Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A friendly rebuttal

Vicbart is a friend of mine. One of his blog entries put some thoughts into my head.
I figured I'd put them here because I haven't posted in a coon's age, and it may help send some blog traffic his way.
For this post to make sense, you must first read this:

When fresh out of high school, I was an assistant manager for an Aquarium store in Willoughby.

We had 3 major sections:

1. Live Fish & Aquarium Animals
2. Aquaria / Tanks
3. Hard goods (Fish food, toys, decorations, etc.)

In these three departments, the profit expectations were this:

1. Live Fish - you might break even, if you're lucky.

2. Aquaria / Tanks- You sell just over cost. By the time a salesperson spent an hour explaining options to a new tank buyer and two other dummies loaded it into the car, you lost money on it (and we called this an aquarium store!)

3. Hard goods- Profit margin is so high on that peeing-cherub ornament and fish food that, after splitting profits among 4 owners, one had a Maserati and the other had a huge collection of ancient Bonsai trees worth more than my house today.

I don't have to explain to a retail lifer that Best Buy can take the hit on music CD sales to get people into the store. Once inside, customers will likely also buy a gadget that will bring in enough money to keep the lights on and pay all the stinky high-schoolers and keep the stockholders happy to boot.

I'm not aware of one "Aquarium store" that just sells aquaria. Who in the world has a shop full of glass, then bitches about another aquarium store with a hard goods and or live fish section?

This is exactly what record stores are and do. It may have worked in 1973, but business, she done changed.
It's funny how people think our government is a "living system", free to change at our whim and needs, but our retail paradigm has to stay static. And not just retail, every time we have a mini-recession and large, successful businesses cut personnel and learn to adapt to new ways, people who used to be paid by the old ways scream and yell that they want their jobs back when the economy comes back around.

Too bad. You should've learned to make more than buggy whips. We drive Buicks now.

THEN someone has to bring in the government or unions (or federal unions, no less).
I'm pretty sure the UAW insures that $500 out of the price of every new car made in Detroit goes to ancient, former buggy whip braiders or their families.
And the public is fine with this because they 1.) are dumb 2.) think that the automakers are getting screwed, not realizing that money is coming out of their own pockets because they 1.) are dumb

But no one is a friend of anyone who makes money I know, I know, profits are evil.

Is it really just price chosen over selection and service killing the small chain record store?

I still have to buy most of my music over the internet because that's where I can find it.
I know, I listen to people with 20 fans, not Tom Petty and Nirvana.

I like everyone at Record Den and Ultrasound, but I gotta say, I've wanted to punch out many a record store manager.
I remember a guy in Louisiana that threw a fit because I brought in a pile of discs to trade. He apparently had just processed too many that day. Really, I find that (with a few local exceptions) customer service seems to only happen online.

This is a conflict for me (well, what isn't?):

I don't like to give money to faceless people who live in the light box on my desk. Not for security, but for the simple reason that:
If I'm going to give you hard-earned cash, I need to be able to get my hands around your neck if need be. Or at least kick over a desk.
You see now that all government stuff like BMV and Welfare service is going online or phone service only.
We are learning as a society to poke each other with sharp sticks like dogs, while standing just beyond the length of each others leashes.

It's the downward spiral of human-human interactions you keep hearing about. It's invisible because its so incremental.

That said, my dealings with internet-based companies has shown that they understand customer service more than people I deal with in person. I now feel more comfortable putting my bank card information online than handing it to the surly flunky running the register at the local drug store, who won't end the argument with her baby-daddy on her cell phone to finish my transaction.

Lastly, my wife doesn't dislike Record Den, but she won't go in unless dragged because she doesn't want to stink like incense the rest of the day.

So, perhaps Wal-mart doesn't spew all of the evils in the world. Maybe they just smell better.

Oh, and I remember the Chris Elliot guy. That's funny as shit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What I did on my Vacation Part II

I told you that story to tell you this one.

Let me start with a brief eulogistic aside.
I've known Pat's family for almost 30 years. We are brothers and his brothers are my brothers. When we were children his family tended the S.N.P.J. Farm in Kirtland, a Slovenian cultural-heritage benefit and preservation society gathering place (no one noticed they were Polish-Irish {wait, yes they did}). The SNPJ would have public dances to benefit our Midget (Pee Wee) Football League and host weddings and they had putt-putt and a rather large collection of playground equipment. When I saw Pat get off the bus in Kindergarten and run up the drive to this compound, I figured he was the richest kid in the world. My dad was Sunday morning regular at the bar under the house of the caretaker so I met Pat very early on. His mom would tend bar. You have to understand that to our parents' generation, a bar was what a coffee shop is to us. A bunch of old brick-layers, painters and shit-truck drivers reading the paper and gossiping over a beer and a hard-boiled egg. Maybe someone would light up a pipe. It wasn't a place to get smashed or argue and loud music was not tolerated. Find a honky-tonk on Saturday night if you want that. I grew up in these shot & beer joints, where we ate lunch or unwound after leaving some construction job site. Well, Dad unwound. I played video games or at the SNPJ Farm, wandered off to the river or hung out with the kids of the caretakers.

