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Friday, September 28, 2012

Hootie!

Changing things up a little bit with the ongoing "Playing music for our kids" series, I had my cousin Andrew listen to a dozen songs I associate with my high school years. What he thought was pretty cool.

I still remember him being only a few weeks old, sleeping soundly through my mother's PhD commencement in '96. A few years ago, he inherited my old Casio keyboard. Not too long after, I bought him "Who Let the Dogs Out" on iTunes. Last year, he told me how much he liked Andrew Bird and Fleet Foxes. It's great to have another music enthusiast in the family.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with Brandon Butters, a local drummer who plays with two of the best new Dallas bands, the West Windows and Things of Earth. We discussed things over drinks and food at the Anvil Pub last week, so the conversational side really came out on this one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kickstarter My Heart

A suggestion that's been passed my way about publishing and promoting When We Were the Kids: How about a Kickstarter campaign for it? While I have no problem with fans helping fund an album, a tour, or a promotional campaign, I'm not sure a Kickstarter pledge drive is the right thing for this book.

Based on what it took to get Post out there, the total cost of publishing, promoting, and having the book listed as "returnable" (an important factor if you ever want your book in a store) is somewhere between $1,200 and $1,500. That's not an unreasonable number, but it's not the kind of money I have lying around and burning a hole in my house.

The problem I have with fans and friends funding a project like this: I can't really offer much in return other than a thanks and a signed book. There's no signed vinyl, guest list appearances for life, a camping trip, a lunch date, or having a song written about you. This is merely a 200+ page Word document that I'd like see bound in a paperback and converted into an e-book. I don't mean to say it's a flimsy piece of crap; it's something that I've worked very hard on for over five years and I'd like to share it with the world.

I've pledged money to only one Kickstarter campaign in order to help my friend get his second movie going. In return, I have borrowed his old bass and amplifier for over two years. (By the way, this bass and amp will be on the cover of When We Were the Kids.) I don't regret helping my friend out. He reached his goal, but he's still trying to get his movie to happen. His Kickstarter was just breaking ground on a proverbial skyscraper.

When I see campaigns, the only real, tangible items are rewarded to big pledgers. I'd be glad to have a signed vinyl copy of Ben Folds Five's latest record and a special T-shirt. Sure would mean much more than my name in the liner notes along with thousands of other people.

Kickstarter is perfect for established acts who have a built-in fanbase. I, not to sound like Eeyore, don't have a truly measurable audience. People in England, Australia, and the Philippines, along with people in the United States, have purchased my first book since fall of 2008. Locally, a lot of people who are regular readers of the Observer know my name, and I'm happy to share Post with people who might enjoy it, like Tom Mullen from the Washed Up Emo podcast, Steven Smith from Going Off Track, Superchunk's Jon Wurster, and Kyle Clark from the Nerdist podcast.

At most, I expect to sell a couple dozen copies out of the gate with When We Were the Kids, but if I want to sell more than that, I'll need to promote it, which I have no problem doing. If I could do a reading at a Half Price Books, I'd be game. If somebody wanted to interview me for a blog or a podcast, I'd do it. Sharing something I believe in is really easy to do.

But funding is not an easy thing, and I certainly don't want people to fund something that they might feel cheated by. I'd feel bad for a reader who pledged $50 and was incredibly disappointed with the book. And if somebody pledged $300, imagine how many other books, groceries, and baby gifts he or she could afford instead of a single book.

All I will ask for those who want to read my books is the price of purchase. That's all.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Do It Anyway

This past weekend was a long one -- longer than most weekends for me -- but I had fun. On Saturday, I reviewed the first Texas edition of Riot Fest for not only DC9, but also the Houston Press's blog, Rocks Off. My DC9 review is a little different than my review for Rocks Off because I wanted to give the perspective from a local and an out-of-towner, respectively.

Of course, it was hot, and I found Rise Against's set to be a long and painful way to end the evening, but I enjoyed the day. I certainly enjoyed the Gatorade when I got home.

Last night, I had the privilege of seeing Ben Folds Five and taking photos during the first three songs. My review is a basic rundown of the show, but I'd like to share some more that obviously didn't fit in the review.

When I walked up to the stage as the band came on, a rush of feelings came over me. I still remembered what it was like to drive around Kingwood in 1997 listening to my dubbed cassette copy of Whatever and Ever Amen in my '77 Pontiac Catalina. Now here I was in front and center, and the band kicked off with "Missing the War." I figured this was going to be only time I'd be this close to the band, so make the most of it. I snapped away, smiled from ear to ear, and sang along. Ben even noticed me and smiled.



