Album Meme

My results for that Album Cover meme that's going around:

Apparently, I'm a lot more indie-psychedelic than I knew!


Word Association

  1. Most Heavy Metal: Warlock.
  2. Lamest: Inspirational.
  3. Reminds You of Your Childhood: Hypercolor.
  4. Most Medieval: Forsooth.
  5. Republican Party: Hateful.
  6. Your Mom: YOUR Mom!
  7. George Lucas: Kill.
  8. Delicious: Hydrocodone.
  9. Cardigan Sweaters: Dope.
  10. Obsolete: Reaganomics.
  11. Muscle Car: Flaccid.
  12. Munchkin Land: Drugs.
  13. Things You Regret Include: Laziness.
  14. Most Pleasing to Say: Limpid.
  15. England: Mean.
  16. Star Trek: Boldly.
  17. A Pack of Baboons: Unwieldy.
  18. Scandinavia: Death Metal.
  19. Your Infancy: Sharks.*
  20. The Certainty of Death: Frustrating.
* The sharks thing is from a copy of National Geographic I used to look at when I was 1 - 2 that had a big pictorial on sharks. It's one of my earliest memories.


March of the Emo Pup

...or maybe February of the emo pup?

"Emo pup" is what B calls me when I'm being mopey. This is really the only context in which I approve of the use of the term "emo," which is normally undefinable.

I am confronting the following issues in the life and times:
  • Drinking less. It turns out that it's really boring to drink less.
  • The prospect of most of my friends in SC moving away within the next 6 - 12 months.
  • The sneaking, sinking feeling that I may be an idiot and that I'm failing to do all of the things I'm supposed to do in my "career" right now: conference papers and article publications.
  • The interminable uphill climb of the dissertation.
The diss thing is not such a big deal. I set myself the goal of five pages a day and I usually manage to pull it off, and I just sent a draft of the introduction out to some people to look at.

The drinking / friend stuff is a stickier wicket. I fear I may have had too much fun from the ages of 19 - 29, eliminating as much sinful, wicked alcohol from the world as possible by drinking it in the company of attractive people. As B and I scale back (general principle: drinking less is healthier and we're 30+ now), I struggle to find new things to do.

The friend thing is a hazard of grad school. The siren call of "research," whatever that is, scatters people to the winds, and it becomes harder to relate to the new kids coming in each year. I have no solution for this one at the moment, either.

At least I've still got coffee. Thank god.


Tagged: Desert Island Albums

The inimitable Count Fosco tagged me in a a recent post and demanded that I stand and deliver my five desert-island must-have albums. Not a man to shirk blogging responsibility, here I go:

1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Let Love In.
One criteria I have for any "great album" is that the entire thing has to be good, less maybe one or two songs, and that the songs have to build on one another and be stronger than the sum of their parts. This is the album that led me to those conclusions back in the late 90s. This is Nick Cave and co. at their best: rock with sprinkles of ambiguous theology in a vaguely gothy mode, by way of Australians with bowie knives. "Red Right Hand" is itself in my top-five songs of all time.

2. Devo: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
This will come as no surprise, considering I have this album title tattooed on my shins. I've been a Devo fanatic since freshman year in high school, but for a long time I held the idiosyncratic opinion that their "robot dance phase" of Oh No! It's Devo and even the often-maligned Shout were their best albums. I finally reverted to orthodoxy in the last few years, acknowleding Are We Not Men as a really mind-bendingly good album. Their entire mythos of weird anti-science / performance art was at its best with this album, and the songs are all awesome.

3. Motorhead: Sacrifice.
When I was a scrawny would-be punk in high school, I thought that metal sucked. This was the early/mid 90s, and hair metal had reigned supreme recently enough that it was still the enemy. A few years later, however, I saw Motorhead play while I lived in England and I was instantly converted. Lemmy is, simply, the incarnation of rock on this planet. I didn't bother and compare Motorhead to Black Label Society in my last post because Motorhead transcends being "great at their genre" - they are to other metal bands as Bruce Lee is to anyone else who has ever been in a kung fu movie. 1995's Sacrifice is, for me, the best example of the best serious rock band in the history of the universe.