Eventually, my parents split and I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana for a while. When we came back we moved into a house sprinting distance from Pat & his family in their new house. From age 10 until after high school graduation, I was in his house as much as my own. A handful of neighborhood kids were. Pat's mom raised me as much as my own mother did. We played Dungeons and Dragons there on Fridays (his older siblings played Saturday nights). One of his older brothers usually had a friend living there so the place was just lousy with smelly young men. Steve Somerville and I would sneek out at night sometimes and wander into Pat's house and crash in the living room at 4a.m. I'm not sure any of the parents were exactly happy to wake up and find children randomly missing from or appearing in their homes, but they sure didn't let us know if they were displeased. Pat's mom imposed no law over us. She didn't need to. She commanded no respect from us. Her demeanor compelled us to be polite, respectful and pleasant, as she was to us. Oh, sure I remember her near crack-up around the 200th D&D game within one year, but you've never seen a more civil display of displeasure. "Why does it always have to be our house, Paddy?". Still, we flushed the toilet, made local calls only and sometimes kept our voices down. And NO BLUE HUMOR, ever!

It was a bucolic existence, you know? Unlocked doors, cane-pole fishing, falling out of trees and breaking ourselves into many pieces. Some of our neighborhood parents had loaded guns behind doors (sometimes every door) and we somehow managed to not shoot the shit out of each other without the help of Ritalin. Fear and respect were healthy. We were pretty sure we actually lived in Bloom County.

After college, Pat & I worked with his dad and older brother, Mark in their heating and cooling business. I was saving money to move to New Orleans. Pat was starting a Masters program. Before I left, two more friends (Edd and {yet another} Steve) had come to work with us. Friends we'd known since kindergarten and high school. I've got to say, this is the only way I could work construction. Man, you can do anything with your best friends. Even HVAC. Sort of. We all referred to his dad as "The Ol' Man" and each had our own special impersonation if him. All endearing, you understand.

When I was in New Orleans, Pat's dad passed away. Edd called me to tell me and I tried like hell to get back up to Ohio but I just didn't have the resources in place to pull that off with a day's notice, still young and stupid. Well, younger and more stupid, anyway. Eventually the HVAC company was just Mark and Edd. Pat's mom told a great story about being on the phone with 911 when her husband passed away. They said, "Do you know CPR?" She said, "Have you ever seen an asthmatic give CPR?" Absolute candor.

Pat and I were in each other's weddings. Someone brought a female to Pat's wedding that eventually found it necessary to either partially or completely disrobe. Pat's mom wasn't fazed at all. "We had a naked Lady at our wedding? Did you have a naked lady at your wedding?" she would ask people.

My wedding was one of the last times I saw Pat's mom. I lived and got married on a property where we rented a cottage that was two doors down from where Pat's family lived in the mid-1970s before the SNPJ Farm. After that I think I only saw her at a Baptism or two. It wasn't a shock to anyone when she passed away in the middle of September. Honestly, we were all waiting for her to keel over and die right there in front of us while watching Jeopardy
on any given evening in 1984. And 1985. And 1988. We watched a lot of Jeopardy. Look, she smoked and coughed like a person who has certainly breathed her last- always. It's the real reason we were all so well-behaved. No one wanted to trigger it. But she had been dealing with multiple myeloma in the last few years. Sometime in the past 5 years or so, she moved to Florida with her daughter. So I had certanily made my peace. As had Pat and his brothers. Of course it didn't make it easy on any of us. The funeral was September 22nd and Mass & interment the 23rd, just hours before the 6th annual Somerville pig roast (that's another blog entry). Pat originally wasn't going to make it down from Buffalo, New York where he lives for the pig roast, but we joked that his mom really wanted him to be there. We spent the night before drinking Manhattans "Up" in her honor (good Irish lady).

Obviously, then, we weren't all there just to support Pat in his loss. It was certanly our loss, too. She taught us, fed us, put up with us and entertained us and we will miss her terribly. I'm honored to have been a satellite of the family. Ok, it wasn't such a brief eulogistic aside.

Flash forward four weeks. None of us who trade emails regularly really put it together when we hadn't heard from Pat for several days after Buffalo, where he lives, was hit by a major blizzard on October 13th. We had planned to meet up and go see Iron Maiden in Toronto on October 16th and he hadn't responded to my Email to start coordinating the evening. Finally he Emailed, saying that he was in a bad way. He hadn't had power or phone or heat or hot water for 3 days, he sent his wife and four children to Mentor, Ohio to be with her parents. There was water in his basement, his food was out on the now-warm porch and he had sent his cell phone through the snow blower. I said, "Good. Sounds like you're ready for a concert and a beer."
Somerville and I drove up to scoop him up for the show. We were not ready to see what we saw. Buffalo looked like a class 3 hurricane had hit it. It was bad enough that they got 18-24" of snow in a matter of hours, but the real problem is that the trees still had their leaves and caught all of it. And then cracked and collapsed in a heap. My understanding is that it fell so quickly, people were trapped on the Interstate and had to be brought water and gasoline by snowmobile. I'm pretty sure every tree in Buffalo is splintered.

I do not know who these people are but this
is a pretty good representation of the situation

Pat actually lives in Clarence. We turned down his street and it was even worse. At the front of each and every yard was a 6 to 8-foot tall pile of tree branches that spanned the entire yard. It was just a giant wall of wood and leaves down both sides of the street. Pat's yard was in ruins. A large old maple in his front yard was split right down the middle. The Peach tree has one branch left. His apple tree was uprooted.

