31 December 2005

Auld Lang Syne

All told, 2005 was a pretty shitty year for me. I won't bore you with the details. I hope that 2006 brings us all a more enjoyable 365 days.

25 December 2005

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Christmas, Christmas time is here. Time for joy and time for cheer. I still want a hula hoop.

Believe it or not, I do enjoy the holiday season, if only for the gifts, time off from work and oh yeah, the family bonding shit. Thankfully, frontline warriors like Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson were able to save Christmas 2005 from all those godless pinko commie faggot pro-choice ACLU feminazis out to destroy America. Every time you say "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas," an angel dies in heaven. It's true.

So, paraphrasing the great theological scholar Krusty the Clown, have a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a kwazy Kwanzaa, a tip-top Tet and a solemn, dignified Ramadan.

22 December 2005

Pretty Pictures

I never cared for Mike Allred's writing. I find it a little too self-consciously faux retro hipster smug and cute for its own good, like he's more concerned about letting the reader know how hip and cool he is as opposed to telling a coherent story. But the boy has a pleasing art style:

Better still, Allred isn't scripting this new book.

Also, the Marvel Mangaverse stuff doesn't interest me in the slightest, but check out the Black Cat's new and improved rack. Spidey's wasting his time with Mary Jane.

Too bad her face is drawn just like that little fucker from Elfquest (which -- surprise! -- I also loathe).

The War on Xmas

Slate redeems itself after the puppy-fucking cartoon earlier this week with the latest installment of Christopher Hitchens's "Fighting Words" column, wherein Hitchen's weighs in on the so-called "War on Christmas."

The following paragraph is especially incendiary:
"Our Christian enthusiasts are evidently too stupid, as well as too insecure, to appreciate this. A revealing mark of their insecurity is their rage when public places are not annually given over to religious symbolism, and now, their fresh rage when palaces of private consumption do not follow suit. The Fox News campaign against Wal-Mart and other outlets—whose observance of the official feast-day is otherwise fanatical and punctilious to a degree, but a degree that falls short of unswerving orthodoxy—is one of the most sinister as well as one of the most laughable campaigns on record. If these dolts knew anything about the real Protestant tradition, they would know that it was exactly this paganism and corruption that led Oliver Cromwell—my own favorite Protestant fundamentalist—to ban the celebration of Christmas altogether."

20 December 2005

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

This just in:

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled "intelligent design" cannot be taught in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district.

19 December 2005

'Tis the Season

...for bestiality over at Slate. Couldn't the cartoonist have chosen a less, er, suggestive angle?

14 December 2005

Bush to Iraq: "Whoops. My bad."

This just in:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush on Wednesaday accepted responsibility for the decision to go to war against Iraq based on faulty intelligence.

“It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq,” the president told The Woodrow Wilson Center on the eve of elections to establish Iraq’s first permanent, democratically elected government. “And I’m also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we’re doing just that.”

11 December 2005

Easy on the Lip Gloss, Danni

Danni wins Survivor.

Danni and Stephanie were plenty cute and sexy when they were on the island -- sweaty, dirty and no access to cosmetics. On the big reunion special, they both looked like truck stop hookers, sad to say.

A good, solid season overall. Not the best ever, but far from the worst. Honestly, they're all starting to blur together for me. I should spend my time a little more wisely, but who am I kidding? I'll watch the next season.

08 December 2005

It Was 25 Years Ago Today

...that John Lennon was murdered, of course.

I remember seeing the front page of the Evansville Courier on Dec. 9. I wasn't a Beatles fan at that point, but I still understood the magnitude of his life and work. At the time, I obsessively listened to Casey Kasem's Top 40 countdown every Sunday morning and Lennon's "Starting Over" had peaked and was falling off the singles chart, but after his death, it went #1, sadly and literally with a bullet.

One wonders what might have happened had Lennon survived the shooting or even better, not been shot at all. Maybe Lennon was lucky, in a perverse way -- he never had to slide into middle aged mediocrity and irrelevance like all the other '60s artists.

06 December 2005

Sucking in the '70s

It's a great time to be a thirtysomething comics nerd with a little disposable income. Marvel Comics has been putting out their "Essential" series for several years now, and DC recently launched the "Showcase" series. What both lines do is cram 20-30 back issues of various characters into one massive volume. The stories are all printed in B&W on pretty cheap paper, but as mentioned, you get 20 to 30 back issues of comic titles that ceased publication during the Ford administration, all for around $17.

Marvel has released several volumes of their A-list properties (Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers) but they've also released books featuring characters that can charitably be described as "also-rans." And for some perverse reason, I often find these books to be the most intriguing and gratifying. These are the comics I remember from my early childhood; titles whose basic premises, and sometimes their names alone, were guaranteed to pique the interest of any red-blooded 6-year-old: Ghost Rider, Killraven, Werewolf by Night, the Defenders.

If you ask the 2005 me if the books hold up, the answer is an emphatic CHRIST, no -- beside the fact that these books are all fairly dated, these titles rarely attracted Marvel's top creative talents -- you'll find plenty of vile Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta hackwork scattered throughout various Essential titles -- and when name professionals or even solid craftsmen were involved with the art, a palpable sense of phoning it in pervades many of the stories. (Mike Ploog's work on Werewolf was pretty distinctive.)

Yet there's just some kind of indescribable crazy funnybook mojo at work in those very same pages and I just can't get enough. I freely admit that the nostalgia factor serves to tint these books in a pleasant rose-colored glow, but these books weren't self-consciously edgy and dark like so much of the shit that's published these days. There's a purity there that just can't be faked. I'm hoping that Marvel sees fit to release Essentials editions devoted to Jungle Action, Deathlok and Warlock on the near future. Master of King Fu would be super ultra mega kick-ass, but I beleive that the rights to Fu Manchu et al would preclude that.

On a related note, DC's Showcase line just published a Jonah Hex collection that's real purty, and the level of professionalism involved is at a higher level than in, say, The Essential Power Man. There's even some Doug Wildey art.

I know what I'm axing Santa for this year.

05 December 2005

Better Than Nothing

Comedy Central to Show Chappelle Sketches

Damn skippy. Chappelle's Show is/was the funniest sketch comedy series since The Kids in the Hall. Entirely different sensibilities between the shows, obviously, but both could be brilliant at times.

03 December 2005

Nice Package

Picked up the Criterion release of Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth. As always, the folks at Criterion have gone above and beyond the call of duty with the DVDs, but this version even contains the source novel by Walter Tevis. Impressive.

By the way, I love the design used on the cover of this Criterion release:

I may have to rent it from Wild & Woolly for shits and giggles.

02 December 2005

Auf Wiedersehen, Asshole

Even though I don’t post about it too much these days, I still watch Survivor. And last night’s episode was one of the most satisfying I’ve seen in a while. The loud-mouthed, bullying halfwit Judd was voted off the island.

There have been dozens of jackasses on Survivor and while I’m unsure if Judd was the "Biggest Survivor Jackass Ever," he’s definitely Top 5. Judd was one of those contestants who likes to climb up on his high horse and complain that other players are the lyingest liars who ever lied, while characterizing himself as constitutionally incapable of uttering a falsehood himself. Naturally, there were frequent instances shown on TV wherein Judd did in fact, fib his fat ass off. It’s as if he honestly (heh) believed that the cameras weren’t there or something.

During his graceful and classy exit, he called the remaining contestants “scumbags,” which was pretty much to be expected. But then, that’s why I watch reality TV: seeing people at their worst always makes for compelling viewing.

01 December 2005

Hey, I'm an Idiot

...but you knew that all ready.

I have the "moderate comments" tag selected on this thing and I haven't checked it for a week. Heh heh. I thought I was gonna have to start posting deliberately inflammatory stuff (e.g., AIDS is God's wrath upon the homosexuals, the Holocaust is a lie perpetuated by the Jew-run media, George W. Bush is a great president) just to get a rise out of you.

Carry on.

Best Band Name Ever

I haven't heard a single note of their music, but I all ready love the Test Icicles. Sound clips are available on their web site, but I'm afraid to listen, in case they stink.

30 November 2005

Tomorrow: Dolly Summons Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Forest with a Thousand Young; Hilarity Ensues

I've always loathed Bil "Don't Call Me Bill" Keane's craptacular "Family Circus" comic strip. It's trite, it's treacly, it's poorly drawn (even more so now that Jeff "Don't Call Me Jeffy" Keane has taken over the strip) and so on and so forth. How many fucking times can the whole punchline be some half-retarded kid mispronouncing "spaghetti and meatballs?" In the "Family Circus," it's twice a month.

So when I stumbled upon this parody, which masterfully combines sentimental schmaltz with Things That Should Not Be -- via Defamer, via Boing Boing -- I knew I had to share it with you, dear readers. Somehow, I never pictured Jeffy as a member of the Chorazos Cult. He always struck me as more of an Azathoth acolyte -- he's the Seething Nuclear Chaos, you know. Enjoy!

29 November 2005

Deck the Halls with Blood and Entrails

Family Media Guide lists its ten most "ultra-violent" video games for 2005.

Now I know what games I should try to get Santa to bring me for Christmas!

Pray to God Jagger's Wardrobe Doesn't Malfunction

Rolling Stones to play the Super Bowl halftime show.

