Monday, December 29, 2008

Youth is wasted on the young, exhibit 42

BUMPED because this post really should have been delayed and didn't get the fair shake it deserved.

This is the apartment where J-Mom and I lived during most of our stay on Okinawa. It was a four-story apartment directly on the beach. If you biggify the picture you'll see a path leading from the beach to the apartment's parking lot. We fell asleep to the sounds of waves crashing.

This is where the apartment complex was in relation to where I worked. It took me less than five minutes to drive. I could almost walk it in that time as well.

I cannot even describe how awesome this was. There was a lot of freedom to this, but all we saw were the negatives of living off base. The apartment was tiny. Our washing machine and dryer barely fit one full set of BDUs. The tub wasn't big enough to take a bath in. We only received Japanese TV. There was only one air conditioner and it was really only strong enough to cool down one room.

So we moved onto Kadena Air Base when housing became available. It was nice to have the conveniences that being on base offered. But those intangibles become a lot more important with age.

I'd go back in a second if I could.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yes, I've owned the ornaments long before I had children

Captain, we appear to be picking up strange transmissions ... something about trusting your instincts and some kind of heavy breathing.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Christmas 2009: The year when presents and fortuitous photography collide.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


You know, Santa's like the ultimate dine and dasher. At least he leaves a great tip.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Recovery seems to be coming along quite well. I seem to recall hardly being able to get out of bed last time. This time around, I can't seem to keep myself in bed. The pain in my lower back is more intense, but I don't have any aches or pains anywhere else. I also don't feel as drugged as last time even though I am on the same medication.

I think this bodes well in some regards. It feels like my body knows what's going on and hopefully that's a good thing. However, I think I also might feel like I can do more than I really should be doing. In fact, I probably need to be laying down right now.

So, I'll write more later.

Friday, December 19, 2008

8 p.m. and all is well

Made it through surgery just fine. I think I was in recovery longer this time, but it went better. I didn't have any nausea when I woke up. So that's good.

My back is still very sore. I expect that to last several days, but I'm looking forward to getting back on my feet again.

The good thing is that I've got my computer issues fixed and am now exporting high def video and digital audio from my living room computer, so I'm able to watch DVDs and high def video in high quality video and audio. The new Mummy and Hellboy II came in from Netflix today, so I'm looking forward to watching them on the big screen.

Have a good weekend everyone and thanks for the well wishes from all.

Right about now ...

Some dude is cutting on my back.

I should be waking up from anesthesia in about an hour or so.

I'll let you know later if everything went well.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Doing lines

I have a difficult time dealing with large groups of people in public. I don't dislike people, but crowds make me uneasy. I think it has something to do with freedom of movement. I am not a very patient person by nature and crowds just really add time to anything you're doing anywhere.

That said, I don't have a problem waiting for something when I've made the decision that it's something I need to do. If I need to buy some stuff at Wallyworld, I know I have to wait in line. It's just something we all have to put up with. But what gets me is when someone in the line treats the experience as though they are the only person who matters or if the person responsible for moving the line along (cashier, postal clerk, etc.) is inefficient.

For example:
* The person at Walmart who not only has a shopping cart full of stuff, but has to break down the items into three or four different groups and pay for each separately. What the hell is up with that? This person also seems to have to use three or four different methods of payment. You see them dragging out cash, chage, food stamps, checks and credit cards. It's hard enough to deal with this during the non-holiday season, but there should be some kind of rule against this behavior close to Christmas.

Do you remember being taught about citizen's arrest in Civics class? Perhaps we could have something similar in supermarket checkout lines. Citizen's oversight. We could wear berets like Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels. "How do you plan on paying for that stuff, ma'am?" "You are just using one method of payment, correct?"

* Worse than supermarkets is the post office. It takes some time to process someone who's mailing a package. That's a given. During the holiday season, there's a rush to get your stuff mailed. What is irksome is the fact that no one seems to be ready to ship their stuff when they get to the counter.

It always seems like someone waits in that 20-to-30-minute line to ask what they need to mail this package. The postal clerk then spends several minutes going through all the different delivery options and the associated rate. Then the clerk provides the person with the needed items to send their package and has them step aside to finish putting their packages together. The clerk handles other customers, but when the person finishes readying their package, the clerk allows them to come back to the counter.

Now, I've been on that side the post office issue. I've had packages to send and have had to get some advice. I understand that sometimes you need to do that. The problem is that during the holiday season, the post office workload goes up by an order of 5 to 10. It's cool if you need help, we all do sometimes, but acting as though you're the only person in that line when there's 20 more people there than normal is just wrong.

What has added to this anti-crowd feeling is the internet. Now that so many things can be done online, it makes trips to the store even more bothersome. Yesterday I waited in line to buy some forever stamps (our post office here on base does not have a stamp machine) and kept having to remind myself that it was too late to order them online.

I'm sure this whining sounds petulant to folks of my parent's generation or older. I think those from my generation or younger just have different customer service expectations and experiences than did our parents. I'm sure that my kids will too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Burn, baby, burn. Disc inferno

As many of you know, I had back surgery in September. It went well. I was feeling fine. Up until about a week ago. Then the back pain returned with a vengeance.

This image to the right is my MRI from August. That circled area is where my discs were poking out. The top one was the problematic one.

Yesterday I went to see my doctor and he sent me out for another MRI and had me come back in afterward to go over the results.

While I don't have the actual images from the latest MRI, this quick shop illustrates what I saw yesterday.

Apparently, after cutting off a bit of a disc, there is a slight chance (like 7 or 8 percent of patients who undergo these surgeries) that the disc will shift and re-herniate. I guess I'm now part of the slight chance statistic.

So, I'm going in Friday to get it taken care of and will be laid up most of the holiday season. I was going to wait until next year, but we've met our annual insurance caps, so the surgery will be free as long as I have it done this year.

The upside is that the chance of recurrence after this surgery is phenomenally low. Hopefully I'm not phenomenal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

All I wanted was a Pepsi

You ever revisit a movie that you loved when you were young expecting not to like it now, but are shocked at how much you love it? Yeah, that happened to me the other day. I watched Repo Man for the first time in at least 10 years, probably more like 15. So long that while I remember the basic plot, I'd forgotten a lot of the movie's nuances.

What I love about this movie is that while it's fictional and satirical, it still manages to capture some of the angst and attitude of the generation that preceded mine. That's probably because it's the same angst of youth that my generation faced and the same that every late teen/early 20s youth faces. It's just captured against the backdrop of different cultural influences.

Thanks to Netflix, I've been picking up some of the movies I loved from my youth. This flick found it's way to the top of my queue because they recently announced there would be a Repo Man sequel: Repo Chick. Alex Cox, the original director, is on board and David Lynch is producing. That gives me some hope that it will be a good movie, but I do worry that the soundtrack will be lame. We'll find out.