The Willow is splinted in every direction

And the Maple in the back of the house has pulled every wire from his house in a very mesy fashion.
there are wires in there
Pretty incredible, Actually. Pat had procured a generator by the time we got there Monday. The sump pump was plugged in in the basement, but water was still coursing in at an alarming rate. I will guess about two gallons an hour. We spent a while looking at the carnage, then headed off to Toronto.
We had a good time and Iron Maiden KILLED. Maiden suffer a big problem that only really old, really popular, really good bands suffer from. What to play in the setlist. They simply can not please anyone. This is my 20th year of attending Maiden concerts, and look, man, I love "The Number of the Beast" as much as the next guy. But I think I will still die happy if I never hear it live again. But they are not a band like Jethro Tull, who also has been making fine music for many thousands of years, but has a fan base that doesn't want to hear anything but "Aqualung" and "Locomotive Breath". They whip into 1995's "Roots to Branches" and everyone leaves for a beer.

Iron Maiden have a good mix of fans of every age. They are not lacking in teen age fans that know all of the words to the album that came out two months ago. It's not a bunch of fat, bald old bastards yelling, "Play 'Run to the Hills', Dude!" But they are there. So Maiden have fallen into the trap of 1.) Play some songs from the new album 2.) Play these 4 songs every show, ever 3.) Select and play 4 songs from a group of 16 songs that never really retire. But they are always trying something new. They are not afraid to grow. Therefore they are always pissing someone off. So this tour they are playing the new album in it's entirety (not a terribly new or original idea, but new to them). Personally, I loved it. To me it was a breath of fresh air. I thought the new album was damn good, not spectacular. But every song was great live. I had a whole new respect for the arrangements and came away liking every song more than when I went in. I heard the guy next to me, who was apparenlty introducing the band to a buddy, say, "This is the last song on the new record, they'll start rocking out the old stuff next". He was probably upset that they only played two more songs berfore encores.
Some people, however were fit to be tied. They just want to hear the Classics.

Before we left for home, I told Pat we should come back up with boots and chainsaws and
help clean up this mess. He eventually conceded and Steve and Janine and I came back up on Saturday. I brought Pat a cool old copy I found of Emmanuel Ringelblum's Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto. You know, to cheer him up.
The four of us cleared away pretty much all of the dangerous stuff from his yard. Andy was out of town but sent a chainsaw with us which was good. We had three and couldn't keep them running worth a damn. It took all three to always have one that wasn't flooded. It took me all of 20 minutes to climb a tree and twist my shoulder so badly I couldn't pull the pull-starts on the saws. But eventually the yard looked pretty clear and at least nothing else was in danger of falling out of the trees onto the house or children. He's still going to need a professional service to come out and get the trees healthy again and remove some. It was really good to feel like I had made productive use of my time on a Saturday instead of sitting in Yours Truly, eating potatoes smothered in cheese & eggs, then hitting a bookstore.

Then, just a week later, I lost power at my house. for 30 hours or so.
When I called the electric company's 800 number, they hoped to have everything on line by monday night. And when they read off the hardest hit areas, we weren't on it. That tells me we're not a priority and I had better get a generator. But I also know they overshoot the time estimate so people are happy when the power comes back "early".
Believe it or not, I got a generator with no problem. Well, I had to swallow my pride and buy it from Home Despot, with whom I practically have a blood feud going on now

The time change actually helped us. We forgot about it and were driving around Sunday morning, wondering why all the stores were closed. We'd call each store and get the message: "The Store is now closed; our Sunday hours are 8am-6pm." We were like "Well shit, they must not have power. What a way to serve the community! They should be out here with a pile of generators, taking cash and swiping credit cards the old fashioned way! Assholes!" So we headed west. So we figured we could drive to Detroit if we had to. Lowes was already open but the guy on the phone said they they had been sold out since Buffalo got buried. And they're tightly allocated. They only get 2 or 3 generators in at a time, anyway. So things were not boding well. I figured if worse came to worst I'd call Pat and see if I could borrow his. At least I'd have power by evening.

But we only got to Mentor when I realised there had been a time change, so we rolled into the parking lot right at 8 and went in as they were unlocking the doors. There were a few of us there for generators (which they actually had in stock), but the other people were looking at the more expensive/powerful ones. I was all ready to punch a Grandma in the face all Tickle-Me-Elmo style. So we paid for it (don't know how, the cat just spent another 3 days in the ICU- I haven't even started writing about that yet.) and went home. I just powered the Fridge, space heater in the bedroom (where Gillan was confined as he was so weak he'd probaby fall down our stairs) and the animal room in the basement. If I lose my Parrot cichlid because I was an idiot and I knew the day I moved in that we would definitely need a generator, but couldn't get one when I needed it, I would never forgive myself. So here were are, broke idiots, already out of power trying to get a generator while everyone else is, too. I made a pigtail out of a heavy-duty extension cord to wire the boiler or water pump, but it never came down to needing to.

So here's to winter just starting.