Yawn. The Stones haven't been viable as a creative act since, what, 1978? I love it when they put out a new record and the critics all line up to kiss their tired, wrinkled asses while simultaneously saying the band's previous record was rote and by-the-numbers. In other words, all the reviewers who say that A Bigger Bang is a great record now will say it sucked seven or eight years from now when the Stones release its follow-up.

28 November 2005

Suck On This, DeCurtis

Once on VH1's Four on the Floor, Anthony DeCurtis declared that as long as he had any kind of say in it, Black Sabbath would never be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I guess DeCurtis isn't as powerful as he once was -- the Sabs are getting inducted into the hall. I wonder if Ronnie James Dio, Vinnie Appice, Geoff Nichols, Ian Gillan, Bev Bevan and any of the other 48 musicians who have played in Sabbath get to join, or if it's just Iommi, Ozzy, Geezer and Bill?

Other acts to be inducted this year: the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Lynyrd Skynyrd and noted rock 'n' roller Miles Davis.

Don't pout, Anthony: Maybe Sylvester will get in next year.

27 November 2005

Black Friday, Gray Saturday

Visited the in-laws for Thanksgiving. Good food, good times. Christ in heaven, it gets cold up by the Great Lakes.

Jen's mom doesn't have cable (!!!) and the only stations that come in well on her TV are Chicago's ABC and UPN affiliates. I was fortunate enough to watch a few episodes of The Parkers, which I had always assumed to be a shitty sitcom that played into negative ethnic stereotypes. Now I know for a fact that The Parkers is a shitty sitcom that plays into negative ethnic stereotypes. Also, series star Mo'Nique looks like a tranny.

Anyway, the day after, we took a trip to IKEA. Man, I love me some IKEA. We were finally able to get that stupid wardrobe we desperately need, plus some other stuff. Only problem is that the wardrobe is too big to fit in our car, so we had to leave it at her dad's house. He'll drive it down in his F-350 in a week or so.

We listened to the audiobook version of Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind, which, surprise surprise, differs greatly from the movie. For starters, the book gets pretty heavy with all the technical jargon. Listening to Edward Hermann rattle off extended passages dealing with game theory and applied mathematics and the eggheads who dreamt it all up is edifying yet pretty challenging. I'm glad it wasn't night time or I might have dozed off. Still, I appreciate that the book doesn't assume you're a moron and dumb everything down. However, even though we got the abridged version, there are still three CDs to go.

George, Where Did It All Go Wrong?

A sad yet morbidly fascinating cautionary tale.

"I spent it all on booze, broads and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

24 November 2005


Things for which I am thankful:
  • my wife
  • my family
  • our cats
  • my friends, peeps, homies, amigos, dawgs, niggaz, etc.
  • steady employment
  • living in Louisville
  • my health
  • books, CDs, DVDs, etc.
  • cable television
  • the internet
  • western civilization
  • my rights, privileges and freedoms as a U.S. citizen
  • food
  • water
  • oxygen (the gas, not the cable network)

23 November 2005

I Joaquin the Line, or: A Boy Named Leaf

Johnny Cash. The man, the myth, the legend. Gone, but not forgotten, especially now that the big budget biopic Walk the Line is in theaters, garnering critical praise and talk of Oscars for its stars, Joaquin “Don’t Call Me Leaf” Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Haven’t seen the movie, and I most likely won’t until after its DVD release. For all I know, it could very well be a great flick that I’ll enjoy watching.

But personally, I’ve never cared for Joaquin Phoenix; he’s the Jim Belushi to River’s John, and taking the role of a dead show biz personality, especially a recently dead show biz personality, is a fast and easy route to boosting your reputation as a "serious" actor, so long as you don’t completely fuck it up. Jamie Foxx, I’m looking at you and your Oscar.

This recent trend of Cash worship all strikes me as opportunism and cheap sentimentality disguised, badly, as love and admiration for Cash’s life and music. It happens all the time in the media. For lack of a better term, let’s call it “Hey, This Guy’s Gonna Die Soon So We Better Pretend We Always Thought He Was Cool to Boost Our Own Hipster Cred” syndrome. Well-meaning they may be, but the blatant phoniness behind all the posthumous love is more than a little repulsive. They’re afraid they won’t be able to ride the hip train unless they pay lip service to the recently deceased godfather du jour. And I’ll bet if you put a gun to the head of one of these “hardcore” Johnny Cash fans and asked them to name three of his songs – and “Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire” and “Folsom Prison Blues” don’t count -- they would draw a total blank. And probably wet their pants, but that’s beside the point.

(Many of these Cash fanatics can’t even correctly name the tune that started the penultimate wave of sudden Cash love. Hey, King Cred: You’ll have to do better than “that one Nine Inch Nails song” if you want to impress the clerks at ear X-tacy. If you love the song so much, would it kill you to refer to it by name? I realize that “Hurt” is a lengthy, complex title, but make an effort, fucktard.)

And be honest: When you heard that Phoenix was playing Cash and Witherspoon was playing June Carter Cash, did anyone besides their respective agents think the casting was perfect?

It reminds me of when Johnny Carson announced his retirement, and all the big Hollywood stars that were just a little too cool to go on The Tonight Show during Carson’s decades as host suddenly crawled out of the woodwork to express their admiration for his show. What I really thought was bizarre was how critics, pundits and other assorted halfwits all joined in to talk about how magnificent Carson’s show was and how it was still funny and vibrant, when anybody who had bothered to watch an episode of The Tonight Show prior to Carson’s final two weeks on air could’ve told you that the show had, in fact, settled into a rut of tedious mediocrity. But I digress.

I’ll give Rick Rubin props – he was on the Cash love train a decade before things got all maudlin and phony. And I’ll give props to Cash himself; he never seemed to have an inflated sense of importance, even after all the nitwits started pretending they thought he was cool.

Listen to Cash’s music because you enjoy it, not because you’re biding time between your Ray Charles Greatest Hits CD and the next hip dead old singer.

Who Cares?

From a Marvel Comics press release...
Marvel is pleased to announce the unveiling of our very own podcasts! ... Podcasting at Marvel.com enables fans to be a proverbial fly on the wall as they listen to creators talk about all of the aspects of what goes into making a comic book. In the near future, there will be many more uses for this innovative technology that is gaining popularity every day on the web. In joining the podcast revolution, Marvel hopes to bring fans closer to their favorite creators, update fans on exciting upcoming projects, and release news that podcast listeners will literally be the first to hear! We thought the best project and special guest to unveil this new development at Marvel.com would be Damon Lindelof, and he was thrilled to be a part of it.
...and so on. I can't imagine anything less exciting than listening to a comics writer droning on about how he wrote a particular funnybook. Except maybe actually sitting down and reading said funnybook.

22 November 2005

All Mixed Up

The Cars to reunite?

Without Ric Ocasek?

With Todd Rundgren taking his place?

From the Boston Herald, via Can't Stop the Bleeding:
Boston legends The Cars are finally back together.

Sort of.

After months of speculation, it has been confirmed that the band is prepping for a tour next summer. But it won’t include Ric Ocasek, Cars founder, co-lead singer and main songwriter. His place will be taken by veteran rocker Todd Rundgren.

Only two genuine Cars, guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes, are involved in the reunion, which will be billed as the New Cars. (Original Cars singer/bassist Ben Orr died in 2000; drummer David Robinson has retired).

Rounding out the new lineup are two of Rundgren’s longtime collaborators: Singer/bassist Kasim Sulton and ex-Tubes drummer Prairie Prince.

Hey, I like Todd Rundgren and all, but this is just a dumb idea.

21 November 2005

Can't Stop the Insults

I'm not too big on pro sports. However, I am big on the internets and the blogs -- I hear they're the next big thing -- and while reading The Black Table recently, I found an entry by Will Leitch, the guy who edits Deadspin, the sports blog from the Gawker people. Leitch's entry was about his "online enemy," an unnamed blogger who belittles Leitch and his sports knowledge on a regular basis.

Curiosity got the best of me, so I Googled "Will Leitch Sucks" and lo and behold, the first reuslt points to the awesomely monikered blog Can't Stop the Bleeding. And sure enough, CStB actually has its own little subcategory of posts called "Will Leitch Sucks." The dude is dedicated, that's for sure -- he even posts pictures of Leitch from time to time.

But wait, it gets better. The guy behind CStB is none other than Gerard Cosloy: musician, journalist, record label president and all-around raconteur. I suppose it's possible that there could be more than one Gerard Cosloy on the face of the planet, but c'mon.

Now, is all this daily slagging a little petty and childish? Sure. I feel a little sorry for Leitch, actually, although his haircut does him no favors. But is it funny? Much more often than not.

I know neither of these guys. As a complete sports ignoramus, I don't know if Leitch is truly the buffoon that Cosloy makes him out to be or not, but now I regularly visit Can't Stop the Bleeding.

19 November 2005

Compositions for the Young and Old

Bob Mould played at Headliners last night. As noted earlier, I did a pre-show phoner with Mould for LEO; you can read the article here.

Top-notch show. Small but appreciative crowd. Mould played tunes from the entire catalog, going all the way back to the mighty Zen Arcade through his new album. He started the show playing a 12-string acoustic guitar but due to some loud chatter (did I say "appreciative crowd?") he swapped axes after "High Fidelity" and finished the set on his trusty blue Strat.

