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Monday, October 31, 2011

RIFed

Six years ago this month, I found myself without a full-time job. Last Wednesday, the same thing happened again. Only this time, I sensed the position termination coming, per acquisition by another company over the summer, and I thought about my options with moving forward.

Now I'm considering what to do next -- and if ever there was a time to try something outside of the field I've been in, well, it's time.

I could reflect on this like Charlie Brown foolishly believing Lucy was going to hold the football long enough for a kick. I could lie on the ground asking myself why I believed this time would work. But that's not what I've been thinking. For many reasons, the story met a natural conclusion -- and I have the desire to write another story.

The advice I like to give to anyone considering entry into a field where it's hard to find any work: get experience, even if it's not exactly what you imagined yourself doing. Know your limits, but be unafraid to find strengths you didn't know you had. No one will truly begrudge you if you change your mind about the field you're in after you've worked and gained working experience. And what you dreamed to be one day might not be what you wanted after all. But there is absolutely no fault in finding that out yourself.

When I graduated in December 2001, I never imagined being a traffic reporter. My wish was to be a music director at an alternative rock station and have my own Sunday night specialty show. It was strictly in the hopes to playing music that I loved to people who would listen. That's what I did in college radio and I hoped to return the favor to those inspired me in college.

As I would quickly find out, achieving my wish would be almost impossible to grant. Sticking to what I loved and hoping to give props and respect back to those who inspired me, I found other routes. Taking a job as a traffic reporter/producer helped me immensely with skills I never thought I'd have as a somewhat shy person. And with the work hours, I was able to do plenty on the side.

Deciding to write and publish a book is still one of the best decisions I've ever made. Even though I had never written a book before and never had any of my material published anywhere, I committed myself to doing something I strongly believed in. That led to this blog, writing for the Observer, and writing another book -- all matters I have enjoyed doing.

Was this path the plan? No, but I'm reminded almost every day that this was the right way for me to go.

I don't regret being a traffic reporter. Not at all. I had the pleasure to work with plenty of great people -- people who reached out to me immediately following my layoff. Knowing a lot of other people in my office were also let go, I reached out to them as well. With the responses I got, I knew that eight years of hard work and sacrifice were not wasted.

With the time I've been given now, I am able to explore many options. While I know the time to be a little picky/choosy can be brief, I have plenty of reasons to do this. And I reserve the right to change my mind if it gets to that point.

I'm very thankful I have a lot of mental support from my family, my friends, and especially my housemate Matt. I'm also thankful I still have my freelance work going with the Observer and a voiceover gig I do from time to time. And there's also that second book I (almost) have in the can.

I see no point in selling everything I own and finding the nearest cave to live in. There's nothing I'm trying to run away from. It's more about what's there to run towards. Once again, I'm reminded of something I realized that went beyond reporting traffic every ten minutes: On the road of life, it's good to have some alternate routes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Johnette Napolitano Q&A

And here is my (very long) Q&A with Johnette. Was an absolute pleasure to talk with her.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My first show

My First Show this week is with Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde. Definitely one of most fun interviews I've done this year. A longer Q&A on the band's legacy and her solo work will be online later. For now, enjoy this week's edition.

Monday, October 24, 2011

We'll have Halloween on Christmas

There was a time when the thought of not trick or treating on Halloween saddened me. It was when I watched an episode of Our House and Chad Allen's character opted out of the activity, claiming he was too old for it. I couldn't fathom turning down the opportunity to get free candy from the neighborhood and dressing up in a costume. Couldn't fathom it at all.

And yet I haven't done it since middle school.

These days, I love handing out candy, within reason, on my street. My neighborhood is inundated on Halloween night with families and we run out of candy very quickly.

As much as I enjoy Halloween, I don't celebrate it like Christmas. I know people who decorate their downstairs and front doors with witches, skeletons, and jack-o-lanterns. Aside from the pumpkin carving party Matt and I help host, the most Halloween decoration you see is the plastic jack-o-lantern filled with candy.

Yesterday, on a trip to find certain pieces of the costumes we'll wear this weekend at parties, I came across an entire corner of Target devoted to Halloween decorations, separate from the candy and a little close to the ever-growing Christmas displays. I wondered why I don't decorate for Halloween.

I'm not critical of those who do and I'm not against doing it myself. I enjoy catching a few more scary/Halloween-related films during October and I don't object to pulling out a spooky Stephen King short story (especially as I'm finally rounding the curve with the epic Dark Tower series). I save my decorating skills for Christmas.

Maybe next October I'll be standing on a chair hanging orange lights and finding a place for a plastic skeleton. Then again, there are only a few days left of the month.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

DOMAXXIII

Everybody -- freelancers and staffers -- chipped in to write about the winners of this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards. I wrote about three acts: Warbeast, Ducado Vega, and the House Harkonnen.

Read the whole enchilada here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My first show

When I do My First Show, all that I ask for is somebody who's willing to share with me about first show experiences. I know many people scoff at 3 Doors Down's music, but when Chris was willing to answer my questions, I couldn't say no.

