she is well suited for this role and hearing her take control of her talent is an enriching experience.
So ignore my penchant for visual aids that capture Chan’s splendor. Her real beauty is what she can do with a song.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cat Stevens - Teaser And The Firecat

It is easy to understand why a kid would be so drawn to Cat Stevens’ Teaser And The Firecat. It’s lyrically simplistic and memorably melodic, making it easy for young music fans to relate to and remember. But my past is littered with music that I thought was cool as a young’en only to disregard it when I was old enough to know better.
I should be old enough to know better with Cat Stevens, but there’s something inherently infectious about him and it’s hard to discount.
First, this is well-executed folk music, heavy on pop overtones and flavored with a dash of world music. When music is done this good and is this simple, you not only have material that’s suitable for children, it’s suitable for a lifetime of enjoyment.
Noted for its three hit singles (“Peace Train,” “Moonshadow,” and “Morning Has Broken”), Teaser And The Firecat’s other selections are just as noteworthy, allowing it to be one of those albums without a hint of filler.
At a mere 1:42, album opener “The Wind” ranks as one of Stevens’ finest, most simplistic songs that could easily be billed as one of folk’s most timeless treasures. I always ranked “How Can I Tell You” as one of his best love songs and, somewhat unfairly, it’s most recently gained notoriety as a Cat Power cover featured prominently as the musical backdrop for diamonds commercial.
To her credit, the song is not available for purchase, so fans of the song will have to settle with Cat Steven’s original that’s found here.
Teaser And The Firecat also marks the end of a three album run of great folk albums for Cat (Mona Bone Jakon and Tea For The Tillerman are the other two). He produced albums of lesser and lesser quality after this, perhaps as he grew more and more disenchanted with the music business in general. But during a two-year period in the early seventies, Stevens continued to seek his spiritual satisfaction with his music, and in the process, managed to satisfy a lot of us in the process.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Local Church Lady Performs Pipe Organ Version Of "Eruption"

Usually after communion, our priest will dismiss the congregation with some “go in peace” proclamation and everyone retires to the parking lot to go home or to chit-chat over coffee and cookies. But today, he advised us to remain briefly for a “prelude” featuring the organist, a grey-haired lady who looks to be well in her 70’s.
I wouldn’t suggest that she is a poor organist. I would assume that the church doesn’t just let anyone play at the pipe organ as it’s a substantial piece of equipment. I would instead suggest that she is pretty old and on many occasions, notes are missed.
The prelude that she chose was a complex little ditty that would test most musicians. It was a flury of notes in which she repeatedly bobbed her head while propelling the piece forward. None of the incorrect keys seemed to discourage her much, and at the end of it all she hammered the last note and walked away from the pipe organ, which continue to utter this killer low note. It was unintentional as the organ should have stopped at the end, and it reminded me of when a guitarist leaves their guitar against the amp, walking off the stage immersed in feedback. It was pretty rockin’.
Earlier, she played some hymn that was the exact same music as Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken,” which made me check my version of Teaser And the Firecat to see if Yusuf had ripped it off himself.
He had.
When I was a kid, I thought Teaser And The Firecat was so awesome that I bought the book. That’s right, Cat Stevens wrote a children’s book based on a story he had written complete with his own artwork. It was part of the box of shit my parents had brought up, and I hadn’t seen it in years. I paid thirty-five cents for it from the school book fair and decided to read it to Ethan before bed. I had forgotten how stupid the story was. “Teaser” a top-hatted kid that, with the help of his red cat, tries to put the moon back up in the sky after it fell into the top of a barn.
Even Ethan wasn’t impressed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Talking Heads - Talking Heads: 77