Set list:
Wishing Well
Hear Me Calling
Hoover Dam
See a Little Light
No Reservations
Hardly Getting Over It
High Fidelity
Lonely Afternoon
The Act We Act
I Apologize
Chartered Trips
Your Favorite Thing
Celebrated Summer
- - - - -
If I Can't Change Your Mind
Makes No Sense at All

15 November 2005

Reading About Exercising

Today I finished Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180 by Mike Magnuson. I've read a few of Magnuson's articles in Bicycling, one of which described how he lost 80 lbs. This book seemed to be an expanded version of same, so on a whim I bought it, and indeed, the book describes how he quit smoking, quit drinking and got in shape. It also details a few of the centuries in which he participated. In several spots, he nails that peculiar blend of exhilaration and agony that comes from a nice strenuous, lengthy bike ride. It made me want to join a cycling club.

In other spots, his prose gets a little too self-conscious and "writerly" for my tastes, but he is an English professor -- at SIU, but still -- and those folks are, generally speaking, highly enamored with the sound of their own voices. Regardless, I liked the book.

One last peeve: Magnuson's a tenured English professor, and yet throughout the book, he uses till when he means 'til, as in, an abbreviation for the word until. Believe you me, there's a difference. You can say that while "till" is technically incorrect, it has become part of the common vernacular and is now considered acceptable usage... but I'll still say you're a fucking idiot.

Grammar lesson over. Read the book.

14 November 2005

Getting My Rocks Off

Calm down, perverts -- I stuck Aerosmith's Rocks disc in the car.

Rocks was released in 1976, which means Aerosmith were still drinking, drugging and, not incidentally, making great hard rock records. This album is a classic. "Back in the Saddle" proves that Steven Tyler might not be a technically brilliant singer, but he can shriek with the best of them -- check out those last few "riding HIIIIIGHs." Joe Perry's first solo composition "Combination" has always been a favorite of mine; when I was a kid, I didn't catch all the drug references, but that's why it's fun to revisit old favorites once you've put a few extra miles on your chassis.

But Brad Whitford is the MVP of this disc. His two contributions -- "Last Child" and "Nobody's Fault" -- showcase Aerosmith's accessibility and on "Nobody's Fault," their sense of menace.

Listening to Rocks demonstrates how far the band has fallen. Sobriety's a wonderful thing, I guess, but for Aerosmith, it came at the price of their musical balls. The gauche punchline is that the dreck they've churned out since 1987 has been their most commercially successful material, proving that the American record-buying public, generally speaking, has no taste, rewarding the group for turning into a grotesque parody of themselves.

12 November 2005

Physical Fitness and My Lack Thereof

It's the middle of November and the temperature this afternoon was 70 degrees, so I figured this might be my last chance to get a nice bike ride in before autumn gets here for good. It was so warm, I even wore shorts on my ride.

What I forgot was that it gets a little breezy this time of year, which increases wind resistance, which really harshes my vibe. Yeah, it's a more intense and therefore "better" ride, but no one likes to be reminded how weak and pathetic they are in such a brutal, uncompromising manner. I climbed some hills and stuff today, but all told, I suck.

What's even worse are all the serious cyclists, wearing their spandex bodysuits and aerodynamic helmets, riding on their $2,000 road bikes, zizzing past me like I was standing still. Fuckers.

Part of the problem is my bike itself: It's classified as a "hybrid recreational," which means it's part road bike, part mountain bike. The model I have is more of a leisure/utility bike. It's also a different color scheme than the one pictured. It's pretty heavy, at least as far as bikes go, whereas the high end road bikes are up to 10 pounds lighter than my ride. Don't get me wrong; I like my bike quite a bit, but if I ever want to wipe the smirks off the faces of the little Lance Armstrong-wannabes in Cherokee Park, I'll probably need more appropriate wheels.

(I also think bikes like mine should be called road bikes and road bikes should be called racing bikes, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of mahi-mahi.)

Of course, a much cheaper way to increase my speed would be to lose weight. Right now, I'm at 175 lbs., which according to most BMI charts is average for my height (six feet one inches of All-American Beef, thank you). But it wasn't too long ago when I was 160 lbs. and my hip bones were clearly delineated when I lay down. I've been living pretty high on the hog here in Louisville, eating out every weekend and having sophisticated adult beverages and it's taking it's toll. It all comes back to self-discipline. Sigh.

09 November 2005

Superior, It's Said, Never Gives Up Her Dead

Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the day when the skies of November turned gloomy and the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank into Lake Superior. Even though it's a little corny in spots ("The big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'"), I always liked Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Jen has both volumes of Lightfoot's greatest hits and once when we were visiting her mom in Hammond, we listened to Gord's Gold Volume 2, which has the song (in a rerecorded version). I'd never sat and listened to it from start to finish. Being stuck in a car on a six-hour drive is as good a place as any to do some serious listening, and I was struck by what an evocative tune it is. Knowing that it's based on an actual tragic event makes it all the more creepy. For me, dying via sinking ship seems like a really unpleasant way to go, even though I've read that drowning isn't painful at all.

This site has pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about the ship, the crew and their eventual fate.

07 November 2005

The Balcony Is Closed

Watched three movies this weekend.

House of 1,000 Corpses: My buddy Will extolls the virtues of this movie on a regular basis, so I figured WTF and picked it up. "Over the top" doesn't begin to describe it. Subtle it isn't, but kudos to auteur Rob Zombie for expertly evoking that bygone era of cheap, violent exploitation movies. With Sid Haig (left) in the cast, you can't go wrong. And hey, the sequel comes out on DVD tomorrow. What a coincidence.

Over the Edge: Troubled youth flick from 1978. Matt Dillon's first role. Fu Manchu wrote a song about it. It's in Cult Movies 3 by Danny Peary. Half the appeal for me was the nostalgia factor. Dated? You bet your life, but it's still an effective little film. Excellent use of then-current music, especially Cheap Trick, the Cars and Van Halen. I also found it quaint and oddly sweet in that all these bad-ass kids barely used any profanity. If they remade it today, every third word would be "fuck." It was a different time.

Crash: I'd heard mixed things about this one, but I liked it, even though it played like Short Cuts crossed with a mega-serious episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in the way all the disparate elements magically and more than a little unrealistically all tied in together by the end of the movie. Matt Dillon (him again?) was strong. Also, I already knew Jennifer Esposito was easy on the eyes, but Bahar Soomekh? Damn. If only I could pronounce her name. Where the hell is she from, Canada?

04 November 2005

It's Tony's Fault If I Get Fat

Tony is attending a conference here and he's crashing with us. It's nice to see Big T again. Too bad Sarah (a.k.a. "Li'l Mama") couldn't tag along. We really miss those bitches.

Anyway, I haven't been to the gym since Sunday and we've been eating out -- and drinking out -- every night. I hate going to the health club but I'll really hate having to buy a whole new wardrobe if my waistline expands. Gotta have more self control, yo.

I keep thinking about an article I read in Bicycling. Some freelancer in New York City whose name I cannot recall rode his bike everywhere for 30 days. I'd love to try a similar experiment, but November probably isn't the best month to attempt that particular scenario. December and January are probably out, too.

31 October 2005

29 October 2005

Ham Fisted

Ah, Local H. Technical problems plagued guitarist Scott Lucas most of the night, so he was in a surly mood -- well, surlier than usual. Therefore it wasn't the greatest H show I've ever seen, but it was still the best concert I saw all week (sorry, Spoon).

I don't know what precisely it is about Local H that gets me so fired up. I think it's the combination of strong songs and accessible melodies wrapped in bone-crushing rock 'n roll firepower, and the fact that it's just two guys doing all the work is the icing on the cake. I never get tired of listening to their albums.

So anyway, my posse and I arrived in Covington just as the second opening act was wrapping up. This show was another "U Pick It You Eat It" deal where everybody votes for seven songs from a list of 60, then the band tallies them up and plays the top vote getters. We rocked the vote, bought drinks and waited for the fun. As usual, Lucas was working the merch booth before the show, so I bought him a shot of Maker's Mark. Since no one likes to drink alone, I got one for me, too.

Riddle of Steel finished -- they weren't bad, but we didn't drive 90 minutes to listen to them -- and Local H set up. Things started off pretty good with two songs from Pack Up The Cats, but something went wrong with Lucas's rig and he swapped guitars mid-song. That seemed to fix things, but all through the night, he kept kicking and stomping on his multiple effects pedals. At one point he was on his knees, smacking one that apparently wasn't functioning the way he wanted it to.

I felt a little bad for my pal Shay, since this was his first ever time seeing Local H. When Local H is firing on all cylinders (i.e., no equipment malfunctions), Lucas will interact with the crowd, take a few shots at whatever is pissing him off (Velvet Revolver, the Chicago Cubs, George W. Bush), but that night, all we got was a mumbled "Congratulations, you're seeing us on a really great night."

No encore, but my buddy Adam got one of Brian St. Clair's drum sticks.

Set list:
All the Kids Are Right
All Right (Oh Yeah)
Fifth Avenue Crazy
Hit the Skids, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rock
Heavy Metal Bake Sale
High-Fivin' Mother Fucker
Heaven on the Way Down/Eddie Vedder
Bag of Hammers
Keep Your Girlfriend Away From Me
Hands on the Bible
500,000 Scovilles/What Can I Tell You?
No Problem
Manifest Destiny Part 2

First time I've ever seen Local H and they didn't play "Bound for the Floor" or "Fritz's Corner."