What I did on my Vacation Part I

By the second week of October I have to say I felt pretty violated. In the beginning of August, I finally started my project of trying to grow a really nice Brugmansia at work. It was beautiful. I have three cultivars. One was started from Edd's old plant that introduced me to the genus. I have been babysitting her since he went into the Air Force six years ago. Her blooms are peach in colour and in the evening, the perfume of the giant trumpets makes you dizzy from across the yard. You would be convinced Messerschmitts were descending upon your property if you heard a giant bumble bee felching nectar from what is basically nature's RCA Victrola Horn (Jimm ponders his verbiage).
click photo to enlarge
In 2005, while visiting New Orleans, I got cuttings from two more: an Ecuadorian Pink at the corner of Louisiana and Tchoupitoulas and a yellow from uptown near Magazine & Jefferson. They are very dear to me.
These are the Parents of my cuttings.
click photo to enlarge

I selected a choice cutting from each of the three and took them to work where I had a 24" pot filled with three types of potting soil. One was a constructed mixture my sister made from a Martha Stewart recipe, the other was a Perlite-heavy mix and the other was Miracle Grow. The plant was nothing short of spectacular. The first few days were touch and go as they didn't seem to want to come out of the post-transplant droop and wilt. Then they went absolutely insane with growth.
click photo to enlarge
The light indoors was nothing to match the July sun they had just left, so they generated huge leaves to catch more light. Each leaf was a giant, lovely, quilted emerald blanket with the finest hairs and deepest, darkest creases. I was actually pretty cranky because the ones at home didn't look nearly as good. And this was was air conditioned! It didn't seem fair.
click photo to enlarge
There was one problem: it had a few aphids. Well, these guys are notorious for having bugs once you take them inside no matter how hard you try to clean them. Nine out of ten times it's whitefly. Give it a few squirts of some horrible insect-killing compound and they're right as rain through winter dormancy. The next spring when you fire them back outside, they come back as if nothing happened. I've been doing this for years now. So a few aphids were odd, but hell, they were in my garden, after all. I talked to a few people who were of the impression that Miracle Grow is often buggy. I have no idea if that's where they came from, but I was certain that if I kept the plant healthy otherwise and picked off what I could while spraying regularly with a soapy alcohol & water mixture, we'd get it under control. This was working just fine until Edd got out of the Air Force the second week of September.
click photo to enlarge
Long Story-short, I took a week off from work when Edd moved back from Missouri to help him move back in and generally lay around drunk and smoke cigars for a week. I vowed to come in and tend to the plant every few days but it didn't happen. When I came back, the poor damn thing was absolutely decimated by the bugs. I applied some other horrible chemical but it just made the thing stink like Hell. Well, my fault. I knew this would likely happen. I had remained fairly optimistic because it was such a robust beast of a plant. No such luck. Then I figured: well, this happens when they come inside. Why don't I kick it out the door for a week? So I wheeled it out through the garage of the Biomedical Research Building and placed it in the Southern sun. The weather is still nice and it should come back like a champ as long as no one screws with it.

Well, that was folly. It took approximately 15 hours for someone to turn the whole damn thing completely upside down and kick a hole in the side of my new pot. Now, I have no illusion as to the risk I take when I take stuff to work and leave it within the grasp of the general public. I will not use this as an opportunity to spout a diatribe against the human filth that seems to surround me every time I venture out from home or work into any part of society. But, c'mon now! One night? Bunch of savages in this town! I really just couldn't be mad. I couldn't. Whoever did this surely suffers enough just being the kind of person he or she is. There is no beauty in their world. They will never respect anything that is not theirs and therefore will never have the ability to have any self respect. Good. They will never even understand the way they suffer or that their acts broadcast this fact so surely. Or whatever those pronouns and stuff are supposed to be. This is what I get for trying to make to world a smidge more beautiful.

So I just left the damn thing. The pot disappeared shortly thereafter and the frost that came the next week took care of anything that was left of the plant. Maybe I'll try again in the spring.
Maybe my co-workers will lynch me.


A few weeks later we had a potluck at work. We've been doing this once a month for almost a year now and it's been a freaking hoot! Someone will come up with a theme and six or eight of us try to make a dish working with the theme. Amazing things result. Some of us are real kitchen tinkerers, foodies and what-have-you. Some of us are modest cooks, but given the proper inspiration, find a great recipe and produce something we would not have on our own. It's cool how powerful the themes are. Sometimes everyone is seemingly touched by God in the kitchen and each dish can be seemingly only described as "inspired". Other times we get a theme that we really struggle with. But I have to say I've never had a bad dish. It's either great or absolutely amazing. For the September potluck, I had purchased a counsel that houses two electric burners to facilitate food prep for these events. It was pretty damn handy since we are all dumb and make dishes that require loads of work before they can be enjoyed. No one can just bring in a tupperware container, pull the lid off and eat. Hell, no. I bought it so I could make beer-battered sausage right there in the break room (we call it the bubble). Who wants cold, batter-fried anything? Now someone wanted to use it for the current potluck. Fine with me. Except, sure e-God-Damned-nough, it had apparently grown legs and left our lives forever.
Now, .... people,
I have no illusion as to the risk I take when I take stuff to work and leave it within the grasp of the general public. I will not use this as an opportunity to spout a diatribe against the human filth that seems to surround me every time I venture out from home or work into any part of society. But, c'mon now! Ya human piece of apathy! You think I didn't need that? You think we ALL didn't need that??!! My fault. My bad. I...just...can't...get.....mad.

Just a short time later, on Friday, October 13th, someone decided to smash up my mailbox and the one across the street. Now, I live in the country. I love it. This will happen. Either by hooligans or a snowplow. Mailboxes in Munson have a very short lifespan (sorry for the bland statement- all of the "short life span" analogies I could come up with were really, really horribly un-PC). I have friends who live in Conventry who have kids puking from their fire escape regularly. And now I'm happy I didn't buy that $200 copper mailbox I was caressing at Smith & Hawken.

