Month: November 2013

Things I love- Surfing

I’ve talked a little bit about what I call The California Myth before- and maybe myth isn’t a good word.  The California Image.  The California Package.  Uh, I don’t know.  I’ll come up with a better phrase.

Some legendary archetypes have come out of California, and probably the greatest is The Surfer.  I don’t even need to describe The Surfer to you, he or she is like The Cowboy or The Pro-Wrestler, you just know.

I always wanted to be A Surfer.  So far I have failed.  Yes, I love surfing, no I can’t actually do it.

A Surfer doesn’t battle the ocean, but moves in unison with it.  A Surfer doesn’t tame the ocean, but joins with it.  I’ve always suspected there is a spiritual element to being a surfer, but again, I wouldn’t know because I can’t surf.

I’m also not someone who actually places much importance on spirituality (whatever that is) so maybe it wouldn’t work on me anyway.

I can bodyboard, which is kind of like saying “I can’t play guitar, but I rip at Guitar Hero.”  Well, not exactly; I can ride waves.  I know how they work.  I can feel the ocean’s power.  But I can’t shake the feeling when I’m doing it that it would be much cooler if I were standing up.

I have tried.  I need to buy a longboard and put in the time figuring it out.  Someday I will.  Until then I will watch admiringly from the shore.

Stuff I love: Darts

I decided that I’m going to finish out the year just writing about stuff I like.  This is kind of a challenge.  A little history-

Throughout college I wrote a zine.  It was the 90s.  That’s what people did.  It was mostly like this blog, just random stuff- drawings, stuff about music, stuff about my personal life, my thoughts on things, etc.  My most popular story, judging by the response of the handful of people who read my zine- “I HATE MY ROOMMATE”.  It was a three page take-down of all the annoying, weird shit my roommate would do.

The positive response I got from it set a pretty bad precedent for me.  I can amuse people by writing nasty things about others!  Not good.  Also not good was the fact that I was absolutely serious, I hated that guy.  I even considered leaving a copy somewhere that I would be sure he could find it.

But I don’t like thinking of myself as a jerk, and I actually don’t think I’m someone who complains that much in real life.  I am, truth be told, fairly indifferent to most things and tend towards a mulish refusal to pass judgement on other people.  On the odd occasions that I do get passionate about something, it’s usually utterly trivial and I think it’s funny to angry about it.

I get road rage like everyone else, though, I don’t want people to think I’m a robot.

But anyway, I’m going to take a break from pointing out silly inconsistencies in pop music lyrics (AKA shooting fish in a barrel) and try to write about things I really like, if only just to see if I can.  Here goes.

Darts

I am one of only two avid dart players that I know personally.  Plenty of people play in bars, using the house darts, but I have my own set.  I have my own board.  I tend to practice 2-3 times a week.

I can’t really remember how or why I picked up darts, but probably it was because 9-10 years ago I was spending a lot of time at a friends apartment and they had a board.  I tend to wake up relatively, so if I’d crash at their place I’d wake up and start throwing darts to pass the time.  I don’t remember being all that great at it, but I have a fairly obsessive personality- I’m the person who is still playing a video game everyone else has long since got bored of, or throwing darts after everyone else has gotten tired of it.

After that I got a board for myself.  Throwing things at a target was just a nice way to deal with stress.

I started really playing in earnest a few years ago.  My friend moved nearby a bar that had two nicely lit boards and almost no one playing on them. We’d usually play a dozen or so games every friday night.  My wife was busy studying and his wife worked evenings, so it was a good time to get out.  I guess we could have just gone to the bar and drank, but this seemed like a slightly better use of our time, plus you don’t drink quite so much when you have other things to do.

We played using the house darts before graduating to our own sets of darts.  I’m now on my third set of darts.  They’re 90% tungsten and made in the USA.

Anyway, part of what I like about darts is that it’s not pool.  I don’t know, pool just seems so flashy, like you spend half the time trying to look cool.  Also, I suck at pool.  I am also terrible at shuffleboard.  Other than darts, any game that involves beer is a game I am terrible at.  That includes poker and bowling too.

