Friday, December 19, 2008

Midnight Turkey

So Leah's mum gave us a turkey on Sunday. I've been waiting to eat it, but Leah insisted that we thaw it naturally. Which takes time...

A lot...of freakin' time...

But today it was nice and ready! She put it in the oven around 5:00PM when we got off work. And in the oven it sat...until a few minutes ago. So tonight, at 12:08AM--I ate two delicious turkey sandwiches. Seriously, they were good. The meat is falling off the carcass (or so Leah tells me, I'm afraid cooking turkeys is too much like those nasty frog dissections in High School biology for my delicate sensibilities).

Anyway, it was a long wait...but we have meat. Oh yes! WE HAVE MEAT!!! Turkey 'till X-Mas!!!! YES.








If I look a little bleary-eyed (and naked) it's because I am. Both.

"Holiday Bush"

Me and Leah are a zany, mix-matched couple. And as such, we can't agree on ANYTHING!!!

*Old-School Laugh-track*

Case in point: This Sunday is Chaunnakhahahas (which Leah celebrates). And I was born in a Hallmark Home, so I've always had Christmas trees (and Kwanzaa candles). What are we to do? She's a Jew, and I'm a Jason-ite.

The answer is compromise my friends. Behold! The Holiday Bush!!!









Yes folks, snowmen are holiday-neutral...and it may be hard to tell, but that's a Wookie warrior at the top.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The "blahs" turn into "fuck you, go away world"

Who'd have thought that 18 degree temperatures and trouble at the office would SOUR my mood? Things have not gotten better. Last weekend was fun, but it was only a brief respite from the horror that is my life.

Ugh.

The only positive thing I can report is that I'm working out every day--which is making my feel physically better.

My workplace has degenerated into a quagmire, one where I spend 1/2 my time arguing what the definition of "bill of lading" is. Or where I engage in 20 minute battles over the professional aesthetics of a free wall calendar. These things make me want to puke, but I don't dare because it's like 50 degrees in the office. Thankfully, the rats seem to have vanished with the onset of snow. One can only hope those fuzzy bastards have succumbed to the weather, and are in a better place (i.e. not here).

I'm going to try and work on some writing tonight, because work of that nature usually cheers me up. Anyway, that is what's up with me--hostility at work, stress, and the hope that all those rats are dead.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Back in STL-Land; Post-Oasis Wrap-Up

Back home in STL. Oh man, am I tired.

Yesterday was hard. Yesterday was awesome.

We got out on the road around 11:30AM. Using magic internet directions, we had no real difficulty finding Chicago (kinda hard to miss) or the venue--the AllState Arena in Rosemont. Okay, we DID have to stop and ask for directions once (we were on the right street, heading the wrong way....we corrected our mistake, but wanted to be 100% sure).

Got to the "arena" early, at 5:30.

The Allstate Arena was NOTHING like either of us expected. I was expecting a venue like STL's Saavis Center (whatever they're calling it now) or something like what's downtown in KC (what is that thing called? The Sprint Center???). This place looked like a skating rink. It looked like a movie theatre. It was very small.

At first we were pissed, then we thought: "Wait. This is a GOOD thing!!!"

It was. Our seats were kick-ass, leftside of the stage...lower-level. Having gotten their so early, we were able to kick back and relax. At 7:00, Matt Costa took the stage. It was an unplugged set, with just guitars. It was alright. I have Costa's first album, but not his most recent one. He's a singer-songwriter guy, in the vein of Jack Johnson. The placed filled up (mostly, it wasn't quite a sell out) and around 8:30 Ryan Adams and the Cardinals came out. I like Adams a lot, but I only have one of his records, 2003's ROCK 'N ROLL (which, by the way, f-ing rules). That album was hard-rock, and was a bit of a departure from the indie-rock/country that he normally puts out. The Cardinals were a tight band, and sounded great.

Oasis came out around 9:30--and they were awesome. Though they looked much shorter in person. Liam was wearing this rad coat and was rockin' a pretty cool tambourine. They opened with "Rock 'n Roll Star," which was great. Me and Amber both were amazed at how good they sounded live (we had been worried about their sound quality prior to the show). The only song I wanted to hear was "The Masterplan" and when they busted that out--I was in hog heaven. For the most part they played stuff off their first three albums, with some new stuff off DIG OUT YOUR SOUL thrown in. Amber was sad they didn't play much off HEATHEN CHEMISTRY (other than "Songbird") but if you were an Oasis fan, you were pretty happy with the setlist (i.e. they played all the hits). I can now say that I've sung "Wonderwall" with a 5,000 people. What more can you ask for?

The show ended around 11:00PM (which, for those keeping score--means the show was an hour SHORTER than the DRIVE out to Chicago). We got in the car, and I promptly drove us home. Actually, it wasn't that prompt. In fact, it kinda sucked and I had to turn around once when I took a wrong turn because I was so tired.

But I maned up and drove the whole way home. Oh, and I listened to the new Alannis Morrissette album FLAVORS OF ENTANGELMENT (which I am ashamed to say is great). This admission is, of course, a private joke I have with Leah's sister--but nonetheless true.

We got home around 4:30AM, I was crazy-tired. But the 10 hours driving was worth it, because the concert was great.

The End.

(What's the Story) Morning Glory?

It's Saturday...time again for another long nerd-essay about a great album from the past!!! Last week I took a dark (and twisted) journey into the mind of Alice Cooper...this weekend I'm in Chicago seeing Brit-Rockers Oasis with my sister Amber. In celebration of this historic, monumental, occasion I'm talking Oasis this weekend.

The most famous Oasis album, the most well know, the most overplayed, the most sing-a-long-able...(WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? was (and still is) a titanic achievement of brash bravado and good old-fashioned working-class elbow grease. So sit back and enjoy another installment of Classic Albums Revisited:

Something interesting happens when you play (WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? You pop it in and press play--a the faint opening of the single "Wonderwall" begins...before being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of guitar ushering in "Hello" (which is the albums true first track). I've heard the reason this happens is because the band wanted to trick listeners expecting the hit song into cranking the volume up: thus getting konked on the head by "Hello." This bit of trickery, on the band's second album, is evidence that even in the early days--Oasis had both balls and little regard for the record buying public.

(WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? is both loved and hated worldwide. Beatles rip-off? Not as good as Blur? Self indulgent? People can say a lot of negative things about this record (and every other Oasis album), but one charge that just won't stick is "boring." MORNING GLORY? is a varied, well-produced album by a hungry young band eager to prove their brash boasts. The fact that this album was a MONSTER hit back in 1995, and yet you can hardly spend a day listening to the radio without hearing at least ONE of the record's SEVEN hit singles (that's right, over half of this album was released as a fucking single. I challenge you to find another modern band who can top that level of success).

But just because something is well received does not always mean it's great. MORNING GLORY? could have been a huge commercial flop--and it still would have been a damn fine album. The lyrics are both interesting and very simplistic. Sometimes I groan hearing how basic the rhymes are at times--but they work. Usually because they are sung with what has now become the band's trademark "soaring sincerity." It's all bigger than life, which somehow makes it all the more believable. At the same time, Noel and Liam Gallagher (the real Oasis, in my opinion, as the two brothers have pushed away and alienated everyone from the original lineup at this point--but it's all good, as they are the principal singer/writing talents) know exactly what they are: they're a stupid rock 'n roll band. There's this great line in "Don't Look Back in Anger" where they even point out that not only should we not take them too seriously, but we also shouldn't put all our hopes and dreams in them:

"Please don't put your life in the hands
Of a Rock n Roll band
Who'll throw it all away"

This bit of honesty helps make the stupid bravado stuff go down smoother. These little bits, where their guards drop are what make the record.

I don't need to tell you that "Wonderwall" is a great song. It's one of those great songs that's been waaay to overplayed, but I don't care. It's still great, and I can't help but sing along with it every time I hear it on the radio. But for me, "Champagne Supernova" is the standout of this record. The soft bubbly sound at the beginning...the carefree guitar strumming...the Lennon-esque lyrics. It's all great.

