Month: December 2013

125FDF year in review

It’s been roughly a year since we started this blog.  Some stats:

2160 views

166 comments (probably mostly mine)

70 followers  (most of them spam)

194 posts

My top post was

How to Make a Cactus Costume, with Tales of Drunkeness and Random Heroism

With 921 views.  Apparently people really want to make cactus costumes.  Who knew?

My family is moving to a new, smaller apartment soon, and I’m going through my old notebooks and sketchbooks, tearing out pages that are interesting and then chucking the rest.  You’d think I’d be bummed to do this, but I’m actually fine with it because during that time period I was producing a zine.  Oh yes, it was the 90’s.

So going through my stuff I didn’t have to worry about having nothing left from that time because I’d already archived my best work in the form of 14 or so issues of my zine.  If I ever want to take a trip down memory lane, I can just look at those.

I also do the same for my old song notebooks- the best stuff makes it on to the CDs I’ve been a part of recording every other year or so, so I don’t worry about the songs that aren’t that good.  Maybe I should try to remember those, but I don’t.

But then what will the year that I put into writing this look like in 10 years?  It seems silly to just randomly look through old blogposts.  I should maybe compile them into something.  In fact, we talked about doing just that when this blog started, but that may be a little too much work for me to handle right now.  Maybe I can get around to that.

Where DO you draw the line? R Kelly

This isn’t really about R Kelly, because R & B has never been on my radar and of R Kelly’s vast catalog the only one I can remember by him is I Believe I Can Fly.  And I guess he’s on that new Lady Gaga song, but I didn’t even realize that until the other day- my son asked who that was and I said Miguel.

I honestly couldn’t care less about R Kelly but the recent revisiting of his days of being an (alleged) serial rapist in the 90s got me thinking.

The Village Voice article that started this all is devastating.  Again, I barely knew anything about him.  I know he married Aliyah when she was 15.  I heard that he urinated on an underage girl.  But I didn’t know there were dozens of horrible accusations made against him.  How he escaped conviction is beyond me.  The article suggests he scared many of his victims into silence and bought off the rest.  It’s a pretty shocking read.

As you can imagine, it’s prompted a lot of soul searching, especially since R Kelly has gone back to making nastier music after a long period of I guess more straightforward R & B (I’m just repeating what I read here, again I don’t know shit about the guy).  This gets to the most interesting, for me, passage of the article:

A lot of art, great art, is made by despicable people. James Brown beat his wife. People are always, “Why aren’t you upset about Led Zeppelin?” I got the Bonham three rings [tattooed] on my foot. Led Zeppelin did disgusting things. I read Hammer of the Gods, I’m disgusted by the group sex with the shark. [Note: it was actually a red snapper! Still gross.] I have a couple of responses to that: I didn’t cover Led Zeppelin. If I was on the plane, like Cameron Crowe was, I would have written about those things if I saw them. The art very rarely talks about these things. There are not pro-rape Led Zeppelin songs. There are not pro-wife-beating James Brown songs.

….

I know in this day and age it’s rare to actually buy music, and I doubt most of the artists with music on Youtube are getting rich that way, so we can pretty much listen to things guilt free.  We’re not actually supporting the artists whose music we click on.  In that way, maybe it doesn’t matter that Phil Spector killed someone.  I can listen to Baby I Love You guilt free.  But boy does it suck to have someone rubbing their awfulness in your face.

I remember hearing this song and going, what the fuck were the Beatles thinking?  Who gave the green light to this creepy song?

It’s an awful song in its own right and it’s pretty much on permaskip, but it didn’t get really creepy until I read about how John Lennon admitted to beating his first wife, in interviews after they divorced.*  Yikes.  The song is a wife-beater anthem.

But I still listen to the Beatles and other than this song I don’t think too much about how much of an asshole John was at the time.  There’s one guy whose music is forever ruined for me.

I love the glam rock era in early 70’s UK- possibly no era of music better fits my perfect ideal of what rock and roll should be- campy, slightly ridiculous, raw, nasty, fun.  Most of my favorite bands are from that era- Sweet, Slade, T-Rex, the era of David Bowie I like, Suzi Quattro.  If you include the USA there was The New York Dolls, The Stooges and Alice Cooper too.  I heard this Gary Glitter song and I liked it a lot.  The production is kind of muddy, but it’s a catchy, energetic tune.

