Friday, December 28, 2012

More airport hell.

Lots of things I would do were I benign dictator of this country. Banning car alarms would be one. And this would be another:

To all those who do not go to airports often, THIS would be required reading before each trip. And to get a good idea of the resentment and outright anger caused by disobeying these most basic rules of courtesy and efficiency, THIS would be required listening. Oh, and a required signed disclaimer stating that any injury to one's person as a result of infraction of these rules is the injured person's responsibility only.

In a nutshell, standing on the left is an affront to my very German sense of efficiency (and I am a huge proponent of the motto "lead, follow, or get out of the way"), and if I bowl you over, you had it coming.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"And to all a good..." *screech* *crash*

I draw the line at Christmas Eve church services where the pastor, such as he is, actually says "Scrooge was the kind of guy who would take the zip out of everyone's Christmas doo-dah."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oh, apocalypse. *yawn*

Things have kinda switched around here since a post I made a few years back about what makes Christmas...well, Christmas. The new stuff:

1. Love, Actually - Sappy, sappy, and trite. Love stories, all done in that lovable British accent. (Those Brits, so quaint...talking about love to each other while filming porn scenes together. And so charming! Flying to the US on a hunch to try to score chicks because Yankee chicks are such suckers for British accents! Well, um...yeah. Guilty as charged.) Also, I honestly think I would consider switching teams for Keira Knightley in this movie...she is so insanely adorable and effervescent and beautiful. But it'd be all off if Andrew Lincoln (the insanely gorgeous guy with a pulverizing crush on her) showed up, since I got a pulverizing crush on him when I first saw him. And finally, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman. Oh, and some awesome music. And Hugh Grant in the only role of his I've ever been able to tolerate. And Liam Neeson as the coolest, most supportive dad in the world for...oh, just see it already. You'll love it. Even if you don't. You still will.

2. The Sound of Music - Speaking of sappy and trite. And overplayed. And sickly saccharine. And you know, I don't care. I've always loved this movie, and always will. I do keep it to one, maybe two showings a year, but Christmas is always a must.

3. Egg nog. Some things never change. Especially if you find a local dairy that makes egg nog. OMG but delicious. I've been drinking it by the quartful lately. Yes...that good. (Oh, and I don't bother with any rum or bourbon or whiskey or amaretto in it. Ruins its lovely smoothness.)

4. Cooking. Of course. After about four years, I think I've finally perfected making meringues, using a decorating tube and all. Peppermint and chocolate (with some flavoring...cinnamon or orange, usually) are the perennial ones. But then there's the fudge. The spritz cookies I tried this year that turned out great...all 7 dozen or so of 'em. The orange butterscotch oatmeal cookies. And I'm sure I'm missing one here. Oh faves from years ago: the corn flake marshmallow wreaths, with cinnamon dot holly berries. I may have to make those next year, too. (I haven't even touched on the chocolate mousse pie or creme brulee...but I already brought those up.)

5. Ru Paul - Ho Ho Ho - This kinda straddles the line between quaint and fun. Recommended, even if only for "All I Want For Christmas" ( my liposuction...and my cheek implant, and my chin implant, and let's butt should be risen.) Ru's vamping is kinda amusing, too. But it does tend to get old after a spin or two.

6. Skiing - Well, we'll see. Mr. Man and I are headed up to the mountains with the whole clan. And lots of us ski. Problem is, I haven't skied in a few years, 'cause last year's snow was nonexistent. And since that time, I have been lifting lots of weights, but any sort of endurance training has been MIA. This came through loud and clear two years ago as I was skiing some blacks. Form was good, sure...but only for about four, maybe five turns at most before my thighs began burning fit to kill me. I was the last one down, usually, and people were asking me if it was my breathing that was a problem. Nope. Oh...and not only was this two years ago, this was also about 20 pounds ago. (It has not escaped my attention that some of that 20 pounds has found its way onto my calves, the likes of which are wedged into my boots so tight my feet may go numb.) So next week should be reeeally interesting. I'll report back...if I survive.

7. A new car! No, I'm not kidding. Brand-spankin' new. A Ford Fusion hybrid - a deep cobalt blue that's utterly gorgeous. Voice controls like you wouldn't believe. Navigation. Adaptive cruise control (so if there's a car in front of you, this car will automatically slow down). And an auto parallel-parking feature I cannot WAIT to try. Santa arrived early this year, and was extra generous. I'm not sure what I did to deserve it, other than drive my old, long-loved and lamented Subaru into the ground. The only downside goes along with skiing: we'll see how well its front-wheel drive self does up in the mountains, particularly with the snow that's supposed to start falling tomorrow and not let up much until Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hear, hear!

So you want people to hear, hear what someone has to say? You agree vehemently with something someone has written or said, and feel it should be, uh, heard, heard throughout the land? You want people to gather closer to said source so they can hear, hear what they should? Then use those words. Hear, hear!

(Note: It's NOT "here, here.")

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nirvana - In Utero

I'm thinking it's because my first year of college sucked fecal cheeseballs. I mostly had a great high school career and succeeded in large part because I had a very well-defined schedule at all times. Once I hit college, that framework vaporized, and I realized how little discipline and ambition I had on my own, and what had only supposedly been my antisocial tendencies suddenly came out loud and clear. I was, by my reckoning, supposed to land at the front door of college, and continue soaring. Instead, I freefell and crashed. Homesick, withdrawn, lonely, and feeling utterly out of place in the land of cows, colleges, and Midwestern Lutheran contentment, I felt like someone could say "boo" to me, and I'd fall apart in a million shards of broken glass.
Not one month after I began my freefall, Nirvana provided part of my soundtrack. No trainjumper, I, I was not a big fan of Nevermind. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was okay, but there was something about it that just didn't hit me the way it was hitting everyone around me, and the same went for the rest of the album. But since I was beginning my college DJ gig, I had to cater to the whims of college radio, and that required me to embrace Nirvana. As it turned out, In Utero was a pretty damned great album. As broken up as I was becoming, I at least knew someone who was suffering along with me, unafraid to put anger, anguish, self-destruction, brutality, defiance, and depression in such cathartic music. It provided a perverse foil to the good, wholesome Lutheran girls and boys around me, and I delighted in it.

The pop shit here didn't really grab me. You can take your "Heart Shaped Box" and your "All Apologies." Hell, even take "Rape Me." (And yeah, that's all "pop" in the harshest sense of the word.) The songs I really resonated with were the really soul-baring ones that went along with the most abrasive noise that Nirvana could come up with (with one exception). To wit:

Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle - Uh, okay Kurt. I'll indulge your loopy song title. Just howl "I miss the comfort in being sad" a half dozen or so times, so I know we're on the same wavelength, and all will be forgiven.

Milk It - This is kinda the musical equivalent of what was becoming my life mantra at the time: that which does not kill you warps you for life. I've never heard a 4/4 time signature be played so obliquely and unrecognizably. And Kurt slurs so badly here you can barely make out "I own my own pet virus/I get to pet and name her" before screaming out "DOLL! STEEEEAAAAK!" as loudly and derisively as he could. Whatever that all means.

Tourette's - Place this one up there with Sonic Youth's "Nic Fit" off of their nifty Dirty. You got a simple four-chord progression, drums that bludgeon you at breakneck speed, and some totally unintelligible yelling. What more do you need for a one-man mosh pit in an cinder block and glass shard room?

Radio Friendly Unit Shifter - God DAMN. THIS is, I'd argue, Nirvana's pinnacle. All the rage that Nirvana had to offer, spurting in all directions, suddenly became laser-focused, despite the deranged feedback undulating through the whole song. Kurt didn't scream out the lyrics for once; he dead-panned them in a truly frightening way, made all the scarier because they were just that side of inscrutable. Except for the chorus, a simple "what is wrong with me" repeated over and over again that echoed what I thought every day. And as loud as the rest of the song is, the ending is a seismic speedball that grows uncontrollably and threatens to demolish anything in its path.

Dumb - Here's the exception. Soul-baring, but lounge-intimate and quiet. I really, really got this one. For someone who prided himself so much on his brains, and for someone who had so successfully cultivated a close circle of friends in high school, I sure felt stupid and out of place my first year at college. So of course I was gonna identify when Kurt murmured "I'm not like them, but I can pretend." And like willful Chinese water torture to my psyche, I absorbed every iota of meaning when he droned "I think I'm dumb" over and over and over. It was self fulfilling destruction. At least for that first year.

(Nice bit of trivia I just saw, courtesy of our good friends over at Wikipedia: In Utero was recorded in Cannon Falls, Minnesota...just fifteen miles from my first home away from home. Somehow so apropos.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Because Twitter is too pithy.

Quick update for my millions of minions. In Kona. Gorgeous. Starbucks for my legal speed before a workout, but gee, it's nice to have some time to myself. So I'm lingering.

Mean Girls, the movie. Major score for Tina Fey. Awesome script. No surprise there. The big surprise: Lindsay Lohan? Like eight years ago? I say this with all sincerity and nary a hint of sarcasm or snark: TOTES ADORBS. Like, the most perfect rendition of the cute, guileless SoCal teen girl since Alicia Silverstone in that remake of Emma. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I haz a sad for LiLo.

