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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Third attempt at a second try

If I'm remembering everything correctly, I'm on my third attempt at a second draft of When We Were the Kids. How is that possible? I think it's when tinkering leads to more tinkering at a later date.

I'm happy there have been no overhauls where entire plotlines and characters get zapped. Chapters that were lean now have more meat in them. There are still many, many speaking parts and I don't plan to change this. If you read a quote from someone that either sounds like someone you knew in high school (or was you), then I've made a connection.

Spending a few days in the suburb this is kind-of based on was great. Things came into my head driving around looking at Christmas lights and businesses that are still there. I aim not to mock the suburbs; I'd rather look at the good and the bad.

What also helped was playing guitar through my new amp. Since all of these bands in the book are fictional, I've often wondered what their sound might be like. Reminded of a scene in Hype! where Leighton Beezer dissects the difference between punk riffs and grunge riffs, I came up with a few ideas. One band sounds like this while the other, using the same chords, sounds like something else.

Not to lie in bed with pessimism, but things are looking more and more like this will be another self-publishing affair. I don't mind, but there are pluses and negatives to self-publishing. This will be a harder sell than POST mainly because it's fiction. Yet this is what I've wanted to do, odds be damned.

Still no timetable as to when this puppy will be ready to unleash. I'll update this here blog once it is.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dog park

Something I've wanted to do for months was take Victory back to a dog park. While there is a fancy, large, indoor/outdoor place about fifteen minutes away via a car ride, I prefer the smaller outdoor one about eight blocks away from home. Yesterday was a perfect day to go (and introduce Diana to the place as well), so we went.

For as long as I've owned Victory, I've wanted her to have a place where she can roam around without a leash on. She's still a fast little one at six years old, so I've been hesitant to let her run around with other dogs surrounded by a small fence. I threw all caution away yesterday and let her roam. The thing was, she was incredibly obedient like she went to dog training school or something.

Many other owners brought their dogs out, but there was still plenty of room to run around. All the dogs wanted to do was sniff Victory's butt and move along. She wanted to do the same. Gotta love dog handshakes.

Victory stayed close to me the entire time and she quickly came back if she went a little too far from the proverbial reservation. Again, who was this dog? Maybe since there were no cats around, she played nice.

This park in particular features a track for dogs and their owners to run on. Since I've grown tired of running three miles a day, three-to-four days a week in oncoming traffic, I'll take running around in circles. Less stopping, more exercise.

Day one of productive holidays went well. Now what to do when it's gray and ugly outside. That's today's dilemma.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Rest

I hate the term, "staycation." Yes, you have the week off from work but you don't go anywhere. Hopefully that means you take your mind off of the things you think about during the other 51 weeks of the year.

Myself, I have the whole week off and have no plans to leave town. I went to Houston for Christmas, but now I'm back. Diana has to work, as does Matt. Instead of making definite plans for the week, I'm merely taking things hour by hour.

A goal I have in mind for this week is to do another pass on When We Were the Kids. I've found my time to devote to writing and editing is much looser since I have 40 extra hours freed up this week. Some of that time will be devoted to sleep. Others will be to anything else I want to do, like watch movies and read books. (I know I normally do that during the week, but I don't have to schedule anything this week.)

The key for me is to be productive. I've had a very long year with certain things in my life, but also incredibly rewarding in other aspects of my life. I can't waste a day doing nothing. I have to do something, and it doesn't mean spending most of my day tinkering with a book I've spent four years tinkering with. Remember, writing doesn't sustain life -- it's the other way around.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My first show

Roughly ten years ago, I did my first band interview. The band was Slowride, a pop-punk trio from Dallas. Even though I wasn't impressed by the first time I saw them play (opening for Strung Out at the Galaxy Club), I was glad to have them on my radio show on KTCU.

All these years later, and many interviews later, I interviewed Dan from Slowride again, only this time, talking about his current band, True Widow, and the first show he saw. My piece is here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

You've been in my life so long, I can't remember anything else

Whenever I get the flak about never seeing a popular movie, I usually have at least a few minutes of explanation. I try not to be testy, but not every person has seen every popular movie since the silent era.

In the case of Alien 3, I think it was worth waiting until this year to see. The original version came out in 1992. Only now can the proper director's cut be viewed in the Alien Anthology Blu-ray box set. Meaning, the original vision David Fincher had for the film as well as the all of the scenes properly restored, visually and sound-wise. Any prior version just doesn't cut the mustard.

When I was in college, Alien and Aliens were paramount in terms of the four films. Yet when I would talk to fans of the franchise, I was advised to stay away from the third and fourth installments. So I did, until now.

I recently watched all four in sequence (not in one night, mind you), and while I'm not really compelled to watch Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection again right away, I'm glad I have my own opinion of them now.

Like my fandom of remastered albums, I prefer to see a re-released, director's cut of a film that the director preferred. James Cameron's director's cut of Aliens is incredibly good, and I'm glad I waited all sorts of years later to see it. Alien 3 makes way more sense and feels right with what Fincher originally wanted, until the studio wanted him to excise thirty minutes of it.

We all have our reasons for holding off on movies. It's not like we're required to see every movie released every year. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, you know.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My first show

My First Show returns this week with Taylor Young from the O's, a fine local band who has already toured all over the world. Click here to read all about it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Breaking Bad

Technological failures can lead to great surprises.

As I watched the credits roll for the last episode of The Walking Dead, a promo teased a weekly marathon of Breaking Bad. Every Wednesday, two episodes from the show's three-season run would be aired, in order. This would have been perfect for me, since I've never seen the show and have heard only positive things about it. Praise has come from from a slightly-drunk friend at a summer barbeque to my friends Donna and Noel (who have covered the show for the A.V. Club), so curiosity has been knocking at my door for a while.

I set my DVR last week and plopped myself on the couch on Thursday, all ready to watch. Alas, I look through my DVR menu and there are plenty of episodes of The Walking Dead, The Office, 30 Rock, Community, and Mad Men, but no Breaking Bad. I checked again and again. Still nothing. I distinctly remember confirming the taping. Something must have happened, so I blame technical error.

Luck would have it where the first two seasons are available on Blu-ray from Netflix. I quickly put the first disc of Season 1 at the top of my list and I received it on Monday. As I watched the pilot episode yesterday afternoon, I was very thankful.

I understand those who like Mad Men who don't have an interest in Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead. Tone-wise, there is a lot of distance, especially with the violence. I like all three shows because they are not the exact same. When I was surprised to see with what they could get away with on The Walking Dead, I was happy that Breaking Bad got away with plenty as well.

Watching the pilot, "Breaking Bad," in high definition was perfect, and there was no blurring out the brief nudity or beeping out the f-bombs. In other words, the Blu-ray edition is the best way to view the show. I wanted to see the show in the best possible way, and I'm thankful.

And all that because of an "accident."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter's Bone (to pick)

I don't like to play the "I just don't get this" card every day (or every week on this blog), but a movie has come into many people's orbit and I'm rather lost about its appeal.

Winter's Bone is a film I heard raves about from critics that I trust. While I still trust these critics, I wonder if we saw the same film. The film that I saw was a drama with a noir sort of bent and a very authentic depiction of backwoods life. That's about where my opinion and other people's opinions stop.

Beyond that description, I found the film to be sorely lacking in terms of drawing me in. There's a slight (and I mean slight) mystery element and there's a sorta-climax, and then it's over. I was curious about the main character's "journey" and that's why I kept watching. When the credits hit, I was very frustrated.

I read glowing reviews online afterwards, and I'm afraid I have to admit that this film is raved about because of what it isn't. This isn't a remake. This isn't a big-budget film. There are no stars or shocking twists. No hidden clues that you would notice until repeated viewing. Because of that, it warrants all this praise? I disagree.

I do like movies that go in completely opposite directions of what "tests well" for a mass audience. I don't like them simply for that reason. Usually there are plenty of reasons. I could describe my praise to somebody who didn't "get" a movie like Barton Fink or Blood Simple. I could even tell you why I love The Road, even in its post-apocalyptic setting.

So what I'm not understanding with Winter's Bone is really beyond me.