Right around that time I remember reading that he was arrested in Cambodia for statutory rape with a teenage girl.  That was creepy.  But I kind of wrote it off, thinking, well it’s in a developing nation, he’s a rich rockstar, who knows what the truth is.    I’m not proud of that.  It was a stupid thing to think.  But I did.

But I shoulda known better.  The song has this line in it-

I’m the leader, I’m the leader, I’m the leader of the gang I am

I’m the leader, I’m the leader, I’m the man who put the bang in gang, hahahahaha

Woah, fucking rapist hiding in plain sight right there.  This next song Do You Wanna Touch?, famously covered by Joan Jett, is probably the most rapey song in the history of rapey songs, with a special element of statutory rapeyness-

And here’s where this story gets really not funny.**

Jimmy Savile: Gary Glitter arrested over sex offences

If you’re not familiar with Jimmy Saville (because you’re American like myself and why would you be?) he was, I gather, some sort of TV host.  I remember him giving introductions in some of the old glam videos on Youtube, but I suspect people started editing him out.

Jimmy was a prolific child molester, with victims coming forward in the hundreds after he died two years ago.  Gary, allegedly, was in-cahoots with him.

Yeah, there’s really no going back to listening to Gary for me.

….

I’m not trying to excuse people’s behavior and I’m not trying to makes excuses for the music that I continue to listen to.  Some of my favorite music is made by some pretty terrible people.  I don’t always think it’s wrong to overlook some things.  But it does say something about ourselves if we can enjoy listening to someone glorify their terrible behavior.  I guess some R Kelly fans are coming to grips with that.

 

 

*I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that he was actually telling the truth with Getting Better-

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved

**Not that it was funny before, but when you cross the line from just singing a creepy sing, like the Young Girl guy, in being an actual rapist then it’s not even something I feel like snarking on.

Christmas!

I was listening to Cracked‘s most recent podcast talking about various Christmas movies and how they kind of suck.  I kind of agree- I’m not big on Christmas movies.  BUT, I disagree with their take on A Christmas Carol.  Yes, it’s true that Ebeneezer actually does let Bob Cratchit have the day off and that’s laudable, but taking issue with Dickens for writing a polemic… well duh, that’s what Dickens did.  That’s his bread and butter.  No fair taking that away from him.  And yeah, Scrooge is just trying to run a business… but that’s the point of the book.  He’s too involved in his business to live an enjoyable life.  Cracked was being too clever by half on that one.

They were also talking about Christmas Story, but I’ve never seen that movie all the way through, so I can’t comment except to say that I agree with their complaint that standing up to bullies (as the movie allegedly shows) never gets anyone anywhere if it’s not in the movies.  Unless you’re a kid who makes it a point to hide your fighting skills (in which case you are not a child that actually exists, because kids that can actually kick ass tend to make that known right away) the bully is going to be less shocked that you fought back that you yourself will be when you realize that the bully wasn’t actually doing his worst to you.  In fact, when you really make a bully mad, by fighting back, that’s when the real beatdown happens.

But I’ll cut short this trip down memory lane.

Anyway, Cracked was asking, what’s the point of Christmas?  They came to the conclusion that the point is buying stuff, not any of the brotherhood-of-men stuff you normally hear about.

I agree.  I rarely feel any more generous around Christmas but I tried.  I did.

One year I got tired of giving and getting gifts and I said, “I’m just donating to charity on everyone’s behalf.”  My father was nice enough to donate a goat to a family in the developing world on my behalf.  I’m not trying to be sappy but that was one of the best gifts I ever got.  Or didn’t get.

Other than my dad and my wife, everyone else hated this idea.  No one admitted it, but the look on everyone’s face was like I had just told them their cat died.

So we stopped that.  In my heart, I still resent everyone a little for not going along with that.

Don’t tell them I said that.

I’m just tired of getting stuff.  I hate stuff, except for musical instruments, which only my father ever gets me.

So I’m not totally in agreement with Cracked, and also, they pooh-poohed the idea that it was a time for family.  Which is absolutely wrong.  I go the whole year without seeing some of my family.  My parents divorced so I have to choose between families for Thanksgiving.  And yes, most of my family lives in Southern California, within a two hour drive, but I’ve been busy these last couple years, and I don’t see them coming to San Diego either.  It’s tough at our age to all get together.

And we’re from Southern California, which means we aren’t good at making or keeping plans.

My brother, for reasons that I don’t fully understand, decided he wasn’t coming to visit every year anymore, so I haven’t seen him since around 2009.  We had some great times when he did- usually my father, brother and I would go out for drinks at least once, and that was really cool.  I miss doing that.

