Monday, March 30

That's My Jam: I Like This So Much Better When I'm Naked

I'll be pissed if I find out this secret fave has been co-opted for use in some car commercial or as background music for some MTV faux-reality show, but when a tune's this good -- there's not a whole lot you can really do to keep people from digging on it.
Feel free to dance at your desk. I know I am.

[Listening to:  Deftones - "Bloody Cape" ]


Friday, March 27

The Friday Hot Sheet

Good news isn't always good for everyone. Too many times in this world it seems like you're winning something and then you find out that you only get to keep half of it. That everything that tastes really good is in fact, really really bad for you. That your favorite band is getting back together and touring, but they're only playing stadiums in certain cities and the tickets cost more than your electric bill.

These little catches seem to abound these days, where everyone wants to be pissed off about the economy, but no one wants to stop buying flat screen TVs.
It's sort of like Facebook.
When I first signed up not knowing what to really expect, I was pleasantly surprised to see that just about everybody I ever went to school with is on there. And then after a few days it dawned upon me that everybody I ever went to school with is on there. Although I'm branching out beyond my school ties to see what else might be on that particular social networking site, there was this odd sort of thing that happened right after sending/getting the flurry of initial friend requests -- I began to feel really old. Everyone's names are hyphenated, and we're all kinda grown up now.

I guess that's the difference. Everyone on Myspace works hard to act like they're 15 (except the 15 year-olds, of course), whether it be in their page design, choice of music, or ever-expanding library of self-portraits. Facebook seems to be more like a cop with a flashlight in your eyes asking you to please remove your sunglasses so he can see what your eyes look like.

As such, the profile pic I threw up there (the one I always tend to use) looks horrifically out of place. You kind of scroll through peoples friends listings on their page and it's like "there's so and so with their kids, and here's whatshisface with his headset telephone getting caught in a candid moment between client calls, and then over here..
Wow, who's the douchebag with the guitar and the doorag?
You know what -- screw you people. I may only be a Squidbilly, but I don't need no instructions to know how to rock. Ya'll better watch your asses or I'm gonna post up an animated gif of some Looney Tunes character in full hip-hop gear that says "Bitch Princess" and sparkles when you roll your mouse over it. Then I'll send you all a quiz where I demand you answer trivia questions to determine which character from Twilight you most resemble.

So before the entire graduating class of '90 blocks me -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
Mint.comIf you're like me and you live in a world where there's really no such thing as a "good financial surprise," then you might be interested in this site, where you can access, track, and trend all of your financial data in one place. And when I say all, I mean ALL of it. If it's got a website to log into, Mint.com can track it. The catch (there always is one) is that as it analyzes your data, it will periodically "suggest" credit card deals from the banks that fund the thing, but there's no obligation to buy -- so it's a fairly workable compromise. I suck with money management, so tools like this are a godsend. If you're looking for a better way to keep an eye on your budgets, I honestly can't recommend this one enough.
 
J-MetalSay what you want about the Germans, the Swedes, or those two dudes who always sat in the back of your high school class scribbling band logos on their textbooks -- for my money there are few cultures who love their Heavy Metal more than the Japanese. For me it all started back in the 80's with bands like EZO and Loudness, who tried to translate huge success in their homeland to American record sales and ended up sort of being written off as novelty acts. It's unfortunate, because Loudness especially was an incredible band -- featuring one of the best guitarists of that era, Akira Takasaki. Since then, most Japanese metal groups have preferred to stick to their own shores. In fact, without the advent of YouTube I probably wouldn't know anything about this new crop at all. Of course, much like my love for j-pop bands like Shonen Knife, The Brilliant Green, and L'arc en Ciel -- my taste for it comes in unexpected waves. This week I can't seem to get enough Sex Machineguns, Animetal, or Galneryus -- but it will probably wear off pretty soon. Good as it is, there's no way to ignore the kitsch factor in bands that do an above-average job of looking like Judas Priest and sounding like Iron Maiden -- and as much as I love it, the joke never tends to last long enough. Of course when you discover that the vast majority of Animetal's discography is made up of heavy metal-ized versions of theme songs from various animated kids shows (and I'm not talking about highly respected artistic shows -- these guys do a cover of the theme from Digimon, for crying out loud), that means there's an extra comedic value to be cashed in -- but it seems a waste for a guitar player good as Syu to spend his days trying to figure out the best way to rock out the Sailor Moon song.
 
Slow
Drivers
I live pretty close to the office I work at -- which not only saves me on gas prices but also means I have a fairly quick commute. The problem is that to get from my place to the office -- I need to take J. Turner Butler Boulevard, which is an expressway that connects the beaches to I95. It also features some of Jacksonville's worst traffic. It's not that it's a bad road, it's just that everybody uses it -- so even if you just need to be on it for a few miles you can easily get snarled up. It's nowhere near as bad as things in LA or Atlanta can get, but it's not a good place to get stuck when you need to be somewhere by 8 am. Which is why I was ultra-excited to find this little backroad that runs essentially parallel to JTB. Even better, there's literally nothing on it but a few apartment complexes they're still in the process of building. It's literally like 10 miles of undeveloped land with 4-lanes going right through the middle of it. Which to me says one thing -- Autobahn. It's one of the few places in town where you can still really open up the throttle, and I take full advantage. But apparently I'm the only one, because whenever there are other cars on this stretch, they all seem to be locked into a 30-mile an hour clip. I know it's not the safest thing in the world, but I love driving fast -- and ever since the State Troopers started camping out on 9A there's just not that many places to really do it anymore. You'd think everyone would be excited by the prospect of wide open blacktop -- but clearly that's not the case. And because there's nothing more dangerous than whizzing around people who drive really slow, I'm finding myself having to reign in the RPM's as well. Wake up people -- you can go faster on this road. I won't tell!
 
Size Tags
on the
Outsides
of Shirts
One of the first things I did when I found out the name of my kid's little league team was zip out to the closest sports store and pick up a t-shirt with the Dodgers logo on it so I could show support without paying league prices for one of those shirts that says "Bobby's Dad" on the back. The Dodgers are fairly popular (even down here) so it wasn't hard to find, but what I couldn't seem to dig up was anything that didn't have one of these on it. What exactly is the purpose of this mess? Is it to say, "Hey everyone -- this Dodgers fan is fat!" I mean honestly, I can't see even how someone could take pride in wearing one of these if instead it said the size was "S." They don't dare do this for women's clothes -- could you even imagine someone trying to put size tags on separates from Lane Bryant? The girls who shop there would burn the place to the ground.
 