I had just bought Talking Heads: 77 and put the disc along with several others in my backpack, I think the idea was that I was going to make a mix-tape at the college radio station. The cool thing about making mix-tapes there was that you could use the production room and mix everything together. It sounded like 45 minutes (per side) of the coolest radio station ever, and they were some of the best compilations I’d done because I spent a lot of time thinking them out beforehand.
Talking Heads: 77…that album is great.” commented by television professor. He was flipping through my cds, asking about a few before stopping on the N.Y.C. quartet’s debut album.
I never really had a discussion about music with him before. He was just this slight, bald dude maybe 10 years older than his class that came to Iowa from Texas. And we all know how much Texas sucks. Well, except for Austin which is awesome and a place I’d move to in a heartbeat if giving the opportunity and a wife who’d be willing to move so far away.
“Can you tape it for me?” he asked.
“Sure. Just bring some blank tapes to class for me.”
My opinion of this professor had changed after this. The more I spent with him the more I realized he was pretty cool. I discovered that he and his wife did come from Austin. He was familiar with Scratch Acid and had an unbridled affection for the Big Boys, a pioneering punk band out of Austin.
One of the best stories that he told me was the time when he was on an airplane and suddenly the entire King Sunny Ade band including the “Minister Of Enjoyment” himself made their way on to the plane. The professor recognized him/them only because they all wore their colorful Nigerian clothing on the plane, drawing attention to all of the white folks.
“We’re you flying first class?” I asked, thinking that first class is the only place suitable for the leader of world juju music.
“Coach.” he replied.
The professor went on to explain that Sunny sat in the seat next to him. The men were cordial to each other, introduced themselves and what they did for a living. The professor acknowledged that he was familiar with him and the band, but little beyond an appearance from Saturday Night Live. After the pleasantries were finished, the two men sat in uncomfortable silence for the rest of the flight.
He brought me a Maxell cassette and quizzed me on my audio equipment and noise reduction technique. Occasionally, I ran into these people. This is a minor problem in not letting your inventory leave the house. Certain audiophiles or particular people will want their cassette copies to sonically compare to their existing copies.
“What kind of noise reduction do you use? Dolby B?”
“Dolby C” I corrected.
“That’s fine. I was going to have you record it using a normal bias on these chrome tapes if all you had was Dolby B. Dolby B knocks off a lot of the high end.”
It took me some time to “get” Talking Heads: 77. I was used to the wider expanses of their later work and their debut is about as pure and raw as you could imagine. This was the Heads’ at their most primitive state (with the exception of their early live shows, I’m sure, and parts of The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads) and it’s still an unusual listen.
The dynamics are dry and two-dimensional. The arrangements are simple and taught. The lyrics are strange and oblique. It’s unlike anything you’ll hear and, as a result, you need time to absorb how complex it all sounds when it fits together.
This is pop music at its most extreme. There are melodies and hooks throughout 77, but they may take the shape in a guitar arpeggio, a vocal phrase, or in the phonetics of a word.
Ever fallen in love? Only under the glow of a new love’s shine would you ever tolerate steel drums, and guess what’s bouncing around underneath the mix of the opener “Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town?” That’s right: steel drums. “I called in sick/I won’t go to work today/I’d rather be with the one I love/I neglect my duties/I’ll be in trouble.”
Have you ever called in “sick” just to spend the day with the one you love because they have the day off? Have you ever spent the day in bed with them, naked, making love to the point where you’re sore, leaving the bedroom only to grab a soda or snack?
That’s “Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town!”
During this election year…and nearly every election year…I think of the song “Don’t Worry About The Government.” Taken from the view of an optimistic candidate, it’s a satirical look at the entire election cycle, their inherent belief that when they are elected everything is going to be ok. “I pick the building that I want to live in….That’s the building I’m going to live in…It’s going to make life easy for me.” But the moment you feel the need to question the candidate’s ability or exactly how they plan to accomplish their platform, Byrne adds “Don’t you worry about me….It’s going to be easy to get things done.” One can almost imagine a few politicians thinking those same things when contemplating their campaigns.
It’s a toss up between “Psycho Killer” and “No Compassion” as to which is my favorite. The former you know about, but it’s the latter than I find myself mumbling at the most appropriate moments. “They say compassion is a virtue,” reminds Byrne, “But I don’t have the time.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve played the line “Talk to your analyst/Isn’t that what they’re paid for?” in my head whenever I’m forced to listen to the dramas and tragedies of someone that I don’t have any emotional connection with at all.
How 77 lyrically holds up some thirty plus years later is amazing. It’s like Byrne perfectly captured the sentiment of post-Nixon cynicism and the skewed vision of America to the point where it took years for us to fully realize it. And because of the production strategy, unadorned and without any frills thanks to Jon Bon Jovi’s second cousin, Tony Bongiovi behind the boards.
There are hundreds of bands influenced by Talking Heads’ lead, but I am hard pressed to see how a record company…a major no less…saw how this band could make any commercial impact down the road. But that was the record company circa ’77: sign a band and give them a few years to develop and see where time takes them. The irony is that the Talking Heads were already fairly well developed in 77, and the band’s next few turns took them to equally interesting places and, amazingly, increasing commercial success. Even if they stopped after this debut or continued using the same bent formula, we’d still be talking about what an achievement it was and pointing to all the bands indebted to its greatness.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Life & Times Of Tim