Established: a beautiful tropical island paradise simply isn't enough without good surf. I don't demand much. 3-5' is perfect...maybe 4-6' if I really want to get wild. But the waves this week have been dead flat, nonexistent. Normally, you'd see me chomping at the bit to get to the beach. But not this vacay. Hence why I'm here at the Death Star, on terra firm. I will have to plan for more in the future.

Damn, but clothes sizes vary wildly! Maybe obvious to those who are more conscious of such matters, but until recently, I figured a large is a large is a large. Now I put on an XL (because you can't contain these growing muscles...and let's be honest...this expanding midsection), and one fits loosely, while the next hugs the curves just right, and the next hugs a bit too tight for comfort. And because of my growth this past year, I've had to donate generously to Goodwill. Oh well.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Oh, for STUPID.

And now, for your edification, an excerpt of an e-mail that a family friend sent to his family and friends the day after this year's election, and which my mother deemed worthy to send to the rest of the family.

I worry that we have lost the America that made us great. The vast, voting part of our population has decided that they would rather be taken care of than be responsible and rewarded for their hard work, individual initiative and success.
This is not a republican/democrat thing. Rather it is an assault on the very fiber of our countries founding principles... What made us the greatest country in the world. We have gradually slipped into mediocrity. We have 50% of our population paying zero taxes...and wanting even more freebies! How is that a good scenario??? For almost 100 years America has been the worlds protector. Now, as evidenced by what happened in Libya and the killing of our own soldiers by "friendlies" in Afganistan, we are no longer respected, revered and feared. And, it seems, as evidenced by the election, we don't even care.
We have reelected a President who will turn us into a socialist country, having no idea that it will spiral us into social oblivion. In the meantime , he will continue to spend more time and OUR money vacationing on airforce one Than any other President in history. we should be ashamed.
Perhaps I am just a fatalist worrywart, hopefully things will work out ok, and that America can become great again. For the benefit of all our growing kids, I hope and pray so!
Now, let me start by saying that I understand the worry. That first sentence is universal, particularly amongst those for whom the day after a bitterly contested election is full of regret, extreme disappointment, and fear for the future. I felt that acutely eight years ago, after our country re-elected whom many consider among the worst presidents in our nation's history. I went to bed early that night. Through the door crack, I heard that Bush took Ohio, and felt a deep pit in my stomach. I went fetal. And I woke up the next morning full of regret, extreme disappointment, and fear for the future. (And I still have yet to forgive Ohio for that...with apologies to my friends who do live in Ohio.)

And there ends my defense of this e-mail. On to the scission.

"The vast voting part of our population has decided that they would rather be taken care of..." This is pure right-wing demoralizing bullshit, tainted with fear and loathing, and smeared on the wall with broad strokes. I heard it for years growing up, often pointed at me for being lazy and not working hard, and being totally irresponsible. There are few things less attractive than condescension from an ivory tower and assuming that because people are not doing well, that they would rather be taken care of instead of working hard. (I prefer the latter myself.) Also? The "vast voting part of our population," I assume, means "those who voted for Obama." From an electoral vote standpoint, yes, 332 to 206 is a pretty solid defeat. But the popular vote is - as of this writing - roughly 2.5%, among the smaller margins in presidential election history. And I'd argue that the vast voting part of our population decided to believe in a country that does not "take care of them" (Republicanspeak for "coddle them into uselessness"), but rather provides opportunities for them to succeed. That, I would argue, transcends party lines.

"We have gradually slipped into mediocrity." Depends on the benchmarks by which you define mediocrity. (Non-sequitur: here's a brillant excerpt from one of my fave shows, The Newsroom.) Economically, I'd unfortunately agree...but the question of why divides me from this writer. From a social standpoint, though, we've made leaps and bounds over where we have been. There have been many periods of economic prosperity throughout the 20th century: the 1920s, the 1950s, the 1980s, even the 1990s. But accompanying the first part of the century was stifling social and often political conservatism, replete with very narrow standards of propriety. My parents look back, in particular, on the 1950s as an era to emulate. Everyone knew their place. Everyone functioned efficiently. And our country was full of civic pride. (At least, that was the facade.) I could go on about the 1950s and how "perfect" it was. But I think the majority of Americans suffered quite a bit under this facade. And I am certain the majority of Americans now would chafe under its sexism, racism, and homophobia. At any rate, economically, we ebb and surge. And you could argue that there are strong elements of bread and circuses in society nowadays, which I find highly unfortunate. But socially, we are far from mediocre; indeed, we continue to improve every day. (The writer would probably demur...his vision of a perfect America fades more and more into the sunset each day. And I've debunked that vision.)

"We have 50% of our population paying zero taxes." Oh HELL no. Hold my weave while I go medieval on this one. I'm sure what this writer meant was "zero federal income tax." So sez the Heritage Foundation. No talk about state or local income tax, to say nothing of sales tax. The implication is that 50% of the population is not contributing their fair share. Speaking of not contributing a fair share, show me a person paying no taxes, and I'll show you a corporation earning many times more than that person, yet also paying no taxes. How many corporations like to take advantage of loopholes and contort themselves into avoiding taxes? Many more than I'd like to think of...but the amount of money that could be pumped into our economy if these corporations actually did pay their fair share would be staggering...and would bring us out of a deficit and into unquestionable prosperity. I look at corporations that shirk their duty to contribute their fair share to America as destructive, unpatriotic, and un-American. To contribute to the infrastructure, stability, and growth of a country by contributing a portion of earnings to the body that governs it is patriotic. (Obviously, within reason. It is entirely possible to contribute a significant share of profits and still remain profitable. I adhere to the Elizabeth Warren school of thought.)

"For almost 100 years America has been the worlds (sic) protector." Said as if that's something to be proud of. And perhaps it is. Sorry, but I tend to be a bit "Isolationist" is too strong of a word. Let's just say that I don't think America needs to fulfill that role. We've got plenty of problems at home to deal with. Which leads me to the next point...

Afghanistan. My grandfather spent years and years after retiring from the army (as a brigadier general) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, fascinated by the culture and society, and working to defend it from the then-Soviet Union. His experience was that as soon as the Soviet Union dissolved, and the respective countries began to address their own issues, the unity that Afghanis and Pakistanis had against their Soviet enemies also dissolved. These countries are largely composed of smaller social groups that have historically always fought and killed each other, often in the service of honor and vengeance. Here's the idea: You killed my father, therefore I am bound to honor the memory of my father to wreak vengeance and kill you. Easy to see how this self-perpetuates into perpetuity. In my grandfather's opinion, outside influence could help decrease this violence, but could not address the centuries-long vengeance that dictates so much of their culture. The sooner we get out of Afghanistan, the better.

"We have reelected a President who will turn us into a socialist country..." *groan* Highly, highly unlikely. Where's the evidence? Obamacare? Individual mandates? The policy that the Heritage Foundation began endorsing back in the day? The policy that Romney - that socialist Commie pinko - spearheaded successfully in his home state? Yeah, that one. Nope, sorry. Try again. If not Obamacare, then what else? Where's the evidence? I see none.
Incidentally, naming Obama a socialist is a hairsbreadth from outright racism...the hatred behind it is the same. Only racism isn't as politically correct nowadays. You can accuse others of being un-American and get away with it more easily. Of course, racist anti-Obama sentiment is still insanely easy to find. Just not quite as visible.

"...he will continue to spend more time and OUR money vacationing on airforce one Than any other President in history." (all sic) How do you back this up? How can you predict this? If the issue is wasting money and time on vacation instead of fulfilling duties as this nation's president, then God, this is an easy issue to address, particularly for those who love Dubya.

I'm not a particularly political individual, but sometimes you have to respond to ignorance when it hits close to home. My work here is done for now. I've a life to lead.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Judy Blume

Back in elementary school, and definitely around 4th and 5th grade, just like in any good respectable public school back in the early '80s, Judy Blume books reigned supreme. Beverly Cleary and the Encyclopedia Brown books ran a close second, but began fading as girls got older and more mature and began to wonder just what in the world was waiting for them around the corner. I assume. Our librarian, bless her, definitely pushed the Judy Blume. And clueless boy that I was, I read lots of it without really realizing what it was all about. Definitely Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. But I also read Blubber, Deenie and Tiger Eyes. I don't remember much about them to this day, other than...well, I think Deenie was about a girl with...scoliosis, maybe? (I could look online, but that would spoil all the fun of me not knowing, and of you Judy Blume fans amused at my ignorance.) Also had a masturbation scene in there, I believe, that I only got after I reread the pertinent chapter, for some reason. And Blubber was the consummate anti-bullying book. Still should be required reading for tweens, I think. But it's only now, after reading this, that I actually learned that Margaret was partially about a girl getting her first period. Like I said, I was clueless. (I know you all are smirking at me. I feel it.)

I have great respect for Judy Blume. I mean, she wrote quite honestly about issues that I think are incredibly important to girls growing up and hitting puberty. The fact that her books have been banned many times also warms my heart - you know someone's doing something right if it rankles the old guard like that - although it bums me to know that some girls never got a chance to read her books. It makes me wish she had a male counterpart. Robert Cormier comes to mind right off, but he dwelled mainly on the bullying aspect of being a teenage boy...usually uncomfortably so. The Chocolate War was brilliant, and I devoured it time and again, but man, he reveled in torturing his characters...protagonists, enemies, incidentals, all of 'em. Plus, the book took place at a private boarding school, so it reeked of privilege and money, making the shenanigans there even more evil than usual. So he wasn't the most pleasant writer. At some point, I also plowed through I Am The Cheese, but apparently it didn't make much of an impact on me, aside from the ending, where (again, without looking online for spoilers) I think there was...a glorious and triumphant suicide? That's quite the paradox, but if I'm right, that's exactly what happens. I also loved all the Jack London stories, taking place in the wilderness of Canada and Alaska, the ultimate brave and valiant struggle of man vs. nature. But really, that was it for major writers I knew who hit the target for me back when I was a tween, give or take.