28 October 2005

The Beast and Dragon, Adored

My friend Shay is the only person I've met here in Louisville who can keep up with me in a conversation about music. Our tastes don't always overlap, but like me, he grew up on heavy metal, which gives us one common bond. Better yet, he's turned me on to a few bands that I've either always meant to listen to but never got around to it, such as Girls Against Boys, or that I've never heard of. Case in point, Spoon (pictured). He gave me a copy of their 2002 album Kill the Moonlight last year, coincidentally a few weeks before Spoon happened to play a gig at Headliners. We went, I enjoyed, but since I only knew the Moonlight material (and barely at that), it wasn't as edifying as it could have been.

Last May, Spoon put out a swell new CD called Gimme Fiction, and when dates were announced for the tour, I was pleased to see that Louisville was one of the stops. This time, I studied the material as best I could, which meant two weeks before the show, I stuck Kill the Moonlight in my car's CD player and swapped it out for Gimme Fiction one week before the show.

I was amazed how many people turned up for the show. I have no idea how many people will fit into Headliners, but trust me when I say it was packed. Happily, Spoon delivered. Frontman Britt Daniel is hardly a virtuoso guitarist, but his playing perfectly complements his spiky, bouncy sound. Two encores.

Better still, the merch booth was stocked with a healthy selection of the band's CDs, so I plunked down $36 for legit copies of the two most recent discs, plus Girls Can Tell from 2001.

No set list because I didn't have anything to write with, or on, for that matter. The played all but two songs from Fiction, a big chunk of Moonlight as well as "The Fitted Shirt" from Girls Can Tell.

27 October 2005

Rock, Rock 'Til You Drop

Even though I went exclusively to see Cheap Trick (see below), Def Leppard was the headliner last night, and since the promoter comped LEO two tickets, I thought it would only be polite to watch a little of their set.

First, it has to be said, but the overwhelming majority of the folks in the crowd were all on the high side of 30. This was cool, because it shows that us "old folks" will go out to see bands, and it was cooler still because I seem to be aging much more gracefully than much of Def Lep's core audience, i.e., people who were in high school between 1979-1989.

So after Cheap Trick tore through their by-the-numbers set and a 30-minute teardown, Def Lep hit the stage. The house PA was blasting the usual classic rock mix. Queen's "We Will Rock You" came on, and got the crowd pumped up. About 10 seconds before Brian May's outro solo ended, the house lights went out and the show started. This struck me as a little peculiar. Not too many bands use another band's tune as a teaser... and using a teaser by a band that is about 200 times better than your own band is counterproductive, but whatever.

Def Lep takes the stage to a pulsing, driving, vaguely familiar riff, and singer Joe Elliot starts singing, "So you think you'll take another piece of me/To satisfy your intellectual need..." Yes, folks, Def Leppard opened their show with a cover of the Sweet's "Action." A gutsy move, and one that allowed me to mentally congratulate myself for recognizing the fact, smug in my awareness that I was most likely the only person in the arena besides Def Leppard themselves who knew that this was not a brand-new Leppard tune. Yeah, I'm a dick.

Then they did "Let's Get Rocked," one of their songs that I find kind of puerile and annoying; then they did "Foolin'" from Pyromania, which I like (shut up). Next was "Let It Go" from High 'n' Dry, which I also like (hey, fuck you, I was in the eighth grade). Then things get blurry. They did a couple of songs that I can't remember (which says a lot), then they did "Love Bites," a song that I thoroughly loathe, but I decided that the next song they played that I didn't a) instantly recognize and b) actually like, I would split.

As if reading my mind, they played Badfinger's "No Matter What." Then Elliott started telling the audience how they hardly ever play this next number and they've only been breaking it out on special occasions and blah blah blah, and they played some recent song whose name escapes me and that's when I hit the road.

All in all, they delivered for their aging fanbase, so good for them. As I was walking to my car, it occurred to me that if someone had told the 12-year-old me that 25 years in the future I would leave a Def Leppard concert early even though I had free tickets, I would laugh in your face.

But here we are.

26 October 2005

Déjà Vu All Over Again

I love Cheap Trick, but their set list tonight at the Gardens was a virtual carbon copy of the one they played when I saw 'em at the Kentucky State Fair in August. Sure, they were opening and not headlining, but damn guys, could you mix it up a tiny smidgen?

Set list:
Hello There
Big Eyes
If You Want My Love
Best Friend
I Want You to Want Me
I Know What I Want
Never Had a Lot to Lose
In the Street (a.k.a. That '70s Song)
- - - - -
Dream Police
California Man

Compare with their last Louisville show.

My dream Cheap Trick set:
Hello There
Elo Kiddies
Tonight It's You
She's Tight
I Must Be Dreamin'
Auf Wiedersehen
Baby Talk
Gonna Raise Hell
The Ballad of TV Violence
I Want You to Want Me
- - - - -
He's a Whore
Dream Police

...or something like that.

25 October 2005

My Brilliant Career

Did a phoner with Bob Mould today on my lunch break. This is the third time I've interviewed him. A nice guy. No, I don' t think he and I are friends or anything. Mould's good in that he knows that talking to a bunch of writers from the various little alt-weeklies in all the markets in which he has gigs booked is part of his job, so he does it without any attitude or ego.

Most of the show biz professionals I interview aren't huge stars; some are, but most aren't. They may have national reputations and worldwide record deals, but by and large they're just working musicians. And I've been fortunate in that most of the interviews I've done with personal favorites have been pleasant. Andy Partridge was super cool, Scott Lucas is extremely funny, Ted Nugent is a right-wing wacko, but he's still funny. Gene Simmons is pretty self-important, but that's his whole schtick, so I put him in the "cool" pile, too. The key is to NOT tell them that you're a huge fan. Just be professional and courteous, so when you ask them about some obscure Japanese B-side from 1994, they'll think that you've done a lot of painstaking research.

Others: Sonny Rollins was incredibly pleasant, and considering that I knew (and still know) virtually nothing about jazz, he was incredibly patient as well. Woodroe Weatherman from COC was a nice guy and he has one of the coolest names ever. Ditto Patterson Hood. Ozzy Osbourne was unintelligible but sweet. Brann Dailor from Mastodon. Liz Phair. M. Gira. They were all decent to me, so they rule.

Who sucks? The absolute worst interview I ever had was with Martina McBride. She was a total bitch. It was painfully apparent that she thought her time was much too valuable to be spent doing a 15-minute phoner with some hack journo in a tertiary market, and I wish I had had the balls to tell her -- at minute 14, of course -- that I thought it was funny that her record label "encouraged" her to do local press because ticket sales were sluggish for that tour.

23 October 2005

Amused to Death

Mission: Kings Island was a success.

The PR guy came through with the comp tix, and a thank you letter will be written and mailed tomorrow. Better still, Mother Nature came through -- all the online weather sources I checked promised intermittent showers all day Saturday throughout the greater Cincinnati area, but they were incorrect. Sure, it was a bit brisk, but that's why God invented sweatshirts and skull caps. Thusly, attendance at the park was not as sparse as we had hoped, but we were still able to breeze through the lines in a prompt fashion.

Best ride was Flight of Fear. Since it's magnetic, you go from 0-55 m.p.h. in four seconds, which is pretty cool. Worst ride was the Racer. Don't get me wrong, the Racer is a fine roller coaster, but they had the backwards train shut down, which kind of negates the whole premise of the Racer, and for some reason, the spinal adjustments I was dreading all happened on that single trip on the Racer. Ouch.

One other point of suckage: The Son of the Beast was not running.

20 October 2005

A Correction

I was mistook: Bob Mould's upcoming show in Louisville will be solo (Bob + guitar). While this does not diminish the fact that he's coming to the town in which I reside, I was looking forward to seeing him with a full band. Easy come, easy go.

Beastie Boys

This coming Saturday, me and some of my boys are going to Kings Island -- excuse me, Paramount's Kings Island -- to ride the roller coasters. Yes, we're arrested adolescents -- sue us. I hope that it's not raining, but if it is, I got a jacket. I also hope it's not too crowded. I also hope that the PR guy who said he hooked me up with four freebie tickets comes through.

We went last year and it was all delightful and shit. The only bad part was that the day after, I was all stiff and sore. Those coasters really jostle the spinal column, and I'm not as young as I used to be. This year, I'm taking some Advil along and hoping for the best.

19 October 2005

Crying in the Chapel

As I've mentioned previously, in the Magic City last weekend, our pals Tony and Sarah got hitched. And then they got married. (Eh, it seemed funny when I typed it.) It was a lovely ceremony and I'm sure that they'll be happy together, especially since they lived together for two years before the actual wedding.

However, during the ceremony, Tony cried. I'm not talking about a few tears rolling down his cheeks or some sniffling, either: these were heaving sobs -- his shoulders were moving up and down. For a few seconds I was actually afraid that he was going to stop the ceremony and say, "I'm sorry but I don't want to get married after all! My bad!" But he was just all verklempt.