When we moved to Cedar Rapids, we rented a house that had free cable including HBO. I was always worried that the cable police would come around and bust us, but a friend who worked for a cable company in Colorado said we were so close to the Mediacom c.o. that they wouldn’t be able to test it unless they did a walk by in the back of our homes. Cable dudes, especially the grunts that don’t get paid shit, don’t like to get out of their vans if they don’t have to.
Thanks to the free cable, I got addicted to HBO. The showed the Floyd Mayweather Jr fights, Deadwood, The Wire, the Sopranos, and a few other new ones that we thought were pretty cool.
When we bought our own house, we had to get our own cable, but since we both hated Mediacom and since they were not going to show Hawkeye games, we went with DirecTV. If you’re ever in the market, you need to know that all television providers…cable or satellite…are pretty much a bunch of cocksuckers that will make as much out of you as possible without any expectation of providing you service. In this case, the lesser of two evils is DirecTV.
We pay out the ass for our shit and in all reality if it wasn’t for the wife and kids I probably wouldn’t feel the need to have all of the shit we do. The two channels I watch are essentially VH1 Classic and HBO. On Sunday nights, you can usually find me ironing my clothes and watching the football game immediately followed by the HBO shows.
They’ve introduced three new shows this season in addition to Entourage, whose story arc this year is actually pretty good. My wife keeps asking what happened to Big Love, the show about a polygamist family that we enjoyed watching.
The three new shows are True Blood (bayou vampire show), Little Britain USA (British comedy) and The Life & Times Of Tim (animation). The first two are ok, but they’re nothing what I thought they would be. True Blood is probably going to be a hit (there’s a chick at work without HBO that has someone recording VHS copies of each episode, usually a good sign that the show will take off) and Little Britain USA is nowhere near as funny as I thought. It seems their main gig is just to try to shock and offend me. And after the first half dozen times, you get numb to a guy dressed up as a little girl going “I love you more than interracial gangbangs.”
But The Life & Times Of Tim is awesome, so good that I’m worried that it will end after this season and not be renewed. It features primitive animation and story lines that are just out of reach of reality, but the dialogue within them are fairly typical of real world reactions.
One of the running gags features Tim’s girlfriend breaking up with him, usually for very good reasons. But Tim’s is well intentioned, which is the only explanation why she would take him back in time for the follow week’s episode.
On one episode, he befriends the priest that’s marrying his girlfriend’s sister. After an exchange with Tim, the priest suddenly decides he doesn’t want to be a priest anymore, renounces the priesthood which nulls the marriage and then becomes a drunk. I forgot to mention that in this episode Tim tries to win back the graces of his girlfriend and her parents as they’re all pretty upset with him. He does this by trying to get on the good side of her grandmother who’s been left alone after all of the excitement and confusion of the wedding. Things go along great until the grandmother convinces Tim to take her out on the balcony and, in a moment of reminiscing, tells Tim to touch her breasts. After obliging (she was very persistent) Tim is caught feeling her up by, you guessed it, the parents and the girlfriend. Grandma has falling asleep as he’s playing with her tits, so his pleas of “She asked me to do it” are met with deaf ears.
Quite simply, the best new show this season, which probably makes it a contender for being cancelled. I say “best new show this season” like I know what I’m talking about. I don’t; I couldn’t even name one new show aside from the HBO ones. But given HBO’s track record that should be enough.
Hell, even John From Cincinnati was better than most of the best shit on regular TV.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Grand Illusion

