Tuesday, January 17

Extremely Quiet and Incredibly Far Away

Last night, late -- I realized something was wrong. Nothing was on fire, there were no loud noises or alarm bells. There was just this sense that the picture I was looking at, the movie I was living in was missing an element. I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but there was just this nagging feeling..

The thing about relationships, the thing that makes them so powerful for people are the ways that they resonate when the other person isn't there. How much you miss them, or really to be more specific -- how much they seem to be a silent presence anyways. You can spend endless hours with someone and have it be powerful, but when you find yourself contentedly alone just knowing that the thought of them is close, like an invisible warmth in your mind, wrapped around you like a comfortable shirt or blanket..
Nothing hurts more than when that blanket is ripped away and you're left bare to the cold.
Long distance relationships. People with separate lives and only the most occasional of contact. I cannot always touch you, but we have the phone, the Internet, and the feeling between us that our hearts are there. It's not ideal, but sometimes it's all we have.

At the same time -- when you build something from radiated heat, when the warmth comes from light years away and it takes time to get there, it can be just as hard to let go. Just as difficult to recognize or accept that what started as a scalding hot bath has gradually become simply comfortably warm.
People ask me why I hang onto things, why I connect with people I cannot touch, talk to, or even know beyond words on a screen, a handful of fading letters, or the images in my mind..
It's like caring for a cat. The animal doesn't really need you. The instincts are hard-wired, the skills always available at a moment's notice, regardless of whether it's been outside or not. Cats don't often give affection as much as they allow you to give it to them. And even then, it's just as likely that the food bowl is empty or you're just the warmest thing to sleep next to on a chilly January evening.

But like any other pet, you connect with them on some level. You feel an affection from them, even if it's not as direct or clearly enunciated as it might be with others. Cats don't wag their tails when you come home. Cats don't always want to feel your hand petting them, even if you've lived in the same space long enough to know where the best spots are to scratch. Even after all these years, I still get my share of bites, scratches, and utter yawning disinterest from the one who's stayed with me since she was a kitten.
Long distance relationships. Torches held. Candles burning down to nothing. 
I suppose if you've never been a part of something like this it makes as much sense as a dead animal left on a porch step as a gift.

Sometime last night, probably when I was helping my son carry his scooter down the stairs from my apartment to the street below, one of my cats slipped out the open door. She does this sometimes, as she likes to rub against the corners to mark them with her scent. 

Most evenings when it's just me in the place, the cats sleep in little hiding places. Then when I finally retire for the evening they eventually make their way over and curl up against me. Territorial rules apply. Aja sleeps in the crook of my arm, Seka curls up against my side.
It was only when she didn't appear that I started to connect the dots.
And then suddenly everything around me felt very, very cold.

I walked around the parking lots and nearby woods for what seemed like ages. Shining a flashlight into the darkness looking for a tiny twin reflection back. Knowing in the pit of my stomach that she had probably been gone for hours at this point. That even if she was somewhere nearby that  the odds of me finding her again were so utterly stacked against me. That in all reality when she stepped out of that door this time she had no intention of stepping back into the apartment once she had marked all the corners.

People will tell me it's just a cat. A pet. That when you really think about it -- she was never really mine to begin with -- that she was a free spirit, that her time with me was of her own choosing just as much as her decision to leave, to stop calling every day, or to open her heart to the warmth of someone else.
But I miss her. I miss her warmth.
And I wish.. I just wish she would come back.

[Now Playing:  Textures - "Reaching Home" ]

Friday, January 6

The Friday Hot Sheet

Coming up to the end of a short week at work after a short holiday break -- right on the cusp of a new year.    But the older I get and the more of these new years I find myself walking into, the more I start to feel like there's only so much difference between a new year and say ..last Wednesday.

Maybe that sounds pessimistic, but seeing each new year as some new chapter or book entirely doesn't seem to fit anymore. It's just a long perspective of waves and valleys -- circumstances, attempted solutions, and consequences -- lather, rinse, and repeat.

