Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In which Birdmonster accidentally descends into filth yet escapes, unscathed

When you spend twelve hours a day in a van, you feel a certain solidarity with the truckers of America: you eat at the same Subways, drink the same cocaine-strength, coffee, and get hit on by the same crusty, wizened wait staff. Also: muscle atrophy. It's a glorious life.

Recently, however, I've learned a few things about truck drivers that live underneath the cliches of fatal corpulence, "accidental" thefts, and the gargling of meth-amphetamines. Both have roots in a fundamental politeness that is most often overlooked when pondering the American trucker. First, there's a secret language of headlights, hazards, and brake lights on the road. Second, they love blowing each other.

While both are intrinsically linked in a rugged system of do unto others etiquitte, it's important to stress that both are not done simultaneously. The first is, as I noted, a special vernacular on the highway: when a trucker passes another and has gotten far enough ahead to make going back into the slow lane safe, the passed trucker will flash his brights two or three times. Duly informed that he's safely ahead, the trucker in front will enter the same lane and put his hazards on for a few seconds in gesture of thanks. It's like Miss Manners, if Miss Manners was an hyper-obese teamster. I've taken to doing it myself and, when a trucker flashes the hazards back as thanksgiving, it's almost like falling in love all over again.

Then there's the other thing. There's a liquor store up the street from me where I purchase my Tecate, Rice Krispies, and Peter Pan peanut butter. Near the cash register, there's a rack with surprisingly filthy porno on it. Words like "cockmeat" are bandied about. I mention this because trucker graffiti makes that porno stand seem like a commercial for plug-in potpourri. The thing is, the graffiti is explicit: meet me in this stall at this time on this day and I'll...do things to you that would make John Waters blush. Trucker graffiti is the exact opposite of the Victorian novel. Unless I missed that Bronte novel called "Wuthering Testicles on Your Chin."

I figured that the wall-scrawlings I saw in Wyoming would be the filth-nastiest thing I saw on tour. Or, failing that, at least a couple days. And then we went to brunch in Denver.

See, there's this diner in Denver called the "Bump and Grind." During the working week, it's your typical diner. Think a hipper version of Denny's. On the weekends, however, they do something they call the "Petticoat Brunch." Nothing changes, really, except the waiters. And they change in a very specific way: they cross dress. Badly. Really badly. Really, really badly.

I'd describe our "waitress," but like the man says, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Yeah. Exactly. If trucker graffiti can make John Waters blush, the Petticoat Brunch would make Caligula faint. It's not the sort of place you take your children, that is, unless you want your child to get pegged with a bean-bag shaped like a boob. Or, say, have a gentleman put cream in your coffee in a manner that could be heavily undersold as "suggestive."

But the thing is, I was almost crying by the end. It was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable eating experiences I've ever had. Our shim waiter-ess was hilarious, my egg roulade scrumptious. My cheeks hurt from constant laughter. If you live in Denver, you need to spend one weekend at the Bump and Grind. You will not regret it.


Of course, the tour has not been a carnival of disturbing male sexuality. No, no. We've put down 2,400 miles in a few days and played both Denver and Omaha. In Denver, we played at a Sunday barbeque that was decidedly Country flavored. I broke my bass (a near tradition) and we got to stomp our boots sneakers and twang it out for a night. A few old friends made the night special and, for a kick-off show, I couldn't expect anything better than friendly faces.

On the way to Omaha, we listened to both Springsteen's "Nebraska" and that Counting Crows song "Omaha"---it's like being in Lodi. Sometimes you just have to. It was our first time in Omaha and I didn't break my other bass. That's good. Also good: the show. Not much to talk about there except our first Omaha-seasoned evening made us want to return over and over again. Not to go to Boys Town, but to, you know, play music. Had to make sure that you didn't think I was going to go on Sally Jessie and end up being spittled upon by a cue-bald failed Marine.