A couple of things-

I don’t play for money.  Not because I think I’m not good enough, but because I don’t enjoy gambling AND I’m afraid I will beat the wrong person and will get my fingers broken.  One guy kept talking about how he has two boards in his garage and how we should come and play.  He might have been totally on the up-and-up but all I could think of was ending up like Roy Munson in Kingpen.

I will not loan my darts to people at the bar.  I see what they’ve done to the house darts.

I usually play cricket, because that’s the game everyone likes to play, but I like 501 or 301 as well.  Don’t tell my friends I said this, and I’m not trying to brag (even though I will) but cricket is a little too easy for me, and mechanically destroying them game after game is kind of mean, so I deliberately miss sometimes.  But I’d probably play 501 more often if more of my friends could play it.  Someday I want to join a league and so I have to get better at that game.

I also play with my dad a lot.  Hanging out in bars tends to be a big part of what my dad and I do, and darts are a good friendly competition.  I tend to beat him a lot.  He’s much better than me at pool though, so I suggest pool every now and then just to even things out.

Well that’s what I got.  I have decided that other than the customary book reviews I am going to stick with this til the new year.  We’ll see.

Things that suck about being in a band- bandmates that suck

Bandmates are one of the best reasons for being in a band.  You can learn a lot about someone by playing music together, and develop really close, possibly lifelong friendships.  I have made some very good friends that way.

It doesn’t always work out.  Sometimes musicians are not compatible.  Sometimes you know right away, and sometimes it takes time.  Sometimes you are and then you’re not.  And that’s not always a bad thing- you can learn from every person you play with, and some amount of turnover in bandmates can be good.

Then there are people who just plain make you miserable.  Depending on how long you are stuck with them, it can be either a minor irritation or a soul-crushing awful experience that makes you want to give up music forever.  Here’s a few-

The drug addict

I have thus far mostly dodged this bullet.   I know people who have been unfortunate enough to have to deal with this though and I don’t envy them.

There’s the unreliability, the fact that they might steal your stuff, the being gone for days or week at a time.  That would suck, and probably because most of the time they want to be there.  They want to play.  They just can’t get their shit together to actually do it.  It would be tough to fire someone like this, but I imagine you’d have to eventually.

The negative person

I’ve talked about this before– nothing takes the fun out of playing music like someone who thinks everything sucks.  Except for the person who has a drug problem, this is about the worst, because it’s hard to fire someone who is otherwise good at what they do because they don’t have the right attitude.  And if they’ve been telling you how bad your ideas suck for long enough, you’re probably not even sure that your idea of firing them is a good one.

The flake

This person is annoying, but for obvious reasons, this problem tends to resolve itself quickly.  Eventually they stop pretending to show up and you stop pretending to care.

The project

This is the player you like personally, but hate to admit that they’re just not that good.  But you like them so you want them in the band.  So you give them remedial lessons after practice.  You defend them to your bandmates who say they suck.  You pretend not to hear when friends ask why you have them in band.  These people tend to take it the hardest when you can them, so you’re pretty much going to get it going and coming if you hire this person, but some of us can’t resist.

The ego.  The asshole.

Thankfully I haven’t had a ton of these because for the most part, they wouldn’t waste their time with one of my bands in the first place.  We did have one guy who played drums for one show who refused to change the tempo of a song.  We said, “hey, could you speed it up a tad?”  “Nope.  That’s how I play it.”  That guy thankfully quit.  But he wasn’t that bad.

Then again, maybe I’m the asshole and the ego.  That’s possible.

The I’m just here to hang person

This person treats the band like a social club.  Depending on how good they are and what other qualities they have, this person won’t really wreck your band, but they’ll quickly morph into the flake if any serious issue arises.

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head, but I’m sure there have been others.  I’ve been mostly lucky that out of the dozens of people I’ve played with, only a handful were truly irritating.  Knock on wood I don’t have to deal with many more of these!

