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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My first show

For this week's edition, I interviewed Trever Keith from face to face as well as Chris, Jake, and Jordan from Strung Out. This kind of stuff doesn't happen every day, so to say I was stoked to interview these guys is a massive understatement.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dairy

I'm not necessarily one to welcome change. Specifically, the kind of change where I'm forced to adapt to something I don't agree with. But when my health is on the line, I must relent. And that's fine by me.

In the past few months, I've had to adjust my dairy intake. Severely. As in, a glass of milk a day along with a lot of fiber, mixed with a lot of water and vegetarian options. This diet has been mostly based on suggestions by my colorectal doctor, whom I went to after a hemorrhoid ballooned to the size of my thumb. Fun stuff to experience, I tell you. Especially when you drive four hours for a wedding sitting on it.

Since my initial doctor visit, I've had to drastically cut down on my cheese intake, milk intake, and cut out my ice cream intake almost completely. (I can still have yogurt, thankfully!) As I continue to see this doctor, the diet must remain before I have a clean bill of health.

What's surprising to me about this adjustment is how much milk I've had to reduce from my diet. Parents are always trying to make their children (whether they're toddlers or adults) to drink more milk. I myself never hated milk, but I had to use some tactics (ie, adding ice, sip from a straw) in order for me to get through one glass. Up until my hemorrhoid, I was drinking at least two glasses of milk a day along with cheese pizza twice a week for dinner.

Now I'm down to this intake, having to eat a lot of fiber while I can still eat what I want and exercise how I want to. But a life without milk is not something I could easily imagine.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cupcakes


For every year a cancer survivor lives, it's another opportunity to say, "Fuck cancer." The same applies to anyone fighting it.

Sure, it's the not kind of stuff you'd say to your fellow parishioner in church, but there's nothing PC, pretty, or logical about cancer anyway. Hence why I had no problem making vegan red velvet cupcakes donning those ten letters for Diana's 27th birthday.

I had never made a vegan dessert by myself prior to last Sunday. I had found a recipe here and made sure I had all of the right ingredients. I didn't want to mess this up because I wasn't going to give myself the option to fail. If I screwed up, I'd start again. I wasn't about to buy pre-made cupcakes from the store.

My inspiration came from a post on Jean's excellent blog on her journey through chemo. Fellow mutual friends Keith and Stevie sent her those cupcakes and when I saw that picture of them, I had an idea. Since I wasn't about to ask any of the friendly ladies behind the Tom Thumb bakery counter to write those words on a dessert, I had to do this my way. Getting one of them to write "I Want Sprinkles" on a cake for Diana's birthday last year was hard (and weird) enough. (And yes, that's a reference to a classic post on Cake Wrecks.)

Since Diana's favorite color is red and one of her favorite yogurt flavors is red velvet cake, this was a no-brainer to consider making. Using the advice of putting the icing in a small plastic bag with a small cut in the bottom, I was able to write letters with white icing. At the end of the baking experience, after three hours (while having Cheap Trick's Budokan! and Dream Theater's Live at Budokan play in the background), I had over fifty mini cupcakes.

After almost two days in the fridge, these cupcakes were ready to be served for Diana's birthday. They were well-received and I would make them again in a heartbeat. So, here's to her birthday and many after.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Until that darkness was gone

Sometimes you have revelations about matters that have been in your orbit for a long time. And these revelations make you reassess why something has not been closer to you before. These days, it's the Bouncing Souls for me.

I wonder why I have not loved this band more. I mean, I've seen them play twice (and I enjoyed both times), own a number of their records, and would see them again if I had the chance. Yet something eluded me about them until I watched Do You Remember?, a documentary on the band, last week.

I remember when my friend Sarah interviewed Greg Attonito, talking about Do You Remember? as it was in the pre-production stage. There was about fifteen years of footage available to use and a lot of hope as to when this documentary could come out. The documentary eventually came out and I passed on taking a look. I don't remember why I chose to do that, but that's what I chose.