Oh yeah, it was my birthday this week. Thanks for remembering. Actually, I like to keep the birthday on the “DL” because I’m old and now look funny when I go to bars. Truth be told, I can’t wait to become a really old dude and see some show. I’ll hit kids with my cane and piss myself to ensure a wide girth around me, one in which no douchebag will even want to invade my space.
It’s hard to believe how life…the real shit…started so late for me. I think it took me longer than most to get rid of that selfish bullshit that always bags you down in your twenties. For me, it continued on into my thirties.
Sure, I was married, playing the role and acting like a father to my ex-wife’s daughter. But I was emotionally disengaged for numerous reasons, most of which I don’t think of anymore. I’m too busy with real life.
I was reminded of *her* this week. What prompted the reminense is beyond me, but I remember an incident of complete lunacy…one of many…that just came back to me out of the blue. We were drifting apart and I packed my Honda Accord and drove. I ended up in Okoboji with a good friend and his woman. Financial difficulties had placed them in his parent’s basement to get back on financial track, but the arrangements didn’t seem to bother them at all.
They were content and happy and their situation was temporary.
I did a call back to my ex-wife and she told me that she was going to see Styx at this bar in Keokuk. Here’s where it gets weird. Styx was touring, but not at the time. I thought it fairly plausible as the band originated from Illinois and who knows. But why would they be playing Keokuk. In a bar, no less. Sure, they may not be hot shit anymore, but I’d be willing to bet they could fill a place with more than 200 people, even in Keokuk. Plus, the guarantee would have been outrageous. Didn’t seem right. The bar where she said they were playing was out of the ordinary. It was a place that occasionally booked cover bands, but not much. It was a place that I didn’t frequent, which meant that I couldn’t verify the story with any “regulars” that I might have run into.
Then there were the stories at how she “befriended” a few of the members of Styx. Never mind that she couldn’t identify any of their names other than “the guitar” player who was “the blonde one.” To add a sense of jealousy to the story, she hinted that the members of Styx wanted to party with her after the show and invited her into their tour bus. I swear to god, as I write this, I’m pausing in disbelief.
But this entire recollection is true and this is exactly what she told me.
Let me be clear: the story she told wasn’t true, but my recollection of the events and the story she told me over the phone is exact. I do not understand the motivation for such a lie…perhaps some weird attempt at getting me to drive across the state to confront her about a possible liason with the members of Styx…but it was of such zaniness that I ignored it, only to consider it later and only to remember it again this week.
I’ll tell another exciting story about my first marriage some other time but I need to pace these things apart. Not only for my own sanity, but you may recall that Glam-Racket originally went by another name and then ended when *she* discovered it and made things a little uptight.
Nowadays, I don’t really give a shit.
Nowadays, I still get the occasional weird text message from her.
Nowadays, I’m in a better place.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Silver Jews Live In Iowa City

