Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who's ready for Robot Overlords? I am, I am!

For some reason, computers beating humans at chess has always worried me. I know chess is a logical game, mathematical even, but there's all that strategy, all that creativity, all those glorified checkers: that's the stuff of humans, right? We're supposed to be the poets and composers and scientists and chess champions, right? Computers are supposed to calculate pi to the umpteenth digit, allow me to aggressively avoid work, and watch videos of people embarrassing themselves whenever I'm feeling vindictive, right? Right?

Oh, but no. Paging John Connor.

In case you haven't been keeping up on your chess gossip (and of course I know you all have), World Champion Vladimir Kramnik (not American in any way) is half-way through a six-game match against mega-mega-chess-computer-of-death Deep Fritz. And, yes, the computer is once again destroying humanity. In fact, not only did Team Human lose the only game that didn't end in a stalemate, but he choked spectacularly, just like the 2004 Yankees or a parachuting clown eating thumbtacks.

It gets better. Or worse, depending on your point of view. In a experiment around 1999, humans were given 28 poem stanzas---a majority of which had been written by a computer, the rest by famous poets---and judges were able to pick correctly...six out of ten times. Which, if you're keeping score, is one coin flip in ten better than blind stupid chance. Not exactly the score you want to hear. And while you're expecting the computer poems to sound something like "MS Word/ DOS DOS Windows/ 011/ 000" we're going to play "Are you a robot sympathizer?" It'll be fun, I promise.

Remember: one of these is a stanza from a real poem by a famous and often lauded poet (I'll tell you who later) while the other was written by a poetputer. Let's play:

What seas, what shores, what granite islands towards my timbers
and woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.

Imagine now a tree in white sails still whirled
About the leaves
will be of silences
Calm and angels

Not that easy, right? Leave a comment, take a stab at it. No cheating. I mean, while we're waiting for the robot apocalypse, we might as well have a little fun. There's room in my bunker for at least ten of us. I call top bunk.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One day with, one day without; or, can I survive 24 hours without "Muskrat Love"?

I was having this discussion with---hmmm...can't remember---but I was probably talking too much with someone who wanted me to just please shut up and we started to discuss how we view music now versus folks in other eras. For example, you couldn't really listen to music of your choice at home until the late 1890s (when wax cylinders were first released) and you couldn't take any recorded music with you anywhere until 1959, when transitorized radios finally made it to the market*. See, I was born when Walkmen when the height of kick-ass technology (I had one of those gaudy yellow ones which, after it ate my Boyz II Men tape, I never trusted again) and, therefore, I've never lived without the option of constant music. So, mysteryhuman and I contrasted that with the reality of, say, three hundred years ago, when the only music you heard was from smelly troubadours, drunk neighbors, and soon-to-be-castrated choir-boys. It was all live and you really didn't have any choice about what you heard. Hopefully: lots of "Greensleeves."

So I thought I should do an experiment.

Now, you know I'm fond of pretending I'm doing things or have done them when we all know I haven't and won't (like the O.J. book or, yesterday, when I claimed I sold my soul to the devil but, in all honestly, sold it instead to a lesser imp), but this one is actually going to happen. Seriously. Now, here's the plan: tomorrow, I'm going to listen to music for 24 hours straight. I'll put on something soothing as soon as I wake up (I'm thinking Anthrax's "Attack of the Killer B's" or "Return of the Killer A's" (and yes those are real)) and spend the rest of the day at least half-immersed in something musical. And here's the thing: it's going to be really, really easy to pull that off. The second part is far trickier.

I'm going to try and spend Friday without any music whatsoever. If that doesn't work, Saturday. If not then, Sunday. If not then...well, I'm already thinking that it's going to be borderline impossible. How do you avoid music anymore? I mean, you can't watch TV: every show has theme music, scene changing music, shmaltzy resolution music; you can't really walk down the street without being bombarded by trunk-rattling E-40 or "please roll your window up"ing smooth jazz. You can't live in an urban area with roommates and regulate the entire block's auditory output. I'm seeing this going on for weeks already. Music is completely ubiquitous now, it's just not the center of attention as it used to be at church or in the town square. Now it's an irritating jingle of nonsense noises in McDonald's commercials or some younger, talentless sister of an older, talentless floozie waking you up on your alarm clock. If I'm going to actually live for 24 hours without music, I'll have to pull a Ted Kazinski. Most likely: less letter-bombs. No promises though. You should totally check out my manifesto.

Anyway: I'll let you know how that goes. My guess? Frustratingly improbable. Now, I need to eat this cinnamon roll. Gooey is an essential food group, you know.

