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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. Can't Fix It

As I continue to rent and apparently throw money away every month, I'm frequently reminded of why I'd be a bad homeowner: I'm terrible with fixing things. My answer to almost any problem that has come up in the time I've lived on my own: tell the landlord. Of course, I watch and take mental notes while something is fixed, but my indecisive nature would just cause me further headaches when I try myself.

A recent case in point: we have an issue in the laundry room. Our dryer, which was partially working anyway, seemed to finally bite the dust. When I went to pull a load out after my nap a few weeks ago, I noticed that the clothes were still wet and the dryer would not start. I told one of the landlords and he kindly gave us an old dryer he had. Problem solved, right?

Well, the following week, also on laundry day, the same problem occurred. Flipping a breaker, the dryer seemed to work just fine. That is, until I realized that the dryer would only work for about five to ten minutes before the breaker had to be flipped again. The breaker had to be flipped almost ten times that day just to get through a full three loads of laundry.

So last week, the landlord gets a new breaker for us, and everything looks to be running just fine. Now it's laundry day again and the dryer won't start. I don't know what to exactly do.

Since home repairs are something that I find to be right up the alley of people not like me, I'm pretty much screwed for life. My indecisive nature coupled with perfectionist tendencies just make me always prone to seek help from somebody who knows what he or she is doing.

That's why I keep proverbially throwing money away.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The New Flesh

Once again, I have a dilemma that's not really dilemma, and it's definitely not something that's earth-shattering or a huge deal, but it's something that always annoys people: what happens when you buy a book or a CD and only a few months later, you hear a new, updated version is out (or about to come out)? Do you suck things up and buy the thing again? Or do you stand your ground and say no?

The best example of this happening actually involved a friend of mine and Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted. A few years ago, he lost a bunch of his CDs, and one of the CDs he lost (and he bought again) was Pavement's beloved debut album. The sucky thing was, just a couple of months later, Matador announced a two-disc reissue of the album, with remastered sound quality and a whole gorge of bonus tracks. My friend was left out in the cold, so I seem to recall at least offering to burn him a copy of the reissue from me.

Without fail, it seems like whenever you buy something that's been out for a while, once you actually buy it, you hear about an updated version coming soon. And while that can be frustrating, there's some odd coincidence about it. Your imagination and patience are tested.

I remember when I watched the two main seasons of the BBC's version of The Office. Noticing that most shows eventually came out together in a box set, I figured there would come a day. Thankfully that day came near the holidays, so I patiently waited and asked for the set for Christmas. While that was a predictable box set to come to fruition, things are a little trickier with things that have been out for a long time.

Case in recent point, I have a strong desire to read Cronenberg On Cronenberg, a book of interviews with director David Cronenberg on his films. The deal is, the book was published in 1992. Other books in the Director On Director series, like Lynch on Lynch, have been published then republished years later to include newer interviews with the director. The deal is, Cronenberg On Cronenberg focuses on the director's career up to his adaptation of Naked Lunch.

Now, if you know Cronenberg, he's made a lot more movies since Naked Lunch. So, my quandary is this: do I buy a used copy of the now out-of-print edition or just wait for months, maybe years, for a revised edition?

Another factor with the first option is that I really have more interest in knowing more about his movies from the 70s and 80s, aka, the films that made him a recognized and distinguished director. Not to speak lightly of Crash, Spider, or A History of Violence, but I'm very curious about what influences a person to make something like The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome.

So for now, a fence is sat upon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Keep a book handy

As much as I enjoy watching the Dallas Cowboys play, I've decided to bring along the current book I'm reading to the couch. There are only so many replays of a play I can watch, and only so many times I can roll my eyes at a penalty.

While yesterday's game against the Falcons was great, I still had my copy of From Hell lying beside me.

The Cowboys are definitely a team to cheer on, but I've sat through plenty of games in the last few years that were sheer frustration and disappointment. In hopes I don't say to myself, "How can I get the last three hours of my life back?" I choose to do something productive. Whether it's bringing out the practice pad and doing paradiddles or reading a book while keeping an eye on the game, I don't want to waste any time, especially if the Cowboys blow the game in the fourth quarter.

I usually read whenever the other team has the ball. When the Cowboys have the ball, I watch, but in the time it takes between plays and watching replays from several different angles, I can read a half-page or a full page or two. And whenever the Cowboys score a touchdown, I always stop whatever I'm doing and holler some enjoyment. Then it's back to reading some more.

Since I like to use some of my weekends for catching up on reading, I try to balance this out with my desire to see the Cowboys try to go the distance. And as frustrating as some of their games may be, I'm glad I'm not a Chiefs or Raiders fan.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Axe to Fall

For years, I wondered why it seemed like people abandoned a band because they put out a new record that didn't blow them away. Back when I read a lot of blogs and hung around a certain message board, people that were "in the know" seemed to praise the hell out of a band because of a certain record, but then beat the hell out of that same band when the follow-up wasn't as earth-shattering or groundbreaking. Fandom was a really questionable sort of thing.