Fun fact: I actually lost Deenie for a while back in 5th grade, and I had to suffer the embarrassment of the librarian calling my name out a number of times in front of the whole class that the book was overdue. It kinda begged the question: what kind of a pervert boy would keep a book with a girl's masturbation scene over a month beyond its due date? I swear on a stack of all things true and holy, not me. I honestly did lose it, and was all too thrilled to return the book and not endure that shame.


Okay, now that I've looked at more of the Judy Blume God, did she write a lot of books! Freckle Juice, Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself, Forever, Then Again, Maybe I Won't, Superfudge, Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing, The One in the Middle is the Green Her influence extends a lot further than I originally thought it had. I've read all of 'em. (And that's not even all she wrote.) Color me impressed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Wrong Child?

Yeah, yeah, poor poor pitiful Pearl. Put a sock into it. Don't read if you don't want. I'ma spew pity party chunks all over this here screed.

Still convinced that as a youngster, I was dealing with a mild form of autism...perhaps Asperger's or even a bit milder. Reading The Autism Revolution kinda clued me into that. I was reading it on the recommendation of a patient of mine. But it makes me wonder why in the world I was not taken in for evaluation. Strange mood swings that seemingly came out of nowhere, self-absorption, some rather significant aversion to social situations, occasional absence spells (mild seizures?) that drove my parents nuts, a few fainting spells, evidence of "stimming" (repetitive actions that serve to release neural excitement), and some idiot savant-ish qualities (absent-mindedness right alongside academic excellence). Lots of these have persisted to the present day: the stimming (on a daily basis, no less, whenever I get happy or overexcited), absence/mind drifting, some moderate antisocial tendencies, more self-absorption, and perhaps worst of all, those mild seizures eventually developed into full-blown grand mal seizures. First one was probably around 10, the next about 5 years later (while snowboarding! Thank GOD I was on terra firm and not on the chairlift!), and another five scattered between then and 2005...including two in one day. So yeah, I'm not all neurologically sound. In one rare instance of acknowledgment of conventional medicine, I have to say I'm grateful for my antiseizure meds...even if it means that my liver is very unhappy with me all the time. (Chronically elevated liver enzymes = slow destruction of the liver. Perhaps I should be on some milk thistle or other liver regenerative therapy.)

Of course, getting into a fight with Mr. Man didn't help matters last night. Compound the two, and you've got yourself one seriously insecure kid inside a grown man's body. You get to wondering...if I have this much of an issue with being social, and am this screwed up, am I really the right kind of person to be in a relationship? Don't get me wrong: Mr. Man is all kinds of awesome. He's just so social, and I come in on the opposite end of the spectrum. Can't help but feel insignificant in such a situation. And I have dreams and ambitions, but I feel like they've been lost in the shuffle of being in a relationship with someone else. I look back on the only 6 months of my adult life where I was living on my own, and I really, really flourished. It's occasionally tempting to chuck it all, especially when I look at my interests vs. his, and there is very little overlap.

God. Just want to crawl back into bed. Particularly since I slept like shit last night...tossed and turned, finally fell asleep around 2, and woke up at 7. (I'm not one of these people who can thrive on 5 or fewer hours of sleep a night.) Hmm...maybe I will. After a good full lunch.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Save Big Bird!

Here's what PBS meant to me as a child/budding nerd:

Sesame Street - The original, the best.
The Electric Company - For those into phonetics (and OMG, was I ever.)
3-2-1 Contact - More on the science side of things (didn't appeal quite as much.)
Vision On - Yes, I actually watched this way back in the day. Was there ever a nerdier show?
Geometric iterations - I saw how cool it was to take a simple figure, rotate a superimposed figure 90 degrees, then repeat the process over and over to produce some amazing designs. No talking. Nerdy-as-Moog music. 100% awesome. And of course, I can't find a video for this.
Vegetable Soup - All's I remember is the opening credits.
Big Blue Marble - Ditto...although this show might have subliminally planted a tiny environmental ethic in me, even at the ripe old age of 3 or 4.
Mr. Roger's Neighborhood - Yeah, some people thought he was a bit weird and smarmy. And as an adult, I can see it. But as a kid, it passed me by. All I saw was a gentle guy who was good friends with his neighbors and had some kinda creepy but still cool finger puppets. And I loved that trolley.

Then, as I got older:
The St. Olaf Christmas Festival - I'm biased, being an alum and all, but can you imagine this competing on any of the major networks with the likes of football? Or any Christmas cartoon? Events like these need to be preserved.
TeleTunes - Very few of these videos would have been considered for MTV, unless it were on some version of 120 Minutes that played at 3 am. Only found in the Denver area in the late '80s-early '90s.
The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross - Who doesn't love happy little trees? Or happy little clouds? I watched this show in high school not to aspire to become a painter, but because after a long, tough day, Bob Ross was the best nonpharmaceutical alternative to Prozac or Xanax. One half-hour with this guy, and suddenly all was well with the world again. R.I.P.

If Romney gets elected, you can say goodbye to all of the above. Or at least, their modern equivalents. It'd be a tremendous loss.

Talking with my mom recently, I was kinda surprised to hear her say that she gave full credit to PBS for an excellent out-of-school education when I was really young. Considering how much flak TV gets nowadays for contributing to the dumbing down of our society, this was quite the testimonial. Apparently, I just would sit in front of the tube, and gape, hypnotized by the moving pictures, utterly undisturbed by anything else, absorbing everything unquestioningly. And all through the K-12 treadmill, I was consistently among the top students in my class. My mom is convinced the two are linked inextricably. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Romney.

Oh, what the hell. PBS can say it better than I can.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"I'm not a workaholic. I'm a work slut."

Saw Henry Rollins last Friday night downtown. Goddamn...what an awesome show. Tickets were $35, the doors opened at 7, and he was scheduled to hit the stage at 8. At 8:02, he steps out on stage, grabs the mic, and off we go. As if to punctuate the act, he immediately vows that he does not want to waste one nanosecond of our time. Just like that, he puts overblown celebrities to shame who force their fans to shell out $100+ per show, then only deign to show up as they like, often an hour or more late. Fuck 'em all. Rollins is the real deal.

The man remains a coiled mass of caffeine, testosterone, wit and intelligence. Even at 51, he is a sight to behold; despite wearing the most workmanlike of clothes, he white-knuckles the microphone and doesn't let go for the next two and a half hours. He rocks back and forth in an athletic stance as if to prepare himself for an unknown onslaught. Sweat starts to drip consistently from his bared elbow only five minutes in. And the show really is just him and a microphone. No table. No chair. No water bottle. No life-soothing accoutrements, no creature comforts, nothing.

When Rollins talks, you best be paying attention. He starts the show talking at a frenetic pace, fueled by adrenaline and coffee (I'd imagine), and barely stops for a breath. I don't think I heard him say "um" once the entire time. And this includes a stunning verbatim recital of a speech a young Abraham Lincoln gave back in the early 1830s. He didn't even pause in the slightest during said speech when someone in the front row accidentally shattered their drink glass.

And you know he's gonna spill some amazing shit. The title of the tour is "Capitalism," since it hits every US capital between now and election night, where he ends in DC; obviously, he went to town on Republicans of all sorts. He described Ann Romney's RNC speech as being given by someone who was trying to squeeze watermelons through her tear ducts. He brought up reading Dubya's autobiography ("I read it for you," as if he were Jesus dying for our sins), as well as Cheney's; apparently Cheney has led a fascinating life, but is the most unimaginative guy alive, so sez Hank. And he feels badly for Republicans - he truly believes that no one would vote for Romney with any semblance of enthusiasm, he's such a weak candidate. They're all voting against Obama, and Romney just happens to be the guy to vote for. (He admitted that we had a moment in our not so distant past where Democrats had a similar scenario...remember that snoozefest Kerry?)

But the political stuff dies down soon enough, and we get treated to the fun stuff we really came for, what really makes Rollins the phenomenon he is: hyperbolic stories about his wild life. He brings up his life back in DC, hanging with Ian MacKaye and growing up around punk. As a long-time Minor Threat fan, I was hanging on every word Hank said about seeing some of their first their own living room. He also told stories about his excitement seeing Led Zeppelin for the first time ("He's taking out the bow! Just like on 'The Song Remains The Same!'"), but what really got me was his story of seeing the Ramones. Smashed, along with 800 other kids, into a Great White-like venue meant to hold maybe 500, he found himself withering in the anoxic, stifling environment, standing this close to Dee Dee Ramone, trying to lap up every drop of sweat that came off Dee Dee's nose to keep from dehydrating.

He also brings up his recent travels. Documentary work for National Geographic took him to India, where he was videoed drinking cow's urine, which apparently is considered by some to be a panacea. He also travelled to south Kentucky to witness a charismatic church service, poisonous snakes and all. Then he went to Haiti, where he befriended a whole shantytown by bringing them - by request - tons of soap and soccer balls. Needless to say, the guy leads one insanely fascinating life.

