Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A new website in a new location and the reasons why

Back in the halcyon days of California, after James Marshall Eureka-ed a hunk of gold near Sutter's Mill, miners, adventurers, and brigands from all points of America flocked to our great state, knowing full well that money did not grow on trees but rather in the ground. The first of these men were called "Forty-Niners," after the date 1849, and, in addition to providing the namesake for a now horrendous football team, their mining claim practices became the basis for U.S. law. Essentially, any public domain land---that is, any land unclaimed by the government of the United States for an expressed purpose---was up for grabs.

Scraggly weirdos came in droves. Among them was the infamous "Emperor" Norton, a man who inherited ridiculous sums of money from his father, and, unlike modern day trustafarians, decided to go completely bat-shit instead of taking bong rips and wondering why people still go to McDonald's. James "Grizzly" Adams also showed up, a man who kept bears as pets, a man who wrestled with his pet bears, and a man who learned why men aren't supposed to wrestle bears when one bear-slapped his face and left his brain exposed. Seriously.

But the majority of immigrants were adventuresome everymen, hoping that the streams and dirt of California hid their fortune. They took advantage of the first come, first served land laws, chose their claims, and started mining. Of course, there were men of questionable valor who simply saw something they fancied and stole lands already parceled out to more steadfast folk. They were called claim jumpers. They were dicks.

Now, thinking back to the early days of this thing we call the Internet, there are certainly parallels to the California Gold Rush. An entity of largely untapped potential, promising massive riches and a new way of a life, the internet began in a remarkably similar way. Largely lawless, domain names were given away to whoever thought to claim them first. Dweebs, techies, and masturbators from all points of America flocked to this great internet, knowing full well that money did not grow on trees, but rather on "" These pioneers, not unlike Samuel Brannan before them, got the good land.

Of course, to continue our analogy, there were a disreputable sort of technological claim jumpers known as domain poachers. They purchased domain names which they had no interest in using, praying that companies, entrepreneurs, and every day people would one day want and, naturally, pay a handsome sum for. Later, when smart companies had purchased or sued for their domain names, these modern day claim jumpers began to pursue a different tact, known as "cybersquatting" or "domain hijacking." Essentially, these horrible dicks loophole lovers waited for domain names to expire, purchased them as soon as technologically possible, then demanded exorbitant compensation to give back what was rightly somebody else's.

Which brings us to ""

See, we lost it. We lost it because we didn't re-register our domain properly and for that, we except blame, scorn, and sadness. But we wouldn't have lost it were it not for DomCollect Worldwide Intellectual Properties, who purchased in hopes of, well, extorting the living shit out of us. May they all get hepatitis and die.

Yes, thanks to DomCollect, we are homeless. We went to store for a baguette and some brie and came back to a squatter, mocking us in our own home. These man-vulture hybrids now own, want $6,000 for it, and are the object of my unending vitriol and slander (or is it libel? I can never remember. It's like the stalactite/stalagmite of hate speech). May they all get syphilis and die.

Which brings us, sadly but yet triumphantly to our brand-spanking-new-fuck-you-very-much-DomCollect-Worldwide-Intellectual-Properties website over at Adjust your bookmarks accordingly. Do not go to and click any of their godforsaken links about jobs in the Bay Area, Phoenix Birds as pets, Large Gorgeous Aviaries, or Cryptozoology. Instead, come to our new website, which is newly snazzy, updated, and fancified for a new age when Birdmonster will properly register their names with the proper authorities and never get cornholed by soulless European squatters ever again.

And if you're from DomCollect, let me know how that STD is going. My hope: poorly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In an effort to make tonight's showing less like last night's, a recommendation that, admittedly, is not for everyone

It's summertime and, whether you heard it from Gershwin or Bradley Nowell, the living's easy. Summer is synonymous with vacations, melanoma, and the aggressive forgetting of last year's schoolwork. It's three entire months that seem to say "Look: you've had a rough year. Just open your headflap so I can pour tapioca all over your brain."

