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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Third attempt at a second try

If I'm remembering everything correctly, I'm on my third attempt at a second draft of When We Were the Kids. How is that possible? I think it's when tinkering leads to more tinkering at a later date.

I'm happy there have been no overhauls where entire plotlines and characters get zapped. Chapters that were lean now have more meat in them. There are still many, many speaking parts and I don't plan to change this. If you read a quote from someone that either sounds like someone you knew in high school (or was you), then I've made a connection.

Spending a few days in the suburb this is kind-of based on was great. Things came into my head driving around looking at Christmas lights and businesses that are still there. I aim not to mock the suburbs; I'd rather look at the good and the bad.

What also helped was playing guitar through my new amp. Since all of these bands in the book are fictional, I've often wondered what their sound might be like. Reminded of a scene in Hype! where Leighton Beezer dissects the difference between punk riffs and grunge riffs, I came up with a few ideas. One band sounds like this while the other, using the same chords, sounds like something else.

Not to lie in bed with pessimism, but things are looking more and more like this will be another self-publishing affair. I don't mind, but there are pluses and negatives to self-publishing. This will be a harder sell than POST mainly because it's fiction. Yet this is what I've wanted to do, odds be damned.

Still no timetable as to when this puppy will be ready to unleash. I'll update this here blog once it is.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dog park

Something I've wanted to do for months was take Victory back to a dog park. While there is a fancy, large, indoor/outdoor place about fifteen minutes away via a car ride, I prefer the smaller outdoor one about eight blocks away from home. Yesterday was a perfect day to go (and introduce Diana to the place as well), so we went.

For as long as I've owned Victory, I've wanted her to have a place where she can roam around without a leash on. She's still a fast little one at six years old, so I've been hesitant to let her run around with other dogs surrounded by a small fence. I threw all caution away yesterday and let her roam. The thing was, she was incredibly obedient like she went to dog training school or something.

Many other owners brought their dogs out, but there was still plenty of room to run around. All the dogs wanted to do was sniff Victory's butt and move along. She wanted to do the same. Gotta love dog handshakes.

Victory stayed close to me the entire time and she quickly came back if she went a little too far from the proverbial reservation. Again, who was this dog? Maybe since there were no cats around, she played nice.

This park in particular features a track for dogs and their owners to run on. Since I've grown tired of running three miles a day, three-to-four days a week in oncoming traffic, I'll take running around in circles. Less stopping, more exercise.

Day one of productive holidays went well. Now what to do when it's gray and ugly outside. That's today's dilemma.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Rest

I hate the term, "staycation." Yes, you have the week off from work but you don't go anywhere. Hopefully that means you take your mind off of the things you think about during the other 51 weeks of the year.

Myself, I have the whole week off and have no plans to leave town. I went to Houston for Christmas, but now I'm back. Diana has to work, as does Matt. Instead of making definite plans for the week, I'm merely taking things hour by hour.

A goal I have in mind for this week is to do another pass on When We Were the Kids. I've found my time to devote to writing and editing is much looser since I have 40 extra hours freed up this week. Some of that time will be devoted to sleep. Others will be to anything else I want to do, like watch movies and read books. (I know I normally do that during the week, but I don't have to schedule anything this week.)

The key for me is to be productive. I've had a very long year with certain things in my life, but also incredibly rewarding in other aspects of my life. I can't waste a day doing nothing. I have to do something, and it doesn't mean spending most of my day tinkering with a book I've spent four years tinkering with. Remember, writing doesn't sustain life -- it's the other way around.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My first show

Roughly ten years ago, I did my first band interview. The band was Slowride, a pop-punk trio from Dallas. Even though I wasn't impressed by the first time I saw them play (opening for Strung Out at the Galaxy Club), I was glad to have them on my radio show on KTCU.

All these years later, and many interviews later, I interviewed Dan from Slowride again, only this time, talking about his current band, True Widow, and the first show he saw. My piece is here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

You've been in my life so long, I can't remember anything else

Whenever I get the flak about never seeing a popular movie, I usually have at least a few minutes of explanation. I try not to be testy, but not every person has seen every popular movie since the silent era.