After "Jackson Cannery" finished, I went to the back of the floor level and stood in front of the mixing console. I could see the band pretty well, and I enjoyed the rest of the set.

As the show let out around 11, I faced the frustrating reality that is getting out of the Gilley's complex parking lot. It's always a beating, so I tried to make a phone call to my friend Trevor Kelley, hoping to thank him again for that Ben Folds Five reunion concert a few years ago. (He helped bring together that special show for MySpace where the band performed The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner in its entirety) When I got the "Your call has been forwarded to an automatic voice messaging service" message, I sighed and thought I'd wait out the traffic jam.

Striking up a conversation with a few guys and a girl in the parking lot, the talk led to interests in writing and music. Turns out, the girl has been a writer for a few years and her friend is into photography. Thinking I could talk to these fine folks for a few hours, Bryce Avary (aka, the Rocket Summer) walks by and hangs out with us. Sure was a pleasure to finally meet him after seeing him at shows over the years (and he remembered our interview back in June).

Seeing a small crowd near the tour bus, I suggested we see if the band was signing autographs or taking pictures. Well, this happened.


Never during all my years listening to Ben Folds' music would I ever think this could happen. This was truly one of the best concert experiences that I've had. Not only did I get to see Ben earlier in the year with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, I got to see this.

I might not exactly know where my life is going in terms of job situation, but I was thrilled to let go and truly live in the moment. Glad I took pictures.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The "Perfect" Candidate

September is coming to a close and I can't help thinking about how long it's been since I was laid off. October 26th, 2012 is only a few weeks away, but October 26th, 2011 still feels like a few months back. I can't stress enough how much of a relief it was to be laid off. That said, I've been ready to get back into a full-time job situation for months.

I haven't been lazy, as I have stressed many times before. Every promising job lead, I've looked into. Frustratingly, when trying to go outside of my realm with jobs, I run into a brick wall created by recruiters.

Loosely, I understand why companies have recruiters, but I can't wrap my head around something that I frequently experience. Great people who fit the personality and most of the job description don't get considered while mediocre people who don't fit the personality and have all of the skills in the description get considered.

Which leads me to this question: is there such thing as a "perfect" candidate? As in, someone who has the unbeatable resume, says the right things in an interview, and excels at everything asked of him or her.

Sure, there is such a thing as a perfect candidate who becomes the perfect employee, but I'm not so sure it's always clear in the weeding out process. On paper and in an interview, these people are technically qualified, but whether or not they last is another story. When recruiters are looking for a specific kind of person with skills in highly-specific things, I don't really see how successful their hiring process can be without taking other matters into consideration. A leap of faith sounds out of the question.

I consider myself a competent employee who is open to trying new things, working independently, and working with a team. All the jobs I've held, I was not technically 100 percent qualified for going into them. I was fortunate to be hired by people who saw potential in me, beyond what I wrote down in an application or a resume. There were things to be learned on the job; things that were easily taught after a day or so on the job. Whether it was stocking CDs in a certain order, assembling a table and cash cube for a promotions event, or typing traffic problems into a database, I had never done those things prior to being hired.

A story I like to share in interviews involves the time I was asked to fill in for Rebecca Flores at CBS 11 and learn a whole new traffic graphics program in one morning. Previous times filling for Rebecca, I did everything from the office with an ISDN line. But when they changed vendors with their graphics, there was no other way I could learn the program.

I had to go in the CBS studio in Fort Worth. Not only did I have to learn graphics, I had to learn how to coordinate TxDot cameras, talk into an IFB, and create entire traffic reports sans any help from the producers at the station. John and Matt McCarty, who helped design the program, were gracious enough to come into the studio and show me how the graphics worked. Within ten minutes, I had a handle of things and that morning's show went off without a hitch. Not too bad for something, on paper, I wasn't qualified for.

As interesting as that story is and how I think it illustrates my knack for learning things on the job, that has yet to translate into landing my next job. I know there is (or will be) a company out there that will appreciate what I can do and sees potential in me. Still, it's a constant point of frustration when you know you can do a lot but life seems to tell you no.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with two members of Houston's Venomous Maximus. Funny stuff, especially the part about playing their music for their parents.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hold That Thought

I recently drove Jenny around Fort Worth to show her the TCU campus and the places I lived between 1998 and 2002. I still have fond memories of my time living there, even though I'm much happier living in Dallas. I couldn't help remembering all the times I drove alone around Berry St, Bryant Irvin, Stadium Drive, and Hulen. Music kept me company, as it always has, but thinking about my time in college, I spent so much time alone in my '92 Toyota Camry. 