4. The Magnetic Fields: Get Lost.
One of these kids is not like the others. Magnetic Fields, the "main" one-man band of genius songwriter Stephen Merritt, used to make the best synth-pop/indie rock albums...ever. His 69 Love Songs was, I think, the last brilliant thing he did before indulging in more and more show-tunes style piano songs and abandoning, for the most part, the genre that he had been so good at. Get Lost is the exemplary album, full of brilliant, catchy, sad synthpop songs about love getting completely fucked up. (Side note: couldn't find any Youtube videos of songs off this one, so here's a slightly earlier but also brilliant tune, Strange Powers:)

5. Turbonegro, Apocalypse Dudes.
It's a hard decision to pick Apocalypse Dudes over the other fantastic album, Ass Cobra, by Norway's proudest sons since Ah Ha. I will cut to the chase: Jello Biafra once said Apocalypse Dudes was the greatest rock album of all time. I'm not sure if any one album can be that, but it's definitely up there in the firmament. This is stadium rock if it was totally evil, a "we will rock you" style of anthemic music in service to the prince of darkness alone (I mean this figuratively; in fact, Turbonegro invented their "gay fascist" schtick specifically to freak out their friends who really were satan-worshipping black metal guys back in Oslo.) I straight-up love this album.

I now tag Ransom. Get to work, dude.


The Perfect Music

I think the reason so many people have loved The Beatles over the last forty-something years is that they were, objectively, perfect at what they did. Harmonies, chord progressions, love songs that were clearly written with no one in particular in mind, it was all the perfect bundle of pop-rock.*

My homie L hooked me up with two CDs full of metal mp3s and, while doing the grocery runs this morning, I got to listen to Black Label Society in the car. BLS, the band Ozzie's guitarist started in the late 90s, is perfect metal. Wailing guitars, hulking viking of a lead singer/guitarist, lyrics about death and drugs and all-purpose pathos, it's all there.

There's something to this. When bands are great not because they're doing anything particularly new, it's just that they're exemplary at their genre. For instance:
  • The Hives: late 90s pop-punk.
  • Minor Threat: early 80s hardcore punk.
  • Ladytron: spooky synthpop.
  • Motley Crue: dirty 80s hair metal.**
  • Adam and the Ants circa their first album, Dirk Wears White Sox: new wave.
  • Toots and the Maytals: late 60s skinhead reggae.
  • The Specials: two-tone ska.
  • Bush: 90s radio pop that makes you want to kill yourself because it's so bad.
  • Death From Above 1979: whatever it was that genre was.
I can't think of any other examples, but I know they're out there.

* This does not stop me from hating The Beatles, of course. I think it's the insincerity of the love songs that bothers me - I'm fine with love songs, but I want there to be some verisimilitude.
** There are a lot of contenders for dirty 80s hair metal exemplars, but for my money, The Crue are where it's at.


Unconditional Karaoke Love

Last night the UC to the SC history grads embarked on our bi-(curious) weekly outing, this time to the picturesque Boardwalk Bowl. There was a good turnout and I conducted myself with dignity in delivering renditions of both White Wedding and Daydream Believer.

Let me just get to the point: toward the end of the night, these two sexagenarian regulars (they have been there every time I have), rotund, big-haired, sloshed, got up and did a fantastic version of My Hump. The woman, clad in a red velvety track-suit thing and looking almost exactly like a giant singing tomato, was wonderful. Her dude, a retired band teacher perhaps, was rad. The bar erupted in cheers.

What I found really inspirational was that this appears to be their retirement project: they hang out in a weird karaoke bar attached to a bowling alley and drink and watch TV and do karaoke. This is, and I'm not kidding or being mean or sarcastic, infinitely cooler than some stupid-ass RV or playing golf for twenty years until you can't swing the club anymore. The whole experience was so the opposite of the whole smarmy LA-inspired TV culture part of America I hate.

So: to the aging karaoke regulars in the bowling alleys of the USA, I salute you and hope to be one of you when I grow up.


Weekend Update

Item 1!

I just survived what was easily one of my top three craziest drives ever! As you can see from the radar diagram to my right, we're having a bit of weather on the Cali central coast at the moment (perfect timing for a bunch of people in Spandex).

B and I spent the weekend visiting her parents in Novato and hanging out with her brother. We had to get home this evening in order to avoid the above-mentioned spandexers, who are taking over the town tomorrow and shutting down most of the roads. Driving on 280 was harrowing, but then it reached full ear-bleeding mouth-foaming insanity once we hit Highway 1; sheets of horizontal rain backed by full-on gusts for about forty miles in the pitch black.

Happily, I am a rad driver and we made it back in one piece.

Item 2!