Monday, December 06, 2010

2010 in music

If I had to choose my absolute favorite record of the year, from start to finish, it would be this one
Spoon, Transference
This record came out early into the year, and by my third listen, I was sure this would be my favorite record of the year. Something clicked in me that didn't when I heard Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight. I got a sense of things with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and all things fell into place with Transference. A number of lyrics from the album also strongly registered with me, like certain lines from "Mystery Zone," "Trouble Comes Running," and "Got Nuffin'." Simply, it's a record that sounds like my year.

Not as great as their last record, but still a great record
The Dillinger Escape Plan, Option Paralysis
One of the best show experiences I had this year was seeing Dillinger at the Granada and walking out to fluffy snow coming onto the ground. Snow is rare here in Dallas, but when it comes, there's always a sense of joy. I felt that as Diana and I saw the mighty mathy five-piece pulverize the venue for a full hour. And as much as I enjoyed that experience (along with their Warped Tour set that summer), I can't say I love Option Paralysis as much as I love their previous record, Ire Works.

From top to bottom, Ire Works is pretty flawless to me, whereas all of their other records have to be listened in segments. Something about the intensity of the band's sound, mixed with moods that the average metal band would steer far away from, has yet to tire me. Proving that the band could really write and record a powerful record after founding drummer Chris Pennie left long ago is a great testament to the band. This is a record worth owning if you like the band, but not necessarily the one I'd suggest starting with if you've never heard them before.

Great pop rock from a band doomed for future backlash by the League of Meh
Best Coast, Crazy for You
This trio has a sound that is instantly likeable: friendly, sunny guitar pop with female vocals. Instead of sounding like another modern day version of the Jesus & Mary Chain, Crazy for You feels like an unreleased demo from the late 60s. Imagine the early Phil Spector sound on a budget and you have a good idea.

My concern about the band is that their sound is fully-formed and pretty unwavering on Crazy for You. Bands who catch the attention of those always on the hunt for something new and provocative flock to that kind of ideology, usually to dismiss the band down the road (as soon as the next album). I think there's promise with this band, but I'm not exactly sure where they could go next. Maybe they could start with having a full-time bassist?

I thank Ryan Slavinsky for this band and record
Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart
When it comes to finding new music, Ryan is always miles ahead of me. When he highly recommends something, I usually take note. We don't always see eye-to-eye, but when it sounds like a record I should hear, I at least ask if he could burn me a copy. Black Mountain was a band he raved about immensely with In the Future, so I was inclined to check out Wilderness Heart.

When we saw them play live with the Black Angels, I knew they were the real deal. The band has a great atmosphere to their sound along with very memorable tunes. Take that early Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath sound and be unafraid to wear it proud without sounding like a cheap imitation.

Way better than their last record
The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
I'm still in the dark about why the band's previous record, Neon Bible, wasn't slaughtered by critics. Maybe if you talk about politics, war, and death you can hide the lack of immediacy in the songs? I don't know. Anyway, here is a record that is immediate and hypnotic. Not a retread per se, but a good step forward. And its lyrics are inspired by growing up in a sister suburb to my hometown, no less!

Does this band ever falter?
The New Pornographers, Together
I must freely admit how much I had lost touch with the New Pornographers. After enjoying Mass Romantic to a fault, as well as a few tracks from Challengers, I never had the desire to seek beyond that. In preparing for my interview with Carl Newman and reviewing the band's upcoming show, I wanted to hear everything they had done so far. Together makes the band four-for-four in terms of tangy indie pop, and gives them more staples in their live set.

I still don't get why hip-hop is cool with the League of Meh, but I think my enjoyment of this record will help me understand
Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid
This is not a hip-hop record. This is not a rock record. This is beyond categorization, stylistically. The songs fly all around the map, but they don't sound uneven when you put them all together.

The best record I "legally" downloaded for free this year
Angels & Airwaves, LOVE
Another instance where my research on a band for an upcoming feature leads me to a fantastic record. Released for free on their website, LOVE is a continuation of Tom DeLonge's space rock act. I still believe DeLonge is inadvertently making a modern version of Flock of Seagulls, but I've always liked that band. Too bad people remember the singer's poofy hairstyle a little more than their ace singles, "I Ran" and "Space Age Love Song."

A great Black Angels record, aka, a record where I don't feel like I'm in a trance while listening to it
The Black Angels, Phosophene Dream
I wasn't expecting to be wowed by the band's set early in the year at Nx35. I expected to hear droning rock with a sense of movement. And I hoped the sound system would give the band better clarity compared to the previous times I had seen them. Turns out, the band sounded clear and complete and they previewed a few songs from Phosophene Dream. Yes, the Austin five-piece can play with a bounce in their step and play it well.

Record that helped me understand another band's back catalog
Coheed & Cambria, Year of the Black Rainbow
The cynic in me thinks the reason why Claudio Sanchez keeps pushing this Amory Wars story in the Coheed and Cambria's albums is that musically, there is very little deviation. Continuing this five-part story will hide listeners from the music, right? I still have no interest in unlocking the secrets and meanings of the story. But I do know a rewarding record when I hear it, and Year of the Black Rainbow is one of them. I reached back into the band's catalog and got out my DVD copy of Neverender and enjoyed the hell out of it.

I would have hated this band back in 2004, but I liked this record (and their three previous ones as a result)
Motion City Soundtrack, My Dinosaur Life
MCS hides nothing: yes, they're nerdy guys who like the Get Up Kids and Weezer. When I was assigned to cover their first stop in Dallas this year (they came back two more times by year's end), I had to tune up my knowledge of their stuff. Not drastically different from what the band has done before, yet still tuneful and admirable. I think I wouldn't even give this band a listen back when I was writing POST. At that time, there were too many modern bands with rock star agendas claiming influences from bands who had no rock star agendas. Things slipped through the cracks. These guys were one of them.

Great bounce-back record
Ted Leo/Pharmacists, The Brutalist Bricks
When I saw Ted tweet about the sparsely-attended Dallas stop this year, I wished I could have been there. Given it was a weeknight and starting late, I couldn't go. Eventually I got to listen to this record and felt a bit of regret not seeing the show. I've always admired Ted for his music, stage presence, and attitude about life. I can't say his last record was his pinnacle, and I'm happy this record is more a fun, new wave kind of record.

Artists I have enjoyed for most of my life, only to realize that I love them more in 2010
Cheap Trick
Rush
Both Rush and Cheap Trick remain vital. Cheap Trick came into my life in elementary school via a song they had a lot of misgivings over. Rush was pitched to me in middle school as a great band but without any real musical description. Eventually I heard more of their stuff in high school (thanks to the Sex, America, Cheap Trick box set and the Chronicles compilation) yet factors in 2010 brought me really back into both bands. With Cheap Trick, it was a recommendation on an episode of Sound Opinions. With Rush, it was the definitive documentary on the band, Beyond the Lighted Stage. Both bands are in regular rotation and will more than likely stay with me for a long time.

Artist I didn't really care for back in college, but now greatly care for
David Garza
I wouldn't say I hated David's "Kinder" back when Best Buy promoted the hell out of This Euphoria. I think if heard "Disco Ball World" instead, I'd have a different opinion. By chance earlier this year, while over at a friend's house, I borrowed a couple of records. David's stuff was highly recommended to me, including the Strange Mess of Flowers box set. Quickly into sampling his stuff, I had to quickly get back up to steam on his stuff. Getting into Spoon definitely helped me understand.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Rock Action

After not listening to them since college, I'm happy to let Mogwai back into my life.

There was never a point where I didn't like the Scottish five-piece -- I've merely spent a lot of time in the interim years listening to bands that were influenced by them. Whether it was Explosions in the Sky or This Will Destroy You, I somehow decided to not rope back around to the elder statesmen. Now that Ryan, Diana, and I have something cooking music-wise that's in the vein of moving post-rock, bring on the Happy Songs for Happy People and so on.

I wouldn't say I burned out on hearing Rock Action or Come On Die Young. Given the choice of listening to Sigur Ros at any of time of day over Mogwai at night (a time perfect to listen to them), I went for the stuff that I didn't have to be in a particular mood for. I still find Mogwai's music to particular sort of mood, yet I find myself in more of a mood for their stuff as of late.

The band is coming to town in May. A new record drops before then and I hope to see them. If I could be blown away by the mostly-instrumental Godspeed You Black Emperor live, I'm quite sure I'll dig these guys as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

They're marching to Bastille Day

Much in part to the fantastic documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, I've had a hankering for completing my Rush collection. What's strange is that my "collection" is really bone dry. So completion is a bit of ways away.

