Musical Paradox

Something I’ve noticed as I expore the keyboard is that I tend to have a lot more fun getting lost in the music I’m playing. I’ve been playing guitar so long, I have a hard time getting lost. But with the keyboard, once I find a groove I’ll get lost in it for a half hour. It’s a paradoxical struggle that instrumentalists have: on the one hand we want to be in complete control of our instruments, but on the other hand it seems like the best stuff comes from those times when you have no idea what you’re doing. Small wonder, then, that many Buddhists seek the ‘child mind’ and I think that plugs into what I was saying earlier about being 30 – I want to keep as much of a child mind as I can. When the world stops fascinating you every day, then you know you’re an adult.

The 80’s Movie Quiz

Josh and his apparently insane co-workers at the Harrison Daily Times put together this mammoth 80’s Movie Quiz. Download it if you dare. It’s painful[1]. Be forewarned that I only got about half of them right. This thing goes deep, and most of the ones I got wrong were from films I’ve never seen or only seen in parts. Post a comment if you want the answer key and I’ll email it to you.

1.) “What do we love?? PAIN!!”

The Great DVD Avalanche of ’06

It started when Suncoast Motion Picture Company had its Going Out of Business Sale, then Barnes & Noble sent me a 40% Oscar Winners discount, then I had a birthday, and then Circuit City heavily discounted Quantum Leap and Northern Exposure this week only. So here’s what I’ve accrued over the last two months:

Quantum Leap – Seasons 1-3
Northern Exposure – Season 1
Mean Streets
What’s New, Pussycat?
Bodies, Rest and Motion
Joe Versus the Volcano
Do Not Adjust Your Set
At Last the 1948 Show
Tori Amos Video Collection
The French Connection
The Lost Weekend
The Shop Around the Corner
Grand Hotel
The Awful Truth
Space Ghost Coast to Coast – Volume 3
Best of SNL: The First Five Years
The Kennel Murder Case
La Bamba
The Very Best of the Ed Sullivan Show
Flirting with Disaster
Broken Flowers
The Philadelphia Story
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
The Pianist
Reefer Madness
Annie Hall
After Hours
You Can’t Take It With You
Jules and Jim
Shoot the Piano Player
Mr and Mrs Smith
Eric Johnson – Live from Austin City Limits

I was prepared to cut myself off from all DVD purchases until next year, but then the Circuit City thing came to my attention. I really should get myself to a meeting…

Back in the Day with YouTube

Here are some more choice nostalgia selections from

Digital Underground – Doowutchyalike

De La Soul – Buddy

3rd Bass – Brooklyn Queens

Tribe Called Quest – Left My Wallet in El Segundo

Public Enemy – Night of the Living Baseheads

MC Hammer – Turn This Mother Out

Kool Moe Dee – I Go to Work

Man, anyone else remember when hip-hop was just fun? Does anybody remember laughter?

The Indie Band Telecaster Phenomenon

Warning: Guitar nerdisms ahead.

I saw a lot of bands last week, and I saw a lot of telecasters. It was uncanny. Nearly every scruffy indie band I saw last week played either a Fender tele or maybe a Gibson ES. There was nary a stratocaster, Les Paul, PRS, or even a weird pawnshop junker to be seen. Fender stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls are far and away the most popular instruments in rock, or at least mainstream rock. Indie bands apparently go far enough out of their way to avoid playing popular instruments. I guess that makes sense, since they want to avoid the norms of popular music. Generally the telecaster is considered a country music guitar, so I guess there’s an added visual irony for a snarky indie rocker to choose a tele.

The one notable exception was Animal Collective. They had a strat, a PRS AND a pawnshop junker onstage. I think there may have been a tele, too, though. They were musical deviants that sounded like nothing else around, though, so they’re the exception that proves the rule.

Overall, though, I realized that, as much as indie rock claims freedom from the restrictions of the mainstream, they too have their own rules and norms and boundaries. Their uniform is just as strict as mainstream rock: must have thrift store shirts, must have Chuck Taylor All-Stars, must look generally scruffy, holes in clothing preferred…must have telecaster. Indie rock isn’t as self-defined as it might think. It exists only as a reaction to the mainstream, and can only define itself by what it’s not. The mainstream is pretty narrow in its scope, though, so there’s a lot more room for creative expression in indie rock.

This Is Where I’m From #5

The governor of my state was quoted in the Arkansas Times as saying this:

“I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution.”

Well, gollee, Mike, check out the theories of gravitation, special and general relativity, and quantum theory. And then see defintion #1 at It’s so sad that a semantic misconception is causing our country to distrust one of our most valuable scientific tools. Plus, Mike, you’re forgetting that being “fair to all views” means that we must expose our children to the glory of His Noodly Appendage. Or worse, Scientology’s intergalactic warlord, Xenu.

The SXSW Rundown

Here are the bands I saw last week that really impressed me. Pictures of some of them here.

The Go! Team: I saw an in-store show at Waterloo Records. They’re a fun bunch. Imagine if the Spice Girls were a genre-hopping indie band. Website | Myspace

The Black Heart Procession: Tara was a big fan. I found the live show kinda lackluster, but some bands just sound better on record than live.
Website | Myspace

Of Montreal: I’ve seen them once before, and they’re the inverse of Black Heart Procession – far more fun live than on record. Interesting that I saw them back to back.
Website | Myspace

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: This band is growing on me. The music is great, but I’m still not warm on the singer’s voice.
Website | Myspace

Roger Manning: I got to meet Roger, the former keyboardist for Jellyfish! On my birthday! I’m 30 now and I don’t care – I’m still 14 and I will be forever! Multiple exclamation points!!
Website | Myspace

The Soft.Lightes – They cancelled but I still love them.
Website | Myspace

Breakup Breakdown: They followed Roger’s set. Very mod/indie rock from Brooklyn with a cute keyboard chick and near-glam look (if a singer with a beard can be glam). Lots of energy. File under Killers/Interpol/Strokes.
Website | Myspace

Animal Collective: They unscrewed the Thermos of my head and poured in black coffee. And I loved it.
Website | Myspace

Robert Skoro: Scruffy solo singer-songwriter with good tunes.