"Slowly walking down the hall
Faster than a cannonball
Where were you while we were getting high?
Someday you will find me
Caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova in the sky "

And that title/lyric is such a great image. I don't know exactly what a Champagne Supernova is, but I totally love it. There's a great solo midway through the song, it's a fantastic, understated affair--that totally fits the laid-back vibe of the song. That's something else I love about this song, and in fact this record--Oasis in general...NO MATTER HOW INTENSE THE SONG Oasis always seems to play with a carefree effortlessness. It's a joy--a FUCKIN JOY to hear them. "Champagne Supernova" caps off a classic record, by an amazing (though underrated) rock band. Brit-Pop may be dead, it may have been a fad--but there was some amazing music created under it's tattered banner.

(WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? is right up there with SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND or PET SOUNDS. It's awesome. Even though you've heard these songs 1,000 times, go back and give them a listen. They still hold up. Oasis still rocks.

Interesting fact: the two dude's walking on the album cover aren't in the band (i.e. they're not Liam or Noel, like I thought when I was younger). Nope--they're actually a couple of famous British radio personalities (Owen Morris and Sean Rowley). And the street they're walking on? It's Berkick Street Soho, London. Wow, right? Now ya know!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chicago/OASIS Bound

Last night my sister Amber came out here to STL-Land. I got up early and made breakfast for the 3 of us, then played DEAD OR ALIVE 4 (which my sister bought and brought out for me). It's an pretty rad fighting game (in a cut-scene, a guy punches a T-REX).

Anyway, we're planning on leaving in an hour and a half. It should take us around 5 hours to reach Chicago. I'm gonna try to drive most of the way OUT myself, and save Amber for the ride back (once we get out of the city).

We're excited, and both of us are glad to have a distraction as our professional lives are in the toilet (her situation is a little better than mine, to be fair). We've got money for a cheap motel room should we get too tired on the way home...but I'm gonna try to make it all the way back (and save a little more money). We'll see how that works out...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yes: I am ignoring you

Hey everyone. Yesterday I reached out for help via email...and then proceeded to not take any of your calls. To everyone who called: I'm sorry.

I just can't talk about this stuff. I can't even talk about it with Leah (which I know is wrong). I just can't. I have a jumble of emotions right now. Most are not good.

I took one call yesterday from my Dad and I ended up freaking out.

I am currently in the midst of 2 horrible legal issues here at work...and am freaking out.

Just stand by.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Trying to be positive...

Oh boy.

Today my workplace received an inspection from a major government institution. I won't get into the details, for privacy issues...legal issues...and the fact that I know people from my family read this blog--but I will say this: we DID NOT PASS our inspection.

Things are crazy up there, and we may all soon be in a lot of trouble.

That's all I can and will say at this point. There are some people I was discussing this with, but I've decided I'm not going to talk about this. With anyone (including my wife).

A new job is becoming increasingly less of an option...and more of a requirement.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Attempted Rape

So today was shitty. Yeah, it was Monday...but it was more than just that.

I woke up, determined to get my car's heater working properly. Friday me and Amber are *gulp* driving to Chicago to see Oasis (have you heard?) and I wanted my car in tip-top shape. So I made an "appointment" at Weber Chevrolet on Olive.

Now, I debated on whether or not I should actually use their business name on this blog--but frankly, the way I was treated today they deserve the (minuscule) bad P.R. My "appointment" turned out to be a joke (they don't have appointments--it's all first come, first serve). I got there and had to wait FOREVER just to get checked in. This was partly my fault, as I'd never been there before and didn't know you just DROVE right on in. By the time I figured it out, three others had "come first" and been "served" before me.

The long wait meant I had to go with Leah downtown for her court date (stupid traffic cameras). She got off, by the way, without having to pay a dime (thanks to her lawyer, who is also her mother).

Anyway, I eventually got to work and a few hours later Weber Chevy (aka the Rapists) called me to let me know that "a wire had gotten twisted up" (how they could not tell me) and that they'd have to run a "new wire in." Now, before I give you their price--let me explain. A year ago, almost to the day--one of my car's knobs came off in my hand. You know the knob that let's you switch between front/main defrost and the blowers? Yeah. THAT KNOB. So basically for a year my car's been stuck on "blowers." It's sucked, but I've dealt with it because it's only a problem in the winter (when it takes FOREVER to defrost the windshield and you have to drive around with the heater blazing and the windows down to avoid fogging).

The heater works just fine. It's just the part (this "wire" they spoke of) that connected the knob to the heater part was messed up.

To fix this, Weber quoted me $360.

I was shocked. I had expected to get off for $75-$150 range...not $360!!! Yikes. But, I was at work--totally mobbed and unable to talk, so I told the guy I'd pay it. A few minutes later, when I was able to think, I changed my mind and called them back. But of course, I couldn't get through to anyone other than the lady who answers the phone. I told her to tell my mechanic to stop fixing my car because I didn't have the money. When over an hour passed, I decided to call again--I figured my mechanic would have called me by then, and I wanted to make 100% sure I wasn't about to be taken advantage of.

Same luck though. Couldn't get a hold of him, so I settled for his voicemail. I was like: "Hey man, I can't afford no $360 bill...uh...you don NOT have my permission to fix my car! You hear me chief? NO PERMISSION...call me."

He soon called me back to tell me that he was "at lunch" when I'd tried to call earlier, and that my car was currently in pieces and that he'd talked to "the man" (whoever the fuck that was) and his "man" had said:

"Well what can we do? The guy can't pay us what he don't have."

Which is a really GOOD fucking point I might add. Anyway, his "man" decided that because I was poor, I'd only have to pay $100 to get my car fixed.

NOW WHAT KIND OF BULLSHIT IS THAT??? Hell, maybe I should try this more often. Maybe at the checkout line I should say "No lady, $30 for beer and Coca Puffs is too much...I don't have that kind of money!" Maybe the Shop 'N Save lady will talk to her "man" and get me a 75% discount.

Weber Chevrolet treated me like an ASSHOLE, which I am...but still. Had I not threatened to leave, had I just rolled over...they would have STOLEN $260 from me. I know the dealership is always pricey, but I figured getting the job (which I thought was minor) done correctly and quickly, was worth an additional cost.

I was wrong.

Today I was almost raped by Weber Chevrolet. I got away, but you might not be so lucky. Stay away. Stay away.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

OUTLIERS and a Writing UPDATE

Today I finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's excellent book OUTLIERS: THE STORY OF SUCCESS. My mom turned me onto him back when his last book TIPPING POINT came out a few years ago.

The book is a brilliant argument against the notion of the "self-made man." Apparently, Mrs. Clinton was right--it does take a village. People profiled in the book include Bill Gates and The Beatles. All of whom stand out as above-average success stories. All of whom had help from their environment/up-bring that led to their success. But it is, of course, more complicated than that.

You also have to practice. One of the most intriguing parts of the book is on the subject of practice. Apparently, no matter what it is you're trying to do...study after study has determined almost the exact amount of time it takes to reach "master level."

That number is 10,000 hours (roughly a decade of strict practice).

And speaking of "practice," I finally got around to working on some writing this weekend. Leah wants me to enter this local Micro-Fiction contest sponsored by local brewing company Schlafly's. The top prize is $1500 and a case of beer (guess which one I REALLY want).

It was TOUGH going from 90,000 page novel to 500 word "stories." In a way it was a good exercise. In the process, I came up with some interesting ideas for future projects (so even if I don't win, which I probably won't--I got SOMETHING good out of it by brainstorming). You're allowed to submit three stories, I wrote two new ones and re-worked an old one:

"Loco" is about a spectral train that smashes into this lady's house.

"Forty-Three Cent Zombies" is about the infamous "dead-letter" office at the Post Office.

And I re-worked/shortened "Homeless" which is about...a homeless man. I posted it a long time ago here on the blog. You can read it here.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Billion Dollar Babies

It's Saturday...time again for another long nerd-essay about a great album from the past!!! Last week I wrote a short little piece on The Traveling Wilbury's (because I was traveling myself, in KC for Thanksgiving). While I was there, I had my annual phone call with my crazy Uncle David (hi David!) who suggest Alice Cooper's 1973 release BILLION DOLLAR BABIES as my next CLASSIC ALBUM REVISITED.

So, I went online, found the album and downloaded it. Then I listened to it over and over and over and over...and boy was I in a weird place. Alice got his freak on, that's for sure. BILLION DOLLAR BABIES is both kick-ass rock AND mind-fuck. So sit back and enjoy another installment of Classic Albums Revisited:

Alice Cooper made "sick in the head" an art form. Before Marilyn Manson, before rap music was making parents shit themselves...there was Alice. A lot of people plop Cooper into the same category was Ozzy--bumbling, brutish, pseudo-satanic weirdos. But Cooper is much more than that, he's more dangerous than Ozzy, because unlike the "Oz-man," Cooper is actually very well-read, smart, and witty.

