Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Baker's Dozen of 2011

This year kind of snuck on by me.

While certainly not the best year in recent memory, a quick check of my jpeg file indicates a healthy amount of good memories arose and a quick check of this year’s music finds a healthy amount of great records too.

Many of them will work well in matching up with some of those memories.

I noticed there was a big sense of bummers and dread in some of my choices this year.

Feel free to ridicule or add your own choices to the comment screen provided.

1.) Josh Pearson – Last Of The Country Gentlemen

Admittedly, this isn’t an album that I will be playing frequently, but it’s still the best, bravest album of the year by far. The songs are uncomfortably personal sometimes, and to rub against that kind of heartache and despair is unsettling. But it gets props as the album of the year because it takes a special person to not only use their muse as a therapeutic outlet, it takes an even more special one to release it.

2.) Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

A landmark record of beautiful harmonies trying to overcome was sounds to be the weight of the world. Touchingly personal and eloquently executed, Helplessness Blues will become a touchtone record in the years to come, when artists and music lovers alike need to remind themselves that no amount of technological wonder will ever replace the power of a human voice and the emotional weight it carries.

3.) Fucked Up – David Comes To Life

The best punk rock opera record since Zen Arcade, Not that there have been many attempts, but at least this attempt comes from a band that actually has the minerals to challenge it. Don’t bother with the translation, like most concept albums, the plot gets a bit muddled. But I do admire how this band of polar opposites work in conjunction to deliver something that’s beyond their expectations and, perhaps, their individual abilities. An immediate favorite for anyone versed in old-school punk rock angst.

4.) The Psychic Paramount – II

I’ve got this way too high for most of you, but for me the return of an awesome and unpredictable post-rock instrumental band is proving to be too much for my ears to take. I listen to it frequently and it makes me want to pull out my guitar again, until I realize that I’ll never be as good as these guys. Sure, it conjures up the best of math rock, which I automatically feel apologetic for uttering that godawful genre title. Bottom line, if you like it when an instrumental power trio whips up enough noise to signal a Mayan disaster, here’s your album.

5). Wilco – The Real Love

Alternate title: Tweedy Gets Weird again. Just when I was about to turn off the light with Wilco, relinquishing them to Dad Rock status and settling for mediocrity (yes, I’m re-evaluating everything post Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), they return with a worthy follow-up to that classic and make me think twice in believing that all of their sense of adventure was lost with Jay Bennett. It wasn’t, and shame on me for thinking that Tweedy couldn’t pull it off again.

6.) Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

I panned Girls’ last effort, so I may have to eat some crow with their remarkable turnaround on Father, Son, Holy Ghost. It’s leaps and bounds better than that one, demonstrating a maturation that is about as impressive as you can get. Christopher Owens ditches the DIY ethos that actually plagued Album (new band too), instead choosing to open up his heart to a wider pallet of sounds, wonderfully secured in a real studio document. Best of all, he matches this with top-notch lyrics. They sit comfortably next to Owens’ influences and suggest that this young artist may actually have a seat at the table.

7.) Tuneyards – Whokill

I’m tired of the upper/lower case drama of her name, but I’m in love with Merrill Garbus voice and words. While Whokill doesn’t posses the debut Birdbrains low-fi impressiveness, Garbus expands her own confidence along with the professionalism that her big studio provides. And when she starts talking about her ladyparts with complete disregard for manners, it’s only because the music is stirring a fucking confessional out of her. To lose yourself in the music, isn’t that what it’s all about?

8.) J. Mascis – Several Shades Of Why

You’ll find Kurt Vile elsewhere on this list, but I have to put the Uncle J. record ahead because Mascis has done that role before and he’s done it better. Several Shades Of Why is no exception when you’re swimming in the warmth of his stoner delivery and equally euphoric acoustic backlot. His wit is in fine form, and his guitar prowess is on fine display as this hollowbody edition proves.

9.) Atlas Sound – Parallax

I’m a bigger fan of Deerhunter’s guitar attack, but I can’t ignore how I fell into love with this Brandan Cox project release after a few listens. Far from a second-rate stop-gap, Cox puts his full effort into Parallax, creating a unique color scheme for the record, one that exists start to finish. This strategy has worked well with Deerhunter, and now Cox brings this sense of consistency over to his solo material, and the results are equally impressive.

10.) Adele – 21

A Mary J Blige record for white women too suburban to relate to My Life. This record has covered 2011 like a Snuggie, warming up the ladies during their lowest love moments-and it all has to do with the rich power of her voice. And while her youth is most noticeable in her lyrics and in her choice of covers, there’s little to indicate we won’t be looking at 21 in the next few decades like we do My Life or Back To Black.