That being said, I am glad to be writing again, and there are some things that I'm looking forward to in this next circuit of waves and valleys that I sort of lost track of during the last 12. First and foremost the fact that I'm writing (blogging) again, which I'm really happy about. But what would a return to blogging be without the hot sheet?

So before things get crazy again and I do one of those "sorry I haven't been posting" posts -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
The State of the Union So, how are things with me? Eh, they're getting there. Money is an issue, which is more my fault than anyone's -- but finding a solution to it has proven really, really frustrating (hello acid reflux, didn't think you were coming back). But I've met some really awesome people in the past few months, and despite dark clouds here and there -- there are some very cool things I'm hoping to get to in the next few months. I'm registered to be in the River Run again for the first time in several years, and as my writing gets more active, I'm hoping to spread it around a little more and possibly try to make a few shekels with it too. Nothing written in stone yet, but lets see what develops. 

Mohr StoriesLike a lot of you out there these days, I spend a good part of my weekly headphone time with podcasts as well as music. One that I've started to really dig into and enjoy the most this week has been Jay Mohr's Mohr Stories. I've always been wishy-washy about Mohr, because I've always liked his comedy -- but then he does a guest host slot on Jim Rome's show and I start to think he's sort of an douche. But his podcast lives somewhere between those two poles, as he interviews comedians and friends about the industry -- and frequently veers off on tangents filled with movie quotes and impressions.

His wife, actress and super crush object Nikki Cox [pictured] is usually around too, and although I hate him for marrying her away from me (even if she didn't know it) there's something in the way they banter off each other that I really like. It's like having dinner with a couple that really loves each other and coming away from it not wanting to utterly puke your guts out because all they could do was make goo-goo eyes at each other. The other thing about Mohr that I enjoy (especially in podcast form) is how he genuinely enjoys laughing at even the smallest, silliest things -- which a lot of comedians don't always do. If you like comedy-based podcasts, but maybe need a different flavor than Marc Maron's self-depreciation, I'd highly suggest giving this one a try (hint: start with the Patrice O'Neal episode -- great stuff).
The Iowa Caucuses, etc.There's a point of saturation with political crap, especially in this world of 24-hour news cycles and re-tweeted opinions. Frankly I was sort of sick of all the republican hopefuls and their seeming lack of focused ideology by the zillionth debate in a row, but as we get closer and closer to the real thing, it's hard to look away. It's no secret people are fed up with the way the economy is and that most of them place their blame with Obama, but do they really think any of these candidates are going to be the ones to knock him off? The issues seem muddled, like no one really knows what to say or how hard to commit to anything too far lest it become a rope to hang themselves with (*koff* *koff* Herman Cain *koff*). Honestly, standing on the other side of the fence as I mostly am -- none of these people seem like the real bad guy in this movie plot. Like they're the henchmen, and Cobra Commander is going to show up in the 3rd act and say "Vote for me!"

The good part  about that I suppose is that my guy (at least for now) seems like he has a clear shot at re-election. But like Don Cheadle said in tweeted response to criticism he got for wishing Obama was more "gangsta" as a president -- I think a lot of people felt let down by Obama's seeming lack of definitive policy moves. And to be honest -- my worry is that if he gets in a cakewalk election against a Ron Paul or a Rick Perry, where is Barack going to feel the motivation to do anything different? Politicians (and Obama certainly is one) rarely change their course without sufficient cause, and I think a lot of us are hoping that Obama has to fight like hell for re-election, and in doing so will get the fire back in his belly that we were hoping he'd have from the start.

Sevendust  One of my absolute favorite bands, the Atlanta rockers played a packed house concert the night before New Years Eve in Jacksonville (for almost the last decade they've hosted a NYE concert in Orlando at the House of Blues), and it was incredible. Some bands just understand how to bring it live, even when the bigger show is right around the corner or there's other things going on in their lives (one of their crew members had committed suicide a few days before the show -- they dedicated a song to him, but never let up their intensity despite that tragic news). I hadn't been in a mosh pit in a while, hadn't been in a superloud concert in a while -- and the combination of the two had me giddy in a way that reminded me that good times happen when you get out and go to them. Too much of the past year has been spent in the same places waiting for the excitement to show up there, and surprise surprise -- it rarely if ever happened.