Back in middle school, I remember my friend Tim talking about the Chronicles compilation. He didn't describe what the band sounded like; he only spoke of it as an awesome sort of thing. I was curious. His tastes were very much in line with mine, and still are to this day.

Eventually I'd have my own taped copy of Chronicles as well as Roll the Bones, A Show of Hands, and their current record at the time, Counterparts. I would foolishly sell Roll the Bones and Counterparts in college (something I regretted until I heard they had been digitally remastered and reissued a few years ago) in order to create shelf space.

Now I'm at a point where my digital copies of Spirit of the Radio and Permanent Waves are simply not enough. I want pretty much everything from the seventies up until a certain point in their eighties catalog. Yes, that means some 20-minute epics filled with twisted time signature changes and rather odd song titles. But I say bring that all on.

There is an inherent level of geekitude that comes with wanting a band's catalog, and with Rush, it's amplified even more. Yet I'm thankfully at a point where I won't be teased for wearing a Rush T-shirt or criticized for coming into the band with Counterparts. High school's over and it's time to enjoy the present and future.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A tree and a toilet seat

For the first time since college, I'm happy to see a real Christmas tree in my home. Not in any way am I slighting people that put up a fake one, but there's something fun about getting the real thing. Even the sap.

On a fluke last week, Matt and I talked about getting a real Christmas tree from a local lot. We picked one out on Saturday with our respective girlfriends and decorated the whole thing last night (before The Walking Dead, of course). Positioned underneath my TCU toilet seat and in front of the fireplace, there's a seven-foot tree with a tree skirt like one you'd find in Whoville.

I can recall when the most amount of Christmas decorations I put up was a strand of lights that draped over my sliding glass door. Coming from a house that was filled with decorations to that was very deflating, but I didn't really see the need to go all out.

I understand there are people who think Christmas is a bunch of phony materialism, but I've always enjoyed the whole experience. It's fun to be creative and tidy things up around the house. There's an element of joy in doing something that you know will only last for a month once a year. But you make that month count and savor the whole time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Frosting on the Beater

As much as I missed being with my immediate family for Thanksgiving (I spent it with relatives instead), I'm very glad that I didn't miss the Posies show at the Granada.

Here's my review.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My first show

This week's edition features an interview with Jon and Ken from the Posies, a band I have loved since the mid-90s.

Since I have to work on Black Friday, I'm sticking around in the area and having Thanksgiving with various relatives. The upside is that I get to see the Posies tonight.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Old Fangs

Ryan, Diana, and I saw Black Mountain and the Black Angels play at the Kessler Theater. This was the first time we had been to the venue, and it certainly will not be the last. Great intimate place with spectacular sound.

Here's my review of the show.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's the transfer

As I hear a few rumblings about 3D Blu-ray coming down the pike, I'm not making any plans to replace any titles I already have if and when it comes to fruition. As for Blu-ray itself, I'm still quite happy with the format and still choose to buy copies of new movies or reissues. I have replaced a couple of DVDs with BDs, but not many.

If I've learned anything in my two years as the owner of BD player and a high definition television, it's the transfer that's most important, and not necessarily the disc itself.

I recently watched the standard Criterion DVD version of Videodrome and I found the transfer pretty stunning. The Blu-ray version is due to come out in a couple of weeks, but I'm not going to double-dip on this one. I'm perfectly satisfied with the version that I have. (Plus, all the standard DVD's supplements have been imported with no new, high-def features.)

A couple of months ago, Diana and I watched The Sure Thing, an 80s road movie that is only available on standard DVD. Frankly, the movie looked incredible in widescreen with my player upconverting to 1080p to the best of its ability. That got me thinking about how stunning, amazing, and blah blah blah I hear about Blu-ray over standard.

Maybe it's how I view movies on my television, but I prefer to not watch movies on the "vivid" setting. The first movie I ever watched on my television was The Host, which has a lot of hot yellow throughout. The result was a set of bugged-out eyes and a minor headache for the rest of the night. I've opted for slightly darker screen lightness, usually "cinema" or "standard." On those settings, everything looks fine . . . including standard DVDs.

My last example is when I recently watched Clerks on BD. Here's a film made years before high definition was even a whisper and I can't say it looks astonishingly different from its previous incarnations on DVD. I'm glad I own the BD edition because of the extra supplements, but I must say that I'm not really somebody who could review modern DVDs and go gangbusters how well the thing looks or sounds.

As I've said before, I'll say again: if you want to see a dramatic improvement in a home viewing experience, dust off an old VHS tape with a movie in pan-and-scan. Then compare the experience to watching the movie on DVD.

In all my years of watching movies, the biggest leap I've seen in quality and enjoyment of a film was when I saw Kentucky Fried Movie for the first time on DVD. Visual and audio gags that I had never caught (because the transfer was too dark or the pan-and-scan cut things) were caught. And I loved the movie even more.

I still keep that in my mind as I watch movies at home. Younger generations will probably never understand what pan-and-scan lopped off for older generations. It's just nice to see the whole movie . . . and with a great transfer to boot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My first show

In this week's edition, I talked to the drummer from the Octopus Project about the first show he saw. Since I clearly remember when Weird Al put out Off the Deep End (because I listened to it quite a bit when I was in middle school), this was a great little reminder of how awesome Weird Al is to youngsters.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Drum Basics 1

While a number of the campers at Rock N Roll Fantasy camp got to play with some of their idols from their teen years, I had a chance to meet a guy who was quite helpful in my drumming skills early on. It wasn't like meeting Dave Grohl, Lars Ulrich, or Stewart Copeland, but I came to know who Sandy Gennaro was by Christmas 1994.

Sandy was featured on a VHS tape called Drum Basics 1, something my father got me for Christmas. I had started playing a drum set earlier that year and my dad thought the tape would be helpful. It was to a degree, but it was really designed for people that had never sat down behind a drum set before. The degree that was helpful involved playing straightforward beats as solidly as possible. That's something I still find a useful technique.

I had a chance to meet Sandy about seven years ago when he played with the Monkees at Billy Bob's. As I stood in line to get a picture with Mickey and Davy, Sandy walked by all sweaty and tired. I decided to let him pass and not geek out.

Flash forward to last summer and my editor at the Observer asks me if I'm interested in interviewing David Fishof from Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp. I saw that Sandy was a camp counselor and brought up my little story to David. He was quite impressed with the story and he brought it up when he introduced the two of us on Friday.

Luckily for me, I had the chance to have two lessons with Sandy, along with some of the other drummers in the camp. I never had a drum lesson in my life. I've always tapped along, watched other drums, and played to records (and played a lot of shows too). There's always room to improve with something you love, so I gladly took Sandy's advice on drumming. (Now to find a metronome at Guitar Center that won't remind me of the metronome we had over our home piano or the ones in the high school band hall.)

What I'm very happy about the experience of doing the camp was that my sixteen years of self-taught drumming, composition, and band relations have been incredibly valuable. And seeing how hard Sandy pounded his drum set, I'm glad to say that people always respond to when it's obvious you're playing your heart out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

They call me the breeze

You can read about my experience doing Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp here, but I wanted to add something that I briefly mentioned.

Aside from the Pull Tabs playing a bluesy rendition of "Strange Fruit," I had no real experience playing blues or southern rock. But when it comes to the blues, plenty of it is in jazz and rock music. I might have never listened to a Muddy Waters song in my teenage years, but I definitely learned a lot of his swing and bomp from Led Zeppelin.

So I essentially learned a portion of the blues by default. Like a truncated history lesson if you will.

I enjoy playing the blues, but I'm not about to rush and grab as many blues songs to hear. If ever I'm jamming with somebody who wants to play the blues, I'd be happy oblige. Matter of fact, when I first sat down in the room with my fellow Shotgun Brothers, I offered to them that I can "play anything." Since the two guitarists were more comfortable playing songs by the Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, I did my best interpretation to get the songs fleshed out.

One of the finest compliments given by one of my bandmates to the rest of the band was this: though he was lost in terms of what all he was going to play in this camp, he felt way better when he started playing with us. I very much credit Teddy for suggesting to our guitarists to play what they felt most comfortable doing. In turn, we had a set that wasn't like the other bands. It felt like us even though I've been jamming out to Rush, Cheap Trick, and Def Leppard lately.