11.) Chad Van Gaalen – Diaper Island

Should have been knocked out of contention due to the awful album title, but within Diaper Island’s homemade vibe is some nifty garage rock lifts inside a Brian Wilson imagination. It weaves in an out of your ears, leaving just enough resin to get you to come back to Van Gaalen’s questionable locale.

12.) Lady Gaga – Born This Way

What do you expect from a dude that lived through the bombast of pop metal blo-pops and Madonna’s PMRC-baiting simulations. While I may have grown tired with her continuous assault on my visuals, I can also find myself close to tears when she sits down at a piano and just plays. Same is true with the acapella version of this title track.

13.) Witch Mountain – South Of Salem

Imagine if Kyuss ditched their vocalist for an Ann Wilson worshiper. Witch Mountain features enough slow tempo guttural guitar sludge to keep you soiled for days (Help @diaperisland) with Uta Plotkin blowing your head off, Scanners style.

Honorable Mentions (aka the second Baker's Dozen):

14.) Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
15.) M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
16.) P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake
17.) Apex Manor – The Year Of Magical Drinking
18.) The Roots - Undun
19.) Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
20.) Mastodon – The Hunter
21.) Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
22.) Faust – Something Dirty
23.) Richard Bucker – Our Blood
24.) Chris Isaak – Beyond The Sun
25.) Greg Allman – Low Country Blues
26.) Kate Bush – Director’s Cut

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Van Halen - 5150

When it was announced that Sammy Hagar would be taking over the lead vocalist position in Van Halen, David Lee Roth made an observant statement about his replacement.

I’m paraphrasing, but the line went something like “Sammy Hagar has made a lot of good albums, but Van Halen made great albums.”

And that’s exactly what Van Halen’s first offering with Sammy Hagar is, a good Van Halen record.

What Diamond Dave fails to acknowledge is that II and Diver Down aren’t exactly great albums either, but it’s obvious that he’s correct in declaring that Sammy Hagar has never been the kind of guy that can claim to have a classic record under his belt as a solo artist.

You’d get no argument from me that the first Montrose album could be a must have, but Hagar’s solo work is filled with big hook-laden chorus and a bunch of shit thrown together for verses in between.

The same is true when he has Eddie Van Halen working with his for 5150-the pair make some great music together when everything aligns for the chorus, but just getting there proves to be a challenge. Hagar’s lyrics are so dimwitted that he makes Roth seem like fucking Shakespeare and to think that Eddie Van Halen is actively encouraging this behavior is almost unsettling.

The best example is “Summer Nights,” a song that fits perfectly into any summertime bonfire or make-shift party, that is until you realize that Hagar is actually pining for a hook up by referring to the opposite sex as “human toys.”

At one point, Hagar is such a lazy bastard that he doesn’t even bother to follow up the line “Them girls are biting good tonight” with another verse. Instead, he just gives a pointless “Awww” instead of finishing the lyric.

5150 is filled with lots of good songs that are sure to complement any party, but there’s hardly a tune on it that would stick to your conscious the way a comparable Diamond Dave tune.

This album played incessantly the summer it was released and I remember being quite shocked at how good it actually turned out after fearing for the worst. It remains as Hagar’s best work with the band, but it hardly was good enough to not have me wishing that they’d hire Roth back and send Sammy packing for his own blend of arena medicraty.

With Roth they transcended the juvenile script while with Hagar it seemed that the opening act pomp was dragging Van Halen down to the circuit that they seemed to leave behind in ’78.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Michael Schenker Announces 2012 Tour

Lots of open dates, and that troubles me. Michael isn't known much for his ability to follow through on lengthy travels through the U.S. and this tour looks to be filled with consequtive nights in small bars and clubs. It could be a recepie for disaster and this is clearly not the larger venue tour they had in mind before when Uli Jon Roth and Leslie West tour.

He's now paired up with Robin Mc Auley again, which means that I won't be seeking out this show like I was with the original tour package.

Mc Auley isn't even featured prominently with this latest album, so maybe someone figured out that latest vocalist Michael Voss is a bust.

Here's the press release:

"Michael Schenker, a true purveyor first-class hard guitar rock, released the aptly titled "Temple of Rock" on October 11 on CD, digital formats, and vinyl. He will now be touring with Robin McAuley in support of the album."

02.17.12 - PORTLAND, OR - DANTES
02.24.12 - CORONA, CA - MARQUEE 15
02.28.12 - TBA
03.03.12 - DETROIT, MI - HARPOS
03.15.12 - TBA
03.17.12 - DALLAS, TX - TREES
03.18.12 - TBA
03.20.12 - TBA
03.21.12 - TEMPE, AZ - CLUB RED
03.22.12 - LAS VEGAS, NV - VAMP'D

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fishbone - It's A Wonderful Life (EP)

Released in a limited edition e.p. before the holidays in 1987, Fishbone’s It’s A Wonderful Life remains as one of the season’s best cynical offerings. It continues the band’s hyperkinetic funk rock of the previous year’s Truth and Soul and features the band’s naughty boy humor.