I listened to a ton of different bands in that Camry, three different dorm rooms, and two different apartment complexes. I hung out with many good people in those days, many of whom I'm still friends with. Yet the band that takes me immediately back to my senior year of high school and all my years in college is Ben Folds Five.

Today, the Five have a new record out called The Sound of the Life of the Mind. I wasn't expecting a new record and wasn't pining for the band to reform. I was perfectly happy listening to the three proper albums and rarities compilation every once in a while. That said, I wasn't against the band reforming and working on new material.

Taking a listen to The Sound today, I'm happy to say this is an enjoyable and engaging record; certainly a rebound from Ben's last couple of solo records (which I found to be quite mediocre). I often associate Ben's music with autumn, and this year is no different.

I can't help reflect on my life with Ben Folds on my radio, to use a Counting Crows lyric. Things are much better now compared to my college years, in terms of knowing what I want and don't want in my life. Exactly what my next job will be remains a mystery, but I'm not afraid of landing on my feet. And I'm certainly glad I haven't left the Five's music in the dust.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Old Man in the Room

While at shows, there have been times where I've felt like the old man in the room. It's not often, but it does happen every once in a while.

This feeling is like being an odd duck, coming across as someone trying to hold onto youth while being around those who are in the prime of their youth. It's like a denial of adulthood.

A few years back, I watched Tilly and the Wall play at Hailey's to a very large audience made up mostly of college students. Seeing all these post-teenagers in thrift store clothes, break-dancing to hip-hop, and going nuts for these twee darlings, I wondered what the hell I was seeing. Clearly I was not one for this band or audience, but I was there because my band was fortunate to open the show.

I didn't feel like the old man when I saw Mission of Burma on Friday night. Seeing three guys with plenty of gray in the hair along with friends who are close to my age (including Andy Odom, who covered the show for the Observer), I felt welcome. There were even grandparents seated towards stage right.

And it certainly felt good to see people who were underage pogo around (and go generally nuts) while MoB played.Yes, people that were born closer to the time that Catherine Wheel covered "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" in the 90s were into this band.

Reminds me of how rock music plays to the youth that's in our hearts. Whether you're 15, 33, or 57, if you enjoy the feeling of rock music, then why should you stop listening to it or going to shows? Of course, it might look weird to be the oldest person in the room. But rock music can bring in society's outliers together quite well.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My first . . .

Talk about quick turnaround. I interviewed Phil Anselmo on Tuesday afternoon at 3. Then I transcribed it and uploaded everything by 4:30. And it went live yesterday morning.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gone with the Schwinn


Last year, I had to let go of a body board that I had enjoyed since middle school. This morning, I had to retire my mountain bike.

I've had this Schwinn Frontier since 1991. It got me from my house to seventh and eighth grade every single day without any issue. When I was struck by a slow-moving small truck while going through a crosswalk, there was no significant damage to the bike or me (aside from a sprained ankle and the chance to tell a story that starts with, "Did I ever tell you about when I was hit by a truck?") When some kids up the street thought it would be funny to chase after me a few times (including the day I was hit by the truck), it got me out of harm's way.

After middle school, the bike sat in my parents' garage until last year. My parents were kind enough to get new grips, seat, and tires. I enjoyed the hell out of riding that sucker, but I knew it couldn't last for too much longer. The brakes were failing, rust was here and there, and the front tire kept losing air.

During the past 19 months, I took this out on average of three days a week and cycled 10-15 miles a week. It survived two 15-mile trips between my house and White Rock Lake, as well as a handful of trips just around the lake.

This is the epitome of something serving me well. But when I found a 45-degree-angle tear in the base of the handlebars this morning, I knew the cost of repairs (coupled with new brakes and a new tire) would be as much as buying a brand new bike.

So I bought this Huffy . . .

. . . for $90 at Academy.

While I'm fully prepared for an onslaught of criticism from my hardcore biking friends, I have to point out how I am not a hardcore bike fiend. Doing either 15 miles in one week or 15 miles in one morning is enough for me. And I sure as hell don't have $500-$1,000 to drop on a bicycle. I'll leave that for the 80-miles-a-week folks.

I gave the Huffy a spin once I got home, and I have to admit, it was like taking a walk in a new pair of shoes. There's some kinks to work out with the feel of the pedals and the various speeds, but at least the brakes work, there's no rust, and the tires are incredibly durable. I'm happy.

I shall give this new bike a full spin tomorrow morning, hoping I won't have to replace another bike for another 21 years. It was a good ride with the Schwinn, inspiring me to keep going and enjoying the art of biking.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Oxycontin ain't cheap, you know?

Two weeks ago, I got to experience something that's as common as a jury duty summons or a speeding ticket: credit card fraud.