Long live the blues. There would be no metal, jazz, rock, or southern rock without it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My first show

The plug on Staff Trax was pulled last week due to low readership. I'm happy that it ran weekly as much as it had. The reach of DC9 has always been way more than Theme Park Experience's, so the chance for me and fellow writers to share what we shared was great.

Replacing the column is My First Show, a chance for me to interview bands about the first show they ever saw. No matter how embarrassing or unhip the show was, we all have a story.

In my case, the first live show I ever saw was the Indigo Girls at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. I saw plenty of local shows after that, along with seeing REM and Radiohead (with my parents) and the Cranberries and Toad the Wet Sprocket (with my dad). The first national act I saw alone (I can't remember if I paid or not) was Metallica at the Summit. The first show with a national act that I paid money to see (and went alone) was Shudder To Think in 1997. (Brainiac opened and only a week or so later, their singer was killed in a car accident.)

Anyway, the first edition is here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Guts

Two episodes in, I'm very happy to say The Walking Dead is all that and then some. As much as I am a fan of the comic, I'm loving how it's been adapted for television. Given the show's large ratings ensuring a second season, I look forward to seeing how the show progresses. Especially knowing where the comic goes, this could be really interesting season after season.

Given the nature of the comic, I'm quite happy that the show has kept up a very similar tone. That said, I'm amazed at what is OK to do on a cable TV show these days. Not that I'm a prude; I'm just a little too aware of those TV watchdog groups whose sole function is to go after shows they think are corrupting people's minds. When you have a show where zombies are shot in the head, it's pretty much a guarantee that it's going to turn people away.

Since Mad Men is priority watching in my household, I don't blame Matt for politely passing on The Walking Dead. As a fan of good zombie flicks where the drama and tension between the characters is paramount to the zombies themselves, I find Darabont's direction welcome.

What's most interesting to me is how this seems like the antithesis of a mass-appeal show. I'm not going to try to force anybody to watch this since I understand that zombie stuff is not everybody's cup of tea. And with the things that happen in the second episode, I especially understand those who don't want to watch. It's grim, tense, and almost completely unrelenting. So, my father, the Rubicon and Mad Men fan, might not want to tune in on Sundays at 9 for now.

Even though the first season is still in its infancy, I'm happy to say that this show has been well worth my time. Way more so than Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead, and Dead Snow combined. There might be only a dozen different ways you can do a story with zombies, but The Walking Dead has a very, very fresh take on it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Naked Lunch

Last year, in the middle of the holiday shopping season, I decided to take a leap of faith I rarely take: buy a DVD of a movie I have never seen, but I'm sure its commentary track will be worth hearing.

Prior to last year, I had done such for True Romance when I saw that Tarantino had a commentary track on it. Prior to that DVD, Tarantino only showed up as a guest on commentary tracks. He had a desire (and I believe still does) to not do commentaries for the movies he's directed. Since he only wrote the script for True Romance, I'm guessing that an exception had been made. And I'm glad that it was because it's a wonderful track.

I bought David Cronenberg's The Fly on Blu-ray for less than $10 last year. I remember hearing about the film when I was in elementary school, but I never got around to watching it. I knew Cronenberg did fantastic commentaries with thoughtfulness and a calm demeanor. I think I learn a lot when I hear him speak. A recent listening to the track on Videodrome further illustrated that attitude.

I have yet to watch The Fly but I will watch it very soon and I'm glad I have it in my library. But recently added to the to-watch pile is Cronenberg's take on Naked Lunch. Yes, that supposedly "unfilmable" movie that Cronenberg did with Peter Weller in the early 1990s. And yes, another film I have never seen before.

I have few gripes about Netflix, but sometimes it's hard for them to carry a Criterion title. When I rented Videodrome, I got the bare-bones edition with a semi-decent transfer. I didn't even look to see if Naked Lunch came out on DVD before Criterion's version, but I figured it would be hard to get and it was way down my queue. Given a recent sale of all Criterion titles, I decided that the $18 plunge for Naked Lunch was worth taking. I mean, come on, I doubt I'd waste my time with this flick or be embarrassed it was in my library.

I don't own many DVDs that I've taken leaps of faith on. It's an understandable point of caution. But the times I have taken that leap, the rewards have been plenty.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Staff Trax

This week's edition spotlights Kylesa, a band I'm really now getting to know. Can't argue with two drummers . . .

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Body clock

It's understandable to have jetlag for a few days after you come back from a trip in a different time zone. Your body will take a few days to adjust -- when you normally would have lunch, you're thinking about hitting the hay for the night. But what if you are used to a certain work schedule (because you've worked it for a few years) and it takes months (even years) to adjust body's clock?

A few weeks ago, Matt took a promotion at work and started working a shift that was the exact opposite of what he worked before. Instead of waking up at 3am to be at work at 4:30, he goes in at noon and doesn't come home until 8:30pm. Sleeping in until 9 or 10 doesn't work for him. He still wakes up a few times around his previous wake-up time before deciding to get up for the day.

I remember how it took my body more than a year to get used to having two days off in a row. I had worked six or seven days straight for a couple of years before working the schedule I've worked for the past three years. The tired feeling would kick in when I wasn't wanting to feel tired.

In the industry Matt and I have worked, there are many reasons why people like the schedule. I find myself getting more out of the day by working in the mornings and taking a nap in the afternoon. The way I see it, no matter how late I get up on the weekends, my body still wants to take a nap sometime in the afternoon. Why not get more done in the mornings than sleep most of the morning away?

Monday, November 01, 2010

No candy (in review)

For the past two years, Halloween was on nights that I could go out and stay late. To avoid the surge of families coming from other neighborhoods to get a lot of loot down my street, I usually went to the movies and then went to a Halloween party. Knowing Halloween was on a Sunday this year, I knew I couldn't do that kind of thing.

Essentially, my street is barricaded by police from 7:30 until 9:30. That's how big of a bonanza Halloween is on my street. Getting in or out of our driveway is a pain, so I simply braced myself for a few hours of feeling like Robert Neville in the I Am Legend novella (and not the various movie adaptations).

I can't say I enjoyed leaving those candy seekers hanging.

Again, I'd love to pass out candy if I didn't have to shell out an entire week's worth of groceries on candy. If I answered the door once, more people would come and more people would come. Plus, since Diana had to work, Matt was visiting family for the evening, and our upstairs neighbors were occupied with the Rangers' game, I was the only one around who could do the job.

I hoped a suspicion I had would be correct: people would move past our place and go east, to where the big houses were. Not so. Between 6 and 10, I had roughly ten rings of the doorbell or knocks at the front door. There was no way I could open the door long enough to prevent Victory from getting out. And I sure as hell would not stand out there by myself with a couple bags of candy available.

Despite this, I must say there was an added amount of tension to the Walking Dead premiere. The episode was fantastic and a wonderful adaptation from the comic. Not knowing when there was going to be a jump from a door knock, doorbell ring, or zombie appearance made things pretty suspenseful.

But overall, my Halloween weekend was fantastic. I saw the original Psycho screened while the Dallas Symphony played its score. I dressed up as Stephen King for Jason's Fantasy Party. And I successfully carved a Crimson Ghost into a pumpkin on Saturday, while many other friends and co-workers carved pumpkins at our place.

I won't lie though: we might be still eating Halloween candy by New Year's Eve.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Staff Trax

This week's edition is on Tim Kasher's solo record, The Game of Monogamy. Like the Good Life's Album of the Year, don't listen to this if you're really down in the dumps about relationships in general.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No candy

Not to a Halloween version of Scrooge, but this year, like the last two years, we will not be handing out candy for trick-or-treaters. When I live on another street someday in the near future, I definitely will pass candy out. But for as long as I live at this residence, it's not going to happen.

I hope that I am not bragging here, but I live on a very long street where 70 percent of the houses are worth a lot of money. As in, high six-figures. McMansions, if you like call them that. Where I live with Matt and Diana, along with five other residents, things are very affordable in our various apartment/duplexes. We don't have the kind of money to throw around like our neighbors down the street, including when it comes to shelling out for Halloween candy.

The last time that Jason and I gave out candy (along with our upstairs neighbors), we gave out almost twenty bags of candy in two hours. That is insane. When we gave out candy growing up, we still had plenty left over once all the kids came on by.

