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Thursday, April 30, 2009

LCD

The new car search resumes at a snail-like pace, mainly out of fear. But I press forward, even though I've been informed by a friend that my choice in a new car is questionable. No, it's not like the Toyota Camry is a bad, unreliable car -- it's just that, in my friend's eyes, the Camry is a "lowest common denominator" kind of car.

A couple of things about my friend you should know: he 1) does not drive a Camry, 2) doesn't not play the drums, so he doesn't need a lot of room in his car to carry a drum kit, and 3) is really into sporty vehicles, especially ones manufactured in Europe. Since I want to make this car purchase as easy and painless as possible, I'm sticking to what I know, and am not really that inclined to seek out tons of different cars when I'd probably get a Camry anyway.

Yet when my friend told me that the Camry was a "lowest common denominator" vehicle, I was reminded of how I often use the phrase "lowest common denominator": when describing crappy pop/rock music and crappy, no-brainer movies. Have I become the car-buying equivalent of a Creed fan and Wild Hogs fan? I don't think it's a matter of wondering if I've become one -- it's the fact that I just am one already.

In my eyes, cars have four wheels and they get people from point A to point B. While I had an obsession for BMW cars in 1990/1991, that interest faded when I really got into music in middle school and high school. Luxury cars look nice, but they're still cars. I have a feel of what I like and what I don't like, as well as what I need and don't need in a car, so I'm not compelled to become someone with a vast knowledge of cars.

I know I don't want a station wagon, an SUV, a van, a truck, or a coupe. My family has had Toyotas for many years and they're reliable cars. I liked my '02 Camry until more and more problems kept coming up, and the CD player situation was the absolute final straw.

So I might be somebody who can give you a detailed analysis of Braid's back catalog and Kevin Smith's films, cartoons, comic books, and Q&A DVDs, but I just don't have the same passion for cars.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shreds

I was recently introduced to some parody YouTube clips by a co-worker, and frankly, I haven't laughed so hard since I watched A Night at the Opera two years ago. I'm very well aware in Internet speak this could very well be as ancient as five months ago, but the "Shreds" series is new to me, and quite amazing.

For starters, there is one for Creed, the Mars Volta, and Steve Vai. Plus, the clip for Metallica's "One" is a complete laugh riot. So, what's so funny? Well, if you've ever played in a band, walked by a band rehearsing, had a neighbor whose band rehearsed in his or her's house, lived with someone whose band practiced in your hose, or you just walked around a Guitar Center, this all sounds familiar.

Especially with the Mars Volta clip, I can't help but find a lot of truth in the spoof. As incredible as the band is live, the lasting power of their spazzy jazz fusion is short. Dissecting the jam itself is simply funny. In regards to the Metallica clip, it seems to perfectly capture what it's like to hear a band try to cover "One," but failing miserably. Yes, I've been there before, but it was on "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

So, I guess this is karmic payback from all the people who have had to listen to me play drums since 1994, and all the bands I've played with.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Loosely based"

Whenever I hear about how a writer "loosely" based a piece of his or her's fiction on personal experience, I'm perplexed when the author then goes on and on about how many elements from the story actually happened to him or her. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what "loosely based" really means, but when there are specific plot points straight from real life, I wonder what's "loosely based" and what's taken directly from real life.

A prime example of what I'm talking about is found on Cameron Crowe's commentary track for Almost Famous (er, Untitled, as the director's cut is called). At many, many points in the track, Crowe says where most of the story's plot points come from: his own life. From the "Don't do drugs!" line to the near plane crash, these things actually happened in some form or fashion.

Working on my own piece of fiction called When We Were the Kids, I'm now really understanding why that's the case. You definitely write about what you know the best. And I'm also starting to really agree with what a longtime family friend told me at a wedding last year: there is no fiction because all writers base stories off of some kind of real life experience or condition or emotion.

Case in point, over the weekend at a birthday get-together at a local bar, I hit it off with a friend of a friend who plays music. We both seemed to know a lot about pop-punk/post-hardcore from the mid- to late 1990s, and the topic of jamming sometime came up. The deal is, he asked a dealbreaking question: what was my opinion of the Beatles? Since they are the greatest band of all time in my opinion, the deal was apparently off. Whether or not he was actually joking didn't matter: now I had an idea for a character I've been working on in the book.

Even though my book is still in the brainstorming/throw-any-idea-against-the-wall part, I have this one character that, despite being a good overall guy, he just never gets the chance to form his own band. Portions of his story reflect my own personal experience, but so do many of the other characters.