Boner
Party
The problem with Drunkenstepfather.com is that the guy who runs it is a pig. The problem with What Would Tyler Durden Do? is that I honestly don't give a crap what Britney Spears does on a daily basis. But I still enjoy looking at pretty girls, and I like sites that have a good sense of humor about such things -- which is why I've been loving the hell out of Boner Party lately. It's odd, because despite the fact that they're everywhere these days, I don't usually like tumblr sites -- but the funny thing I've come to realize is that the one or two exceptions to that rule are all sites that are all essentially written by the same person. The only downside to the thing is that the dude who runs Boner Party is sort of a Zooey Deschanel guy. What I mean by that is that in terms of guys ogling celebrity women, there seem to be two distinct schools. Those who think women like Zooey Deschanel and Jennifer Connelly are the hottest things going -- and the rest of us who can't understand what the hell they're looking at. I admit I have fairly exotic tastes, but I've never really gotten the whole Jennifer Connelly thing. She's cute and all, but doesn't anyone remember what a raging, selfish bitch she was in Labyrinth? Besides, how could anyone grow up having a celebrity crush on someone like that when you had a perfectly good Gina Gershon running around? That's the test, btw. If you want to get a handle on a guy's pig factor really fast, throw Gina Gershon's name at him. If he gets a wistful dirty look in his eyes -- he's one of us. If he asks who she is, he's probably one of those Zooey Deschanel weirdoes that helped turn the Heidi Montag's of the world into sex symbols. These are the same people who are dying to see Rumer Willis naked, which I can't really understand at all. They're also frequently colorblind, which in my mind is just insane when you consider not only all the fine women of color out there, but the sheer amount of international hotties this planet has to offer. And yet, almost like the odd camaraderie sports fans of even opposing teams can find -- I find myself more often than not appreciating the women featured on each new post of this site. Even if it is in sort of a piggish way.
 
Duke             What the hell, Duke? Why do I even friggin bother? You know I hate your ass, but you also know damn well that I respect your history and can't deny the success your basketball team -- which is why I feature you in my brackets year in and year out to make at least the Sweet Sixteen. But then you go out there and take a fucking nap while Villa-goddamn-Nova walks all over you? You understand now that I've got to put up with a whole new year of my former brother-in-law talking shit because my pool leading brackets just took a nose-dive to the cellar because you can't be bothered to play defense when it matters. And then you're all smug about it, like it was just a bad bounce or a fluke play that beat you. Hello!? A 23-point beat-down isn't a bad bounce. Man you Dookies piss me off. What's worse, you do it every fucking year! In the words of my man Slaus -- Dis is Some Bool Shyt, and I've had enough.

(Slightly NSFW)

[Listening to:  Killing Joke - "Europe" ]


Thursday, March 26

Real

I might be getting a roommate. I'm probably getting a roommate.
I like living alone. I don't want to be alone, but there's a certain something about a man, his castle, being able to build a pillow fort, strut around nude, watch whatever you want on TV whenever you want, or feeling like the majority of your time is your own. The funny thing about all this is that so many of the life changes I've been making lately have sort of quietly been in preparation for this one possibility -- but now that it's essentially here, staring back at me in ultra clear HD, it makes me wonder how I'll really react.
Weekends are one thing, but this will be totally different.
I don't know -- this is coming out wrong. I mean, it's not like I haven't lived with the guy before. Not like we don't get along.
It's just that this is real.

[Listening to:  Marcy Playground - "It's Saturday" ]


Wednesday, March 25

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

Coworker: What's that you're listening to?
Me: It's a Japanese speed metal band called Sex Machineguns.
Coworker: Are they ..any good?
Me: Who cares -- they're called Sex Machineguns!
Actually, they are pretty good (they're no Animetal, but still). Of course if you don't have at least a little love for speed metal to begin with it will probably leave you cold -- but there's just something about this whole screaming, bedazzled mess that makes me smile.
..and I'm not just taking about the chorus line of dancing Samaras, either.

[Listening to:  Animetal - "Kinnikuman Go Fight!" ]


Tuesday, March 24

Switchback

Do you ever feel like you're fighting against yourself? As if you're working against instinct and habit?
There’s a part of being human that seeks comfort. Ease. Routine. Whether that routine is nose to the grindstone work, hitting the gym 4 hours a day, or just watching a lot of TV while trying to decide which celebrity each new Cheeto that you pull out of the bag most resembles, there’s something that's almost soothing about being able to maintain your own rituals.
A fact that becomes even more apparent when those same rituals get blocked, or broken.
I seriously doubt that I actually need two cups of coffee every morning. But heaven fucking help you if you're in my way on a day that for whatever reason I only end up having one. It's almost as if the act of having that coffee -- of drinking from my blue travel mug slowly through the first cup, of going down to the coffeemaker for a refill before answering morning email and surfing around the web while I ramp up to my necessary workday speed is more important than the liquid or the caffeine itself.

The ritual, the reaffirmation that I'm in control of this one little corner of my day -- I think that's the important thing.
My cat doesn't need to circle around before she curls up for a nap. But she does, every time.
I think in certain ways our routines strengthen us. Create identities that don't necessarily broadcast to others around us as much as they help set unwritten priorities for ourselves. I don't know if that makes total sense, but what I mean is that there has to be a reason why I like one side of the couch better than the other -- why I'm picky about what kinds of headphones I like to wear, or why I still have a "side of the bed" even though I've lived alone for years.
All these things, in their own little way somehow make us happy.
They can't fix a bad mood, but when they don't work right they can certainly contribute to one. What's worse, it's usually the kinds of things that don't matter to anyone else -- which means they're more likely to screw them up while seeking the happiness that can be found from sticking to their own routines. Otherwise there'd be no reason for whoever the a-hole in the cafeteria was that switched from plastic flatware to sporks to do such a thing. I mean, there's no way they did that JUST to piss me off, it's just that in their quest to save space/cost/sanity they inadvertently crossed one of my invisible lines and left me with this bullshit excuse for a utensil that basically shatters into pieces if you can ever actually pierce into something to try and pick it up.

At the same time, there's a danger in comfort. An instinct that goes somewhere beyond picking hunting grounds that bigger predators don't frequent that starts to more resemble hiding in your cave until you're absolutely certain it's safe to go outside and scavenge for leftovers.
I think it's probably easy to call it security -- but I suspect it's a lot deeper than that.
Think about it for a second -- what's the one theme that always seems to repeat itself whenever you watch a nature show? The hunters always seek out the sick, the young, or the very old. The easy kill. Not that a full-grown hungry lioness or cheetah couldn’t take out a fully grown healthy gazelle if they wanted to, but when you get right down to it -- when lunchtime rolls around and you've got hungry mouths to feed at home -- do you go out seeking the strongest happy meal, or do you just stop at the first slow moving golden arches you come across?

I used to raise this Ball Python. Originally it was my brothers, but when he went to college they wouldn't let him have it in his dorm -- so it ended up with me. I'd had my share of pet snakes when I was younger, so I liked having it around -- but every now and then when I'd toss a particularly feisty mouse or a rat into the cage that didn't go down with the first shot he'd just end up ignoring it.