Recently finding a used copy and watching it a few days later, I had to ask myself why this band isn't one of my favorite pop-punk bands of all time. Maybe not in the case of entire albums by the band, but certain songs have stuck with me long after my initial love of pop-punk started to wane. "Kate is Great" is one of them. The song's lyrics seemed to sum up my life through college and after college, even though it was written from the perspective of a guy passing on college and living in a group house with his bandmates.

I think the key reason why is, while I think the band is incredibly sincere in what they do, the level of humor has been a little too high for my taste. Blame the number of silly songs on the self-titled record, but aside from songs like "Kate Is Great," "Say Anything," "Kid," and their version of the Kinks' "Better Things," the band has been a fun band instead of a meaningful band.

This perspective changed drastically as I watched the band perform "Gone." For the first time, I paid attention to the lyrics and really took note of the chorus's melody. Even though it could remade into something you'd hear in a church (yes, you heard me correctly), I find the song very fitting these days. Look past how simple it is to play on guitar, the song's a simple tale of overcoming. And I buy into this mindset completely. Maybe that's why I've listened to the song at least twice every day since last week.

Once again, here's to rediscovering a band from your past and realizing there's so much more to digest and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Darin Robinson, guitarist for the fantastic punk/new wave cover band, the Mumbles. He saw the Who when he had the flu. Now that's dedication!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Awake

Continuing my tendency to revert back to bands I once devoured, the current band is one that is still incredibly divisive. As appealing as starting a conversation about Dungeons & Dragons or calculus, talking about Dream Theater can draw a few smirks.

I know the band is very steeped in the exact ideology punk rebelled against, but music is still notes and beats to me. You want to run around all sorts of sociological implications, you could miss out on merely listening to music as music.

Dream Theater introduced me to progressive rock roughly around the same time Rush entered my life. The exact timeline is rough, but "Pull Me Under" definitely had an impact on me as an 8th grader. Not too long after Awake and A Change of Seasons, I found myself listening to more Everclear and Therapy? and eventually, more punk rock and post-hardcore.

I simply didn't have the time or energy to listen to a band who felt rather constrained by the 74 minutes you could squeeze onto one CD. Give me the guts of the song, please.

Given my enjoyment of bands like Converge and the Dillinger Escape Plan over the past few years, it's not too far of a leap to enjoy other bands who play challenging music. In my mind, this includes Dream Theater.

I've heard plenty of how founding drummer Mike Portnoy left the band. Matter of fact, I'm still skeptical about the band moving on after his departure. Could you imagine Metallica without Lars Ulrich? I can't.

Yet I was convinced the band could continue as I watched most of the band's "Spirit Carries On" series on YouTube. Maybe this was the whole point of the band doing this series. Applause to the marketing and PR department at their label and their management.

Anyway, there's more than enough music to digest over time, given their numerous albums since Awake. I know I'm not the biggest fan of songs that feel more like endless chop-fests (read: show-off moments) but the band has always had a melodic side that rises above. This part is what I look forward to hearing more and more of.

Just don't plan on me getting a DT tattoo or driving 23 hours to see one of their shows.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Volume

Playing drums has made up a half of my life so far and there's still no reason to stop playing. Whether or not I'm in a band, I must play, mainly to feed into my need to tap along to songs or air-drum. But it's come to my attention (only recently) about how hard I pound the stuffing out of drums and cymbals.

The Pull Tabs moved into a new rehearsal space recently. While working on new material during our first rehearsal in the space, I couldn't help noticing my snares kept slipping off of my snare drum. As in, my snare sound could turn into a tom-tom at any given moment. I had this problem before at our previous gig, but I wasn't so sure what the problem was. Turns out, the threading on my latch had worn away. So far away that I had to get the latch replaced.

One brief visit to Guitar Center got this taken care of (the clerk was kind enough to switch the new one on, free of charge). As I brought my snare back to the space, I decided to hear how the snare drum sounded. Moreover, I wanted to hear how the whole kit sounded. Sometimes drums can sound really out of whack and you never notice with earplugs in. My rack tom had been sounding a little off lately and I wondered if I had tuned my bass drum too tight.