People from all sorts of neighborhoods come to our street simply to get Halloween candy. As I've stated many times before, the place turns into a Mardi Gras-like celebration for a few hours. Families park on our end of the street and head east towards the big houses (and hopefully better candy possibilities). And police set up barricades to accommodate the traffic flow.

In prior years, had we not stood out on our patio with candy, our place would have been passed over. This year, we're staying in and letting our neighbors splurge on those who want to come out. The Walking Dead series premiere is later that night and I don't want to miss it. I might work in a screening of Halloween or Trick-R-Treat as well.

But, sorry kids, keep moving past our house. There's plenty of other places to get your candy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Scary as Hell

There's a movie that came out last weekend, and it's a sequel to a movie that really caught on this time last year. You know what movie I'm talking about if you follow what takes in the most at the box office. The line on its predecessor was that you had to see the movie in the theater. The line also pertains to the sequel.

Since these flicks can scare the crap out of you, there's something fun about experiencing them in a room full of strangers. Well, as much as it can be fun for others, I'm a little aware of how these movies can be foil for ridicule. And when the laughs come, that's pretty disruptive and annoying for me.

I opted out of seeing the first film -- which is set completely in a house -- in the theater and saw it on DVD at home. Not since I saw The Brood had I experienced such difficulty going to sleep that night. Nerves were rattled as I had difficulty distancing myself from what was CGI and what wasn't. I can handle horror movies that are shot on film, use actors, and apply make-up and CGI. Well, the idea of reality is trying to be accomplished here, and quite well I might add.

A few weeks ago, I heard from a couple friends of mine who found the first movie to be utterly hilarious. Add in the tendency movie audiences have where one group of people shriek in horror while another group laughs at them. And also tie in the fact that these movies are the epitome of yelling at the screen, "Don't go in there!" and "Get out of there!"

In similar ways, I have my reasons for why I choose to not go to costumed haunted houses. As much as I have a curiosity to experience, I prefer a comfortable distance. That's why I'm going to opt out and see the final Saw movie instead of rent the other movie when it comes out on DVD.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Crimson Ghost

Something I'm really looking forward to this Halloween weekend (besides the parties and The Walking Dead series premiere) is carving a jack-o-lantern. I haven't carved one in a couple years, but I'm very much of the attitude to pick things up again.

Our friend Amy has hosted pumpkin carving parties before, but now that she lives in a place where there's no room for a party of that size, we're having it at our house. With those plans in order, I've thought about what I could carve.

The idea didn't hit me until earlier today as I looked online for designs. After numerous Octobers of listening to select tracks from the Misfits' box set, I figured it was time to at least try to do the Crimson Ghost logo. Yes, the design that has become bigger than the band itself, I want to spend my time on Saturday cutting and trimming that into a pumpkin.

In no fault of my mother's, the designs found on our front door step growing up were always the standard design. Triangle eyes and nose along with semi-sharp teeth. As the years passed the faces got more sinister. Then, college and post-college came in and I didn't get to really experience any sort of Halloween for a number of years.

I hesitate to say Halloween is my favorite "holiday," but I've always enjoyed it. I think spending a number of years away from it made me really put an effort into having fun with it. Thankfully, I have for the past six years.

Now to see if the Crimson Ghost will look good and creepy instead of cartoony

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Staff Trax

This week, it's a short little blurb about A Sunny Day in Glasgow; a group not from Scotland, but from Philly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tomorrowland

Sunday night, Matt and I stayed up a little later than normal to watch the Mad Men season finale. Matt has seen all of the episodes the show as produced. I, as I've previously mentioned, only started watching the show this season.

I don't have anything against the show's previous three seasons. I really wanted to watch something with Matt where I was the newcomer to the show. The same applies to watching Alias with Diana. I've been the LOST and Fringe geek telling people about various tidbits and story arcs. I like reversing the roles; it helps me understand how to tell somebody about a show beyond the "You just have to watch this from the beginning" excuse.

With what happens in "Tomorrowland," I was expecting some bomb of a cliffhanger. Instead, it was a point of pause. I'm not so sure this is a show that needs to have a character get shot by a mysterious person or a major forward of time in the last few minutes of the episode. No, if there's some desire for "real life" in television, well, there are some shows that go closer to that route.

Yes, the show is great to look at, with its design and look. The acting is fine and the scripts are pretty well done. I plan to watch future seasons. Alas, my desire to actually devote many hours of catching up on a show is lacking for now. Maybe it's the desire to work on two more books and read more books than ever before.

All I can say now, is that I've come a long way from watching Behind the Music and Real World marathons and wondering where the time went.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Digital

I'm still going through my CD library and ripping as much music as possible into my iTunes. Lots of great songs that I've never heard before randomly come up and play. That makes for all the hours I've spent loading CDs to be ripped.

Of course, this gets me to thinking about the true effects of music more in a digital setting instead of a physical setting.

I can recall where I got almost all of my CDs. When, where, how -- I have some kind of story. With MP3s, I have less stories, but what matters more is that I still like the music.

It's nice knowing that I don't have to wait in long lines, ask people to set aside a copy for me to buy later in the day, or stay up until midnight to purchase an album. Those days are done and saved for stories to tell to younger generations that get into music. Stories that I hope don't sound like crotchety tales of "When I was your age," but rather friendly, by-the-way mentions.

Something I'm very happy to see gone is the lack of final album tracks. You know, fifteen minutes of silence so you could hear some blow-off of a hidden track? If I ever play DJ to friends or family and somebody really wants to hear Ash's "Darkside Lightside," I don't plan on playing it the whole way through to hear the members of Ash puking their guts up. The same goes for the final track of Mastodon's Blood Mountain. Sorry guys, I'm not waiting all twenty-five minutes to hear a joke with effects pedals and vocals.

I enjoy having all my music available at the click of a button, but I'd prefer to remain the archivist who keeps physical copies around just in case. You never know when a CD you ripped didn't rip correctly. And boy would it suck if you realized that when you sold all your CDs.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Staff Trax

This week's edition finds me roping back around to Fake Problems. Definitely a fine young band that doesn't sound like a bunch of teenagers making ugly noise.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On the bass

What happens when you lose a bassist in a band, but know of somebody who wants to learn to play the instrument? Well, you do your best to get that person a bass and you better know how to play the thing.

That's what has happened in my current band project. Mike from the Pull Tabs politely decided to leave the current project Ryan and I have had going since the Pull Tabs played for the (possibly) final time a few months ago. The music is pretty different and the approach is different, but I'm still enjoying it. And we're doing it from the luxury of my house.

A while back, an idea floated around with forming a doom metal side project with Diana on bass. She had the interest and the desire to learn, so with Mike out of the picture on bass, we decided to teach her the bass first and foremost. Whether or not we actually will play doom metal is moot at this point; we want to play what we want to play.

The thing with bass is that neither Ryan nor I are proficient on bass. I think it's safe to say we could wing it through a band situation that played punk or grunge, but we are definitely no John Myung or James Jamerson. Not even by a mile. When Collective Soul, Bush, and Silverchair were my entry points with how a guitar and bass can play in a rock band, the basics are going to be very basic.

Luckily, Diana, being the pro that she is with everything she wants to do, has taken quite well to the bass. Borrowing a bass and amp from a friend, we have begun to teach a few things about how to play. She understands basic rhythm and has a desire to learn more about the bass and bass lines themselves. Score!

Previously, I had unfortunate luck playing with people on bass before who weren't bass players. Whether the person just sang or just played guitar before, usually there was an element of begging simply to have the low end represented in a band situation.

There was no begging with Diana, and we're going to take our time learning to play together and play something we like. I like the pace and I'm happy to still be playing with people. Playing by yourself can only go so far, you know?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Golf!

Six years ago, I started blogging about the progress of my first book as well as reposting links of stories I found interesting. Today, I'm writing about my foray into golf.

Yes, golf -- that sport that involves men in ugly pants walking. That one.

Since my housemate Matt enjoys playing the sport (and I hope to get some of my own golf clubs soon), I've received some helpful starting points from a few visits to a local driving range. Though my last two trips resulted in pulled back muscles that hurt for days, I still want to stay on the proverbial course and get better.

I've been on a golf course before, way back when I (along with other Boy Scouts) volunteered to carry score signs at a local golf tournament. But as far as playing the sport, Putt-Putt was my ceiling until a few months ago.