Below is one of my favorite scenes from Repo Man (LANGUAGE ALERT):

Monday, December 15, 2008

Studiously avoiding anything that I could comment upon

Ugh. It's hard enough trying to think of something from my life to comment upon. There's no way I'm turning pundit on any of the recent national events. There are far better out there than I.

On the home front, the most exciting thing that's happened is that the boy and I went and got haircuts. Woo. I know. Living fast, living large.

But, after the semester I just had, it's nice that things aren't too hectic. Add to that the fact that my back has gone out again and it's quite a good thing that there aren't more things to do.

Hopefully you all are doing as much or as little as you'd like.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fixed until fixed

Goodness it was more difficult than I thought it'd be.

But eventually I was watching Prince of Darkness via Netflix on the TV. Still no audio from the HDMI, but I'm just running audio from my regular 3.5mm jack and an RCA adapter. Still sounds good.

Fix it until it breaks

Man, I have issues. This is not news to J-Mom or some of my other readers, but for the sake of posting something today, I'll elaborate.

I bought a 25' HDMI cable to connect my computer to my TV. HDMI is supposed to carry both video and audio signal, but when I connected it to my TV there was no audio. I messed around with all the settings as best as I could, but still had no joy. So, I began to practice my Google-Fu and learned that my video card -- a Diamond Radeon HD 3650 -- is known for having issues sending audio via the HDMI connection. I found many different solutions and attempted as many as I realistically could. Still nothing.

Was that good enough for me? Of course not. I kept messing around with the video card drivers until I crashed my freaking computer. Now, not only do I have to fix a video card issue, I have to fix an entire freaking video problem because I can't even get to the login screen. The computer boots up, I just can't see it because I screwed up the video drivers. In safe mode, things work.

The fix is to reinstall the drivers for the built-in video, disable the ATI card, remove all the traces of ATI drivers and software and start over.

Why I couldn't accept that I was just going to have to run audio via the standard output jack is beyond me. This is a fatal flaw in my character though. I do this kind of stuff all the time. If it won't work the way it's supposed to, I will fix it until it doesn't work at all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

20 Favorite actresses changeup

Pics are hard to do at work, so I just did a list.

Simple enough subject matter, right? I do a lot of these memes where they’re music-related, but sometimes don’t touch the actor/actress ones. What’s interesting about this list is how hard I had to think about it. I never realized just how much of a boy’s club movie fan I am. Most movies I like kind of throw women in as an afterthought. It’s interesting how some of them shine through the window dressing roles they were given.

I’m also surprised how contemporary a lot of my list is.

My list isn’t in any order other than it’s the order in which I thought of them.

1. Kristin Chenoweth – She tops my list because I was just talking about Pushing Daisies with a friend. Daisies is the first show I’ve come to recognize Chenoweth, but she’s already become a favorite. Her bubbly effervescence is matched only by her screen appeal.

2. Amanda Tapping – I was reluctant to get into the TV Stargate series. Mainly because it replaced my then-favorite show Farscape. But I gave it a chance and came to greatly enjoy it. Now on Sanctuary, Tapping shows a versatility and confidence you didn’t see in Stargate. Wonderful actress.

3. Geena Davis – Sure. There are some really great movies Gena Davis has been in – A League of Their Own, Thelma and Louise Tootsie – but you know why I really love Geena Davis? Because of Earth Girls are Easy. She was willing to do that movie. She also did The Fly and Transylvania 6-5000. She’s awesome.

4. Goldie Hawn –Movies with Goldie Hawn are ubiquitous with my youth. I associate her with warm, soft-focus memories of watching HBO at home or on vacation. All good memories. From Private Benjamin to Overboard – she’s a mainstay of my childhood and I enjoy her still today.

5. Kate Winslet – I did not like Titanic, but there was something about Winslet I found interesting. Years later, in The Life of David Gale, I found it. She’s compelling, forthright and honest. A joy to watch on screen.

6. Joan Chen – I am a huge fan of Joan Chen even though I am unfamiliar with the vast amount of her work. I first noticed her in one of my top-10 favorite movies, The Hunted. Not the doggone Tommy Lee Jones schlock, but the super-awesome 1995 Samurai vs. Ninja vs. Highlander Christopher Lambert movie. While resting in B-movie ideas, this film transcends its mold and part of that is due to Chen’s haunting performance (yeah, she shows up as a ghost/memory, but that’s not what I mean). I also loved her work in Twin Peaks.

7. Jennifer Connelly – I don’t know what red-blooded American boy in my age group didn’t have the hots for her when Labyrinth came out. While I haven’t enjoyed all of her films, I’ve yet to see her turn a bad performance. Again, there’s an honesty in her portrayal that’s visceral.

8. Catherine O’Hara – She shows up in so many of my favorite movies. I first fell in love with her watching Second City TV reruns and then came Beetle Juice. After that I’ve watched for her in all her outings. Most importantly, she’s a Christopher Guest regular and that really says it all.

9. Parker Posey – Another Christopher Guest regular, I first became aware of Posey in her ’95 film Party Girl, though I later learned she was in both Dazed and Confused and Coneheads – I probably just wrote her off as “random actress” in those films. The fact that she can blend in so well to her surroundings is perhaps one of her greatest strengths. In Partly Girl, her personality doesn’t overwhelm the film even though the movie is about her, yet she’s not overwhelmed by the chaos around her. Her comedy turns in Guest’s movies are always a treat.

10. Laura Kightlinger – It’s nice to see how busy she’s been when most people think she dropped off the map after her run on Saturday Night Live. While generally overlooked during her one-year run on the show, I think she was one of the best things about the season that year. Aside from Norm MacDonald, most of the other popular actors were busy doing side projects that they were obviously more interested in. I enjoy her in everything in which I see her.

11. Meryl Streep – Well. Can’t leave her off, can I? It’s almost cliché to have her on your list, but, damn she’s a good actress. In the face of criticism that she just a critic’s darling, she went and did movies like She-Devil and Death Becomes Her which were perhaps less critic’s choice kind of movies but were still damn good. Anyway, I can’t say anything about the woman that’s not already been said. She becomes her role while distinctly remaining herself. She’s uncanny.

12. Jennifer Coolidge – Another Christopher Guest alumn, she’s here because I think she’s one of the funniest people on the planet. In many of her movies she plays the kind of roles that many people over-play. They put too much into it. Coolridge had the ability to pull that energy back in while letting everyone know that it’s right there under the surface, ready to burst out when necessary – which isn’t too often, honestly.

13. Maria Bello – I am a huge fan of William H. Macy. I watch the Cooler because of him. I watched it a second time because of Maria Bello. I haven’t seen her touch that level again (though there are a lot of her movies I have yet to see), but knowing she’s capable of this work is enough to make me look for a film when she’s in it.