Men cry. This I know all too well. Get enough liquor in me and I'll burst into tears if certain songs come on the radio. In his defense, he warned me that he'd probably lose it at the altar, but I was surprised by how emotional Big T got. Then again, he is a dago. Regardless, he composed himself after a few minutes and everything went OK.

But while I was standing up there fulfilling my duties as a groomsman, I couldn't help but recall my own wedding to dear sweet Hibboo Thugg -- every time we stole a glance at each other, we would start giggling like monkeys. Retarded monkeys, at that. And much to everyone's chagrin, at the time I was infatuated with the phrase "so mote it be" and kept muttering it under my breath throughout the ceremony. (I later discovered the correct quote is "so mote be it," but I think my phrasing sounds better, so fuck you, Aleister Crowley.)

All of this made me wonder: Since Tony was crying at his wedding but I was acting up like a sixth grader, did that mean that he takes his vows more seriously than I take mine? I don't think so. It's just indicative of our personalities, for better or worse (no pun).

Congratulations, Tony and Sarah -- you're awesome motherfuckers and we love you.

12 October 2005

Concert Calendar

Several shows are looming on the horizon.

1. Def Leppard/Cheap Trick, Louisville Gardens, Oct. 26: I'm man enough to admit that their are three or four Def Leppard songs I don't mind, but the only reason I'm attempting to weasel some comp tix from the promoter is, of course, Cheap Trick. I'm also trying to weasel free tix because admission to this show is $49 and up. When I was a small kid, riding in the Galaxie 500 with my dad, listening to 1280 WGBF The River City Rocker, I remember hearing ads for all the shows at the Evansville Coliseum and Roberts Stadium that I was too young to go see: KISS, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Rush, even Cheap Trick, and the tickets were all between $5-$8. Yeah, I'm aware it's not the 1970s any more, but no wonder concert attendance is dwindling.

2. Spoon, Headliners, Oct. 27: I saw Spoon last time they played here. They were excellent. Hope they're as good this time. Mary Timony opens up. Don't care for her, but there's a bar at Headliners.

3. Local H, Mad Hatter Club (Covington, Ky.), Oct. 28: Fucking A. Not looking forward to the drive, but it's the H.

4. Bob Mould, Headliners, Nov. 19: Bob on tour with a full band, playing songs from his entire career.

10 October 2005

You Can't Spell "Creationism" Without "Cretin"

There's no delicate way to put this, but I firmly believe that anyone who thinks intelligent design (i.e., creationism) is a valid scientific theory is a total idiot. I'd like to think that if, given a day or two, I could write a piece as dead-on as this one from Kurt Andersen, but who am I kidding? Suck on this:

“Evolution is a theory, not a fact,” say the stickers that another school system, in Cobb County, Georgia, affixed to textbooks. But all scientific knowledge “continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered,” and therefore all science is nominally theory—theory that exists along a spectrum, however, from deeply knowledgeable speculation (like superstrings in particle physics) to virtual certainties (such as evolution). In science, there is no such thing as fixed, irrefutable truth. That’s the difference between empiricism and faith.

So here’s a compromise: I’m willing to print the reasonable-sounding liberal core of the Cobb County disclaimer on every textbook in America—“This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered”—as soon as the Christians agree to put the same sticker on all of their Bibles.

05 October 2005


Ah, Europa. Where to begin?

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm kind of cynical and sarcastic, but despite my crusty, and at times irascible nature, I was more than pleasantly surprised by how fucking cool the whole thing was. It was a downright magnificent experience and it exceeded most of my expectations. All the places we went were clean, most of the locals spoke English fluently and were delighted to assist the tourists. More than one person advised us that if asked, we should tell people we were Canadians, but we didn't have to resort to that. All of the Germans and Dutch with whom we interacted didn't seem to hate us when they discovered we were Yanks.

On that note, Amsterdam is a beautiful and amazing city. It's impressive to be smack in the middle of a town with so much history. A lot of the buildings were built in the 1800s, 1600s, 1400s and earlier, so you get a real sense of... permanence, for lack of a better word, even though, like New Orleans, Amsterdam is below sea level. Tons of bicyclists, and they take no shit from motorists. They took us to a little village with windmills and a wooden shoe factory -- touristy, but cute -- and then we went to another little village and walked around. That night we went out to dinner at an Indonesian place (??) and then the group walked around the Red Light District. No, I didn't smoke any dope or hire any hookers, but they really do sit in the windows waiting for customers. Watch out if they make eye contact. Also, most of the prostitutes? Were pretty fucking hot. I'm just saying.

Next day, Wesel, a little town on the Rhein River. Beautiful scenery, beautiful hotel, which makes the stay more pleasant. I managed to find a Simpsons rerun dubbed in German (it was the one where Principal Skinner ditched Miss Krabappel at the altar) -- a good omen. We walked into town and bought some Diet Cokes, which tasted a little weird, but what are you gonna do? There were activities arranged for me and the other three spouses; one day we went to a mall, which was about as exciting as it sounds, but I did snap a few photos of strangely-named household products.

One night they took us to Köln (Cologne) and we saw the Dom (cathedral). Had dinner at an authentic German pub with the wurst and cabbage. Lots of the local variety of beer, which is called Kolsch or something and by law can only be brewed in Koln and blah blah blah, still tasted like every other beer I've sampled, i.e., crappy. Sorry, I know, I'm a Philistine. Spent Thursday night at the hotel bar doing shots of Jagermeister with a crazy Rumanian and a Frenchman, both colleagues of my wife. No, I don't know what got into me, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Final day, München ("Munich" to us Yanks). I thought the city looked really cool. For starters, they had an IKEA and the world headquarters of BMW and its Mini Cooper subsidiary (GOD, do I want a Mini Cooper of my very own!). Anyway, we went to Oktoberfest, but I was very hungover -- see above -- so I was pretty wobbly until I got some food and non-alcoholic beverages in me. Fun fact: They don't serve water in the tents.

Again, I sampled the special beer that can only be had at Oktoberfest and it too tasted like ass, as far as I'm concerned. They have these big-ass buildings (they call them "tents," but they ain't tents) that seat 10-12,000 people elbow-to-elbow. Oompah bands blast out German folk songs and they really do link arms and sway back and forth with their one-liter beer steins, and the waitresses all dress like the St. Pauli girl, though they're not all quite as hot. Jen polished off a full liter by herself. She's more macho than me. Regardless, it was something to witness, that's for sure, but I probably wouldn't go again.

We made it back to the hotel around 6:30 p.m. and after a little bit of chill time, we decided to explore the city a little bit. The fraulein at the front desk suggested a district that had the word "Freihaut" in its name, so we had a cabbie drop us off there. Again, it was hella cool, with many shops and cafes and a subway station every two blocks. And yes, the public transportation in Germany is top-notch, something America might have to emulate more if gas prices stay as crazy as they have been.

Anyhoo, I drank no alcohol that evening, as the mere thought of a transatlantic flight while nursing a hangover made me sick. Everything after that was pretty much typical, although once again I must tout the superiority of the German and Dutch airports to their American counterparts, although to be fair, the Munich airport just underwent a full renovation, so it was pretty much brand-new.

One last tidbit: On the flight home, I was seated across the aisle from a German family that included a mother-father pair, two grandparents and two small kids. The kids looked to be about 3 and 5 years old. I was afraid that we’d be in for nine hours of whining and crying or hyperactivity (or even worse, some combination of both) but I was pleasantly surprised. These kids were so well behaved it was a little creepy. Whenever they spoke to Mom and Dad or Granny and Grandpa, the whispered in their ears. The older one watched both in-flight movies (Herbie: Fully Loaded and Monster-in-Law – give him a break, he was too young to know any better) and the little one had a coloring book or something. Maybe their parents threatened to beat them unconcious if they acted up on the plane, but whatever they did, it worked.

Contrast that scene with what greeted us back in Louisville: two rotten kids shrieking at the tops of their lungs, climbing on the conveyor belt that sends your luggage around, wrestling on the ground and otherwise embodying every “spoiled brat” cliché you can imagine. What made it especially galling was that in between their obnoxious antics, they would glance around at everybody with these “Aren’t I just adorable?” little smirks on their greasy faces. Walking advertisements for abortions, these punks. Even better, their father was standing right there, blithely ignoring his demon spawn as they terrorized a bunch of people who just flew in from halfway around the world. Welcome home!

Advantage: Europe.

24 September 2005

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Death May Be Your Santa Claus's European Odyssey 2005 begins today, bitches, so blog updating will grind to a halt for a week. Have fun while I'm away.

20 September 2005

Trans Europe Express

We're going to Europe next week. "Psyched" doesn't begin to describe the way I feel right now. This is something I've wanted to do for over a decade.

First stop, Amsterdam, Then Wesel, Germany. Then, Munich for a taste of the original Oktoberfest.

While in Wesel, I plan to take the train to Dusseldorf, home of Kraftwerk. I may also venture to Cologne.

14 September 2005

I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman

Though they are but a two-piece band, the White Stripes were neither visually nor aurally encumbered last night by the relative largeness of the Palace Theater’s stage. The Stripes’ mighty roar filled the venue, yet the band was able to tone it down for quieter songs, too. Interesting cover tunes peppered the set, but the bulk of the material came from their last three albums.

