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Monday, June 30, 2008

Never forget

Reading through the A.V. Club's inventory of twenty-one hilariously hyperbolic pro-America songs, I can't help but remember when a number of these songs came out. I think it's important for people to remember that our nation was extremely sensitive post-9/11, but it's also important to remember how crazy a very vocal segment of the population thought as well.

Probably the most eye-rolling I did a few years ago was when people were calling the oldies radio station I worked at to never play the Dixie Chicks on the air. Keep in mind, this was an oldies station. Not a country oldies station or a station that played contemporary songs. After watching Shut Up and Sing, I have reason to believe the people who called were lemmings led by a special interest group who thought a scorched-earth approach would work. Yeah, that really worked.

Couple those calls with the few I received saying we should never play Creedence Clearwater Revival because John Fogerty criticized George W. Bush on his new album. Keep in mind, we were playing songs written by Fogerty long before Bush was in office and did not play anything from Fogerty's new album. Still, people who live their lives by steep slippery slopes thought we were anti-American.

I'm sure if I knew these people personally I'd have a different perspective. If I called these people out now on this pseudo-witchhunt-masquerading-as-patriotism, they'd probably make light of what they said. I say there's a difference between serious and super-serious that you might do something you will really regret. Judging by what I heard, these people were the latter. Now all we have are memories and a number of lines in Revenge of the Sith that seem very Bush-like. In my mind, this is the stuff that shouldn't be forgotten, like McCarthyism.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Abby review

My review of Abby, the blaxploitation-meets-The Exorcist film, is up now on Doomed Moviethon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Evil Urges

Crunch time with editing means less time for blogging. For now, some random musings:

--The August issue of Revolver is now on stands everywhere. I think Brian will agree with me on this: no matter how small the mention, getting the word out about our books is a plus.

--Hot Fuzz has made such a powerful effect on me since I saw it a year ago. The most recent example of its effect is that I hope to watch Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, and Point Break soon. Yes, seriously. For this weekend, I have Silent Rage at home. Yes, it's Chuck Norris essentially against a Michael Myers-like character. Maybe Richard would like a review of this for his site . . .

--Darn it, why do I want to drop everything I'm reading for pleasure so I can read Goodbye 20th Century, David Browne's book on Sonic Youth?

--The more I listen to My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges, the more I like it, including "Highly Suspicious."

--I'm glad to see Nathan praise probably the funniest and heartfelt Apatow-produced film to date.

--After reading this interview with Jim Ward, I think I have some slight retooling to do on the At the Drive-In chapter. What timing! I'm going through that chapter today . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We're all waving flags

Deadline for final edits approaches, so I'll keep this brief. Here's the official video for one of the best songs I've heard all year. (Here's a bonus live clip from Later . . . with Jools Holland.) I can't but imagine the Doves covering the Flaming Lips' "Race for the Prize" when I hear this song.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I saw it on the shelf and it looked cool

Earlier this year, while waiting for Nick to show up at my house for our Southland Tales screening, I decided to peruse the rather bare bones Southland Tales DVD. I had seen the half-hour featurette on the movie and enjoyed it, but a curious side of me wanted to check out the many trailers included. Putting myself through trailers for direct-to-rental movies like the April Fool's Day remake, I cringed at most of them. Who would watch this kind of stuff? Now that I think of it, I wonder, do I know anybody that watches direct-to-rental movies?

Besides through Nathan's Dispatches from Direct to DVD Purgatory monthly column and Richard's Doomed Moviethon, that's it, as far as I know. What compels someone to watch a movie like American Psycho 2 or Cruel Intentions 3 or I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer? Is there some form of strange entertainment or hope for finding a pearl?

To clarify, I'm talking movies that were made on the cheap, maybe had a chance at a theatrical release, but went straight to rental. Still, what's the value in watching something like this? All I can share is some experiences I had in college.

One of my best friends (who was also a roommate of mine) liked to rent movies from Blockbuster. Every so often, he'd come home with some VHS or DVD of a movie I had never heard of. These were not movies with any following (not even a cult following). These were merely movies that looked cool by reading the box. He didn't have high hopes that these movies would be great, but he rented them just to be entertained.