I think there’s still a reason for concern about David Berman. From my vantage point, he’s still a little “off” and, given his previous struggles, which could be a little worrisome. At the same time, he did appear happy and genuinely content being on stage in Iowa City. The lights were low to accommodate his wishes and avoid the literal spotlight, but he did seem to relish the adoration that many people were providing him that night.
There was to obligatory song calls from the audience and a few excited fans, but for the most part, they were subdued and respectful, clearly paying homage to a writer they appreciate and admire.
They were also bookish. This was the type of crowd that makes up a busy day at the Prairie Lights bookstore. The kind that hits the Deadwood immediately afterwards, waxing on about Herbert Selby.
What is it about writers and their bipolar tendencies? If they keep this up, they’re liable to run the risk to lead us to think that their suicides, successful and otherwise, are nothing more than the attempts at creating a lasting legacy. To ensure the sales of their creative works is marketed with better returns.
No, I’m not suggesting that Berman is a phony and making his condition up for the sake of sales. I’m sure the sales aren’t even that impressive and that his condition is severe enough to warrant continual attention. I just think the lineage between genius and mental health is such a fine line in many cases and, yes, I think it’s warranted to place David in that upper echelon of people with high IQ’s. How do you explain some of the caliber of his work?
He gets bonus points for hanging out on stage and interacting with some fierce fans that simply needed to speak or shake his hand after the performance. This is a good indicator that he’s getting comfortable with his stage presence and that his stability is well enough to interact, even with those that may be out in the fringe alongside him.
The “off” comes from weird stage banter, throwing out dedications to who knows and advising us to keep an eye on the date “11-7” just like we do for “9-11.” The only thing I could come up with is that was the date W won the election…er, stole the election…in 2000. Berman sounds like a political guy and I’m willing to bet that he takes issue with the Bush administration.
Or he could just be a rambling savant, blessed with a wicked pen and unconventional stage mannerisms. Whatever it is, he was curious enough and the band good enough for me to want to see them again.
Besides, I wish now that I would have gotten that signed copy of Actual Air.
Check out those weird eyes in the photo. That's even after the red-eye removal feature.
Full write up coming later here

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Panic Is Not An Investment Option...But A Nacho Bar Is

We didn’t win the jack-o-lantern contest.
The winners put an enormous amount of time in theirs which made ours look even more dreadful which made it even more awesome. Someone brought some black hair which made Gene really come to life.
As part of the on-going employee appreciation week, we’ve had numerous activities like guessing jar contests, baking contests, finger football, and at least once a day, someone stops by with a treat.
This is, of course, in between calls with people freaking out about the financial industry. My mantra has been “Panic is not an investment option.” and, to be honest, most people just need to hear some reassuring words in order to calm down.
It doesn’t help that our company is going through a merger at the same time, which is also prompting more calls. It’s not really a merger in the strictest sense of the word; we’re simply shortening the name a bit in the hopes that the consolidation will save us money in the long term.
But you don’t care about that do you? Truth be told, I don’t either. I’m more interested in the “nacho bar” they’re providing us this afternoon.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kiss - Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions

The Kiss challenge continues (to review every Kiss album ever recorded to find out what was such the big fucking deal) and for whatever reason, I’ve chosen to focus on the most notoriously awful Kiss albums to begin with first. It’s true: to make lemon-aid you have to go through a few lemons and to review all the Kiss albums, you have to stick your hands in the toilet, pull the corn out of your own feces and eat the kernels once again.
Next up, Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions, and album that I was drawn to because it has the word “Final” in the title. I forgot that the title essentially meant, “Hey guitarist Bruce Kulick and drummer Eric Singer! Gene and I are going to pretend to make an album with you while we secretly secure a reunion deal with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, at which point we’ll fire your ass and shelve this record indefinitely. Thanks for playing! You’re welcome!”
Did anyone notice the funny I just made? There’s no way that Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons would shelve anything. That was just a joke because the moment that Kiss fans, the kind that would collect the band member’s semen if they could find vials of it, began finding copies of the Kulick/Singer sessions in a bootleg form, they immediately secured a legitimate release for it. If there is money to be made, Simmons and Stanley are there to make sure their wallets are lined.
Since Gene and Paul were focused on bigger moneymaking opportunities, this is a Bruce Kulick album. Oh sure, “Simmons” and “Stanley” appear on every songwriting credit, but again it’s only because a motherfuckers gotta get paid.
Like Revenge, the studio album that precedes Carnival, Kiss is in a very contemporary mood. And “contemporary” circa the mid-90’s meant the band needed to ape a lot of the same themes and arrangements of the grunge movement. This isn’t to suggest that Carnival Of Souls is a “grunge” album…No, to dirty up the mix would be beneath the band who, despite the facial hair and faded denim found on the cover, would like nothing more than to be recognized as the hottest band in the land. And the hottest band in the land is brought to you by Ibanez guitars, Randall amplification, Pearl drums, and Meco. The idea to “hit tape and roll” is beyond them, so Carnival Of Souls is well produced, meticulously arranged and woefully dated.
Lyrically, the band takes themselves so seriously that they forget things like hooks, passion and melody. The only members that seem remotely involved are the ones who are, ironically, just about to be sacked.
Perhaps that should have been a clue for those two poor saps: the moment that Gene and Paul start allowing you some independence is the moment you should start fearing for your job.
It doesn’t start as a bad album. At the same time, it also doesn’t start out as a very memorable one either. It is so unlike Kiss that it could have been created by any number of now forgotten bands currently holding court in the cd section of your local pawnshop. It’s clear that they (Paul?) has a hard-on for Alice In Chains. There are several songs that attempt at replicating AIC’s minor-key harmonies, which is funny as Kiss (Paul?) has also had a hard-on for pop radio. Like Revenge before it, Carnival Of Souls is a rock album, which means that it was destined for sales as shitty as The Elder…the last Kiss project that was geared as a full-length concept. Revenge was a hit because the new direction was a novelty, and now that the novelty of Kiss-via-Seattle had run its course, we’re left with nothing but the actual songs to save it. And when there’s no radio hits to be found, it’s time to circle the wagons, fire the help, and switch to plan B.
Plan B was the retardedly successful full make-up reunion, which ultimately saved the band from any humiliation. They could always treat this album as “the one that was never finished” even though it’s obvious that everything included is a final mix and ready for delivery.
While Revenge sounded like Kiss was actually having some fun exploring a new heavier direction, Carnival Of Souls sounds like they’re confused with the musical backdrop. Ironically, it’s Gene…the supposed ‘God Of Thunder’ that sounds the most out of place. His lyrics are devoid of any bravado or humor. Instead, they’re bored, forced, and just plain stupid. Take “In My Head,” one of those aforementioned Alice In Chain rip-off, where Gene comes up with the following character study: “I’m obnoxious/And no one’s home/ In my head/In my head/Cardboard boxes filled with hate/In my head/In my head/Messed up termites/glowing red/In my head/They’re in my head!”
He does rebound a bit with “I Confess,” another AIC-retread about addiction, and whenever you’re getting heavy like that, it’s time to include a few strings.
Paul only shows up for about five of Carnival’s twelve tracks which is unusual for such an egomaniac like him. One of them, “I Will Be There,” is the album’s only real ballad and it’s one of Stanley’s best-unknown songs to date. The other four contributions from Paul, however, may very well be some of his worst. He sounds remarkably disengaged and unmotivated by the band’s heavier direction. This may have been the most dismal Kiss era for him as it didn’t allow him the opportunity to parade around like a rock star, a role he enjoys playing very much.
Carnival Of Souls is far from a bad album, it’s just a very bad Kiss album. With one of the founding members seemingly out to lunch and the other one seemingly going through a creative mid-life crisis, that left the creative direction down to two other hired-gun members who were about to learn one of Kiss’ most cardinal rules: it’s not personal, it’s business.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Even though it’s over three weeks away and even though we have a ton of work to do already, my company likes to do these employee appreciation days a few times a year. Essentially, they pull people off their regular duties for 10 minutes of nonsense and then it’s back to work. On top of that, they bring in the big shots to actually shadow you to get a better understanding of what you do in a given day. Essentially, they pull the senior executives off their regular duties for 10 minutes of nonsense and then it’s back to work for them too.
At the end of the day, we all breathe a collective sigh and wish each other well for another year, ultimately trusting each other that we know just enough to do our own fucking jobs.
The trouble is, the appreciation thing lasts for an entire week. That means 5 days of silly bullshit like “finger football,” bingo, jersey day, and the latest entry: the jack-o-lantern contest.
Several pumpkins were brought in and the managers were given a time in which they could choose their pumpkin. Since my team doesn’t really actively participate in these kinds of things, we waited until the last minute only to find the most ugly and unappealing pumpkin out of the lot.
We then waited until the last minute to start to solicited ideas of what we wanted to do. By this time, other teams were in full develop mode, gaining each team member’s contributions and putting on the finishing touches.
Again, let me remind you that we hadn’t even started ours.
Someone takes the initiative to email everyone with the “We’ve got to participate too, so what are we going to do?”
I jokingly reply: “Gene Simmons.”
Apparently, the demon was the only response, which meant that I found the pumpkin, a Sharpie, and some white grease pain on my desk. I began working on it and immediately began whining about it using the pretense that because this team event was now looking to be an individual contribution.
“This better not be negatively affecting my stats.” I demanded.
“I’ll talk to scheduling.”
Regardless of how stupid this thing was, I’m not about to throw away the possibility that I could effectively throw away my normal job duties for some stupid jack-o-lantern contest.
I threw together a dumb looking replica of Gene and briefly fretted at how awful it looked. But then I realized that that is what made it so awesome. It didn’t matter how awesome the other jack-o-lanterns looked. Our team’s was the most “metal” looking, a primitive hark back to 7th grade art class presented by grown adults forced into an admittedly juvenile situation.
You wanted the best, you got the best.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fun In The Cubicle