I know there is a stigma to the sport, being something rich white dads with plenty of time to kill and no artistic drive do. For me, there is an exercise element that is a good alternative to my usual running for miles at a time. I'm not replacing running with golf; it's more of something else to do.

I must say I enjoy doing this even more and more every time I go out. There's always room to improve and I'm willing to keep up with it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Gaslight Anthem

I saw the Gaslight Anthem play with Rival Schools and Fake Problems. My review is up over at DC9.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Staff Trax

Not to be super-cryptic, but I've enjoyed contributing to the Staff Trax column as well as help edit it together. I wrote a quick little blurb about Disfear this week.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Can I Say

From time to time, I like to update things I covered in POST but had no way of updating since the book came out two years ago.

This little item came from John Davis, formerly of Hoover, Corm, and Q and Not U. He was someone I had to pleasure of getting his perspective on growing up around Dischord in the eighties and nineties. Since I keep in touch with many of the people I interviewed these days via Facebook, I noticed this link today on John's page.

After years of availability as a bootleg, Shawn Brown's very brief tenure with Dag Nasty is finally getting a proper release. Back then, the band was set to release a 7-inch with Dischord, but Shawn left the band and the band got Dave Smalley to sing on what became Can I Say. Since guitarist Brian Baker wrote most of the lyrics in the band, what Shawn sang was almost exactly what Dave sang on the record.

For the collectors and hardcore folks, this is a great snapshot of a band in its infancy. Although Dave's tenure with the band wasn't very long either, the power of Can I Say is still greatly felt. Hearing the anger and frustration in the lyrics and the singing, along with the band's intensity, is something I keep coming back to, whether I'm happy or not.

This new release might be redundant for people who are accustomed to Dave's time with the band, but I'm glad relics from the past have found a release.

Monday, October 04, 2010

At the foot of my rival

When it comes to football rivalries, I am definitely not an expert. How or why they start, I usually have no clue. And why there is a rivalry still in effect, once again, I have no clue.

The big UT/OU game was on Saturday and Dallas was again the midway neutral territory area. Plenty of out-of-towners came and pumped piles of money into the local economy, including some of my favorite bars in Fair Park. (That is a great thing.)

While coming back from dinner with Diana, Ryan, and Matt, an SUV filled with dejected (and drunk) UT fans moaned, "OU sucks." After politely telling these people that everybody in my car did not go to OU (there was one TCU alum, two from UNT, and one from Southern Illinois), they kept moaning how much OU sucked.

The idea of rivalry at TCU is really a joke. As far as what I saw in my four years there, the tension between SMU was more or less about which school was snobbier. Yup, that's it. No spraypainting each other's property. No fistfights over taunts or anything like that.

I was once mistaken for an SMU fan while walking around campus the day of a TCU/SMU game. A dude-bro said "TCU, baby!" and I kept walking in my neutral-colored black and white jacket. Not happy that I didn't respond to him, he called me a "little bitch" as we walked in separate directions.

There are certain universities in Texas that essentially brainwash their students to give a lot to the football program. Whether it's buying season tickets, wearing school colors, or chanting chants, it's part of the curriculum. And that pride is supposed to remain well after graduation.

Maybe because I wasn't forced into the world of TCU football is why I'm a little in the dark about how intense a rivalry can become. I mean, I have only watched one bowl game TCU was in, and that was last year. When it comes to bowl time, I'm hanging out with friends and family and preparing for New Year's; not determining how many games I will watch.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

For Me This is Heaven

In this week's edition of Staff Trax, I mention the greatness that is Jimmy Eat World's two Capitol records, along with their commercial breakthrough. While I also like Futures, I cannot say the same about Chase This Light.

Now that they have a new record out this week -- and a couple of my friends have reviewed it and liked it -- I'm still not sure about Invented.

I'm one of those people who can go on and on about why Static Prevails and Clarity are awesome. But when it comes to Chase This Light, I can only say a few things. It's bland and does not demand repeat listens. Seeing them perform a number of tracks from it a few years ago did not make me want to give it another shot.

I'm not going to retro-actively denounce my love for earlier Jimmy Eat World records. Hell, most of my college experience had a soundtrack filled with their music, including all of those songs on comps and 7-inches. I just have hesitation about certain bands when it looks like they're past the point of making something that I can truly connect with. The same applies to Weezer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When dog and cat unite

A few weeks ago, I hoped that my dog and Diana's cat could be civil under the same roof. I'm happy to say that we tried brought them together and they get along incredibly well.

Prior to adopting Mimo, the Siamese cat was a stray that kept hanging out around our place. Diana decided to take him in, give him food, and eventually took him to the SPCA for updated shots and exams. Looks like he's going to stay, and I'm quite happy he's stuck around. The only question was if he could get along with my dog Victory.

By a drunken chance encounter, a party guest decided to bring Mimo indoors a few weeks before Diana took Mimo in. According to Diana, Mimo got along with Victory, as Victory didn't bark or attack Mimo. Flash-forward a few months later, while we're in between batches of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, we brought Mimo over.

Thankfully, there was no barking or intent to maul by Victory. It was more or less Mimo strutting in and scoping the place out while Victory closely followed. Now that they've spent more time under the same roof, they're buddies who want to see each other often. I'm relieved such is the case.

Back when I lived with Jason, his dog Juliet would freak out and try to get rough with cats hanging around the neighborhood. Whenever I visit Jason these days, Juliet is hanging out with two cats and living the slow life.

I don't know why I was afraid a dog and cat could not live together. Maybe there's something about how animals act outside rather than inside. Whatever it is, I'm thankful both cat and dog can live in peace, most of the time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dittohead

After many years (and chances) to see Slayer, I finally saw them on Friday, along with Megadeth and Anthrax. You can read what I thought of the show over on DC9, but I wanted to point out something a little more personal here.

You see, when I was a teenager, saying you liked Slayer was like saying you really enjoyed reading Mein Kampf. While other metal bands sang about gruesome things and Satan, Slayer was the pinnacle of all of that to those who were easily scared by that kind of stuff. It was one thing to be a fan of Metallica, but Slayer? That was super-hardcore.

Maybe it was the bad reputation metal had with Tipper Gore and her fellow housewife friends. Maybe it was exactly what your parents didn't want you listening to based on sheer sonics. For its various reasons, Slayer was dangerous.

Or so people claimed.

I can definitely say I was creeped out when I heard stuff like "Dead Skin Mask" and "213" when I was a teenager. I can now definitely say that I am not creeped out by that stuff. As a matter of fact, as I stood there watching Slayer blast through Seasons in the Abyss, I thought their music was about as harmful as watching a horror movie. If you can tolerate Night of the Living Dead and know that's it not real, it's a drama, it's a metaphor for critics to write essays and books on . . . then Slayer is nothing you should lock your children away from.

I understand that this music is not for everybody. Claiming this music is of the devil is really fear personified into something else. How I choose to take in this stuff does not make me some masochist or sub-human. Instead, I understand how it can a form of entertainment. And a completely harmless kind of entertainment, if you like your music fast, dirty, and unrelenting.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Staff Trax and Torche

In this week's edition, I praise The ArchAndroid, and in the print edition, I preview the greatness that is Torche.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book #3

I have an idea for my next book. Amazing how last week I wrote that I don't have a book project lined up after When We Were the Kids. Inspiration strikes when it does, no matter how silly the idea might sound at first.

About a month ago, while talking with my editor at the Observer, he jokingly suggested a book idea that sounded really silly. I threw in something more silly to the pitch and we had a good laugh. Fast-forward to last Friday night, while standing with Diana in the check-out lane of a Barnes & Noble, I thought this previously-silly book idea could actually turn into something. Something, I don't know what, and something don't want to divulge its topic just yet.

Since I'm a part of a writing-for-fun group with my old housemate Jason and some other friends of ours, there's a desire to bring something new for each monthly meet-up. I have an opening scene in mind to write for Book #3, so I thought that will be my writing piece for the next meet-up.

As much as I claim to write a lot, I'm not actually that prolific. My focus is always super-intense when I'm working on something I want to finish. Things get left on the sidelines. Having this writer's group is a wonderful way for me to stay on track.

In regards to When We Were the Kids, I'm taking a break on it for the rest of the month. I'm waiting to hear back from my agent if it's something that could be sold to a publisher. Either way, that's my main focus, but it's nice to know what I can look forward to once that book is ready to come out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Carry On

I braved the elements and saw KISS over the weekend. Here's my review.