The one movie that sticks out in my mind is Campfire Tales, featuring the one and only Ron Livingston in a small role. This was a film Livingston did after Swingers, but before Office Space. The general premise was four teenagers telling urban legend stories around a campfire, but with a twist. Well, it surprised me and I found the movie kind of worthwhile. But this was a little under ten years ago. Since I rent movies from an online place that carries pretty much every movie I want to see (and more), I don't get allured by the direct-to-DVD rental lying on a shelf.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hook 'em while they're young

Last Monday morning before 5am, I caught the tail end of a news report on George Carlin. The reporter used the past tense and I immediately thought he had passed away. Scouring the Internet immediately, I found out the story was about the Mark Twain award. This morning, I got the word that he passed away yesterday. Truly sad news to start the week.

I'm not very familiar with Carlin's standup material besides the "seven words" and "stuff" bits. Rather, I'm more familiar with his roles in Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Jersey Girl. I placed a couple of his standup DVDs on my Netflix queue last week. Now I want to add more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Campfire Tales

Some of the movies I've rented in the last few months come courtesy of the one and only, Trailers from Hell. Since I'm a fan of a number of the featured directors on there, I'm inclined to check out some of their favorite movies. Some movies I checked out were really great (Vanishing Point) while some were so-so (the original Haunting). Still, it's a great site to find out about cult classics beyond some of the most well-known cult classics.

As of late, I've checked out a few movies Eli Roth and Edgar Wright have commented on. In particular, because of Roth, I hope to sit through the pure train wreck that is Exoricst II: The Heretic. But before I get to that, I plan on seeing a movie he references in his commentary for Three On a Meathook: Abby. A film whose distributor was sued by Warner Bros. because of its similarity to the original Exorcist, Abby: The Story of a Woman Possessed is a blaxploitation horror flick. Since I've never seen a movie like this (and the film isn't reviewed on a certain site I occasionally do reviews for), I plan on watching it this weekend.

In addition, thanks to Edgar Wright's commentary, I hope to see Raw Meat, aka Death Line, soon. Donald Pleasence in a movie about underground tube dwellers? Sounds promising to me. No, seriously.

I'm well aware that many of these movies are not great. A number of them were knockoffs or cheap cash-ins because of blockbusters of their day. Since I had never heard of these movies growing up (mainly because they were made before my time and not available at my local Blockbuster), I'm curious to see what's up. With the movies that I find surprisingly great, that's the reward. With the ones that are less-than-satisfying (or just flat-out suck), well, that's just part of the search.

All this said, I can't help but imagine some talented filmmaker in the future who finds tremendous value in the 90s equivalent of genre movies from the 70s. I'm talking Campfire Tales, Scream 3, and Jeeper's Creepers. What if some filmmaker with a tremendous talent just goes on and on about how incredible these movies are? Since I lived through the late 90s as a fan of horror movies, open to watch even something like Campfire Tales, I can't help but cringe. Hopefully, like Wright, Tarantino, and Roth know the difference between great films and entertaining films, this person will know as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Revolver interview (full)

Aaron was kind enough to post the entire Revolver interview he conducted with me and Brian for our books.

Here's a repost of my portion of the interview:

Q: I read the foreword, but for those who haven't and don't know you, what was your motivation for writing POST?

A: My motivation came from a fear that people would forget, or worse, make light of, post-hardcore/emo-core/emo's "lost years" between being an underground thing and a mainstream commodity. I remember reading an interview with Michael Azerrad about why he wrote Our Band Could be Your Life. One of the major inspirations came when he watched Time Life's multi-part The History of Rock 'N Roll documentary. The narrative jumped from the Sex Pistols to Nirvana, completely skipping the '80s underground. Instead of complaining about it, he wrote a book on the '80s underground. Sensing something similar was already happening with a style of music that had a major impact on me in the late '90s/early '00s, I decided to do something.

Q: The cross-section of bands and notable figures you focus on in the book covers a wide range of scenes, styles and even generations - how did you ultimately narrow it down to this particular cast of characters, and what's the common thread that ties the characters together? (Note to the astute reader: You've heard this question before.)