14. Monica Bellucci – She is not afraid to bare her soul on film. Yes, she’s had her share of bad films, but I think any film that sacrifices substance for style is going to hurt a good actor. Her role in Tears of the Sun is enough to earn her a spot here.

15. Naomi Watts – Yes, she’s a good actress. But more than that, she does movies I like. Tank Girl, Strange Planet, Mulholland Dr., The Ring, 21 Grams, I Heart Huckabees, there’s a lot to like here.

16. Kelly Lynch – For the longest time I thought Kelly Lynch and David Lynch were related. I think I was in my 20s before I realized they weren’t. There’s something about her presence in Road House that makes it, I don’t know, more legitimate or something. It’s every bit a part of the genre in which it resides, but it’s better than it too. Lynch has a lot to do with that. Then we’ve got Drug Store Cowboy ... ‘nuff said.

17. Gretchen Mol – She quickly became a favorite after watching her stunning performance in The Notorious Bettie Page, but she has quite an impressive resume leading up to that role. However, my favorite role of hers is her current run in the U.S. version of Life on Mars.

18. Lili Taylor – In her early career, I think Taylor owned the whole “manic, perhaps crazy girl” roles. She was so good at them, is so good at them. I Shot Andy Warhol was a success because of her. Yet there’s a great humor and a great sadness to Taylor. Both of these aspects present themselves in her performances. They lend a depth of character that many actors would kill for.

19. Maggie Gyllenhal – I really like her. I don’t know if she’s any more talented that a lot of other actresses out there, but there’s something about her I just like. Admittedly, I am more fond of her early work – Cecil B. Demented, Donnie Darko – but she’s still likeable.

20. Uma Thurman – Kill Bill. Really, what else needs to be said?

Inspired by Sheila and others.

The path to getting well hung

This is an addendum to yesterday's quick post. And, before I get too far into this, having used the word hung, it makes me wonder, what happened to using hung or pled? It seems that on the news I'm always hearing hanged or pleaded. I understand that both are correct, but you never hear that someone pled a certain way or that someone was hung. Interesting.

Anyway ...

I mounted our new TV to the wall the day we received it. It wasn't as difficult as some have made it out to be, but I had problems with aspects of the process I didn't think I would.

My first mistake was mounting the bracket to the wall before the TV was delivered. I just kind of eyeballed the distance vertically and went with it. Turns out, I really should have waited and measured because I mounted the bracket about four inches too high. Of course, you don't figure this out until after you've put the 75-pound TV on the wall, which, at the same time, you realize is also hanging crooked.

Then came the fun of trying to get the TV off of the wall bracket. You see, the bracket mounts to the wall and there are brackets you mount to the back of the TV that hook onto the wall bracket. It's not terribly difficult, unless you're me. J-mom and I tried several times to get the TV back down. I strained to lift the TV straight up. I strained and strained. It just wasn't coming. I sure didn't remember the TV being this heavy when we were lifting it up in the first place. J-mom says to me, "Are you pulling it out and then lifting up?" I was like, "Yeah, whatever."

We tried lifting a few more times and then I just gave up. I was like, "There's no way. I need some more help." But, s-l-o-w-l-y, realization sank in and I understood what J-mom was trying to say. "Ooooh. Pull the TV bottom out and then lift up." So we tried again and pulled the TV bottom out slightly and lifted the TV right off the wall bracket. Sure seemed a lot lighter that time after trying to pick up the wall. See, those brackets on the back of the TV have hooks at the top to keep the TV on the wall bracket and have an area at the bottom that keep the TV from being bumped out of the bracket. Duh.

After getting the TV off the wall, I moved the bracket four inches down (thankfully the TV covers the old holes) and verified that the bracket was plumb. It is, it was, it is. We lifted the TV back up. It was crooked. We took it back down. I adjusted the brackets on the TV. We lifted it back up. It was still crooked. We repeated this process about five or six times before I realized the mistake I was making in adjusting the brackets on the TV. I finally got it right and we finally got it on the wall. Ugh.

The moral of the story ... maybe it's worth it to pay for the home set-up charge.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Welcome to the 21st Century Mr. Cullen

I finally wore my wife down enough to get a flat-screen TV. It came in yesterday and I am a happy camper. The shiny, new LCD replaces a more-than-10-year-old 32" CRT. That big monster was a good TV and probably has a couple of more years left in it, but it was time to embrace current technology.

Now we'll have to see about getting HD programming ... :)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Galaxy weekend post

Thanks to Michele for making me think of this, although it was a different song. The Youtube version of that song was really bad though so I decided to post this because it's both a rocking song and I used to own a Custom 500 which is the same car as a Galaxy. It was my first car (that worked longer than a couple of weeks that is). Anyway, watch the video, it's a great song.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Why I voted “Yes”

It is not in my conservative nature to support a union, yet this morning I found myself enthusiastically checking the “Yes” box on a ballot affirming my desire to be represented by a union.

The simplest answer as to why I checked “Yes” is that my being employed in a bargaining unit position is the only thing keeping me from being converted to a new, horrible personnel system.

The National Security Personnel System is a new “civilian management system” that is in the process of replacing the current Government Service system. NSPS was designed because many of those who manage the DoD felt/feel that the GS system is not flexible enough. This new system was created to reward performance. Unfortunately, this is a bill of goods.

The reality is that NSPS does not reward any employee other than those most recently hired. One of the major complaints about the GS system is that it rewards longevity rather than productivity. While this is a legitimate gripe, NSPS goes a full 180 and practically punishes longevity.

For those who do not have any familiarity with the GS system, let me explain. There are 15 GS levels, each higher level being a higher level of pay. Within each of those levels are 10 steps, each step being a higher step of pay. When you are hired at a level, you progress through steps at certain intervals of time. You earn your first four steps each year. Subsequent steps take more time. But, as you can see, the more time you serve, the more money you make. And, you can put in for jobs at higher levels and earn promotions – more pay – that way.

Under NSPS, there are three pay bands with salary ranges. No levels, steps or otherwise. Under the system, everyone is going to be in pay band two or three. Those hired at level one are basically considered in a training position until they reach their full performance level and will be promoted up to band two. Since there are only three bands, you only get a promotion when you move from one band to another. So, while under the GS system you get a promotion every time you move up a GS level, under NSPS, the most promotions you can ever hope to get are two and most current GS employees will only see one because they’ll be converted to pay band two. The most a promotion from one pay band to another can be, by law, is 20 percent, however, most services do not authorize this full amount. Most employees going from a pay band level two to three only see a 10-percent increase in annual salary. That’s a one-time deal.