I know, some of you reading this will think I'm crazy. Maybe you'll think I'm being overly generous, but listening to BILLION DOLLAR BABIES, Alice Cooper's fifth (and greatest) album--I had to look some stuff up. For instance, do you know who Saint Vitus is? I didn't either, but Cooper makes a passing reference to him in "Unfinished Sweets," the album's fifth track. I had to look it up. Turns out Vitus was this dude who is supposed to have driven a demon from this Roman Emperor's son. He was drove the demon away and was killed (because he wouldn't renounce his Christianity). Before performing this task (and then being rewarded with death) Vitus is said to have been tortured by his father (who was a Roman Senator and wasn't cool with his son's religious views).

Or something like that. The point is, Cooper put this strange, educated reference into a song about being tortured in a dentist's chair.

Alice Cooper's popularity was at an all time high in 1973. The band's last album SCHOOL'S OUT, had been the band's biggest hit and catapulted them into the ranks of rock glory. BILLION DOLLAR BABIES was the follow-up record, and proved to be more popular than SCHOOL'S OUT, spawning four hit singles.

While not quite metal, Cooper walked a thin line between hard-rock and mainstream rock 'n roll on BILLION DOLLAR BABIES. The songs are darker sounding, the guitars are heavier than what most people think of as typical 70's rock. But beyond being "heavy" or just being loud...Cooper was very theatrical. There is this sinister, "evil-carnival" type vibe flowing throughout the album. I'll admit, some of it is ridiculous. Some of it is even pretty damn stupid. But most of it is kinda awesome, like one of those cheesy black-and-white rubber monster movies. BILLION DOLLAR BABIES works because Cooper is smirking through the coarse growls and dark ambiance.

Let's talk first, though about the track that most disturbed me: "Mary-Ann." This song is a freakishly-normal sounding love song. It comes in near the end of the record, just after the absurdly dark/satanic-ish "Sick Things" (which I'll get to). "Mary-Ann" is a breath of seemingly-fresh air. Think 1930's piano ballad or early Elton John. But somewhere, something goes wrong and the about half-way through the song (after going on and on about how much he loves his girl Mary-Ann), Cooper wails: "Mary-Ann...I thought you were my man!" The first few times I listened to the song, I totally missed this. Before your brain can make sense of this bizarre phrasing (or is it a revelation?) the song degrades into a funky-fucked up piano solo that starts sweetly in heaven before dropping back down to Earth (where is stutters and dies).

It's a short, two minute song...but it freaks the hell out of you at three AM...when you're wearing headphones and the lights are out. That's the power of Cooper--he can make the most innocent thing strange and sorta creepy/terrifying. And yet, at the same time he can take something godawful, something repugnant...like say, necrophilia and make it happy and sunny like on "I Love the Dead." This song, which is both unabashedly about violating corpses (and yet very innocent for the most part, lyrically) is also very up-beat sounding. There's a strange, explosive sing-a-long quality to "I Love the Dead" that makes you...smile. It's damn near a Beatles song at the end, it's so fucking sunny. And yet, it's about fucking someones dead loved one: "While friends and lovers mourn your silly grave/I have other uses for you, Darling." There's a beautiful horn and string arrangement at the end (there's also a sick groaning sound, too). I know, intellectually, I should find this song horrid...but I love it. That, too, is the power of Cooper.

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES opens with "Hello Horray!" which pretty much sets the scene for the entire forty minutes of the album. The song is the declaration of a mad carnival barker, the loudmouth announcer who's preparing himself as much as he is his captive audience ("I've been waiting so long for this thing to come/Yeah-I've been thinking so long I was the only one"). "Hello Horray!" also mentions the "American Dream" which is a theme that Cooper seems preoccupied with at various times throughout the album (most notably "Elected" which I'll attend to in a moment). It's as though "Hello Horray!" is a kind of cry to everyone--including the disenfranchised (youth) of America. Cooper's swagger, his affirmation that "God, I'm so strong" at the end of the song appears to be brash arrogance...but by the end of BILLION DOLLAR BABIES you realize it's not arrogance, it's a natural fact.

I haven't talked much about the music of this album--BILLION DOLLAR BABIES is very much a "guitar" album. There is some killer guitar work on this record. The title track "Billion Dollar Babies" (which yes, was in GUITAR HERO 2) is the most technically impressive track on the record, but the album abounds with awesome (and catchy) guitar licks. Cooper's band is not big on the guitar solo (which was HUGE in the 1970s), expect on "Billion Dollar Babies" which is like 80% solo.

"Billion Dollar Babies" is a fucking fantastic song. Again, it's not so much anyone thing that makes this song so creepy--it's everything added up. First off, there' s the creepy lyrics. I have no idea what this song is about (Cooper makes another reference to the "billion dollar babies" in a later track, "Generation Landslide") but the lyrics are all "attics" and "moonlight." There are some weird images too, like "Rubber little lady, slicker than a weasel." Uh, okay. The song is supposed to be about the dangers of over-indulgence...but I don't see it.

But anyway, back to it being creepy.

"Billion Dollar Babies" is also so strange because it's a duet--between Alice and Donovan (yes, the dude that sang "Mellow Yellow" and "Sunshine Superman"). Donovan's sweet, angelic voice combined with Cooper's creepy growl makes for an unusual pairing...that both delights and unnerves. This mixed with a blistering guitar tone, makes "Billion Dollar Babies" truly awesome...and really messed up. It's one of those things that must be heard to be understood.

"Elected" is Cooper at his most satirical, taking a stab at both vanity and the American political machine. This song sounds like a strange-hybrid of the Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil" and The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated." There's a brilliant, chugging guitar lick that pervades the song (along with Cooper's trademark howl). Supposedly, this song is a reworking of an older song "Reflected" (but as I am unfamiliar with this song, I cannot comment directly on this). What I can say is that the song is, in the words of my uncle "the perfect November song." Though he never says "president" in the song, it's inferred that Cooper is demanding that he be elected Commander-in-Chief. It's surreal to hear a man how sings about corpses croon that he wants to be elected President. Once again, like on "Hello Hooray!" Cooper seems to be reaching out for that all-important disenfranchised youth rock-demographic. He calls out that "Kids need a savior, don't need a fake" and that "I never lied to you, I've always been cool."

Indeed.

My personal favorite off BILLION DOLLAR BABIES is probably the record's most famous single, "No More Mr. Nice Guy." First off, this song has an awesome Stone-ish vibe right at the beginning. It's instantly recognizable, and awesome. "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is a great satirical stab at Cooper's own infamy. I love all the crazy, outlandish things that happen to him because people think "he's sick, he's obscene." Like the reverend punching him on the nose in Church. Or how his own dog turned on him (and bit him in the leg). Not to mention how his parents have been effected (his dad's in hiding and his mom was kicked out of the "society circle"). Awesome chorus. Awesome chorus. This song is catchy and insane (and I love the fact that he's only now bad because the world has made him that way). "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is fantastic and definitely on the best songs Alice Cooper ever recorded.

Speaking of catchy, "Generation Landslide" is super-catchy. The song, which as mentioned before is the second on the album to mention "billion dollar babies" is about spoiled rich kids. The song is also noteworthy of the guitar solo at the end (which as mentioned before are kinda rare on the album). The album's other two tracks, "Raped and Freezing" and "Sick Things" are both two differing examples of Cooper's bizarre songwriting. "Raped and Freezing" is a more traditional rock-story-song about a role-reversals (Cooper's narrator-character ends up getting raped and left "naked, stranded in Chihuahua." Meanwhile, "Sick Things" is a strange near-spoken-word song that's really freaky...and is apparently, about...sick...things??? I haven't a clue. Honestly, I think this song is a bit of a turkey.

But hey, nine out of ten ain't bad. That's a 90% (which is an A-). So Cooper makes the grade.

One final note, about "Alice Cooper" vs. "The Alice Cooper Band." You may have noticed that earlier in this essay, I referred to this album's artist in both the singular and the plural near the beginning. The reason for this is because, in the beginning, Alice Cooper was the band's name (and not just it's lead singer's stage name). BILLION DOLLAR BABIES is the final album of Alice Cooper THE BAND (as it was originally formed). Alice Cooper the man went on to make a bunch of records, but not with the same backing band.