Oh yeah...the title quote? That's his MO. He will take any work, anywhere he can get it. He's slung ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. He's destroyed hundreds of rats (by order of his bosses) at NIH when they all got a tremendously contagious, fatal disease. Don't need to say anything about his musical career or spoken-word tours. He's starred in a number of B-grade movies. He's hosted his own talk show. He still runs a weekly radio show. He maintains a blog. He's a prolific writer. And probably a dozen (at least) other jobs/occupations I can't remember off the top. A work slut, indeed.

If you are lucky enough to live in or near a state capital, do yourself a favor. Get a ticket. It'll be the best show you see all year.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Like a hug from baby Jesus.

Over at dinner at the parents' place tonight. Fairly low-key affair, me and the missus (oops...that should be me and Mr. Man), also low-key celebrating my aunt's 70th birthday about 3 weeks early, 'cause that's how she rolls. Flew into town today, driving to Santa Fe with Mom for the week...sounds fun.

After dinner, I walked outside quickly, and saw a "MITT" bumper sticker on my dad's car. As bumper stickers go, it was classy...traditional masculine font, three silver stars against a navy background. The "MITT" didn't surprise me in the slightest; the bumper sticker did, simply because the parents are VERY country club conservative, and bumper stickers are simply not done. And I reacted the same way my sister did when I unwittingly told her that her eldest shares the exact same name as Bill & Hillary's daughter: I suddenly felt profoundly sick.

Fortunately, we had no political discussions tonight; if we did, they would have ended immediately with me declaring that no self-respecting logical gay man would EVER, EVER vote for Romney. (And let me tell you how much of a mindfuck it has been this election season driving around town and seeing two - TWO! - cars with the following bumper stickers on them: 1) HRC 2) "I'm GAY and I VOTE." 3) ROMNEY - Believe in America. 4) the Gadsden flag - yep, the "don't tread on me" flag. Those boys have some serious issues.) But that bumper sticker...UGH.

Although I am no Republican, I do believe the Republican party is shooting itself in the foot by going all anti-gay and writing fiercely homophobic language into its platform. I mean, c' put it bluntly, sucking cock and adoring Ayn Rand are not mutually exclusive. You can be into fiscal conservatism and hot man-on-man sex simultaneously. (Obviously, the same applies to women who love their ladies and the bootstraps they pulled themselves up with.) The sooner the Republican party pulls its collective head out of its ass and realizes this, the better off it'll be. But until then, they're hurting themselves terribly...a fact I'm not really boo-hooing over at this point.

I have to say, though, that my acute attack of nausea was effectively halted by this beauty. Heh. Let's see Romney try to 'splain that one for the next 50 days, shall we? Who's got the popcorn?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gotta move on...

Blogging the morning after seems like such a great idea in the middle of a kick-ass night. But actually during the morning after? Won't say I'm hungover, but my mind's bleary enough that any excitement that could have been transmitted last night in crystalline detail is now stuck in a light fog of acetaldehyde, and...oh well. Just a few things that made last night awesome.

THIS. How could I have gone through over 37 1/2 years of my life without seeing this? I stood on the dance floor, staring at the screen, with the pleasure centers of my brain lighting up like the nuclear impacts map on WarGames. Random absurdity is practically my trade. Also, THE RAMONES. If this is your first time seeing this, then my work here is done.

Also, this. I have gone years and years without hearing the point where I couldn't even remember who did this version. Gotta say, for a suburban kid in the '80s, Pseudo Echo was a pretty damned cool name...and Aussies to boot. Really shoulda checked them out more back in the day. And don't these kids look like they're having a blast?

So yeah, the music in the '80s room at the local big gay club was particularly awesome last night. Great to see good friends out, too...more than usual.

All this is to say...gosh, I'm losing some enthusiasm to get in these big workouts now. Squatting 230 is TOUGH, ya know? Much easier to blog and kvetch and procrastinate.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Every day, a grape licks a friendly cow.

Note to self: when the office has a 3-day weekend, don't bother keeping your Saturday mornings open! Lucky me, I'm the only person in the office today, and that was basically to drive down here (45 minute commute) for a 15 minute visit. Ugh. So now I get in my workout, and wonder what the fuck to do for the rest of the day. Mr. Man is in New Orleans for the weekend (I KNOW...but apparently Isaac didn't do a tremendous amount of damage to the French Quarter, where he is, so.) and I'm here, apparently bereft and adrift in a sea of what-the-fuck-do-I-do-nowitude. So here ya go...your solipsism for the day. Oh, and happy September.

- Unfriended about 125 people in one fell swoop about a month ago. Including some erstwhile choir girls with whom I have gotten along in the past. The vast majority of these were not due to anger or illwill. Just an acknowledgement that they aren't really a huge part of my life, or they post really annoying political shit all the time (from any part of the spectrum), or their posts, despite merely intending to be thought-provoking, resemble interview questions from hell (imagine if Stephen Covey and Dolores Umbridge were to have demon spawn). Yes, I have standards that are perhaps too high relative to the average FB user. But seriously, what sense does it make to have FB "friends" that are good for nothing but a cyberpoke once every few months?

- Love the bee commentary? Miss the bee commentary? It's gone from this here screed forevermore. You'll find it here, along with some more cerebral stuff. It may help lay the foundation for a secondary career for me, and if there's something I don't need to sully a reputation, it's intentional misspellings for effect, immediate references to "what-the-fuck-do-I-do-nowitude" and the like.

- Young coconut. To be specific, the stuff by Philippine. I picked some up at Costco recently, intrigued. Good GOD, people...if you like coconut, you HAVE to get summa this crack. May have a bit too much sugar in it to be healthy, but then again...14 grams of fiber per 1/3 cup serving? AWESOME! (I have heard, however, the sodium metabisulfite-preserved stuff is awful, and one should seek out the sulfur dioxide-laced goods at all costs. Yeah...we're not talking health food here.)

- "You have to have a look!" So sez one semi-fictional Maria Callas in a fabulous play, "Master Class." "And if you don't have one...get one!" Kinda makes sense to me. I hate to say it, but I may have drunk the "branding" Kool-Aid a bit. Lots of successful people have a "look," whether or not they realize it and whether or not it works for them. Suze Orman's earrings and swooped bangs, Donald Trump's unfortunate toupee and boxy suits, Paul Ryan's overgrown-Munster appearance, Michelle Obama's KICKASS style across the board (Jackie who?) get the picture. So I've been trying to cultivate said "look."

- Must write. No...must go to Starbucks to get my coffee before my workout. No...must eat, I'm starving. No...must read. Wait...what am I doing here at work, anyhow? Wasn't I done with my appointment an hour ago? GAWD. Procrastination 1, me 0.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The broad monster clouds the novice.

More rando. You know you were hungry for it.

There is no Muppet Movie soundtrack anymore. Sad trombone. Or at least, it's out of print, so you can find vinyl. I'm not dissing on vinyl. The point is: who, besides the committed audiophiles and accomplished DJs of our time, has a turntable?
This album was absolutely formative to me. I'd listen to it for hours on end, though I turned my nose up at the instrumental version of "Never Before, Never Again" (and for that matter, the sung version warn't all that much better). But I'd listen to "Movin' Right Along" over and over again, even though there was a crack in the record. It would skip about 6 seconds in, and the entire song was over in about 30 seconds. Always made me laugh uncontrollably. And then there was the heartbreaking "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday." This one deserves a retroactive Grammy or Oscar for Best Song of 1979. (It just barely beats out "Rainbow Connection.") This, coupled with learning how to ski at Buttermilk all those years ago, made for some of my best childhood memories.
Whatever can we do to persuade the powers that be that the world is not complete without this soundtrack?

StormdTheCastle. I thought I was concerned about my appearance? Nothing even close. This one is mildly amusing, to be sure...a guy who's extremely into himself, his workouts, and how he looks. I mean, who would document a 63/100 inch gain in calf circumference? How would you even do that? He does admit he has body dysmorphic disorder, so he's conscious of it. And speaking of BDD...

Noodles and Beef. All kinds of adorable, amirite? His happy happy joy joy appearance and attitude does grate, but at least for awhile, you can't help but be amused. Besides...muscles. And a great smile. Yeah, I'm shallow. I own it. (As for the BDD, he admits to it, too. I'm not projecting.)

The Power of No. I have had multiple sources tell me over the past few years that I am profoundly negative. And part of me protests: "I'm really not that negative! I just have a certain view of how my life should be, and I do not want extraneous bullshit to affect that view!" If you have a small "yes" inside of you, you sometimes need to protect it with a wall of no's. (God, that sounds nauseatingly "self-help lite.")
I thought this little phrase would be a good title for a book. Until I saw that there are at least three other books with that same title. The one subtitled "How to Keep Blowhards and Bozos at Bay" seems amusing; I may have to pick it up.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Music to mindlessly destroy yourself by.

Or: Perfect songs for lifting up heavy things and putting them back down again repeatedly, grunting all the while.

Far Behind - Social Distortion: Mike Ness has one of the most perfect punk voices ever. Raw, muscular, sounding like a buzzsaw welded with testosterone and cuts through you and doesn't give a shit. This brilliant fuck-off from SD's greatest hits plays nearly like a pop song, so conventional is its construction. But that's not a bad thing. Sonically, it's an awesome force of nature, jumping out of the speakers to grab you and smash you to the ground.