Further, under the GS system you have your step increases, but you also have annual cost-of-living raises. Under NSPS you have neither of these. Every year, there is a “pay pool.” You and a certain amount of your fellow employees are in a pool. This pool has a certain amount of money in it. Your performance is rated at the end of the year and your score on your performance rating determines what percentage of the pay pool you will get. You will see this money as either a one-time bonus or in an annual raise. The problem here is that this annual raise, even for above-average performers, has been, on average, less than the annual increases for GS employees. Also, there is no set standard for how the money has to be distributed to employees under NSPS. A bonus counts a lot differently in both taxes and in retirement than does an annual raise.

Where NSPS does offer a clear advantage over the GS system is in the hiring of new employees. When hiring someone who has never worked for the government before, there are no restrictions on how much salary you can offer that person except within the limits of the pay band and the budget for that position. So, let’s say an organization really needs engineers. They have a position available and their budget is from $45,000 - $75,000 a year. They can competitively offer new hires up to that $75,000 a year rate. Now, that means that employee is pretty much locked into that pay rate for the rest of the time he holds that position, but for getting someone into that position, it’s a good carrot.

The downside to the above scenario is when it comes to government employees looking for new jobs. When a current government employee within the either the GS or NSPS system moves into a new NSPS job, and it’s considered to be within the same pay band, it’s not a promotion but more like a lateral transfer. The greatest increase in pay in such a transfer can only be five percent. That’s a pretty sorry excuse for a job system that has prided itself in offering employees the ability to be upwardly mobile and have the ability to move around the world.

But the “not said yet everyone knows why” reason NSPS was introduced was because many felt (and feel) that it is too difficult to discipline and fire employees within the GS system. This is complete and utter crap. The problem is that supervisors didn’t take the time to do the correct amount of counseling and documentation to properly discipline or fire those employees. So they gripe. And they have been presented with a new system that will take up so much more of their time that they’ll have little time to do anything but personnel management. For proponents of NSPS, you got what you deserve.

So, I voted “Yes” to be covered by the union because if I’m part of the bargaining unit, they can’t convert me to NSPS – at least not yet. They’re still working on getting us to convert. I’m not happy about that, and I’m fighting it as best I can, but if the time comes, I’ll take it like everyone else in my predicament has. Swallow the bitter pill because in the end we still have it pretty good.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


One last paper to complete and this semester is dead! Not finished. DEAD.

This semester, more than any other in my academic career, has beaten me down. It’s not just that there were many aspects of it that have been demanding – I can handle demanding – but so much of the work has been trite. I can understand having things conform to a set standard, but it’s kind of hard to get your specific project to align to some kind of established orthodoxy when your organization doesn’t publish much of its methodology. I have plenty of published actions and results, but no underlying philosophy to tie it to. That’s very difficult.

I’m not sure any of that made much sense. Unfortunately I am being a bit vague out of necessity. It is suffice to say that I am attempting to complete a job-related project for my class and my professor keeps ripping up my stuff because my literature review doesn’t sufficiently incorporate research from my organization.

This sounds excessively whiney, I know, but I’m just glad it’s over. Until next semester anyway.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Go Go Phone

Hey, that Norm MacDonald/Steve Buscemi Go Phone gingerbread man commercial is back on! I love this thing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Easy post

There Are 0 Gaps in Your Knowledge

Where you have gaps in your knowledge:

No Gaps!

Where you don't have gaps in your knowledge:








Monday, December 01, 2008


We made it home Saturday night.

We are safe and sound.

We are now dogless (we just aren't good dog people, it turns out).

We are all sick.

Work sucks when it feels like there's a cloud of fog in your head.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Picture of contentedness

Big TV, little boy.

We made it to my parents in Louisiana on Tuesday. I don't know what the weather's like around y'all, but we haven't had to wear jackets this entire vacation. With temps in the 60s and 70s, it's been quite nice.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying your leftovers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Urine trouble

We're currently in Biloxi visiting family for a few days. One of the stops we always make is to the outlet mall in Gulfport. At this mall there is a small playground for the kids. It's a sandpit with one big jungle gym.

So, we stopped there and the kids and I hung out at the playground while J-Mom went to the kitchen store. The kids took their time climbing on stuff and playing in the sand. While I was busy with Bo on one side of the gym, Daughter Number 1 was trying to climb down a rock wall on the other side. I went over and watch her and then she slips and some of the hand/footholds catch one of her legs. She was in a lot of pain and was just crying like mad. She sat for a moment and then gets up and starts climbing again. "I guess you're not that hurt," I said.

Then I went and started playing with Bo again. I helped him climb up a couple of times and he went down the slide a couple of times. Then I helped him again and he started climbing up to the top slide and just stopped on the stairs. Next thing I know there's a stream of fluid falling from him.


We had just gone to the bathroom. The kid had just peed a huge amount. Yet here, in front of God and everyone, he decides is a good place to have an accident. It was frustrating. But we recovered.

One of the most annoying things he's picked up on is something that makes you feel real bad. As soon as he's done something wrong he backs away from me, looking up with puppy dog eyes and says, "You gonna 'pank me?" It is a heartcrack moment. But he's learned what it does and plays it to his advantage now.

We picked him up a new pair of pants and socks at the Children's Place and put him in a pull-up. Later we went and saw Bolt in Disney 3-D and it was great. It was made all the better by the 3-D. Looks like they're coming out with a bunch of movies in this new digital 3-D format and that's going to be great.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Going to Mississippi and Louisana with an achin' ... in my heart

We're on our way for a week-long trip to visit family. I am not saying that I won't be posting anything, I might, but I will be scarce. I also have school work to take care of so that's a sapper as well.

So, if I don't get to say it again, Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Genius 8

The wild Reeves Gabrels:

I have not kept up with Gabrels over the past 8 years or so. I first became aware of him when he started playing with Bowie in the (some say ill-advised) Tin Machine. However, it appears that he's gone underground and has moved down the road from me to Nashville. Looks like he plays a local restaurant/club there pretty often. Looks like I'll be going to Nashville sometime soon.

Here he his today playing The Family Wash in Nashville.

This is Gabrels at his best in the '90s. Earthling was a great Bowie album and this is my favorite track from it. In fact, it's one of my favorite Bowie songs ever.

Tin Machine got a bad rap. I think the heavier rock was such a change from what Bowie had been doing, he disappointed a lot of fans. But it was really good stuff. After Tin Machine broke up and the Sales brothers went their own way, Bowie and Gabrels maintained their collaboration for the remainder of the '90s. This track was one of the better from Tin Machine:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Maybe a hero, probably not

I seldom remember my dreams. When I do, they're usually pretty lucid. Often, they make some kind of weird sense, but last night was not the case. In this dream, I was supposed to meet up with Hiro and Ando from the show Heroes. I was meeting them on Okinawa, but I was driving from my house outside of Memphis. I remember driving down familiar roads and taking some exit off the road and suddenly ... POOF!, I'm in Okinawa.