Haven’t done one of these in a while, but I think I’ve hinted that the recent influx of economic turmoil has created an added workload in my life. Most of the calls can be answered succinctly, but there is one call that stands out as being douchebag worthy. The mo-fogie wanted to know what impact our stock price had on the blah blah wolf wolf. I went through the standard spiel that satisfies 95% of the callers, but this guy fell into the 5% range and, from their, secured himself in the 1% percentile by being a total condescending asshole. I transferred him to a supervisor after 15 minutes of bullshit and he provided him with an additional 15 minutes of bullshit. I hate calls like this, the ones where they think they’re smarter than the average bear, but in reality are just people with way too much time on their hands and way too little self-esteem. During the call, the gentlemen fielded another call and chastised the other party for calling him to confirm his tennis time. He also proceeded to have me wait as he looked for a college accounting book so that he may look for an economic principle to make his point.
When it gets to this point, I usually fall into standby mode. The silence is met with a “Hello?” or “Are you still there?” as I wait for the Einstein’s revel in the sound of their own voice.
The same day, I had another manager from a different department ask me if I could stop drumming on my notepad. Anyone who knows me-or more specifically, worked with me-knows that I have a habit on tapping on various items on my desk. In fact, my desk at work is structure like a drum set. My notepad is both the snare and bass drum; my finger taps would play the role of the bass while the pen serves as my snare sound. In case you’re wondering, my pen (or “drumstick”) of choice is a red Papermate ball point pen. I don’t use it for anything other than drumming as my writing utensil is one of those cheap Papermate automatic pencils. I have a post it holder serve as my floor tom and my cup of water or soda serves as my cowbell. This comes in handy whenever I lay into Motley Crue’s “Live Wire.” My little Hawaiian Breeze fan is used whenever I’m reproducing some Neil Peart solo.
I was doing the drum intro to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Over The Mountain” when the supervisor came over to my desk. She’s about three cubicles over from me and felt my overzealous drumming was too much of a distraction. Her distractions to me include leaving her cell phone on ring at her desk and then having a bunch of calls come to it when she’s away from her desk. To this point, she has also complained to a few of my colleagues for leaving their phones on ring, but she is apparently exempt from this rule. She also likes to put calls on speakerphone, which is nice for me when I’m trying to hear actual customers on my headset.
I told her that I would try to tone down my drumming, but that it is a nervous habit that can only be controlled with ample amounts of medication.
I also applied for an internal transfer to a completely different department. It’s one of those gigs that’s so awesome that I will be pouting for weeks on end if I don’t get an interview for it. I’d have an enormous amount of flexibility, independence, a pay raise and I’d get to investigate fraudulent shit and deal with private investigators. I hope I get considered because it doesn’t seem like my current position as Motley Crue’s drummer is working out too well.
At least I’m still hung like a horse.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The OCD Chronicles: Bee Gees "Idea"