So if I have to answer those dorks over at Cracked, I’d say family.  Christmas is about family.

Things I like: Current music

This article by Steven Hyden over at Grantland got me thinking-

One Direction Should Not Be Ignored – Grantland

The link was broken when I tried it, so you’ll just have to track it down at some point and read it.  He linked to a song by One Direction.  Yes, that One Direction.

It’s actually not a bad song.  If someone had played it for me and said it was a lost Flamin’ Groovies or Exploding Hearts track I might just believe them.

But he is on to something with his article.  Genre is pretty well dead at this point.  There is pop music and there is stuff that just isn’t good enough to be popular.

Which isn’t to say that something has to be good to be popular, only that there’s no reason for something really good not to be.  Trends have flattened out so much that I could turn on the radio and reasonably expect to hear music that could have existed in any decade.  I might listen for a half hour and hear Adele or Lorde sounding 60’s, Daft Punk sounding 70’s, Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga sounding 80’s and a half dozen pop stars sounding like early Brittney Spears.  It just doesn’t matter anymore.

And that’s a good thing.  I grew up in a tiny town miles and miles from any decent music store.  The one that did exist I vaguely remember hearing was just a money laundering operation for a drug dealing owner, which might explain why I once ordered Germfree Adolescents by XRay Spex and it didn’t arrive FOR A YEAR.  I had completely forgotten about it by then.

Getting music was tough back then.  Even knowing what was happening was difficult.  Somehow I heard about a magazine called Maximum Rock and Roll.  I bought a copy at Tower Records (remember them?) on a trip to San Diego and kept ordering from the labels that advertised in it.  It was a lifeline to the outside world.

BUT the problem with doing that is that I never knew what kind of music would arrive on my doorstep.  There were other people in town I could trade music with, but it was a crapshoot at the best of times.  And little labels in Geary, IN or wherever were probably looking at the $3 I sent them for 7″ record by DEATHSKULLS (or something like that) and going, where in the fuck did this guy hear about this band?

I hadn’t!  I was just guessing.  Lots of times I guessed wrong.

Anyway, there was the other thing about that era that sucked and that was music snobbery.  Those days are gone.  You can’t really act superior to someone for not knowing about a band when that person can just pull out a smartphone and look it up on the spot.

But it was about people protecting their hard-earned position as part of the scene.  People wanted to buy something with that cultural capital earned by sending out for those $3 records.  I get that.  But now there is nothing to protect.  And that means no shame in admitting that we can listen to whatever we want.  For musicians it means making whatever music they want.

I know some people say they miss being able to discover things.  I disagree.  I discover things all the time on Youtube.  Just now I don’t have to wait 2 months and pay $5 for something I think sucks.

….

But I meant to talk about current music so I will.  I like that One Direction can make a good power-pop song.  I like that white ladies can make passable rap songs.  I like that there’s disco on the radio and rock music too.

I mean, yeah, these guys are douchey, but this a good song.  It’s got energy, it’s got hooks.  Listen to it with the video off, you’ll like it more.

My son and I were looking around for live Lady Gaga videos yesterday and came upon this one:

With her recent string of underwhelming songs it’s pretty easy to forget that she’s actually a hugely talented performer.  I still think Telephone is one of the best pop songs maybe ever.

I may have just blown whatever credibility I have with you, but I make no apologies for liking trashy things, and this song is trashy as a song can get.

I kind of lost the point I was going to make, except to say that people complain about music today and I disagree.  It’s pretty much impossible to argue with someone saying that because the only way to convince them that music today isn’t so bad is to find a contemporary artist who sounds like something from the era they consider the best and then play that for them.  But that doesn’t actually prove anything.

Not that I think you, the reader, are like this.

I like it that now I can listen to the pop station and hear some music that sounds like punk, some fairly hard-core rap songs and some pure pop.  About 60% of it is crap, but that’s always been the case on pop radio.  But in other ways I feel like I’m living a really exciting time.

Things I love- Reading

(Continuing my series that I have decided to stick with til the end of the year)

My wife says I am addicted to letters.  I actually think I am.

I like to read.  I can read for hours on end.  I’m looking forward to retirement in 30 years so I can do nothing but read.  I know some people who have retired and complain about boredom.  As long as I have books I will never be bored.

You might notice a thread that runs through a lot of the things I love- they involve things that can be done at any age.  Because since I was a kid I imagined it would be cool to be old.  I hope I live to be old.  I have a lot of hobbies that will still be fun when I’m old.