A: Ultimately, the biggest factors came down to influence on other bands and engaging stories that could fill an entire chapter. Not to make light of bands like Samiam, Christie Front Drive, Sense Field, or Mineral, but I thought bands like Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, Braid, and the Get Up Kids have had a bigger influence and had more engaging stories to tell. 'Course, that's just my opinion. The common thread that ties the characters together is friendship. Pressing further, I wanted to show what happens when you want to do a band or label beyond a passionate hobby.

Q: Why is POST relevant to the generation of music fans that arrived after the bands you feature had their time in the sun?

A: Why this is relevant to the younger generation is this: A lot of teenagers and college students have heard about these bands, but there is still plenty of room to say why these bands were great -- beyond making great records. I always appreciated it whenever older music fans described the context of the day, and specifically, why bands made an impact on them when they were active. So, I wanted to frame this that way, rather than an "Eh, things were better back in the day..." kind of way.

Q: What's the biggest lesson – whether about this era of music, these people or business of music in general – you learned through writing POST?

A: I think the biggest lesson was how, no matter how glamorous the media can make out what success is, success is ultimately a personal thing. Aside from At the Drive-In, Jimmy Eat World and couple of members of Sunny Day Real Estate, nobody got a platinum or gold record. But none of them started bands to get those awards. They just wanted to play music and hoped to make enough money to get by.

Q: How has the book changed as it's gone through the editing process?

A: The structure of the book slightly changed a few months into working it. Originally, I wanted to have chapters on a couple of well-known and not-so-well-known bands that were active and current (like Dashboard Confessional and Red Animal War). For sanity's sake (and making a tighter narrative), I dropped that idea and shrunk that stuff for the epilogue chapter.

Q: Why'd you ultimately decide to self-publish the book?

A: Originally, I was going to put this out on a friend's indie label. When his label lost most of its funding, my friend encouraged me to shop the book around. I got in touch with an amazing agent who totally got the material. However, the only responses we received from name publishers wanted me to drastically change the book. Since I had pitched this book to over fifty people as I originally envisioned it, I didn't want to go back on my word. I'm not against changes in general, but the changes suggested just didn't fit with what I wanted to convey in the book. One publisher wanted a concise pop culture book. Another wanted a book grouping together all of the significant scenes, a la American Hardcore. After working on the book for three and-a-half years and interviewing over 50 people, I decided to do what so many bands and labels did: do it yourself.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Agony & Irony

Riddle me this: when a skateboarder gets his own custom made shoe, people consider that a sign that the skater has "made it." But when a pop-punk band has a custom made shoe, it's a pure sell-out, credibility-killer. Why is that?

The reason why I bring this up is because of this story. The gist: Alkaline Trio worked with Nike to create a custom made shoe. Why is this so troubling to certain fans of the band (and those who think being "honest" is leaving anonymous message board comments)? Maybe because many still think all things that look and sound like punk rock adheres to a strict code of ethics. And if that code is broken, there's hell to pay.

As somebody who never really got up in arms about a punk band signing with a major label (and still doesn't), I'm more puzzled by those who do get up in arms about stuff like this. Isn't this a band that plays music and we like this band because we like their music? Yeah, I know there's all sorts of sociological complications with a band getting popular, but at the end of the day, I ask myself, "do I still like this band's music?" More often than not, it's an answer of yes, whether or not I like the old stuff more than the new stuff.

In this case with the Trio, I can only offer my perspective as a fan of most of their material. I still think highly of the band's debut album, Goddamnit. Something about the playfulness, zest, and hooks on that record have always rung true for me. The band has plenty of other songs that I like, but I just don't follow them as closely as I used to.

In regards to the band working with Nike, this news doesn't make me want to spew hate about the band. The band worked with the company and created a shoe. If Nike created the shoe without the band's involvement, sure, I think that would suck. But does any of this stuff make or break my daily life? Absolutely not. I've got a book to edit, a job to work, a dog to walk, and a band to practice with for an upcoming show. Those are the more pressing matters in my life these days.