I knew that KISS would be spectacular, but something that really surprised me was how great Pat Green was too.

Yes, Pat Green.

You can read in the review why I was impressed, but I think it's important out something else that I didn't bring up. Whenever I've mentioned the guy's name around people, people (who are not fans of him, country music, or frat/sorority life) groan. Seems like part of rush week in college involves a conversion to Green's music. So any connection to that world when you detest Greek life deserves damnation.

Well, damn me for liking Pat Green. I've felt this feeling before with Journey. Once detested as a flag-waver of corporate rock, any self-respecting musician should never profess an admiration beyond guilty pleasure. Since I still stick behind the notion that there should not be any guilt in pleasure, I remain a Journey fan.

Green seems like he avoids the pandering that most pop country music does. You know, the flag-waving, Coors-Light-drinking, good ol' kind of stuff that is ripe for parody, especially when it tries to be serious or heartfelt.

All I'm really going off of was a great set by the oddball on a rock bill. The guy followed Drowning Pool for crying out loud. But what does that say about the caliber of Green? Plenty to me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Staff Trax and KISS

I praised Black Mountain in this week's edition of Staff Trax and I previewed the upcoming KISS show on Saturday. If my preview sounds like the beginning of a traffic report, well, it's intentional.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

190 pages

I kept to my word: I have a rough draft of When We Were the Kids.

This is not the final draft, but at least I have my bearings straight about where things are going. The current page length is 190 pages in Word, but that will definitely change. Whether or not there will be more or less remains to be seen in the next few months. Plus, page length in Word is almost double what the print length will be.

The big question mark is how will this be released. If I self-publish, it will probably come out next year. If I get a book deal, that will take longer. I'm trying not to be overly-pessimistic or overly-optimistic, but I'm a little too aware of how a book proposal can be sold a little better than a book that's almost done. I'm committed to the style and presentation of When We Were the Kids. Any suggestions about drastically changing that will meet with a lot of resistance from me.

Another big question mark is what I will do after this book is done. I had a really good idea that was squashed by several factors, but I have another idea of something to work on. It seems like my life has a lot of balance when I'm working on a long-term project. I want to keep that balance going.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Filed autobiographically no more

After nine years of filing burned CD-Rs in spindles, I finally got around to alphabetizing them last weekend. In what could have been a major undertaking, I followed an idea Diana had and I was done in only two hours.

What prompted such was my ongoing efforts to update my iTunes with way more music than before. Since my current computer holds more gigs than any of my previous computers combined (with a few hundred gigs left over), I've tried completing albums or entire catalogs on stuff I only had on CD-R. Trying to find those CD-Rs filed in a loosely autobiographical kind of way just didn't cut it anymore.

Diana had brought up how she would have alphabetized them and that inspired me to do my own version. I grabbed CDs from every letter of the alphabet and stacked CD-Rs on top of them with their corresponding letter. Now I can find something way faster and more effectively.

As I look at the size of my physical library of CDs and CD-Rs and look at how much I can store in one CPU, I still am hesitant to box up all of my CDs and put them in storage. I know I live in a day and age where physical doesn't matter as much as long as it can be obtained digitally, but some things won't give too easily.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Z

I have to vent. About zombies. Again.

I have plenty of reasons to watch George Romero's recent flicks. I enjoyed Land of the Dead, but ever since then, I've found his flicks to be on par with Day of the Dead. This is not like Romero's worst films are better than an average director's best films. Films like Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead rubbed me the absolutely wrong way.

Diary of the Dead has an interesting premise: a reboot of the zombie apocalypse in the day and age of YouTube. The premise doesn't really come to fruition because of stock, one-note characters. Given that Romero used unknown actors for Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the same technique doesn't work for Diary or even Survival of the Dead. Survival is more or less a hokey western, complete with rival families, and oh yeah, there are zombies hanging out.

I know not every director can hit it out of the park with every movie. All I'll say is that if you want to see a couple of zombie movies done right, start with Dawn of the Dead.

What I've found interesting is, despite how much the zombie genre has been mined over the years, is amazing Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead is.

I recently plowed through the first 48 issues of the comic in preparation for the upcoming TV show. The pace is quick and the dialogue is sparse in many spots, but that's fine by me. New characters come along, some die quickly, some die later, and some stay alive. How the tension is built around the characters along with the zombies is quite engaging. The characters are important, and oh yeah, there are zombies.

Here I am enjoying generations of zombies, but intrigued by the younger generations these days. This genre won't end . . . thankfully.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hit Somebody

As I look at what I have in my first draft of When We Were the Kids, I have begun reading a book on somebody I barely knew and barely knew his music. Warren Zevon, the subject of the book, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, is the person. Other than "Werewolves of London" and his final record, that's all I really knew about him going in. That's why I'm reading the book.

As a writer, you can engage your readers way more when you go beyond talking about how awesome somebody's music is. All opinions are subject, so do you really want to devote a lot of space in a biography talking about how awesome the second album is better than the first album? There's a place for that stuff, but I don't think large chunks of space should be devoted to that in a book.

I still stand behind the notion that you should examine more about the people you're profiling instead of the music. The music should be mentioned, but this not a glorified essay meant for liner notes. You get a better understanding of the music when you know more about the people behind it.

So far, I've enjoyed this take on Zevon's life, as told in the oral history format with a number of people that knew him well. The emphasis is more on Zevon rather than talking about all the specifics of his music. The music is there for you to listen to if you're curious. I like that option instead of being bombarded about opinions about his music.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Wallpaper hangin'

A few years ago, Kev did a blog post about a "wallpaper" gig. As in, he was playing music meant to be in the background. Over the weekend, I did my first DJ gig as a wallpaper artist as well.

My aunt's 50th birthday party was Saturday night. She had an entire restaurant in downtown McKinney rented out for the night and she asked me to provide music for the party portion after dinner. She had suggested music from her college days, like the Go-Gos, A Flock of Seagulls, and Talking Heads. Since I have a vast library of songs from the '80s (popular and not-so popular), this was a piece of cake.

I wanted to keep the music peppy and recognizable. You can't be a punk purist about everything in life, you know. And when you're DJing something other than your personal playlist, you have to understand that you're not the only one listening to the music. I might know how awesome "One in a Lifetime" sounds in Stop Making Sense, but the average listener probably knows the opening lyrical stanza and chorus hook at most. Generally speaking, I wasn't so sure most of the attendees even knew who the Talking Heads were. But they enjoyed my playlist.

Another big thing I wanted to make sure went well with this gig was the music's volume. Meaning, not too loud, but not too soft. My reasoning is because of a certain late-night place that I like to go with Diana, Ryan, and/or Matt. On some nights, its P.A.'s insanely loud volume drowns out a normal speaking voice, so we all have to yell at each other. The volume doesn't really fit the vibe since the place is very chill and relaxed.

Keeping that in mind, I asked my father (who provided the P.A.) to keep things at my (and the whole place's) preference of a volume level. No one complained that things were too loud or too soft.

DJing is a fun thing to do and I see no problem serving the crowd. If you wanted to hear the newest Dillinger Escape Plan record, I'd play it in the car or at home for you. I'm not about to put that on something for a general audience. Hell, most people I know who like all kinds of music cannot get into those guys.

This kind of DJing isn't settling; it's doing the job asked of you.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Staff Trax

Last week I saw AFI open for Green Day and I wrote about it. I wrote about it some more in this week's edition.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Superfans

Sometimes being around a superfan can be a great thing.

Recently, an old co-worker of mine (who lives and works in the Cayman Islands, no less) came into town and visited our house. Catching up on things, I had to ask about her fandom of Coheed and Cambria, and what she thought of their latest album, Year of the Black Rainbow. I knew she was a fan of Coheed back when we worked together (which was around In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3), but I was curious if her fandom remained.

Turns out, she is still a big fan and spoke highly of their side projects as well.

Since my friend is a sane person and knows what's good and what's bad, I have to admit that her fanaticism rubbed off on me. I had a few Coheed records already, as well as a DVD of their first four albums performed live, so I decided to round out my collection.

As I wrote in my Staff Trax write-up last week, I am still not so sure I could ever comprehend the saga told in the lyrics over their five albums. I'm glad that I don't have to know that in order to enjoy the music. Usually, bands who make crappy albums claim there's some story around everything and you're supposed to dig far deep to get the story. Sorry guys, crappy music equals very few repeat plays.