And now? Well, now I'm detoxing from a dinner of ham on Wonderbread, smothered in fries and that cheese sauce you put on nachos at the ballpark. My blood is turning to oil. It's great. I think I'm going to go hibernate.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Well, sure. But I still love the "Secret of N.I.H.M."

I'm always conflicted before a long tour. While most of me is overjoyed at the prospect of trundling across America with my three closest friends, playing music nightly, and clogging our arteries with all manner of regional grease, there's that other part that hyperventilates over the loose ends and responsibilities I'm leaving behind. Have I saved enough money for rent? Why hasn't my absentee ballot come? Should I get that fungal bloom behind my ear checked out? These are the important issues.

And so I began the perfunctory week-before-tour last Friday. Uncharacteristically, I'd made a list of to-do's, a two page list filled brim high with errand running, duct tape instrument surgery, van maintenance, and preemptive boozing. And of course, there are contingencies: an old friend inviting me out for a going away lunch, for example. Or a sudden onset of Stephen King addiction. Or a Kurt Russell movie on T.V. Or, say, a bunch of rats in your kitchen.

That last one can really ruin your plans.

It started on Sunday. Which is to say, we noticed it on Sunday. A gnawed apple behind the oven, the scuttling of vermin feet, tiny turds on the hardwood floor. We responded with violent alacrity: cleared the counter of produce, cleaned the kitchen with Michael-Jackson-strength bleach, purchased rat traps. We caught one instantaneously and, after allowing ourselves the hallucination that maybe we only had a rat, a second one came and made our problem plural.


Now, if you've been in a similar situation, you're familiar with the emotions that come with rat/mouse/roach/guy-who-won't-get-off-the-effing-couch infestation: a sense of invasion, anger, and straight ickiness. Or, if you're of a more philosophical bent, perhaps a knowledge of your own fragile mortality. To put it another way: you never know when a spring-loaded trap is going to fly down and crush your brains.

However you feel about it, it's unpleasant. For us four Birdmonsters though, it's a prelude to what we can expect out of our motels this tour. No. That's not fair. It's what we can expect out of non-chain-motels. Because, while being a San Franciscan means you're supposed to hate chain stores because they gut the community, displace small businesses, and take money out of neighborhoods, touring has proven to me the overall greatness of chain motels. The gecko we found under the covers in Florida? Not a chain. The possible-blood-stain on the bathroom door in Oregon? Not a chain. The decapitated hooker under the bed? You get the idea.

But it does, in it's own weird way, highlight what touring is about. If I was at home, I'd be engaged in an epic battle of wills with a legions of vermin, simultaneously grossed out and bonding with my roommates over small triumphs like squished rat heads. Instead, I'll be in a new town every night, bonding with my bandmates over small triumphs like making it to soundcheck on time and selling the last XXL yellow Birdmonster shirt. What I'm saying is that the whole affairs reminded me how much different bar/van/hotel life really is that normal life. The things you deal with at home, even the mundane ones like making your bed or going grocery shopping, simply do not exist on the road, replaced instead with stripping your bed of the herpes-infected comforter and deciding which fast food you'll be choking down at this particular rest stop. It's not better or worse, per se. Just different. And, of course, incredibly fun.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get my Pied Piper on.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On parenting, video-making, and the continued persistence of all things Rocky. Well, more about the first two things.

Lately I've been surrounded by bad parenting. Not from my parents, per se (though they did send me a letter bomb and the shriveled body of my childhood fish "Mr. Gillsworthy" last week), but from parents at large. First, there was the couple who brought their baby to "The Dark Knight," the parenting equivalent of Operation "Just Cause" (which, for clarification, was when the US Army played "Welcome to the Jungle" as loud and as constantly as possible to frustrate Manuel Noriega into surrender back in '89. It worked. Guns 'N' Roses then ran for Senate and lost to Paul Anka.) Then there was the set of parents I heard exchanging all sorts of vibrant language while bottle-feeding their pair of children; I'm no expert on child-rearing, certainly, but I doubt a conversation comprised largely of racial epithets, blue language, and multiple synonyms for male genitalia is setting up baby for success. Though, if the ever do a celebrity roast at his preschool, he could emcee.