"Violated" I believe the word at the top of this post was. I was just about hopping-ass mad about this when it was all put into perspective as I soon found out that as my mail box was being savaged, Pat's world was falling in around him.

If you think Pat got drunk and wrecked his car then tried to sell coke to the cops when they arrived, go HERE.

If you think Pat was being buried alive in a massive blizzard that hit Buffalo on October 13th, and was sitting there alone without electricity or his family go HERE.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Blogging is hard!

Well, the end of summer is always an apeshit-busy time for me. I'm running around like a ninny, trying to live my life in the precious moments I have left before our seven months of slush, snow and misery set in. The house and yard must be winterized. Also my cat has been very ill, so I have been tending to him (sometimes on an hourly basis) since August. That has pretty much sapped my strength for anything else creative. You'd think with all the money he's racking up in hospital fees I would want to entertain myself with something affordable (like whining on a blog). Also, I'm really going to try to keep the blog from turning into a non-stop bitch fest like so many become (If so, I hope to at least make it funny). Both are hard to do when you're cryin' over your best little buddy. As of tonight, he is doing really well and has been on an eating and pooping rampage for 8 days now. I will issue a full report hopefully soon. In the mean time, our bedroom looks like Iggy Pop's suite at the Travelodge- basically a steaming, bio-hazardous pile of syringes and pill bottles.

The trend over the years has been that in the summer, my internet usage is but a fraction of what it is when I can't go outside. This year, I started all this Blogging / Myspace / Youtube silliness in June. It had a pretty fair start, but I surmise that it won't really happen 'till I'm under a pile of snow.

So I hope to see you very soon. Please Keep Checking back. I have been updating and changing my Myspace faithfully every Sunday or Monday. It's become a pretty fun creative outlet and I'm still enjoying it immensely. So maybe give it a glance once a week in the meantime. You don't have to be a member to read the front page.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

More on Tom Waits

So, I got an email from a friend early this morning that Tom Waits tickets are going on sale again for a show at the House of Blues on Sunday, in 4 days.

So I logged in and bought 2 tickets to see Brian Regan, just to make sure my account was set up correctly. I had no problem, even though I made no changes since the last Tom Waits fiasco.

So I logged in and got 2 tickets for the HoB show.

I can't even get excited.

This was supposed to be one of the high points of my life. But It's so tainted by the previous bullshit that I am toatlly apathetic about seeing this show. I'm sure the people who paid $700 on Ebay for tickets to the Akron show are plenty pissed now. I'm sure this makes Tom and Ticketmaster happy. But these people thought this would be the only or last time to ever see Tom Waits in their lives, so why not make the sacrifice? This is not good for the market, Tom. This is not the way to treat your fans, Tom.

It will never be the same. But then we are all reminded that there are more imporatant things in the world than a spoiled song & dance man.

Though I will give him credit for doing this show on the same night as his Akron show. Normally, such a Herculean effort to take care of his fans would impress me. Now I'm just going to call him an opportunist.

"No Shit? I have fans in Cleveland? Cash in!"


I'm tainted.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dave Navarro and Tom Waits make me sad. But the Headhunters make me happy.

Man, here are the good old days.

This Youtube video features an old interview with Dave Navarro, talking about coming clean from heroin. The interview is spliced into the "Been Caught Stealing" video. It's nothing new- same old story you've heard from every ex-junkie, "BlahBlah, I didn't think I was hooked, blahblah, I puked on myself..." . But, man, this takes me back. What an impact these dudes had on me. Jane's Addiction was my coming out music (read my 2003 Lollapalooza review for more on that). THIS was art. These guys, somehow coming out of boring old L.A., spouting the same boring old L.A. wasted - life - drug - culture - transvestite - bohemian - junkpile - for - a - wardrobe schtick as a million others, to me, somehow created some of the greatest, most original, most beautiful visual and audio art ever produced. I wanted to live in that mess of candles, garbage, novena accouterments and Christmas lights, all arranged just so on Oriental rugs. This was clearly a band bringing forth what I had had in my heart for years but didn't know until they showed it to me. Ritual De Lo Habitual has to be the best-produced album of the 90s. I'm sure of it.

It breaks my heart to see Dave now. I see someone who once made such original art now wearing the uniform of every other Gen X stooge. Tattoos and piercings. How very 1993.

I still think he's a great player. I think his new music sounds like all the other crap on "X-treme
Radio". I just hate to see him as a trend-jumping hack. As I said, Jane's was doing what everyone else was doing but somehow made it different. I don't get that from dave now. I get Madison Avenue's version of what dave was.

I don't buy the argument that he was an originator of these trends. If the so-called alt-rock of the late 80's truly spawned today's "hip" music, it has been so inbred and distorted by marketing that it truly is a whole different animal, even if "Jane Says" gets airtime right next to any band on the "Warped" tour. I'm sure they get played on either side of a Red Hot Chili Peppers Hit.

The Chili Peppers are another perfect example of the same phenomenon. The Chili Peppers I
grew up on were buck naked and (like L.A.'s David Lee Roth before them) 12 feet in the air at all times.
Riding a paisley dragon through the Hollywood hills, yeah! It was like nothing you'd ever seen before. What energy! Now, They are so watered down, flaccid and generic. Bor-ing!

I used to blame Rick Rubin. I don't find it a coincidence when a great (but not terribly popular) band dumps a truckload of money on a big-name producer and suddenly they have major rotation on Mtv and a Rolling Stone cover with every major album release. Def Leppard did it with Mutt Lange. Metallica did it with Bob Rock. Chili Peppers did it with Rick Rubin.