Just thought I should clear that up. As a youngster I was often confused when I heard people say "Alice Cooper were great" or "I like The Alice Cooper Band." Both of these things sound weird (especially coming from the mouth of a drunk person) but actually make sense when you are aware that...oh, never mind...you get it...

So, what does it all mean? Well, bottom line: BILLION DOLLAR BABIES is an interesting romp through the strange, dark, wilderness of rock. It's a fantastic October album (though it is a good November album, too) because it's plenty spooky. BILLION DOLLAR BABIES is also an interesting historical piece. It's funny to listen to it because, compared to much of what I hear--it's actually very tame. Unlike the "dumb" wrap that most music like this gets, Alice Cooper (the man and the band) are pretty clever and merge rock with the theatrical unlike any band this side of Queen.

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES is essential rock. Period.

Have a favorite rock record from the past that you thing I SHOULD REVISIT? Drop me a line electronically at: Limemonkeyx3@yahoo.com. Give me your album suggestions and maybe I'll gush over YOUR favorite record.

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's called ROCK Band...not COUNTRY Band!!!

So I woke up today, and for the most part everything was okay. Oh sure, my life is kinda shit right now (what with the Great Depression I'm facing...oh, and the economy is bad)--but for the most part life was livable.

Then I go to the computer and head over to Rockband.com (as I sometimes do). To my horror I find that CMT has announced that on December 16 of this year, a muther-fucking god-damn "Country" track pack will be released.

WTF???

Though no song titles have been announced, the artists have. Behold, the dumb-ass jug-bands that will soon grace Rock Band:

1. Brad Paisley
2. Brooks & Dunn
3. Dixie Chicks
4. Dierks Bentley
5. Miranda Lambert

These red-neck hillbillies must be stopped. Sure, I don't MIND that crappy country music exists...just so long as it stays out of my ROCK BAND game. But why Jason? You don't have to download it! True, but instead of releasing a cool rock song, on December 16 they're going to put out a crappy country music pack. Harmonix (the game developer) only puts out new music once a week (on Tuesdays). Ergo, this crappy-ness IS GOING TO HURT ME!!!

Possible "country" artists I could have tolerated:

1. Johnny Cash
2.
3.
4.

The Dixie Chicks? You gotta be joking...


P.S. Everyone knows Country music sucks...

Monday, December 01, 2008

One of those days...

I just had one of those days...the kind that make me want to give up.

It's been awhile since I've had one this bad. Usually the novel helped--because I knew that, regardless of what happened to me during the day, I had that to come home to. I don't have that right now. Instead, all I have is a cold, empty, apartment.

The news is depressing. I need to stop watching it.

I'm trying to gather the "oomph" to apply for some jobs--I'm not really excited about any of them. Some of them, the best prospects, are in the "security" field. I know a lot of people will be disappointed to hear that...but when I got to the office today, I almost threw up it smelled so bad (a foot long rat had died over the long weekend). Then a government agent showed up (not law enforcement) and started nosing around...

I foresee much turbulence on that ship (that "ship" being the S.S. Titanic where I now work). I work as hard as I can--this past week or so I've been getting there early and staying much later than I normally do (6:30 at night) because my boss if out of town...but it seems that it doesn't matter.

I'm becoming depressed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oasis! Oasis! Oasis???

Ugh. You know that saying, "be careful what you wish for"? Well I'm finding out that it's pretty damn spot-on.

A few months (or was it weeks?) ago, my sister called me and told me that Oasis would be playing Chicago in December...and would I want to go? Of course. I love concerts, and seeing Oasis has been a dream of mine (they're big, but not big enough in this country to mount a full-on tour of "smaller" cities like KC or St. Louis--so I always missed them). I said "yes," and she bought the tickets (which were expensive). I told her, come hell or high-water, I'd get her there.

But she's changing jobs, and isn't sure if she'll be able to get the day of the show off. Worse, the show is in Chicago, a city I visit, but am not at all familiar with. I've never driven in the city before. Leah has, but can't go with us because she has to work. I've contemplated just flying, because the arena is within walking distance/short cab-ride of the airport...but I just checked out ticket prices and I'm looking at slightly less than $500. That's a lot of money--to top it off this month I have to pay personal property tax on my car, make my first student loan re-payment, AND it's Christmas season.

So basically, flying is out. Which is good because Amber is terrified of flying. But it doesn't matter because she might not even be able to go (she finds out this week...I hope). Anyway, I feel like I now have this little cloud hanging over me. I want to go to this show...but I'm having trouble getting it to work. I guess the first step will be finding out if she can even go--then I can compare the various modes of travel. I've never done Amtrack, but my parents swear by it...so perhaps that's the way to go???

Anyway want to be an alternate for this show in-case she bails??? (Leah can't go, she has to work).

Back Home in STL

Well we did it. We survived the first 1/2 of the holiday season. I can't believe that tomorrow is December 1. Where has this year gone???

Anyway, there was turkey, and there was snow. Not very much snow...but a hole helluva lotta turkey. Seeing the family was nice. We didn't have any meltdowns or squabbles, which is rare (for any family). I did manage to break one of my mom's newer bowls on Thanksgiving...but I don't feel too bad about it...because I was the one that bought them for her (still...sorry mom!).

I'm glad to be back home. Though I miss my family, KC just doesn't feel like home anymore.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Taveling Wilburys Volume 3

It's Saturday...time again for another long nerd-essay about a great album from the past!!! Last week I wrote a mini-novella about The Kinks and their album-- THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY. This week, I'm in KC for Thanksgiving, so I didn't get to write nearly as much as I would have liked.

I like interesting, strange, weird music...and as most you know I dig classic rock--there's no classic rock more interesting, strange, and weird than The Traveling Wilburys. Most people have never heard of them, but everyone knows the band's members individually.
So sit back and enjoy another installment of Classic Albums Revisited:

Supergroup-defined (in the music world) as a group/band consisting of members whom are already famous. Most "supergroups" fall into one of two categories--awesome and lame. For every Blind Faith, CSNY, or Gorillaz...there are a dozen Damn Yankees or Bad Englishes out there, stinking up the joint.

The best supergroup, in my opinion, was formed in 1988 when former Beatle George Harrison got together with Rob Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and ELO-front man (mad genius) Jeff Lynne to form The Traveling Wilburys. Or should I say, "become" the Traveling Wilburys. The band had been friends for years, appearing on each others records--when Harrison's need for a B-side led to the formation of the band. Lynne was producing both Orbison and Petty, and over dinner they all decided to hop into the studio to record a song. But, as this was a rather spur of the moment decision--they had no studio to record in.

Ah! But their friend Mr. Zimmerman had a studio in his house! A quick call to Bobby Dylan got them a studio...and a fifth band member. The first Wilburys record, entitled VOLUME 1, came out to much critical and commercial success. This album is amazing and should be sought out by any classic rock fan. But of the two Wilbury records, I prefer VOLUME 3.

Yes, that's right. There are two records: VOLUME 1 and VOLUME3 (the numbering being a joke played on the record buying public at the behest of Harrison). I think VOLUME 3 jells better, overall. Shortly after VOLUME 1 was recorded, Roy Orbison died, leaving only Petty, Harrison, Dylan, and Lynne to carry on. I like Orbison's songs on VOLUME 1, but his voice is so different than the others (who all have pretty different-sounding voices) that he seemed a bit out of place on the first Wilburys record.

A lot of people dismiss the Traveling Wilburys as a joke-band. And in some respects, it's hard to argue against this. The songs are hardly serious, but they are fun. But just because something ROCKS doesn't mean it should take itself so damn seriously. That's the first reason I love the Wilbury records. You get all these famous guys together, at the peak of their game, and they're just letting it all hang out (so to speak). The second reason I like these records is that the songs are so collaborative. Unlike a lot of bands (supergroup or not), The Wilburys were all about sharing the spot light--in most cases the guys take turns singing lead vocals through out a single track. This old-school tactic make seem like not a big deal...until you hear Bod Dylan take over for Tom Petty (who took over for George Harrison) in a less than sixty-second time span.

Take for example, "Where Were You Last Night?" This song starts out as a Dylan song, but then the second verse is sung by Harrison (with everyone doing the chorus). By the end of the song, everyone's had a turn at the mike. Awesome.