I wondered about how I might feel and think if I never formed a band in high school. Since I've also been in conversations where I hit it off with somebody and never heard from that person again, I crafted a similar scenario for my character. Tinkering with some things, I had something I might definitely use in the final cut: character meets a guy at a party, talks at length about Archers of Loaf, Pavement, and Chavez, plans to jam, gets asked about the Beatles, realizes that the guy's phone number doesn't work, and our character never sees the guy again. Half of that actually happened, while the rest was drawn from previous experiences.

So if I'm ever asked about where the characters come from in When We Were the Kids, I'll say my own personal experience. But I'm not so sure I'll say it's "loosely based" off of my own experience.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Straight Ahead

Two short show previews are now live on the Dallas Observer's page.

Pennywise/Pepper at the Palladium Ballroom
Maybe it's to their detriment--or maybe these bands just happen know exactly what their devoted audiences want--but Pennywise and Pepper preach to the choir. Keep in mind this is a choir large enough to fill a venue like the Palladium.

Read the rest here.
The Gaslight Anthem, Heartless Bastards at the Granada Theater
Earnest, but not earnest like a mall emo band, and punk rock, but edgier than mall punk bands, The Gaslight Anthem, which also throws a heavy dosage of Springsteen into the mix, goes far beyond most Warped Tour attendees' grasps.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ten things

A friend of mine passed along a pretty accurate list called "Top 10 Things From Your 20's That You'll Regret When You're 40." Just for fun, I thought I'd add my two cents.

10. Body Piercing Plugs
Unlike neck tattoos, at least holes from eyebrow rings and nose rings can close back up.

9. Risque Internet Pics
I laugh whenever parents get up in arms when they hear that their child has become a party animal at college. Freshmen didn't learn their habits from strangers or even the lawnmowers hired to come out every week. So I'm sure there will come a day when somebody who didn't think these fun little pictures would ever come back and haunt them. (I'm not off the hook here. Even though I don't have any risque pictures online, there are plenty of me acting really silly. Poses can be best described as theater meets metal/hardcore. Hey, at least I have all my clothes on.)

8. Tattoos
I have no problem with people that choose to get some or a lot of ink. I have no problem with friends of mine who have entire arms devoted to ink. I do question the longtime impact of getting a neck tattoo. You can't wear turtlenecks every day of the year at work, you know.

7. Choosing Your Best Friend’s Girlfriend Over Your Best Friend
Your best friends are always there for you. When you think choosing your best friend's significant other is a small thing, you might as well start the grieving process over a lost friend.

6. Getting Married Too Young
I think it's imperative to find yourself before you can find anybody else. Don't expect somebody else to find your voice for you.

5. Not Traveling (Enough)
I was never the type that wanted to travel the world once I was done with college. It's very hard to travel alone, and I've never really pondered travelling with a friend. Maybe I should start.

4. Not Finishing School
Unless there's a multi-million dollar contract for you to play professional sports, I'd suggest staying until the end of school. Taking a few years off to do a band is fine, but a college degree is pretty important to have. Now, working a job you hate just so you can make a tidy sum of money is not a good idea either.

3. Smoking
I know way too many people who talk about quitting smoking, but never follow through. I don't mean to say this in a judging way, but I'm never surprised when they get back into it. Addiction to nicotine is intense. My advice for my friends and everybody else: quit, and don't tell anybody until months, or even a year, afterwards.

2. Bad Credit
Don't spend on money on something you can't buy already, or pay off within a year. Unless you're talking about a car or a home, the idea of bad credit has scared the crap out of me. Then again, taking a lot of risks in life scares the crap out of me because of sense of being in trouble. The fear of disappointing others is a very restricting viewpoint.

1. Not Spending More Time With Your Parents
I think I heard it best in the acknowledgements in a book I read a few years ago. The author thanked his parents, saying he gains more respect for them with each passing year. Yes, it's incredibly important to have your own way of life, but don't forget how important your parents are. They might piss you off during the transition years between child to adult, but when you become a parent yourself, a lot of things start making sense. If you don't try to resolve whatever issues you have with your parents while they're alive, they're definitely not going away when they pass away.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I've been looking over my shoulder

Seeing Mark Olson and Gary Louris over the weekend, along with seeing Wilco's new DVD, Ashes of American Flags, I couldn't help but think of random little memories from my past. Writing up the "Personal Bias" part in my review of the Olson and Louris show, a lot of things rattled around in my head, and here's some of the things that came up that I'm still thinking about today.