So, here's this week's edition.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Moving (and not moving)

I helped a friend move over the weekend, moving her only a few streets away from where she was. It was a smart thing for her to do -- going from a small apartment complex in a sketchy area to a chilled-out carriage house in a pretty quiet area.

As I helped lift some rather heavy boxes and figured out ways to get some of the furniture out of the old place and into the new one, I thought about when I'll be moving next. It's been seven years since I had to do that, and I'm in no rush to pack up and move away. If I were to move, it would have to be in a better living situation than the one I'm in now -- and I'm pretty happy with the one I've had for seven years.

I can understand the desire to own less if you move every couple of years. I moved ten times in college. Prior to that, I moved twice. Huge difference. And in the college experience (and post-college), I was ready to settle into a place and try and stay there for more than two years.

But now I'm becoming the "Stuff" bit by George Carlin.

My friend wanted to get rid of a bookshelf and I immediately thought of a way to put it to great use. The shelf now sits between my two main ones and it houses almost all of my Stephen King hardcovers. It looks great in the reading room and I'm happy to have everything in one place -- and it kinda reminds me of the cases I found the hardcovers at Half Price Books.

I find staying in one space is a sense of stability. I'm not on the hook for a mortgage, but I'm not necessarily afraid of being in one. I hope to someday have a backyard so my dog can run free and chase as many cats as she wants to. But until then, I like staying put in a situation that is ideal for where I am in my life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Power of Myth (monoculture edition)

Steven Hyden recently wrote a spot-on piece for Salon.com on how monoculture is a myth. As I read it, I thought about how glad I was that somebody wasn't falling in line with a context-free, romantic view of the past. I wished there were more speaking up and saying this. Especially lately with all this grunge nostalgia.

Hyden and I are close in age, so when he talks about being young and seeing an album like Nevermind have a monumental impact on pop culture -- and not just the music industry in the early nineties -- I can relate. He also remembers the other big names in music during those times. Names that are not as celebrated these days.
Once my classmates did see it, a number of them purchased “Nevermind,” as I did. But many of them didn’t. Some preferred Pearl Jam. Some liked N.W.A.’s “Niggaz4life.” Some didn’t care about music at all; they’d rather play Tecmo Bowl. Then there were the millions and millions of Americans who bought Garth Brooks’ “Ropin’ the Wind,” the best-selling album of 1991. If anything, that was the album that we as a culture were united behind — it sold 14 million copies, though I never heard it once blasting through people’s windows.

I'm not shocked Hammer's Too Legit to Quit, Garth Brooks' Ropin' the Wind, and Kenny G's Breathless are not receiving the 4-CD/DVD deluxe reissue treatment this year. There are plenty of reasons why.

In the eyes of many critics who tend to fall into the mindset The Onion perfectly satirized a few years ago, those former blockbuster albums didn't have enough of an impact. Those albums just satisfied the lowest common denominator -- making them feel like they were eating a combo meal at McDonald's. Really? Something can sell millions of copies and not affect culture? And not just music, but video games, TV shows, and movies -- all which were taken to by millions? Makes me wonder more about the true meaning of sales figures in the long term. Especially with how we respond to them in the now, glimpsing into the past.

I'm curious how people will view Titanic in six years from now -- exactly 20 years after the film and soundtrack seemingly made everyone flock to. Will we get a deluxe reissue of even more of James Horner's score and Celine Dion's chest-bumping scorchers? Probably not. We're more likely going to see a box set reissue of Radiohead's OK Computer.

When people sound wistful about a day and age when an album could be enjoyed by multiple age groups and demographics, implying that can never happen again, I roll my eyes. Sure, it could very well be pop culture's equivalent of Halley's Comet, but that doesn't make or break the enjoyment of life. You should live for the moment you're in -- which, as Hyden points out, is filled with way more options than 20 years ago -- instead of the past, which seems so easy and straightforward in retrospect.

So I ask people of my age group: do we really want to fall in love with a patched-together worldview of the past, not that far removed from what our parents and grandparents fell for? You know, those Good Old Days, which sound suspiciously like plot points from Happy Days and The Donna Reed Show? Well, keep going back to oxygen tank labeled "monoculture" and we may very well end up that way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Maria Taylor, from the lovely duo Azure Ray. Nice little coincidence she saw the same INXS show that Tim Kasher saw.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We got stars directing our fate

There are times in my life when people run into each other when there is no scientific way of explaining how. A lot of people take the easy way and proclaim it's God while others can claim it's pure luck. Somehow, it seems like a mixture of both to me.

Yesterday, had it not been for a large family taking multiple pictures of themselves on the midway section of the State Fair -- the spot where Matt and I wanted to take pictures of ourselves -- I would have never run into my longtime friend Tim, his wife-to-be, his cousin, and his cousin's parents. Three of these five live in Houston and I rarely see them these days. And these were five people I didn't know were going to be at the fair at the same time Matt and I were to be there.