VOLUME 3, while a collaborative effort has the dreaded Jeff Lynne-production thumbprint. It's a very 70/80s-ish wash of sound that people either love or hate. Basically, Lynne makes everyone sound like his old band, Electric Light Orchestra. This annoys some people, but I can over look it--because the band's other major influence is Tom Petty. Petty was the youngest Wilbury, and on the first record he was the most reserved/underused Wilbury. VOLUME 3 sees Petty really stepping up to the plate in a big way.

"You Took My Breath Way" is a lengthy, mellow-rocker that sounds like it could have fit nicely on a Heartbreakers album. I like it because it's at once very heartfelt, and also tongue-in-cheek (which is the only way to take a song writer talking about writing a song). The cheeky "Cool Dry Place," is 100% a Wilburys song (because it's so crazy) but features a very Petty prominently. It's a surreal song, about trying to find a place to store one's instruments (apparently, you need a cool, dry, place). Petty's also behind my favorite track on the record, "Poor House," which is a very country-fied jam about getting cleaned out by...wait for it...a woman. "Poor House" is pretty funny too.

Dylan, the great poet of our time, has a lot of great moments on VOLUME 3, too. His best song (and my second favorite song on the record) is "If You Belonged to Me." Maybe it's the sexist in me, but I love this very un-PC song. The lyrics are crazy too, example:

You say let's go to the rodeo
And see some cowboy fall
Sometimes it seems to me you've
Got no sympathy at all

This same song goes on to refer to the narrator's competition as a "ruthless pimp." Only Dylan could reference pimps and rodeo's in THE SAME FUCKING SONG. I'm not doing it justice, this song--like all of Dylan's contributions to VOLUME 3 are bizarre, surreal, I-can't-believe-I'm-hearing-this type stuff. But the strangest moment comes at the end of the record (more on THAT later).

George Harrison and Jeff Lynne are in the mix, but it's really Petty and Dylan doing much of the heavy lifting. Lynne's big moment is on "New Blue Moon" but even that song is pretty collaborative (with some great guitar, I might add). Harrison, who was pretty used to being the fourth wheel, remains more upfront than when he was in The Beatles, but still remains in the background for much of the record. I'd say his best track is "Devils Been Busy." George's sitar/Indian-influence is felt heavily on this track (it's done right, not done overboard like on some of Harrison's solo records).


The piece-de-resistance, the crown jewel of VOLUME 3--the thing that makes this record better than VOLUME 1, is "The Wilbury Twist." This song is a pseudo-dance "craze" song, like "The Twist" or even (dare I say it) "The Hokey Pokey." Oh course, it's bent and twisted and crazy as all hell. I love it. The album comes with the complete lyrics--with these really crazy illustrations that accompany them. It's satirical and fun. It's everything that's great about the Traveling Wilburys distilled into one song:

"The Wilbury Twist"
Put your hand on your head (hand on your head)
Put your foot in the air (foot in the air)
Then you hop around the room (hop around the room)
In your underwear (in your underwear)
Ain't ever been nothin’ quite like this
Come on baby it’s the Wilbury Twist

Lift your other foot up (other foot up)
Fall on your ass (fall on your ass)
Get back up (get back up)
Put your teeth in a glass (teeth in a glass)
Ain't ever been nothin’ quite like this
It's a magical thing called the Wilbury Twist
Everybody’s trying to do the Wilbury Twist

China, Belgium, France, Japan
Thailand, Poland, Pakistan
Everybody’s trying to do the Wilbury Twist
Roll up your rug (roll up your rug)
Dust your broom (dust your broom)
Ball the jack (ball the jack)
Howl at the moon (at the moon)
Ain't ever been nothin’ quite like this
Everybody's talking ‘bout the Wilbury Twist
Everybody’s trying to do the Wilbury Twist

Puerto Rico, USA
England, Cameroon, Norway
Everybody’s trying to do the Wilbury Twist
Turn your lights down low (your lights down low)
Put your blindfold on (your blindfold on)
You'll never know (you’ll never know)
When your friends have gone (when your friends have gone)
It Could be years before you're missed
Everybody's trying to do the Wilbury Twist

It's a different dance (It's a different dance)
For you all to do (for you all to do)
Spin your body (very versatile)
Like a screw (spin your body like a screw)
Better not forget it on your shopping list
You can stop and buy one
It's the Wilbury Twist
Aint never been nothing quite like this
Better come and get it,
It’s the Wilbury Twist

I guess by now you’ve got the gist
Everybody’s crazy ‘bout the Wilbury Twist
Ooooooo, aah!

VOLUME 3 is an interesting, often over-looked album--by a "dream-team" band. Check it out. And be careful when you try to do the Wilbury Twist.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Classic Limemonkey Comedy Moment--Soap

I was messing around on Youtube, and I was reminded of this nugget of "classic Limemonkey comedy."



It's not an act folks. I need help.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Going to KC for Turkey-Day

Well can you believe it, Thanksgiving is nearly upon us!

Last year was spent in sunny New Mexico, which means this year is my family's turn to torture...I mean, feed us. Oh, I can't wait. A drive (even if it is across the blighted wastelands of Missouri) is always preferable to a flight--even if it is only a few hours. Something that most people don't know about me: I'm not crazy about flying. Mr. Jack and Mr. Coke have been helping me cope, but even with their aid...I prefer to drive. Which is what we're doing after work tomorrow night.

I'm bring DVD's this year. My family likes to watch movies, and this year I've got a few oldie-but-goodies (including OLIVER AND COMPANY, a Disney movie about dogs based on Dickens OLIVER TWIST staring Billy Joel). Leah is making pumpkin soup (which makes my farts smell like the lip of a volcano) and I'm making my homemade bread (hopefully Lindsey will help). My Mom will once again violate a helpless turkey carcass in the name of deliciousness.

Ah, memories.

I'm excited about seeing my family (who I have not seen since the wedding in September). I'm also excited about all that food (cos I'm a pig). Anyway, in case I forget--Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Finished.

Just wrote the last of it--the first draft of THE MOSQUITO VINE is complete.

356 pages.

95,136 words.

"Better"

Fan-made video for the new song "Better." Not the best quality, but this song is awesome and I wanted to share:




Now, I must go write!!!

New G'NR

Yes folks, I went out and bought the Axl Rose album...I mean, Guns 'N Rose record--CHINESE DEMOCRACY.I've only listened to about 1/2 of it--and I must say, it kicks a lotta ass. Though it's not quite as good as old G'NR, this new by-product has a pretty good sound. I was worried because I'd heard (and liked) a couple of the demos that had leaked (most notably "I.R.S.") but hated "Shakler's Revenge" when it was officially unveiled in ROCK BAND 2.

That said, "Shakler's Revenge" has grown on me. I like it. BUT I LOVE "Better." Holy shit does this song kick some serious ass. Also good is the title track "Chinese Deomcracy."

Some of it seems a little overbaked, but overall I think it's a solid purchase (though by no means worthe 17 years of development). Anyway, I'd do a full review...but alas--I have a novel to finish. But I wanted to say SOMETHING about this record because I knew I was probably going to be too busy later this week.

The only question I have now is: does my Dad like it? Dad has never been into records like I am. But apparently he had Amber go out and buy it for him. I'll wager he doesn' t like it...after all, this is hardly a "true" G'NR release (no Slash? no Duff? WTF!). Oh well, I just pretend it's a solo record and judging it by that standard--it's pretty damn good.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Khaaaan!!!

I'm a good husband.

Unlike a lot jerks, I'll go and see a movie I already know before hand I:

A. Won't like

and

B. Know wasn't made for me.

I do this because I love my wife, and because I know she probably does the same for me sometimes (God knows I drag her to a lot of concerts...to band's she's never heard of). So last night, I bit the bullet and took her to see TWILIGHT. It was just as bad as the commercials make it out to be. I think that somewhere, maybe in a parallel universe--TWILIGHT is an awesome CW (or is it WB?) weekly network drama. Maybe as a Fox Family/Sci-Fi made-for-TV movie.

As something I had to pay $9.00 to see--it was a turd.

But it's all good. Our theater was empty, so I got to lay down. It was nice. Oh, the soundtrack wasn't half bad (awesome Radiohead song over the credits, from IN RAINBOWS). Some of the previews were pretty good...

Of course, I am planning on making Leah pay (because I'm not all good). You see, last week I told her:

"Baby, I'll go see TWILIGHT--but only if you watch STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN with me."
That's right. We're boldly going where many nerds have gone before tonight. I realize that the awesomeness of KHAN is a pretty poor punishment for brooding teenagers (with fangs). In fact, it's hardly a punishment at all because I know she'll like it. Why?