* Fun factoid: Looking on Wikipedia, we must note that transitor radios cost about $49 when they came out, which is equivalent to around 300 and something dollars, which is what iPods cost, which I think is kind of interesting. You don't, huh? Well, good thing this is the end of today's ramble.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Selling Your Soul: Not Just For Ozzy Anymore

With the possible exception of 16th century German alchemists, no group of people have sold their soul to the devil more often than musicians. Robert Johnson is said to have left town a mediocre guitar player, dealt with The Devil at the Crossroads, and to have come back a year later one of the most prolific blues musicians ever. Niccolo Paganini, who was a drunken gambler at the age of fourteen, played the violin with his eyes rolled back in his head and did nothing to quell the rumors that his preternatural skills might have come from a similar deal. And, of course, a Faustian contract is the only plausible explanation for the success of Insane Clown Posse. Either that or Cleveland. Take your pick.

So. What can we learn from this? Well, first off, selling your soul doesn't always lead to extraordinary skill (note: ICP) or a long life (Johnson died in his late twenties). Also, no one ever sold their soul to play the tuba. For that matter, there could be countless other musicians who similarly bargained but never achieved enough fame for us to either gawk at their precocious genius or mock them until they weep uncontrollably. Of course, that didn't stop me. I just got off the phone with Satan, and when I get home, I will shred on the accordion.

See, it's been, well, not a life long dream per se---I guess more of a momentary obsession---to own an accordion. And now? I've got one. But, when you live in a three-level Victorian with eighty-five other people, the accordion isn't the...subtlest of things. In fact, it's like playing a fog horn. Plus when you're still trying to work out which buttons are the minor chords and which the majors, you make the kind of noises that cause cats to chew wallpaper. So, in the interest of not getting evicted or driving my flatmates to the brink of justifiable homicide, I decided not to practice at home, called Cingular, who put me through to the Devil (their CEO, actually), and we chatted. He told me why G.W. goes to bed at 8:30, about the time he had tea and scones with Kevin Federline, and why he removed his name from the final print of "The Adventures of Pluto Nash." Then, we made our deal. My soul for ridiculous accordion prowess. It was easy. Painless even. At least for now. Added bonus: Lawrence Welk, now my bitch. And that's never a bad thing.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A discussion of holidays of which I'm largely ignorant, followed by one which I love. And other stuff.

Every country has a few special holidays. In the UK you get "Boxing Day," which may or may not involve Mike Tyson; in Scotland you get "Robbie Burns Day" which may and must involve whiskey and haggis, the latter of which is way more delicious than you've been lead to believe. I'll put it this way: sheep innards: chalky, yet strangely devourable. In Russia, you get Unity Day (during which all civilians are poisoned with barely traceable iotas of radioactive isotopes); in the Netherlands, Koninginnedag, which has something to do with orange and the monarchy, but has been included because it's really fun to say. Hey: even countries you didn't know existed (Montserrat) have their own holidays (Jump-Up Day) which are actually important, but that I feel it necessary to make light of for no real reason. America? We've got Thanksgiving.

That's the reason for my prolonged absence, and by prolonged I mean a week, which really isn't that long in the first place. Turkey was eaten, ham was (sadly) not, wine was drank, merriment was had. I got to see my folks, my sister, my uncle, my aunt, and their two daughters and do what you do on Thanksgiving, namely, gorge yourself until your toes fall asleep. In other words, it was everything that Thanksgiving's supposed to be, namely food and family, which is what most of the holidays in the first paragraph boil down to in the end. Except Boxing Day. I have no idea what that boils down to. It's on all my calendars though. Maybe it is about food and family but, honestly, I suspect something far more sinister. Like having your kids battle it out for their parent's love in a steel cage filled with panthers. With boxing gloves, of course.

So what's gone on besides yams and cranberries, you might ask? We had a wonderful show in L.A. on the twenty-first which doesn't lend itself to humorous anecdotes but I thought worthy of mention since we had a grand old time. A hearty thank you to all who came out two nights before Thanksgiving.

Otherwise? A week off is always a nice thing. We're working on new songs for New Year's and next year and the years beyond. I'm back at work for a jaw-dropping two months before we leave again. A sense of normalcy is slowly dawning, one which figures to carry with it work-a-day boredom, financial solvency, and actually getting used to living where we live instead of living in whatever motel seems the least likely to get us killed, arrested, or poisoned. I'm looking forward to that.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Happy 200th Post Day; Behold the Poster

We like posters. We like grown men with their heads inside poultry-ass. I think we can all agree on those things.

Still Crazy After All These Years. Still Really Crazy

I tend to not check my email on the weekends. Chalk it up to laziness or bored overload during the work week or the fact that I steal my internet connection from some neighbor named "Yugo" so the speed of the web on my computer is, well, I'll put it this way: you remember 2400 baud modems? Yeah. A lot like that. The result is returning to work on Monday and having an inbox filled with eVites you ignored, words of the day you already knew, and ads promising to "enliven yuor gentials." So you go through, reading, deleting, asking the Men's Wearhouse to stop, please stop, sending you emails for clothes you've never been able to afford, even though that guy who kind of looks like Paul Reiser's gruff uncle assures you you can, and then you come across an email titled simply: "best news ever." And you know what, it is. Or it isn't. I'm on the fence.