It's also the season of "Waterworld," "Van Helsing," and "Big Momma's House." Summertime is when movie studios unveil their schlockiest, sorriest, bogus...est wares to a public which they pray doesn't notice. Sure, there's the annual Pixar gem and the yearly loafing-stoner-gets-hottie Apatow flick, but really, for every lovable winner, there's a steaming pile of Speed 2: Cruise Control clogging up your toilet. I'm still in counseling over Matrix: Reloaded; Wild Wild West blinded me for a month.

Now, admittedly, I'm not a big movie theatre person. (This is in stark contrast to Peter, who sees seemingly everything, including Norbit twelve times.) I'm more of a "I'll rent it from Video Shack down the street and pay a $40 late fee" sort of man. But last Friday, a movie I had been waiting oh so long for began a week-long layover at a local, single-screen theatre. Last night, I saw it. It's called Poultrygeist. I've never seen anything like it.

And for a moment, I didn't think anyone else would either.

See, after buying tickets and popcorn, Dave, myself, and a couple close buddies entered the theatre to find we had it all to ourselves. No hyperbole here: just four dudes in the middle of a 300-seat theatre. It was like one of our Ohio shows. As show time approached, a couple moseyed in, followed by a small clan of twenty-somethings with bad tribal tattoos and worse tribal earrings. It was nice not having the whole place to ourselves, though I could've indulged my secret love of screaming instructions at protagonists, but the barrenness of the place startled me. Were we early? Did the world at large know something I didn't? Was there a better zombie-chicken-musical out across town?

And, while those were meant to be rhetorical questions, the answers (respectively) are no, sort of, and no fucking way.

First, off, let me say this: it's not for everyone. Not since the new Rambo have I left a film with such an acute case of post-traumatic dress disorder. Poultrygeist is a horror movie, yes, but not in that Eli Roth, torture-porn sort of way; it's both tongue in cheek and eye-coveringly-disgusting. "Dead Alive," is a good touchstone, if you've seen that. But, oh, Poultrygeist, you were so much more: a full-fledged musical about the fast food industry, collegiate protesting, chicken-Indian-zombies---you know, the important stuff. I'm still trying to process the whole experience, quite frankly. I laughed and my burrito almost repeated on me. And, if that sounds good to you, well, you know who you are.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Concerning free wine & music tonight for one and all, prefaced by vaguely-related rambling

You know that old saying "they don't make 'em like they used to"? It's often invoked by gray-haired been-there-done-thats while driving in a rented Dodge Nitro or when one of those Ikea shelving units sways precariously after a strong wind. The tacit implication is that all this new-fangled who-ha is pure crap, inferior to the sturdy brilliance of an old Camero or an antique bookcase. Everything new is just a construction made of plastic and particle board, we're led to believe, while everything that preceded it was made of oak, diamonds, and ground up unicorn bones.

Of course, that's just silly. What's misremembered are the Deloreans, the Hop 'N' Gators, and Zapmails of history. I'm not suggesting that the past was just a collection of clunky muscle cars, inharmonious Gatorade and beer marriages, and FedEx blunders; I'm simply noting that that phrase just isn't fair. In other words, what's still around seems sturdy because, well, it's still here. Plenty of old ideas and old products have died ignominious deaths but since they've long retreated into the attic-like brains of historians and trivia-buffs, they're more or less forgotten.

Take, for instance, my mandolin. Or my mandolins. In less than a year of playing that most manly of instruments (move over picolo; step aside pan flute), I've broken two. Both were circa early 1900s sorts, you know, the ones with the bowled backs. They're sometimes called "potato bug" mandolins, which amuses me to no end. But one ended up murdered in the back of our van (culprit unknown but expected to be a drunken footfall) and the other, to quote Cutting Crew, "just died in my arms tonight," while I was adjusting the bridge. They were delicate, faberge-egg like things that needed to be treated with diva-like tact and care. I, on the other hand, am more of an inebriated spousal abuser when it comes to instrument care.