New Day Rising - Hüsker Dü: I defy you not to feel pummeled by this song...and that's just during the first five seconds of martial drums at warp speed, before the metallic guitars roar over you like a sonic wave. Punk as punk gets. Lyrics? We don't need no goddamn lyrics! Just howl the title over and over again. Primal.

Meantime - Helmet: Yeah, the whole album. I bow to the great Michael Azerrad, who encapsulated it thusly: "A marvel of precisely channeled aggression, Meantime could be the soundtrack to the mind of an NFL linebacker." Damn straight. Also, back in the day of grunge, depression, and Seattle, these guys provided a kick-ass retort to kids considering casting off this mortal coil: "Die young is far too boring these days."

Long Snake Moan/Meet Ze Monsta - PJ Harvey: These behemoths off of To Bring You My Love (WAAY recommended, by the way) will pulverize you. PJ simply gives a knowing "mm-hmm" at the beginning of Long Snake Moan just before a wall of guitar smashes you and doesn't let up until the bitter end. The banshee wails don't hurt, either. Then on Meet Ze Monsta, a mechanical goose-stomp provides the force behind some of the most muscular, forced singing you'll ever hear. You gotta hear these.

Master of Puppets - Metallica: Obvious, true. But there's a reason it's obvious: it fucking rocks. Can't believe I lived over 30 years of my life before hearing this one.

Thieves - Ministry: God bless Wax Trax for bringing us this immortal piece of derangement. Here, Ministry nursed its last vestiges of industrial before it fell fully into the sludge of metal below. Distorted yelling, exhortations to "kill, kill, kill," and a rhythm section that, at its best, provided the beat to deranged goose-stepping Nazi soldiers on speed.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Social Network

Mark Zuckerberg must hate The Social Network. He's portrayed as a virtual walking pathology: the monomaniacal, reclusive computernik with an almost autistic and ADD-like view of the world around him. Even Temple Grandin - no stranger to the autism spectrum herself - states that if the movie is indeed accurate, Zuckerberg may well have Asperger's syndrome. (I myself am more skeptical about this judgment.)

Zuckerberg is an asshole. By second 31 of the movie, that point's driven home with the force of a sledgehammer. You want to throttle this guy who is giving his near-ex verbal whiplash; he speaks at an auctioneer's pace and switches topics mid-sentence multiple times while studiously avoiding eye contact. Worse, all he cares about is getting into a Harvard final club and using said near-ex as a means to an end. But when he insults her lesser (Boston University) education, that's the last straw. She calls him an asshole and stomps off. Cue Zuckerberg's descent into a bloghole, wherein he tears her apart online. (And, of course, writes the code for the predecessor of Facebook, posts the website, and enjoys the fallout as thousands of students vote for which girl is hotter than the next, crashing Harvard's servers hours later.)

And throught the rest of the movie, Zuckerberg (or more accurately, Jesse Eisenberg) does little to change this view. His disregard for others around him other than as a financial or technological means to creating Facebook is relentless; his push toward success unbothered by the personal details around him. And when he goes through hours of depositions, his contempt for the opposing lawyers is witheringly heartless. Only toward the end of the movie does he begin to show a heart; his CFO and best friend is, courtesy of Napster creator Sean Parker (and unknown to Zuckerberg), suddenly reduced to virtually having no financial interest in Facebook, and when Zuckerberg finds out, he looks stunned. And, of course, he still has a soft spot in his heart for the girl who crushed him at the beginning of the movie, approaching her months later in hopes of making amends. (She flatly rejects him, of course.)

So why's the movie so amazing? I see it as a fascinating profile of the man and the circumstances surrounding the rise of perhaps the most pervasive cultural force today. The guy has vision...relentless vision. He follows it, picks up opportunities on a moment's notice, does what he has to to support his vision, and assiduously protects and supports the people who work assiduously for him. (If they're busy, he says they're "wired in," with the implication that they are not to be disturbed by anything.) Facebook is his baby (regardless of what the Winklevi twins say), and he will defend it to the death. Is Zuckerberg an asshole? Ennh...I'm not so sure that's up to me to say. I do find it interesting, though, that he is portrayed as such nearly the entire movie, yet once it's wrapped up, I find him more admirable than not. Maybe the anti-social intellectual side of me resonates with him...someone who was so true to himself that regardless of whether he ended up hurting people, he saw his vision come to fruition.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The best years of your life (or something...) (part 2)

Long overdue, but here goes: what I'd tell myself back in 10th grade:

-- (redacted to protect yours truly, for whom 10th grade was a tremendously harrowing year.)

-- Fer the love o’ Christ, simple speech wasn’t stressful enough? You have to go for DEBATE? I can’t stress this enough: get out while you can. It’s gonna flatten you this year, and you’re gonna deal with repercussions that’ll last for years.

-- Look, I’m with you on growing your bangs out. It’s a good look. But maybe just try the layered look in back just once in the meantime. Just once. No, it won’t make you look gay. And if you don't believe me once you see it, well go ahead and grow your hair back out.

-- Ah. Welcome to the joys of bronchitis. Enjoy hacking up a lung for the next three months.

-- (two months later): See? What'd I tell ya? Listen to that young doc fresh out of residency tell you to "get some sleep." Apparently, listening to your body wasn't cutting it. Feeling your shoulders actually boil with anger and stress while agonizing over American literature wasn't enough to tell you to STOP already. Nor was listening to this while hacking and coughing yourself to sleep at night. So SLEEP already. Doctor's orders.

-- Be careful with the Silver Skating Dame, there. Yes, she’s totally cool, and she’s rockin’ your world, but you know what? You’re rockin’ her world about a hundred times as much. You have no idea. And when she finally says, “Well, because I love you,” please try to think up something classy to say, unexpected though this revelation may be to you. Thoughtful silence for a bit is even acceptable. DON’T drop the phone and say, “Oh shit.” That’s the last thing anyone wants to hear when they open up their heart to you. And someone as awesome as SSD deserves much, much better.

-- Welcome to choir. I know you did it just to get a credit out of the way. And those shoulder rubs before singing are pretty nice, ain't? Well, trust me when I say that your life is going to shift dramatically for the better now. And yes, leaving journalism was the right move. Holy CRAP was it the right move.

-- Oh, and on top of all this, swim team!? Holy Mary, you really are turning masochism into an art form. Can't you just go easy on yourself and instead...I dunno...lift some light weights here and there, eat better, and...oh, God, I'm sounding like a broken record...SLEEP.

-- Congratulations on making it into the honors choir. And get ready to really enjoy life and school next year. You deserve it after somehow surviving hell this year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Inspiration from Henry Rollins.

I'ma sit back and let my man Hank tell his story. Take it away, Hank.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why not go to Europe and sing?

Just got back from a whirlwind tour of central Europe, as part of one awesome choir. Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. All amazing cities. How did this happen? Well, as it turns out, I was courted by a local guy on Growlr (look it up, kids) with whom I shared a big love of choral music. He happened to sing in this group that was going to Europe in June. Trouble was, not everyone could go, so they were recruiting from the outside. Thus concluded, for all intents and purposes, the extent of my arm-twisting.

Random thoughts...

  • Jet lag. Not so bad going over there. Particularly considering I got maybe 20 minutes full sleep on the way over...and that was with the benefit of 3 mg melatonin. It's this coming back thing that has me off. It's not quite 7, the sun is still brilliant, and I'm SOOO logy.
  • FRA. Ugly-ass airport. Industrial (not in a good way), and too much of it under construction to even come close to being attractive. Germany, you're too good for this. You got some shit to do. This is your #1 hub airport. Make it look and act like one. Some streamlining would be good, too. No need to walk a mile from a gate to customs along darkened corridors...only to do the same to reach your next gate. I will give props for the cots seen (and being used) in one area, though. Other airports would be wise to consider the same.
  • Fish pedicures. Seriously. Our last day in Prague, during our last hours of free time, some fellow choir girls decided to do this. I have no idea what they were thinking, yet at the same time, it sounds rather compelling. It sounded especially so at the end of the trip. I mean, soaking your poor, aching, blistery feet in cool water while fish lightly nibble at the dead skin on your...oh...sorry. Too gross? Yeah, I kinda thought so too. And I still have the blistery, overgrown-callused feet to prove it.
  • "Hey gurl haaay!" This was Mr. Man's influence. This is what the cool gay boys are saying nowadays. And by boys, I mean I think it originated with bears, of all groups. But now it's being spread. By the end of our tour, we had everyone greeting each other this way. It replaced "cheese!" in pictures. Even the tour director was saying this on the bus. And its shelf life expires in 3..2..1...
  • Churches. Oh, God, a shit-load of 'em. Each of them more astounding than the rest. I mean, there's only so many times you can walk into a huge ass cathedral and gape up at the stunning stained glass, painting, sculpture, and iconography before it becomes a blur. So what do you do? You sing in them to commemorate them, right? So...
  • St. Vitus Cathedral. Yeah. That huge one in Prague Castle, overlooking the city. I can now say that I've sung in St. Vitus. Not like it was something I even considered before, but we had a quick impromptu performance there. Our tour guide took aside a docent, got her to pull some strings and tell the organ player to knock it off for like five minutes (he didn't), and we jumped right in. (About halfway through, the organ player realized that some choir was singing, so he stopped, just in time for the most dramatic part.)
  • Other choral music. Yeah, I'm into the really serious shit, if you followed that last link through and listened all the way to the end. (If not, do it. No, really.) For me, music like that is just sublime, heavenly. Aside from Gustav Holst's Nunc dimittis, the pieces that just killed me were the seminal Ave verum corpus by William Byrd and Our Father by Alexander Gretchaninoff. (That last link is the group I sang with...on their last European tour 5 years ago!)
More later...this poor boy's gotta unpack and get to bed. The sun's setting, it's 4 in the morning in Prague, and I'm fading fast.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

And bad mistakes...I've made a few...

