Friday, January 23, 2009

A pretty good chunk of bands and albums

Over at Jason’s blog, he’s made a list of albums he found to be especially influential to him in his younger years. It's instructive to look at his post first to see how this started. It's interesting that The Pope has popped up in the post as Pope and Jason were sort of music-buddies in high school, and I was sort of on the periphery of all that.

Jason’s cited a few albums, such as Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” and Neil Diamond’s “The Jazz Singer” as pivotal records in his development, cutting off somewhere near his freshman year of high school. And I can't deny that I also would list those albums. As well as the various Chipmunks albums we owned which were absolutely a gateway drug into the hard stuff (Blondie, The Knack, what have you...).

What’s interesting to me is that I was in the same house, and actually have oddly different memories of some of these albums. Jason was the older sibling, and so a lot of what came down to me until 1990 came directly from whatever Jason was bringing into the house, so I have somewhat fuzzy memories of who bought what first, and who copied whose tape.

“Cure: Disintegration”. By the time I bought this album, its entirely possible Jason had a copy and I had no idea. I recall the events thusly:
1) I saw the video for “Pictures of You” on 120 Minutes, which was on Sunday nights.
2) I was taken to Northcross Mall, pre-driver’s license, to buy some other item that week. I bought “Disintegration” at chain record store. I recall this specifically, because I ran into Peabo’s brother in the store while making my selection.

I was one of those guys who really liked the Cure in high school. It is true. But I also recall it was kind of a line in the sand between what some of my pals were listening to (R&B and hip-hop), and what I was going to listen to, and deciding I was utterly unapologetic for not agreeing that MC Hammer was the bee’s knees. Or George Strait. And on the basketball team, disagreeing about something like whether or not people will always love Bobby Brown is a pretty good way to stick out like a sore thumb.

What I totally did not get in the 1980’s was Metal. I’m not talking “Poison”, LA Metal Lite. I mean stuff in that wide range between Dokken and Celtic Frost. Although I have fond memories of watching a Vinnie Vincent Invasion video with my dad in which a guy in a flame suit is set alight and runs around, which I guess was supposed to look tough, but set me and The Admiral laughing until we cried.

“Ramones”. I believe Jason had “Rocket to Russia” first, but I don’t recall. I just recall buying “Ramones: Mania” at the PharMor mega drug store thing that briefly existed near Westwood High School. I also bought a few other Ramones albums, but in the face of Ramones: Mania, always felt there was little point.

I recall listening to “Pink Floyd: A Momentary Lapse of Reason” prior to “The Wall” by a few weeks, at least, but I certainly knew the entire album of “The Wall” by the beginning of 8th grade. But certainly I agree that "The Wall" was of far, far greater interest.

We bought “They Might be Giants: Flood” and “Pixies: Dolittle” at the same time, and I preferred TMBG for a while. I wasn’t sold on the Pixies until Bossanova, but I also didn’t listen to any more after Dolittle. I was a TMBG fan for a number of years, but sort of wore out on them in college, even skipping a show I had tickets to and had, in fact, driven to, but left so I could prepare for a history exam I was stressing over.

It’s difficult to recall how into “Jane’s Addiction: Nothing’s Shocking” I was, as well as “Ritual de lo Habitual”. These days I barely listen to the band.

Jason, Reed, (possibly even Peabo) and I went through a “Who” phase, circa 1989. Its why I still know all the words to “Magic Bus”.

We also went through a Jimi Hendrix thing, but that was much more short-lived.

Album I can't blieve wasn't on Jason's list: Violent Femmes (self-titled)

This album is probably still some sort of right of passage for 13 year olds everywhere. I saw the band play live at least three times, and had several of their other efforts, but none were as raw or sounded as much like a teen-ager's inner-monologue as that first record.

Plenty of people don't like the album or the band, but I think practically every high schooler post 1980 has at least heard the record (or at least "Add it Up"). It's difficult to imagine me having a go-to album at this point in my life the way this album always was at the ready in my room, then my car, from 13 until today. 20 years of not being sick of a record isn't bad.

In 8th grade I played a “Buddy Holly: 23 Hits” album until it wore out. I probably had originally fished it out of a bargain bin at Walgreens, but can'r recall. I was surprised to later learn that other people actually liked Buddy Holly, too, and “Rave On” continues to be a favorite tune. I also learned about the limitations of the 45rpm record, and why they could fit 23 Buddy Holly songs onto a long play cassette.