You know those horrible, obnoxious, trashy Calvin-peeing-on-things stickers? This weekend, while going to an outlet mall with B's brother (call it an outing in the name of gallows humor), we saw a car that just had Calvin peeing. He wasn't peeing on anything. This led us to the conclusion that, just maybe, this person had some kind of pee fetish and wanted to leave it at that.

It occurred to me that we people of taste and learning ought to go to the next level and have stickers made up of Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing, like so:

This sticker could have two possible meanings:
  1. I am contemptuous of you and your big truck.
  2. I am a pervert.
Either way, it would be funny.

Item 3!
I got a ticket at SFO waiting for my brother in-law on Friday. Let the record show: the traffic cops at SFO are total dicks.


Disney Head Hats

When I was a kid, I went to Disneyland. I coveted a Donald Duck hat that looked like Donald's severed head if his brains had been scooped out with a melon baller. It looked like this (picture stolen from some lady on flickr):

We're hanging out with my brother-in-law, A, who just returned from Japan after another long stint building enormous puppets for Disney Japan's latest parade thing. Among various anecdotes, he told us about how they sell the equivalent of the above hats featuring E.T.'s head instead of Donald's. Since he wasn't able to take any pics, and I wasn't able to find any on the internet, I created the following simulation using my money-making photoshop skills:

I have a lot of other great ideas for Disney head hats and related items they could do:
  • Peter Pan's severed head.
  • The Genie from Alladin's severed head.
  • Nemo on a fisherman's speargun, which you stick in a hat band.
  • Bambi's mom's pelt, worn as a cape.


The Opposite of "Woo!"

I am constantly weirded out by the fact that living in the smallest apartment I've ever lived in, in the most densely populated neighborhood I've ever lived, in the most densely packed-in strange little city I've ever lived in is nevertheless the quietest and most peaceful place I've been since I left home at 17 to ride the rails.*, **

Here is an example: when we lived in Eugene the last time, B and I were in a dumpy little wreck of a house (still: two bedrooms and a garage for 750/month) on a corner in between two much larger houses, both of which were chock full of screaming 19 year-old U of O girls. This was the phase of my life in which I called the cops, oh, every week, chased hobos out of our yard with our maglite, and cultivated my hatred for sports schools and drunk teenagers.

Contrast with two evenings ago, when our next door neighbor*** came over and informed us that he was having a wine-and-cheese birthday party the next night, that we were welcome to stop by, that if it got too loud just to let him know, and that he'd like to give us a bottle of delicious California Zinfandel for our trouble. And, last night, the sum total of the ruckus was some laughter and conversation, vaguely heard through the wall before I succumbed to my usual massive dose of melatonin.

My point? I think it's that sports schools breed evil while dork schools breed good. Also, I like free wine.

P.S. Apparently, "succumbed" really is the past participle of "to succumb." Who knew?!

* This doesn't count Paris, which was definitely weirder and denser than anywhere else.
** I'm making the rails thing up, obviously, although I did move out at 17 and went on a road trip as far as the Hoover Dam with my then-girlfriend.
*** I call him The Phantom Menace because he and his roommate were watching one of the terrible newer Star Wars movies we could hear through the wall some months ago.


Media Sunday

Item 1: As you may know, Ewan McGregor and his pal Charley Boorman have gone on two enormous motorcycle trips, one literally around the world and the other from the northern tip of Scotland to the southern tip of South Africa. Said trips were filmed and made into entertaining documentaries. B and I have started in on the first, and I was reminded of two physical attributes and one personal attribute of Mr. McGregor:
1. He can really grow a beard!
2. He has a well-muscled ass!**

1. He is a grounded and friendly fellow!

Item 2: if you were at all into music with guitars in or near it during the 90s, chances are good you listened to The Violent Femmes. I was seized with the desire to listen to their breakthrough eponymous first album on the way up to campus today. You know what? It's still really great! I've resolved to sing a song off of it the next time I'm in a karaoke-type situation.

Non-media-related trivia: I may have accidentally deleted a page or two of dissertation, which I'm severely pissed about. This (may have) happened because of trying to keep up-to-date copies of my diss on my laptop, desktop, and USB key all at the same time; I might have overwritten a slightly newer copy with a slightly older one.

On a happier note, homies K, L, and C are coming over for a cheese feast this evening. This is very exciting!

** I noticed during the brutal massage scene in Kazakhstan. Between this scene and the comparable one of Anthony Bourdain in Ukraine, B and I have learned to avoid "spas" in Central Asia at all costs, lest a giant man in a black speedo squat o'er-head and pummel us senseless with his meaty mitts.