I think my view on this is similar, but I try not to oversell a band onto people. I don't know many people who love ABBA, the Dillinger Escape Plan, and Journey equally, so I'm not about to try to convert those who aren't. I will praise the hell out of stuff that I like, but all bets are off if I am going to praise the next record. I'd prefer to not abandon a band, but sometimes they can get lost in the shuffle of the stuff that is currently rockin' my brain.

So it comes as a surprise to me about how incredible Converge's Axe to Fall is. As great as their last three records are, I wasn't sure I was capable of handling another record of sonic fits and bluesy detours. Well, miraculously, Axe to Fall is another worthy record.

There are some rather noticeable changes right from the start: are those full-on guitar leads I hear in the beginning? Yup. And there's a lot of crazed insanity equally tempered by jazzy blues, especially evident in a song called "Cruel Bloom." Sounding more like late 70s Tom Waits (yes!) in the beginning of the song, I never expected such a brutal and pulverizing band to successfully attempt and pull off such a thing.

So, my love for new Converge records continues, in a year where I found the latest effort by Killswitch Engage a frustrating letdown and the latest effort by Mastodon a record that completely helped me "get" the band. Whether or not this means I'm a Grade-A hipster, that's for other people to say.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Drink for a Reason

I have not seen a stand-up comedian perform in well over ten years. Usually, whenever a comedian I like comes to town, he or she usually plays a venue that's either too small (most of the time) or too big (some of the time). Plus, the cost is never something I really want to investigate because it's probably too much for something that probably won't last for very long.

All this said, when a friend of mine wanted to go see David Cross perform at a venue literally within walking distance from my house, I could not pass up the opportunity.

I've never seen David do stand-up before. I don't own any of his CDs, and I've never seen his material on YouTube. Matter of fact, I really only know him from Arrested Development and various interviews on late-night talk shows, along with Superchunk's "Watery Hands" video and Yo La Tengo's "Sugarcube" video. So, I'm not one to roll off obscure lines from Mr. Show or know exactly what he does in the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies.

Well, with two hours of material ranging from the sounds he makes while taking a dump to barbs at Orthodox Jews and Mormons, you could say he covered a lot. And he never delivered this stuff like he reciting from tightly-written cheatsheet. No, he went with the flow, did his bits, and improvised when certain people yelled out random roles and random lines from his career.

What made the show a real special show was the spontaneity. When a female in the middle of the floor seats asked that he sign one of his DVDs as Bob Odenkirk, David decided to call Bob on his cell phone. When the theater's film projector seemed to not work correctly, David decided to tell another story. And when he wrapped up his story, he got word that the projector was back working, and thus the crowd got to see the first few minutes of a pilot he shot in London called The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Based on the few minutes shown, I think it would be safe to say that there would be outrage if the show didn't go to series. Really, really funny stuff that deserves to be picked up.

As I came out of the show, I realized how satisfying the whole experience was. Even though David used many of the same rehearsed bits from previous dates, I didn't sense that he was just playing to a generic audience and then said, "Thanks. Good night." No, there was a sense of "You had to be there" to totally get what happened. So, I'm glad I jumped at the chance to see him. If I overthought going or not going, I would have completely missed a cruise ship of an experience.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not at a store near you

Even though a release date is far, far off for my next book, I can't help but think about how I'd like to release it. The deal is, I'm thinking about going the self-publishing route again. And that's not just because of control freak nature; I'm especially concerned at the growing consolidation of music books in most chain bookstores.

Maybe I've missed this, but the closest Barnes & Noble to me has stopped carrying all books related to movies and music. Yes, once they had a handful of shelves devoted to them, and now there's nothing. And believe me, I searched every single corner of this one and came up empty-handed.

Also, the multiple Borders around me keep reducing their stock of CDs, DVDs, and books about music and movies. What once had a handful of rows of books now is a row, maybe two at most.

Uh-oh.

Maybe this is just showing the ever-growing dominance of Amazon, or just the slow decline in general book sales. But in thinking about putting out a book in about a year or so, I wonder if it's worth the time and effort to see if a name publisher would like to put out When We Were the Kids. I have no problem self-publishing again, but if the word of mouth on POST was any indication of how slow-as-molasses my work can get out there, I don't really know what to expect.

But that's not any reason to consider not working on a book. As I've said before: if you have the drive to do something and want to complete it, DO IT!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nothing Gold Can Stay

At the end of this month, I will no longer be a subscriber to a magazine or newspaper. I never thought this would happen back when I read the newspaper in high school or when I subscribed to Rolling Stone back in college. But after I let my Rolling Stone subscription run out, now I'm letting my subscription to Alternative Press run out.

I hold no grudges against the magazine, but I think it's time that I stop subscribing. The big reason why is that I'm definitely not in their target audience. As I experienced at the Warped Tour over the summer, I had a good time covering it for the Observer, yet I was definitely not the same person that was super-excited to go to the Warped Tour back in 1997.