Then, there was last weekend's plane flight. See, we were flying to Seattle to do an honest-to-God video and I had the good fortune of getting the "screaming baby seat," a seat nearly as coveted as the exit row or the one behind first class with the extra leg room my dad calls "Poor Man's First Class." It was supposed to be like this: Mom & baby in 23A, Dad in 23C, me in 23B. But nobody wanted that, so I did what any normal human would do: let the happy parents sit together by trading seats with Dad, that way, he could enjoy the miracle that is child rearing while I could finish the Stephen King book I'd just started*. Everybody wins, right?


About 15 minutes before we're taxiing, baby starts crying. No big deal. This is to be expected. What's not to be expected is Dad's knee-jerk reaction: "This is why I didn't want kids." I hope he remembers that for the baby's next birthday: "Blow out the candles, my little mistake. I wish I could take a mulligan on your whole existence, yes I do! yes I do!"

Of course, Dad's surly commentary did not calm baby. No, no. This baby was angry and it needed to let everyone know about it. So it cried: cried through taxiing, cried through the intelligence-insulting "here's how a seatbelt works" speech, cried through chapters 6-10, cried through the take-off. Indeed, kept crying long enough to hear one last gem from Dad. Mom had to fetch some more fake-milk from her purse and so, handed little baby off to Dad, who, by way of greeting said "Shut up, you goddamn baby."

If I'd had a few beers in me, I probably would have said something. I would have tried to be cutting, incisive, didactic, and flippant. But it was 2 in the afternoon and I was tragically sober so I went back to reading about the gunslinger while trying to explode Dad's head with telepathic brain-ju-ju. When we landed, I called the Bellagio and put $50 on an "impending divorce" / "maternal custody" quinella. They're shit odds, but sometimes you gotta bet the chalk.

We were flying to Seattle, like I mentioned, to film a video for a track on the new album. Since still photographs make me moderately nervous (I'm afraid they're steal my soul), the idea of film had petrified me into a state agoraphobic inertness. But this had the possibility of being something truly fun, so I ditched my fake psychosis and flew to Seattle. And you know what? It was. It was fun, I mean. Strike this paragraph from your memory.

Without spoiling any of the surprise for when it's actually completed and because lists are the crutch of writers who no longer feel like writing transitions or being vaguely linear, I've decided to do a brief list about what I learned while filming our video. Onwards:

- There was a twelve-year old kid in our video. We liked him. When I was twelve, life centered around "Magic: the Gathering," video games, soccer, and trying to drink as many cans of soda as I could before my heart erupted from my ribcage. I was a sad, sad, child. This kid, less than half my age, had already achieved one of my life's goals: to be an extra in a zombie movie. Regular readers will know that my acting career is to encompass only one faze: a complete cornering of all wizard-related roles when I'm 70 and older. I'll be growing that beard starting two decades before, smoking cigarettes to sag my face into a look of wizened genius, and wearing only sparkly muu-muus. However, I've also always wanted to be devoured alive on camera, preferably in some low-budget C-movie and preferably by a zombie eating either my innards while I lie on a table yelling in mock-agony. Anyway, the kid in our video had his brains eaten in exactly one such movie. I wish my childhood had been less dorky and more zombie.

- There was also an old dude in our video. We liked him. I almost told him my wizard idea, but I didn't want him to take it. I know I've got a good forty-plus years until this plan goes into action, but you can't go blabbing it to real actors. That's like telling a joke to Carlos Mencia; you know he's stealing that shit.

- Part of the conceit of the video involved a family room and it's eventually plant-related destruction. Now, since we couldn't afford Michael Bay or ILM, we were allowed to, you know, actually destroy an entire room. That was great. Nothing brings people together like building things, unless that something is breaking things. Unfortunately, we had to fly home before the room was completely and utterly razed. And, in a way, that's good. It'll be new and exciting to me when I see it. The gentleman who built the room was also the point man for it's controlled demise and I kept thinking about that Simpsons where Bart sees his future, employed as a wrecking ball operator and says "I can't believe they pay me for this." I just thought I'd share that.