Long story short: Mike Tyson is becoming a gigolo.

Alright. I may not know the inner workings of the feminine mind (correction: I don't) but I'm going to venture a guess here: if I was a single woman, vacationing in Vegas, I probably wouldn't want to spend money I should be dropping on an ill-advised Craps session to bed a cannibalistic sociopath who sounds like Dakota Fanning with a lisp. (Added drawbacks: tattoo on face; convicted rapist.) Not really a dream suitor. And yeah, I know: he's supposed to be working at Heidi Fleiss's "Stud Farm," so nobody's going in there to find Prince Charming, but you'd assume that Tyson would be, well, an off-putting man to see in a situation like this. It'd be a lot like going to a whore house and seeing Tania Harding, sitting there in lingerie, smacking a lead pipe against her palm, with a veritable mustache of herpes sores. In other words: not good. In fact, the oppostite of good. We call that "bad."

But for a guy whose career has gone from "Most Feared Boxer on the Planet" to "That Guy Who Tried To Eat That Other Guy's Ear After Threatening to Eat Another Guy's Children" to "Wait? That Guy's Still Alive?", I suppose you could see this as a step in the right direction. As far as off-putting hilarity is concerned, he's doing a fantastic job.

Other things I must mention today: We'll be in Los Angeles tomorrow night, playing Spaceland, before we have the unfortunate chore of driving back north the day before Thanksgiving. That drive should take roughly as long as our trip from Philly to the Bay took, give or take a day or so, but we haven't played the city of angels for a while, so we're going to brave poor timing and a Tuesday night show for the love of it. Then: no shows till New Year's Eve. So we've got time to work on new music, which we've been doing for a few weeks now, and it's going rather well, thanks for asking. For now, I work a triumphant MonsFriday and wish my Mom a Happy Birthday. Enjoy your truncated week.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Haphazardly: The Next Jethro Tull and The Worst Job Ever

My uncle, with whom I will be spending Thanksgiving and to whom I will be handing his own ass on the ping-pong court, has seen Jethro Tull at least 40 times. He told me this when I was in high school, sometime between turkey and pie, and I was duly impressed. At the time, I really enjoyed Jethro Tull: all that mincing and flute-ing and prog-style-befuddlement---it was the sort of thing that pushed my buttons back in the days of gym class, SAT-prep, and overall dorky squareness. And you know, I still do like "Aqualung" and the good parts of "Thick as a Brick" and that song called...something involving a duck that I can't quite remember and could easily look up online but for some reason, I've decided to ramble incessantly instead---Back to the point: I've probably seen Division Day 40 times myself. I kind of cheated since we've played with them around 30 different evenings, so it's not as amazing as my uncle paying to see the Tull each and every time, but come on, I'm only 25. And, as always, they were wonderful. The tambourine bruises on my hand don't lie. The moral? Division Day is Jethro Tull. Or, maybe not. I might be missing the point altogether.

Anyway, here I am, somehow still on my first week of work, hands and brain in relative agony, bored out of my mind, and it's barely 10 in the morning. Not a good sign. This week has felt like a month, which figures to be especially deflating when I get my paycheck and discover, no, wait, just five days. Looking forward to that. But tomorrow is the weekend and the weekends mean more when you're employed, right? They're basically the lollipop you get after being injected with eighty-five needles at the doctor's: a nice sentiment, just not quite nice enough.

But I'm not complaining. No way, no how. My job allows me blog time, poster-printing privileges, and time to waste pointless retooling a sadly outmatched fantasy basketball team. I've got it good. On the other hand, I was outside yesterday and saw one of those city employees who drives around in a glorified golf cart getting verbally murdered by a yuppie who returned from his lunch to find a $45 ticket on his Audi. And it dawned on me: that's the worst job ever. Seriously. The parking-enforcement guy? Nobody likes you. Your job is to enforce vague signage. It's to ruin people's day. It's so bad that your goal has to be avoiding the people you fine so as not to get accosted for, like most people, just doing your job. Plus: no get-away vehicle. I don't think a three-wheeled, go-cart tricycle can even get to twenty miles per hour. I'm pretty sure I could run it down and push it over and I'm not that fast and definitely not that strong. So, from now on, I'm going to respect the ticket-giving guy, if only because no one else does. Until he gives me a ticket, of course. Then: It's ON.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Call the Pulitzer Committee. Call them now.

I'm thinking of writing a book. Something topical, something marketable, something that, given the idea, has to be written, edited, and published in about a week and a half. Like Bridges Over Madison County, say. (Written in three days, you know. Sad but true).