White rapper, white singer, Bling Bling

I’m of really of several minds about Daniel D’Addarios commentary here:

Pop music’s race problem: How white artists profit from mocking hip-hop

From “Royals” to “Thrift Shop,” many of the year’s pop hits have been built on tone-deaf critiques of rap

I talked a little bit about how I wasn’t totally cool with Macklemore’s song Thrift Shop way back when it came out.  It’s a fun song, but I questioned the need to take a gratuitous swipe at basically every other rapper who isn’t a backpack wearing conscious rapper.

But that’s the thing- Macklemore and Lorde aren’t the only people who have ever mocked materialism in rap-

This song probably came out before Macklemore was born, and definitely before Lorde was.

TAKE THAT JORDACHE OFF!

(Jordache?  those were jeans, right?)

So yeah, it’s not a new or particularly clever line of a attack to be like- YOU BOUGHT EXPENSIVE STUFF, SUCKER!

Is there an element of racism by the singers here?  Like, oh look at the silly black people wasting their money like fools instead of putting it in a 401k!  I mean, maybe.  Who knows.  I kind of doubt it.

Will there be people who listen to these songs and go yeah, look at these dumb rappers!  They all be put in jail!

Yes, yes there will be.  Is it the artist’s fault if he or she tells a joke with no bad intentions but isn’t careful about how other people will take it?  Maybe.  Probably a little bit.

So I’m in agreement with Daniel that these aren’t exactly the most novel or interesting critiques and that there may be some racial element, though not necessarily an element directly attributable to the artists, who for all I know are fine people.

ON THE OTHER HAND

Hip-hop dominates our culture, just like rock and roll did before The Chronic was released.  Not everyone was happy with Rock and Roll’s dominant themes and people rebelled against them repeatedly.  The 70s was an ongoing battle between the real musicians and the cavemen who just wanted to be loud.  The eighties was heavy metal excess versus punk.  And before rap was big enough to ignore rock, it tried to take it on-

And again, it’s not like Macklemore was the first guy to make fun of the blingy dudes.

Let’s also be real- hip hop has some larger-than-life, some might say (not me… at least not to their faces) ridiculous characters.  Some of them revel in their image.  They can take it if Mackelemore or Lorde makes fun of them.

And hip-hop can take it if not everyone goes along with the idea that lots of money and cool stuff is the best thing in the world.  Do some people already not like rap because it’s mostly made by black people?  Yes.  Some people hated disco for the same reason.  Some people probably even hated rock and roll for that reason, but that’s ancient history.

Am I giving them a pass?  No, their lyrics are kind of lame and unoriginal.  But young people have to live with rap being king and not everyone is going to like everything rap has to say.  So for what it’s worth I please no one by giving them half of a pass.

Well that solved nothing.

Corporate Art in my neighborhood

So out of the dozen or so big office buildings in my neighborhood, three of them have large sculptures in front of them.  All of them of the corporate art variety.

I’m not a trained art critic, so you can take all this with a grain of salt.  I took some art classes in college, I spent a lot of time BSing with my roommate who is now an art professor and my mother is an artist who took us to most of the major art museums in Europe when I was around 10.  That’s where I get my insight into art.  It’s not a ton.  But one thing I do have is some historical context for art.  But again, take it with a grain of salt.

Modern Art isn’t what I imagine what most people think of- modern art is not all art that is new.  The modern period was a historical period of time in the 20th century.  OK, some I’m not a historian either, so I’ll just say it was from sometime around WWI to like, the 50’s.  I am just spitballing here, I have no idea if that’s actually correct.  But dates aren’t what’s important.  What’s important is that people understand that it had a beginning and an end.

The modern era was when we humans thought we had everything figured out.  Factories were going to mass produce happiness.  Internally consistent but dubious in the real world political systems were going to end all pain and misery (or conversely, crudely constructed nationalist cults were going to return us to a better time).

So art from this era was anti-human, because humans are messy and stupid.  This is what I gather from that era.  When people ask- what does it mean?  The answer is- it doesn’t mean anything.  It’s just hubris.  People painted and sculpted hubris.