- In fact, everyone on the set was great. And I'm not just saying that. When you're in a situation that's new to you, vaguely intimidating, and under a serious time-crunch, it takes a whole crew of good folks to get it done and get it done well. We had that. It's a luxury to a band that's been to bars where they've had to do their own sound or restaurants where they've had to make their own salads.** So thanks to one and all.

- We had maybe 5 hours of off-time in Seattle and we managed to watch the beginning of Rocky III and the end of Rocky II, which proves a thesis from the last post: Rocky is always on TV always no matter what. That's comforting to me.

Lastly, and not related to anything video-y or horrible-parenting-y, we leave for tour in seven days. I'm nervous and overjoyed simultaneously. This also means copious bloggery because, you know, I'll actually be doing something instead of, say, spending a half-day critiquing Rocky IV. I'm happy about this development.


* Its been a while for me and Stephen and I foolishly chose the "Dark Tower" series, an 8,000 some-odd page epic which has addicted me like only a heroin-crack-nicotine muffin could. At least I know how I'll be spending my free time for the foreseeable future.

** I hate salad bars, by the way. As if a sneeze-shield can make me forget about the guy in overalls who just fingered his ass-crack before going thumb-first into the Jello. I'd like my food prepared behind closed doors where I can't see that stuff happening.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This Is What We Talk About When We Talk About the Internet

Technology, it has been said, is neither good nor evil; it's the people that make it that way. Essentially, nothing says it with more subtle class than the shirt Richard Kiel wears at the end of Happy Gilmore: "Guns Don't Kill People; I Kill People." Ah, Happy Gilmore, forever the bringer of wisdom.

But don't take Mr Larson's word for it. Let's discuss. The fork allowed the European aristocracy to avoid eating only with knives, which presumably cut down on hideous facial scarring, but also kept clumsy white folks from using chop sticks. The advent of radio provided instantaneous news, serial dramas, and music in every home before it became the province of xenophobic race-baiters, wacky drivetime douche bags, and Hoobastank. Or take robotics, the surest symbol of technological advancement, which allowed for lightning quick production of taquitos while the robots themselves simultaneous plot our Terminator-inspired genocide.

And then there's the internet. At its best, it's a massive amalgamation of a library, a jukebox, an international news stand, an atlas, a high school reunion, the postal service, the yellow pages, your phone and TV, and the only way you can order a Ped Egg without staying awake in an insomniac stupor waiting patiently for the one eight hundred number. On the other hand, the internet teems with emoticons, misinformation, accidentally horrifying image searches, neurotic abbreviators, look-at-me! contrarians, and videos publicizing David Hasselhoff's alcoholic beef hankerings. In other words, "The Internet doesn't kill people; LOLCATS kill people."

Now, while our band's mealtime conversations are usually confined to arguments about Robert Downey Jr., the general scuzziness of our current eatery, and what style of bowel movement today's fast food will bring, one afternoon in Clovis, we found ourselves talking seriously about Old Man Internet. I worried aloud, not unlike many toothless Luddites before me, that as the internet becomes more ubiquitous, it has the potential to actually make people's memory worse. If you had the internet, say, in your home, your car, on your phone, belt, shirt, and Dr. Seuss underoos, what's the point of committing facts to memory? I'm not saying we'll lose our memories completely, but, to put it another way, when's the last time you did long division? Sure, maybe you still remember how, but, meh, there are calculators everywhere.

And let's be clear. I'm not claiming that the internet will be to blame when we devolve into a race of android mole people, masturbating furiously at our computers, our t-shirts streaked with Cheeto resin. The robots will get us long before that, anyhow. I'm just saying the internet has already made memory less valuable. Personally, I resort to online driving directions with Pavlovian regularity, trust the Interwebs to solve most of my factual arguments, and have looked up the same goddamn Hollandaise recipe fifty times. My descent into slurry-brained curmudgeonitude speeds ever onward. So, since the internet will eventually replace my brain, there seems only one thing to do: make it a better place.