In 8th Grade I was also listening to a “Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits” album quite a bit, so I was probably one of the only kids in my class who became giddy at the prospect of The Travelling Wilbury’s (JAL may, actually, be the only other kid who appreciated Orbison, but I didn’t know he appreciated the man until we re-connected in college and he was singing "The Candy Colored Clown" in his dorm room a la "Blue Velvet".). I have fond memories of ceasing my task of mowing the lawn to listen to “Blue Bayou” on my Walkman.

"Talking Heads: Naked"
You'd think I bought the album because the covered featured a chimp, but that's not the case. When the album debuted, I was familiar with the Talking Heads from their early 80's pop hits such as "Burning Down the House". And I had watched "Stop Making Sense" on VHS in my 5th grade art teacher's classroom as he tried to explain art-rock to a room full of kids who thought GI Joe was the apex of our culture.

I saw the video for "(Nothing But) Flowers" in the winter of 8th grade, I guess. I was quite taken by the Latin American stylings overlayed with Byrne's distinctive voice and even more distinctive lyrics about missing modern conveniences when mankind has returned to a natural state, which seemed hilarious and horrible and terribly, terribly true to my mind. I read a lot of Bloom County at the time, which would inform my world view more than I'd want to admit in later life.

I remember getting my money together on the morning of one of our basketball games. After the games, we would all go to Lone Star Cafe, and down the strip mall was a movie/ record store which carried a wide selection of music.

The tapes were behind the counter so punk kids like myself couldn't steal them, so I had to ask for the cassette. The guy behind the counter eyed me for a minute, said nothing, then put the tape in my hands. The cassette was made of an odd, amber plastic and I had only seen the greyish-hue of tapes before.

"That's a really good album" the guy said. I had never, ever spoken to anyone before during the transaction at the counter. I froze. "Really?"

"Yeah. Good stuff." He was pleased that I obviously overvalued his opinion. I was pleased that an adult I didn't know was telling me I had excellent musical taste.

And it was a great album. I listened to it repeatedly, filling in my world view with "Democratic Circus", "Mommy Daddy You and I", "Mr. Jones"... It's still in rotation in my collection, too. As are all of the Talking Heads' other albums, and probably 85% of Byrne's solo work.

In middle school I read a now-forgotten sci-fi novel called The Architect of Sleep, whose protagonist repeatedly referenced "Tangerine Dream", so I bought one of their albums, and then a few more. All of which have disappeared over the years, including the two I had on vinyl. They also appeared as the instrumentation in a few 80's era movies, such as "The Keep", and I want to say a Michael Mann movie somewhere along the line.

Its been years and years since I listened to any Tangerine Dream. What they did do was open my mind up about atmospheric music for the state of atmospheric music, which dovetailed nicely when I got to college and was force fed a diet of The Orb, Woob, Black Dog, et al. courtesy Mssrs. Shoemaker and Sanchez. Which, of course, led down other musical corridors we won't detail here.

I don't know exactly when "Siousxie and the Banshees: Peepshow" entered the rotation, but that album became a favorite. Siouxsie's unique vocal stylings, and the band's arrangements were different from almost everything else in rock at the time that I knew of (they used an accordian in a completely non-ironic way, and it worked, for chrissake).

There were hundreds of songs
, and dozens of albums, I'm sure. And I know I missed several.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sorry about the lack of blog-o-rama around here.

It's just been like that lately. Not a lot that's not work related going on.

We're headed to Houston for about 24 hours this weekend to see my grandfather, as I haven't had a chance to see him since he moved to Houston this fall. Honestly, he's not doing super great, and its entirely possible that when I leave the room, he'll be asking my mom what I'm up to in Austin, but he has lots of good days, too.

Jamie has been wanting to cut another video, so we spent some time tonight shooting a tour of my collections of comics, toys, etc... Which felt a little weird when I was about five minutes into the tour. I'd like to give it another go, but I've always had a hard time explaining all that junk to Jamie, let alone a viewing audience. I'd also like to light the room a lot better so it doesn't look so creepy.