The title track is a fast-paced run through of the movie of the same name. And rather that wallow through 80 minutes of sentimental celluloid, Fishbone tackles the plight of George Bailey in 3 minutes, and rather than the promise of life being wonderful, the band sets their expectations at merely having a good time.

“Slick Nick, You Devil You” paints everyone’s favorite fat man as a dirty drunk. The items this lush leaves behind has vocalist Angelo Moore screaming “I wanted candy! I wanted candy! I wanted candy!” by the final verse.

With one Truth and Soul leftover beginning side two and another humbug jam ending out this 15 minute holiday blast, It’s A Wonderful Life still plays well a quarter century later. With the e.p. long out of print, the songs are now found on the retrospective Fishbone 101 for anyone looking for some relief from the traditional holiday music.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fishbone Stick Together With Crazy Glue

I can't vouch for this as I haven't heard it yet, but I can tell you that it's great that Fishbone are still around.

Back during the Truth and Soul days, they were one hell of a band, and I can vouch for that album and can easily say that their live shows were something to behold.

I drank with Norwood Fisher the night that I saw them, and he was a gracious and fun-loving man as I tried to weave a coherant interview with him while Supertramp's shitty Brother Where You Bound played in the background. Thankfully, Norwood made it all a blast and I will always hold a deep affection towards this band, regardless of the line-up.

Here's information on the new e.p.:

"Frantic, unhinged, and edgy, Fishbone's highly anticipated new 7 song EP Crazy Glue captures the beautiful madness that is Fishbone, with a blistering combination of punk & funk. Currently, the band has a campaign with Punk Rock Deals (PRD) to offer fans a CD package that also includes a Classic Logo T-Shirt with 25th Anniversary Graphics for only $15.

Combining equal parts of deep funk, high-energy punk, and frantic ska, the Los Angeles-based Fishbone was one of the most distinctive and eclectic alternative rock bands of the late '80s. With their hyperactive, self-conscious diversity, goofy sense of humor, and sharp social commentary, the group gained a sizable cult following during the late '80s, yet they were never able to earn a mainstream audience.

Led by vocalist/saxophonist Angelo Moore, the band formed in 1979 while the members were still in junior high; the original lineup comprised Moore, Chris Dowd, Kendall Jones, Walter Kibby II, and John Norwood Fisher. After performing in local clubs during the early '80s, the group signed with Columbia Records in the mid-'80s, releasing a self-titled EP in 1985. The following year, Fishbone released their first full-length album, In Your Face. While it was marred by a somewhat slick production, the sheer energy of their performances burned through the slightly polished surface.

Fast forward to 2011 and Fishbone's Crazy Glue"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Singles 45's and Under: Atari Teenage Riot-"Deutschland Has Gotta Die!"

You’ve probably gathered that my politics run a little left of center, but even I have my limits to when progressive thought is burdened by reality and by academic nonsense.

I’m not sure where I fall on the whole Occupy movement as a whole-but I do know that jack shit was being done about the white collar criminals that got away with foreclosing our future just to make a few extra bucks unethically.

And all of this makes me think that this winter could be a lot worse for the Occupy protestors, with colder temperatures giving a slight reprieve while our local law enforcement get to model their riot gear and move out a bunch of hippies who hang out at the local park.

Sometimes I wonder, “Are these the same people who felt the animosity of the older generation when Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon belittled the war protesters 40 years ago?” Do these same people on the receiving end of ridicule now beat a similar drum towards today’s youth?

I wonder where our protest singers are? I wonder who will rise up to the challenge of lending an eternal voice to today’s struggle. I think of who is ready to lead the youth, and then I get dismayed.

There’s nobody there.

My mind thinks of Atari Teenage Riot, who seemed poised to be that band over a decade and a half ago, even when there was no real struggle for them to align with.

Would it surprise you that they’re back, and that there now seems to be a struggle perfectly formulated for their progressive ideals?

I spent $3 on the Grand Royale single for Atari Teenage Riot’s “Deutschland Has Gotta Die!” back in 1997, and judging from the amount of record wear I noticed on a recent spin, it became an immediate favorite.

Everything on it seems to be on the wrong; hyper drum beats and distorted guitar samples layer beneath Hanin Elias’ title screams, while head ATR, Alec Empire, barks orders like a good instigator.

The flip, “Riot 1996,” is just “Riot” repeated over an over, while a sample of Dinosaur Jr.’s “Sludgefeast” just hammers that word into the ground.