Which, of course, brings us to Rocky IV.

See, twenty-three years after it was released in the theatre, Rocky IV remains a benchmark of popular culture, male bonding, and horrible man-kimonos. In fact, if you have cable, you're probably watching Rocky IV right now. Since I live significantly below the poverty line, I do not have this thing you call cable but I do in fact have the Rocky box set, and I keep Rocky IV playing on a continuous loop in my squalid hobbit hole.

Now, in case you haven't seen it (and, really: may God have mercy on your soul), Rocky IV is yet another retelling of the David and Goliath fable, this time around with a decidedly Cold War flavoring. Our Goliath is Dolph Lundgren, a thespian who would later star in Masters of the Universe, Universal Soldier, and Fat Slags. Here, Dolph is Ivan Drago, the impossibly burly Russian colossus who fustigates Apollo Creed to death, which thereby obligates Rocky to avenge Apollo by abandoning his child, flying to the Soviet Union, and getting all Italian Stallion on Drago's face. Rocky's plucky performance wins over the once hostile Soviet crowd, brings out the individualist in Drago, and brings fake-Gorbichov to his feet with the stirring "If I can change...and you can change...everyone can change!" speech. To put that in perspective, it'd be like if they made a movie about the 1940 Olympics and a Jewish pole vaulter made Hitler cry. In fact, let me write that one down.

While Rocky IV is brilliant in many ways, part of me believes that Sly wrote Rocky IV on a cocktail napkin while watching the Miracle on Ice. See, Rocky IV doesn't really have much dialog. Or a script. Or what I believe you movie snobs call "scenes." No, Rocky IV is more of a delicately constructed series of montages, flashbacks, montages, screaming, and montages. Which brings us full circle, to making the internet a better place. "How so?" you might ask. Well, if we're considering Rocky IV the apex of horrible-awesomeness, I think its important to map out just what makes this movie as horribly-awesome as it is. My theory is that it goes beyond the not-all-that-touching death of Apollo Creed, beyond the fact that a man-sized 80's robot has more dialogue than the central villain, beyond the Cold War posturing, the thoroughly questionable fashion decisions, the sheer 1985-ness of it all. What makes Rocky IV truly unique is the near-complete lack of original footage, dialog, and actual on-screen happenings. Rocky IV is so badgood because it isn't actually a movie: it's a clip show.

So, with that premise, I set out to watch Rocky IV for the six hundredth time. These are my findings:

(Spoilers abound, but, really, if I've still got you by now, I'll assume you've seen Rocky IV. Or you're incredibly bored. I'm not picky.)


0:00:00-0:00:45: Perhaps the greatest opening credit sequence in all cinema history: two boxing gloves, one upholstered to look like an American flag, the other a Soviet hammer & sickle, float around for thirty seconds then slam into each other and explode all over your face. That's called "foreshadowing." Cut immediately to Mr. T screaming.

0:00:46-0:03:29: Forty-six seconds in and we're already flashing back. The rest of our credits are a montaged rehash of Mr. T. tenderizing Rocky to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger," followed by Stallone's "improbable" comeback. But wait! Then we're treated to the entire last scene of Rocky III, which might be amusing had I not watched Rocky III last night. Did I mention I don't have a job?

0:03:30-0:14:21: Our first spell of new footage not entirely comprised of boxing apparel explodinating everywhere is actually a rather long one. I begin to rethink my hypothesis. Our new footage does contain Rocky's son slow-dancing with a robot, which is weird and wrong.

0:14:22-0:14:50: Honorable mention to this scene, where Rocky and Apollo actually watch Rocky II during Rocky IV. It's like the play "The Murder of Gonzago" within Hamlet, except with waaay better dialogue.