--Back when VH1 was more of the older brother/sister channel to MTV, there was a half-hour late-night show called Crossroads. This was the show that not only introduced me to the Jayhawks' music (I had heard about them a few years prior thanks to a Week In Rock profile of them), but also to Uncle Tupelo and Wilco. These days, if I were to watch the channel in that same time slot, I'd probably hear about how awesome Lite Brite was in the 1980s or which viral video is best thing ever since the last viral video that was the best thing ever.

--I don't know why, but I didn't pick up the Jayhawks' Tomorrow the Green Grass until summer of 2000. Their Smile album was also something that came highly recommended from friends of mine. So, I'm still gracious for those recommendations by Chris and Steve. I'm also thankful for the respective college radio stations they worked at during that time. Who says people aren't just introduced to the things that are in high rotation?

--I do remember one morning driving into my summer gig at a Top 40 station and listening to Tomorrow the Green Grass. My commute was a whopping ten minutes, and even in that short amount of time, I got drowsy listening to the record. I don't think I've ever driven with it on in the morning ever since.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ready for the Flood

My first review for the Dallas Observer's DC9 blog is now online. The topic? A show featuring Mark Olson and Gary Louris from the Jayhawks.

Mark Olson and Gary Louris
Sons of Hermann Hall
April 17, 2009


Better Than: wondering if Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary could successfully do a reunion record and tour.

The average age of the crowd was well over thirty as Mark Olson and Gary Louris took stage at a little after 10 o'clock last night, and the reunited Jayhawks duo
played almost non-stop until an hour later.

But their set was no easy breezy walk down No Depression Lane. Giving the audience a steady balance of well-loved Jayhawks numbers (mainly from '92's Hollywood Town Hall and '95's Tomorrow the Green Grass) and songs from their '09 album, Ready for the Flood, the set didn't drag for one minute.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brian Peterson interview

A couple of years into writing Post, I heard from Dan Sinker at Punk Planet about a book in the works on nineties hardcore. Details were scant, but I had heard it was about heavy hardcore bands. So my book on non-heavy post-hardcore bands would probably not conflict with it. A few months later, I got in touch with its author, Brian, and we've kept in touch ever since.

When you're writing a book, it's a really, really good idea to be friends with someone who has written a book or is writing a book. As supportive as your friends and family can be, knowing somebody who has gone (or is going) through the experience can offer all sorts of insights and advice. Brian and I have talked a lot over the last few years. I thought it would be nice to let people in on the conversation.

Brian's book is called
Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound. Here's the official page for more details.

Was there a particular moment when you decided to write Burning Fight?

I don’t recall there being a specific moment I decided to write the book. I do remember reading American Hardcore and being really impressed with the fascinating stories told by the members of those classic bands. But I remember bristling when I came across some statements about hardcore supposedly dying in 1986. I agree that the first wave of hardcore perhaps ended around then, but there have been other eras since. Like anything else, hardcore progresses, changes, morphs, continues on, all the while being influenced by its progenitors.

Anyway, I read the book and remember having conversations with friends who got into hardcore in the late eighties or in the nineties. They all felt the same way I did. I started to think, “Huh. It would be cool if someone wrote a book that documented the nineties scene.” I thought about it for a while and then on a whim just started talking to people about it. I didn’t know what it would become at first, but I started to envision it being a book of some kind around 2003 or 2004.

Roughly, how long did it take for you to write the book?

From those first conversations to the recent final edits and layout, the whole process took about six years. I never thought it would take that long. [laughs] Don’t get me wrong. I’m really happy with the book and the way it turned out. The whole journey of interviewing, writing, and editing taught me so much. But, man, it has taken up nearly every moment of my free time the past few years. [laughs]

Given the time and effort, I considered writing my book like going to graduate school, but a graduate school that was actually fun. Would you agree?

[Laughs] Yeah, I can see your point. I went to school for Journalism and then I also went back to get my English/Education certification. As much as I learned in my Journalism classes, writing the book was a chance to really delve into all those skills my instructors helped facilitate in me. But I also learned a ton from other writers during the writing of the book, as well as things I figured out on my own. It was a great, practical experience to go through. I learned just as much about writing, interviewing, and a host of other things as I probably did from my coursework.

When I started writing Post, I already knew a couple of people I wanted to interview. When they said yes, I just kept going until I interviewed as many people as I could. I didn't think I'd interview over forty people by the end of the process. Did you have a similar experience?