In the case of Alien 3, I think it was worth waiting until this year to see. The original version came out in 1992. Only now can the proper director's cut be viewed in the Alien Anthology Blu-ray box set. Meaning, the original vision David Fincher had for the film as well as the all of the scenes properly restored, visually and sound-wise. Any prior version just doesn't cut the mustard.

When I was in college, Alien and Aliens were paramount in terms of the four films. Yet when I would talk to fans of the franchise, I was advised to stay away from the third and fourth installments. So I did, until now.

I recently watched all four in sequence (not in one night, mind you), and while I'm not really compelled to watch Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection again right away, I'm glad I have my own opinion of them now.

Like my fandom of remastered albums, I prefer to see a re-released, director's cut of a film that the director preferred. James Cameron's director's cut of Aliens is incredibly good, and I'm glad I waited all sorts of years later to see it. Alien 3 makes way more sense and feels right with what Fincher originally wanted, until the studio wanted him to excise thirty minutes of it.

We all have our reasons for holding off on movies. It's not like we're required to see every movie released every year. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, you know.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My first show

My First Show returns this week with Taylor Young from the O's, a fine local band who has already toured all over the world. Click here to read all about it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Breaking Bad

Technological failures can lead to great surprises.

As I watched the credits roll for the last episode of The Walking Dead, a promo teased a weekly marathon of Breaking Bad. Every Wednesday, two episodes from the show's three-season run would be aired, in order. This would have been perfect for me, since I've never seen the show and have heard only positive things about it. Praise has come from from a slightly-drunk friend at a summer barbeque to my friends Donna and Noel (who have covered the show for the A.V. Club), so curiosity has been knocking at my door for a while.

I set my DVR last week and plopped myself on the couch on Thursday, all ready to watch. Alas, I look through my DVR menu and there are plenty of episodes of The Walking Dead, The Office, 30 Rock, Community, and Mad Men, but no Breaking Bad. I checked again and again. Still nothing. I distinctly remember confirming the taping. Something must have happened, so I blame technical error.

Luck would have it where the first two seasons are available on Blu-ray from Netflix. I quickly put the first disc of Season 1 at the top of my list and I received it on Monday. As I watched the pilot episode yesterday afternoon, I was very thankful.

I understand those who like Mad Men who don't have an interest in Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead. Tone-wise, there is a lot of distance, especially with the violence. I like all three shows because they are not the exact same. When I was surprised to see with what they could get away with on The Walking Dead, I was happy that Breaking Bad got away with plenty as well.

Watching the pilot, "Breaking Bad," in high definition was perfect, and there was no blurring out the brief nudity or beeping out the f-bombs. In other words, the Blu-ray edition is the best way to view the show. I wanted to see the show in the best possible way, and I'm thankful.

And all that because of an "accident."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter's Bone (to pick)

I don't like to play the "I just don't get this" card every day (or every week on this blog), but a movie has come into many people's orbit and I'm rather lost about its appeal.

Winter's Bone is a film I heard raves about from critics that I trust. While I still trust these critics, I wonder if we saw the same film. The film that I saw was a drama with a noir sort of bent and a very authentic depiction of backwoods life. That's about where my opinion and other people's opinions stop.

Beyond that description, I found the film to be sorely lacking in terms of drawing me in. There's a slight (and I mean slight) mystery element and there's a sorta-climax, and then it's over. I was curious about the main character's "journey" and that's why I kept watching. When the credits hit, I was very frustrated.

I read glowing reviews online afterwards, and I'm afraid I have to admit that this film is raved about because of what it isn't. This isn't a remake. This isn't a big-budget film. There are no stars or shocking twists. No hidden clues that you would notice until repeated viewing. Because of that, it warrants all this praise? I disagree.

I do like movies that go in completely opposite directions of what "tests well" for a mass audience. I don't like them simply for that reason. Usually there are plenty of reasons. I could describe my praise to somebody who didn't "get" a movie like Barton Fink or Blood Simple. I could even tell you why I love The Road, even in its post-apocalyptic setting.

So what I'm not understanding with Winter's Bone is really beyond me.