There are only so many stories I can read about some band that I don't care for their music, and after reading about their fame-seeking ways, I don't like them any more. Not every band featured in the mag is like that, but there are plenty of bands that epitomize the metaphor that mall punk/emo/hardcore is very much the hair metal of today. There are still great writers on staff, and there are plenty of deserving bands that receive some coverage as well. But there's a trade-off.

Something seemed like the right time to not renew when a recent piece ran about classic, influential albums that were released ten years ago. While there were plenty of great albums mentioned (Braid's Frame & Canvas and the Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I for starters), I couldn't help realize that New Found Glory is now (and has been for a while) considered a trailblazer.

To me, that band definitely blazed a trail for younger bands, but I've always seen that band a highly-derivative, watered-down version of pop-punk. And not a good one at all, no matter how many records they've put out. In other words, when I saw that band all those years ago open for Alkaline Trio and face to face, that band signaled a turning point for me: I was too old to like this band and there was no going back. I wasn't a proverbial "kid" anymore.

Flash forward to ten years later, and here I am reading about many bands that are watered-down versions of watered-down versions of stuff I loved back in the day and still love. Something just didn't fit right. I held onto my subscription while I worked on POST, but POST has been out for over a year now.

I can't blame a magazine that's still in business for catering to the audience that actually buys their advertisers' products. Plus, I always like to point out that AP was a magazine that gave plenty of nice coverage to bands like Braid, the Promise Ring, and Sunny Day Real Estate back when certain other highly-circulated magazines moaned about why music videos suck and why grunge is dead.

So after this month, I will have to find a way to properly store all my back issues of AP, Rolling Stone, Modern Drummer, and Guitar World. At least I won't have to worry about moving into a bigger house to store them all.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Five

Five years ago, after not hearing back from a friend about being a columnist on his website and after thinking of a way of documenting the writing of my first book, I started this blog. There's something to be said about blogging for five years, even if I don't update the blog as much as I used to. I don't see any real reason to stop, so thanks for stopping by and reading.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Hey angel

Really big news came down today: Jawbox is reuniting for a one-off performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I thank Kyle for passing along the info to more people, but now I wonder if an updated version of POST should be considered.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fat Skeleton

My review for the Sunny Day Real Estate show in Dallas is now online.

Sunny Day Real Estate returned to Dallas with such a rush that you couldn't help be deeply moved. Yup, they were that good last night.

There was definitely an air of extreme anticipation as the Granada's doors opened: A large crowd had already gathered and plenty of people were antsy to get in. By the time Sunny Day hit the stage just a little after 9, the crowd was packed in tight and ready to see something special.


Read the rest here.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A dropped-D metal band we called Requiem

I always get happy when I plow right through a good book. Whether it's a long book like a Harry Potter book or a short one like Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking, there's a sense in accomplishment when I finish something in just a few days or even a day.

Usually I take at least three weeks to finish a book, but that's when I only read a handful of pages a day.

What always helps is when I have a great desire to read a book and keep reading the book until I finish. I'm happy to say that I started and finished the newly-released, Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, in two days. Why? Because it's that good.

I must admit tremendous bias here because I am very much a fan of books that cover the supposed "lost" years between grunge, pop-punk, and garage rock in the mainstream. Seen only as transitional years only years before, I like hearing stories about bands and labels that survived the post-Nevermind years. Merge's story is quite interesting, given how they once were a label that put out a lot of Superchunk 7-inches and (many years) later put out records that debuted in the Top 10 of Billboard's Top 200 chart.

For the most part, the book's format is an oral history, along with transitional paragraphs. There are plenty of quotes directly from the sources (Mac and Laura from Superchunk/Merge are co-authors), and that lends plenty of credibility to the book. Frankly, it's more of question of who wasn't interviewed. Yup, the book is that thorough.

Most of the label's story is told in conjunction with Superchunk's story, and as a Superchunk fan since college, I had no problem with reading page after page. A number of other notable Merge acts get chapters devoted to them, be it Matt Suggs' various projects, the Magnetic Fields, Spoon, or the Arcade Fire, they illustrate a lot without having to go into detail every single band that the label has worked with. (There is an updated discography at the end though.)

Anyway, if you want to read a refreshing take on what it's like for an indie to stay level-headed even when flushed with cash, read this.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Sunny days ahead

My feature on Sunny Day Real Estate is now online.
Looking at an extended hiatus from The Foo Fighters, bassist Nate Mendel considered a couple of options. He considered playing again with The Fire Theft, a band he was in with vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Enigk and drummer William Goldsmith, or Sunny Day Real Estate, the acclaimed band he played in alongside Enigk, Goldsmith and guitarist Dan Hoerner in the mid-1990s.

Read the rest here.

And my review of the Get Up Kids' show is now online.
For a reunion tour, The Get Up Kids are not taking the easy route by just playing fan favorites. Last night at the Granada, the band definitely played the songs the fans wanted, but they played so much more.

Read the rest here.