Yeah, it sounds like we had a similar process. I just wanted to start talking to people at first. So I contacted some people I knew from the nineties scene and found some others through the contacts I already had. But when I’d talk to new people, they would say, “Hey, you’ve gotta talk to this person.” So, they’d recommend a couple of people. And then those people would recommend more people. I would also start to track down other people on my own just by doing some research on them. I came across websites for current bands or whatever. Again, these conversations started in 2003 and the final interviews took place toward the end of 2008.

I interviewed over 150 people. I never thought I would get that many interviews done, but I found that there were so many people worth talking to. Of course, there were hundreds of other people I would have loved to talk to as well, but I just had to cut it off somewhere, you know?

Where does the book's title come from? Were there other titles you considered?

The phrase “Burning Fight” comes from the Inside Out song of the same name. I felt like that phrase encapsulated the feeling that I felt best described nineties hardcore, or hardcore of any era for that matter. People are often attracted to hardcore because they are frustrated with their lives, their communities, their government, the people around them. It’s not that people in the scene want to physically fight others; it’s just that they feel this anger about so many things—an overall frustration with their environment or their lives. Burning Fight to me captures those emotional feelings that were, and still are, so prevalent in hardcore. The phrase also makes me think of all the interesting ethical, spiritual, and philosophical debates that fueled so much of the music and scene dialogue in the nineties.

The song “Burning Fight,” of course, also amazingly captures all those same feelings in the form of a cathartic musical expression. I still feel like singing along when I hear the song to this day.

Originally, there were more band profile chapters in Burning Fight. Which ones were cut for space and why? Were they redundant in content compared to the chapters that ended up in the final cut?

Well, if we would have printed the book in its original form, with all the pictures and everything that people sent to me, it probably would have been 1,000 pages. An amount way too large for a book about almost anything, let alone hardcore! [laughs] Right there I knew we had a lot of work on our hands.

The past year or so has been a pretty intense process of editing, cutting, fine tuning, re-explaining, reading, and editing all over again. I chose to cut some of the band articles for a few reasons. First, several of the bands like Lifetime, H20, Outspoken, Shai Hulud, and others had really amazing oral history articles in A.P. or longer and more in-depth interviews in other books like The Anti-Matter Anthology. I felt like I’d be mining the same territory by running the ones I'd conducted.

On top of that, for some of the bands I was only able to talk to one or two members. Though what that person had to say was insightful, the overall “feel” I was hoping to get from each band article wasn’t there as compared to many of the ones I chose to run. I’m sure people will take a look at the ones that made the book and feel that perhaps others should have been cut too, but ultimately I felt like the thirty-one that ended up in Burning Fight addressed a pretty broad range of perspectives, opinions, and sounds.

Anytime people see which bands are included in a book, there's always people who ask about the bands that aren't in the book. In the case of Burning Fight, why were bands like Botch and Zao not in it, but Threadbare and Unbroken were? In my case with Post, I had to focus on telling a compelling story instead of covering every single band from every single scene. I would have loved to feature more on bands like Sense Field, Mineral, and Texas is the Reason, but there were bigger stories to tell, at least in my book.

The thing is that I could have probably written about forty or fifty other bands too. But either due to not being able to locate certain band members or just wanting to keep the book to a reasonable page count, I decided to cut several articles that I felt were told better by other people. There were also many bands that I loved but I just didn’t know as much about. I felt their stories would probably be better served by someone who knew them a bit better.

I also tried to keep most of the articles about bands that were either only around in the nineties or bands that seemed to have their peak years in the nineties. For instance, you mentioned Zao, and there are other bands like Converge, Madball, Sick of it All, and others that have been pretty influential on other decades, so I didn’t want to lump them into the category of being a “nineties band.” You mentioned Botch…they were a band I really liked – I saw them play once and had a few of their records – but I didn’t know how to find the members nor did I feel as comfortable writing about them because I didn’t know their story as well. There were also bands I just couldn’t locate members for: Ashes, Still Life, Econochrist, Bloodlet, Lincoln, Frail, Falling Forward…I could go on forever.

And as I mentioned before, some bands’ stories have already been better told elsewhere. I’m thinking about putting together some “bonus chapters” for bands that I wasn’t able to include in the book for various reasons, as I’d like to keep trying to document this era and bring attention to even more of the amazing bands that I wasn’t able to include in the book.

Were there any books in particular that influenced the style or format of Burning Fight?