Monday, December 06, 2010

2010 in music

If I had to choose my absolute favorite record of the year, from start to finish, it would be this one
Spoon, Transference
This record came out early into the year, and by my third listen, I was sure this would be my favorite record of the year. Something clicked in me that didn't when I heard Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight. I got a sense of things with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and all things fell into place with Transference. A number of lyrics from the album also strongly registered with me, like certain lines from "Mystery Zone," "Trouble Comes Running," and "Got Nuffin'." Simply, it's a record that sounds like my year.

Not as great as their last record, but still a great record
The Dillinger Escape Plan, Option Paralysis
One of the best show experiences I had this year was seeing Dillinger at the Granada and walking out to fluffy snow coming onto the ground. Snow is rare here in Dallas, but when it comes, there's always a sense of joy. I felt that as Diana and I saw the mighty mathy five-piece pulverize the venue for a full hour. And as much as I enjoyed that experience (along with their Warped Tour set that summer), I can't say I love Option Paralysis as much as I love their previous record, Ire Works.

From top to bottom, Ire Works is pretty flawless to me, whereas all of their other records have to be listened in segments. Something about the intensity of the band's sound, mixed with moods that the average metal band would steer far away from, has yet to tire me. Proving that the band could really write and record a powerful record after founding drummer Chris Pennie left long ago is a great testament to the band. This is a record worth owning if you like the band, but not necessarily the one I'd suggest starting with if you've never heard them before.

Great pop rock from a band doomed for future backlash by the League of Meh
Best Coast, Crazy for You
This trio has a sound that is instantly likeable: friendly, sunny guitar pop with female vocals. Instead of sounding like another modern day version of the Jesus & Mary Chain, Crazy for You feels like an unreleased demo from the late 60s. Imagine the early Phil Spector sound on a budget and you have a good idea.

My concern about the band is that their sound is fully-formed and pretty unwavering on Crazy for You. Bands who catch the attention of those always on the hunt for something new and provocative flock to that kind of ideology, usually to dismiss the band down the road (as soon as the next album). I think there's promise with this band, but I'm not exactly sure where they could go next. Maybe they could start with having a full-time bassist?

I thank Ryan Slavinsky for this band and record
Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart
When it comes to finding new music, Ryan is always miles ahead of me. When he highly recommends something, I usually take note. We don't always see eye-to-eye, but when it sounds like a record I should hear, I at least ask if he could burn me a copy. Black Mountain was a band he raved about immensely with In the Future, so I was inclined to check out Wilderness Heart.

When we saw them play live with the Black Angels, I knew they were the real deal. The band has a great atmosphere to their sound along with very memorable tunes. Take that early Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath sound and be unafraid to wear it proud without sounding like a cheap imitation.

Way better than their last record
The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
I'm still in the dark about why the band's previous record, Neon Bible, wasn't slaughtered by critics. Maybe if you talk about politics, war, and death you can hide the lack of immediacy in the songs? I don't know. Anyway, here is a record that is immediate and hypnotic. Not a retread per se, but a good step forward. And its lyrics are inspired by growing up in a sister suburb to my hometown, no less!

Does this band ever falter?
The New Pornographers, Together
I must freely admit how much I had lost touch with the New Pornographers. After enjoying Mass Romantic to a fault, as well as a few tracks from Challengers, I never had the desire to seek beyond that. In preparing for my interview with Carl Newman and reviewing the band's upcoming show, I wanted to hear everything they had done so far. Together makes the band four-for-four in terms of tangy indie pop, and gives them more staples in their live set.

I still don't get why hip-hop is cool with the League of Meh, but I think my enjoyment of this record will help me understand
Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid
This is not a hip-hop record. This is not a rock record. This is beyond categorization, stylistically. The songs fly all around the map, but they don't sound uneven when you put them all together.

The best record I "legally" downloaded for free this year
Angels & Airwaves, LOVE
Another instance where my research on a band for an upcoming feature leads me to a fantastic record. Released for free on their website, LOVE is a continuation of Tom DeLonge's space rock act. I still believe DeLonge is inadvertently making a modern version of Flock of Seagulls, but I've always liked that band. Too bad people remember the singer's poofy hairstyle a little more than their ace singles, "I Ran" and "Space Age Love Song."