In other words, I'm on my third mandolin. And my third melodica. Meanwhile, a $190 dollar Washburn bass I once slammed tamborines into nightly and threw on ground at the slightest provocation is still going strong. Modern construction: not always a bad thing.

I mention this because yesterday, in anticipation of tonight, I bought a brand spanking new mandolin with what was supposed to be next month's rent. On the one hand, I can strum out soprano chords to my heart's content, on the other hand, can I sleep on your couch?

Which is my (extremely digressive) way of saying "Come enjoy my new purchase with us tonight." To wit:

In our neverending quest to provide both free music and free wine, Birdmonster has jumped at the opportunity to play an event next Tuesday night at the Gray Area Gallery on Folsom Street. It's a three hour shindig with a DJ (DJ Excitable Rooster, a name which, in and of itself, suggests supreme awesomeness), complimentary (read free, free, free) wine, a raffle, some art on display and for sale (with proceeds going to Rock the Vote but not Vote or Die, sorry Puffy), and us doing an acoustic set.

In other words, an RSVP is good for a free night of music, art, booze, and general merry-making. It's like my version of heaven, except without Kurt Russell following me around, threatening to beat up interlopers.

You can RSVP here. It starts at seven and it ends at ten. Hope to see your shining faces. I'll be the one with his housing payment on his lap, sadly plucking through his last month of shelter. You can be the one with a job and a mug of free Shiraz.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let's discuss this foofaraw (and yes, I'm very excited about the word foofaraw. I hope you are too)

The Golden Gate Bridge, once the subject of fawning '30s news reels about Modern Man's Butt-Whooping Engineering prowess and still the most pervasive symbol of San Francisco, is now in the middle of a very public brouhaha. The issue at hand is suicide barriers: some liken the bridge to a "loaded gun" and champion one of five different designs that hope to drastically cut down the amount of jumpers; others think $50 million dollars to deface a national monument so people can commit suicide elsewhere is probably not the best use of fiscal resources.

It's a sticky situation. If you go one way, you're crudding up something iconic and beautiful to (possibly) save some lives; if you go the other, you sound like a dick.

Essentially, the barrier plans fit into one of two categories: nets & railings. Four designs are similar: either vertical or horizontal bars outside or in place of the existing railing. To me, they look like prison bars, which isn't really the best greeting you can give an incoming tourist: "San Francisco: It's like a beautiful jail, except: less shiv-ings." Boo that. The other is a net, something like 20 feet under the bridge, which begs the question, if you jump off the bridge and land in a net, wouldn't you just then jump off the net? They could've saved the $2 million they invested on that idea and given it to me.

For my money (and some of it would in fact be my money), these ideas suck. Jungle gyms taught me that bars can be climbed and the net idea, well, we went over that. Plus, while we're debating this, there's no actual divider between north and south bound traffic on the bridge to prevent head on collisions, thereby preventing people who don't want to die from dying. I'd tackle that first. What we're left with here is five options, all of which have the laudable goal of saving lives but the sticky wickets of ugliness, expense, and probable uselessness.

Of course, there's a middle ground. And that middle ground is Spider-Man.

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I read many tales of Spider-Man swinging from rooftops to rescue falling pedestrians/girlfriends/octogenarian legal guardians. And you know what? He never. Missed. Once.

There are downsides, naturally: Spider-Man can't work 24 hours a day and he's only one man (though he's radioactive and spandexed, so he's really better than any other man). Furthermore, you know rabid fanboys from all corners of the earth would jump off the Golden Gate just to be rescued by the webbed avenger. But if you pay Peter Parker $50 million cash, he's quitting his weak-ass photo job at the Daily Bugle and coming to the bay. If basketball free agency has taught me anything, it's that you go on, take the money and run.