The Girl with the Dragon TattooI saw this during Christmas break, and it's sort of old news now -- but I haven't had much chance to talk about it. Unfortunately, most of my criticism of the film is too spoiler-y to share here without ruining it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but I was surprised at how much the movie didn't make me forget the original Swedish film. The Fincher version has a fantastic look, and if you haven't seen the Swedish version or you know nothing about the series definitely see it, but what I came away with most was a feeling that I'd already seen all of this before (like almost too exactly close to the other version) for me to feel any differently about it. The real difference of course was the actress playing the titular Lisbeth Salander character, and while I thought Rooney Mara did a fantastic job, she played the character as eventually more vulnerable than Noomi Rapace did, which made some of the key moments seem less.. powerful than they did the first time I saw it done. Still a good movie, but not in any way the game changer they tried to make it out to be. 

Shit [insert name of group here] Say         One of the things that made me originally stray away from doing the Hot Sheet (full confession time here) was that it was hard to find cool things during the week that everyone hadn't already seen by Friday. Sometimes it's unavoidable, especially with how fast the web moves -- but I like for the things I write about to at least have a little fresh snap to them (hence the blog post I did about Kim Kardashian earlier this week). With that in mind it seemed like a bad idea to post any of the "Shit Girls Say" "Shit Black Guys Say" "Shit Gay Guys Say" "Shit White Girls Say (to Black Girls)" [which might be the best one yet, btw] -- since they went viral over the past week or two. If you haven't seen them, definitely Google them now -- but then come back here, because I've got the best one yet riiiiight here.
Have a great weekend, everyone!

[Listening to:  The Nuns"Do You Want Me On My Knees?" ]

Thursday, January 5

You Probably Think This Song is About You

I don't want to get into this too deep, because there's too many calories burned on her already and we've heard it all before (no talent, fame whore, blah blah blah..) -- but I came across this picture on tumblr earlier this evening (hence the double post), and couldn't get over just how even though the basic idea of this woman is bothersome to me, just how stunning this image is in a Page 6/Maxim magazine sort of way.
So here's my question:  
Seriously, look at this picture. 
Think of some of Kim Kardashian's other posed and planned photographs. Not papparazi pics of her walking around LA or publicity shoots -- I'm talking about the ones where she knows there's a camera on her. Say whatever else you want about her, how in the hell did she not just end up as a model?
Think about this for a second, how is it that we don't already organically know Kim Kardashian as one of those girls doing that Victoria's Secret TV gig, or hawking light beer and showing up in Adam Sandler movies like other models do?
And the only answer I can come up with is that girl must be insanely lazy. Smarts help as a model, but you don't need them. There are plenty of dumbasses walking runway. But if you're gonna make real money in that life, you've gotta put in the work (my ex-wife was in the industry, not even seriously big time -- and there was a period where we drove all over for shoots).

Kim Kardashian never had to become a blight on our pop culture radar. She could have done this all day, hung out all day with Adriana Lima and Brooklyn Decker and hawked for Loreal and showed up in Sports Illustrated once a year in a swimsuit, and she could have still been rich, still been famous, still bang athletes, and never had to deal with whatever else she (sarcastic voice on 10) "has to deal with."
I don't watch the show, so I don't know any deeper context, and frankly I don't care -- but goddamn, look at this picture. 15 years ago this is a poster in my college apartment and I don't effing care what basketball player she's dating.
Girl is lazy. 
(article reposted @O Hell Nawl 1/6/2012)

[Now Playing:  Company of Thieves - "Death of Communication" ]