Because:

A. It fucking rocks

and

B. It has the best STAR TREK line of all time (yes, even better than "Live long and prosper"): "Khaaaaaan!!!"

and

C. Shats the shit

I figure it you're going to be a nerd (and make no mistake about it, if you like TWILIGHT...you are a nerd) you may as well also like some GOOD nerd-flicks. Apparently she's planning to see it again next weekend in KC with my sister--I won't go, unless I can get her to watch STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (which also rocks).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Black Dynamite

Check out this (real) movie trailer (warning, it is a red band trailer, meaning it's f-ed up):



Not only does that look AMAZING...but even if it didn't, I have to see this for the Captain Kangaroo cameo.

The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society

It's Saturday...time again for another long nerd-essay about a great album from the past!!! Well, the votes were all tabulated (or whatever) and The Kinks have come out victorious. Interestingly enough, the record I put up on the voting block this week is celebrating it's birthday today! I didn't plan this, it just kinda worked out that way (which is awesome, it's fated).

The Kinks are an amazing band, and THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY is one of their most well-known albums, but how many of you have actually heard all of it? Very few I'll wager. And yet, thanks to brilliant advertising, 99.999% of you have heard at least one song off it! Besides being a fantastic rock record, this album is also very thought-provoking. So sit back and enjoy another installment of Classic Albums Revisited:

On this day, November 22, 1968 The Kinks released their sixth album THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY (hence to be referred to as VILLAGE GREEN). Upon it's release the album was branded a flop and the world moved on. But like a lot of great art, time has been kind to VILLAGE GREEN, and the album is now regarded as one of the band's best efforts.

VILLAGE GREEN is a very (very, very) English record. It's also a concept album. These two factors probably contributed to it's poor reception here in America. Singer-songwriter Ray Davies, who wrote all the songs on the album, celebrates the traditional English country-village (the "Village Green" which is brought up throughout the album), while at the same time lamenting and mourning it's disappearance. It's difficult to tell exactly how much of Davies bemoaning is genuine and how much is ironic. The album opens with the song, "The Village Green Preservation Society" which, though sung in a very sincere manner...if clearly meant to be tongue in cheek with it's list of things the band (as the Preservation Society) wishes to protect: draft beer, china shops, custard pie, strawberry jam (and all different varieties), Sherlock Holmes (and Moriarty), and the whole damn "English speaking vernacular." It's all a bit extreme, including the assertion that this "society" is also the "skyscraper condemnation affiliate/God save Tudor houses, antique tables and billiards."

And yet, even though the song is a bit ridiculous, to the extent that it seems to be a parody...in comes the chorus: "Preserving the old ways from being abused/Protecting the new ways for me and for you/What more can we do?" and I begin to wonder if perhaps Davies is only half poking fun. The answer can be found on the rest of the album, which is nearly 100% earnest in it's assertion that the times are changing...and it kinda sucks.

Less about "green" spaces transforming into modern skyscrapers (though that's in there too), VILLAGE GREEN is about how time and the change it brings effects one personal life. Ray Davies is a young-man beginning to realize he's getting older. There are two themes of VILLAGE GREEN, both are very much intertwined. The first thing the album is about is time. The passage of time, the marking of time, the struggle against the change time brings, and finally the acceptance that one must grow older. The second theme of the album is photography, specifically as a reaction to time.

On a majority of the record the subject of photography/photos/taking pictures comes up. The question Davies seems to be asking throughout is: why do we take photographs? Is it because we love each other (like in "Picture Book" a song so pro-photograph it's no wonder HP included it in a 2004 digital photography ad campaign) OR do we take photos for darker, more selfish reasons (like in the album closer "People Take Pictures of Each Other")?

Davies and the rest of The Kinks seem to think it's a little of both. "Picture Book" is a bouncy, glorious ode-of a song about looking back on one's life via a big book of pictures. Though the chorus is a bit dark "pictures of each other/to prove we love each other," the content of the photos described in the song are all seemingly random snapshots of our lives. It's almost like photography as an extension of our memories. After all, if we don't remember something, it's like it never happened. And just like a picture of "a holiday in August/outside a bed and breakfast in sunny Southend," our memories can be inexplicably random (why DO we remember the odd little things we remember?).

The darker side of photography, however, is found in "People Take Pictures of Each Other" (which actually seems like it should be the title of the more well known "Picture Book"). The song has a soft, French-like quality about it. Davies sings about how "People take pictures of the Summer/Just in case someone thought they had missed it/Just to proved that it really existed." Which leads us to a world or mindset where, it's not a question of "if you don't remember it, it didn't happen" but rather, to a place where "if you have no photographic proof of it...it didn't happen." I find that many people in my generation and beyond are obsessed with photos, so much so that many people (parents at a dance recital) agonize so much over the photos that they miss the actual moment. The song also touches on the albums other theme, of time when later one Davies sings: "You can't picture love that you took from me/When we were young and the world was free/Pictures of things as they used to be/Don't show me no more, please." That's a bold, and frankly powerful lyric...and really encapsulates the complexity of VILLAGE GREEN. The album goes from "Picture Book," a love letter to photographs...and ends thirteen songs later with the exclamation "show me no more, please."

That's why this record is so fucking great. It's this giant, complex mediation of life and death, disguised as a pop record.

"Do You Remember Walter?" has nothing to do with photos, but it's a central track to the record. Whereas "The Village Green Preservation Society" is all about trying to hold onto the past, "Do You Remember Walter?" is a frighteningly realistic look at how that fight ALWAYS ends. The song is one man's recollection of his old school chum, Walter. Walter and the song's narrator were once young and idealistic--they were going to "fight the world and be free," with the goal of saving their money and buying a ship to sail the world! Now he's married and fat, in bed by 8:30. He's not the cool guy that smoked and drank, and had a bunch of fun with his "mates." Now he's this empty shell of the free-spirited kid he once was. And, as the narrator laments, "Walter, you are just an echo of a world I knew so long ago/If you saw me now you wouldn't even know my name." This suggests to me, that the narrator--like Walter, lost that battle against time. There is a brief respite from the gloom, tucked away at the end of "Do You Remember Walter?" when Davies sings: "And if I talked about the old times you'd get bored and you ll have nothing more to say/Yes people often change, but memories of people can remain." Which, in a way, reflects on the albums other theme of photography, in that like our memories, photos can preserve events AND people in the past forever. So Walter is gone, but never forgotten.

A bit of hope.

"Village Green" is a slower song, one that's essentially a list of all thing country things that the narrator/Davies misses about pastoral Brittan. It's a good song, notable for mentioning the titular green-space AND also referencing photographs: "American tourists flock to see the village green/They snap their photographs and say gawd darn it/Isn't it a pretty scene?"

The Kinks ape The Yardbirds on "The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains" which shares many thematic similarities to "Do You Remember Walter?" It's a bluesy-harmonica fueled stomp that finds Davies proclaiming that he is the last "of the good, old fashioned, steam-powered trains." This of course, is used as a metaphor for Davies/the narrator's staunch stand against the endless parade of time: "I'm the last of the good old renegades/All my friends are all middle class and grey/But I live in a museum, so I'm okay." It's about trains, but it's also about being that last holdout against growing up and adult responsibilities.

But it's not all heavy on VILLAGE GREEN. The album has fifteen tracks, and some have very little to do with any larger theme (except in the most abstract sense). Of these, I enjoy the vaudevillian "Sitting By the Riverside." With it's heavy use of keyboard (there's a great freak-out moment mid-way the song, when the keyboard reaches this climax...this thunderous peak, then crashes and the vocals kick back in, it's fucking great) and laid-back vocal harmonies, this song reminds me of the Beatles-throwback songs like "Your Mother Should Know" or "When I'm Sixty-Four," in that it's a rock band playing a song in a style their parents would have liked. I always find those kind of songs fascinating.

Another non-theme related song I find really interesting is "Big Sky." "Big Sky" is a trippy, near-psychedelic song--that's nearly spoken-word. Davies croons and wails about all the injustice/terrible things that the song's "character" the sky (Big Sky) looks down upon...and shrugs. He shrugs because he's, well because he's just so gosh darn big, and our problems are just so small. Is Big Sky God? Does God, like Big Sky, see our problems and find him/her/itself too powerful or mighty to help? Or is Davies being a bit sarcastic, is Big Sky not really overwhelmed but rather complacent?