      That snake only got fed once every two weeks.
If you think about it a certain way -- that animal only got to be a python twice a month. You'd think he'd jump at the chance to hunt and kill prey whenever it presented itself. That every day between feedings he'd be amping up waiting for that moment. But more than once I'd end up with some Mike Tyson feeder mouse from the pet store and after a few rounds the snake would just crawl back into the corner and basically take a pass on the whole thing.
For a while I started to suspect that I'd ended up with a retarded snake.
But when you think about it -- if you're a domesticated animal who's come to expect a meal every few weeks, what's your motivation for going 10 rounds with a mouse on steroids, especially if you know that soon enough another one's gonna drop out of the sky?
I think we're all fighters to a degree, but I also think that part of natural instinct is picking your battles.
Human existence, especially American Human existence offers an abundance of luxuries. We don't have to hunt for food. We're more wired into information and entertainment gathering than we are into sustenance, because that parts become almost automatic. Even for the poor and hungry in our society, there are options (certainly when compared to the choices others have they're less desirable -- but it's not like there isn't any food around, like in other parts of the world).

I would argue that there are an equal amount of stresses and pressures (financial, emotional, etc) that we face, many that we impose upon ourselves -- but that pull to stay in your caves or wait until the next mouse drops into the cage is a hard one to resist, especially when you know there's no imminent threat of predators or unexpected danger lurking around every corner.
So we fall into routines. We give ourselves to habits.
It's not always a bad thing, but it seems like there's always a precipice. Dangers to the drug, risks no safety harness can ever offset. The dividing line more often than not seems to be the relative discipline or amount of restraint we bring to the table with us. How much of a comfort zone we feel that we need. How much of those same comfort zones we're willing to step outside in search of a thrill, a high, an affirmation, or a change.

I feel like I've been fighting myself lately. Challenging many (although certainly not all) of my ivory towers. Looking at the mirror and seeing what I don't like, but then looking again not only to try and find out why I dislike those traits, but how I let them get this far. What the trap that I keep setting for myself is.
My safety nets.
When I was a kid I used to believe that if a super villain ever attacked the world, the first guy I would call to help fight him is David Copperfield. David Copperfield could make things disappear. He could float. Who could beat that? -- Only to find out that much like double-jointed Houdini and his secret hidden keys, Copperfield was just an exceptionally slick bullshit artist. That it was all just an elaborate illusion that I wanted to believe in enough that I was willing to suspend my disbelief whenever he came on TV.
Weight Loss Dan is like that.
Get Out of Debt Dan is like that.
Emo Dan is all about that noise.
I'll work out five times a week, but I'm not giving up meat-lovers pizza. I'll put together a budget to organize my finances, but it's going to include an allowance for CD's and fast food. I'll break free of the relationships and habits that are bad for my soul, but I'll always have a little more of my foot still in the doorway than I probably should.
Look at the pretty girl spinning the box around and you won't see me slipping through the trap door in the back.
And I'm not talking about you out there in the rest of the world. I'm talking about me. The me that crosses it's arms and wants to hear just how great and different this new weight loss plan is going to be than the last one, so I can decide just how long it's gonna be before we can eat chiliburgers again.
Because I’ll come back.
..I always do.
I don’t exactly know what’s different (which is a large part of why I’m worried that it’s actually not) – but I feel like I’m finally starting to break that cycle. Examine the places that I let myself down. Realize the consequences it can bring, not only to me –- but to the people I care about.
I’m selfish. I’ve known that for a long time now.
But at the same time I hate confrontation. I shy away from conflict. As a result, I end up conceding a lot. Sometimes it’s a good plan of action. Despite the fact that it has had a negative effect on me in several ways, I actually have a lot of faith in the power of compromise.

I think sometimes you can solve problems by splitting the baby. That there are ways that thesis and antithesis can lead to synthesis.

But when selfish people concede, they get bitter. They resent. They believe in some screwed up perception that the mere act of choosing not to engage in pointless conflict is somehow honorable, and that choosing that path will eventually be rewarded with some level of respect (or self-respect, if the one you’re always stepping aside for is yourself) – and when that doesn’t happen, they get pissed off.
Nice guys who can’t find dates end up hating women who fall for bad boys.
Hard workers get fed up with people who want everything done for them.
Stock traders feel no sympathy for families that can’t afford their mortgages.
As a result, I’m starting to realize the reason that I’m overweight is that I don’t like fighting against my eating habits. The reason that I’m continually broke is that it’s easier than not having 200 channels of TV to choose from. I’ve reached a point where it appears that many of the things that make me happy (my escapes) are feeding the very same things that make me unhappy – the things I’m escaping from.

So in the end what I’m sorta left with is this classic "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" type quandary where in order for me to properly step up and start taking control of the things that I’ve empowered as roadblocks, I’ve got to take a stand and fight. Fight against the habits and instincts that I’ve built around my comfort zones. Fight against the stigmas I attach to the things I’m reduced to in order to try and accomplish those goals.
In other words I’ve got to learn to kinda like salad -- and not just force myself to
eat it for six weeks while bitching that it's the antichrist come to rest in my bowl.
But more than that -- I’ve got to be able to look in the mirror deeper than maybe I have been the last few years. Wipe away the steam from whatever hot water I’ve been standing under in the hopes of not hearing a phone ring or being able to answer whatever door it is that’s being knocked on and really look at that person staring back at me.
Not all of what I've seen looking back is good.
But who among us can say that's all they really are?
I've got to find a new way to look at that face. Find a way not to be pissed at it for the things he’s screwed up – but instead try to find ways to instill in him the discipline to make good on the improvements he’s trying to make.
Which is not an easy proposition when you’ve known a guy for 30-plus years.
One thing I’m well aware of is that when I get caught in one of my self-loathing loops, people get tired of it. My act gets old pretty quick if I’m not careful. My true friends will remain, and family will always be – but people with lives and problems of their own (which are both subsets that those true friends and relatives fit nicely into) can’t and perhaps most importantly won’t always hang around until you figure your shit out.

I suspect there is a time in your life when losing people is a lesson. Bad decisions happen. Wrong turns are inevitable, and consequences follow. It’s an odd place to find a reminder -- but I was browsing Facebook the other day (I finally signed up for it a week or so back), recognizing names but not always seeing the same faces -- realizing that although you never can really hold on to everybody – I didn’t really have to lose all of these people.
I really didn’t have to lose myself.

[Listening to:  Killing Joke - "Complications" ]


Monday, March 23

That's My Jam: Infinite Repeat

You might have caught this when I put it up on twitter a little while back -- but it's been stuck in my head ever since, so here you go again.
P.S. - I know a lot of fans aren't happy with the way Flav conducts
himself on TV -- but if Chuck can take him back, then so can you.