0:14:51- 0:23:09: Apollo agrees to get pummeled to death on live TV fight an "exhibition" match against Drago. Paulie calls a Russian "Comrade Bigmouth." I seriously consider playing online Boggle instead of watching the rest of this movie.

0:23:10- 0:25:44: Nothing says streamlined plotting like a two and a half minute James Brown performance, especially when James makes no attempt to lip sync into the microphone. The song? "Living in America." It's about how awesome it is to live in America. The vast amount of well-endowed dancing ladies provides ample proof.

0:25:45 - 0:40:54: After saying "Man, I feel born again" and "I feel so alive," Apollo promptly dies. "What started out as a joke," says one of the ring-side commentators, "has turned into a disaster." I feel the same way about spending four hours writing about Rocky IV.

0:40:55 -0:45:12: With Apollo dead, Rocky decides to mourn by driving around at high speeds, ignoring the road with criminal negligence, and sinking into a four minute, hallucinatory montage. Here, we're treated to flashbacks from not only Rocky I, II, and III, but Rocky IV as well, which is ponderous, since we're watching it...right now. That's called "padding." Stallone also remembers the most infamous scene in all Rockydom, a scene so badgood, it has been captured on YouTube for constant consumption:

(There's so much to love here, even beyond the horribly awkward dry-humping-in-the-crashing-waves-y-ness of it all. Personally, I enjoy how Carl Weathers is obviously jogging while Stallone sprints with the a look somewhere between "pained" and "I'm having an aneurysm.")

0:47:58 -0:48:41 & 49:44 - 50:30: Rocky flies to Russia, which is of course introduced via Survivor-scored montage. "Can any nation stand alone?" they ponder, in song. The answer, we learn, is sort of. But only if that nation has Rocky. AMERICA!!!!

0:55:02 -0:58:11: No Rocky movie is complete without the obligatory "Training Montage." While Drago trains on ultra-hyper-mega-futuristic weight machines, Rocky lifts big ass logs over his head and grunts. It's a pleasant reminder of the days when Americans were frightened by Soviet technological might. Whereas now, we're just scared of Putin. I call that progress.

0:58:12 - 59:21: Rocky's vigorous training has transmogrified him into a hipster. He's sporting a "I'm in Russia now" beard and women's pants. Apparently Adrian has arrived, but since she's horrible and shrewlike, we will ignore this development.

59:22 -1:03:31: And we're back to the training montage, which comes in at a staggering six minutes, eighteen seconds. I'm glad too, because that full minute of dialog had me exhausted.

1:03:32 - 1:07:59: Finally, it's fight time. I'm not sure when, but Rocky shaved his beard, which makes him less likely to ride his fixed-gear to a PBR happy hour.

1:08:00- 1:09:17: After the fighters enter the ring, we get a minute more of padding in the Russian national anthem. Why Drago is on the flag is never fully explained.

1:11:02-1:16:05: During the years in which all the Rockys are set, the World Boxing Association declared blocking illegal. Rocky begins the fight with his patented "deflect punches with face" strategy before he opens a cut over Drago's eye with a mean right cross.

1:16:06- 1:19:45: After two real rounds, we spend the next twelve in full-on montage mode. Rocky takes enough punishment that he'll have to retire in Rocky V due to overwhelming brain trauma...that is, until that movie sucked really hard and they made Rocky VI and he fought again and then they made made money with that so now there's going to be a Rocky VII, in which Rocky fights incontinence and Lou Gehrig's disease.

1:19:46 - 1:26:39: Rocky wins, to the surprise of absolutely no one. The final shot is indicative of Stallone's subtle impressionism: Balboa, bloodied, triumphant, draped in the American flag, cheered on by thousands of once-hostile Russians. And fade out.

First: the dry facts. Counting the spinning gloves and the post-modern "watching Rocky II within Rocky IV" scene, a full twenty-three minutes and twenty-six seconds of Rocky IV's anorexic 86 minute running time is entirely composed of montages, flashbacks, extended musical performances, and a shocking lack of anything approaching a plot. That's 27 percent of the movie, a total that, not unlike Cal Ripken's record for consecutive games played, will simply never be equaled.