However, I was supposed to meet Hiro and Ando at a landmark near my house, so I totally blew them off. I got to the meeting point -- a military get-together at Naha Military Port -- and tried to call them, but couldn't get through. Maybe I'm trying to write myself in to the new season. My super power would be creating teleportation portals off of highways for the vehicle in which I'm driving. Or not.

What was weird was that Okinawa was both a mixture of what I remember from there and like some world map from a Final Fantasy game -- oversaturated, fantastical scenery.

My brain is odd.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Genius 7

The original - Link Wray:

Guitarists today owe a lot to Link Wray. He innovated the use of power chords and other techniques most rock and metal guitarists use today. What I think is sad is that many people recognize his most popular work, Rumble, but few recognize the name Link Wray. Considering the impact he's had on guitarists, that's pretty sad.

Here he is in 1978 performing Rumble:

The '70s were experiencing a '50s revival during this time, I gotta believe that the punk movement had something to do with that. This raw '50s music was a far more socially acceptable version of the punk music that guys like the Ramones were playing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

OK, I'm no enviro-weenie

I do understand the concept of being a responsible steward of things. I mean, recycling's generally a good idea and trying to enforce cleaner standards for industry is not a bad thing -- when done responsibly. Everything done responsibly.

However, when I hear the increasing incense about some perceived threat to the environment from the EnviroNazis, it warms my heart when the Bush administration tries to screw them in the waning days of his administration.

Genius 6

The amazing Robert Fripp:

Best known for his work with King Crimson, Robert Fripp is one of the guitarists who revolutionized guitar playing in the late '60s/early '70s. He's one of those guys always attempting to push limits with what can be done with sound and technology. In the above video he's using a tape delay technique he called "Frippertronics." While this doesn't sound at all odd to our ears now, at the time what he was doing was unheard of. Now days he just uses digital delay to achieve the same effects. Lately he's done the boot music for Windows OS.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Genius 5

And speaking of Greg Ginn ...

What can be added to the things that have already been said about Greg Ginn? I find that you either love or hate his stuff. There's really no in between. Some of his earlier work with Black Flag in more conventional, but his later stuff really showed what he wanted to be doing. It's definitely avant garde playing, and that's not for everyone.

The thing that strikes me, and what took me a while to get into Ginn's work, is that it's not pleasant to listen to. It doesn't follow traditional rhythms. It doesn't follow traditional melody patterns. It's abrasive. But that's exactly what Ginn and Black Flag were doing with their music -- being abrasive to the world.

Now, if you go to Youtube and search for Ginn, you'll find a lot of his Texas Corrugators stuff and I find that to be far more listenable, from a jazz perspective. But I think that's just his own maturity as a person coming through. His earlier work was his emotional soundtrack.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Genius 4

The great Wayne Kramer

Yeah, so it sounds kind of like derivative '90s alt rock. Well, guess what? Kramer is the guy that all those '90s alt rockers were ripping off in the first place. In the mid-60s to about 1970, Kramer was the guitarist and driving force behind the powerhouse, protopunk band, The MC5. You can hear Kramer's influence in a lot of guitarists, but it is perhaps nowhere more pronounced than in guitarist Greg Ginn, founder of Blag Flag.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


If you're not reading Michele's new blog This is Not Pitchfork, go now.

Genius 3

Alex Skolnick was the lead guitarist in the '80s metal band Testament. Unfortunately the band ripped off a bit too much from other popular bands of the time. I remember saving money to buy their third album, Practice What You Preach, and being thoroughly disappointed that so much of it sounded like Metallica. Except, that is, the solo work. Even though it fit well within the framework of the music, there was something different going on there. Something no quite, well, metal.

Flash forward a few years after Skolnick left Testament and I found out he'd left to pursue a jazz guitar career. Nowadays, with his band the Alex Skolnick trio, he can be found taking classic hard rock and metal songs and redoing them in a jazz/bebop style as well as making original tunes.

Oh yeah, you might also catch him on tour with the Trans Siberian Orchestra. He's one of the bands many tour/studio guitarists.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

I usually try and do something interesting on Veterans Day. Last year we did a hike in a nearby nature park. This year, we're having some missionaries from the church over for lunch.

It's a pretty moving day for me. There are a lot of veterans in my family, including myself. And, while this is day for thanking those who gave, I still think of those who gave it all and paid with their lives to ensure that we can live the lives that we do. But more than that, we also try and spread democracy and hope to the world. That's not a very popular notion today, but I think it's more important now than ever. If we don't try and get the world to think like us, it's likely that they'll think against us. It's happening. I fear for the future. However, as long as there are brave men and women and we don't undermine the armed forces, we'll be secure.

Here's a little Veterans Day history:

The Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to insure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

So, when Veterans Day falls on a Tuesday, many of us get four-day weekends! Hooray!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thank you again Great Britain

'Cause this quote is fantastic:

I really don’t see how the Obama devotees can ever in future mock the Moonies, the Scientologists or people who claim to have been abducted in flying saucers. This is a cult like the one which grew up around Princess Diana, bereft of reason and hostile to facts.

Here's the entire op-ed piece.

Genius Pt. 2

Charlie Christian was a guitarist with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, but, like here, did a lot of jam sessions on the side where he would show his prowess at long, improvised jazz guitar solos.

As much of a fan as I am of the guitar and can listen to solo artists play for hours, sometimes the instrument is best in the context of a larger band. I think Christian was at his best within the larger Goodman picture. Pay attention to the music in this next clip (which I think is from Ken Burns' Jazz) and you can here a lot of complex things going on in Christian's playing. As for the rest of the story, I'll let the clip do the talking:

Sunday, November 09, 2008

You can say that again

Thanks to Boomerang, my children get exposed to a lot of cartoons that they would not have otherwise. For instance, this one -- Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

So, Boomerang's got a marathon on and my boy wants to watch it. During the first episode we're watching the crew are fighting bad guy robots. Of course, near the end, there's the obligatory Josie and the Pussycats musical number that they do to beat the bad guys.

In the scene, the main bad guy robot goes: "Stop. Stop! You don't know what you're doing!"

Truer words robot. Truer words.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Is there Life on Mars?

Thank you, thank you, thank you Great Britain for ensuring that the answer to this post's question is, "Yes." Thank you for a wonderful show.

I can't remember which season of Doctor Who it was, but one of the episodes I downloaded included a commercial for the premiere of this show on BBC. I remember thinking that it looked like a wonderful idea, but I never went out to find any episodes. Like so many shows before it, Life on Mars has found its way onto American shore, remade, recast, recycled (perhaps), but done with care.