[Listening To:  Talking Heads"Memories Can't Wait" ]


Friday, March 20

The Friday Hot Sheet

Sorry for the late update on this, but it's been a crazy sort of week. Lots of things happening good and bad, but the majority of them sort of under-planned. It's as if I'm aware that stuff is happening all around me -- but I feel like I'm still sort of surprised when it actually occurs. I realize that probably makes very little sense -- but like so many corporate drones one of my first moves when a new project/initiative gets going is to find out if I'm gonna have to be involved in it or not. On the occasions I find out that they don't need me, I'll go back to my normal routine --
Only to discover the whole project team standing at my desk a week later needing my help anyways.
You think eventually I'd catch on and just clear my decks whenever certain people get assigned to big projects -- knowing that they'll eventually come calling my way, but I'm more from the "ignorance is bliss" school of corporate work ethic, where my hope when I go into work every day is that I'll have nothing to do, but should something arise it will get more of my attention if I feel like it's some sort of surprise or last minute "save the day" type of deal.

As such, the past week has been full of surprises that I kind of knew were coming but did little or nothing to prepare for anyways -- which wreaked certain amounts of havoc on the things I already knew I had to deal with that then had to get suddenly shifted around.

It's not really what I'd call the best strategy, but I'm one of those folks that seems to do better when I feel like I'm under some sort of pressure. My job has degrees of that, but what I've found over my time here is that it's not that hard to create the image of pressure when I need it.
It's the same BS justification I used to use for putting off homework.
Obviously The Hot Sheet is immune to such posturing, but that doesn't mean I still don't want to get this one up. I had actually taken the advice many people have given me, which is to start this Friday feature somewhere around Wednesday and then just throw the pre-finished product up on the determined day -- but that didn't work out either.

So before Wednesday rolls around and I have to start working on next Friday's list -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
Bronco-gateJust last week I was on Jay Cutler for being all whiny that the teams' new coach had expressed interest in trading for red-hot free agent Matt Cassell without telling him. No one likes to be replaced or told that all the things they do aren't good enough, but in a multi-million dollar business where the worst part of getting fired is having to fill out of bunch of change of address forms and re-do your direct deposit numbers for the multi-millions your new team is going to give you, it's hard (especially in this economy) to feel bad for you. But here's the thing -- they didn't get him. In fact, Cassell signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, a division rival. I can understand being mad at the coach and wanting nothing more than to go all Willy Wonka on his ass, but have you considered at all, Jay Cutler -- taking the example of your former coach and mentor Mike Shanahan, who reacted to similar treatment from his former boss, Oakland Raiders president Skeletor Al Davis by mercilessly laying waste to his team twice a year? Cassell is a good player, but I for one think Cutler's a better fit for the team (outside of this recent bout of wussified whining) -- so how sweet would it feel for him to fucking destroy the Chiefs twice a year and then trot back to the sideline and see just how much new coach Josh McDaniels thinks of his golden boy then?
 
My NCAA Tournament BracketsHistorically speaking my brackets always seem to start out strong and then fall apart in the later rounds. That's especially true this year, where the favorites are for the most part having their way with the lesser teams. Things will surely go to hell for me soon (I've got FSU going waay too deep), but it's always a nice sort of pyrrhic victory for a few days to think I know a little somethin' somethin' about college hoops.
 
Dadgum NCAA Sanctions against FSUTowards the end of 2007, the FSU football team found itself with egg on their face when 25 players got busted cheating on an Internet exam. Since then the NCAA started digging, and after a long investigation has brought down the hammer on not only the football program, but most of the school's athletic department as well. I would love to say I'm outraged and shocked, but honestly as far as I'm concerned this has been sorta coming for a while -- and it just sort of sucks that it had to happen now and leave a bad stain on what will soon be the closing of Bobby Bowden's tenure. Of course he's as much to blame for all this as anyone else, but now all this talk about him thinking about retirement last year comes into a much different focus. I can't blame the old man for sticking it out, and personally I like having him on the sidelines year in and year out -- but not only does this mean that when he eventually does retire that we'll not only have to deal with the hangover of him not being there, but also the loss of scholarships and whatever will saddle his successor with a weight that no first-year coach could comfortably overcome, which means we're probably in for a couple of consecutive years of sucking. Thanks, guys -- appreciate that.
 
WatchmenI know this is seriously late -- but after seeing this at the IMAX theater in Times Square with Satorical, I found myself really impressed with the way the film was put together and acted, but conflicted at how it didn't change my life the way the producers of the film clearly wanted it to. For the record, The Dark Knight didn't change my life either -- but I did find myself talking about it excitedly for a couple of days afterwards, which wasn't so much the case when Watchmen was done. It's an entertaining film. A little too long, but unlike so many other movies -- it answers almost as many questions as it raises within it's almost three-hour length. You walk away appreciating all the exposition, even though there are times when it tends to slow the experience of watching the movie down. But one of the things that I think makes the movie work is (in my opinion) one of the things that also sorta sinks it -- which is that the vast majority of it's heaviest themes are utterly dated. I feel like director Zach Snyder decided to stick to the source material for a reason, but unlike period pieces where suggested themes can be translated into modern implications, the setting of this film was just modern enough that you're sort of inclined to take the undertones on face value. In other words, (SPOILER ALERT) there's a scene in the film where Lee Iacocca gets shot in the head -- which carries an unimaginable sort of thematic and historic weight IF YOU KNOW WHO LEE IACOCCA IS. I think the vast masses of people who turned things like Twilight and The Dark Knight into international sensations don't necessarily fit into that category, and as such never really clicked into just how messed up a world where Nixon could serve five consecutive terms might be. Updating it would have been a certain kind of sacrilege, but leaving it "as is" undercut it's ability to transcend the source material. It's a choice that I'm glad the director made, but all of this "disappointment" from the studios that the film only made like 200 million dollars or whatever seems kinda misplaced, you know?
 
The
Samsung
Omnia
I hate my cel phone. I thought I was gonna love it when I bought it, but it's just not the good fit I was hoping for. At the same time I'm finding myself more and more tempted by the sorts of functionality that the iPhone offers, despite the fact that it's still largely out of my price range. Add to that the fact that I have no desire whatsoever to go back to dealing with AT&T, and what you end up with is a sort of frustrated place where you know you want more from your phone, but can't figure out a way to get there without going back into debt. Which is why I want want want want to get my hands on this beauty, which from all appearances offers the cool factor I want (at a price I can live with) on the network I'm already with.
 
FacebookMany years too late I've finally taken the plunge and signed up. Find me, friend me, fill my life with meaning and nonsense.
 
Komodo Dragons       The Jacksonville Zoo finally opened it's new Komodo Dragon exhibit, and weather-permitting this weekend my son and I will be dragging my dad out to see it. Not only because it's an animal he's always had an affinity for (although he's never really explained why he finds them so fascinating), but mostly because they're just flat-out cool, and much like this former matinee idol -- used to find themselves glued to fake dinosaur horns and filmed in ultra close-up shots for a ton of the movies that I still love to this day.

[Listening to:  Yes - "Heart of the Sunrise" ]


Thursday, March 19

Thoughts From a Cubicle Where Only About Half of the Work That Needs to be Done is In Fact, Done

I feel like I have a ton of energy today -- just none for this.

[Listening to:  Ministry"Stigmata" ]


Wednesday, March 18

Batman


[Listening To:  Frank Zappa"Zomby Woof" ]


Tuesday, March 17

Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary

It's j's birthday. Get in the pit.