A couple of weeks ago I was getting seriously anxious because I didn’t have any books that I was particularly enthusiastic about.  I’m working on a history of modern India, a very long book about where I grew up, a compendium of Doctor Strange comics, a couple other things as well.  I usually have a few books going at once.  But none of these are particularly fun reads, even the comic books.

I was getting antsy.  I was digging through my wife’s textbooks- she never gets rid of books, so there are piles of them all over our apartment.  Nothing looked that interesting.  Finally I opened my web browser and order a book-

Short Review:

The Square Circle Life, Death and Professional Wrestling by David Shoemaker AKA the Masked Man

David writes a column over at Grantland on pro-wrestling which is good, and before that he wrote a column called Dead Wrestler of the Week at Deadspin.  It was a great column.  And he had a lot of dead pro-wrestlers to choose from, because pro-wrestling is possibly the most dangerous sport you can do.  It’s a great book if you haven’t read his column.  If you have, not much of it is really new.

But this book arrived after I had already walked to the bookstore and bought a couple other books, which I subsequently read-

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

I’d actually been waiting and hoping this would come out in paperback and it did so I snatched it up.  I was hoping for lurid tales and I was not let down.  I blasted through this book in a day and a half.  I couldn’t put it down.  If I am addicted to reading, this book was a really good high.

Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds

Science fiction.  I really liked this book until the end, which I won’t give away, but was terribly unsatisfying.  So unsatisfying that I’m hesitant to read anything else by this author.

I have one more book that I bought at the bookstore, so I’m going to start working on that.  My library card still sits in my wallet and I really should use it, especially since my city has arranged it so you can look books up online and then have them sent to your local branch for pickup.  I can’t afford to buy new books every week.  I might have to turn to a life of crime to support my reading habit.

Things I love- Beer

I love beer.  Beer is great.

I once saw a guy who had IPA tattooed on his forearm.  If I ever get a beer tattoo I will get one that says Pilsner.  Because I am not a beer snob.  If it is beer I will drink it*.

That said, I prefer English ales.  I like my beer malty and kind of sweet.  OR I like it bitter and kind of coffeeish.  Or a good pilsner.

I am not a huge fan of IPAs, which are currently the regional beer of Southern California (especially San Diego), but I will drink them.  They taste best when they are very cold and it’s hot outside.

I have complained about the HOPS WAR that has been going on here, but I’m not going to do that here.  I can take hops.  But again, I prefer malts (malt? I don’t know the correct grammar here).

My personal favorite beer is a local brew named after a San Diego’s light-rail system- Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale.  Beer advocate is calling that an Irish Red, and though I’m not at all Irish I seem to be very partial to those.

I’m also a huge fan of Deschute’s Brewery’s Black Butte Porter.

Like I said, I’m not a snob though, and I’ll be very happy with a Guinness or a Newcastle or even a Budweiser.  I’m unique among my friends in that I can drink multiple pints of Guinness, where the bitterness and alleged weight of the beer (I don’t feel it) catch up to them after one.  Guinness is apparently Irish too, so maybe that’s why.

I thought about expanding this post to include my love of other alcohols, but I don’t know that I have much to say that’s interesting about those either, so I’ll condense- Vodka- YAY!; Whiskey- yay, if it’s in a cocktail that doesn’t include Coke; rum- mmmm, kind of OK; gin- BOOOOOOO; Tequila- DOUBLE BOOO, unless it’s high very high end (higher than Patron) in which case YAY!; sake- yummy, but hurts my head; champagne- YAY!; wine- makes me crazy so I stay away.  Anything else?  Can’t think of it.

One thing I have learned about beer is that it gives me a nasty hangover, so I don’t drink that much in one sitting, unless I do, and then I just deal with the pain.  As a general rule I don’t drink any alcohol on weekdays because it makes it hard for me to sleep.

I’d claim I only drink in moderation, but that would be a lie.  I sometimes drink in moderation and I sometimes don’t.  When I don’t, it’s because I’m hanging with the neighbors or staying with friends so I don’t have to drive.

I love quiet dive bars, because I’m not there to meet people, just to talk to people I already know.

*Not true, actually.  I refuse to drink Miller High Life (the boxwine of beers) and Rolling Rock, even if there is nothing else.  Those two beers suck.  Also, Stella Artois sucks as does Corona if you don’t have lime, but I will drink them, in a pinch.