After only a few minutes of lightly playing hip-hop beats, my ears heard something my parents and bandmates (former and present) know all too well: I play really, really loud. Even though I was playing only half the volume I usually play, I got the message.

I'm not going to back off from playing this loud, but it reminded me of how dynamics are incredibly important. When I think I'm playing lightly, I'm still playing loud. When I think I'm playing my heart out, I'm probably robbing someone (without earplugs in) of his or hers hearing for the next day or so.

So I will let this experience tell me: when it's time to be quiet, let's take it down a few more notches. Thus, when it's time to rock again, it's all-out loud. And it's good to play loud.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Jeremy and Chris from This Will Destroy You, a band I've interviewed before and have enjoyed as a live act. Hearing about their first Dallas show at the Cavern, I had to chuckle about how both guys had two very different recollections on how many people were at the gig.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Buzz

Last week, I donned a look I have not had in years. It's the kind of haircut where I look like I got into a fight with a lawnmower. Buzzing my hair down to mere centimeters, I did it in hopes of having my dermatologist take a look at the back of my head. I wasn't trying to be paranoid: I wanted to make sure the back of my head merely had acne and not dark moles. And I didn't want him to miss any spots.

Finding out my insurance was cancelled the day of the appointment (thankfully, before my appointment), I felt like I was Charlie Brown with a dunce cap on my head. I had plenty of reasons to believe this haircut was a good idea and had all the reasons to believe my health insurance was still valid. I rescheduled my appointment with my new insurance, but now I have to wait another month.

I take the full blame for this hairdo and I don't really regret doing what I did. The interesting thing is, mere days after this, Diana had to cut her hair short, albeit for other reasons.

While it took longer than normal to start losing her hair, chunks started coming out last week. Sitting around the dinner table on Wednesday, more and more strands kept coming off of her head. The loss of hair post-chemo was bound to happen, so nobody was surprised when it started.

Opting for a fresh buzz cut courtesy of her mother's clippers, she went into another session of chemo on Friday. Unafraid to show the world who she is, she was out and walking around with me yesterday at the Farmer's Market. With a headwrap on, she wasn't hiding herself to the world. Her port was in view around the right strap of her dress, but she was OK with showing it.

Sure, there will be people who look. People in denial, people in shock, and people in sympathy, yet cancer is not going to stop her from shopping for fresh vegetables (or anything else, for that matter). I still see Diana, the lady who has meant the world to me for seventeen months and counting. We might have competing hairlines right now -- and I'm perfectly happy. I think of it as Charlie Brown and Ellen Ripley -- imagine that kind of combination for a Halloween costume party.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

99 Problems

As people posted their thoughts on national security late Sunday night on Facebook, I decided to break things up with a little humor.

"Breaking news: Jay-Z is now in my music library. For those that know me, this is momentous."

If you're keeping score, thinking I've backpedaled and have joined the League of Meh, well, this isn't the case.

I'm still in the dark as to why people (read, people my age who have and will never deal with inner-city life conditions, hustling, or racial discrimination) with incredibly particular views on albums by Wilco, the Arcade Fire, and Spoon choose to go into a verbal lovefest with almost every kind of hip-hop out there. Something doesn't sound right when a final mix on a Wilco record means it should be torn apart critically while some rapper who sings about oral sex using various metaphors is called a "genius."

In other words, yeah, I still don't get it.

But as a drummer who has loved to play funky beats when not playing straightforward rock beats, the roots of hip-hop have been with me since I was a teenager. I've enjoyed the more pop friendly hip-hop I've heard since the early '90s because of the melodies. And whenever a hip-hop artist performed live with a real band on MTV, I almost always wanted to watch. Usually, the drummer would deliver feels and beats that no drum machine could ever accomplish.

I also credit my recent of reading Dan Charnas' excellent book on the history of hip-hop as a business, The Big Payback. Even though it's more about the business than the music, he mentions the thought process behind the trailblazers who saw hip-hop as much more than a novelty. Without going on endless diatribes, he explains how someone like Rick Rubin could love making hip-hop classics while also working on Slayer's Reign in Blood.