At 25, I was watching the Grammys, and saw Lauryn Hill, who is as old as me, win five Grammy awards. And at 25, I was in the middle of naturopathic school. But for the first time, I felt like I was squandering my life. I literally sat up and asked out loud, much to the befuddlement of my friends, "God...what have I done with my life?"

Boy, I'm glad that my 25 year-old self can't see me now, let alone my 16 year-old self. I mean, here is a list of that young man's ambitions back in February of 1992:

1. Keep up a high morality code with integrity.
2. Ignore what the TV says.
3. Single-handedly redefine the genre and ideals of American literature by the use of short essays. In short, start a new era.
4. Make a couple of classic albums.
5. Be a teacher.
6. Be a researcher or doctor.
7. Become a new Socrates - as great a thinker as he was.
8. Live life deeply and lovingly.
9. Love.
10. Be religious.
11. Be me!

Yeah, I was one ambitious motherfucker, wasn't I? Needless to say, I've not made a single album, let alone a single song. I get drawn into TV far more than I would like. And bringing American literature (VERY loosely defined) into a new era was apparently not up to me, but the tech-savvy inventors of blogs. And Socrates? In college, I derided one of my friends for being down on herself because she wasn't as great a thinker as Dostoevsky was. Um...oops. So much for that. (At least I won't die from hemlock poisoning.)

But life happens. Laundry needs to be done. Someone needs to bring home the bacon. Mundaneness settles in. And also, goals change. But having said that, a strong, stoic core part of me maintains that there's still a LOT of living to do, and a LOT of ambitions yet to realize. Gotta keep moving.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dinner at Eight - Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright is an acquired taste. His voice is nasal and anoretic (especially on his debut, where I don't recommend starting), and his musical tastes run pretty skew to popular music. Classical, opera, folk, and Tin Pan Alley are the founts from which his inspiration springs, and he has a slightly aloof, wry, and condescending way about him. His compositions (funny how that word came to mind before "songs") can be dry and subtle, often bereft of hooks, and only reward you after multiple listenings or upon being placed in an appropriate context. Or they can be sweepingly melodramatic, full of romantic and impressionistic flourishes that go down as easy as a bowl of the richest chocolate mousse - and leaving you feeling about as queasy afterward. Oh, and add in the fact that he is a gay man; this colors his writing considerably. (Can you imagine a straight songwriter name-dropping Bea Arthur? Or writing a song from the point of view of a young woman reminiscing about her first high school crush on a man?) Needless to say, he hasn't been gracing the top of the pop charts.

What he has done is make some of the most gorgeous, intelligent, moving music of the new century; even an authority as high as Elton John has branded him "the greatest songwriter on the planet. " Choosing my favorite Rufus song is no easy task. There's an awful lot of gold, particularly from Poses and the two Want albums. But "Dinner at Eight" (from Want One) stands above the rest. This love song to his father ironically resonates with anger and bitterness throughout, and exemplifies the brutally personal turned universal.

Rufus's family (father Loudon III, sister Martha, deceased mother Kate McGarrigle, aunt Anna McGarrigle) is an immensely talented group of folk musicians. In fact, when Loudon first happened on the scene in the early 1970s, he was branded with that dreaded "new Bob Dylan" title that no one could live up to. Despite that, Loudon - and the rest of the family, really - is no stranger to critical acclaim, even if they haven't achieved widespread popularity.

They are also just as flawed as humans can be and they air out their familial trials, tribulations, and secrets in their music with a willingness that makes the listener sometimes feel exploitative. (See Loudon's tribute to his then breast-feeding son, "Rufus is a Tit Man." See also Martha's paean to her dad, "B.M.F.A." It stands for "bloody mother fu..." uh, yeah, you got it.) "Dinner at Eight" fits right in here...and although I don't know the Wainwright/McGarrigle canon like I suspect I should, I bet this song sits near the top of the heap of these expositions.

From a musical standpoint, "Dinner at Eight" does away with the typical opulence, and begins with a quiet, stately piano arpeggio that belies the drama directly ahead. "No matter how strong," Rufus warns his dad, "I'm gonna take you down with one little stone. I'm gonna break you down and see what you're worth...what you're really worth to me." As an orchestra quietly builds behind him, he recalls an argument between he and his dad one night; it's easy to imagine it might have been a battle of egos between the well-established father and the rising star son.

But just as soon as it seems Rufus turns away from the argument, dismissing his part in it, he suddenly stops and stands his ground. "Why is it so...that I've always been the one who must go? That I've always been the one told to flee? When in fact you were the the drifting white snow who left me?" Bitter accusations were seldom so poetically put. Cue a weeping harp mimicking the snow falling, and you now have Rufus's mom, Kate, weeping herself, out of the anguish of knowing such a strained relationship existed between two men she loved so much.

Suddenly, the music swells, and with it, Rufus's righteous anger. "So put up your fists, and I'll put up mine. No running away from the scene of the crime." It's the moment of reckoning for his father. Reconciliation and peace, or a lifetime filled with resentment and anger. Either way, it's his dad's choice. "God's chosen a place somewhere near the end of the world, somewhere near the end of our lives. But till then, Daddy, don't be surprised if I want to see the tears in your eyes." Rufus is asking for an apology, an admission of guilt, for the hard facade to break down just once. "Then I'll loved me." Just that much. But you get the sense that Rufus doubts it, as he repeats the beginning of the song, re-establishing his defiant stance against his father.

"Dinner at Eight," for all its beauty, is achingly uncomfortable, and Rufus does his best to heighten the tension. The music ebbs and flows with emotion, with little regard to a regular beat, and creeps to a near-standstill, tellingly, as he sings "in the drifting white snow, you left me." A slow, painful death trumps a quick one any day, and Rufus is going to make damned well and sure his dad knows how much it hurt feeling abandoned.

So, yeah. Wrenches your heart out, this song does. But in the most beautiful manner. Well worth a listen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Good God, North Carolina...

The language of Amendment One in North Carolina, passed today: "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” Hmm...think about that. A "domestic legal union." This basically means that not only would same-sex gay & lesbian unions would not be legal, but any sort of common law living arrangements (and the benefits appertaining thereto) would also not be legal. Never mind that there is already a law banning same-sex marriages. The fucktards in NC decided that wasn't enough. Now, this law pretty much undermines some domestic violence protection, screws with child custody issues, and - yes, that most visible of rights - curtails hospital visitation privileges. Way to preserve the sanctity of good old-fashioned one man-one woman Christian marriage (because of course, there's only one kind, right?) and ensure the stability of society.

Of course, the fact that many people didn't understand what they were voting for didn't help matters, either. Gotta love those informed voters.

About five years ago, I attended a cousin's wedding in Fayetteville. The minister, douchenozzle that he was, saw fit to insert some political comment during the blessing about how a marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Were I not surrounded by loving and supportive family (and loving and supportive of my cousin's marriage myself), I would have stood up and stomped out of that church posthaste. As loudly and obtrusively as possible. Just infuriated me.

Now, because I can be a cruel-hearted and vindictive bitch, if I lived in North Carolina, and were a law enforcement official of some sort, I would gleefully enforce this law to its fullest extent, making damn well and sure that those who voted for it and failed to understand its ramifications would be punished to the fullest extent of the law for their ignorance. Of course, for those who voted against it, I'd feel pretty heavy-hearted and frustratingly duty-bound to follow through with state-mandated responsibility, dragging my feet the entire way.

The requisite disclaimer: I have plenty of family and a few friends who hail from North Carolina (see above). With a possible exception (and even then, I kinda doubt...), I know for a fact all of them would have voted against this hateful amendment. A few of them even went out of their way to campaign against it, which I'm grateful for. So I can't make a blanket statement on how all North Carolinians are ignent and hateful.

Still...way to go, North Carolina. Congratulations on becoming this nation's newest hate state. (Said with mockery from another erstwhile hate state...which incidentally, at this very hour, is coming awfully close to making civil unions legal.)


UPDATE: Check that. Apparently, when you have a Republican-controlled House, they see fit to filibuster this bill until the midnight deadline, and you don't have room to gloat. Once again, on the wrong side of history.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lambada - Kaoma

Back in the summer of 1989, I spent three weeks on the hot southern coast of France with a bunch of German peers under the guise of learning French immersion-style. Thankfully, it wasn't terribly cerebral. Yeah, classes in the morning, but the afternoons were filled with juicy peaches and Orangina bought from roadside markets, trips to the beach, crepes from a beachside stand, and nights out on the town with friends. And sweet, sweet freedom, thousands of miles away from parental control! I also got exposed to this fun, cheesy song and video, which spearheaded a tiny, short-lived fad. The lambada was the international equivalent of dirty dancing, and that video was EVERYWHERE, mainly because Kaoma was a French band. Even so, "Lambada" would have forever disappeared from my tiny brain were it not for a certain recent single by JLo: "On The Floor." Glad those memories turned back up again.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Darling, being gay is the best excuse you'll ever have not to be boring!