I love this single. It makes me wish the kids could have their generation’s version, because music this good could just about occupy anything.

Friday, December 16, 2011

KISS - Ace Frehley

I’ve taken a bunch of shots at Kiss and most of them are deserved.
But the one thing that I haven’t managed to accomplish is to find a Kiss record that is so awesome that it warrants the amount of worship that sustains a band for nearly forty years.

I’m not done with the catalog, but what I can claim is that the best of the lot is nearly 30 years old and is not good enough (in my opinion) to give them a pass at the band’s creative declined that began as quickly as we began to see any evidence of their greatness.

One of the album’s in their catalog that people kept encouraging me to listen to isn’t even a Kiss album. It’s Ace Frehley’s solo album, cited by the Kiss Army as the best solo album of the lot and performed by the band’s true hard rock patriarch.

I’ve got to confess that those folks were on to something, but their praise may be a little lacking in some circles. Ace Frehley is not only the best of the solo albums, it may even be the last great glam rock album of the 70’s, serving as a vital blueprint for the glam metal bands that began popping up in the early 80’s.

Ace Frehley got a bunch of traction from the hit single “New York Groove,” a song that eventually loses its luster the moment you hear the original version by the band Hello. It’s note for note, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

That being said, the track works well within the sequence of the record and with the fact that Ace must have been saving up his best material for this outing. Either that or Gene and Paul could have been cockblocking his contributions entirely.

I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s very clear that Frehley has a different approach to his material than anything else in the Kiss cannon, and that is probably what makes it so enjoyable. His music is heavier; his lyrics straddle between an afterthought and precocious druggy couplets. In other words, it mirrors Ace’s awesome cover portrait, while the other solo records merely rehash the image for end cap marketing, snagging the attention of the pre-teens loitering in suburban shopping malls. Ace Frehley was the only record that hinted at any danger while underhandedly demonstrating that awesome riffs could still come out from under the influence.

With nearly every track sounding like a winner, it’s “I’m In Need Of Love” that stands as the perfect example of Ace’s unique approach of sloppy Stonesy blooze performed live on fucking Skylab. “Snowblind” and the opener “Rip It Out” bring things closer to planet Earth but they’re equally rewarding, rocking terra firma with some memorable riffs.

Much of this is due to Frehley’s choice of producer, Eddie Kramer. The man who brought Hendrix’s otherworldly guitar antics to tape does a great job of getting Ace’s more restrained guitarwork off the ground. Kramer gives Frehley’s tone a nice bite and his work is just as vital to the success of Ace Frehley as the musicians.

Based on all of this, it’s no wonder that Ace Frehley is revered among Kiss fans and why it continues to be referenced as a vital piece of Kisstory. Gene and Paul were foolish not to give Ace more of an input in the albums, particularly after the band began to become more of a parody of their costumes rather than trying to break down the walls of legitimacy with Les Pauls and a nice buzz.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Lost Chord Of Hard Day's Night

This is awesome.

Randy Bachman-yes the "Takin' Care Of Business" guy-gets a personal glimpse into the opening chord of "Hard Day's Night" directly from George Martin's son.

What's great is how you can hear how excited Randy is in telling this story, and the moment he puts together those chords, you end up feeling a little tingly inside

And even though you've heard that intro a thousand times, this clip will make it feel like the first time all over.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Girl With Far Away Eyes

“Hey! One of your classmates died over the weekend.” remembered my dad. Our original conversation was about something else, a topic that evidently wasn’t as exciting as his sudden memory flash of my classmate’s death. We were speaking on the phone, part of the obligatory monthly calls that twenty-somethings make to their parents just to let them know they’re behaving responsibly.

Of course, news like this does bring one’s attention to a peak. Mine was evidenced by a quick response of “Oh yeah? Who was it?”

He told me that they found Christine Davidson’s body next to the railroad tracks. The tracks were used by a few industries spotted along the Mississippi river on the south side of town. They used the rails occasionally to send out products and to receive the raw materials they needed to make them.

In other words, it was not the type of area that you’d find many women walking around after midnight, so my mind processed her final resting place.

“What the hell was she doing around there?” I immediately asked. Apparently, there was much about my deceased classmate that I didn’t know about.

“I don’t know.” he offered. Then he provided some additional background detail about her that I would have never guessed.

“She died of hypothermia I think. Maybe alcohol poisoning.”

My mind, for whatever reason, immediately considered foul play.

“She drank herself to death?” I clarified, amazed at how differently that lifestyle was to the image of her that I had in my head. I didn’t really know her, but what little I remembered of her wasn’t one of a drinker.