It sounds like Chief Justice Roberts came to the White House Wednesday morning to re-swear-in President Obama after the FAIL at the Inauguration. One is left to wonder what sort of a case of the nerves Roberts had going on.

I have nothing else. So I will point you to Randy's site for a product you can use. In fact, I think this week both President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts could use this particular item.

Hoooooray for you!

Maybe W. left Obama a copy in his desk.

The Wire

The entire run of The Wire is for sale for $82 (or roughly $170 off list).

I am told this is the best TV show EVER, but I have never seen it.

Should I buy it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Inaugurated

I don't think I can say anything new on this. We had an official policy at UT that said it was okay to take time to watch the inauguration, but I have to make the time up. So I'll be doing that fifteen to twenty minutes a day for the rest of the week.

Excellent speech (but not necessarily one that will go down in history). I've been very pleased with Obama's focus on the challenges rather than riding the wave of celebrity and his and the First Lady's call to service. An interesting and worthwhile challenge to Americans.

We watched the Neighborhood Inauguration Ball on ABC, which was an interesting mix of performers. Sting, Shakira (who I will never complain about), Beyonce, Jay Z, Faith Hill.

This leads to my challenge: You have been elected to the highest office in the land. Who are five bands you'd insist play your inaugural ball?

Keep in mind, you are now leader of the free world and that while we all like 2 Live Crew, they may not be appropriate for the occasion.

Gran Torino

Was fine. It wasn't anywhere near as great as I was told it would be, nor do I get the accolades I've seen in the ads. I don't think it was as good or as nuanced as Unforgiven (which I guess won Best Picture, so...). And I think I just like The Outlaw Josey Wales better.

Plus, aside from Eastwood, I wasn't all that impressed by his supporting cast. Especially the two neighbor kids who were so crucial to the plot (neither of whom had any previous credits on IMDB).

It's not a bad movie. It's fine. It was just exactly what I expected from the trailers, and not a whole lot more.

Cate Blanchett Movies

I also watched "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and "Notes on a Scandal". I actually believed both were true stories until I Googled "Notes on a Scandal".

I wasn't nuts about "Notes" while I was watching it, and then learning it wasn't a true story then made me kind of wonder what the point was, if not "well, this happened, and it was weeeeeird". I guess there are so many oddball stories about teacher/ student scandals that a fictionalized one (even a fictionalized one with Cate Blanchett) seems sort of redundant, SWF aspects aside.

I liked "Elizabeth II: Electric Boogaloo" a bit better, although it wasn't as well constructed a film as the original "Elizabeth".

Blanchett is, I should mention, excellent in both.

Most People are to Kate Winslet as The League is to Cate Blanchett

Signal Watch

A second Signal Watch column is up at Comic Fodder.

Friday Night Lights

I watched FNL's season premier over the weekend. The show seems very much back on track with the first season, which is still one of the best seasons of TV put together. Sadly, the second season was a soap-opera-esque mess that I eventually walked away from. Glad to see they're back on track. Even if this is Tim Riggins' and Lyla Garrity's third senior year.

Anyhow, if you liked the first season, it seems they may be back on track.

Monday, January 19, 2009

This Moment in History: Obama Inauguration/ MLK Day

Jamie, Lucy and I spent some time this weekend watching CNN footage of the inaugural activities going on in Washington DC.

It's tough to listen to the endless stream of superlatives and attempts by the commentators to repeatedly remind viewers of the historical significance of Obama's inauguration without feeling that it's just a portion of the significance. A vast portion, to be sure, but it does seem that it's almost forgetting the campaign and messages Barack Obama shared which lead to his election. It's not that I'm not aware of the fact that we have a changing of the guard, or that Obama is African-American. I get all that, and I get the historical significance of what it means for the character of the U.S. that the generations that would never have seen or allowed a man of Obama's racial make-up and background to ascend to the White House have either fallen away or have had a change of mind and heart.

These are things to celebrate, and, of course, its fitting that the inauguration would fall on the day following the national holiday celebrating Dr. King's message and legacy.

Before its forgotten, Obama wasn't elected or not elected because of race (although I do not want to dismiss the meaning for the U.S.). I would posit that he was elected because of the ideas that Barack Obama brought to the campaign trail.