My book will bring America together. My book will be all the rage. My book will be on the best-seller list for longer than "Dark Side of the Moon" was on Billboard. My book will speak to people of all ages, sexes, and flavors. My book will get me interviews on morning-time talk shows with vacant bobble-heads and night-time talk shows with suspendered hunchbacks. My book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you wish you wrote it. My book will be called: "If I Kicked O.J. in the Crotch."

See, we all want to kick O.J. in the crotch. People who think he did it (we call those people "sane") hate the fact he paid for his freedom and didn't even get rid of the slice on his 5 Iron. People who think he didn't do it have to be pretty flabbergasted that he's writing books which "hypothetically" examine what he would have done, had he done it, which of course, he didn't.

I have to repeat this: my book will bring America together. Because, if you'll recall, the whole O.J. debacle highlighted some serious issues in our country: racism, justice for the elite, the Naked Gun trilogy. It reminded us about the sometimes-ignored chasms of inequality. Now? We're all equal; we are united in our collective desire to deliver a swift kick to O.J.'s groin. And I don't think that a historic moment like this can be glossed over. Can you think of another time that we, as Americans, were so united in a common goal? World War II? Not by a mile. The strange, unnameable desire to try Crystal Pepsi? Warmer, but not quite. Communal schadenfreude at the expense of Kevin Federline? Closer still. But not close enough.

So, let's give the man his due. After effectively rending our country in two, he's returned, a decade later, to unify us. And, like the saying goes: United we stand; divided we fall. Or, united we kick O.J.'s crotch, divided something else. And that's the moral today. Love thy neighbor. Unless thy neighbor lives in Brentwood.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A rather thorough post which contains enough references to pose as some sort of pointless collegiate thesis. Grant money payable to Birdmonster LLC

We've been contemplating doing a few covers on New Year's Eve. You figure, hey, it's one of the top three debaucherous evenings of the year (along with Hallowe'en and the always rowdy Women's Suffrage Day), so why not learn something we can all sing along with? After all, a drunken, disorganized sing-along is a beautiful thing; kind of like a Canadian hockey game without the feathered mullets and the superior national anthem.

But, naturally, you have to be picky. A great cover is a rarity and you don't want to end up doing what the Ataris did: covering an otherwise fantastic '80s song, adding distortion, and butchering the vocals like Carl Lewis before a Bulls game. (If Don Henley was dead, he would've been rolling in his grave. Since he's not, he probably just cashed a royalty check and drank pink champagne on ice. Strange, but true). Of course, on the flip side of this coin are the Clash, Nirvana, and Aretha Franklin. London Calling (my top vote getter for "Best Album Ever") is laden with covers while Nirvana's Unplugged is nearly half other people's music, notably that Leadbelly song I can never remember the name of and a mean version of "Man Who Sold The World." And I mention Aretha Franklin because "Respect" is actually an Otis Redding song. Hell, Bobby McGee is a Kristofferson song but I really don't want to hear any version without Janis Joplin at the helm. (Barely related note: isn't it wonderful that the guy who wrote "Bobby McGee" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down" was also a psuedo-crippled vampire hunter who co-starred with Wesley "Yeah I cheated on my taxes but also I can kill you" Snipes? I think so. No. I know so.)

Okay: I digressed there for a moment. The point: covering someone else's song is a delicate challenge. If your version is too similar, you're wasting people's time. It's like Nickelback covering Creed. Would you even know the difference? And of course, the song has to be good, or what's the point of resurrecting it? There's a reason everyone covers "Let It Be." There's a reason no one covers "She Bangs" except William Hung, who, of course, is a genius. And no, I'm not kidding.

Which leaves us where, exactly? Well, with choosing a New Year's cover. The criteria is it has to be well-known enough that we can all sing along or at least slur through a chorus or two; it has to be someone we don't really sound like (no Limp Bizkit, in other words); it has to be, above all, fun. Nobody wants to hear a somber rehash of "Uptown Girl."

Right now, we've got a couple ideas, but since we aren't that far along, I thought I'd solicit some suggestions. If anything, it could make for an interesting at-work playlist. For now, we'll keep the decision a secret. It's called foreshadowing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On secret languages, tickets, and instruments that ended up where we never expected

Let me level with you: when I'm not puttering around the country, touring, and driving until I have one of those ass tumors that truckers get, I'm in a cubicle, selling tickets. Not exactly one of those jobs that's making the world a better place, granted, but it's also fairly harmless. Or, to put it another way, I might not be curing diseases but I'm not designing them either, which, given my high school biology grades, is no great surprise. Of course there are perks too: the occassional cheap Warriors ticket, that sinking feeling you get when you realize people will pay $600 to see another Barbara Streisand "No, really, it's my farewell" tour, and, my personal favorite, secret lingo.