American Hardcore, as I mentioned before, spurred me into wanting to put this book together in the first place. But I also liked how it had a lot of oral history with some narration by the author to tie ideas, perspectives, and stories together. I also love this book about hip-hop called Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies by Brian Coleman. I grew up listening to hip-hop and was equally inspired by the social, philosophical, and political dialogue expressed by many of the classic hip-hop artists. Coleman interviewed a bunch of hugely influential hip-hop artists from the late eighties and early nineties and had them tell the story about one of their particularly influential albums. I felt like the conversations brought up a lot of interesting ideas and I hope that the chapters in my book are able to capture a similar feeling.

Looking back at the 1990s (especially the late 1990s), it's easy to paint a black and white picture with straight edge, especially with what was in the America's Most Wanted piece, but your chapter on straight edge doesn't paint a black and white picture. Was this intentional?

Of course. Just like any movement or idea, there are a multitude of perspectives. Sure, straight edge has been linked to some violent incidents over the years, but so has every pretty much every other political, sociological, or personal idea. People obviously have their own perspectives on straight edge. Some see it more negatively as they feel it creates rigid rules for one to live by, while others see it as a solid foundation for creating positive change in oneself and the world. I think the commentary by many of the individuals interviewed in the book shows that people definitely had strong opinions about it in various ways. Personally, I know people who have been straight edge for 20+ years who find it to still be an essential part of their lives, but I also know others who tried it out and found it wasn’t for them. Like anything else, people will disagree about what straight edge should be or should mean, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to make up his or her own mind.

As much as I still like the music from the bands I covered in Post, I think their stories have made a bigger impact on me, in terms of relating and understanding as an adult. Would you say you had a similar experience?

I think the interviews offer a great chance to reflect on the time period, the ideas that were often so prevalent, and the motivations for the musicians who created the music. The music still inspires me to this day, but the stories about how the bands came together and were able to create such amazing music are quite compelling as well. I’ve always been kind of a seeker—trying to find the story behind artistic, social, political, or spiritual movements and what influenced them to take shape. I hope people who love hardcore will get a sense of the blood, sweat, and tears that went in to the making of this music. In turn, perhaps people will be inspired to make their own mark in whatever it is they are interested in—film, music, writing, politics, whatever.

Do you hope that people who read your book will be introduced to bands they had never heard of before? I had never heard of 108 before, and I must say, I'm really, really glad I was introduced to them.

Yes, definitely! I’m guessing most people who initially pick up the book will have a pretty broad familiarity with hardcore. But I also hope younger hardcore kids and people just generally interested in alternative music and social, musical, and political subcultures take an interest. Obviously, longtime hardcore people will already know all the bands, but I hope that people who aren’t as familiar check out these amazing bands and the stories behind their music.

Were you surprised that the book release shows sold out so quickly?

For sure! Originally it was going to be a smaller show with just a few bands, but I had my friend Jim Grimes help me set up the show. He and I asked several bands to play, thinking that most of them would turn down the offer so it would be better to overshoot. To our surprise, most of them wanted to do the show! So many, in fact, that it turned into two days. We were in for another surprise when the tickets sold out in eighteen hours! I still can’t believe it! But I guess it proves the power of the music these bands created is still so important to people to this day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BSG

Maybe it was because of severely disliking a handful of movies that had great reputations (Risky Business, Heavenly Creatures, Near Dark, and Being There) or I just needed a short break from watching European horror flicks, or just accepting the fact that it might really take two months for Quantum of Solace to be available to rent from Netflix, I've become hooked on the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. And when I mean hooked, I mean watching multiple episodes every week on DVD. And listening to many of the episode commentaries. And reading sites like this one. So, I'm definitely hooked, but I refuse to use "frak" in everyday language.

As I've grown older, my opinion of most shows on television is closer to the opinion of Woody Allen's character in Annie Hall mixed in with a lot of rants from Network. In other words, I'm not easily convinced I should spend a lot of time watching something. Especially given the risk that I might eventually wonder why I spent so much time watching something that never meant much in the first place. I held off on checking out LOST until fate happened to bring me to check out a recap show early into its second season. And I've been a fan and regular watcher ever since.

So with BSG, hearing lots of praise for its series finale, I figured now would be a good time to start from the beginning. And so far, I'm loving it. Plenty of good drama and great character development, along with stellar acting and great writing.

Generally, I would rather watch a show that, for the most part, is good from start to finish. The deal is, that's rarely the case with most shows. I've been burned before by shows that started great and limped to a finish line or were cancelled before a finish line could be crossed. I'll never forget being really into Dead at 21 and was left hanging when it disappeared and never came back. And I'll never forget how much I was into Six Feet Under in its first two seasons, but found myself slowly phasing out of it during the third season and I never went back. In considering to watch Heroes, I'll have to decide once the show is done. I heard enough praise about how awesome it was in the first season and how crappy it's been since then. I'll hold off for now.