Usually, I hear about how someone was at the same show I was at, but we never saw each other. You see a check-in via FourSquare on Facebook after you've come home and realize, "Hey, we missed each other. Shoot!"

Say it's the stars or the planets lining up. I don't really know what to think.

This encounter was no different than the time I ran into a friend from elementary school at a Mardi Gras parade. A year after I had moved away from New Orleans, I saw my closest friend when we came back to town. Out of all the days Mardi Gras happens, all the people that come to the parades, and all the parades that take place, he shows up to one that I'm at.

You could show me statistics, but I probably wouldn't believe them. All I'll say, as a general rule of thumb in life: when you think you're being delayed, you might actually be on track to come upon something you had wanted to be around.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Overblown

Grunge nostalgia is a mixed blessing for people like myself. I weigh pros and cons -- hoping to not minimize or over-embellish the impact.

Sure, it's great to remind others how important bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden were to me and people my age (as well the people at MTV and the journalists who covered what we saw and read). But it would do a disservice to younger generations by claiming this time in rock history was the greatest ever.

I wouldn't say there has been a massive flood of grunge nostalgia in terms of products to buy, but it has made a lot of people talk, write, and think about it. Which I find healthy, in general.

For me, as a consumer, I have a lot of hesitation towards checking out the various permutations of the Nevermind reissue. While it might be nice to sample Butch Vig's mix of the album, I don't think it's something worth owning. And with the B-side bonus tracks? Well, they can be found on other releases (and not just the Outcesticide bootleg series anymore). The Paramount show on DVD? I'll rent it on Netflix.

I also have an aversion to skimpy retrospectives that fill maybe ten magazine pages or four minutes on a network TV news program. I like some meat with these kinds of meals, and I am thankful there are new books out there on the subject.

There's the Pearl Jam Twenty book and documentary, but I'd have to say the item most worth people's time is Mark Yarm's book, Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. Sure, there is another oral history of grunge called Grunge is Dead. There's also Loser, an exhaustive (and frankly, difficult to cut through) look at Seattle rock music, pre- and post-grunge. But if you enjoyed Doug Pray's documentary Hype! like I did (and still do), Everybody seems to expand themes and stories to a T. And reading it doesn't feel like you're experiencing an ABC miniseries from the 70s.

I know people who frown on oral histories (I heard a few qualms when I told them my second book will be one), but frankly, I can't think of a better way to describe a scene. No one person can be responsible for a music scene, so why should there be one narrator?

While there are stories touched on that have been presented elsewhere, there is so much I've never seen in print before. Getting Buzz Osborne's perspective on Nirvana's rise and fall is pretty fascinating. Learning more about the U-Men, Andy Wood, and Mia Zapata was also great. And getting the perspective of alleged copycats (Candlebox) was a nice touch.

This is not a rosy look at things -- the final quarter feels like a sad decline riddled by death, drug use, and strained relations between longtime friends and lovers. Not the kind of stuff where you feel inspired to plant a tree or climb a mountain, but there's no way of sugarcoating things. To sugarcoat would be a cheat.

Maybe this is the best way to remember this era (or any era, for that matter) -- not everything was sunshine, but it wasn't like walking in mud all day.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Ed Breckenridge from Thrice. I've had the pleasure of seeing these guys play three times in the DFW area, including that first show at Rubber Gloves with Red Animal War and Samiam. I remember how some people laughed when Teppei brought out his BC Rich guitar for a song, since it's such a "metttttal!" guitar.

A few years later, when I saw them open for Dashboard Confessional, there was a girl behind me constantly calling the band "T-rice."

Monday, October 03, 2011

Use Me

I might not be playing in a regular band these days -- and probably won't be playing with a regular band for the foreseeable future -- but that doesn't mean I have given up the drums.

Hell no. For as long as I have working limbs and a desire to tap along, drumsticks will be nearby.

Last week, I took up an invitation to play on a jam night at a small bar a little north of where I live. I'm happy to say that I had a wonderful time and will be back.

Playing old school blues and R&B is not something I've ever done in front of people. But like I realized when I played southern rock songs at Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp last year, if you've played something John Bonham and Bill Ward have played, you've received a partial education on the blues.

All the years I've spent watching a guitarist motion around, whether on the neck or with the foot going towards a distortion pedal, came in handy for this jam. Playing a slow blues song that I was not familiar followed by a mid-tempo groove I was very familiar with ("Use Me" by Bill Withers), it helped that the guitarist was dictating to me what to do and what not to do -- by showing plenty and saying little.

The thrill of playing together is when people who don't know each other lock in. Improvisation can sound great when you're in sync with one another -- and it's especially great when you can extend a song into a lengthy jam.

I have not abandoned my love for playing rock music. It's just at this point, I'm very reluctant to play in a regular band, only to see everything collapse not too far down the road. One-offs are nice for me at this point.