I'm not really interested in buying the Trio's shoe. I'm not saying I'm uninterested in order to make a stand against a band's merchandise. I just think the true jewel of a band is if their music can move me. But we all have to find something to complain about, right?

Monday, June 16, 2008

While the rest of them dudes were getting their kicks

Over the weekend, I finally got around to playing something that has brought much joy to people that own it and pure annoyance to those who have it set up in their job's breakroom: Rock Band. Yes, the one and only game (so far) that allows you to play not only guitar, but sing and play drums to original songs. As much as I had trepidation towards this game, along with Guitar Hero, I figured out why I like playing these games even though playing real instruments in a real band is far more rewarding.

Like a lot of drummers, I learned to play the drums by tapping along to songs I listened to. Be it my index and middle fingers hitting my thumb on the beat, my foot tapping the floor to the beat, or just flat-out air-drumming to thin air, this was my preferred method over traditional drum lessons. With Rock Band, it's a step up from tapping along and a great way to introduce people to play actual drums.

The configuration of the drumpad is rather odd though: hitting the hi-hat and snare is like hitting a hi-hat and a secondary snare drum on a real kit. Meaning, the left hand hits the snare to the left of the hi-hat, not to the right. Plus, hitting a cymbal is like hitting a china cymbal set up to the far right of a real kit. Still, I was hooked on the game and played it for a couple of hours. (I especially dug the parts where you could play any kind of fill you wanted. It was quite fun to play Dillinger Escape Plan beats on certain parts in "Mississippi Queen.")

Rock Band and Guitar Hero may be addicting games (and incredibly fun at parties), but there is nothing else like playing live in a real band. When a band really gels, the experience is incredible. When a band isn't really a band and there's never-ending drama, it can be incredibly draining. Since I've had both kinds of experiences, I can safely say these video games make for a lot of worthwhile entertainment, but there is so much to be gained in life doing the real thing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mini-book update

Some interesting tidbits about Post to share today:

--The book is a little over 300 pages in book form.
--This is not the exact price, but the price next to the barcode is $21.95.
--I have until June 26th to turn the book's final revisions. No release date yet.
--There is nice mention of the book in the August issue of Revolver.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What's a nubian?

For the last few weeks, certain bits of dialogue from Chasing Amy have randomly come into my head. I don't know why, but lines about Archie and Jughead, the other three being figments of your imagination, and hiring Charles Schulz have come up during making the bed, getting the mail, and brushing my teeth.

This all led me to pop in my DVD copy of the movie and watch a few scenes a couple of nights ago. I had not watched the entire movie in at least four years and had not opened my copy of the Clerks/Chasing Amy scriptbook in at least seven years. Somehow, while watching the Hooper X comic-con rant, every single line blurted out of me as I watched. Not just the words themselves, but the inflections and pauses. I couldn't believe this, but then again, I watched this clip dozens of times over and over again when I went nuts for Kevin's films back in college.

I'm sure VCR hounds and theater-goers will frown upon hearing this, but as somebody that really got into movies in college (aka, the time that the DVD format broke through), I'm a product of the DVD generation. Meaning, I skip around DVDs and watch certain scenes and watch entire movies with commentary tracks on. I couldn't help it back in college: rather than watch a TV show, I'd watch certain scenes from Clerks over and over again. That stuff got stuck in my brain somehow, and even though I rarely watch any of Kevin's movies these days (Clerks II is probably the biggest one that I relate to with my life now, next to Dogma and Jersey Girl), I still remember a lot.

Thinking about this now, I'm reminded of when I watched Empire Strikes Back with a friend of Matt and Tim's in college. This guy knew practically every single line from the film verbatim. I guess I'm that way with Kevin's movies. But if I were to watch any one of his films with somebody now, I'd keep quiet and let the person experience the film as he or she wants to. Besides, watching a movie with someone who knows every frickin' line can take some of the fun out of watching a flick for the first time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I didn't know that you liked lemonade. Lemonade!

Todd posted a blog about attending a Texas Rangers game last weekend. One part that had me squirming was this: "I bought nachos, peanuts and 2 regular lemonades." No, it's not because he didn't use the Chicago Manual of Style in that sentence. Rather, it's the thought of having nachos and peanuts with lemonade. I could not have these all together.