The stage set was impressive. It featured a huge painted backdrop (in the band’s red/white/black color scheme, naturally), artificial palm trees (spray painted white) and, in a peculiar touch, little mannequins were positioned on the guitar amps.

Meg White was wearing a white t-shirt and leather pants. Jack White was wearing what appeared to be a Confederate soldier’s overcoat and hat (in black), but he quickly lost the coat. And it has to be noted that the roadies were all wearing suits and ties – a nice touch, although I imagine the dress code might be somewhat impractical for a rock band’s touring road crew.

Jack White’s voice was a little ragged, but then, he sounds a little raw on the CDs, so that was hardly a detriment to the group’s punk/blues garage band appeal. He switched around among several instruments during the course of the performance, including electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano, organ and marimba. And while Meg White’s drum chops aren’t exactly up to Neil Peart standards, she’s the best drummer for the White Stripes.

I was bummed that they didn’t do “Black Math” or “Ugly As I Seem,” but all in all, the White Stripes delivered a great show.


I really hate it when a band gains mainstream commercial appeal and fans who were there “in the beginning” bitch about the latecomers spoiling their little indier-than-thou party, but it has to be said that the bulk of the crowd was made up of people who came to hear “Hotel Yorba,” “Fell in Love with a Girl” (which they didn’t play), “Seven Nation Army” and “Blue Orchid,” period. For instance, when Jack White moseyed over to the piano and started playing Loretta Lynn’s “Whispering Pines,” some of the new “fans” grew restless and started in with the catcalls. So he played about a minute of it and then abruptly stopped.

I have no idea if he only ever plays a minute of it or if he got pissed off, and furthermore, I certainly didn’t go see the White Stripes so I could hear Loretta Lynn tunes, but considering that the band has five albums, the radio hits are going to be outnumbered by the album cuts and whatnot. Those in the know consider it an added bonus when a band performs something unexpected in a live setting. And even though the audience pays for their tickets and, in that regard, the band is working for the ticket buyers, well, whatever happened to common courtesy?

A quick check of various White Stripes message boards showed that the sets performed in Columbus and Cincinnati were noticeably longer than the one we got in Louisville. It could have been that Jack White was in an exceedingly good mood in Ohio, but since I always assume the worst, my guess is that he got annoyed with the buffoons at the Palace that night and figured they didn’t deserve an extended set because of the lack of decorum.

Set list:
Let's Shake Hands
When I Hear My Name
Blue Orchid
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)
Little Bird
You Can't Get That Stuff No More
Death Letter
Cannon > Little Room > Cannon
Hotel Yorba
My Doorbell
Denial Twist
Whispering Sea
Truth Doesn't Make a Noise
The Hardest Button to Button
- - - - -
Ball and Biscuit
I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself
The Nurse
Little Ghost
Seven Nation Army

13 September 2005

A Splinter in the Eye is the Best Magnifying Glass

I love John Powers's writing. Clear, concise and most importantly, funny, he's the best political writer in America. His essay on Hurricane Katrina and Dubya's "handling" of it just about says it all:

"With any luck, this shameful performance in New Orleans (and along the coast) will finally vanquish the enduring cliché that, unlike the supposedly dreamy left, the right is competent— you know, filled with can-do Steve McQueens and Chuck Yeagers who know how to get things done. In fact, what’s startling about the Bush administration is its mind-numbing incompetence at everything but winning elections and pushing through legislation that further enriches the rich. Even those who fervently backed the invasion of Iraq say they’re staggered at how ineptly the administration has managed the peace. Two and a half years after the invasion, the Iraqi capital still only gets four hours of electricity a day, and the airport road still hasn’t been secured. Evidently Baghdad was a dry run for the watery snafus in New Orleans."

Read the whole thing here.

11 September 2005

Bicycle, Bicycle

We rode in the Old Kentucky Home Tour on Sunday. There are several rides one can, er, ride in this event, including a 100-miler, a 50-mile version and a 25-mile version. Since the century is a two-day affair, I wanted to do the 50-mile ride and had spent the last three weeks.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park to begin the ride, my wife told me, “I don’t think I can do the 50-mile one.” So we did the 25-mile.

I’m hardly Lance Armstrong, but 25 miles isn’t too terribly difficult. I was kind of disappointed that my wife punked out on me like that, but in an uncharacteristic move, I didn’t bitch at her when she pulled this stunt. And I was vindicated when we finished up and she said, “Hunh, that wasn’t very challenging.”

Next year, we’re doing the 100-mile ride.

07 September 2005


This summer, I was asked to play bass in a trio (two guitars + me) performing at Toto & Sarah's nuptials in October. In preparation for this event -- or as we pro musicians say, "gig" -- I was supposed to learn how to play the Beatles's "In My Life," "And I Love Her" and "Let It Be;" John Lennon's "Imagine," the Beach Boys's "God Only Knows" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice," plus a Postal Service song, "Memories" from Cats (!!), some song from St. Elmo's Fire (!!!) and a couple of hymns. Sadly, no selections from the Motorhead oeuvre were chosen -- c'mon, nothing says "wedded bliss" like a cover of "Love Me Like a Reptile."

Regardless, I had to get to woodshedding, pronto. Things were progressing nicely until one of Toto's groomsmen got all squirrely and moved to Portland, Oregon and removed himself from the equation, so Toto called me and asked me to join the wedding party. I was all flattered and honored and whatnot, and now I don't even have to worry about what I'm going to wear, but this means that my little concerto is not to be, and as I'd just about mastered all the Beatles and Beach Boys material and was preparing to work on "Memories," I must admit that I was more than a smidgen disappointed -- I was really looking forward to putting on a show.

What really sucks, however, is that I'm a much better musician now than when I was actually playing in bands back in my callow youth. Why, I'm depriving the world of my gifts! Hiding my light 'neath a bushel! I should form a band of my own.

01 September 2005

Biblical Proportions

New Orleans today is a little slice of the Third World in America's back yard. The images coming out of the Big Easy are harrowing, to say the least. The one thing that keeps popping into my head: the smell down there must be utterly revolting.

31 August 2005

Katrina & the Waves

I've visited New Orleans twice, and I loved it both times. This hurricane business is some serious shit. I hope the area can rebuild and recover -- I wanna visit the French Quarter many more times.

Gas prices are skyrocketing due to Katrina, which is having a direct impact on Your Humble Narrator, but I still can't help but chuckle when I see stuff like this (taken from an Indiana news story not worth reprinting in its entirety for me to make the point to which I will get, eventually):
Adam Kirby of Nineveh stopped for gas Wednesday at a Marathon station on Indianapolis’ south side where regular unleaded was $3.19 a gallon. He said he was fed up with the high prices.

“I need gas but it’s outrageous. I work in Indianapolis but you can’t stop driving if you want to make money,” Kirby said, adding that he fills up his car’s tank about two times a week.

As I'm sure you're all aware, Nineveh, Indiana is about 36 miles south of Indianapolis. To Mr. Kirby, I says: "Tough shit, buddy. If you don't like spending so much money on gas, either move closer to Indianapolis or find a job in Nineveh."

I work with several people who are in the same boat as Adam Kirby. Last I checked, we work in downtown Louisville, but they live 20, 30, 40, 75 miles away. Ever since the gas prices went nuts, all they do is whine, cry and bitch about how much it costs them to drive to and from work now that gas is so expensive. As an added bit of schadenfreude for me, more than a couple of the yahoos with whom I work drive SUVs, eight-cylinder pickup trucks and other environment-hostile vehicular monstrosities, because, you know, one needs all that torque, horsepower and cargo room when one is driving the whelps to soccer practice. Man, it's a bitch when the chickens come home to roost, isn't it?

24 August 2005

Haunted (When the Minutes Drag)

I'm slowly, surely making my way through the CD version of Chuck Palahniuk's latest "novel," Haunted. I say "novel" because it's really a bunch of short stories with a narrative built around them. As mentioned earlier, this book has gotten some fairly shitty reviews (including a downright hostile one from my favorite magazine writer). As so often happens, when an artistic work -- be it a movie, album, TV show or novel -- gets uniformly glowing reviews, I'm usually disappointed when I finally get around to watching/listening to/reading it. Conversely, when something is almost universally reviled, I think, "How bad can it be?"

On that note, I says Haunted is not as bad as the playa-hater critics would have you believe. A couple of the stories have clumsy endings, but by and large it's kept me entertained, so I don't regret the money spent nor the time invested in the work.

However, the writer's retreat plot device is growing more and more ridiculous and over the top as I make my way through the 11-disc set. I like to think that this was intentional on Palahniuk's part. Overall, though, I'm enjoying it. It has to be said that Haunted features "Guts," a story that, legend has it, caused upwards of 60 people to puke, faint or otherwise physically react when Palahniuk would read it at book signings. Months before I ever thought about buying Haunted I was able to track it down quite easily online, but alas, it didn't make me vomit when I read it; nevertheless, it's a great story, as are "The Nightmare Box," "Swan Song" and "Dog Years."