I think every job has it's own weird, insular vernacular. Lawyers can say things like "voir dire" and "res judicata" and "certiorari" and the only response I can come up with is "abracadabra." Doctors have their own private lexicon, filled with three letter acronyms, more latin, and words that describe parts of your body you barely knew you had. Rumor has it that some butchers can speak a mangled version of pig latin. So, naturally, I'm thrilled to have a job where saying things like "flip the one-eleven charlies at a buck and a dime" is a daily occurrance. It's like learning a second language, except that's it's about as useful as Maltese and nowhere near as interesting. It's better than saying "you guys save room for dessert?" though.

This is my roundabout way of making an observation. Since I'm selling (read: scalping) tickets, I get to see what shows and teams are incredibly popular, ergo expensive, and which events you can see for a half-punched smoothie stand frequent buyer card. What I've noticed lately is this: it is now against the law to write an original musical.

Bear with me. We've got Jersey Boys (about the Four Seasons), Mamma Mia (about ABBA), Movin' Out (about Billy Joel), that one about Dylan that's supposed to reek, the one (now long gone) about Freddy Mercury & Queen; in other words, at some point, without telling anyone, musicals have devolved into pseudo-non-fictional retellings of musician's lives, using their music, only it's sung and performed by pretty people with American-Idol-style voices, surrounded by Spandexed, flexible people. When did this happen? What happened to grown men and women wearing whiskers and prancing around to modernist poetry? I mean, if you write a musical, shouldn't you be, you know, writing music?

One thing I forget to mention yesterday, somehow. When we played the Riott festival this weekend, we had the pleasure of sharing the stage with a strange variety of artists. One of these acts was Living Legends (who, I must say, were really damn good. Having fifty thousand people on stage never hurts). What I forgot to mention is, on my way back from the bar, I noticed something odd during their set. I noticed, stage left & front, a hooded dude, wearing sunglasses, smoking a blunt, humping a melodica. Which, naturally, forced me to ponder "where the hell is my melodica?" Which, naturally, led me to the conclusion that it was on that guy's crotch. Which, naturally, was kind of creepy. At any rate, I found it after their set, safe, sound, perhaps a little emotionally scarred, and packed it up. On the other hand, Sage Francis stole my keys.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Let's talk about ponies and New Year's and not about work. I think I'm employed again, but it might all be an artichoke induced hallucination

There are a few thoughts that go through my head each time we return from tour. Things like "Wait. There are fruits and vegitables?" and "Oh yes. That bill." Also, you take solace in the knowledge that you'll have your own bed instead of a tiny, dorm-sized cot, covered in a blanket which may or may not be harboring germs of the next great pandemic. Then there's the remembrance that you know people beyond the three guys in your band and that each day doesn't have to begin in a van or in a diner or in a state of hungover confusion. Plus, all the routine things you do and places you visit when you're home are suddenly interesting---at least until you visit that bagel place for the third time in four days and it's old hat all over again.

So, yes. We're home. And what's a better homecoming than taking $50 you don't have and betting at the track? Nothing, that's what. I had a red letter evening on Friday, winning an astounding zero times and coming dreadfully close only once. And I was so sure I knew what I was doing too. I mean, I know how to box a trifecta, how to avoid unsightly puddles in the men's room, how to scream wildly at animals that can't understand me and jockeys who can't hear me. I was even fairly certain that after a few one dollar beers (the teaser that got us to the track in the first place), I had suddenly become the horse whisperer. I kept going down to the paddock and saying things like "Oh, you can see it in his eyes: he wants it," and then discovering, fifteen minutes later, that what he wants is to finish twenty lengths off the leader and be turned into a vat of Elmer's.

Besides that borderline financially catastrophic trip to the ponies, though, I've just been catching up. I watched all the LOSTs from this season (and let me say: much better than last season already and I enjoyed last season immensely. Except this: the new people at the camp. You can't expect me to take that lying down. Memo to the producers: kill them before I get angry. And make it violent. Especially for the guy. He has no personality. He's halfway to corpse-dom already). I cooked something that didn't involve fried meat. I lounged around like a drugged house cat. We even had time to play a show on Saturday. If you would've told me a while ago that somehow, we'd have played the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium twice in less than a year, I would've laughed in your face and maybe called you something unpleasant. Yet, well, we have. Sometimes, I feel like Queensryche. Soon: well-conditioned hair down to my knee-caps.

Now? Back at work. Which means I can again comment back and will be spending most mornings writing about Godknowswhat for far too many paragraphs. Do come back. Oh, and I must, must, must mention this: We're playing our favorite club in the world on New Year's Eve this year. In other words: Bottom of the Hill, 12/31. If you're in San Francisco, please come by. We'll have some new songs, a cover or two, and would love to slur Auld Lang Syne with you. No one knows those lyrics anyhow.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Onwards, homewards.