Omitting all the gory details, I had a couple of bouts of acid indigestion in middle school because of lemonade. Mixing powdered donuts with lemonade was not a good mix for breakfast. And it's a mix I've never had since.

My choice of drink is always congruent with the food I eat. Water goes with everything (except cereal) and it's what I usually have with breakfast and lunch. Milk usually comes with dinner, and orange juice makes for a nice afternoon drink. Soda is a rarity for these days, except when used in a mixed drink at parties.

I have nothing against lemonade, nachos, or peanuts. Just having them all in one evening reminds me of when I had a peppermint after eating carrots for dinner. Again, omitting the gory details, I'll never try that combination again either.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Insipid faces stare at the jawbox

Over the weekend, I attempted to find a relatively inexpensive copy of the Chicago Manual of Style handbook. I did not find it (I gladly signed up on the official site for a free 30-day trial instead of forking over $55 for a new copy of it in book form), but I did find something incredibly important: a couple of used editions of the book where Jawbox got their name from.

The book, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, was originally published in 1870, and has been reprinted several times. I had never heard of this book until I asked the members of Jawbox about the band's name. Never really checking the book out in a bookstore, I'm glad I stumbled upon it before the manuscript got mailed off. The reason why I say this is, I thought it was called Brewster's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. On top of that, a "jawbox" is a sink or a sewer, but it's also slang for a TV. (If you wanna be picky, and depending on how you look at it, a TV is a sink/sewer.)

Along with realizing Jawbreaker's "The Boat Dreams from the Hill" is not called "The Boat Dreams from a Hill," this catch was one of the biggest I've made. And seemingly, all by sheer accident.

Believe me, in all this time working on Post, I've gone to rather far-reaching depths just to make sure I had little things (as well as big things) correct. For example, I had never read Bukowski before I read Hot Water Music. I read his book just to make sure a one-sentence description of the book's contents was correct in the Hot Water Music chapter. Yes, I've had that amount of time and drive to something as crazy as that.

I think the reason for that drive is to really find out stuff on my own. You hear plenty of lore about where bands get their names from, but usually, it's a simple little idea. At the Drive-In is from the pre-chorus of Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me." Jimmy Eat World was the caption of a picture. The Promise Ring was a name Davey von Bohlen heard. Simple origins for incredible bands I say.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Shuffle Songs

Last weekend, I spent a number of hours riding in a van listening to my iPod. Since the last time I listened to a portable music player on a long car ride was ten years ago, that's probably why this notion didn't hit me until then.

I recalled many hours listening to my Discman and hoping that I didn't accidentally bump it and make the CD skip. I also hoped that we'd drive on smooth roads for the entire trip. Well, riding around with my iPod last weekend, I didn't have to worry about bumpy roads, songs skipping, or a lack of music to listen to. All the difficulties with the Discman went away thanks to the iPod, right?

Then I was reminded of this notion that goes beyond portable, personal music players: when things work in your favor, you can easily take them for granted. When they don't work in your favor, they can feel heavy and impossibly difficult to get past. When you get past them, they don't seem as heavy as they did before.

Reeling that vague statement in, I offer the following examples:
-Having an A/C unit that blows cold air all the time is better than a unit that blows hot and cold air from time to time. Yet the annoyance of having a faulty A/C unit doesn't match the joy of having one that works correctly.

-Having a full-time job that you enjoy is better than being in job limbo or having no job at all. Yet the uncertainty of not knowing when you'll have another full-time job that you'll enjoy while you're in job limbo pales in comparison.

-Having a stable Internet connection sure beats waiting a few days for a technician to come out and fix a line that a fellow technician accidentally cut. But knowing when between the hours of 2pm and 6pm the technician will come (or if he or she comes at all) on your day off feels incredibly hard.

This notion seems so basic and duh, but it's something that I've found to be true with so much of life. Frankly, it helps me have a stronger sense of hope during difficulties, whether it's dealing with car troubles, job woes, or personal relationship woes. Hindsight can make the big seem so small, but that's life.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

You're either there or you're not

As much as I love caller ID and voicemail, I think they have complicated my ways of communicating by phone. There seems to be a secondary form of communication to a primary form of communication.