So says Eddy from Absolutely Fabulous: one of my favorite shows of all time. BUT.

(whining alert)

Man, I'm so not into being gay lately. At least my recent experience of it. Where do I start?

Shows like the deceased and not-at-all-mourned The A-List (both New York and Dallas versions) and the still-afflicting-us 1 girl 5 gays just annoy the everloving crap outta me. The A-List had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The producers, I assume, thought it would be such a great idea to put the bitchiest, supposedly A-list gays in close proximity to each other, force them to flirt shamelessly and do all they could to wreck relationships, friendships, and reputations. Including their own. I've seldom felt so good about being a non A-lister. But I also felt sick to my stomach watching this the image we're putting out to society? Help us all. At least 1 girl 5 gays has the excuse of catering to teens and the twentysomething crowd. And if I were that age, I would be really gaga over the show. Still, it's kinda creepy, looking in on 5 gaybies (recycled at random from probably around 40 or so) and their resident hag (far too pretty for such a derogatory-sounding term). These guys pass judgment on each other, laugh with each other, share some deep secrets (and many, many more not-so-deep secrets), and talk about their sex lives outside of the show. Said sex lives include fellow cast members, so it feels incestuous. To be sure, they all look and act friendly enough, but really, what I can't abide is yet ANOTHER discussion of how people don't care enough about Madonna or Gaga, what actor you would do, what you were thinking when you were finishing your last hookup, and (I wish I were making this up) drawing what your parents look like naked. I think I'm just getting too old for this.

Also? Alcohol. It has its place, and right now, with a few exceptions, that place is not near me. Not because of any run-ins with the law, mind you. I just don't like the way I feel when I imbibe, and do whatever I can to make sure that any after-effects are mitigated as much as possible. It's become especially noticeable since I've begun working out, seeing results, and doing what I can to make sure I see more results.

Along the lines of alcohol comes the social scene. Okay, alcohol's good for that. I tend to come out of my shell once I get a few drinks down. Only problem is, I'm sometimes likely to spiral into sadness, or more likely, anger and resentment. And let me tell you, I am one evil, evil bitch when that happens. Friends often are surprised to find out that I have this mean streak in me, but it is true: I can be more bitter, scathing, and cruel - without any irony or dark humor to leaven it - than just about anyone I know. I don't get fiery. I become icy and numb. Don't cross me.

Oh yeah...back to the social scene. I joke to people nowadays that Mr. Man goes out and kicks up his pink sequined platforms with the fabulous crowd, while I stay at home, sip my chamomile tea and knit. Of course, this is relative to Mr. Man, who is far and away one of the most social people I've ever known. I tell people that I can be a lightbulb and light up a dark room, but I'm often next to the sun. And I HAAATE playing second fiddle to a guy who makes you feel as socially awkward as an autistic kid (though it is never intentional). (By the way, I just took an autism spectrum quotient quiz. My score: 30 out of 50. Above 32 indicates a likelihood of something along the autism spectrum. Apparently, I read people too well and am too sensitive to their expressions to qualify.)

The worst part? Let's combine all of the above and intensify it ten times. Travelling for gay parties that are all about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll - or in this case, sex, poppers, and techno - just drains me in all ways possible. If I need a week or two to recover from the lack of sleep and wild times, it just isn't worth it. Yes, you can make tons of friends at said parties, which is cool. But I've been to enough of 'em - Dallas, Chicago, and God help me, New Orleans - to last me for a few years. I have no desire to do a bear run or circuit party anytime in the near future. (Meanwhile, Mr. Man recently expressed a desire to go on a vacation somewhere. All he listed were said gatherings.)

Can we keep going? Please? TECHNO MUST DIE. I'm sick of it.

Incidentally, I realized today that on the occasion of Denver's Pridefest, I will find myself cruising at 35,000 feet, returning from a glorious vacation in Europe, and landing too late to participate. And I celebrated inside.

Ugh. Years ago, I came to the conclusion that the only requirement to declare myself gay was to admit that I was sexually attracted to men, and that was it. I didn't need to live any kind of lifestyle to prove how gay I was. It's good to be reminded of this. If this whole scene is what it means to be gay, then I resign. I have a different, better gay life to live.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Your nun foams with a freezing companion.

Glee, I'm done with you. Furreals now. Yeah, some of you who know my erstwhile fanaticism may question this, but the most recent episode (post-Karofsky coming out and Quinn's texting-while-driving accident) turned me off for all time. All the songs - and I do mean ALL of them - made me spit up in my mouth. Pure High School Musical. And the plots were all strict by-the-numbers after school special boilerplate. It actually made me feel sorry for all the actors...particularly Jane Lynch, whose talents are surely needed elsewhere by now. (Isn't there a Christopher Guest vehicle coming down the pike soon? Seems overdue by this point.) Also: Slash refuses to let any G&R songs on Glee. ( matter meeting antimatter.) Stick a fork in it, y''s done.


Pinterest. Yea, I have succumbed. As of a month ago, the interwebs reported that it was 90% driven by women. And ugh...the sheer number of feel-good quotes, comfort food recipes, and domestic designs substantiates this. Even the men's fashion on there is of the GQ ilk - assuming that all men are pretentious, quirky, urbane, somewhat muscly but wasp-waisted, and too hipsterish to care about reality. But I'm on there all the same...sensing that there's gotta be enough stuff on the world wide webiverse that isn't as touchy-feely as all this. Somewhere.


Black Sabbath. I find it a travesty and a sin that none of their back catalog is available on mp3. Not even We Sold Our Soul For Rock 'n' Roll. Doesn't matter that Beavis & Butthead supplied my first exposure to them. Nor that Girl Talk gave me my second hit. I'm ready for them to hit me hard.


Gardening. As part of our landscaping last summer, we got three good-sized garden plots. Didn't plant anything - thought it was too late - but hoo boy! did we get a bumper crop of weeds! Even some aspen saplings poked through the dirt. But planting for this summer has already begun, despite predictions for snow tonight. And I'm thrilled. I don't think we'll have enough room for my ambitions (60 gladiolus bulbs? AND other flower seeds alongside?), but it'll be fun trying it out. In the ground so far: strawberries, broccoli, and chard. Soon: cabbage, corn, the aforementioned gladioli, radishes, raspberries, dill, basil, and garlic. I'm KICKING myself for not getting spaghetti squash in there. But maybe there's room yet. I may not be able to devote much time to the garden, but there's something so cool about putting something in the ground, caring for it a bit, and knowing that within a few months, it'll give back to you in some amazing ways.
(Oh, and no tomatoes or lettuce for us...we're not fans.)


Lime jello marshmallow cottage cheese surprise. After hearing the song about it, joking about it for years, and unwittingly causing countless friends to reminisce about Minnesota/family reunions/Mormon church dinners/stuff their grandmothers made and forced them to eat/what have you, I finally decided to make it. Seriously. And I ate it. And I...uh...actually liked it. I may make it again. (Without the pimentos or mayonnaise.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012


After Mondo was inexplicably denied his win against the odious Gretchen a few seasons back, I began losing interest and love for Project Runway. I seriously cannot fathom what the judges were thinking. I even publicly wrote "CRACK-SMOKING PROJECT RUNWAY JUDGES MUST DIE!" on Facebook that night, after seeing Mondo go down undeservedly in flames. Michael Kors and Nina Garcia were actually actively defending Gretchen's work. Who knew that Heidi would be the voice of reason? Needless to say, I was aghast, as was the whole crowd around me at Beauty Bar that night.

Side note: the next morning, I flew to Seattle for a seminar. Going through security, I saw a...uh...big-boned gal (in k.d. lang's letter-perfect terms) working TSA. She looked utterly uninterested in being at the airport at 6:00 in the morning. Until she say my Team Mondo t-shirt. Then she went ballistic, and vented mightily about how much Mondo was robbed. It was kinda cool to bond with her about it. One of those wink-wink-nudge-nudge-oh-you're-family! kind of moments.

PR has been steadily going downhill since then - and even before. Anya's win last season just about killed my interest for all time. The judges - or rather, the producers - ensured that an exotic woman from Trinidad and Tobago, who once created an amateur sex tape (I don't even think we can call it porn) and only learned how to sew six months prior to enrolling in PR, won over much more talented and deserving designers. (Paging Viktor Luna, please.) It was a story of a girl who rose from obscurity and a bit of ignominy and conquered the fashion world - even if only for her 15 minutes. How very Lifetime.

So a night like tonight was SO welcome! I'm certainly not the most fashionable of guys, nor am I knowledgeable in the sartorial arts, but to this inexperienced guy's eyes, Mondo's collection did actually look the most cohesive, consistent, and well-designed. But it was by a very slim margin. Austin's collection wasn't so unified, but damn, that wedding dress...utterly gorgeous. As was the dramatic evening gown. But there were just a few too many ennh moments for me to fully embrace it. Michael's collection was certainly nothing if not cohesive. But I think he let the prints dictate the collection a bit too much, unfortunately. Mondo, on the other hand, is an absolute master at commanding prints, instead of letting them command him. If that makes sense. He gets the most disparate ideas - ones that in a more inexperienced designer would produce ugly chaos - and creates the most amazing art out of them.