Sorry for the static image video -- but the track is rare, as is the girl.

[Listening to:  Dead Kennedys"Holiday in Cambodia" ]


Monday, March 16

Feckin' Pikeys

Who doesn't love St. Patrick's day? Not only is it j's birthday -- but it's one of America's two adopted drinking holidays where something born in a quasi-religious sense has been turned into an all-day boozefest in the name of a nationality that only so many people actually can claim as theirs.
Not that it ever stops anyone.
Even though I love a good St Paddy's throwdown just as much as the next guy, the one part I've always found annoying is the way all the a-holes at the bar suddenly turns Irish. As in, "Oh yeah, my family's roots trace all the way back." or the ever-popular,
"Are ye callin me a liar, boyo? Faith and Begorrah -- as soon as I finish eating this potato me
and the rest of the Chi Alphas going to kick your bloody arse for insulting me beloved heritage!"
Seriously, we don't do this for any other holiday. It's not like honkies across the country show up in moccasins and feathered headdresses every Thanksgiving, or insist that they're Mexican on the fifth of May. There's even a widely disputed movement happening where people are more sensitive to the fact that everyone who gathers with friends and family to exchange gifts around a ceremonial tree every December isn't necessarily doing so in celebration of the birth of the Christian Jesus, and that greetings like "Merry Christmas" might even contain prejudiced overtones that are potentially offensive to those people who may not choose to worship that particular religion.

Sticks and stones perhaps -- but when you think about the way Christmas songs are "generic-ed up" for plays at kids schools these days (The Holiday show at my son's elementary was so full of songs about penguins exchanging gifts and world cultures that it seemed almost annoyingly pagan) it's almost kind of funny to consider just how flippant our PC attitudes towards the Irish turn every March 17th as we honor the rich history of Ireland the same way we imagine they do, by getting completely fucked up and puking in the streets.
Suggesting that the Christmas holiday might have something to do with Jesus Christ? -- Offensive.
Celebrating the fact that all Micks are belligerent angry boozehounds? -- Fuckin' A, Broseph!
Look -- I'm all for a good time, and I've certainly done my share of drinking and singing songs about who the fuck Alice is, but I don't go around talking like a leprechaun while claiming that my family goes back three generations to the Cliffs of Dover.
And while I'm at it, what the hell is this!?
kelly green
I'm a Denver Broncos fan. What's this fucking shamrock doing on my shirt? Seriously, what kind of bullshit is this? I'm no native, but if I went to Madison Square Garden wearing a Kelly green shirt supporting the Knicks, I'd get my ass kicked for being a Celtics fan. It's one goddamn day out the year -- is this really necessary?
I tell you this right now -- I'd run through in downtown Dublin screaming at the top of my lungs that the IRA are a bunch of Pussies before I put on anything that might lead people to believe that I'm any kind of fan of Notre Dame.
The other tremendously annoying thing that white people do on this Holiday is randomly mix their West European stereotypes into a grand sort of shepherds pie of contradicting influences -- most frequently ending up with people assuming that the entire Nation of Scotland is somehow located in the middle of Bono's living room.

Attention, frat boys. The Highlander is not Irish. The Boondock Saints is not acceptable quote material at a caber toss. They're two different cultures. Granted, they both have their share of famous drunks -- but that doesn't mean you can just throw one blanket over the whole bunch and pretend that your fake accent is impressing anyone.

Besides, this isn't really that difficult.
Scottish:


Irish
If you train your ears, you'll start to notice slight phonetical differences in the accents, particularly when repeating the F-word a hundred times in a row.
Try to keep this in mind tonight when you're adopting a culture outside your own.
And for heaven's sake -- be careful out there. Just because it's a celebration doesn't mean you should act irresponsibly or make choices that you might end up regretting later.
Because we all know what that leads to..

[Listening To:  Murphy's Law"Fun" ]


Friday, March 13

The Friday Hot Sheet


Live from New York – it’s Friday Night!

Not much time to toss this one together – but I thought I’d try to get this in before my boy Satorical and I head out into the NYC night and see how much trouble we can find. Not that there’s probably interesting going on in a city this lame on a Friday night anyways, right?

Every Friday during the recent dry spell for this blog that passed by when I wasn't able to do one of these updates, I ended up getting sorta down on myself. Between the Rhiannas, Octomoms, and John Stewart/Jim Cramer bitchfights going on, I'm sure there were tons of commentaries and observations to be made -- but as we all well know, sometimes life gets in the way.

Either that, or I've just become so enamored with the immediacy of twitter that doing more long form updates started to seem oddly passe.

Whatever the case, as this blog races towards its 1000th post, it seems fitting that this update comes from the road, scrolled down on the run Dean Moriarity/Cody Pomeray-style, rattled off the top of my mind as I race from one adventure to the next, chasing personal dragons on the back of some stream of consciousness locomotive across the heartland while Dexter Gordon rattled off arpeggios at the speed of tears in the background.

However, being that I'm in a hurry -- I'll just try to make do with a stolen wi-fi connection while DVD footage of a Neil Peart drum solo thunders along in the background.

So before the trees are all kept equal with hatchet, axe, and saw -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
New
York
City
Maybe it's because I'm just a hick from north Florida -- but I love this place. I've been here a handful of times in my years, and there's an energy to this town that's hard to resist. Of course that's easy to say when you don't have to find work or pay rent here -- but every time I'm here I question my decisions to stay in the places I've been. Part of me sometimes wonders about the reasons I've always ended us so close to home despite years and years of wanting to get away -- but in the end it's not about where you are, but instead what you do with the time. Which is why I intend to make this weekend in the big apple worthy of a song that will be sung for generations to come.

Willie DynamiteWhen the very first thing you realize about the 70's Blacksploitation film you're watching is that the titular pimp character is being played by the same actor who played Gordon on Sesame Street, things can only get better from there. Loaded with the kinds of stereotypical ideas that have become the comedy tropes of the modern day, Willie Dynamite is a million times funnier than a morality tale set against the backdrop of New York's seedy underbelly circa 1968 should ever be -- and yet in this day of Tyler Perry's alter-ego Madea ruling the box offices with it's own ideas of how to mix laughs and lessons -- perhaps there's no better time to look back at how a real story of sin and salvation should be told. I stayed up stupid late watching this mess, but the laughs along the way were totally worth it.

Jay CutlerFormer Atlanta Falcons coach Jerry Glanville used to have a saying -- "This is the NFL, which stands for Not For Long when you screw up royal." Sure you had a pro-bowl season and helped spark the Broncos to one of their best seasons in recent memory. But when the coaching staff changes, you have to expect that the mindset of the team will follow. So yeah, the new coach convincing the front office to make a play for hot free agent Matt Cassell essentially behind your back after all you'd done for them in the past year was kind of a bitch move, but that's what happens to quarterbacks who are picked in the first round who don't make the playoffs after two seasons. Stop whining in the press, and prove it on the field.