I had been alerted to a payment freeze by Netflix, so I called my card company to see what was up. Turns out, some yahoo charged a total of $1,400 to a CVS in Houston over the course of two transactions. Since the most money I've ever spent at a CVS was $50 for prescription medicine, this looked fishy. My card company's fraud department was concerned and immediately cancelled the payment, but they couldn't contact me because my contact information on file was eleven years old (back when I had a home phone number in Fort Worth and had a CompuServe e-mail account).

The card company was totally pro about the whole thing and I received a new card last week. I wondered how one could spend that much money at a CVS, so I quipped, "Oxycontin ain't cheap."

As crappy as it is to deal with credit card fraud, luckily, companies know how to handle this since it's extremely common. I don't see this going away anytime, especially when we live in a culture where private information is so easy to grab, especially when it's voluntary. I'm happy that the card companies understand how frustrating this is, and they don't penalize their customers when it happens.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with members of Soviet and the Longshots, both local bands.

Also, I wrote a few more words about that Iron Maiden show I saw a few weeks ago. I considered it one of the best shows I saw this summer.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

It

We might have 100-degree days for the rest of this week, but I'm quite excited about fall weather conditions and what I'll be reading during the fall season.

I have a personal goal of reading forty books this year, and I'm twelve books away from that goal. The Passage took a while for me to completely dig into and 11/22/63 took a couple of weeks to finish, but I read the majority of an entire book in one day. That book, To Live is To Die, a biography of Cliff Burton, was easy and frustrating to read due to its repetitive nature. (Nothing like constant reminders every few pages about how awesome Cliff was, how great his bass playing was, what kind of impact he had on Metallica, how sad it was for him to die young, and how Metallica has done without him.)

Something I want to tackle, even though it will take up a lot of time, is Stephen King's opus, It. Given its 1,000-page length, it's daunting to look at on the book shelf. But there was a segment in 11/22/63 that takes place in the town of Derry, where It is set, along with the appearance of a couple of characters. Factor in my relative enjoyment of the early 1990s miniseries (it's great until the last twenty minutes, where it looked like the filmmakers ran out of money), and it's something I knew I would eventually read.

Also on tap includes two books that come out on the same day: The Twelve and The Walking Dead Complete Compendium 2. I wasn't completely blown away by Justin Cronin's first book of the trilogy, but I am curious what the second book allows. And I've waited two whole years to find out what happens after issue 48 of The Walking Dead. If the TV series takes the same path as the comic, things are going to get nuts.

But out of all the books I want to read, It seems like a perfect fall book. From what I remember, the novel starts out on a cool, overcast day, something I long for after all these hot months. I remember when I read 'Salem's Lot in the fall and how apt that book seemed. Hopefully the same will happen this time around.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The baby wasn't cute anymore

Will Harris posted a clip on Facebook the other day that touches on something I've been thinking a lot about lately: The Cosby Show.

I, like many people between the ages of 30 and 42, enjoyed the first handful of seasons, but were charmed away by a show called The Simpsons. I didn't run away when the Olivia character was introduced on The Cosby Show, but as I look back now and watch various episodes (something I've done quite a bit lately), the more I realize how insignificant she was to the show. Aside from being the cute kid, of course.

I enjoy how the topics (if you will, the A-stories) remained serious, like Theo dealing with his dyslexia and Elvin and Sondra having marital issues. But there were so many episodes where Olivia came on as a sideshow, like when she'd sing "Twist and Shout" -- randomly -- at the end of one. Pure time filler, just so a certain portion of the audience could say, "Awwww."

The cynic in me thinks this was network notes ("Have the kid do something!") trying to stay in competition with similar shows, like Full House. That was a show I watched almost every week when I was in middle school. Now I find the show unwatchable: unfunny, lame, and corny.

When it came to Rudy Huxtable, she was essential to the show's storylines. Yes, there was the cute kid factor, but she actually did useful things, plot-wise, and had great comedic timing. She was no sideshow.

This all ties in with a show's stamina. And no show can go on forever.

You don't see many shows go way past their prime these days. Chalk that up to learning lessons from the hit shows from the 70s and 80s. The prized syndication pot of gold isn't really there anymore. Shows don't have to reach that episode mark of 100 to get syndicated. And when you can't go much further with something, it stops. Usually.

As much as I enjoyed seeing Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy grow up (especially Theo graduating college in the final episode), the cynic in me fast-forwards through the fluffy stuff in between with Olivia. (But I'm not a total cold-hearted snake: I'm glad Raven-Symone has gone onto a successful acting career as an adult.)

Still, I'll always have the first four seasons of The Cosby Show to cherish on DVD.