But then again Rick Rubin produces Slayer. You sure don't see Slayer on the cover of Rolling Stone. Do You? I really don't know. I just have to admit these bands sold out wholly on their own and producers (like cowbells) are just tools to be used for good or evil.

So what is it? Am I really that pissed off that I'm no longer 17? Last I checked it was a pretty miserable time in my life. But then that's what art feeds from, right? Cataclysm and strife?
Steve Harris
Iron Maiden's Steve Harris said it beautifully. I can't recall the exact quote, but he basically said, "Look, I can't compete with your memory of your glory years. I'm glad 'The Number of the Beast' was the soundtrack to the years where you had the most fun and least responsibility. But I've grown a lot in the last 14 years. I don't want to make another 'Number of the Beast'. I just busted my ass for a year making the best album I could. No, it's not going to make you feel like you are a teenager again. And don't you dare write it off outright because of that".

Steve is a pretty bright fellow, and not a disillusioned one.

This was concerning the infamous time when Steve attempted to kill an album reviewer. in 1996 he had just been divorced, Maiden lost their very popular singer, his dad was dying and Maiden's new singer broke his leg in a motorcycle accident and had to recuperate for a year before working. They pounded out what I think was their best effort since 1984, 'The X Factor'. A Kerrang magazine reviewer simply called it 'shit' and moved on. Steve actually jumped in his car and drove right down to the magazine studio to crack the guy's head open. A man on the edge, indeed (sorry).

They may or may not make music as well as they did 20 years ago, but Iron Maiden can never be accused of following trends for the sake of improving sales. They have more integrity and strong-headedness than any "punk" band (or any other band selling the image of 'fighting the man' or 'integrity at all costs') I can think of.

Maybe it's the drugs. Maybe drugs really do enhance performance. Dave said in his video that he would think he was playing better than ever while stoned out of his mind, then hear the tape while straight and it was an embarrassing mess. But I can think of dozens of people who should've gotten out of show business the minute they stopped doing drugs: Eddie Van Halen, Robin Williams, for instance. You guys should've overdosed and gone out with dignity.
Eddie "Sad Sack" Van Halen
But nostalgia is a powerful tool in generating allegiance. I still have great affection for these people and tend to turn a blind eye to recent, lower quality material (well, not Robin Williams).

Tom Waits is another story.
I recently went through one of the most traumatic and disappointing episodes of my life which was a failed attempt to obtain tickets to a performance by Tom that will be held in a city near me soon.
It's a long story, but I was actually able to get to the "pay for your tickets" portion of the check-out on the Ticketbastard website twice. Ticketmaster has a fairly retarded and non-user friendly E-commerce site. I spend a LOT of time on the interweb-thingy. I buy a LOT of stuff there. I am fully qualified to judge them as shitty. First, they forced you to choose an option for obtaining your tickets. They only offered one (incorrect one): Will Call (Out of the United States). They ask you to choose your country of Origin (obviously the U.S. is not given as an option in their drop-down menu). If you attempt to fix anything, the form clears and you start over.

The previous night, I logged into ticketmaster to make sure my account and card information was up to date. The second time I go to the
"pay for your tickets" portion of the check-out for Tom Waits tickets, they did not offer for me to pay with the information I had on file. They only asked for credit card info. When I entered it, it read: That card is already on file-enter another one". I had apparently fallen into a data-entry form, not the pay feature. How fucking retarded. If you attempt to fix anything, the form clears and you start over.

The damn thing sold out in about 6 minutes. I almost fainted I was so angry. I'm pretty sure I could kill any Ticketmaster employee with my bare hands even now. First off, the whole "will-call only" stipulation is out of line. Here are all the rules for ticket sales for this event:

There will be no venue or box office sales for this event. 2 ticket limit. Phone or Internet Sales only. All patrons will be required to present a valid picture ID matching the name given at the time of purchase in order to receive their tickets and gain admittance to the show. Patron names may NOT be transferred once the ticket purchase transaction is complete. Will Call will begin at 4pm. Immediate entrance into the venue is required.

Great. I would love to sit in your shitty seats for 4 hours waiting for the show to begin. Now, this supposedly is to curb scalping, right? Make it a huge pain in the ass for anyone to buy tickets. God forbid you freaking work for a living and can't buy your own tickets. Ticketmaster doesn't give a shit. And the $785 paid for tickets on Ebay proves it didn't help a damn thing.

From the Ebay Seller:
I am aware of the policy for the show about picking up tickets. A friend and I both have tickets. We can only use one pair for ourselves. the venue requires entry immediately upon ticket pick-up, the winning bidder and their companion will walk in with my friend and I. I will escort one person and my friend will escort the other. Once inside, we will give you the tickets described above and we will use another set. If you win this auction, YOU WILL GET INTO THE SHOW.

Good job, assholes. Way to protect the market.

Now, why the Hell is Tom setting this up anyway? Oh, his official answer as to why he had a 2-week tour is very cute:

"We need to go to Tennessee to pick up some fireworks, and someone owes me money in Kentucky."