For those who aren't watching this show or don't know about it (shame on you!), it involves a New York police detective from 2008 getting into an accident and waking up in 1973. In 1973, he's got a job waiting for him at another precinct and he begins his life there. But is he dead? Was 2008 a dream? What's going on? You get the science fiction and fantasy mixed in the a '70s-era cop drama with one character who has 2008 sensibilities. There's a lot going on here and everything is done well.

This show is absorbing. The acting is brilliant and the storyline is fantastic. Since I missed the original BBC series, I have resisted going out and getting them or reading about plotlines or other discoveries because I don't want to ruin anything. I want to continue to be dazzled by our version's mystique.

The lead character of Sam Tyler is wonderfully portrayed by Jason O'Mara who has been in a lot of stuff that I've never seen. The fact that I don't know him helps me think of him only as the main character, a plus that is not shared by Harvey Kietel's portrayal of his boss, Lt. Gene Hunt. It's very hard for me to see Harvey Keitel and not think of him as the actor (or, rather, the past roles he's played), instead of his character. But, in the context of this show, that's a good thing. He's Bad Lieutenant and here he's a bad ass lieutenant. Keitel, while probably too identifiable to pull off something like this in more nuanced work, is fantastic in the larger-than-life role of Gene Hunt. His reputation just adds to the myth behind the guy.

Back to O'Mara though ... the role of Sam requires the ability to be both the hero and the watcher. You know, he's a man out of his own time so he, at times has to sit back and let everything happen around him. Yet he's also the star of this show so he has to step up and keep everything moving. O'Mara pulls this off effortlessly. This could have easily not have been the case. I am reminded of a particular author who loves her creations too much to ever allow them to come to much harm. This author always has her main character drive the plot. Everything is because of her -- either her doing or because things are being done about her. It works on one level, but after a while you begin to wonder if there's any life outside of this one character. You can see how Life on Mars could be that way, yet here's Sam Tyler, he's a star and a watcher who just happens to be there and there's all this stuff that's going on around him. Sure, there's stuff that's going on because of him also, but that's just part of the bigger picture. Writers, actors, director and producers deserve a lot of credit for pulling this off as well as they have.

And it was a concerted effort on their part to pull this off so well. The U.S. version had cut a pilot and ABC decided to recast all of the roles, save O'Mara as Sam, and rewrite some of the underlying ambiguity out, according to Wikipedia's entry on the show. That they have been able to make such a good show gives me hope that Hollywood's still got some tricks up their sleeves, even if it means adapting British shows for our country.

The show obviously borrows on concepts and shows that have before. Most obviously, I think, is Quantum Leap, heck, the main character's even named Sam. There is somewhat of a "sliding through time" kind of feeling. There’s also the displacement feelings you get with Lost and some of the flashes of things that are out of place or are anachronistic. There is also enough death imagery and other flashes that make you think of Jacob’s Ladder and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. But what’s really going on here is unknown, at least to the U.S. audience.

Lastly, the understated performance by Gretchen Mol as Annie “No Nuts” Norris is another thing to add to the list of great things about this show. I’ve been a fan of Mol’s since her performance in The Notorious Bettie Page but hadn’t seen much of her since. It’s great to see her here and to see her display her versatility.

It’s quickly become my favorite thing on TV right now. The only problem is that it’s only an hour long and it only comes on once a week.


Any serious guitar discussion that does not involve Django Reinhart is rendered invalid (Django Reinhart(+/-) x discussion topic = coefficient of awesome).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A post all conservatives should read

My good netfriend Nightfly has written a wonderful two-part post concerning the election and how conservatives should move forward.

Part 1.
Part 2.

It's weird, because when I talk to fellow conservatives, or write on a conservative blog that we should be careful with our words, I've received some pretty extreme replies. That makes me pretty sad. We should exercise restraint and show patience. Point out wrong when it is wrong and avoid empty rhetoric.

Stuck in something all right

This pretty much sums up how I feel about grad school right now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Sun Also Rises*

Despite all accounts to the contrary, the sun did rise this morning. This is the view from my office window at about 6:15 a.m. A little earlier in the morning and it's even more dramatic.

*Wasn't that the name of the fictional soap opera in the Jonn Candy film, Delirious? What a funny movie. UPDATE: Of course, I totally mixed up the titles. The name in the movie was The Sun Also Sets, I'd like to say I was making an attempt at being clever about them being clever, but I just screwed it up is all.

My only post-election post on the matter


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

For the first time in my life...

I might have voted for a Democrat if I'd known more about this guy.

At least his brand of crazy is easily recognizable.


I predictify that a person will be elected today.

And regardless of who that person may be, a large group of people will feel disenfranchised by the election. A large group of people will feel that the choices this person makes are wrong. There will be much wringing of hands and many predictions of doom.

Talking heads and radio personalities will be every bit as loud in the coming days as they are now.

But we'll still persevere regardless of whether or not we "win" or "lose" because we're Americans. I still believe that means something.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sometimes it's hard to say no

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween. We trick-or-treated on base using a co-worker's home as a starting point. The kids got loaded up with candy and a good time was had by all.

We went to the mall on Saturday. Didn't really intend to buy anything there (and didn't, outside of some snacks), but the girls wanted to go. We went. The first thing -- have y'all noticed the drop in prices on flat-screen TVs? We enter the mall through Sears and they had knocked $100-$200 off their prices. Pretty darn cool. I'm keeping my eyes peeled. I think another month or so of this economy and we should see even better deals sprouting.

Getting into the mall proper, we had some pretzel snacks and then went into the Disney store. I'm of two minds about this place. One, it's neat to have a little slice of that Disney atmosphere in the mall, but two, that place can be darn annoying.

The first thing my three-year-old noticed in the store was a Wall-E set of figures. So I took him over to the boy's section and there he noticed the Power Rangers stuff. They have this new helmet thing you can wear and it's got a USB cord for computer connectivity for some reason, anyway, it was $90. Of couse, the boy is like, "I want that! I want that!" and I have to say, "No, Bo, I'm sorry, we're not getting that."

He stops, looks at me and says, "Momma say yes!" This is something he's been pulling a lot lately to try and get his way. It was just too funny in this context though and I had to go over to J-Mom and tell her. She tells Bo-bo that she didn't say yes to that and then he asks her, "Daddy say yes?"

Cute kids make it hard sometimes.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween through the weekend

Here's something to ponder while you work through your sugar-induced diabetic comas this weekend:

What is the best Halloween/Horror lyric? I don't want an entire song, a line, a stanza at most, is all.

I ask because it's a personal tradition of mine to jam out to the Misfits all day on Halloween, but, man, while they sound cool, some of their songs have some pretty stupid lyrics. My personal favorite Misfits song (well, second favorite) is Horror Hotel. But the lyrics:

Check into horror hotel
This place is creepy and it's somber too
And a little Vampira wrapped on my neck, said
Say something, say something
You wanna start something with me

Leave a little something to be desired. So, I wonder, which lyrics read best out of context of their music? Go ahead and post yours. I'll post mine on Monday.