Culture Wars: The Nuge

Thinkin' about The Nuge again.

So: like most graduate students, I am a big fan of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel. He goes interesting places, he says funny stuff, he dines on tasty-looking food. A season or two ago, he went through the southwest and ended up in Texas, hanging out with rocker Ted "The Nuge" Nugent on his crazy shooting range / ranch / animal-preserve-so-the-nuge-can-shoot-them / bunker-dwelling-psycho compound / practice space.

The whole point of the episode was Bourdain's quest to hang with red-state America and to prove that cultural bridges exist between all of us as Americans, whether we welcome Democratic control of congress and the white house or, as The Nuge puts it, we think that a Democratic government would be a "target-rich environment." In other words, the episode was a light-hearted celebration of compromise and mutual understanding, a rebuttal of the notion of the culture wars that separate us. Bourdain goes to Texas specifically in the name of conciliation. In his crypto-lefty politics,* conciliation, compromise, and communication are all positives.

What pisses me off about this kind of project is that you aren't going to see The Nuge renting a hybrid and visiting Manhattan or Portland or Santa Cruz, eating a bunch of tempeh, and volunteering at an animal shelter. Intransigence, inflexibility, and hostility to the opposition are right-wing values, something that probably peaked in the first few years after the Iraq War started, when dissent was basically treated as a form of treason. This comes out in Bourdain's interactions with The Nuge over and over; Bourdain's subtext is something like "ha ha ha, I may disagree with you, but these are darn good ribs, thank you for welcoming me into your lovely militia compound" and The Nuge's is something like "ha ha ha, I would like to shoot everyone who disagrees with me."

Thus, like most of my fellow tinhorn academic lefties, I'm very ambivalent about Obama's decision to try to reconcile partisan politics rather than press his advantage while the Dems have congress and the white house. I know that his attitude about most things, like ending the Iraq War, nationalizing banking, and so on, are more rational than anything the Republicans would come up with. I worry that by trying to work with everyone, Obama is ultimately catering to people who would like nothing less than to see him "fail."

* He alludes to his own lefty politics, but I've never seen or read any evidence of them. It's like he's too embarrassed about his own beliefs to actually let anyone know what they are.


My New Motto

Ok: all of you dingbats who STILL don't read Achewood need to get with the program. Proof positive is today's (comic) strip. For me, a defining excerpt:

Ace of Grades. After seeing Motorhead, what, four times, and being a graduate TA for, what, four years, at last I've found my motto, my personal family crest, my literary calling card. This is the most important thing to happen to my career since caffeine.




KFR has been pretty text-heavy of late, Kanye West videos notwithstanding. This is due to the fact that I do not spend enough time pooping around on the internet to scrounge up funny pictures, nor am I comfortable taking tons of pictures myself while about my quotidian routine. You, my loyal half-dozen, suffer the boring-ass consequences, and for that I am sorry.

Re: text, two things.
  1. For fun, I've started reading Beauvoir's The Mandarins*. For me, Beauvoir is and always has been one of the dynamic existential duo. She was a philosopher who also happened to be a novelist. I've never read any of her stories before; I've used her philosophical essays (Second Sex, The Ethics of Ambiguity, Pyrrhus and Cineas) and her autobiographies in writing about her life and thought on the one hand and existentialism and politics in general on the other. It turns out...she was a damn fine novelist! Who knew?! The Mandarins is her fictionalized account of the elite intellectual circles in Paris right after the Liberation from the Nazis in '44 and so far I've found it to be a pretty gripping exploration of sex, death, cocktails, despair, and the quest for existential authenticity. Nice!
  2. This dissertation thing is just out of hand. In my mind, I can see where everything is supposed to go. I have my big framing arguments, I have the books and articles I've read that I need to work through in the body of the writing, I have ideas about how to work in historical context. But damn if I can get more than a few paragraphs out each day.
On an unrelated note, it was 70-something degrees today in SC. I saw the first "yep, there's gonna be water rationing" article headline on a local rag yesterday. I'm still not all worked-up over it, but having never lived in a place with water-rationing before, I'm a little trepidatious about how it's going to work. Do we start bathing in gin?**

P.S. The extra cup of coffee I had today during section kind of messed me up. This is like your best friend breaking your collarbone and stealing your woman. What the hell, coffee?!

* I'm reading it in English. I just can't be bothered to read it in French.
** Hope hope hope.