"People lift up their hands and they look up to the big sky/But big sky is too big to sympathize/Big Sky's too occupied/Though he would like to try/And he feels bad inside/Big sky's too big to cry."

What is Big Sky "too occupied" doing? Is he too busy staring down at our suffering to do anything about it? Maybe God's hypnotized in such a manner, maybe that's why we have war and disease and suffering. Then again, isn't that what we all do? Don't we as people look at other suffering and throw our hands up and say "I'm too busy to help!" What are we too busy doing? If The Kink's "Big Sky" is God, then we were certainly made in his/her/it's image.

From contemplating such large, theological questions, The Kinks switch over to the "Star-fucker" phenomenon on the song "Starstruck." Which of course is about a girl who runs around, going nuts because she's starstruck. Other album oddities include a song about fat cat ("Phenomenal Cat"), and an Orwellian-ode to Animal control of the world ("Animal Farm"). All three of these tracks make fantastic use of the mellotron--which allowed the band to simulate woodwind instruments (though they sounded pretty real to me).

I've probably over-thought this record. I know I'm misrepresenting it--it's not a dodgy, stuffy old record with a lot of things to "say." VILLAGE GREEN is just a rich, detailed, thought-provoking piece of art that, like a good painting or film--can stimulate the mind and, if you chose...give you something to think about.

Or you can hum along with it. It's full of wonderful, beautiful hooks. VILLAGE GREEN is a very literate, yet very lively rock record. And we all know how few of THOSE are being made today. What do I have to do, put it in your hands? Go. Get it. Listen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Close.

I am very close to finishing my novel. If not Sunday, then Monday for sure. This thing is so close to being done. I worked my @$$ off this week, waking up and writing before work AND working at night. I took Thursday off, because I got a little burned out...but I've re-charged my batteries, and am ready to finish if off.

Wish me luck.

The Kinks "Waterloo Sunset/Village Green Preservation Society"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Going "Dark" for a while

I thought about it, and I really want to get the first draft of THE MOSQUITO VINE completed before Thanksgiving (which is a little more than a week away). I'm not sure if I can do it, but that's the new goal.

So, in the meantime, I'm going to be avoiding things like TV and the Internet (the two great time wasters of Western Civilization). I wasn't going to say anything, but I know (some of) you freak out when I disappear (like anyone will notice, right?).

I'll still do a Classic Album's Revisited (which by the way, you can help choose if you take a look over to the left) on Saturday...but other than that, I'm not posting anything until this thing is done. I feel like I am THAT close...

Wish me luck.

~The Limemonkey

Sunday, November 16, 2008

No SOLACE

Just back from the movies. Me and Leah spent the day at the movies, we saw ROLE MODELS (which was hilarious and awesome) and the Bond flick QUANTUM OF SOLACE--which was terrible.

The last Bond film, CASINO ROYALE, was an fantastic re-booting/return to form for the series. Though his casting might have been a little controversial, I think Daniel Craig is the second best Bond ever (with Sir Sean being the first). I had high hopes for Craig's second outing as Bond, but those hopes were dashed, pretty quickly in fact.

The first problem I had was the opening--first things first, these movies are supposed to open in a very specific way. They've been opening the same way since the 1960s. Bond walks out, shoots the camera, there's blood...then the pre-credit sequence begins. The last film got away with not following the formula because we got to see Bond get his "00" staus (but he DID shoot the camera). QUANTUM decides to wait until the end. Bond shoots the camera (though the mission is over) and the credits roll. True, this is a bit of a nit-pick, but I've been a fan of this series since I was a kid...so I feel like I have the right to be picky, I grew up with this shit.

My second gripe with the pre-title sequence, is that it's a simple car case. I'm not sure if the filmmakers realize this, but the car chase is dead. It was killed in the 1990s. I was at the funeral, please, please stop with the car chases. If you're going to do one, at least make it interesting.

My other gripes are technical gripes-- plot issues and camera work. I know these movies are supposed to be Shakespeare or anything, but for God's sake let's at least have what's at stake made clear. There's something about Boliva's water-shortage being staged so that a coup can occur--but everyone thinks the bad guys are really after oil (which doesn't exist, or does it? Someone takes a bath in a lot of oil...). To make matters worse, Bond's quest for vengence is murky--who exactly does he blame? Not Mr. White or Mr. Greene--her ex-boyfriend (who was dead, but not really?). But at the end he DOESN'T kill this person??? WTF.

Which brings up the camera work. QUANTUM OF SOLACE commits the cardinal sin of action movies, it doesn't let you see what's happening. I know there is a school of thought that says "make the camera shakey, with lots of quick cuts...and the audience will feel like they're there" or worse "they feel part of the action." Well I don't want to be part of the action, I want to SEE the action. There is a roof-top chase early on in the film that is unwatchable--there are clearer scenes in CLOVERFIELD for cryin' out loud (and that film's camera work is (an inentional) mess). Half the time I couldn't tell who was doing what. The director is clearly an action-director n00b.

I realize this rant is full of spoliers, but honestly--even if you read this, you won't have it spoiled for you...because at no time is there anything to spoil. Stuff just kinda happens. Nothing is really very clear or interesting. I leaned over at one point and whispered to Leah "This is boring." And that right there sums up QUANTUM.

So what was good about it?

There wasn't much, but I was able to think up some stuff that was good about it:

Mr. Liter.

Felix Liter, the CIA agent who helped Bond in the previous film. He returns, and though he says little, I totally identify with his character (tough guy, restrained from doing what he thinks is right by a snivling boss who's more concerned about money). Sadly, Felix is kept to the sidelines.

There is also one fantastic scene at an opera that is actually well done. But the rest is pretty crappy (I'm sick of Bond being on the outs with MI6, too...the guy goes rogue so much, it's a wonder they still give him a paycheck).

The next Bond flick should (in my opinon) open with Bond killing the remaining Quantum members, and let this current plot thread end for good. Perhaps a stand-alone mission will be better than this poorly executed sequel.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Novel Update


Another major milestone reached today--I cleared 80,000 words today.

Yikes!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--I love writing, but I am NOT looking forward to editing this thing. I'm going to stop trying to guess how long it will be when it's finished, but I'm now leaning more towards 350-400.

I get the impression from some people that they think I might be on a tangent or something--rest assured, I am in control. I'm just really bad at estimating. Today, for example, I set out to work on a very important scene. I thought it would only be two or three pages, but the reality was actually 10 pages.

Anyway, when I started this thing, I was very hesitant to give details--I'm not sure why, I guess because it was all still forming in my mind. Now that it's (nearly) done, I'm finding I'm more comfortable talking to people about it.

That said, he's a picture of the (unofficial) main character of THE MOSQUITO VINE:

That's a 1938 Packard-120, it's sort of the catalyst for the whole novel. I'm not really a big car-guy, but I've always liked older cars. I've never actually been inside one (or driven one) so I'm having to do some creative guessing...but that's part of the fun of being a writer. You get to make stuff up. I haven't decided if the car's going to "live" at the end or not. I was going to "kill" it, but I'm finding it very hard to do. So yeah, that's what's going on inside my head right now, do I destroy a fucking amazing (imaginary) car or not.

These are the thoughts that will keep me from ever being successful in the "adult" world.

Candy-O

It's Saturday...time again for another long nerd-essay about a great album from the past!!! Last week was all about Bowie, this week I'm taking a spin with The Cars on their second album.

The Cars are (in my humble opinon) one of rock's most underapprecitated bands. They flooded the radio with singles back in the 1970's and are now all but forgotten (or worse, used to shill crappy electronics stores...BOO!). Their first album THE CARS is classic, but for my money their masterpiece is their second album CANDY-O. So sit back and enjoy another installment of Classic Albums Revisited:

In 1978, The Cars "raced" (sorry, bad pun) onto the music scene with their eccentric blend of rock and electronic music--later to be dubbed "New Wave." Though not by any stretch the typical "rock guys," The Cars were a nerdy kind of cool. In many ways, The Cars are responsible for bands like Weezer (who share a link to The Cars, I'll discuss later). Singers Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr didn't sound like anybody on the radio at the time, with their stiff, deadpan delivery. Combined with a synthesizer, their delivery sounded very futuristic...almost robotic. And yet, at the same time, there was something very warm and organic about The Cars--with their rumbling, steady baselines and shredding guitars solos.