“Oh yeah.” My father continued. “I remember she came up and talked to me one night at the Labor Hall and she was just hammered.” I should note here that the only time my Dad was down at the Labor Hall was when it was an election year. He’d go down to glad-hand the party faithful, discuss election strategies for their candidates and then watch the election results on the television above the bar. The fact that Christine was down there seemed to imply that she must have been employed at some local factory after high school.

It was then when I began to piece together the brief memories I had about her. I couldn’t think of any bad memories and I don’t remember her getting into trouble. I can’t speak to any ridicule she may have encountered, but then again, I’m sure I don’t know half of the tortuous things that girls are capable of in high school.

She wasn’t all that good looking. Blessed with intense blue eyes and cursed with a distractingly huge mop of curly black hair, Christine was one of those girls who just disappeared the farther you got into high school. By the time I was a senior, Christine stopped being a familiar face in the hallway. A quick review of the yearbook from that year finds that she didn’t exist in a mix of our senior portraits.

She was extremely shy and she seldom spoke. The very idea of walking up to my father and initiating a conversation amazed me. I could only recall one time where I heard her speak, and that was due to a class assignment.

Ms Posadas was my 10th grade English teacher, which was unique because Ms. Posadas was from the Philippines and English was her second language. This made her the target of incredible ridicule from some of the students, and at barely five feet tall, Ms. Posadas would occasionally find herself in tears as her classroom dissolved into disruptive chaos.

She once gave us an assignment once where we had to give a five-minute speech about a topic of our choice. I can’t remember what subject matter I ended up choosing, but I’ll never forget Christine’s.

When it was her turn to give her speech in front of the class, she Chris was noticeably nervous. Her voice was barely audible in the back of the classroom, but I listened intently. I knew nothing about this girl, and the possibility of a complete meltdown lingered in the air.

“Mick Jagger is the lead singer of the Rolling Stones.” she began.

Now my interest peaked. I loved the Rolling Stones too, and I wanted to see the extent of her fandom. The band had recently became relevant again thanks to Tattoo You and a widely successful U.S. tour.

What she spoke of wasn’t revelatory. Instead, it spiraled into an uncomfortable bit of hero worship. The speech soon wandered traveled away from the facts she wrote on 3 x 5 index cards. When she began to notice that she was rambling, she clinched her index cards tighter.

Five minutes can be an eternity, particularly if you’re scared shitless in front of an audience of your peers that could make even the teacher of the class bolt for the doors in tears. You could see how she removed herself from the embarrassment by making a mental picture of Jagger in her mind and her eyes drifted upwards as if trying to get a better view of him.

“I just think that he’s the best…he’s just really great…and so good looking…” she continued, oblivious that everyone was staring at her. “The way he moves…I dunno…they’re just the greatest…and I dunno…He’s just his so awesome…I love him so much!”

She caught a bit of suppressed laughter and it snapped her out of her daydream. She looked down and then noticed that she had at least another two minutes to kill on the clock. In her panic, she looked to Ms. Posadas who graciously let the extra minutes slide by calling up the next student.

And that’s the only time I heard her speak.

I’d see her in the halls occasionally. If eye contact was made, it was answered with a quick look away. She wasn’t shy enough to try out for cheerleading, where she ended up cheering for the wrestling squad, considered by some girls (pun intended) as the “b-squad” of the cheerleading hierarchy.

By our senior year, she had all but disappeared. She no longer walked the halls, shared a class, or cheered a takedown. My dad was again a great source of information, telling me that Christine was having problems. He knew the head librarian at our town’s only public library and she told him that Christine’s mother had brought in dozens of women’s magazines-Cosmo, Glamour, and other ladies’ fashion periodicals-that she had found in her daughter’s bedroom one day.

She had defaced the magazine by scratching out the faces of models with pen ink, emphasizing her hatred of their beauty with words like “Slut” and “Fucking whore!” scribbled over the images.

It was clear from these rumors that Christine had some major issues to contend with. It confirmed that high school must be a nightmare for girls with self-image issues and without the safety net of friends that could steer you away from the kind of people who make sure you stay away from the wrong side of the tracks.

There’s no morality tale here and no contrite Jagger/Richards quote that brings this story together. A quick spin of side one of Tattoo You and a quick mention of Christine to an old classmate of mine brought her memory up again. To be honest, that friend had no recollection of her and even my father vaguely remembered her when I urged for clarification about her over the holidays.

Maybe this memory of Christine is something more, particularly if you’re getting heavy during the holiday about families, friends, and those intersections of life that you went through to get to this point. Perhaps my recall serves and a reminder to you to give pause those fringe characters that you met, paused, and then moved on without much consideration.

Her name was Christine Davidson.

She liked Mick Jagger.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Letter To Dianne

So I’m digging around in my file cabinet in the garage and I come across the following letter that I’d written over three years ago.