Too often, and I definitely started sensing it when Fringe came back earlier in the year, nervous network executives ruin a promising show. With new characters introduced to the show, I could care less about the hard-ass new boss and the young niece that came into the fold -- making me like the not-often-funny humor, the monster-of-the-week scenarios, and the sexual tension even less.

Basically, once LOST came back, I was back in LOST-land full steam. Yet BSG has grabbed me and I can somehow keep track of all the plot lines on LOST at the same time. I just don't plan on trying to watch the original BSG.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Breakfast" tacos

A few months back, when I realized that I could successfully make scrambled eggs (I must take baby steps in hopes of ever saying I can "cook"), I've been in the habit of making breakfast tacos. But here's the catch: I don't eat breakfast tacos for breakfast. That meal has been since childhood (and will probably remain through adulthood) almost strictly Brown Sugar Pop Tarts, save for stretches of times when I had cold cereal or powdered donuts. These days, I usually have breakfast tacos for dinner on one day during the week and for one lunch on a weekend. So I wonder why breakfast tacos (and moreover, breakfast burritos) carry the tag as breakfast meals.

There's something inherently "breakfast" about scrambled eggs and bacon, but plenty of non-breakfast meals have eggs and bacon in them. I guess the whole "scrambled" part cues up "breakfast" in people's minds. I have yet to see a dinner prepared in a restaurant or at a friend's house with scrambled eggs. The same applies to strips of bacon. That kind of preparation stays only the morning hours, right?

On top of that, there's something very bachelor-like with eating something so synonymous with breakfast. Jerry Seinfeld has this reputation of eating cold cereal all the time, and it served his Seinfeld character very well, given his never-ending bachelorhood on the show. For as long as I avoid meal conformity (and especially adulthood conformity and responsibility), these atypical things will continue to bring me joy and plenty of eye-rolling from those who think I should "grow up" and become a cog in the wheel of adulthood.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

Some months ago, Frank rhetorically asked why Americans want happy endings in movies. My response was something along the lines of, "unhappy endings make people think." Now, I'm not the type that loves unhappy endings, but sometimes, an ending that makes you think is better than an ending that doesn't make you think.

Over the weekend, I took in my first screening of The Last American Virgin. All I had heard was that it was a good 80s movie and the soundtrack was great. Judging by the way most of the movie went -- which reminded me of Zapped! and Fast Times at Ridgemont High -- I wasn't expecting the ending of the movie to be the real ending of the movie.

Basically, just when you think the hero gets the girl he's longed for, she goes back to the guy that dumped her when she got pregnant. We're left hanging and have to come to our own conclusions about what happened to our hero afterwards. Now, I won't lie, I found the ending of the movie deflating at first, but I kept thinking about the ending for the rest of the weekend. I figured our hero was better off not ending up with a girl who would do that. Such is life.

But "real life" doesn't always make for the most commercially viable material for a mass audience. I get that, and I prefer movies to have some form of resolution at the end. Chasing Amy might not be the easiest Kevin Smith film to watch from start to finish over and over again, but when I can stomach the real life lessons (and shouting matches) in it, I can watch it without hesitation. But if I had the choice of watching Swingers or Chasing Amy, I'd take Swingers.

Movies with abrupt, semi-sad endings can be like watching a relay race where all the runners run off the track in opposite directions fifty yards before the finish line. You've taken all this time investing time and emotion into the players, fully expecting for a finish line to be crossed. Yet no finish line is crossed. Not crossing the finish line feels like you've been duped, and moreover, let down.

Again, I prefer some kind of resolution, whether it's happy or sad. But preferably, upbeat.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Creep

Reading this week's edition of "AVQ&A" reminded me of something that terrified me when I was younger that doesn't terrify me now. I had not thought about this for years, and it wasn't the opening scenes of V, Murder, She Wrote, or various parts of E.T. It was the trailer for The Silence of the Lambs.

Yes, the trailer: OK to be shown in the daytime or nighttime on almost any kind of programming. Being in sixth grade at the time of its release, I caught some of the trailer one night and couldn't get the face of Hannibal Lecter out of my head. What truly creeped me out about it were the shots of Lecter in the cage, warmly lit with a white T-shirt on. So, I can thank a director of photography, a wardrobe person, and Anthony Hopkins for this.