UPDATE: OK, so it's still a Misfits lyric, but I've always found this line appropriately creepy: Your future is in an oblong box, yeah, from Die, Die, My Darling.

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mass hysteria and other ramblings

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Mercury Theatre on the Air's radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, perhaps the most infamous entertainment radio show in American history.

We all know the folklore surrounding the hysteria that occured during the broadcast. There's been a lot of research done and many historians now believe that the newspaper reports of widespread panic were exgaggerated. I don't find this hard to believe. But, regardless of how many people reacted to it, there were enough to sear the memory forever into our folk history.

There were many issues that led to the panic. The fact that this was the first time a radio drama was presented in news-flash format threw some people off. The fact that the working script only had three statements about the fictional nature of the broadcast meant some listeners might not have heard Orson Well's reassuring voice tell them that it was all a play for some time into the show. On top of this, there was mounting pressures about what Hitler was doing in Europe.

I think, for most of my life, I didn't quite understand the panic that this show caused. Logically, yes, but I had never felt it. That is, until Sept. 11. That event caused such uproar through America as a collective, that I now understand mass panic. I realize how the misunderstood becomes blown out of proportion. The horror of 9-11 spawned a lot of misinformation and true (albeit justified) panic.

Hitler even commented on the newspaper articles that talked about the reaction to War of the Worlds and said that is was "evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy."

That kind of language sounds pretty familiar to most of us today, I think.

Well it is through this changed perspective that I can now look back on this humble radio show with a greater appreciation for the terror is caused some folks so long ago.

You can visit the Mercury Theatre on the Air where many of their radio programs, including War of the Worlds, are available for download.

Sheila, of course, has a fantastic post up about the whole affair.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween post 5: The godfather of shock is still the godfather of shock

This one's dedicated to slick, who thinks a certain someone from Arizona just maybe should be Elected.

Halloween Post 4: I had the flu, but I was Dracula

When I was stationed on Okinawa (’95 – ’98) I was in a band. We did mainly covers. Shit, we only had two original songs and both of those were instrumentals.

I was the singer and it while it was fun, there was a tremendous amount of pressure. We were all in the Army. All the guys in the band were in the same unit except for me. There was kind of weird dynamic going on, I had replaced a guy who was in their unit and while they preferred my voice, I know they missed how well he clicked with them.

Our first gig was very soon after I joined. We played a festival on base, just one or two songs, but it was pretty cool. Our first “real” gig was at this Okinawan bar downtown. We only knew like three songs and played them about three different times. We were opening for another band, our sound was horrible and we came away from that experience with a pretty bad taste in our mouth for that particular club.

We took a little time, learned more songs and played our next gig at another Okinawan bar further down the street from the last time we played. Our set consisted of Green Manlishi by Priest, Twist of Cain by Danzig, 10 in 2010 and Punk Rock Song by Bad Religion, London Dungeon by the Misfits and Cleanse My Wounds by Corrosion of Conformity. Over time we grew our set to include some more Danzig, Misfits and Bad Religion we also had a Life of Agony tune, and some other things I can’t remember well.

I wish I had photos or videos of this era, but I don’t. This is due to the same reason I got kicked out of the band – I was a huge binge drinker and no one really wanted to be around me when I was that drunk. I couldn’t remember lyrics. It was pretty bad. So they replaced me with a Marine.

That hurt.

What hurt more was the fact that they guy couldn’t sing. I put it behind me though.

Then, one night after I hit the sack, the phone rings. It’s the drummer from the band. He’s like, “Hey, our singer is going to the field. Can you fill in?” I know they didn’t want to do that, but they did. And I wasn’t about to let them down. This was the weekend prior to Halloween.

Guys, I gave the show of my life and they asked me to sing again the next night. Many people talked about who I sang much better after having been kicked out. The next night was also awesome. It felt great to jam with them again. By this time, the band had pretty much become the de facto house band at this bar and they asked me to sing with them on Halloween weekend because their singer was still going to be in the field.

I caught a bug sometime during the week and had a full-on, throat fucking flu. But I dressed up as Dracula. Cape. Vest. Black pants and Docs. I drank some lemon juice and honey. I drank beer. And I fucking rocked socks. I am not exaggerating to say that it was my best performance. The bar, while small, was full and it just rocked hard.

One of the songs we’d added to the list was Where Eagles Dare. We’d added this breakdown in the last Chorus. After singing through the “I ain’t no Goddamn son of a bitch” the first time through, we dropped everything but the basic drum beat. There was a quick bass fill. Then a guitar fill. Then a drum fill. Then a huge buildup back into “I AIN’T NO GODDAMN SON OF A BITCH!” The entire bar rang as everyone screamed along with us.

Dracula sang with the flu and all was right with the world.

Where Eagles Dare.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween post 3: Fear this!

Scott Ian is not scary. In fact, I'd say that your musical respect/credibility is inversely proportionate to your appearance on any VH1 "Hey, Remember The ..." programming. Which means Scott's was gone some time ago.

His beard, on the other hand ... holy Christ. It's a thing filled with murderous intent. I'm sure it walks the nights alone, thirsting for blood while its owner is asleep.

Anyway, here's a YouTube video from back when Anthrax was still on top of their game, the appropriately named: Among the Living.

Monday, October 27, 2008


We've been planning on doing this for months and I finally had the time, energy and motivation to get it done. All of our instruments had been stashed in a nook in the master bedroom. Getting them down here and on the wall is freeing. There's still more to do.

I need to do something more with the walls. The guitars are cool, but we still need something else going on there. We also want to put some seating in there. But this is a huge step in the right direction.

Halloween post 2: The guys in Samhain look funny in retrospect

Warning: Turn your speakers down, it starts with really loud feedback. Language warning also.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thus begins, the week of Halloween posts

And we begin it with the best song in the history of ever:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wallop, thy name is Judge

Y’all, this handgun is amazing.

Let me tell you, in the Army, I didn’t have much desire to own a gun. I mean, yeah, I kind of wanted one because I enjoy shooting, but any time I really wanted to go out and shoot, all I had to do was find a unit that was running a range and find the time. I was able to go out pretty often.

But it’s been five years. I haven’t shot anything except my little pellet pistol since then. That is, until the other day when my father in law came to visit and brought this bad boy with him.

In addition to the Judge, he had a Springfield 9mm and a Walther .22 LR. We went to the local indoor range primarily so he could sight in his new laser site on his Springfield (a beaut’ too, BTW), but he had plenty of ammo to shoot all three.

Out of them all, I had the best shooting experience with the Springfield. It ain’t like riding a bike, if you want to remain a good shooter, you need to shoot, and I could tell I was rusty. Still, I was able to fire reliably with the Springfield at 7, 10, and 15 yards. It felt the best too.