Wednesday, January 4

5 Artists I Discovered in 2011

When I'm not doing my Clark Kent thing on this blog, I put on my cape and tights so I can review albums as part of the OHN staff. It's a great gig, supremely cool people to work with and readers who don't mind digging deep into longer-form reviews than you normally find online. Plus it exposes me to a lot of music I might not otherwise take the time to check into.
Early last week I posted my Best of 2011 list.  
I feel pretty good about my picks, even though I had to make some tough calls (Kendrick Lamar, Anthrax, and Common could have been on there, but I wanted to keep it short). But the thing about that list is that the way we set things up, it's limited only to albums that came out in the past year. And although there was good music that came out in the past 12 months, that's not always how I discover music. 

I'm getting to an age where it would be perfectly fine for me to settle on a huddled grouping of favorite artists gathered over the years of me listening and playing music -- but I'm pretty glad to say that I still have a healthy appetite for new sounds and artists.

Not that I live on the leading edge or anything, but I want to see what else is out there -- find out what (if anything) I'm missing out on. In this new era of social media music sites and on-demand streaming, obviously things have gotten a lot easier in that respect, but when I hear friends or journalists or musicians I like and respect raving about something, it's pretty natural for me to want to check it out.

I also still (for whatever reason) find myself interested and yet baffled by Grammy winners and the names that show up on most other "Best Of" lists. I often complain to a friend of mine that I'll check out the album reviews on the Onion AV Club only to realize that I have never heard of any of the bands they're talking about.
"New music is a young man's game," He'll always say.
And yet, every year it seems I do discover and obsess for a little while over a handful of new things, many of which turn out to not be all that new to begin with. There's so much great music out there that it's easy to miss it the first time around. Better late than never, right?

So here, in no particular order are 5 artists I found this year for the first time that I really dug (that you might like too):
1. Emmure: 

We used to call it the "boom button" -- that switch that some songs have when they kick in to just grab you and shove you back in your seat. There's a lot of interesting new metal out there -- bands like MyChildren MyBride, Revocation, and Skeletonwitch -- but time and time again I kept coming back to Emmure. This is a mosh pit I definitely want in on. 
2. Company of Thieves (the video is longer than the song, not sure what's up with that)

Part Portishead, Part Jeff Buckley, All awesome -- I hate that I wasn't the one that found this band before anyone else. Instead I picked up a thread about it from Chez Pazienza's blog, and was instantly hooked. They have two albums out to date, and both are all kinds of worth your time, but what's really exciting about these guys is just how much richer the second disc is from the first. They're not only good -- they're getting better.
3. Animals as Leaders: 

Tosin Abasi is a beast. Last year I discovered Guthrie Govan's guitar playing and thought to myself, "Really, where else can it go from here?" But man, did I overload on this band this year. It's aggressive, complex, prog-spirited and yet heavy as hell. I could seriously listen to this guy play all day long. 
4. Envy on the Coast: 

During the early part of my time on Tumblr I came across a post where a girl tagged a song by these guys as her "Favorite song to strip to." That alone was worth a listen, but what I found was even better. There's an dusting of emo to these guys (and their fans) that I initially cringed at a bit, but there's such a snarl to the music these guys make that it's easy to find your way past it. Kinda mad they broke up before I even found out about them, but that's how it goes sometimes. 
5. Mastodon: 

I have no idea why I've slept on Mastodon so long. I've known about them for years but just never really took the time to check them out. Then during one of those breaks this year where I had all sorts of music around but somehow everything seemed stale I decided to give their latest album a shot. Several back-to-back listens later I was utterly hooked. Rich guitar lines, lockstep drums, and psychedelic vocals rife with hooks -- if the Phonte and Childish Gambino discs hadn't come along when they did I might still be listening to this 24/7.
So what were the artists that you discovered this year? Not necessarily just new voices from this year -- but just the things you found yourself listening to the most that weren't from your core group of favorites? 
And no, this doesn't count.

[Now Playing:  Tinie Tempah - "Pass Out" ]

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