I could appreciate that Obama's first volley was to reject big money donors to the campaign and rely mostly upon the smaller contributions of individuals. Sure, there were days when I thought that if I got one more e-mail from the campaign, I was going to scream, but rather than wondering what Obama would feel he owed certain contributors once in office, I knew what Obama was at least attempting to do by letting thousands have their voice rather than the needs of large donors. And, I could appreciate the make-or-break nature of such a plan, right up to the requests for donations to support the inaugural balls rather than having the Exxon Inaugural Ball, what have you...

If we're serious about government for the people, by the people, then I can get behind a person who has the vision to try to run their campaign by having faith in their supporters as much as possible. While they're important, I can believe in a candidate who recognizes that corporations are not people, and a politican who would rather be financially supported by thousands of individuals who believe in him than by behemoth groups looking for a quid pro quo.

There are also Obama's stances on international engagement, use of military force, health care, education and more that were welcome changes (and Senator Clinton reflected many of those same stances, so my choice making was made difficult). All of these things were incredibly important to me as a I selected my candidate of choice, and only rarely did I see Obama need to shift his message of plan for any of these issues. And I hope that Obama will work with Congress, and Congress with Obama to implement the messages put forth during the long, long campaign season.

The economy is an enormous issue, and I've appreciated Obama's straightforward discussion of what America faces in the months leading up to the inauguration. No one would envy Obama the challenges facing him as he steps into the Oval Office, and I will be watching closely to see what plans he and Congress cook up. It's my sincere hope that partisanship will only serve to craft refined economic plans as each party keeps the other honest. (I also hope for more in the way of job-creation rather than merely propping up crumbling financial empires, but that's just me).

The underlying tone of the enthusiasm one sees on cable news isn't just for a certain person to come into the presidency, but a hope and faith placed into Obama as a sign that the status quo of politics in the U.S. has the potential for change at this moment. While anyone over the age of 22 is probably jaded enough to know only so much can change, we can ask for President Obama to not fall prey to the partisanship of the past 20 or more years, political dynasties, what have you... to work in service to all Americans and not the implied oligarchy of "those who know what's best for you" that we've seen during such a huge swath of my lifetime. Or politicians who are admired for how they game the system rather than for their policies and how they lead.

But a lot of what Obama has promised has not been a change that he can carry on his own. The motto, after all was "Yes, we can", not "Your government has got it covered". So I find it fitting that the day before Obama is inaugurated, we find ourselves honoring the leadership of Dr. King and his quest for racial harmony and social justice. But MLK Day isn't just a bank and postal holiday, but also a day of service and remembering. No official can successfully lead by asking for their citizenry to remain unengaged or place their fates into the hands of their leaders without thought. Obama's calls for engagement in our community will need to be heeded, and already I'm getting e-mails from the First Lady asking for my service. And, honestly, its giving me a moment of pause. What can I do? Am I the change I wish to see?

Will we blame Obama when we, ourselves, fail? What can we do to ensure not that Obama succeeds, but that America succeeds?

Everything leading up to 12:00 Eastern tomorrow has been nothing but a prelude. We do not know what the future holds, or what compromises Obama will find himself in as he sits down with his cabinet this first week. Inevitably, the cheering throngs will decide (perhaps one by one) that Obama has disappointed them somehow as personal agendas go unaddressed, as congress stalls in pushing through reforms, laws, policy...

But we do have a choice under new leadership, and a leadership that has been fairly clear in that it is a "we". Americans need to remember that asking for a vote is asking for very little. "Yes, we can" is not just a call to show up at the polls, but a promise that we'll do better.

I'm celebrating the 43rd peaceful transition of power, of a hope for a better tomorrow, and for what it means to have this person at this time stepping into the position to be the face of America. I don't want to diminish the resonance that MLK Day has so close to the election, but to celebrate the sort of person who we've chosen to lead us, perhaps based not upon the color of his skin, but upon the content of his character.

Edit: By the way, while I was writing this, President-Elect Obama and Michelle Obama announced the USA Service website.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Yes, We Can (even when we shouldn't...)

Because everyone else is doing it...

You can actually order this as merchandise.

Here and here.

Star Wars - by someone who has never seen Star Wars

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

For some reason this made me think of Marshall. I have no idea why.

I think because in the Summer of 1993 I told Jill the entire story of Return of the Jedi while Marshall helped me fill the details.