Growing up, I had two Bee Gees records. It’s not what you’re thinking; this is before they struck gold with Saturday Night Fever and even before “Jive Talking.” Hell, this is before “Lonely Days” which came off 1971’s Two Years On. Dude, I was into the Bee Gees when they were still a heavy-Beatlemania pop band, fresh off the tarmac in London from that flight from Australia.
It’s not that big of deal actually, as nobody really gives a shit about the Bee Gees and the entire disco thing nearly ruined anything remotely hip about them. But for me, the fall from grace is harder because one of the albums I had featured a song that was so awesome, it was hard to forgive them when you watched them plant gold medallions in their thick, brushy chest hair.
One of the albums, Rare, Precious and Beautiful, was merely a compilation released in 1968. It was meant to capture the Brothers Gibb newfound success after “I Started A Joke” and “To Love Somebody.” It didn’t feature any of those hits, just a bunch of albums tracks meant to give people a better perspective on the band’s catalog.
But my favorite album out of the two was Idea, their third album. At this time, the band was just that: a band. Sure, the focal point was the brothers (with Robin-or the “weird looking one” as my wife likes to call him), but there was some actual consideration that the other members, namely non-related guitarist Vince Melouney and drummer Colin Peterson, were actually part of the creative process. Peterson even sued the brothers, claiming that he owned the Bee Gees name.
I guess you can understand why the entire Bee Gees “group” concept didn’t last very long.
But when it was in force, the band produced some pretty interesting stuff, complete with those sugar-sweet ‘n note perfect harmonies that brought them acclaim. And no, there’s not a falsetto to be found on this early stuff.
The “band” Bee Gees peeked and imploded with Odessa, an ambitious double disc set from ’69. But the seeds of something special were planted a year before with Idea.
Aside from a freaky looking cover that often frightened me as a child, the album featured some nice pop songs, some verging on psychedelic, others on chamber pop, and standard English pop. It’s very similar to the work of The Hollies in some places, but a bit more musically experimental.
I used to play the title track often and I recently obtained a copy of Idea where I’ve been amazing myself that I still remember the tune nearly forty years after first hearing it and almost thirty years of forgetting about it.
“Idea” starts with three verses before going right into the chorus, again, three lines long.
Try seeing if anything makes any sense:

I been thinking sitting on a pole
I'm getting sick of doing what I'm told
Just me and the mirror and my brain
But that was when I got an idea
Came like a gun and shot in my ear
Don't you think it's time you got up and stood alone?

Fifteen years I lay down on the ground
I couldn't feel any noise or hear any sound
Fifteen million years I spent down the line
But that was when I got an idea
Came like a gun and shot in my ear
Don't you think it's time you got up and stood alone?

Get up and stand alone

That's when I got an idea

I have no idea what the song is about, but I do know that every time Robin gets to the “got up and stand alone” part, the band stops for a second and then Robin breathes out real quick and forceful. It’s totally awesome.

And because it’s so awesome, it keeps playing in my head, forcing me to sing indecipherably like Robin Gibb and accentuating the end with a quick breath of “Heh!” People look at me funny, but they have no idea…