One bum note: In "Ritual," Palahniuk engages in a bit of onomatopoeia with the noise one makes when they're dragging their finger across their throat in the universal pantomime for "cutting your throat." He describes it as the sound you make when you're hawking up a lung oyster from the back of your throat. If I had to spell it, I would go for something like KKKKRRRRRIIIKKKK -- not pronounced "crick," mind you. Palahniuk used "Sha-rook." And the actor who performs the story says, several times, "SHAH-ruk!" Which lends a story that is supposed to be cynical and morbid an air of unintentional comedy: the noise represents [spoiler alert!] someone getting their throat slit, as well as some guy accidentally slicing off his pecker, but with the nitwit actor bellowing "SHAH-ruk!" in a cluelessly deadpan fashion, it completely spoils the effect. This is one case where the printed page is preferable to its aural equivalent.

18 August 2005

The House is Rockin'

Saw Cheap Trick at the glamorous Kentucky State Fair tonight. It was a free show, but of course, one had to pay to get into the fair itself and pay for parking. However, since I am a well-connected media mogul, I paid exactly nothing to see the show, so I couldn't lose.

If memory serves, this was the sixth time I've seen Cheap Trick live and they always put on a good show. I've liked Cheap Trick since I was around 10 or 11 years old, but naturally, I went through a phase right around the time I started high school where I fronted like I was too cool to like the music I enjoyed as a youngster, Cheap Trick included. Amusingly enough, I probably listen to Cheap Trick much more often these days than I do most of the hip stuff I liked in high school (R.E.M., I'm looking in your direction).

So anyhoo, the Tricksters played a good selection of songs, even if the 70-minute set seemed a little brief. The best Cheap Trick gig I ever saw was probably in 2000 at Headliners right here in Louisville, but before we moved here. (We actually got lost trying to find I-64 thanks to Mapquest, but that's a story for another time...).

Set list:
Hello There
Big Eyes
If You Want My Love
Southern Girls
Best Friend
I Want You to Want Me
I Know What I Want
Never Had a Lot to Lose
The Flame
In the Street (a.k.a. That '70s Song)*
Dream Police

*This is a cover of a Big Star song that serves as the theme to That '70s Show, heavily edited and in my opinion, somewhat ruined. While my judgment is somewhat clouded by the fact that 1) That '70s Show is a pretty wretched sitcom and 2) you cannot improve on Big Star, ever, I still don't care for this tune. It's not easy having standards as exacting as mine...

Carrot Top Can Kick Your Ass

This is both disgusting and hilarious at the same time. Who knew America's favorite prop comic/AT&T spokesman/walking punchline was so beefy? Overcompensate much?

I've interviewed Carrot Top -- twice -- and he was very nice and professional each time... but I still don't think he's very funny. Mr. Show did a couple of brief but painfully accurate parodies of Carrot Top ("Blueberry Head") that said everything you need to know about him but were afraid to ask.

What really makes the photo come alive is that 1) his pubes are visible and 2) Carrot Top obviously does a lot of manscaping down there. Buy some pants that fit, dude.

15 August 2005

Dateline: Birmingham

We went to a "couples shower" for Tony and Sarah in Birmingham, Alabammy this weekend. The six-hour drive was made tolerable with a well-chosen audiobook. (I have no idea why this novel has gotten such hateful reviews; I like what I heard on the trip -- of course, there are still five CDs to go, so maybe it all falls apart at the end).

Birmingham seems like a decent enough town. The shower was held in the residence of the parents of Sarah's sister's best friend (??) in one of those hoity-toity gated subdivisions. Nice people, but it has to be said: Money can't buy taste. Still, I'm glad I didn't wear my "PRML SCRM MTHR FCKR" shirt that day.

After the shower, a mess of us went to a bar called the Garage, which was pretty nice, except the screwdriver I ordered tasted like ass, so I switched to Woodchuck. Then we went to the house where we were staying. I should've made Tony stop at a liquor store on the way over, because all they had to drink was Jack Daniel's but nothing to mix. JD No. 7 is fine as an ingredient, but on its own? Once you've had Buffalo Trace or Maker's Mark, well, that Tennessee shit loses much of its appeal. I don't know how Lemmy can stand it.

12 August 2005

It Was Worth a Shot

The search for Bad Ronald continues. This time, I e-mailed John Vance, Jack Vance's son. I explained my predicament and I told him I would pay a nice price if Mr. Vance happened to have a few extra copies of his out-of-print books lying around the attic or whatever. I figured I'd gladly send the writer $40 and let him keep the profit, rather than some internet price-gouger.

Here's his response:
Dear Jay,

Sorry to say we don't stock my father's books for sale. I wish we had a few more copies of Bad Ronald, considering the prices that are out there :-/.

Wish I could help!
Best wishes
John Vance

Oh, well. At least he wrote back promptly.

08 August 2005

Alibris Sucks Ass

A response from Alibris, regarding my noble quest for Bad Ronald:

Thank you for contacting Alibris.

I am sorry, we are not able to make any changes to the price which is mentioned on our web site.

The practice in the out-of-print and rare book, music and movie trade is that, because these are secondary market goods, the owners decide what to charge for them. As in other similar markets, there is no "right" price for any one item, yet the diverse knowledge of a particular title by sellers is why prices tend to vary.

Prices differ because of all kinds of factors, including the condition of the item and/or dust jacket or cover, or the collectability of a particular item. Also the availability of a title is a factor in pricing used books, music and movies. Many of the sellers in our worldwide network independent sellers also operate stores where the prices may be determined by the seller's familiarity with the local and/or global market.

Please let me know if you require any further assistance.

Alibris Customer Service

The patient, talking-to-a-retarded-child tone of the message is a nice touch, but despite all the "worldwide network of independent sellers" and "secondary market goods" jargon, the basic message is, "We're gonna squeeze $84 out of some hapless collector eventually, even if you didn't fall for it" and also, "Instead of selling this book to you now, we'd rather wait X number of years until some fool coughs up our ridiculous $84 asking price."

FYI: This is the exact same book I looked at around Christmas of 2003. I guess Alibris subscribes to the "Cut Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face" school of capitalism. Or is it the "Two in the Bush? Fuck This Bird in Our Hand" theory of economics?

GSN Doesn't Suck As Much Ass As Previously Mentioned

Amazing Race is back on track. I checked a few message boards and found that GSN is trying to make a two-hour episode land on Saturday or some such horseshit. I think they should have, like, mentioned this fact in their promos or on the web site, but whatever.

07 August 2005

GSN Sucks Ass

GSN (Game Show Network) is rerunning each season of The Amazing Race at 9 p.m. seven nights a week. Since I didn't start watching TAR until Season 6, I was positively delighted -- delighted! -- that I would get to catch up on earlier episodes.

We stayed in last night and as 9 o'clock rolled around, I flipped over to GSN for what should have been Episode 3 of Season 3; instead, we got Episode 2, which had aired last night. What the fuck?

In addition to the 9 o'clock showings, GSN runs TAR at midnight, too, so I tuned in for that showing just in case and, once again, the wrong episode was shown. Damn you, GSN!

I realize that missing an episode of a reality show/game show hybrid is a pretty minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but I'm still pretty pissed off. What probably happened was some weekend tape jockey at GSN grabbed the wrong episode off the shelf without bothering to see if it was the correct one. I mean, they run shit like Lingo and Extreme Dodgeball 10 times a day; why couldn't they have screwed up one of those, instead of TAR? Now I'm worried that tonight, they'll run Episode 4.

03 August 2005

Information Superhighway Robbery

Once upon a time, I saw a made-for-TV movie called Bad Ronald. It was a thriller in which a nerdy, unpopular teen named Ronald accidentally kills a girl in his neighborhood. His overprotective – and more-than-slightly deranged – mother comes up with a plan to hide him in their house until things blow over. They wall up a spare bathroom and Ronald lives in the cell-like room, with his mother sending in food and toiletries. Things go awry when his mother dies. Ronnie stays in the secret room, working on a novel (!?!) and slowly going insane. Meanwhile, a family with at least one teenaged daughter buys the house and moves in. Things move to their inevitable conclusion.

I missed the original airing of this flick but I saw a syndicated showing when I was about 10 and I haven’t seen it since, but I remember the story and its sad, pathetic “hero” very well. Several years later I discovered that Bad Ronald was based on a novel of the same name by SF author Jack Vance (written under his "literary" moniker, John Holbrook Vance). Naturally, the book is long out of print, but I try to keep my eyes open.

Now, used copies are readily available through various book sellers on the web. Problem is, they all want exorbitant prices for the books: $126 for a paperback? $202.95? Where is the logic in that? I want to read it, but not that badly. I mean, the book is out of print for a reason -- it probably didn't sell very well and it's hardly a famous title. I've e-mailed a few of these sellers to see if they'll come down -- WAY down -- on the price. Why sit around waiting for the highly unlikely day when somebody shells out $200 for a long-forgotten cult novel from 1973 when somebody is offering $25 right now?

Barring that, I suppose I could see if the local public library has a copy I can check out.

31 July 2005

Time Fades Away

Yesterday marked the anniversary of my birth. We had a small party. I got a keg of Woodchuck, but we didn't finish it. As I've already paid for it, I feel an obligation to polish it off, so now it's in the basement.

But it was also a sad day. Our friends Tony and Sarah are moving to Helen, Georgia to be with Tony's terminally ill mother. On a humanitarian level, this is bad for Tony: nobody wants their parents to die. On a selfish note, this is bad for us: we hung out with them every Friday night and most Saturdays, so our social circumstances have been impacted. This probably won't all sink in until this coming Friday.