Still, the cynic in me (or perhaps the realist) has to say that Mondo's win was not 100% earned. Did he deserve it? I really do think so. Austin put up an incredible fight, though, and despite my cheering for the Denver darling, I would not have protested an Austin win. But everyone loves...well, in this case, not an underdog per se, but someone who was unfairly denied the title the first time around. The producers certainly had their $0.02, and to give Mondo the title brought the Lifetime story full circle.

Incidentally, lesson learned tonight from my excitement: do NOT post said excitement on Facebook. The stragglers will be PISSED at your unannounced spoiler. If I continue watching Project Runway (which, at this point, is a very dubious proposition), I will not be, *ahem*, everyone's spoliator. (Pretty savvy how I worked that in, right?)

This post brought to you by the fabulous amethyst and at least 1/2 of a cherry coke (that's 2 shots cherry vodka, 1 shot plain vodka, and a full can of caffeine-free Coke. Because it's late, I have a full day tomorrow, and cannot afford caffeine after 4 pm, let alone 9:30.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It gets better, according to Glee.

This is the quintessential 2012 phenomenon: a blog post about Glee addressing the issue of bullying. And you were there.

As an full-on Dave Karofsky fan, I was kinda bummed to see Max Adler be shuffled off the Glee set last season. His quick cameo about four episodes ago, wherein he showed up at a gay bar dressed like his corny good ol' boy self, suddenly enlightened and happy because he now had an identity: he was a cub! The scene was glib and tied the loose ends way too neatly. I considered it a failed opportunity.

Then last week hit, and we saw Karofsky suddenly re-entering the picture as an actual gorilla (because subtlety never struck the Glee writers' minds), all ga-ga over Kurt. And again, I rolled my eyes. Not believable in the slightest. Doesn't matter that if I were in Kurt's place, I'd be awfully torn between the big lug and Mr. Johnny Angel Blaine. But my stomach tightened painfully when one of Karofsky's football teammates saw the two of 'em sitting at a restaurant together on VD, and called him out on it. It was all over the blogs the next day. A set up for a gay teen bullying suicide episode! And the commentariat rose up as one: the writers had better not fuck it up. Expectations were low, since Glee has been so wan this season.

Well, I'm thrilled to say that the "teen suicide episode" didn't suck. This episode was epic in its ambition. In its worst, most heavy-handed moments, Glee hits after-school-special territory. Not to say that this episode wasn't heavy-handed. But let's call a spade a spade: we are in the midst of a culture war, replete with taking sides, full-fledged attacks, and numerous injuries and casualties. Tonight, Glee fired a powerful salvo against those who maim and kill with hatred, intolerance, and homophobia. Since people who take this stance often don't think highly of Hollywood, the actual effects of this episode remain to be seen. But that it was shown on prime-time TV is astounding, and its message will resonate. (Keep in's only been 15 years since Ellen came out on her show, the first character to do so, and ABC had to place a parental warning at the beginning of that episode. Now, out gay characters are commonplace, even boring sometimes.)

So let's start off with what went right. This is Glee, so of course, you're gonna have the soundtrack to life's big moments. Including killing yourself, apparently. As tacky as that sounds, this moment was hit out of the park. Karofsky's fright upon seeing "FAG" spray-painted in pink on his football locker while his teammates looked on in derision was palpable, and played perfectly. The scene lasted long enough to make you squirm...and just sit in that for what felt like an eternity. Darren Criss singing his lungs out on "Cough Syrup" was a beautiful white boy teen angst moment courtesy of Coldplay channeled through Young the Giant. It provided a great foil to Karofsky's tears and anguish on seeing his Facebook page hijacked by classmates outing him and telling him to go back into the closet (which he ultimately step on a chair and stick his neck through a noose made from his belt).

It was also really tough to see that Karofsky came up against rejection everywhere he went. His friends (assumedly all jocks) were his worst enemies. (Not much help that he was at a new school and probably had few friends there.) His best friend told him he never wanted to talk to him again. Kurt rejected him out of hand, then refused to answer his phone calls. And when he tried to hit on a guy during this episode, he was flatly dismissed because he happened to be overweight, and was even told to just stay in the closet. High school football linemen in Lima, Ohio can't run to their parents asking for help with this dilemma, because they will be told they have a disease that hopefully can be cured.

On the other hand, there's always the Hollywood risk that issues will be resolved in one neat, 30-minute episode, and life will go on. Here, everyone felt remorse, shock, all the appropriate emotions. Kurt went to the hospital to atone for the sin of turning Karofsky down when he asked him out, then not returning his (nine!) phone calls. But in the eyes of Glee, apparently all it takes to make yourself feel better after a suicide attempt is to click your heels three times, say "there's no place like the future," and imagine yourself there. Cue holding hands, smiling through tears, and pledges to be friends, and...scene. (I can't be totally cynical about it though...that scene did effectively wring a few tears from me. And yes, people in that scenario need all the help and hope they can get. But it should be a bit more realistic. Oh...except this is Glee. GAAAH!)

The "peanut butter" scene was also too trite and set the stage for the aforementioned tidy ending. Schu's admittance that he had also tried to commit suicide did have some merit: yeah, it was simply for being caught cheating on a test, but that was his weak point; everybody has one, and they should be respected.

And the music during sectionals? Not much really hit me, aside from the madrigal singers...I'm such a sucker for polyphony. Seriously. Also, I gotta give it up to Amber Riley for some great acting during "Stronger." I'm biased, but bitch can do no wrong in my eyes.

So...on to the next hot topic of 2012: teenage texting while driving! Again, wielded with the grace of an elephant attempting pliés.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In A Daydream - The Freddy Jones Band

While in college in the mid '90s, I was ensconced in my world of alternative rock, just as the term was losing its grip on being meaningful. Nirvana had changed the landscape for better and worse, effectively imploding pop culture and forcing it to start all over again. R.E.M. decided to become ironic noise rockers with varying degrees of success. Pearl Jam was defiantly following its muse down the rabbit path, willingly putting out music that would be sure not to achieve the commercial highs of its debut album. Live and Counting Crows had their moments, but man, talk about your flashes in the pan. And Stone Temple Pilots...well, the less said, the better. It was a rough time for popular music. And it mirrored my life at the time.

My younger brother, on the other hand, was enjoying his last few years with friends at home before shipping off to Boston for college. And his music reflected that as well. For him, the Dave Matthews Band was the big influence, along with all the music it spawned...Tom Cochrane, the Samples, Jackopierce, and a few years down the line, Hooter and the Blowtwads (uh...or something like that). With just a few exceptions, it all seemed so facile, shallow, and meaningless to me. Then again, I was striving for Significance, learning about the Nazi resistance and reading Nietzsche. While my brother was thriving and laying the groundwork for future success, I was busy killing myself with nihilistic existentialism. At the end of my first year of college, I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to learn or experience. Fat lot of good that did me.

So when I went away to Russia a few years later for 6 months, my brother took it upon himself to make me a tape of some of his favorite music. I graciously accepted it, pretty sure I wouldn't listen to it much. And I really didn't. But one song stuck out, far above all others in that genre I'd knocked for years. It was mellow. It was simple. And it was utterly transcendent.

When I first heard "In A Daydream," I was immediately taken back to the powdery ski slopes of the back bowls of Vail (yeah, I was a rich kid). I imagined myself coasting along the outer boundaries of Sun Down Bowl, turning effortlessly down acres of champagne powder while sparkling diamond crystals floated down beneath an opalescent sky with the Mount of the Holy Cross in the distance. I heard and felt the wind whooshing past and the smooth hiss of the snow beneath my skis. And I immediately exulted in the type of joy that makes your skin nearly burst. It was the most delirious, fantastic freedom I'd known.

Years later, I was fighting the powers that be in chiropractic school, utterly hating life. At some point, I remembered this song and how it had made me feel, so I downloaded it and enjoyed a few minutes of respite from hell every now and again. It never failed to help me feel better.

Leaving Chicago for good was an experience I'll never forget. The night before I left, I had suddenly and unwittingly alienated about the last friend I had there. The next morning, while moving things out of the house, a wicker basket viciously slashed my hand, as if to remind me one last time how unwelcome I was in Chicago. But on that plane, ascending to 35,000 feet, I put this song on, and knew that I was coming home, for good. It felt, again, like sweet freedom. But the most amusing part of this happened an hour after I landed. My mom picked me up from the airport, and we immediately went to lunch at a fancy country club. And here, I heard a Muzak rendition of "In A Daydream" come quietly over the speakers. And I felt that I was finally home...both the home that I had with my man, and the home I had with my family. It was a Tuesday morning, and the lyrics could not have been more apropos: "Tuesday morning never looked so good."

Years later, I recognize how important it is to surround yourself with things that support you, that encourage you toward success, that help make life better. I've long since given up trying to delve into the deepest thoughts of the greatest thinkers, thinking that will somehow make me a better person. My experience taught me that it could be painful and tremendously destructive. I've decided that there are too many destructive forces in the world already; if life is to be fully lived, it's to be enjoyed as much as possible. And "In A Daydream" helped lay the groundwork for this view.

(Oh, and because life has a sense of humor, I should mention that the Freddy Jones Band is from Chicago.)