Here's something that threw me for a loop: as of
yesterday, we've driven through 47 of the lower
48 states this year. Sorry North Dakota. Your
southern neighbor is warmer, has giant stone
craniums of four of the good presidents carved
into a mountain, and Walldrug, the world's leading
purveyor of useless plastic rubbish. Better luck
next year.

Yes, yesterday included drives through the
thrillsvilles known as Iowa, Nebraska, and
Wyoming. If you like tumbleweeds, jaywalking
deers, and arrow-straight two lane highways, take
the 80 through the middle of the country. There's
literally a thousand miles of it. If you're lucky:
roadwork signs with no roadwork. The sunsets are
nice though. We were driving through Utah today
and dusk was positively ominous. Black clouds,
craggy mountains. You know Mordor from Lord of
the Rings? A lot like that, sans creepily vaginal
flaming mouth of death. I could've missed it

Defying the Google oracle, we're aiming to make it
back a day early (read: tonight) after three
sixteen hour driving days. And you know what? I'm
not even feeling insane yet. A bit dissapointing,
actually. Other long drives have devolved into
thoroughly embarrassing free style rap-offs, stale
donut eating contests, and peeing-in-gatorade
-bottle-marathons. This time? We're focused,
business-like, downright Amish about it. I think the
wonder that is the Donald has a lot to do with it.
Comfy leather, roomy interior, movies both vile
and fantastic, and the glory of cruise control make
the journey so much better. No more radiator
explosions. No more running the heater constantly.
No more Patrick Stewart, in other words. I miss
her in the way you might miss athelete's foot,
which is to say, not at all.

The only thing missing is Motown Philly. I want to
hear that song desperately right now. Boyz II Men,
besides the unclever Nu Metal-esque mispelling,
was the best boy band of all time. Back in school,
you know, they used to dream about this
everyday. And so on. Plus, we could've played it in
Utah, which I'm pretty sure would've been some
sort of cultural event.

Alright: gotta keep Zach awake, then drink some
"Warning: Highly Caffienated" trucker-strength
coffee and drive us home. The feeling you get
driving over the Bay Bridge after weeks away is
one I'm looking forward to. I think I'll put on some
Simon & Garfunkel so it feels like the Graduate.
Until soon.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A well-reasoned political thesis, peppered with tales of woe, boredome, and roadkill

When you can't watch TV in Iowa without being
badgered by suited silverbacks, when Barbara
Boxer has left you two pre-recorded ramblings in
as many days (so thoughtful, isn't she?), and
when even the backwoodsiest middle-America
dailies are awash in propositions instead of local
high school football blowouts then, well, it's
election day. And wouldn't you know it? Broken
voting machines everywhere. Without launching
into a political diatribe here, can I be the first to
ask: why machines? What's wrong with paper?
See, machines break. My toaster? Two months
old. Computers? Forget it. Scissors break.
Hammers break. Zippers break. Paper, on the other
hand: pretty reliable. Plus: impervious to tampering
by basement dwelling, computer-hacking, chronic
masturbators. I like my government sullied by the
rich and powerful. Call me old fashioned. At any
rate, I'm sure we're in for a week of second
-guessed Diebold machines and their innevitable
accomplice: flabbergasting Republican victories.
Sign me up.

Also: who's excited for more Governor
Schwartzenegger? Our governor has a pinball
machine. What about yours? Oh, really? A stalled
budget proposal? How exciting. Ours in a CYBORG
FROM THE FUTURE. Take that Bloomberg.


So I wrote that six hours ago, before I drove
through Nebraska (I must say: dissapointing
amounts of corn) and we listened to election
coverage the whole time. A couple reasons here.
One: I've heard nearly every song on every CD,
tape, and iPod in the car this trip. This includes the
entire Trapped in the Closet album, a shameful
late night ABBA session, and oh so much Petty. In
other words, I needed a break. Two: election night
only comes once every couple years, unless you've
been a Californian, whereas it comes every third
Tuesday. Recalls? We got 'em. Special elections
where nothing happens? Those too. Primaries?
Please sir, may I have another?

But the news seems good. Democrats have
reconquered the House, which, as I understand it,
means that instead of the White House running
amok without a nanny, we're going to have two
glorious years of pessimism and deadlock. I, for
one, am ecstatic.

By the way: best quote I heard all night:

"...the incumbent certainly wasn't helped by
revelations of an extra-marital affair. Moreover,
his mistress has acused him of strangling her. The
Congressman, on the other hand, claims he was
giving her a neck massage..."

I guess it's possible to insult my intelligence more
egregiously, I just can't think of how.

Also: I almost ran over a deer. I'm sure that
would've been traumatic. I've pancaked a rabbit
before once, but, not to sound callous here: there's
a whole lot of rabbits. In fact, that's their entire
evolutionary strategy. They're defenseless,
delicious, but maaaaan do they have a lot of sex.
No shortage of bunnies. Plus, they fit right under
the tire. Deer, on the other hand: majestic, less
prevalent, and would probably muck up our bumper
something rotten.