Anyway, their furniture is piled into a 14-foot U-Haul and they're on the road as I type. Helen is a two-hour drive from Atlanta and Tee and Ess have told us we should visit. The fact that an IKEA store just opened in Atlanta is added incentive.

This birthday was unsettling on a metaphysical level for me, as well, as it's the first one I've had since my father died. It really made me think about birth, death and all that circle of life shit. It reminds you how insignificant and pointless it all can seem.

24 July 2005

Jews, spics, niggers, pansies and a booger-eating moron

When I was about 7, my parents took me and my sister to Florida. We spent most of our time in the Sunshine State playing on the beach or swimming in the pool, and we went to Walt Disney World, but one day, it was pissing down with rain and my folks didn't want to spend an afternoon cooped up in a hotel room with two squirrely kids, so they took us to the movies. We saw The Bad News Bears. And naturally, the unique circumstances under which I first saw the movie, not forgetting the fact that it's a great little flick, have made it one of my childhood favorites, especially as I was the complete opposite of athletically inclined as a kid, as were the Bears themselves.

The just-released remake looks like it might actually be halfway decent, but as Charles Taylor pointed out in this article, one wonders how the original's deeply '70s sensibilities will translate into post-millenial Hollywood bet-hedging sensitivity. Smoking, drunk driving, profanity and racial epithets -- perpetrated by preadolescent kids, mind you -- were played for laughs in the first movie. (The budding sociopath Tanner, who described his fellow Bears with this entry's title, was my favorite character, naturally.)

As per usual, my "no movies in the theater" rule is holding sway, and with Bad News Bears, that goes double as the large number of kids in the cast will sucker many parents into thinking it's a children's movie.

But there's always DVD...

21 July 2005

Fu Fighters

Fu Manchu are one of those bands that I would like on paper even if I didn't like their music. Their album graphics, song titles and even their band name all evoke a '70s style retro vibe that's very appealing to me. Fortunately, I like their songs, too. It's win-win.

I saw the mighty Fu in concert last night and they put on a good, tight show. As an added bonus, I decided to be a man for once and I fought my way to the front of the stage. I didn't make it that far, but by the end of Fu Manchu's set, I was in the second row, so to speak. There were two white trash chicks directly in front of me who were head-banging, fist-pumping, screaming all the lyrics -- acting like total metalhead teenage boys, in other words. It was cute. I didn't know Fu Manchu had that many fans in Louisville.

As an added bonus, when the set ended, some fat bastard in front of me (next to the head-bangin' redneck gals) kept screaming for a roadie to give him a drumstick. Instead, they gave him a setlist. He turned around and handed it to me, saying, "I wanted a fucking drumstick."

So here's what they played:
Hell on Wheels
Open Your Eyes
Eatin' Dust
Saturn III
Evil Eye
Time to Fly
King of the Road

COC Fighting

After enjoying their music for a decade, I finally got the chance to catch Corrosion of Conformity live in concert. Those grimy old bastards put on a damn fine rock ‘n roll show and if you get the chance, check ‘em out.

One of the great things about the internet is that you can visit a band’s web site and see what other serious fans thought about a particular performance. Most of the time, you really don’t get any especially penetrating insights other than, “They fukkin’ ROCKED!!!!!!” But at COC’s message board, a poster who calls himself Lokust apparently had a bad time at Headliners on July 20. I have pasted the meat of his post below with my own commentary added, naturally.

"The first thing I have to say about this show is Louisville is full of jackasses. The pit was full of idiots. These morons had no respect for anyone around them. They were going out of their way to hit people not in the pit. You know it is bad when the band has to stop playing to tell the crowd to quit acting stupid."

The band did NOT stop playing; they made a few comments between songs.

"These drunk idiots where singling out women and trying to drag them into the pit. One old dude in a slayer shirt ran up and grabbed my wife by the arm and tried to drag her in to the pit. Me and about 3 other guys I was with threw the guy down on the ground. This dude was straight up about to get maimed. Pep saw it and tried to calm things down. After what happened in FL I did not want to be the reason for more bloodshed at a COC show, so I let the guy live at Pepper's request."

COC singer Pepper Keenan -- or "Pep," as Lokust calls him -- did NOT address any specific pit skirmishes from the stage; he just told people to take it easy on each other.

"Mike Dean then got on the mic and called the idiots from the pit out telling them how sad their lives must be treating women like that."

This is true.

"On a positive note the boys played "Who's got the Fire" for us right after that incident. My wife and I talked to Pep and Mike about adding Fire to the set after the show in Nashville. The spot on the set where we got Fire even said Wiseblood. I remember seeing him walking around the stage saying something to each of the boys, and when he took center stage he looked down at us in the 2nd row and winked, then busted out "Who's got the fire". So thank you guys if you somehow see this. I didnt have time to stick around after the show to thank anyone in person because my wife's arm was still hurt."

This heartwarming tale of the band playing “Who’s Got the Fire?” especially for Lokust and his wife is complete and utter bullshit. A cursory reading of other show-specific message board threads shows that the band has been regularly subbing “WGTF?” for “Wiseblood” for several weeks. Lokust apparently thinks he and “Pep” are bestest pals or something and that COC were switching up the set list just for him. Keep dreaming, shithead.

"At the end of the show the jackasses were back at it again. This time it was the whole front row, which was filled with assholes that were fucked up on god knows what. They were all friends, everytime one of them would leave the others would spread out and save the spots in the front. They were all up there passed out on the front of the stage 90% of the show. After "in the arms of god" we had the encore break. These morons stole EVERY setlist from the stage, and then punched the microphone stands until all of the pics fell off. That is fucked up. SERIOUSLY!!! What the fuck?!?"

I was in the front row. I am many things, but a moron is not one of them. There was one guy passed out drunk. Keenan pointed him out and laughed at him and the guy wobbled off to the back of the venue.

Furthermore, if you want to watch a club show at the front of the stage, you have to be assertive, fast and ready to be squished like a sardine for the duration of the set. You also have to be lucky. I was all of the above, and therefore, I was able to secure a spot in between Keenan and guitarist Woody Weatherman. But to hear Lokust tell it, I and the others on the frontline should have happily given up our spots. Lokust needs to go to more rock shows, because he clearly has no idea how these things work.

Further still, I snagged a setlist – Pepper Keenan’s setlist, matter of fact. The setlist was two sheets of typing paper taped together. I did not take the drum kit or one of the amps or a guitar. There were roadies all over the stage, and trust me, if you touch anything on any band’s stage that they don’t want touched, you will quickly be made aware of the fact. Did I ask permission? No. Does COC give two shits? Doubtful.

And finally, although a few people were trying, nobody managed to knock any picks losse from the mike stands because the picks are wedged in there pretty tight.

So Lokust? Go fuck yourself.

"When Pepper came back out he tried to get a pic off the stand only to find them all gone. Then he looked down and saw his setlist was ripped off. He looked pissed as hell. He said something to Mike who pointed to the floor where they had fucked up his shit too and ripped his set off the floor. The setlists had been in plain view all night, the end was supposed to be Clean my Wounds followed by 13 Angels. Well, we only got Clean my Wounds. No 13 Angels for Louisville. I don't blame them one bit either."

Again, this is by and large total bullshit. A quick glance through various other threads shows that COC has been regularly dropping “13 Angels” from the encore and doing an expanded version of “Clean My Wounds.” And consider this: once or twice during the set, Keenan mentioned the fact that it was a Wednesday night and that he knew most of us in the audience had to go to work the next morning. Now, it was hard to see from my FRONT ROW vantage point, but I don’t recall any Pepper Keenan/Mike Dean tête-à-tête regarding missing set lists. Regardless, had they truly been as enraged as Lokust described, wouldn’t they have just not done any encores at all? The fact that they did a 15-minute version of “Clean My Wounds” indicates to me that everything was OK. Plus, at the end of the show, Keenan and Dean both shook hands with most everybody in the front row – pretty peculiar behavior, considering how angry with the crowd they were, huh, Lokust?

One more: According to the set list, had “13 Angels” been performed, it would have been done BEFORE “Clean My Wounds,” not after. In addition to being a snivelling little bitch, Lokust apparently isn’t that gifted a reader.

"The turnout was way lower than Nashville too. The crowd was just mindblowingly disrespectful. At least COC delivered. I have been going to Metal shows for 15 years now, and I have never been so pissed off at so many different people throughout the course of one show before. This was the polar opposite from the awesome enviornment in Nashville 2 weeks ago, no fault of the band."

Whatever, Lokust. I don’t know what kind of metal shows you’ve been seeing for the past 15 years, but they’ve apprently been fairly genteel, understated affairs if this completely normal and uneventful concert was able to get your panties in such a twist. Sorry that your wife got manhandled, but then again, if you don’t want to mess with the pit, DON’T STAND NEXT TO IT, you delicate flower. It’s like riding the Flume Zoom at Opryland and complaining that you got wet.

Hopefully you were able to clean the sand out of your vagina and get on with your miserable existence.


Corrosion of Conformity setlist:
It Is That Way
Paranoid Opioid
Diablo Blvd
Shake Like You
Long Whip Big America
Infinite War
Who's Got the Fire? (dedicated to Lokust -- not)
Hungry Child
The Door
Rise River Rise
Vote with a Bullet
In the Arms of God
Clean My Wounds