But a funny thing happened on my way to the end of Rocky IV: I realized that its inherent awesomeness has little to do with the obvious lack of actual movieness and more with its bizarre, uncontainable spirit. I'm probably a sucker, but I love Rocky. I love the fact he speaks like a mentally disabled teamster; I love that he wears a man-kimino; I love that he's always the underdog. When Rocky VII comes out (and God willing, it shall), I don't even care what Rocky's doing: making pancakes, fighting hobos, convalescing, whatever. Whatever it is, you can be damn sure no one will believe in him, that he'll only have himself to lean on, and, in the end, he'll whoop that pancake's ass.

So, did we make the internet a better place? Doubtful. But I rediscovered my long dormant love of Rocky IV. It's like that friend who lets you make fun of him, doesn't take it personally, and continues surprising you, even when he shouldn't. And, in case anyone wants to know exactly how long the Rocky driving montage is, I've got them covered.

Monday, September 08, 2008

My Football Experiment

Despite a total lack of knowledge, mental investment, and simple giving-a-shit-ness, a good friend of mine goaded me into joining his Fantasy Football League. My ignorance was exposed during our draft, when I selected a guy with a season-ending hernia in the fifth round, to the delight of everyone who paid some modicum of attention to the NFL. It's a safe bet that if you select a guy whose intestines have fallen into his ballsack, you're probably going to lose.

Knowing this, I still decided to give football another try yesterday. Because, you see, like most red-blooded American males, I'll watch a football game, but unlike most, I'm not really that interested. I prefer the hectic artistry of basketball, the sweaty Victorian ridiculousness of tennis, the divine boredom of baseball. Football is forty seconds of replays, screaming, and some robot dancing over a Chevy ad, followed by three seconds of action, followed by more replays, screaming, and robots doing "The Lawnmower" next to a Ford ad. Rinse, lather, repeat.

But still, I'd decided to follow along. Because, really, all fantasy football is is an excuse to send vulgar, expletive-laden emails to your friends while they're at work. I can get behind that. Indeed, I don't need an excuse to do so, though sometimes, I like having a reason. And what better reason than feigning knowledge about a sport I tolerate from afar?

So I sat down to watch. I figured, maybe there's something I'm missing. On a fundamental level, sumo-sized ubermenches running into each other at dramatic speeds then going to the sidelines to breath oxygen out of tubes is funny. So is constant and excessive celebration. I imagine wide receivers at home, putting the salad fork in the correct place, then performing an elaborate, three minute jig.

But, actually, now that I think of it, that's my problem with football: it seems so...joyless. Everything feels scripted and stilted. Teams have massive playbooks and quarterbacks have radios in their helmets and everything's so painfully thought out that the moments for improvisation are slimmer than in other sports. I want to be wowed by fantastical athleticism rather than clock management. I want reaction, not action. And while I realize that football allows for some impressive displays of speed, acrobatics, and bludgeoning splendor, it so often devolves into failed play after failed play after commercial break after commercial break that I have trouble sitting still for an entire half. I start with the best intentions before suddenly, poof, I'm playing online boggle.

So yes: I failed. I failed Sunday, thinking that maybe, like broccoli or jazz, football would be something I understood and enjoyed as I got older. It didn't. I'm sure I'll end up watching the Superbowl like every other human on planet America, but it will be as a mere bookend to yesterday's failure of understanding. You can't like everything, even if you try.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A smorgasbord of factiods gleaned on an incredibly brief "tour," at the coffee shop, and at home on my ass

- Growing up in San Diego, there were pretty much two places to see shows. One was the Casbah, a venue we've played extensively, loved exclusively, and which is in possession of one of the premier Ms. PacMan machines in the continiguous United States. The other was Soma, a club named after a fake drug which became a real drug and which, at the time, served an exclusive dinner of SoCal "punk" rock. The Casbah was where I always wanted to go, but, being not yet of boozing age, I was barred from entrance; Soma frightened me and smelled sort of like cheese.*