Again, for those readers that need to be brought up to speed, I spend a tremendous amount of time making sure people get their money. Sometimes, that conversation can be challenging and sometimes it’s hard not to take it personally-particularly if you’re really working hard at getting these people their money and you have to deal with company nonsense while the customer is screaming at you.

I deal primarily with members of my organization now, but it wasn’t too long ago that I was dealing directly with the customers. During that role, I initially dealt with affluent customers, and then I switched to the complete opposite: people that could barely formulate sentences and would ask me for loans of ridiculous amounts, like $50.

Below is a woman named Dianne that I spoke with in September of 2008. I can’t remember the exact nature of Dianne’s call, other than she was elderly, lived in Glendale, AZ, and that I needed to get her husband’s permission to allow me to speak to her about his account with us.

Dianne didn’t like that.

She relented and I got the authorization from her husband, an extremely polite man, given whom he was married.

After providing her with the information, Dianne neglected to hand up the phone properly, so I took the liberty of listening in on her and her husband’s existence. Dianne was apparently doing the household bookkeeping that day, paying bills and balancing the checkbook, and she was doing this while completely drunk.

I noticed it during my conversation with her. She was slurring her words a bit and getting irate at the most simple of logic. Like the fact that I needed to get her husband’s authorization because she was not the owner of the account.

With our business complete, she went back to her bookkeeping, and she was barely into the task, her husband returned to ask where something was.

That’s when the fireworks started.

Through the phone I could hear Dianne completely rip into her husband for breaking her concentration. She evidently was doing the old fashion check ledger vs. calculator thing, because his question caused her to lose her place in her calculations and she proceeded to belittle him for the next five minutes.

Occasionally, I would hear him respond, but it did him no good.

His pleading was only met with more drunken shenanigans, layered with enough angry vitriol that he never could make it to the end of his sentences.

And the best part? All of this was before noon in my Central Time Zone. This meant that they hadn’t even reached 10:00am in Glendale, Arizona.

For these customers that bring a bit of extreme negativity to my world, I will sometimes reward them with a letter. My letters come from a variety of sources, but all are created to confuse, anger, or cause some kind of emotional rebuttal that will hopefully impact their day with the same amount of negative energy that they have inflicted on me.

Thankfully, for the benefit of you readers, one of these letters survived and never got delivered.

I present to you my letter to Dianne.

P.S.: All of the swearing you see below is nothing compared to the sailor mouth profanity that I heard coming from her mouth as she yelled at her husband. In closing, she lamented that she would now have to make a special trip to the bank to get her “shit squared away” because her husband’s interruption made it impossible to continue with balancing the checkbook.

P.S.S.: I’m proud that I included “2541 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN” as the return address. Wonder if she was a Husker fan.

September 10, 2008

Dianne T.
Glendale, AZ 85304


Are you tired of having to go t the bank to get your shit squared away?

Me too.

My husband was always bugging me when I tried to balance the checkbook, causing me endless recalculations and numerous errors. I could barely figure out the fucking thing on my own, and I sure as hell couldn’t figure out the goddamn thing with my cocksucker of a husband asking me “Honey, where are all the batteries?”

How the fuck should I know where the batteries are?! Find them yourself, Richard!

Anyway, I recently changed banks and I wanted to let you know about some of the exciting services that Bank of America are now offering that I think you’d find as beneficial.

Bank of America has recently introduced an easy to use online banking service that provides a running balance of all of my accounts so that I never have to use a goddamn calculator ever again.

Now if they could only help my piece of shit husband find those batteries!

I would encourage you to call Bank of America to have them begin the easy process of transferring funds from your existing institution over to them.

Once the accounts are closed, Bank of America will begin to get your shit squared away.


Betty Cosgrove
Wife of that cocksucker Richard

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome To The Monkey House: The Company Christmas Party 2011

Last night was my company’s Christmas party.

Once a majestic event where over 1,500 employees would cram into a local Marriot, eat shitty chicken and feast on the free beer and wine, this year proved to be a less than exciting event.

First of all, there were only 1,200 RSVP’s returned this year, which I’d like to associate with the rising discontent that has infected our company.

What happens when you try to do more with less?

Welcome to the monkey house!

I seriously believe that most major corporations like today’s economic climate because they can shovel shit onto the workers and then follow it with a menacing “And what are you gonna do about it”

And who wants to go to a party hosted by bullies.

I haven’t been to our holiday party for a few years now, mainly because I always wished after the party that my wife and I would have used the babysitter time for dinner and a movie instead.

We always end up the karaoke room because it’s the first place people go when they start to feel loosey goosey.

And from there, it’s only one more Bud Light until a stunning rendition of “Sweet Child Of Mine.”

This year, the stunning rendition was Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” courtesy of my young friend who works in the cafeteria. He had the thing planned in advance and after a few beers he made his way to the stage.