The Car's first album, THE CARS, is legendary--most of the tacks went on to be singles, with heavy rock radio rotation. When most people like of The Cars, they think of "Good Times Roll," "Just What I Needed," or "Best Friend's Girl," all of which is on the first record. THE CARS is a helluva record, but when I think of The Cars...I think of CANDY-O.

CANDY-O is THE CAR'S darker, more sinister twin brother. Both albums are fantastic, but put a gun to my head, and I'll pick CANDY-O in a heartbeat.

The album opens with "Let's Go," a fun/upbeat number about a girl that's growing up and experiencing the "nightlife." The song has the signature bass-line/keyboards that make a Cars song a Cars song. But that little extra ingredient is the hand-claps. Lyrically the song is interesting, featuring some of my favorite Ocasek-penned lines:

She's laughing inside 'cause they can't refuse
She's so beautiful now, she doesn't wear her shoes
She never likes to choose
She's got wonderful eyes and a risque mouth
And when I ask her before, she said she's holding out
She's a frozen fire
She's my one desire

One of my favorite Cars songs of all time is on CANDY-O: "It's All I Can Do." I'm not sure exactly when or why this song crept into my heart, but it's stuck there, and I can' t get it out. The song has a great guitar-hook, and I love the way the drums explode at the first Chorus (not to mention that funky-buzzing keyboard). It's a bitter break-up song, about being defeated and ready to throw in the towel--so here we have the darkness starting to settle in. Every thing's not all fun and games "Let's Go!" But even though this song is sad, it kicks ass...and I like that.

"Since I Held You" is similar to "It's All I Can Do," though it's a little faster.

The keyboard heavy "Night Spots" has a futuristic/computer-toned keyboard that sounds like something vaguely Japanese. It's very much a period piece (the period being the late 1970s). It's a standard "let's go out and party...boy what a weird party this is" song...but damn if the song isn't one giant guitar solo! And a sweet solo at that. It's very good at synthesizing the decadence of a night out on a neon-tinted landscape of booze and dancing.

"You Can't Hold on Too Long" is very similar, though with few keyboards and more vocals. I think this song, like the rest of CANDY-O has influenced a lot of modern bands--for some reason this song reminds me of a stripped down version of a song The Killers might do. In general though, The Cars were very influential on modern music. When the band broke up in 1988, Ric Ocasek began a new career as a record producer, helping bands like Guided By Voices, The Pink Spiders, and yes Weezer--craft a sound very similar (though updated) to the one The Cars created on their records. It's a clean, almost sterile sounding pop that still has that human element to it. I also hear this sound in many of the later No Doubt records, specifically ROCK STEADY (which is itself a pretty good record).

The recipe was perfected, in my opinion on "Got A Lot On My Head" which comes near the end of CANDY-O. This song is a speedy-blast through a confused/agitated mind. It's a song about being a little to wrapped up in someone (of the opposite sex) and is classic Cars. Everything about this song is perfect, but it's the little touches that impress me the most. Like the "You-hoo-oos!" in the chorus or the chugging guitar-lick that opens (and basically repeats during) the song.

I think the album's most famous song, however, is the one at the very end "Dangerous Type." This song is heavy on the keyboards and has a guitar riff that's sounds suspiciously like T-Rex's "Bang a Gong." Maybe that's why I love it so much? Either way, this song has an almost widescreen scope to--it's an epic thing, full of grandeur (listen to that soaring ending, have you ever heard such a crescendo? And those wanky-electic vocals at the end, forget about!!! It's too fucking sweet my freind, we don't deserve music this rad).

CANDY-O is an awesome record, and now that I've gotten the music out of the way I can get to something that's just as important--the cover. Boy is the album art hot. I don't have this record on vinyl, but I sure wouldn't mind having it...if for nothing else, than for that artwork. The cover was painted by famous pin-up painter Alberto Vargas (who only agreed to do it because is great-niece was a fan of the band). The woman in the painting is a hybrid of two women, Nancy Beth and a woman named Candy (oddly enough). Beth was a dancer who initially agreed on posing for the cover, but backed out half-way through the painting because she decided NOT be naked on a rock album cover (Boo!). So the band hired a woman named Candy Moore to stand in so the cover could be finished. Once the label saw the original art--they flipped, and have the nipples toned down, and the pubic hair removed (again, Boo!). But on the bright-side, Moore's participation on the cover led to a brief love affair with drummer David Robinson.

Anyway, the cover's awesome, the music is awesome. CANDY-O (the "O" incidentally stands for "obnoxious" according to the band) is a fucking great album. Go check it out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Cars "Dangerous Type"

A hint perhaps?

Traffic Feed Removed

I removed the "Live Traffic Feed" gadget from the bottom of my blog.

I got this gadget from my buddy Murph's blog, because I was curious to see who was looking at my blog...but recently I've become a little too interested in it. I only got one bit of feedback from it, and it was negative (yes, I agree Brittany--it was creepy). It was starting to be like TV ratings, where I would think about posting things that would get me "hits."

That's not cool. That's not what this is supposed to be about.

So I ditched it. Much like the music player, it was a fun experiment...but one that I no longer want to continue. Maybe sometime, someday when I grow up (and can handle it) it'll come back, but for now--it's gone.

So there it is.

300


So last night I reached the 300th page of by novel.

It's a minor milestone, but an important one nonetheless. I can't believe I have a story that spans 100-pages...let alone 300 of them.

Tomorrow, while Leah is at work, I'm going to get up and write. I'm not going to finish it this tomorrow, or this weekend...but I'm close. Damn close.

Anyway, it's a good feeling...but I'm kinda scared about what happens next.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Limemonkey makes the (digital) pages of The American Communication Journal

Well this is interesting. I received a comment today on YOUTUBE from a college kid, somewhere, who was doing a paper for a communications class--this is what he/she had to say:

Hey, I don't know if you already know, but for school i'm doing an assignment about youtube and vlogging, and while researching this video came up in an article in the American Communication Journal.

the link is:
(triple-w)acjournal(dot)org/holdings/vol10/01_Spring/articles/molyneaux_etal.php

cool hey? :-)

Sure enough if you go here you can read an article entitled "Exploring the Gender Divide on YOUTUBE: An Analysis of the Creation and Reception of Vblogs." Not only is my very first video blog linked in the article, but this is what they had to say about it:

Similarly, in the second video, indoor male (IM), the vlogger presents his viewers with a brief update on his daily life. He states what he has been doing for the past week, mainly writing, as well as his plans for the next few days: going to the movie theatre, and taking his fiancĂ©’s dog to obedience class. Like the woman, he too is vlogging from his bedroom. He is lying down on his bed, addressing the camera. The furnishings in his room appear sparse in comparison to the woman’s room. There are a few pictures arranged on the back wall of his room. Nothing is hung on the beige, concrete side wall. His room appears to be a university dorm room.

Here's the video in question:




Wow. As if being married to an ex-Psych major wasn't bad enough, I got people I don't even know analyzing me!!! I thought this was mildly amusing, so I decided to share it.

By the way, it's only 11:15Am but I'm having a HORRIBLE day. I nearly walked out of the office and went home. My boss-in-law in driving me nuts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fightin' Old Man Winter

So today was the first really cold day out here in STL-land. It was one of those days where it actually got COLDER as the day progressed (usually the morning and night are the coldest times, as there is no sun) ANYWAY...today sucked.

Why?

Well my boss feels the same way about HEAT as he does about AIR CONDITIONING. He did purchase some sort of heating device today (some kind of "heating dish") while he was out running around, but there is a problem--it can't be plugged-in anywhere near by desk because of an electrical problem (actually the only problem is--we have too much shit plugged in).

Long story short is, after work I felt terrible. I had to run around outside today, and I wasn't wearing a coat (just a hoodie). I decided to go and buy some equipment for dealing with the cold weather. I really needed a pair of thin gloves with the fingers cut out (like the Goth kids used to wear) because my hands were FREEZING all day...but I need my fingers free to type and use the phone.

Went to KOHL'S (where I do most of my shopping) and I picked up a thermal undershirt and pants combo, some super thick winter socks, a scarf, a flannel shirt, two heavy fleece shirts...and this absolutely absurd/super warm hat.

How absurd is it? You be the judge:

Crazy Hat Jason

Oh, and in cases you ladies were wondering...yes, those ear flaps DO come down...