CauliflowerSo I'm eating healthier lately, trying to get back in shape and shave off a few pounds. And while people who've known me for a long time might not believe it, a big part of this push has been the addition of salads into my daily meal schedule. As a sworn vegetable hater for many years, this transition has not been easy in any way -- but somehow it's started to happen, and results are starting to show. But despite all this success and paradigm shifts in my appetites, I can say with total conviction and confidence that Cauliflower tastes like ass, and if it was scientifically proven to help you win the lottery and make your penis longer I still wouldn't want to eat it. It's like god decided to grow vomit in plant form.

Getting ripped in a New York Minute Is what I'm gonna go do now -- see you next week.

[Listening to: Rush - "Between the Wheels" ]


Thursday, March 12

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

Me: So if I masturbate while I'm on the plane, does that get me into the mile-high club?
She: It only counts if I'm there with you.
Me: ..So it'd be more like the mile-high cub scouts, then?
[Listening to:  Ministry"Stigmata" ]


Wednesday, March 11

Flanders

Last night my son's little league team had it's second game of the season. We walked away winners, despite the fact that the other team rallied late in the game. I say "we," because somewhere along the way I got dragged into this thing and now I'm an assistant coach.

Here's a hint for all you single ladies out there: When a guy in Oakley sunglasses holding an aluminum bat asks you to grab a glove and go help warm up the kids while we wait for the field to clear up, tell him if he don't put a ring on it to go screw.
Otherwise you might end up standing in a dugout having this conversation:
(Not my) Kid: Is that a lip ring?
Me: Yep.
Kid: Does it hurt?
Me: Nope.
Kid: Did it hurt when you got it put in?
Me: A little bit.
Kid: I have a fake tattoo (shows me his arm).
Me: Cool.
Kid: Do you have any tattoos?
Me: A few.
Kid: You have a fat belly.
You know what kid? Screw you. Santa Claus doesn't exist. Honestly, where the hell did that come from? And of course the brat's dad (another assistant coach) is standing right there -- not saying a goddamn thing while his son continues to rattle off observations about my physical appearance while I have to sort of just stand there and eat it in the name of team spirit.

It's this whole weird thing going on with this team -- the majority of whom apparently have all been together since T-ball, and are all pretty buddy-buddy (most of the kids on the team go to school together). I chose this particular league because they play close to my father house -- meaning my son's grandfather would be able to see the games fairly easily (it's also a good midpoint between the opposing sides of town that my ex and I live at) -- but because it's not a neighborhood league, my son and I are kinda outsiders.
When you're a kid who likes the same cartoons and candy as everyone else that's apparently not a problem.
But when you're the dude with the tatts and the piercings who's not yet accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, it's another thing entirely.
And it's starting to get old.
For the record, I like the people involved with this team. Aside from the zealotry, they're all pretty nice guys. They've accepted me and my son with open arms, and have taken the extra time to ensure that his lack of experience (this is Curren's first time playing a team sport) isn't a hindrance. It's just that whenever practice is over and we're all heading to the parking lot -- at least one of these dudes has felt the burning need to come up to me and let me know just how "cool" their church is, and maybe I'd like to come by Sunday to see how I like it?
It's like I have the word "Heathen" written on my forehead or something.
Look, I got no problem with the G-man. God created Megan Fox, and anyone who thinks like that can't be all bad. But lay off with the evangelizing already. Seriously, isn't there something in the constitution about the separation of church and baseball?

Of course the worst part of the whole thing is that the kid who called me fat wasn't doing it out of any sort of spite, he was just stating a fact in that adorable way that 8-year olds tend to do. They see something, they say something about it. It took a little while, but I'm kind of used to my son having no filter when he observes the world around him. It reminds me sometimes to look at things for what they are, and not to wonder so much what everything freaking means all the time.
All that being said, I'm seriously considering introducing that
kid to as much devil music as I can before the season is over.

[Listening To:  Return to Forever"Sorceress" ]


Tuesday, March 10

Poisson Heureux #4

Here's what's been making this fish happy lately:
  1. Ice Station Zebra -- Despite the fact that I recently upgraded my cable TV package to help me gain access to a host of new shows that people I know have been buzzing about -- more often than not I find that all I've been using my extra viewing power for is watching old war movies that I've already seen a billion times. One of my all-time favorites is the cold war thriller Ice Station Zebra, based off the novel by Alistair MacLean. Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine, Jim effing Brown -- not to mention more Submarine movie cliches than you could possibly shake a stick at, how could anything ever be better?

    I'll tell you how -- I'm watching this on the Retro movie channel the other night, and in the middle of the flick the action stops and they put a still picture of the main submarine from the movie on the screen with the words "Intermission" displayed on top. When's the last time you were at a movie that had one of those? I remember a few movies when I was a kid that had breaks in the middle -- but that's one lost art that I wouldn't mind seeing back.


  2. Losing almost 10 pounds, and being in the right frame of mind to hopefully take that ball and run with it.


  3. Online Drum Machines.


  4. The fact that I'm gonna be partying in NYC with my boy Satorical all weekend.


  5. The David Lee Roth Runnin' With the Devil Soundboard -- This makes me laugh way more than it should. In fact, once I figure out a way to connect that drum machine up with this thing, I may never leave the house again.


  6. Realizing that even though most of the Jimi Hendrix CD's you can get these days all seem to have the same 5 song titles on them, they usually all slightly different versions. And for a guitar nerd like me, the more versions of Voodoo Chile I can get my hands on, the better.


  7. No no baby, Leave the frogs on.


  8. Thoughts of what kinds of debauchery could take place inside the world's coolest sleeping bag with the one person I know who still loves going camping.


  9. Saturday Night Wrist by the Deftones, a seriously underrated album by one of my favorite bands that I'm secretly glad I don't have to share with every other teenager out there anymore. It's almost like back in the day before they broke out big, where you were able to enjoy them without being lumped in with a bunch of emo losers.


  10. This song (all apologies for the hipster singing it, but this cracks my shit up).



[Listening To:  Deftones"Beware" ]


Monday, March 9

That's My Jam: Smitten

I wish I could stand here and tell you that I discovered Brazilian and Afro-Cuban jazz because of it's unique melodic stylings and rich cultural history, I really do. But I can't -- because even though I do love those things about the music itself, the reason I was originally drawn to it was because it's a treasure trove for hotties.

From Astrud Gilberto to Rosalia De Souza, the incredible piano styles of Tania Maria, all the way to old footage of Lena Horne -- the album covers alone were worth the price of admission, but then inside were these awesome samba tracks sung by women with sexy accents..
Hell, I even swooned when Rita Moreno went on the Muppet Show.
Thankfully once I got in the door chasing the eye candy I realized there was a wealth of musical expression and style to be found, but I'd be lying ass lying if I tried to stand here and tell you that the only reason I came to this particular party is because I heard it's where Dizzy Gillespie likes to hang out.

Which is why I couldn't help but stand up and take notice the other night when I got my first glimpse of Esperanza Spalding on Kimmel.