The Handsome Charlies: From Austin by way of Australia. Smart jangly pop. One of my favorites.
Website | Myspace

The Octopus Project: Instrumental weirdness with a hot theremin player. Does it get any better than that?
Website | Myspace

The Dirty Projectors
: Experimental weirdness. Atonal bluegrass or King Crimson’s THRAK period done on pawn shop guitars.

The Instruments: Painfully beautiful songs. I don’t think there were any words, but there were vocals. I think. It was a blur.
Website | Myspace

The Lovers : More painful songs with lots of reverb on the vocals from this girl/boy duo. Kinda Jon Brion-ish given the multi-instrumentalist dude backing up the guitar chick. Best lyrics all week.

Elf Power: Fun but kinda blah. It was 2AM by this point, though, so I can’t be trusted.
Website | Myspace

Heineken, Funnel Cakes and NIN

Much rocking out last night at the Nine Inch Nails show at Alltel Arena. Margot came down from Fayetteville with an extra ticket, so hooray for free concerts. I felt perfectly justified spending $9 on a beer and a funnel cake. I’m really surprised the arena allows funnel cakes – it’s nigh impossible not to make a complete mess of yourself and your seat. By the time you’re done, you look like you’ve just left the VIP room of a Miami disco circa 1979, you’re so sticky and covered in white powder. They should have served funnel cakes at Studio 54; it would have made it that much more difficult for cops to raid the place. Why of course I’m not covered in blow, officer…
Also cool: the NIN website features a picture of each town the tour is currently in – check it out.

Incidentally, Pretty Hate Machine is over 16 years old now. Does that qualify it for classic rock status yet?

Modern Maturity

I’m 30 years old today, and I’m sitting at Jo’s coffeeshop in Austin, Texas by myself at 11AM, and it’s great. The weather is cool and overcast and the people-watching is fantastic. I’m eating a lemon poppyseed muffin, drinking coffee, and I have birds begging me for food.

My associates (4 girls) are still asleep after a long night of partying like rock stars with semi-rockstars, or at least a band. They got in around 5AM. I didn’t go out last night; I still have a cold and I wanted to take it easy. My body definitely would not have been able to withstand the evening the girls had. I stayed in and watched Secretary on Oxygen while sending text messages to Katherine, who was watching Almost Famous. By complete coincidence we were watching one of each others’ favorite films. All the more tragic was the fact that she was most likely NOT watching the Director’s Cut, and I was watching an edited version with commercials.

Yesterday I saw The Go! Team, Of Montreal, and The Black Heart Procession. Sadly I missed Mr. Lif, Blackalicious and Spoon (and Echo and the Bunnymen), but hey that’s how it goes around here – you grab the gusto you can. There’s a lot to be had. Tonight hopefully I’ll catch up with my only essentials for this year’s SXSW – The Soft.Lightes and Animal Collective. And maybe, just maybe, I might run into Jellyfish’s Roger Manning.

So. 30. I wish I could say I have some big roiling, revelatory spiel about the pseudo-significance of this particular mileage turnover, but I don’t. I don’t think it’s going to alter the way I act or think. I made a decision long ago to avoid being a grownup in the standard sense. I really haven’t changed much since I was 14, and I don’t think I’m going to start soon.


I always admired “Wired” as a name for a magazine dedicated to tech nerds of all stripes, because of the slight double meaning: anyone who’s up on technology and enthusiastic about the latest greatest developments therein is probably someone who is plugged in, electrified and…caffeinated. As usual, Mark Morford says it better than I in his recent column, “Let’s All Get ADD!

Speaking of caffeine, have I ranted lately about 20 oz. sodas? The 12 oz. can of soda is an endangered species these days at convenience stores and vending machines as companies have realized they can stick it to us by selling us more beverage than we need for twice the price. It’s absolutely insidious. They know we want caffeine and that we’ve probably got a dollar, but nevermind the fact that 20 oz. is more than any human needs to consume in one sitting. Yet this is the only choice kids have in schools and recreation centers across America. And at convenience stores the cans, if they’re there, are usually at the very top where kids can’t reach them. Is it any wonder we’re a nation of fatsos? I actually feel like starting some kind of petition but what a crappy cause to take up when there’s so much else to worry about in the world – we have too much sugar! Too much sweet beveragey goodness! Oh the humanity! Damn youse corporations for forcing my cup to runneth over with bubbly deliciousness! How do you sleep at night?!

I say all this while maintaining my position that Coke® remains perhaps the single greatest beverage man has yet devised for all ages to consume. I limit myself to no more than one can a day [1], but these companies are making it so difficult. Perhaps they’ll get regulated a la the tobacco industry someday? I scoff at the libertarians and conservatives who say that unregulated business will spontaneously regulate themselves into market balance – The Coca-Cola Company being the perfect example of a sneaky corporation that seduces us almost subconsciously into paying more for what we don’t need.

1.) Except in cases where I’ve been to the movies and have no other choice but to purchase the rural-water-tower-size cup.