Hopkins looked so sinister and menacing -- and he's just sitting in a chair. The trailer itself isn't very violent, and doesn't really give much away about the movie. I definitely didn't beg my parents to go see the movie. At that point in my life, I was more interested in Back to the Future Part II and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. My father saw it and was creeped out by it, and I didn't see the movie until college. (I'm so glad I saw it in widescreen instead of pan-and-scan.)

I don't mean to say all this and pretend like I don't get creeped out now. Watching Silence of the Lambs many times over the years, I find it to be a really, really good thriller with phenomenal acting from top to bottom. I don't get creeped out by it, but I still get creeped out by various other things. And it's not gore or jumps.

In the last couple of years, certain scenes, mainly from horror movies, have disturbed me. I don't watch horror movies because I enjoy watching people get hacked to pieces. No, I watch them to face my own fears, and knowing that I'm watching a movie with actors, special effects, and make-up. But anyway, the shot in the original Hills Have Eyes where the baby is crying uncontrollably after her mother and grandmother have been shot, and the shot in the first Saw where Michael Emerson's character stands over a girl sleeping just give me chills when I think about them. Top that off with scenes from Paradise Lost 2 and Jonestown: the Life and Death of the People's Temple and you're in the know with what creeps me out. Those kinds of things just don't go away, you know.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Save your breath, I never was one

My third column for Late Night Wallflower is now online.

I can recall eleven years ago when a small, small blurb showed up in Alternative Press about Jets to Brazil. Just mentioning that the band was made up of members of Jawbreaker, Handsome, Lifetime, and Texas is the Reason made my head spin. I didn’t know that Blake Schwarzenbach, Jeremy Chatelain, Peter Martin, and Chris Daly were in the band since the blurb didn’t mention who was in the band. But just the mere idea that a band featuring members from some of the greatest post-hardcore bands of the 1990s was enough for me.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

$18.99?

For a very long time, between middle school to high school, I loved going to stores that carried CDs. From Sound Warehouse to Sam Goody to Best Buy, these were the places that served as the places that I could touch copies of music I read about in magazines and newspapers and saw on TV. These experiences are still fond in my mind, even the time in high school when I dreamt of going to a record store that was so large that it had an escalator. (That dream came true years later when I was in the Virgin Megastore in New Orleans, and that dream came true twice over when I visited the one in Chicago with two escalators.)

Still being somebody who likes to shop at stores that carry CDs, I've seen the slow decline of stock mainly because of downloading. While I think it's great to see more intimate, locally-owned speciality stores thrive (like Good Records), seeing both Virgin Megastores close and seeing Best Buy and Borders drastically reduce their CD stock is like watching a ship slowly sinking over a few years. The blowout sales are great for deals, and I can't help but see an error in the ways that got them to that point.

In all my time of buying CDs, I don't believe I ever paid $18.99 for a CD at a Virgin Megastore, Borders, or a Barnes & Noble. I never fell for the trap of buying a single CD with a sticker advertising such an overprice. So I took pleasure in reading last week's piece on Idolator about an Athens, GA-area Borders trying to get rid of most of their CD stock. Who definitely gets the bad end of the deal in an era when you can almost anything on MP3 for free? These guys.

Frankly, I wish people would realize that this kind of change is good. Give more business back to the people that love music and love selling music to people on a local level, instead of homogenized chains carrying a mixed bag of stuff that is insanely overpriced for the nation at large. I've heard enough for the past ten years about how the sky is falling with the music business -- it's just nice to see things in a different way now.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Even Izzy, Slash, and Axl Rose

Seeing Weener this past weekend reminded me of that chapter in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa-Puffs about tribute bands. Chuck Klosterman got to spend some quality time with a Guns N' Roses tribute band who really took their time to be like classic era of GNF'R, as well as taking their time to act like classic GNF'R. From what I saw, Weener doesn't try to look, act, or dress like Weezer, but they definitely got plenty right about Weezer.

You see, Weener has been a bit of a myth for me. I had heard about them all the way back in college, but never saw them play. There were other related bands like Blah (who did all Blur songs) and Bloasis (who did all Oasis songs). By chance I saw Bloasis last year, with none other than Glen Reynolds of Chomsky fame in the role of Liam Gallagher. By chance this past Saturday, while co-hosting a party at my house, I had a chance to slip away for a couple of hours to see Weener play. I had a ride and an understanding co-host, so I went.

Reynolds, along with Mark Hughes from Baboon on bass, Ben Burt from Pinkston on drums, and Jason Weisenburg from the Commercials on guitar, played for two hours, covering Weezer tunes almost exclusively from their classic '94-'96 era. Though The Red Album's "Pork and Beans" was played in the encore, the set was devoted to The Blue Album and Pinkerton, along with a couple of B-sides from that era. Hell, the show started with a one-two of "Susanne" and "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly."