She got to you
The looks, the double bass, that little squeak thing in the voice?
Hell to the yes.
But Esperanza, before we go any further with this relationship -- we need to talk. Because to be honest, this isn't my first time at the rodeo. So it's important that we have this discussion. Important that you know what I'm looking for in a sexy musical crush object. Because whether you realize it or not -- I've been burned before.

So please, Esperanza. For the sake of this relationship -- stay true to your roots. Don't be like India Aire and start showing up on Blues Clues five days a week. Don't go all Jill Scott on me and start crying on Oprah any chance you get. Because I loved me some India, and I actually once (true story) ran past a naked stripper so I could get to the DJ and find out Jill Scott's name, but once things go sour I'm pretty much right out the door.

Think about the good times. Think about Sade. Think about Me'Shell Ndegeocello. Think about Sade some more (like I'm doing all of the sudden). There's a future for us. I am not only a dedicated lover but an easily fooled and almost blindly devoted consumer. I have Tania Maria CD's I can't even pronounce the names of. I bought a MeShell Ndegeocello CD that's filled with almost nothing but clips of Alice Walker reading poetry about how evil the Nike corporation is.
I'm that guy.
But do you know what I'm not doing? I'm not tuning into HBO to watch Jill Scott solve a series of Scooby Doo mysteries just because her debut album was glued to the inside of my CD player for months after I first bought it.

So keep playing Jazz festivals. Tour France. If Sesame Street calls and wants you to hang out with Elmo and explain the letter B -- tell them no. If John Cougar Mellenhead wants to collaborate on a song, turn him down (Me'Shell and I were eventually able to get past that particular rough patch -- but it's only because she'd already done that album with Marcus Miller a year earlier).
Do all those things, and I'll love you forever.

I Know You Know
I know I can't be alone in this -- have you ever found yourself so smitten (musically or otherwise) with a new artist that you immediately go out and snatch up as much of their stuff as you can get your hands on, and if so --
Who was it?

[Listening To:  Al Dimeola"Elegant Gypsy Suite" ]


Saturday, March 7

Crossroads

One of my guilty pleasures is guitar shopping. Not so much because I'm in the market to buy one (even though I would love to pick up something new) but because there's a certain atmosphere to the experience that I truly enjoy. Guitar stores are in a lot of ways like car lots, where everything's out on display and theoretically available for test driving -- which is a good thing because you never really want to buy a car without at least seeing how it drives first, but at the same time if there's a Ferrari dealership in town that's just letting any schmuck with a valid drivers license put in a few miles, why the hell wouldn't you go down there and act like you're thinking about buying one?
And for the record, Yes I have done that.
The unique part of the guitar store experience that makes it so addictive is not only the fact that you are in most cases allowed to play the instruments in the place, but that everyone else in the place also gets to hear you test driving -- which creates an entirely different set of rules.

In other words, the majority of people messing around on instruments at a guitar store have no intention whatsoever of buying anything. They're there to show off for the other people in the store. It's more prevalent on weekends, but almost any day of the week if you head into a Guitar Center or Georges Music you're guaranteed to hear a couple of guys noodling around.

When I was younger, Gristina and I used to make regular trips to this big guitar store in St. Nicholas to listen to the shredders play and gawk at the instruments we couldn’t afford to buy. Occasionally we'd pick up guitars ourselves and make noise -- but much like the pecking orders at local surf breaks, there are sort of a set of unwritten rules in place that tend to dictate who's able to paddle for the best waves first.

So if you were in there and some guy was just killing it -- you tended to lay back and listen, or even just go over and blatantly watch them play in an effort to steal riffs or at least get some new ideas that you could try to work into your own playing.

If the place is relatively empty or you were in there with other grommets like yourself it was totally acceptable to get in there and make awful noises of your own -- because the risk of your crappy version of the opening three chords of Stairway to Heaven polluting the sound of the guy who actually knows what he's doing playing real music a few seats down the aisle is inherently minimized.
Generally speaking, if you go into a guitar store on a busy day --
the guy you can hear playing the loudest is usually the best one there.
It's weird, because it's not like anyone ever told me that if I heard a guy who had great chops playing at the same time I should either turn down the amp I was playing through or wait until he stopped test driving to do my thing, but it was just something everybody inherently knew.

Anyone can learn to play guitar, but there are levels of skill involved -- plateaus that developing players reach and must rise above in order to progress as musicians. When you're at home practicing and you reach a point where you're able to play a particularly difficult song or reach a level of comfort with a particular technique it gives you a certain sense of victory, but like all performance arts you've got to prove it on the stage.
And for a lot of players, the guitar store is where that happens.
It's interesting now that I think about the similarities to this practice to the way lineups work in surfing, because much the same as kids learning to surf needing waves to practice on before they can compete for breaks -- one of the best things that happened to me as a young player was realizing that although I had confidence in my ability even at a young age, I wasn't yet ready to hang with the big boys at the St. Nicholas store (it's been closed for years -- I wish I could remember the name of it, Eagle Music or American Music Store, something like that), so as a result Gristina and I ended up spending a lot of our free time at a little hole in the wall place called Pro Music (there was also a place by Drew's house called Wagner Music -- but the guy who ran it [who was super cool] did more business building custom instruments than selling name brands, so there weren't always guitars available to try out in his shop).

Pro Music back in the day was in a strip mall next to a Bagel Shop. They did most of their business (like a lot of smaller stores do) renting out band instruments to high schools. But they stocked a wall of used equipment and never minded if anyone came in and played. There were times when Gristina and I would skip school and just hang out there for hours. The owner was laid back, the vibe in the place was casual -- it was a fun place to go.

They had a guy working there named Dustin who played guitar in one of the more popular cover bands in town at the time (I actually ended up doing roadie work for them a few years later). Dusty loved to jam, so whenever I'd go in there and play some riff he'd take a guitar off the wall and we'd sort of trade riffs. Then Drew would grab a bass and it would be on.

Even though I never thought of it as anything more than a good time, jamming with Dusty was an invaluable experience for me as a young player, especially because he was so much more advanced at the time. I had to push my technique to keep up with him, and although I would never tell him so -- I frequently made sure I had one or two licks practiced before I went in there to "try out a guitar."

Buy the time I started going to jam sessions with guys at my school, those days spent at Pro Music hacking through Ozzy tunes with Dusty proved to be just as helpful as the hours I spent running scales at home.

In that sense, guitar stores are sort of the watering holes in the wilderness for guys like me. It's where we get to show off, where we get to talk guitar nerd stuff, debate the qualities of one instrument over another -- try out new riffs, play equipment we could never actually afford -- but it also provides a healthy opportunity for reality checks.
Because there's always someone better than you.
It's just sort of a fact in music. There's always someone more skilled, more soulful, more expressive, more experimental. It's part of what makes the guitar such an amazing instrument to play, because there's always something new to learn. A new style to try out, a new technique to master.