“Are there any Bon Jovi fans out there?” he asked the crowd, receiving a few legitimate cheers in return.

“Then you may want to leave.”

It was intentionally horrific, accented by plenty of f-bombs, particularly the “I’m fuckin’ wanted…” during the chorus.

Then there was my supervisor’s boyfriend, a man who apparently ran a karaoke service of his own, which made him extremely comfortable with going up repeatedly for hard rock songs like “Rebel Yell,” “Sad But True,” and a Marilyn Manson song that he kept threatening us at the table with.

“I’m serious!” he threatened, “I’m gonna go up there and do some Manson!”

After an hour, that threat became a reality, causing even the karaoke DJ to comment how he was making yet another appearance to the stage.

There was also the obligatory chubby girl with the “great” voice that had a contingency of fans/friends who only needed to press her a few times before she made her way up to the stage for her signature version of “I’ve Never Been To Spain.”

The crowd cheered at her talent, which meant that she’d milked the adulation for another 45 minutes before she trotted up the stage again for her version of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.”

“Oh! She’s good!” offered the Puerto Rican girl on my team after the Chapman selection proved to be a winner amongst the ladies.

I’ve probably only been to a half-dozen karaoke’s in my life, and I think I’ve heard “Give Me One Reason” at probably all of them.

There was the butchy lesbian that sang an Usher song (I point this out because one of my co-workers in her 60's was not entirely convinced of the gender), a gaggle of drunk girls that sang the horrific local favorite “Iowa Gurls,” and a long-haired IT guy that barked out AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap,” including a pointless “RAWR!” at the end, just to remind you that he’d memorized every nuance of Bon Scott’s delivery.

But it was my boss’ insistence that her chubby, forty-year old boyfriend wasn’t “that bad” as he wailed away on the Marilyn Manson version of “Sweet Dreams” that prompted me to look down at my imaginary watch and declare “Oh! Look what time it is!” much to the delight of my wife, who was probably ready to leave an hour before.

We returned home where I enjoyed a cold slice of Dominos pizza to make up for the bland Coconut Breaded Chicken that was on the menu for the festivities’ tropical theme.

So even though the chicken entree was woefully dry, was the musical entertainment good enough to go back again next year?

I dunno.

It depends on if someone who’s seen a million faces will “fuckin’ rock them all” as an encore.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Short Discussion On Cleatus The Fox Sports Robot

I’d like to tell you that I’ve been hard at work with news posts, but the reality is much different. There’s been some changes within the Totale household, one of the unemployed kind, that’s required yours truly to spend some additional time at work to try and make up for the economic downturn.

As a result, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to spend evenings writing or farting around the laptop.

Of course I say this and then I immediately find time to fart around the WBEZ website where I stumbled across an article concerning the Fox Sports mascot, Cleatus the robot.

I didn’t even know the robot had a name. I just referred to him as the annoying robot cartoon that Fox Sports puts on as a little mascot during the sponsorship bumpers “Brought to you by…”

Cleatus jumps around, points to the imaginary crowd, and appears to be warming up for a robotic football game….and he annoys the fuck out of me.

I thought I was the only one.

I caught an image of a link about Cleatus, the Fox Sports robot and it took me to a site I’m already a fan of, mainly for Jim DeRogatis’ articles. But this article about Cleatus wasn’t penned by DeRo.

Instead it was Claire Zulkey, a writer who shared enough contempt against this shitty robot that I found myself barking “I know, right?!” at various intervals while reading it.

She asked for some feedback, and before too long I’d composed the fiction you’ll see below.

Ms. Zulkey thought it was weird enough to print on the WBEZ blog and I encourage you to visit and check out some of the other entries and the original post that got me all hot and bothered.

Because nothing good can come from any of the Fox networks, Cleatus is an evil creation from the executive branch of Fox Sports to continue the conglomerate overthrow of America's free will.

Step one: send a message to the humanoid players of the National Football League that their days are numbered. No more talk about concussions, late hits or fair catch signals. Play with reckless abandon and risk your body in the name of higher ratings and better MMA lead-ins. And if these humans fail to entertain us sufficiently, we have a roster of robots to take over.

Cleatus cracks his neck during the warm-up sequence, suggesting a programmed vulnerability to get us to believe that his limbs are breakable and a retirement of Oxycontin and local AM affiliate pre-game shows are waiting down the road. But Fox doesn't tell Cleatus the reality that his titanium skin and carbon fiber tendons will all be stripped clean, like copper plumping in a great recession. There will be no call-in shows, no "Cleatus' Clinch Picks" and no Buffalo Wild Wings giveaway gift cards for the trivia winners.

He will be gutted like any other Fox talent that has overstayed their welcome.