Back when all calls were on landlines and there was no caller ID, the answering machine was the only way to leave a message when nobody was able to pick up the phone. Now with all the stuff we have with call waiting, caller ID, and voicemail, getting a returned phonecall seems like a complicated issue.

I know that we all have busy lives and cell phones are a wonder for us. That said, there are times where I'm incredibly frustrated with the nature of leaving a message. To leave a message or not, that is the question.

In college, a rule of thumb a friend of mine had was, if they don't leave a message, it's not about something that's important. I begged to differ as some people want answers or information that can't wait. For example, what if you were having a medical emergency or a major crisis and needed to alert a family member immediately? What would be the use of leaving a message if the voice message didn't get played back until later? Besides, you can't gauge when the person will hear your message or even return your call.

Now with caller ID, I get returned phonecalls even when I don't leave a message. That's a nice thing for me, especially if just want to chat with somebody. If I call somebody, I want to talk to that person. I don't call people in hopes I don't reach them.

So this leads me to a conundrum: there are certain people that I call and leave a message if I don't get them. Sometimes (but not all the time), I don't get a returned phonecall in a timely fashion (or at all). Is there some sort of grace period between my initial call and trying to call the person again? I think so, but how's about this situation:

1) I call a friend and he or she doesn't pick up.
2) I leave a message for him or her, and patiently wait for a call back.
3) The person calls me back, but at an inconvenient time for me.
4) I say I will call the person back later that day.
5) However, when I call that person back, I miss the person again.
6) I leave another message, essentially calling back to a call back I instigated.
7) So what am I to think when that person doesn't call me back after leaving this second message?

Yes, that's a very complicated, multi-step deal, but is there some sort of expiration date on getting a returned phonecall? I guess so. That's why I choose to take the attitude of, either you're there or you're not. If you're not, I'll try back later. Cell phone voicemail isn't the most reliable thing, and not everybody remembers to call everyone back (I'm guilty of this as well).

Keep in mind, all of the phonecalls I'm referring to are to friends and/or family. Sometimes the gist of why I'm calling is very important, but sometimes it's just to talk. Am I just an impatient fellow about this issue? Whatever happened to, "I call you, you call me back, and vice versa"?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Don't You Care?

Grumble alert about a certain phrase I too often see on the Internet: after reading the hit counts on a blog post, interview, or story, the writer decides whether or not anyone "cares" about the writeup. Now I know I've written about my annoyance with people who think nobody cares when nobody posts a comment or sends an e-mail, but this is a slightly different deal. Let me explain my side, as a reader:

This afternoon, I saw an Ain't It Cool News post featuring pictures from Paul W.S. Anderson's remake of Death Race 2000. The post leads to another post, this time on JoBlo, featuring more pictures. I'm a curious person by nature, and since I recently saw the original Death Race 2000 for the first time, I was curious about what the cars look like and who's in the movie. After skimming through the pictures, I moved along to another site I regularly check.

Here's the really important part: do I really care about this movie? No, I'm pretty much against remakes of classic movies, even if the originals don't have the best special effects. I think it's very safe to say that I won't see the remake just by the sheer idea that this is a remake. Do I believe merely clicking on a post about this movie automatically means I care about this movie? I don't think so. But when we're left to decide what our readers think and do based on hit counters, we only have our imaginations.

In my time of blogging, I've had a few posts that have generated a lot of traffic and some that have generated far, far less. Do I really know how the forty to sixty different hits a day actually translates to number of readers (and moreover, thoughts from those readers)? Absolutely not. I know I have a small number of regular, daily readers, and I occasionally hear from them either via e-mail, comment in the comment section, or in person. But I can't truly gauge the amount of interest these people have in what I write. Frankly, I don't tear my hair out over what goes over with them. I just write, and people read. Isn't that enough to know?

Please, don't be so formal, call me "Daddy".

Back from vacation, and very happy to see that Student Bodies is now available on DVD for purchase or rent. If you like Eighties splatter flicks and dry humor, hunt this gem down. Here's my review of the film on Doomed Moviethon.