Lastly: we're in Wyoming. Wheeeeeeeeee!
Tumbleweeds! Continental Divides! Loud gas
station country music! Come visit before all the
city folks bring their Pier 1s. So excited right now.
So, so excited.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

No laughing matter

For roughly a week an a half, we toured with a band called La Rocca out to CMJ. They were fine conversationalists. They dressed far more daper than me going to the opera. They forced brandy/vodka/red wine shots down our throats. Now, well, now bad things have happened. At the Holiday Inn in Philly, some soulless fucker stole their van, which contained their gear, which was also their ride home. So, if you're around Philly. look for a '97 white, 15 passenger Dodge Ram with some tape over the back right brake light. If you see it, go all Batman on the guy who's driving it. Or call the cops. Either way: Boys of La Rocca: chin up. I hope this leads to any information---be safe, have the best time humanly possible at this point. We'll be thinking of y'all.

Read more here. And also here.

(New entry below:)

In which Birdmonster mocks Dale Earnheardt, regrets scrapple, and begins one hell of a drive.

First off, sorry it's been awhile. We were in New York and, well, New York is what it is. Which is New York. Which, I realize, explains nothing. Not winning the "Best Introductory Paragraph" award with one.

My point is, when you're in New York after being in, say, Cleveland or Kansas or Detroit, you get distracted by all the tall buildings, late last calls, and exceedingly delicious foodstuffs. Plus we were there during CMJ (the ostensible reason for this whole shebang) and that meant that when we weren't off leeching free schwag off the generous, we were watching new bands and band-friends play borrowed equipment with lovable abandon. Which is something you should know at any festival --- odds are, the band you're seeing is playing (maybe) their own guitars out of Godknowswhat amp, a pawn shop drum set, and got, at best, a ten minute line check that ruled out fatal microphone electrocutions but didn't begin to deal with stage sound. So that blown-out flatulent noise coming from the bass amp? Not my fault.

Of course, now were headstarting our 2904 mile trip home. And yes, you read that right. The Indianapolis 500 is for pantywaists. Yeah, Dale Earnhardt Jr. You heard me.

2904 miles translates to 49 hours of drive time, 3 and a half days (hopefully), or, in laymens terms, a shit-ton of driving. We've got our books, our movies, our rest-stop frisbee, and enough money to make it to...Nebraska. After that, we're either making and selling an eight story corn replica of Michaelangelo's David or maxing out the ol' Visa. Could go either way.

But lets not talk about that. It's daunting to the point of unfathomable and, you know: out of sight, out of mind. For now, we drive.

New York . Let's see. There are plenty of stories, but most of them are of good music while barhopping, so they don't make for exciting reading. I don't want to bore you fine people. We'll have plenty of time for that when we're in Wyoming on 13 straight hours of turn-less driving and my brain has devolved to cromagnum proportions. Wait. Didn't I say I wasn't talking about the drive? Yes. Seems I did. Wow. I made it four sentences. And two of those sentences were two words long. I've impressed even myself.

So, breifly, the best bands I saw in a half-weeks time:

-Mohair: We lucked out and saw their set while picking up our magical badges the second day. Gang-vocals, hill-billiness, catchiness, and, yes banjos. You know I approve.

-The Sammies: You know how we feel about these boys.

-Division Day: Ditto.

-Ra Ra Riot: Cellos! VIolins! Some sort of tiny keyboard! The normal band trappings (bass, guitar, drums)! Hooray! Played with these folks three times and we're fans for life. Our best to them. Let us know when the CD's out. Or you know, send a free one. We're shameless like that.

-Archie Bronson Outfit: Another one of those happy accidents. I was at the Fader space, taking glorious advantage of free Red Stripe and suddenly: holy suchandsuch. Reminded me of the first Hot Snakes CD, not those ones near the end with all those confusing time signatures. Note nobody enjoys 5/4 time. It makes us all queasy. I still love you Geddy Lee. Just play Freewill already.

I know I'm forgetting someone, Or several someones. But it's 3 in the morning. Cut unto me some slack.

Lastly I'd like to wildly change subjects. Let's talk about Scrapple. Or, rather, let me warn you off scrapple. Point one: you should never eat anything with the word "scrap" right there in its name. Not so coincidentally, "crap": also in there. Point two: scrapple is the nubbins and detritus that fall off sausages, bacon, and other members of the pork food group. It gets pressed together, refried, and served to you at a price somehow higher than any of its intact pig cuisine bretheren. If you end up in Philly, skip scrapple. Somehow, I missed cheeseteaks but had an entire loaf of scapple. I think I'm being punished for some forgotten, yet particularly heinous sin.