That is why the eyes are beginning to glow.

Cleatus is starting to notice less zeal in Fox's programming efforts involving him and his calculating the infinite possibilities of Fox's exit strategy for his character. The glowing eyes signal an acknowledgement of a potential threat and they may even be part of Cleatus' own defense mechanism.

In any event, I don't think he has the engineering marvel that could lead him to defeat the executives at Fox.

Wake up, Cleatus. Time to die.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cool Jazz T-Shirts

I know that a lot of Glam-Racket has turned into a commercial outlet for crap you can buy, and if you’re offended, I apologize. Trust me, I don’t get a dime for shelling out these press releases, I merely like living vicariously through people who have enough disposable income to afford such things.

As a rock and roll fan, I simply don’t have the additional time to get caught up into jazz. I like some jazz just fine and I appreciate the art form. But I know there’s an entire world within jazz and its culture is immediately appealing to me.

Particularly the art form of the jazz album cover.

My only fear with these awesome shirts would be if a real jazz fan came up to me while wearing them and discover that I don’t know didily squat about the musicians.

"FRIEND OR FOE takes your favorite iconic imagery of Jazz, Blues & Soul, the American sounds born of strength and struggle, joy and pain, love and sex and creates t-shirts from the striking art of the albums that are the pillars of American culture and a mainstay inspiration to music in all its forms.

Their shirts have a slim vintage fit with a seasonal color palette.


American sounds born of strength and struggle, joy and pain, love and sex. This is where FRIEND OR FOE is coming from. We take the iconic imagery of the music, the striking art of the albums, and we bring it back, we write it large.

The music's authenticity, you can almost hear it in our clothing the crackle of the LP on the turntable, the soul-sighs and the heart-screams, the angry horns, the crying woods. The magic of the music is what inspires and informs FRIEND OR FOE music that we fear is being lost to time, being drowned out by the noise of today's culture, the very culture it helped build.

In early 2006, former Mossimo creative director Eric Sorensen, noticed a glut of rock and rollmusic t-shirts in the marketplace and an opportunity to create a brand that would showcase the artwork of jazz, blues & soul music. FRIEND OR FOE started licensing album artwork from Prestige, Fantasy, Stax and Blue Note records labels and created t-shirts that have a slim vintage fit with a seasonal color palette.

The brand's first retail account was Lisa Kline in Los Angeles, and then Barney's New York came on board. Today, boutiques and department stores around the world have embraced the brand."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Portlandia's First Season Out On DVD Today

I think Portlandia is hilarious and was stoked when they got picked up for an additional season.

But don’t seasons last for like a dozen or more episodes? I’m confused. It seems more and more, less and less is considered enough to be a “season.”

Whatever, Fred Armisen is great and Carrie Brownstein is surprisingly awesome outside of a band setting. Who knew that she could hold her own with some of the most odd and surreal comedy in quite some time.

The organic chicken bit is priceless and just how I imagined Portland.

Here’s the press release:

"Portland, Oregon - VSC announces the release of the hit IFC comedy series Portlandia Season One on DVD and a DVD/Blu-Ray combo. The North American release comes to stores on December 6, 2011, and features all six season one episodes along with extensive bonus materials.

The 2011 sleeper hit Portlandia wowed critics with its overlapping comedy shorts showcasing the creators' dreamy and absurd rendering of Portland, Oregon. Created by and starring SNL's Fred Armisen and musician/actress Carrie Brownstein (vocalist, guitarist, Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney), who together co-created the series with director Jonathan Krisel (Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job!, SNL).

The series of comedy shorts feature recurring characters including an organic farmer/cult leader; members of an adult hide and seek league, owners of a feminist book store; a militant bike messenger; and an artsy couple who attach cut-outs of birds to everything.

In Portlandia, Armisen and Brownstein encounter the bike-riding Mayor of Portland (Kyle MacLachlan), who appears in three season one episodes. Their City Hall escapades feature a cameo from the real mayor of Portland (Sam Adams) playing the assistant to MacLachlan's mayor. Additional guest stars include Selma Blair, Steve Buscemi, Heather Graham, Aimee Mann, Sarah McLachlan, Aubrey Plaza, Gus Van Sant and Jason Sudeikis.

The DVD has a suggested retail price of $19.95 and the Blu-Ray/DVD combo on special FSC certified packaging sells for $26.95. Both sets include all six episodes of the first season with bonus features including a blooper reel, extended scenes, deleted scenes, Fred Armisen's speech to Oregon Episcopal School graduates, original ThunderAnt videos from which Portlandia spawned, and commentary with Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstien and director Jonathan Krisel over six episodes. There's also a preview of what's in store for the second season, which premieres on IFC Friday, January 6, 2012 at 10:00 PM."