I got to thinking: for people my age, this was the Weezer we've always wanted, but since The Green Album, it hasn't been the same thing.

I have my theories, but for some reason, Weezer just hasn't been the Weezer people have loved since Matt Sharp left the band. Whether or not praise or blame goes with the parting of Sharp, I've placed the blame on other things. In some ways, it's like discussing Star Wars before and after the prequels. So while I watched Weener, I thought I knew what all worked for Weener and what's missing from the post-Matt Sharp Weezer: the element of fun.

None of Weener's members tried to act like or look like any of the members of Weezer. Glen, Jason, and Mark all traded off on lead vocals and harmonies. Glen didn't stand there with a deer-in-the-headlights look, befuddled that so many people wanted to see him play. Moreover, nobody stood on the stage as a statue. I could tell these guys were having fun, but also taking what they were doing seriously. And the songs were good too.

I don't feel old about seeing a cover/tribute band devoted to a band that really meant a ton to me in high school and college. Frankly, the point of the show was to have a good time with friends and sing and dance along to some great songs. Talking with friends before and after the show, the better experience was Weener over present-day Weezer. To me, that's frankly weird.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

BD

As much as I've been a staunch supporter of Netflix for six years, things have changed a little bit since I decided to rent Blu-Ray DVDs from them. With the recent announcement about charging three dollars a month instead of one dollar a month to access their BD library, I'm still sticking with Netflix, but I've become tempted to --gasp-- return to Blockbuster to see about the availability of certain BD titles.

I have not been to a Blockbuster in over six years for many reasons, but lately, I want to see if they have BDs more readily available than Netflix. As convenient as doing everything through the mail is, I'm not so sure waiting almost three months to get certain high-demand titles. I mean, come on, did I really have to wait that long to see Mamma Mia!, a movie that was greatly derided by many people? In the old days (read: ten years ago, when I regularly went to Blockbuster) all I really had to do was wait until the next week to rent a copy of a hot item.

Yet I still have a grudge against the Blockbuster stores I used to go to. For whatever reason, they did not carry classic movies, like The Apartment, Monkey Business, and Touch of Evil, on DVD. Even though those movies were readily available on DVD to buy from places like Amazon.com and Best Buy, Blockbuster only carried them on crappy, worn-out VHS tapes. There was so much shelf space devoted to crappy new movies that were "Guaranteed to Be There."

It was then when I thought my tastes were not in line with the kind of customer Blockbuster aimed for. At that time, they didn't carry TV shows on DVD, so on a whim, I signed up with Netflix. I rented The Ben Stiller Show and the original, BBC version of The Office, and I haven't looked back, until now.

I'm definitely not going to drop Netflix, but I don't want to wait three months to finally get to see Quantum of Solace and Tales from the Black Freighter on BD.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

You've got your (car) troubles, I've got mine

Sometimes, it's the little things that sway the vote towards change.

As I've blogged about before, I truly value my time listening to CDs in my car. Most of my time driving since I started driving has been accompanied by music. Since I've had a CD player in my car, I've never wanted to go back to listening to cassette tapes or fidgeting with the radio. To my ears, the sonic clarity of CDs still trumps the rather padded sound of an iPod going through a car's radio. So when my CD player decided to stop playing CDs this past weekend, I decided it's time to consider getting a newer car.

Now, the CD player is not the only reason why I've considered getting a new car. Rather, this recent turn of events has been the final, final straw.

The car has been good to me since I got it in October '03. I've had many good drives in it, including the first major drive where I drove between North Dallas and Fort Worth to get my drums from the house where the band I was recently fired from practiced. There were many great trips, but I think it's time to look for a gently used, newer model that has only a few miles on it. (And no outstanding parking tickets from the University of Texas police.)

In the past four years, I've had the catalytic converter replaced twice, and a major engine overhaul that cost a pricey $1,500 to fix. So, taking that into consideration, along with the CD player situation, I think it's time to find a new set of wheels.

Of course, this will mark a turning point in my life: a commitment to pay something off over a few years. As much as I might speak of the fear of being committed to somebody through thick and thin (when I doubt that person will stick with me through thick and thin), I've been able to handle some commitment, like apartment leases and cell phone contracts. I just am all too aware of the "adult" nature of paying something off. There are plenty of reasons why adult responsibilities scare me, even at the apparently adult age of thirty, but maybe it's time to build up a credit history. Just don't ask me about buying a house.