Since we're car-bound until Thursday, expect daily updates. About what exactly? Beats me. I'm sitting in a van for four days. All's I know is it should be fun to document our corkscrew into claustrophobic battiness. Do join me.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

In which Birdmonster, costumed, exhausted, and overjoyed, frolicks in New York.

Until this year, I didn't have much in the way of New York memories. I had that Billy Joel song and this time when I rowed on that lake in Central Park, but since I can barely swim, let alone pilot a watercraft, most of my time was spent circling endlessly, ramming old ladies, and getting screamed at by more adept cockswains, but, well, that was about it. Now? Three trips in less than six months. I'm developing a instinctual surliness, a general disregard for pedestrians, a hatred of cooking. All is well.

When you're young, this city is intimidating---which is not to say that it still isn't (see below)---but you grow up a bit, live in a city with more bums than children (read: San Francisco), and suddenly, it's a lot less imtimidating. It's like getting just tall enough so that monosyllabic bum stops breaking your nose and starts giving you wedgies instead. Sure it hurts to sit down, but your face stays symetrical. I think that's important.

Of course, there are still moments when it scares the shit out of you. We just had one of those. About, say, twenty minutes ago. You know the stereotypical New York cabbie? The one who honks his horn constantly, yells at passers-by, and has probably run down ten or twenty strollers? We had that cabbie. But that cabbie has no personality, maybe doesn't speak English, and never seems to know where he's really going. Our guy (Richie), he knew. He drove like Cole Trickle*. He almost ran people over, then screamed out the window "Jesus loves you" or "I'll get you next time." He designed a Christian umbrella, though we never found out what exactly made it Christian. Made out of eucharists, perhaps. And when he wasn't coming dangerously close to vehicular homicide, he was simply yelling out the window. Sometimes, long, throat-shredding wolf howls. Sometimes, more of a "yip yip yoooooO!" sort of noise. I spent the entire ride cackling and making out my will.

And weirdly, that sums up how I feel about this place now. I love it and fear it and can't help but find it hilarious all in one fell swoop. We've been here since Halloween. Some highlights:

- CMJ Badges: I don't know if you've ever heard that Dismemberment Plan song called "You Are Invited," but, essentially, it's a weird narrative set over one of the cheesiest/best drum machine beats ever about a guy getting an invitation in the mail that lets him into any party, anywhere, any time he wants. This badge is like that. And if I ever complain about constant free shows, I give you permission to stab me. Added bonus: I got a bag filled with free shit and, yeah, most of it's already in the trash, but I like bags of freeness. It's like I'm at an orthordontist's convention or something. Except, instead of floss and Colgate, we got glossy magazines and a Public Enemy CD.

- Halloween: Not only were we fortunate enough to play two shows on Halloween, but we got to play one costumed. For the record, I'm not sure how women deal with high heels. I'm not sure how Prince deals with high heels. I'm not sure how I managed to not sprain my ankles. Both our shows were on the same block of the same street, which made logistics (more) painless and both were for fine folks, Music for Robots and KCRW, in that order, chronologically. The former was in a subteranean, windowless bar in the early afternoon, the latter at Pianos, which, after the dehydrating, night-during-the-day setting of the first show, was a nice change. Plenty of good costumes too. The best one: a cadre of the Robert Palmer Addicted To Love girls. Y'all were perfect.

- Unexpected Surprises: During our night show, Peter asked us to run through Springsteen's "Atlantic City" so he could introduce the band. Three things here. One: we'd never played it before. And by never I mean we tried it once in Cleveland, but Cleveland doesn't count. In fact, I'm hereby eliminating that city from the Birdvernacular. Two: we had no idea what the hell he was to going talk about. Three: there's nothing like trying something for the first time in front of a couple hundred people to put the fear of God in you. But it worked out beautifully (if I do say so myself. And I do.)

- Best Costume under 50 cents: This award goes to Ryan from Division Day. Picture it: a bow on top of a tag of construction paper that read, "From: God. To: Women." Bra. Vo.

- Fine food: After a week and a half of fried, anonymous meats, Hot Mamas, and complete lack of vitamins, we've had everything from New York bagels, sushi, hot dogs, Thai food, and, obviously, pizza. All with fine company to boot. Our arteries are opening back up. It's a good feeling, circulation. Looking forward to living past 30.

- Three more days: We've still got tonight, show free, and shows tomorrow and the following day. I might be Yankees fan by Wait. Never.

Until soon. And if you're in town, tomorrow is in Brooklyn, at night, at Studio-B, while we're doing a matinee at Sin-E on the Lower East side the day before the New York Marathon, where tens of thousands of folks will line the street to proclaim how much better shape they're in than the rest of us. Then Philly. Then 3000 miles to home. Expect true lunacy at the end there. In the words of Richie: Jesus loves you; I'll kill you next time.

* Oh yeah, I went there. Sorry.