The result of this unfavorable dilemma was myriad drives to Los Angeles for shows. And largely, these shows were at the Troubadour. I was lucky enough to see At the Drive-In in their hey day, Q and Not U with and without their bassist. I saw System of a Down there, back when they were sufficiently small and I was sufficiently stupid enough to crowd the stage at a System of a Down show. I remember spending half the time in awe of spastic, supreme rocking and the other half dodging the steel-toed Doc Martins of crowd-surfing chronic depressives.

So in a way, finally playing the Troubadour early this past week was a kind of bizarre home-coming. And I must say: sheer greatness. The staff is as professional (and skilled) as they come, the sound is ear-shatteringly fantastic, and the dude at the door filled our parking meter out of the kindness of his heart. Also, they put a door on the shitter. Bravo: "A plus."

- I watched the Republican National Convention last night in a state of mind best described as somewhere between "cautious pessimism" and "outright dread." And while I'll spare you the political commentary, I will mention one thing. There was a guy in the crowd with a sign that read, simply, "Mavrick."

Now, I'll admit I'm not the most diligent of editors. This blog has been rife with misspellings, accidental syntax errors, and the ramblings of a half-drunk banjo-entusiast at three in the mornings. But if you're going to make a sign in support of your candidate and if your sign has only one word on it, you should probably do a quick spell check on that sign. In fact, you don't even need to use a dictionary (long the tool of the high-minded liberal elite, anyhow). Just check that spelling against that surprisingly re-watchable Mel Gibson movie or that tragic Dallas-based NBA franchise**. There's an "e" in there somewhere, unless McCain is so maverick-y that he refuses to even spell the word right. If that's the case, he's going to be a mean Prosdent of Merica.

- It's nice having a new album. We've been pimping "No Midnight" for over 800 midnights now and actually holding a CD in my hand made me beam. Not so coincidentally, I put a link over there on the right if you want to buy one. I tried to do that as un-shamelessly as possible but I see I've failed.

- While enjoying a bagel at and some Sea and Cake album I couldn't quite place at the corner coffee shop today, a guy came in with a parrot on his shoulder. I was disappointed when he did not pay for his latte in gold doubloons. In fact, he was about the most unassuming guy I've ever seen: cargo shorts, skate shoes, plain t-shirt, that one haircut every barber does whether you ask for it or not; and yet, he had a parrot. I was very confused. At first I thought: maybe this parrot is his conscience and to be without it for even a second would mean a descent into an ethical morass. Then I remembered we're talking about a species of animals who believes it's nighttime when you throw a scarf over their cage. So I just sat there staring until he left, hoping the bird would poo on his shoulder. It did not happen.

- I meant to put this up last week but the complete and total lack of reliable internet access kept it under wraps. We done made a little video. Hope you enjoy:

- After a mere three days of eating Taco Bell, Burger Shack, Rubio's, and Froster's Freeze, my arteries and brain are clogged. After forty or fifty some-odd days of the same, I may be dead. If so, I'd like my tombstone read: "He Died As He Lived, Surrounded By Poison Cheeseburgers." Thank you.

- Speaking of worthy thank yous: Thanks to anyone who braved the Great American Music Hall at the ungodly hour of 8 p.m. That's the earliest we've played since we did an acoustic set at St. Jude's Home For Enfeebled and Insomniac Geriatrics. A few stalwart folks showed up at nine, asked when we were playing, then almost punched me in the eye. To those folks: apologies. Except for the man who expressed his disdain in the following sentence: "I'd be angrier if I wasn't stoned." That cracked me up.


* The original Soma, that is. I hear there's a new one I have to visit, but the fragrance will surely be an improvement. Unless they went from "gouda-stench" to "eau de open sewer."

** Go Warriors