I’m just trying to explain the growing animosity I’ve been feeling towards this era of art.

But anyway, modern art is over.  There was the postmodern era after that, and maybe something after that.  Who knows, postmodernism kind of seems like the death of all human endeavor in any field it touches so maybe there will be nothing after postmodernism.  Who paints anymore anyway?

Actually, I take that back.  I like a lot of the current art I see.  It’s trying to engage with humanity in a way that the major art movements didn’t really do for a while.

At any rate, some people for whom hubris is a way of life seem to want to keep going back to the modern era.  So they put up odd sculptures in front of their buildings.

Maybe it’s just me, but I see a theme here

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The obelisk in the middle of the stinky chlorine pond.  Very, uh, pointy.

Let’s try another.

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This one is also pointy, and in the middle of a stinky pond.  This one spins.  It creates one of those optical illusions like those display they have at cheap cosmetics stores at the mall.  It is called Dancing Light in Space and was designed by Takamichi Ito and erected not surprisingly in 1986.  I wonder what Takamichi Ito is doing now*.

Not getting the theme?

How about now?

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No?

How about now?

How about now

How abouuuut nowww?

How about noooooow

Aaaaand this is officially the least mature post I have made.

*Oh shit he’s a real guy-

I’m no trained art critic but that looks like something from the Sharper Image catalog.

Sadness

I took this picture by the dumpster

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My wife and I had a good laugh coming up with stories about how those roses got there.  She won the day with a scene of a man getting down on one knee and asking his girlfriend to marry him, only to be told no.  Then he ran to the dumpster to throw these away.  In my mind I see him in his fit of sadness trying to open them lid on the dumpster and throw the roses inside.  But in his anger, he times his movements incorrectly and the roses bounce sadly off the lid, and onto the ground.  He storms away, intensely angry that he couldn’t even get the small satisfaction of chucking the roses into the dumpster smoothly.  Of course, if it had been me I would have stomped on them.

I figured it was a woman who received them from some dude apologizing for doing something stupid.  Huh, that sounds like something I would do.  Oh well, we all have these times- grovelling because we fucked up, or moments of clumsy, impotent rage at the way things just don’t work out.  I was laughing, but kind of crying a bit on the inside when I saw these.

I’m a cliche I’m a cliche yama yama yama boring boredom

I meant to write on this earlier, but this article on Gawker gets at what irritates the crap out of me when it comes to pop music

All 226 Clichés Uttered by Katy Perry on Her New Album, Listed

Some of the cliches are debatable, but really, listen to Roar and every damn line sounds like something out of a self help book.  Someone needs to come up with a Katy Perry song generator.  It wouldn’t be hard.

This song is even worse, although I guess you could give the songwriter a pass since he’s not a native English speaker.

I don’t know actually.  ABBA wasn’t this cheesy.

Enough about that though.  This song is everywhere right now and I kind of think it’s OK, but I’m a little tired of hearing it.  The best part is the pre-chorus everybody’s like gold teeth Grey Goose trashing the hotel room etc.

I wonder if the poor girl hasn’t jinxed herself though.  She can never trash a hotel room without having everyone call her a hypocrite.  I know, first world problems right.

I remember a scene in 8 Mile where his white friend is trying to defend the Beastie Boys and his black friends are mocking  them.  Bunny Rabbit (or whatever Eminem was going by in that movie) gives a very meek defense of them.  Something along the lines of “they got a few good songs.”  That was always kind of a poignant scene to me.  Now we know that in his heart he likes them and wanted to admit it, but he couldn’t.  He’s older now and can admit that he does, in fact, love the Beasties.

I know I will get shit from people my age, but I like this song better than the Beastie themselves.  Nostalgia aside, I’m not that big of a fan.   This is why I have a blog- because I have opinions I am just barely smart enough to know will go over like lead balloons in everyday conversation, but I can’t keep them inside or I will go nuts.  Thanks for allowing me to share.