Wait. You know what? Now that I think of it, Spider-Man could just construct a hugemongous web beneath the bridge, thus saving both his time and our money. Once a night, he goes out, frees the failed suicides, gives them a stern talking to, and sets them free before retreating to his Nob Hill loft to play World of Warcraft until his eyes bleed. This could totally work. Contact your Supervisor.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Regarding music, Hulk Hogan, your calendar, and the atrophied ghoul that is Jason Kidd

If you're anything like me, you have a calendar of Scottish Highland Cattle in your den that hangs there naked and useless. Sure, there are twelve glorious photos of creatures are both be ferocious and have horrific emo hair, but the days themselves are blank. So, in an effort to fill up that calendar, we here at Birdmonster have a few dates you may want to add.

- August 5th, 2008: The date our new album comes out on them there interwebs. You can do the download thing at your favorite mp3 hole and, well, we'd love it if you did.

- Monday Nights, 8p.m.: As a young skip, my Sundays were often filled with cereal, He-Man jammies, and rapt viewings of American Gladiators. Now, while some things from my youth, like my undying love of Dream Theatre and uncontrolled poison marshmallow cereal fetish died hard, my love for all things American Gladiators was rekindled last night. I can't recommend the ludicrous stupidity that is the updated AG highly enough. They've got a bunch of failed tight ends wearing lycra and wolf-fangs, Hulk Hogan pimping Toyota (brother), and last night, the subtle homoeroticism was through the roof, with one of the contestants nearly outdoing Tobias Funke, with gems like "I always come from behind" and "You might be on top now but I'm behind you just waiting." Thank you NBC.

- September 2nd, 2008: The date you can get the album in stores. Not the American Gladiator album, mind you, though if that's also being released, I admonish you to buy one as well. We must support my newfound love.

- February 22nd, 2005: The day "Rich Girl" was murdered by its creators. Look, I loves me some stripped-down acoustic jams and I loves me some "Rich Girl" and, I may as well admit I'm coming down from a veritable Hall & Oates addiction (it's hard doing without "Private Eyes" after a long day of notwork but the shakes and migraines have abated), but I do not loves me some "Rich Girl" acoustic with added croontastic intro. May mustaches be regrown. May funkiness be rekindled.

- September 3rd, 2008: We're playing a hometown shindig with Nada Surf at the Great American. So, if you're in San Francisco or surrounding parts and can't quite get to Amoeba on Tuesday, come out and celebrate our release on Wednesday. We can talk about that Monday's American Gladiators, unless its off the air by then, in which case I will likely be suicidal.

- August 8, 2008: The Olympics start and 'Merica tries to reclaim its International Basketballian Glory. Of my many other, non-Hall-&-Oates vices, drinking beer and watching basketball is among the most pervasive, though I do my best from yammering about it too often, but the Olympics is a special deal. Sure, Jason Kidd is starting at point while far superior, less decrepit young 'uns wile away on the bench, but I have faith that the United States of Nike team can make our country proud. We might've crapped the bed for the past eight years here, both in international politics and international roundball, yet I can't help but think that this summer and autumn, all that will turn around. Of course, if they lose and McCain wins, you'll find me in my roommate's fortified zombie bunker, eating SPAM, playing gin, weeping in the fetal position.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Here's to Populism

I always feel awkward at museums. I mean, I've got the slow motion museum mosey down, but beyond that? Nothing. I'm one of those rubes who looks at sculptures worth more than my house and says things like "The 'Fountain,' huh? Looks like a fucking toilet." I can understand the theories and reasonings that form the foundation of some modern art but that doesn't mean it makes me feel happy or awed or give me any other emotion that good art is supposed to. It just makes me think "Piss Christ" would be a kick ass band name.

I'm okay with this. I'm not proud of it per se, but I'm not not proud of it. I just know what I like: original Kincaids and Wylands. I mean, get a load of the brush technique, bro:

Far out.

Which brings us to the first Tuesday of every month. On these glorious days, a whole slew of San Franciscan museums are free to the public, a courageous move that puts pleebs like me right next to black turtleneckers who use a word like "ephemeral" while staring at an installation piece composed of expired subway tokens and the plush, severed head of Donald Duck. It's a day that invites that's supposed to foster appreciation of the fine arts, unite the community, and to gather the largest amount of shameful goatees under one roof since the Philosophy Majors and Major League First Basemen Convention of 1998.