Well, Tom, I'm very happy that you're so much of an artist that you need to prove how much you don't need money by playing to 1/10th of the audience that wants to see you. If that's the case, why did you pay for a full-page ad in the Cleveland Free Times when the damn thing would've sold out in 10 minutes no matter how much of a secret you tried to keep it? Ego? Or were you just trying to keep the hype up? That's dangerously close to the stinky monster named "Marketing" which I would assume you are too much of an "artist" to use. You Are a
'prestige artist', right?

Now, Tom sues about six people a year because they made a commercial with a singer or voice that sounds too much like him (good thing Satchmo is dead). For a man so supposedly hell-bent on artistic integrity, I can not support these ticket sales tactics. (That link might actually go to a real TW commercial).

Well, I guess I won't go. It was only going to be the most important thing in my life. Something I had assumed I'd never have a chance to experience- like seeing Joni Mitchell, or a reunited Van Halen. Well, I guess I had my chance. This whole thing really tarnishes the other-worldly mystique I found in and adoration I had for Tom Waits. Ticketmaster is such a shitty institution. Now that shit is on Tom Waits. What a shame to see so many years of enjoyment be tainted by marketing hype and therefore money.

There are excellent artists out there who truly live for sharing their music. They prove their lack of need for money
simply by losing their asses on every single tour and still getting out there as often as they can. One such band is the Headhunters.

So, Tom's first major release came out in 1973. He's made enough money in 33 years to sit on his ass on his estate in the Sonoma wine country and watch his children grow. Good for him. He doesn't have to be bothered with the rigors of touring. He can put out an album every 6 years and still be called one of the greatest "performance artists" in the world. Well, he had to perform it to record it, right? We all have the right to slow down. I'm 32. I've been a fan since 1997. I can't help but only catch his twilight years.

The Headhunters, however, are still stuck in stinkin'-ass New Orleans, God bless 'em. OK, Paul Jackson has lived in Tokyo for 25 years, but still....
Coincidentally, their first major release came out in 1973. Fronted by Herbie Hancock, they
created the fusion genre along with Weather Report, Return to Forever and a bunch of other people who were on Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" sessions. They were left high and dry by Herbie long ago, but they just kept playing, breaking up, giving up, getting back together and going back out. Percussionist Bill Summers has been on over 2000 recordings. You just keep working.

I had the pleasure of seeing them at the Grog Shop just last week. What an awesome time. I saw them last year at the Beachland Ballroom. But the Beachland just isn't a great hall. It's just never a comfortable place to see a gig. It was a great show. I really wasn't ready for Paul Jackson to kick my ass all over the place like that. I'm up on my bass players, but that dude killed me. And they had the mighty Skerik on Saxophone. I actually expected more from Skerik, but he eventually heated up and it was a great show and I went home happy.

This is an aside, but as good a place as any to get this out:
I'm very happy to see the greatest jazz artists in the world finally finding a little bit of a home with the jam bands. You can see the Headhunters, Meters or Jonas Hellborg/Paul Hanson/Jeff Sipe at these festivals with 100 Greatful Dead / Phish wannabe bands (like Les Claypool). Though I think a big festival is better than a bar-tour where they would play to 15 people at a time, it validates the inaccurate view in the minds of the performers and fans of the jam bands that they are engaging in improvisational Jazz while limping along in their can't-get-out-of-'A' bullshit. Skerik has also found a home with these bands, and can bring the fans to Headhunters gigs outside of the festivals. I fully support it.

So back to Thursday's show:
Paul Jackson was out sick and they replaced him with none other than legendary Meters and
Funky Meters (not to mention Tori Amos) bassist George Porter, Jr. Wow! What a treat. George is a lesson for the instrument. Actually, the whole band is. You want to know what bass playing should really be? Just Watch George. You want to see how a percussionist really works? Just watch Bill.
George Porter, Jr
And the horns!
The horn players were
former James Brown and JBs trombonist Fred Wesley (You know, "Breakin' Bread with my Mama, Breakin' Bread with my Papa, Breakin' Bread"!) and Kebbi Williams on sax. You hear Kebbi on Outkast recordings. Now, Skerik is awesome with his harmonized horn and does ground-breaking stuff with effects and signal processing, but these dudes just picked up horns and WAILED. All acoustic, all personality, all excitement,-Knocked-me-out! And they played for 2 hours. We didn't get out until 1am. I didn't know Kebbi Williams, but he looked to be 20 years old. I asked Bill how old his horn player was, 'cuz he was killin' but didn't look old enough to. He said "I don't know, I just met him today!"

Paul Jackson

The Grog Shop has trouble selling this kind of show. This band really still appeals more to adults and it was a Thursday night show. It wasn't an embarassingly small crowd, but it was intimate.
They had a much better turn out at the Beachland. Afterward we got to bullshit a little with the band. They were gracious with their time. Frankly, they were rather chatty, loading up their own gear (with audience members helping them). The only down point was that I bought a CD from the drummer, Mike Clark (selling from a duffel bag behind his kit). We had a long discussion to make sure I wasn't buying a CD I already had, but the CDs inside did not match the cover. It was a show I had already purchased. Oh, well. I'm happy to support them anyway-get them gas money to Detroit. When people are fighting to make a living with real art, they tend to endear themselves to me better than those who think they are gracing me with their presence. I consider it money well-spent.



Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'm sorry- this image

Cracks me the Hell up.

"I don't wanna have a birfday party"

Monday, June 26, 2006

Do you know who you look like??!!?!?