The Judge, however, was just fun. Loaded with .410 shells, I took the first turn and, sheesh, it’s a knuckle knocker. But seeing that target flip out like someone called its mamma fat was a heartwarming experience. After unloading the .410 shells I fired some .45 Long Colt rounds and it was like I was firing the 9mm again. They were nothing after shooting those shotgun shells. I think it has a lot to say with how well the Judge is constructed that you can fire such a round from that pistol so comfortably.

The bad is that the pistol carbons up pretty quickly. It was noticeable more difficult to put the .45 rounds in after firing the .410 shells and that progressed through more shooting. All said, my father in law and I went through a box of .410 and probably 20 .45 rounds.

Folks, I missed the smell of carbide.

FYI, here’s a good review of Taurus’ newest version of the Judge.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Things you thought you knew enough about but then learned something new and then want to know more

What I really appreciate in the above photo is the juxtaposition between the has-been rocker and the hopefully soon-to-be has-been rocker.

A couple of weeks ago I caught a documentary on one of the movie channels called New York Doll. Figuring (correctly) that it might be about the New York Dolls, I figured I'd click over and give it a go.

The New York Dolls weren't, well, I guess considering their revival I should say aren't a band I ever followed closely. I've heard plenty of their tunes, really dig a lot of it, and realize full on they're the musical model upon which Malcolm McLaren based the Sex Pistols (just listen to Lookin' For a Kiss and tell me that the Pistols didn't rip their sound from the Dolls – hell McLaren even managed the Dolls for a while, as I’m just discovering). Other than knowing that Buster Poindexter was really David Johansen (the Dolls' lead singer) I didn't really know a hell of a lot about the band.

So, I thought I'd give the movie a shot. I clicked over (I missed the first 20 minutes or so) and here’s this bald dude in a white dress shirt, black tie and name tag speaking extemporaneously into the camera. I almost changed the channel, but something about that name tag made me pause. And then they did a cutaway to another person. The subtitle below this person had his name and title: Arthur’s former bishop. It clicked then! This dude’s a Mormon!

I’m not. But my wife is. And I’m no subject matter expert, but I do have a vested interest in these things, so outside of my already somewhat piqued interest because it was about a New York Doll, the addition of the LDS tie held me rapt. So, I settled in and even hit record on the DVR.

There’s a lot of disaffection in the tale. I didn’t know the outcome of any of the Dolls other than Johansen’s somewhat mediocre career in the ‘80s under his Poindexter pseudonym and that guitarist Johnny Thunders had died of a heroin overdose. I didn’t know much of anything about any of them, really.

We’re used to tales of rock and rollers. The Decline of Western Civilization parts 1 and 2 (and now 3) set the stage for the rockumentary that is now part of our common conscious. I was expecting a story about the rise to stardom, the tragic fall, and the “where are they now?” to come out like the spoon-feeding most sitcoms give us every night. What I got instead was this meek man, someone who found his place in the world with the LDS and the work he did in their family history center in L.A. I’m not here to write about the church. I don’t even really want to discuss it. You are welcome to your opinions, I have mine. What is clear to me from this film and from what I’ve read on the subject since is that the church saved this man’s life and offered him something that no one else had in a long time – a sense of purpose.

But that’s not the film’s story. That’s just the backdrop. Here’s a balding, washed-up, has been of a guy who no one would realize was once rocking faces world wide and he’s finally found peace with that fact. However, his world is changed when he gets a call. A call from mutha-freaking Morrisey.

I am not a fan of the Smiths. I was never fond of Morrisey’s stuff (other than How Soon is Now and you don’t have a soul if you don’t like that song), but it just wasn’t my scene. I was in the harder stuff and, more truthfully, Morrisey fans annoyed me more than their music. But here he is, on this documentary, putting together a music festival in London trying to get the Dolls back together to perform.

That’s the story. A changed man. A man who has found his peace and forgiveness, but has never lost his desire to get back up on stage and rock again. He spent years trying to reform bands and never stopped playing until he became so destitute he hocked most of his gear. There’s a great part of the movie when he’s getting ready to go to England, he goes to the Pawn shop to get his basses and they cutaway to one of his friends who says (I’m paraphrasing from memory, but essentially):

I said to him once, “Hey you’re paying (a hundred something) a year to keep his stuff from being sold when all he had to do was pay (two hundred something) to get them back.” He looked at me completely dumbfounded. Like the idea never occurred to him … like he never had (two hundred something dollars) at any one time to get them back.

All this time I keep waiting for the collapse, because in my heart I don’t believe in these kind of real stories having happy endings. But it all plays out. The band reforms. They rehearse. They make it to England. They play. They rock.

The biggest issue here is his reunion with David Johanssen. The film takes great pains to make it clear that Kane blamed Johanssen for the Dolls’ disintegration. He viewed Johanssen’s success in the ‘80s and early ‘90s with contempt. He felt robbed. There was a train he was riding and he didn’t get off by choice, he was thrown.

There might have been some truth to this. I don’t know. The film doesn’t give insight. Nothing I’ve been able to find online really says who’s to blame for break up. Really, after Thunders left the band, it was probably all over anyway. But Kane couldn’t blame him, he was dead.

And yet, Johanssen walks in on the second day of rehearsals and they play a couple of songs and the first thing he and Kane do when there’s a break in the playing is hug it out. It was an amazing moment to me because Johanssen represented the success that Kane felt he was owed. There was contempt there. There was hate there. But he had found his redemption and showed that to Johanssen. It was interesting because the movie points out through several interviews that it was like Kane and Johanssen picked up where they left off and the years of separation and hatred never existed. The interviews help, but the feeling is apparent in how the two treat each other in the film from the meeting point on.

And then the concert ended and Arthur chose to go back to L.A. and return to his volunteer work at the LDS Family History Center rather than do future tours with the Dolls. Twenty-two days later he fell ill and was diagnosed with leukemia. He died two hours after diagnosis.

It was a sublime film. I hate to say that because it sounds like I’m taking pleasure in someone else’s pain and death, but I don’t see this movie that way. This movie isn’t about his pain or death. This movie isn’t about being able to pick one’s self from destitution and be a star one more time. This movie isn’t about redemption either. This movie is about forgiveness. The ability to find forgiveness within ourselves. The wrong isn’t necessarily what others have done to us, but the hate we carry inside ourselves because of it. This film is a triumph because it’s about freeing yourself from that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Same band from below

This one's for me. This is also Dream Theater, but one of their older, more mellow songs put to a video by some Youtuber.

Even here in this, their own song, you can hear the Floyd influence. They're heavily influenced by all the great progressive bands. Most of their stuff is probably too heavy for many of y'all but they're my favorite band.