Keeping this fresh in my mind, I can't lie about how much I've always liked the hooks to "Big Pimpin'," "Empire State of Mind," and "Hard Knock Life." That's why I had no hesitation over the weekend to pick up a copy of Jay-Z's greatest hits compilation.

I still don't buy into the braggadocio found in a lot of hip-hop (including Jay-Z's music), but hip-hop is something I think I have a clearer understanding of now. But don't be placing any bets on when I'll be praising Lil Wayne.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Glen Reynolds, formerly of Chomsky. I saw Chomsky many, many times in college and I was rarely let down. I had to ask him about playing shows with them, along with his tribute bands to Blur, Weezer, and Oasis.

Also, my friend Ben did a short a film on people who have serious hobbies. He interviewed me and filmed some of a Pull Tabs show. It's now online here and my interview is three minutes in.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The difference in who I am and the one I want to be

Graduating from college less than six months after the worst terrorist attack on American soil, there has been a long, dark shadow cast over my post-college life. Whether it was a fellow co-worker slightly joking with me about how I'd be drafted by spring of 2002 or how terrible the economy is, uncertainty has run rampant in my mind.

Uncertain as to how my adult life is supposed to be versus how it should be, worrying about doing the wrong thing has been a steady ride on a rocking horse. There's no harm in being cautious or careful, but sometimes I think I go overboard and can't see a difference.

There's plenty of certainty in my life these days -- knowing what I must have and should not live without. I have a stable homelife, a stable and very fulfilling relationship, and a good exercise routine, along with lots of creative juices flowing with writing and drumming.

Yet something in my life has been been like a carpet stain I always notice, even if it's safely hidden by a large rug. I can't go into details as to what it is, but for those who've spoken to me in person for the past ten years, you don't have to guess very much to figure out what I'm talking about. It's not a health matter, for one thing. But if you've heard me gripe about something on a regular basis either in person, on the phone, or over e-mail, it's a glaring (and recurring) topic.

This "stain" has been been on my mind for the past few days following some very surprising news. This news came as a shock to me as it did to many others. Again, I'm not going to go into details for many reasons, but I'd prefer to focus on the emotion above all else. And I'd like to describe this in a way where you don't have to know exactly what I'm talking about. If you can relate to the emotion(s), then I've done my job in explaining all you need to know.

When I received this news a few days ago, one of my responses was, "I was more optimistic when my girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer." Since Diana is a huge part of my life and someone I look forward to having a future with, I chose optimism instead of outright pessimism when we heard the news. Some people see a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. Not us, nor anyone close to us.

While that journey continues and we remain committed to seeing it through and through, I've found myself in a different, precarious position with this other development. I've taken things a day at a time and have tried to think in an optimistic way. Yet years of bitterness and disappointment from this area of my life keep fueling a pessimistic attitude. I hate being The Jerk in raising my doubts and concerns about what's down the pike, but I don't appreciate it when I think I'm being lied to.

Trust is crucial. When I don't have trust in others that I have to be around, moving forward (or anywhere, for that matter) is incredibly difficult. It's like waiting on a runway and wondering when your plane is going to take off.

Why I bring up my post-college life is that my goals in college changed when I got out of college. I didn't have my eyes on a prize, but my plans changed when I figured a few things out pretty quickly . . . in 2002.

I don't believe I've wasted any of my post-college life. There is zero harm in working hard, learning new skills, trying new things, and being unafraid to take a few risks. Alas, I have been confronted more than a few times about making a change in my life that seems incredibly brave and risky.

I may criticize those who have their own uphill battles but I try to sympathize as well. Things in my life that I find incredibly difficult may seem like walks in a park to others. But things in my life I find incredibly doable seem unthinkable in others.

As much as I'm confident I can take steps in the right direction, there's plenty of hesitation in lifting that leg. Hopefully someday soon I can air all of this stuff out. For now, it's frustrating to be cryptic and embarrassed at how long I've tried to make changes in this area of my life.