I'm one of those dudes whom everyone must inform of any perceived resemblance to famous people. Usually it's whoever the most famous person with long hair is at that particular point in time: Jon Bon Jovi, "A Vampire" (when Interview with a Vampire came out- they were all longhairs, you know). I even had a guy try to get an autograph because he thought I was Steven Segal. I said don't you think I'd have a smaller gut a nicer truck? But he was persistent. I suppose by having long hair I incur special attention and therefore deserve it. One consistent comparison is Adrian Paul (TV's Highlander). I got that one twice a week for 5 years. Moving to Louisiana didn't stop that, either.

OK, I don't mind that. Adrian Paul's a good-looking guy. I see minor resemblance, but hey, enough people calling a dog a horse eventually makes a dog a horse. But once I gained a little weight and if my hair became a little unruly, there was another consistent one:

Yep. Latka.
This also followed be across the country. A little distraught I was, once I received the third one of these. I can only console myself by knowing for a fact that this Rolling Stone cover got me sex in college:

Hey, Like I said, Whatever works! If I did a kilo of Heroin a week I'd have one of those Iggy Pop physiques, too.

I heard about myheritage.com, a site that scans a picture of you and tries to match you up with famous people based on your facial construct. I tried a picture from 2004. Here's what I got:

click to enlarge
Art Garfunkel? I'll KILL ya! I'll kill all your dogs! I'll Shave your Cats! The only thing I see consistent here is truckloads of forehead. Except Prince Harry, who is just a waddling nightmare mass of recessive traits since the Royals are more inbred than your average Golden Retriever. Dominic Who? Who is this guy and what is wrong with his features?

How about a 1995 picture?

click to enlarge
I give up. This is clearly just a shotgun approach. They just pick 6-8 disparate people that all have, oh I don't know, two eyes a nose and a mouth, hoping that you'll think one of them is cool.
OK, I'll bite. F. Murray Abraham is cool. Hank Mancini, all right but I don't know about insinuating a family resemblance. I wouldn't mind being associated with the "Pink Panther Theme". "Baby Elephant Walk" is right out! Once again, I don't even know who some of these people are.

So I tried Janine.
click to enlarge

Being, if nothing else a wise husband, I will not comment at all here. But I will add that Janine had the Uma Thurman thing follow her around for a few years. I just don't understand the thing in society that compels friends and strangers alike walk up to people and say "Do you know who you look like...well lemmie tell ya...".

So uh, who do you look like?


Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Birds and the Bugs

Click any photo to enlargeThis guy is like, "I'm totally not here".
Yes, you clearly are. And that's a fire pit I don't recommend you hang out too long.

"These are not the boids you're looking for".
Your simple Jedi mind tricks don't work on me!
Anyone know what this is?
Is there a birder in the house?
26Jul06: it's a juvenile robin
This guy is like, "I'm totally not here".
Yes, yes you are rather quite there.
Now get out of the house. I have nothing you can eat.
This guy is like, "I'm totally not ..."-Oh Come On!
You're not even trying!
I know you're cool and all with your neon pinstripes and green chasis underglow.
But you're eating my basil and therefore must be squished like a bug.
I whipped up a temporary Turtle run today. Something just to get them out of the basement for a few hours a day until I can set up the permanent one.

I'm blessed with very photogenic turtles.
Please click on the photo to enlarge.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Swimming back against the River But I'm Rising with the Tide

I'm going to call this little foray into cyberworld a success.

I've already re-established contact with friends I haven't talked to in 10 years.
That's really cool.

Also, Myspace really is a pretty fair network for off-the-beaten-path music. My original suspicion told me that every one on Myspace was this. Oh and there's plenty of that.

But I have been exposed to lots of new music.

This dude is cool but gives me nightmares myspace.com/twoliter Watch the embedded Youtube movie.

These guys are cool but not nearly as cool as their graphic artist http://www.99namesofgod.com/

Like the above band, this band features a Warr guitar myspace.com/quodia
As much as I love Trey Gunn, Warr guitar and Chapman stick music can't help but all sound the same after a while. Quodia is terribly cool with the added theatrics and multimedia.

Is terribly interesting.

This guy, however, kills me! I'm obsessed with the song 'Nohayquepreocuparse...' that loads on this page. For the life of me can I find out how to buy the recorded version of that song anywhere on this or his website? Hell no. Great. He's just like every other idiot I listen to that makes amazing music but I still can't get money into his hand.

And that's only about half of what I've found just this week.

And of course the Greatest band in the world, Nomeansno, are too punk rock to give a shit about updating a website, or even knowing what a publicist is, yet they have like a dozen myspace sites for the band, members and side projects.

The list goes on.

I'm sure myspace is better for these people because they can get info up quickly and don't have to learn HTML or track down the guy they pay to keep a website up. Or even pay to keep a website up for that matter. The real question is, why can't any website do what Myspace does? It should only be a short matter of time before someone comes up with a nifty software package to integrate with Myspace and be built entirely from templates. At least they should.
We might have to see Rupert Murdoch mud wrestle Bill Gates for that to happen. But hey, what are my ad banners paying for?


One year ago I had no car, no cell or land-line phone, and no debt. Like a Free Man in Paris, I was. Now I have a cell phone, a car and a mortgage. So God help me why not a blog, myspace and Youtube account. Jimm leaves the cave of luddites and joins the mainstream. This is for Alma, who insists weekly that I need to write more. OK, OK, I'll give it a shot. But it'll mostly be about what weed is blooming in my yard and slapstick accounts of my slow, painful suicide by home renovation. 02Jun06