A great Black Angels record, aka, a record where I don't feel like I'm in a trance while listening to it
The Black Angels, Phosophene Dream
I wasn't expecting to be wowed by the band's set early in the year at Nx35. I expected to hear droning rock with a sense of movement. And I hoped the sound system would give the band better clarity compared to the previous times I had seen them. Turns out, the band sounded clear and complete and they previewed a few songs from Phosophene Dream. Yes, the Austin five-piece can play with a bounce in their step and play it well.

Record that helped me understand another band's back catalog
Coheed & Cambria, Year of the Black Rainbow
The cynic in me thinks the reason why Claudio Sanchez keeps pushing this Amory Wars story in the Coheed and Cambria's albums is that musically, there is very little deviation. Continuing this five-part story will hide listeners from the music, right? I still have no interest in unlocking the secrets and meanings of the story. But I do know a rewarding record when I hear it, and Year of the Black Rainbow is one of them. I reached back into the band's catalog and got out my DVD copy of Neverender and enjoyed the hell out of it.

I would have hated this band back in 2004, but I liked this record (and their three previous ones as a result)
Motion City Soundtrack, My Dinosaur Life
MCS hides nothing: yes, they're nerdy guys who like the Get Up Kids and Weezer. When I was assigned to cover their first stop in Dallas this year (they came back two more times by year's end), I had to tune up my knowledge of their stuff. Not drastically different from what the band has done before, yet still tuneful and admirable. I think I wouldn't even give this band a listen back when I was writing POST. At that time, there were too many modern bands with rock star agendas claiming influences from bands who had no rock star agendas. Things slipped through the cracks. These guys were one of them.

Great bounce-back record
Ted Leo/Pharmacists, The Brutalist Bricks
When I saw Ted tweet about the sparsely-attended Dallas stop this year, I wished I could have been there. Given it was a weeknight and starting late, I couldn't go. Eventually I got to listen to this record and felt a bit of regret not seeing the show. I've always admired Ted for his music, stage presence, and attitude about life. I can't say his last record was his pinnacle, and I'm happy this record is more a fun, new wave kind of record.

Artists I have enjoyed for most of my life, only to realize that I love them more in 2010
Cheap Trick
Rush
Both Rush and Cheap Trick remain vital. Cheap Trick came into my life in elementary school via a song they had a lot of misgivings over. Rush was pitched to me in middle school as a great band but without any real musical description. Eventually I heard more of their stuff in high school (thanks to the Sex, America, Cheap Trick box set and the Chronicles compilation) yet factors in 2010 brought me really back into both bands. With Cheap Trick, it was a recommendation on an episode of Sound Opinions. With Rush, it was the definitive documentary on the band, Beyond the Lighted Stage. Both bands are in regular rotation and will more than likely stay with me for a long time.

Artist I didn't really care for back in college, but now greatly care for
David Garza
I wouldn't say I hated David's "Kinder" back when Best Buy promoted the hell out of This Euphoria. I think if heard "Disco Ball World" instead, I'd have a different opinion. By chance earlier this year, while over at a friend's house, I borrowed a couple of records. David's stuff was highly recommended to me, including the Strange Mess of Flowers box set. Quickly into sampling his stuff, I had to quickly get back up to steam on his stuff. Getting into Spoon definitely helped me understand.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Rock Action

After not listening to them since college, I'm happy to let Mogwai back into my life.

There was never a point where I didn't like the Scottish five-piece -- I've merely spent a lot of time in the interim years listening to bands that were influenced by them. Whether it was Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You, I somehow decided to not rope back around to the elder statesmen. Now that Ryan, Diana, and I have something cooking music-wise that's in the vein of moving post-rock, bring on the Happy Songs for Happy People and so on.

I wouldn't say I burned out on hearing Rock Action or Come On Die Young. Given the choice of listening to Sigur Ros at any of time of day over Mogwai at night (a time perfect to listen to them), I went for the stuff that I didn't have to be in a particular mood for. I still find Mogwai's music to particular sort of mood, yet I find myself in more of a mood for their stuff as of late.

The band is coming to town in May. A new record drops before then and I hope to see them. If I could be blown away by the mostly-instrumental Godspeed You Black Emperor live, I'm quite sure I'll dig these guys as well.