This past Tuesday, I ventured out to the de Young and tried the idea on for size. I went to see the visiting Chihuly exhibit (which costs five dollars and is an affront to all things Free-First-Tuesday) and, I must say, it was worth every penny that I did and didn't spend. He's ostensibly a glass blower, so the whole exhibit is a series of massively colorful glass sculptures which should win several lesser-known awards, among them "Worst Place To Be In a Massive Earthquake," "Best Place to See a Confused Stoner," and "Best Exhibit In Which To Dribble A Basketball and Give a Docent Heart Murmurs."

The real beauty of the whole exhibit though was it's sheer likabilitynessness, with those aforementioned connoisseurs mixing seamlessly with casual rubes, old ladies in dangerous hats, and summer school field trips. It's the only art exhibit I've ever seen a baby enjoying, though said baby may have just been relieving herself with euphoric abandon. It's, in other words, the reason for museums. It's art that anyone can enjoy without the necessity of historical context or having to peruse those infuriating mission statements that read like sycophantic knob-slobbing. It, like most of my favorite art, is for everyone. It's the difference between something like John Cage's "4:33" and the Beatles' "Two of Us." You can certainly enjoy them both, but one requires context, intellectual detachment, and a scholarly bent, while the other awes by merit of its supreme kick assitude alone.

And, not to go all Simon Cowell on you here, but isn't that the whole point?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

On Inspiration, Rip Torn, and the Greatest And Best Movie Ever

Songs come from all sorts of places. Neil Diamond admitted that "Sweet Caroline" was inspired by JFK's then-eleven-year-old daughter Caroline Kennedy, a factoid that I find worrisome in a Lewis Carroll, R. Kelly sort of way*, while Elvis Costello patently refuses to expound on the identity of "Allison," though he does know this world is killing her. A few posts back, I mentioned that "Rhapsody in Blue" was inspired by the rhythm of a New York City locomotive, only to find out that the ABBA's "Take A Chance On Me" and the Bee Gees' "Jive Talking" were also inspired by the sound of trains. That underrated Bonnie Raitt tune "I Can't Make You Love Me" originated when a countrified defendant, after shooting up his ex-lovers car, was asked by a judge if he learned anything from his trial, responded "you can't make a woman love you if she don't," a story which still makes me a little dusty every time I retell it. A minute ago, I was reading about how Sting got his inspiration for Roxanne, but he became so insufferably pompous, I gave up after a couple paragraphs. There was, of course, a hooker involved. Then there's this, in which most Beatles fans will find one (1) Beatle and one (1) Beatles song title:

And then there's the piece de resistance: Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" was inspired by a chicken and egg dish at a Chinese restaurant. That gives me Six Kinds of Happiness. It's like Rip Torn's name. I can't fully fathom the awesomeness of either of those things, though I've spent a fair chunk of my adult life trying.

Really though, when you boil it all down, inspiration doesn't matter. While those origins illustrate that a song can come from something as insignificant as an antique store poster, and while they make for good stories, what remains is simply the music. To put it another way: it's sad that "Smoke on the Water" really did happen, but, also: duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-DUH-nuh.

I write that as an extended to caveat to what's below: a low-rent hip-hop beat, made on an eighties Yamaha, a mandolin, and a sixteen button drum machine. Like so much art, it was inspired out of nothing but boredom and/or Kurt Russell. And the desire to make David rap at us while we drive around middle America, searching for gas. I hope it gets you through four and a half minutes of your Tuesday.

UPDATE 2: The comments clued me in to another player (I tip my hat to Brett there) so give that a try. I deleted the offending iMeem player, but, if you use that thing, the link can be found here. It might even be downloadable but my budding computer illiteracy keeps me from truly confirming that.

* Speaking of R. Kelly, I would be remiss to not mention Josh Levin's thoroughly entertaining Dispatches From The R. Kelly Trial over at Slate. It's expired, but strangely riveting.