But honestly, there's few things more important for a young player who thinks he's hot shit than to be in the presence of someone who really knows what they're doing to help put them back in their place a little bit and send them home to work on the rough edges of their style and technique.

It's the kind of thing that’s supposed to happen at jam sessions in the corners of smoky bars late at night -- but when you're too young to get into those sorts of things, the guitar store becomes the next best choice.

It seems like these days YouTube is filling that space -- where suddenly you're able to sort of walk through an international guitar store with literally thousands of players in any style you can think of on display, but even so there's really no substitute for walking into a room full of players and seeing how your playing stacks up.
I'll admit it -- sometimes I go into those places to see how I stack up.
It's weird how it works though. If I feel I can hang with the other guys playing at the time, I'll sit down and throw in my hat. If there's a guy who's clearly head and shoulders above everyone -- I'll usually hang back and listen. There's always some kid in there making a mess of things doing the same three or four licks over and over -- but somehow when you're in there you're able to tune them out.

I remember one time about a year back -- I went in to the Guitar center just to kill some time, see if they had anything new to look at, and there was this bass player in the back just laying it down. Really intricate Jaco Pastorius sounding stuff, far above my level. There were two or three other bass players sitting there watching him -- and he was playing loud enough that the whole store could hear. Clearly the belle of the ball, you know?

Anyways, wanting to get a better chance to hear him, but not feeling as if I could just sit there in that little corner with all the other guys, I picked up a guitar and plugged it into an amp near where they all were, and started noodling around. I wish I could say it was just a lucky coincidence, but I knew exactly what I was doing when I started kinda playing the melody to Birdland.
Next thing I knew he was sitting next to me complimenting my playing.
I think a big part of it was the fact that there were a bunch of kids in there playing bad Metallica and Zepplin riffs, which made my playing stand apart a bit, but I'm not ashamed to say that when you get right down to it that dude had no real reason to say anything about my playing at all, so the fact that he actually did meant something.

We ended up jamming a little bit, but then he started telling me that before he moved to Jacksonville he was Eddie Van Halen's best friend and that he used to do blow with the guys in Jackyl, things that technically could have been true but were more likely total BS -- and I kinda backed off of him. Dude could play, but despite the fact that all musicians tend to brag and exaggerate -- you could just sorta tell that he was piling on for no good reason, which is usually my cue to leave.
Plus, on the off chance he was actually telling the truth hanging out with the guy would violate
my personal rule about associating with anybody who snorts cocaine with Jesse James Dupree.
This past weekend after my son's little league game I had some free time, so I went into the place again. There's a guitar in there I desperately want to buy but can't afford -- so I'm currently in the midst of a strategy that includes staring at it a lot in the hopes that it follows me home. It hasn't worked yet, but I'm not ready to give up on it yet.

Anyways, I get in there and the place is loaded. They're having some sort of huge clearance sale -- so there's actually people in there looking to buy things on top of the normal bunch of weekend wankers. There's a guy playing the drums in the back, keyboard noises coming from the adjoining room, and a mess of guitar noise all happening at once.

Walking around, the pecking order became pretty clear. There was a older man in the row with all the Telecasters doing country/blues riffs, there was a kid with baggy pants with chains attached to the pockets and black painted fingernails doing his best to kinda play some Slipknot with a 7-string, and then in the middle there were the loud guys.

One of them was a younger kid -- who made the rookie mistake of making his show off intentions obvious. He was playing guitar hero songs -- Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," Alice In Chain's "Man in the Box," that sort of thing. Passing by him I noticed he even had a tablature songbook open in front of him. He was flubbing the riffs badly, but charging ahead at high volume anyways.

The guy next to him was a little older. High school age. He had an expensive guitar taken from one of the high racks, and he was choosing his spots more wisely -- playing note-for-note renditions of deep cuts off the early Van Halen records. His fingers were quick, and he had a nice tone -- but you could tell he was at that middle stage where he was skilled enough to learn the songs note for note for note, but not savvy enough to improvise outside the lines.

I'm not knocking the kid. He was really good in his own way -- but the idea is that once you learn how to play songs perfectly is to take that knowledge and use it to expand your own style.
He was at a certain plateau -- working to get to that next level, but not there yet.
I felt pretty good about the lineup, so I grabbed the guitar I've been lusting after and plugged it in. Where the kid a row over showed himself to be the note-for-note "hey I know that song" guy -- I'm more on the other end of the spectrum, where I tend to do one or two chords from something familiar and then just sort of noodle around in my own way.
Equally annoying, but in a different way.
Two minutes later, Van Halen kid was sitting next to me.
I sort of had two choices. I could get into a head cutting contest with him (which was clearly what he was looking for) or I could just do my own thing. I love me some old Van Halen, but I don't practice those songs 10 times a day anymore. It didn't seem worth it to me, so instead of squaring off -- I just sorta jammed on with what I was doing and engaged the guy in conversation. If he went metal I went jazz, if he went jazz I went blues.
I wasn't gonna let him show me up, but I had no
interest in getting into a two-handed tapping fight.
So we ended up somewhere in the middle, talking about guitar players we liked -- accenting those conversations with riffs we knew by the guys we were talking about. Instead of competing, we started looking for common ground.
It was a cool experience, but to be honest -- it made me feel sorta old.
The guy was maybe 17. Full of fire to prove himself, and the skills to back it up. He was all about buying this gear and that, trying to find a band to get with. You could see in his eyes that he was at that all or nothing point -- where little things like going to college or whatever didn't matter as much as trying to be the next big name in shredding.
I was that kid once.
I still want those same things, but I can't approach them the same way he can anymore. I have other priorities that have to come first. Like that guitar I really want to buy -- which is relatively cheap for the brand name it carries and the shape it's in, but is just expensive enough that it would conflict with bills I have to pay and debts I have to honor.
Part of me hates having to say things like that, but it is what it is.
You grow up, and you have to balance the things you want with the things you have to do. Sometimes it's a harder pill to swallow than others. Maybe it's because I was still riding high on the experience of seeing my son playing in his first little league game after a month of practice and doing well -- but what normally would have been a sobering experience looking into that sort of mirror on your past actually came off sorta cool.

I've been playing a lot of guitar lately. I don't know why I occasionally lose track and get away from it for weeks at a time, but like my writing I go through phases where it just isn't there. The inspiration and drive never go away, but the desire to keep pushing that rock up the hill when it seems like there's never going to be a summit sometimes falters.
I wish it didn't, but sometimes it just does.
You make choices, and then you incur consequences. Some of them are good, some ..not so much. I've always had dreams and goals in mind tied to my music and my writing, but despite all that it seems sometimes like the decisions I've made or passed on in my years have ended up leading me away from those things more often than they've helped them.

It's frustrating to trace the lines and realize I'm not so much a victim of bad luck or unfortunate circumstance as much as I've sometimes laid back and listened when I should have been plugging in and drawing my own crowd.
More and more lately I feel like I need to find a way to change that chord progression.

[Listening To:  David Lee Roth"Ladies Night in Buffalo?" ]


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