Even though superfans may get a bad rap (come on, you can run into some pathetic ones from time to time), but if they can convince you that a band they love is worth your time, then it's perfect.

Monday, August 30, 2010

To sink or swim

I've played in many bands in my life. In only one of them I knew going into the final show that it was the final show. That band was the Pull Tabs as of last Friday night.

The great thing was, the show wasn't an awkward, painful, or estranged sort of matter. The band got together as a fun outlet for playing music and I'm happy to say it ended that way too. And I'm really happy to say that the door is still open for Mike and I to play with Kyle again. When that will be, I don't know, but I'm glad the door is still open.

Many years ago, I distinctly remember the first time I felt a certain sinking feeling about a band situation not working out. I was at a large pro audio place with my father as he looked at buying some gear for his business. There was a lot of time to wander around, and there was plenty of space to wander about. I kept thinking about this "band" I had going where three guys I knew came over to my house with guitars and we jammed.

At no point in this band did we ever write songs. We'd play on riffs one of three guys had and never really finish any of them. Eventually, one of the guys stopped showing up. A little while later, the other two stopped showing up as well.

I wasn't sure where this band situation was going since I wanted to write songs and they wanted to merely jam. Not knowing where this was going made me feel uneasy.

Luckily, a year later, I ended up joining a band that actually wrote songs and wanted to play shows. Thanks to a referral by one of the guys I had jammed with in the prior year, I got to do what I always wanted to do. I proverbially hung in there and never stopped playing even when other guys stopped.

There were other times in college when the band I was in seemed to be off the rails. Shows were big trainwrecks, and communication was very strained. I wondered where this was going. Either I was fired from the band or the band stopped practicing/playing shows and that was the end of that.

Once again, that feeling came back, and then I moved on.

The exciting thing about this temporary break is how Mike and I have some ideas about what to do next. Knowing that, the sinking feeling isn't around.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Staff Trax and Green Day

What happens when I hang out with a Coheed and Cambria superfan last week and do a preview of the Green Day show at the old Starplex? You get this and this.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A dog/cat's life

There was an ongoing joke in my house growing up: if I ever wanted to tell my mother that she wasn't welcome in my house, I should get a cat. Because of allergies to cat hair, my mom would have a hell of a time withstanding a visit. I kept that in mind but I always wanted to her to visit me.

I never wanted a cat growing up. We always had a dog when I was growing up. The dog was a wire-haired fox terrier and he stayed outside. From J.W. to Rocky to Bailey, there was a dog in the backyard.

Now that I've lived in a house for six years always with a dog in the house, I have a different sense of closeness to a pet. I've never as close to Victory as I have been with any other dog.

And as of the last few weeks, I have never been so close to a cat.

Diana recently took in a stray cat that had been hanging around our area for the past few months. The cat, an 11-month-old male who has been dubbed Mimo, really clung to Diana right away. I liked him too, but I've always been cautious around cats with claws. (A certain dinner party a few years ago where a friend's cat laid its right hand claw into my leg is hard to forget.) That said, in the following weeks, I've felt easier around a cat.

Mimo is a really mellow cat. He lounges and takes things really easy, even though he seems very non-committal on where he'd like to sleep for the night. My hope is that he will be a great foil for the antsy Victory.

The stumbling block is that Victory goes bonkers around other dogs and cats in the neighborhood. Probably for the reasons of territoriality, Victory squirms and fidgets around when she sees another dog or cat outside. I seriously believe she means no harm to these other animals. She's never tried to bite anyone or jump on top of anyone. It's more of a, "Hey, this is my territory" kind of vibe.

Victory has seen Mimo before and has gone ballistic around him. But a few weeks ago, when a relatively-inebriated party guest brought Mimo into our house, Victory and Mimo didn't go at it like Braveheart. They were more curious than anything else, and Victory didn't bark or jump around. They looked at each other and kept walking.

I hope someday Mimo and Victory will be able to live together under one roof. I have a good feeling they will. Diana and I are waiting for the right time to properly introduce the two of them, but the time isn't right yet. I'm just in the dark about why Victory must act one way outside of the house and another inside the house.

Oh, and Mom, you're more than welcome to visit, cat and all.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First draft

Still keeping in mind my September 15th date to have a first draft of When We Were the Kids, I have to take a step back and wonder what exactly is a first draft. What constitutes it? Should it really reflect the final draft?

Given the scope I have of this book, this proposed first draft is more of a look at what I have so far. What more should I add to the story? What should I subtract from the story? I still think you should have a lot to work with in the editing process instead of wishing you had more to work with. In other words, editing down 400 pages is better than editing down 100 pages.

So far, I have the main outline of the book fleshed out. There are key events that happen, hopefully giving a sense of closure by the end. I also have plenty about what happens in between those events. A house isn't just a slab and a roof, you know?

Writing any story, fiction or nonfiction, is easier to finish when you have an end in mind. I keep wondering whenever I read something, "Where is this going?" so I think about that when I write. If I choose to go a little off the main course, will I reward the reader with hanging in there?

I recently met up with friends of mine who have an informal, monthly writing group. This was the first time I ever heard the material read aloud, and hearing the material made me believe the material is going in the right direction. Getting that instant feedback was quite good. And it helped that I got honest, but not super-negative or super-harsh, feedback.

Something that I can't help notice is the amount of time I spend working on this book as compared to my first. I had to spend five months working solely on Post to get a first draft, and then almost a full year editing the whole before all was said and done. Since I'm not wading through hours of interviews and other books for research, the amount of time spent is significantly less. That's not to say I'm less committed. There's simply less desire to do a ton of research. Hopefully that won't backfire.

That's the current status as of today.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Staff Trax

This week's edition spotlights a song by Love Spit Love, a band I heard about back in the 1990s, but didn't get around to listening to until a year ago. As I went through Jason's CD library before he moved out, I found "Fall On Tears" on a CMJ compilation and it really struck me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vs. the World

This past Friday night, I did something I had not done in ages: see a movie on its opening night. I've seen a few matinees of films on their opening day, but the whole, see-it-with-a-packed-primetime-audience thing had been a while for me. (I think the last time I did that was when The Two Towers and The Return of the King came out.)

The film in question? Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

While it was on people's minds yesterday that the film did lackluster business at the box office, that was definitely not on the mind of the packed audience I saw it with on Friday.

When Diana and I, along with a couple of friends, pulled up to the theater, I was surprised to see long waiting lines for Eat, Pray, Love and not for Scott Pilgrim. This is a teenager flick with all sorts of modern and vintage (read, circa 8-bit Nintendo), right? And what do a lot of teenagers like to do on a Friday night? See a movie, and preferably not a soon-to-be-forgotten Julia Roberts star vehicle.

Only one screen played Scott Pilgrim while The Expendables and Eat, Pray, Love showed on multiple screens. I started to get this sinking feeling that I'd hear all about how Edgar Wright's best chance at mainstream audience acceptance was a bomb, disappointment, or a disaster come Monday morning.

As seen time and time again, what do people remember more, the movie or its box office figures (aside from the highest-grossing films of all time)? The movie, of course!

From the moment the 8-bit Universal logo appeared, I started laughing. Watching the film from the second row, this was like a bargain version of IMAX. And I, along with the company I was with (and the audience that sat behind us), loved the hell out of this movie.

Yes, the movie is fast-paced and over-the-top with all sorts of action. Its hero is not somebody you should look to for relationship advice. A wonderful film that will outlast its box office receipts, this is a film worth seeing again and again.

What's been frustrating in taking a strong interest in liking films this way is that people prefer to dismiss their merits based on box office. I'm well aware that the movie industry is a business, but what exactly constitutes a bomb doesn't necessarily mean it lost money or is forgettable. The list of films that actually meant something to a lot of people way exceeds the memory of its opening weekend. From Seconds to It's a Wonderful Life to Mallrats, I keep coming back to the notion that weekend box office reports make for something that can create some news content on a Monday morning, but they don't really mean anything.

What's stuck with me (and will stick with me) is how much I enjoyed Scott Pilgrim. Your parents might not get its greatness, but people who grew up on Nintendo, MTV, and The Matrix will.

Monday, August 16, 2010

On ice

Last week I got a phone call that has traditionally meant that I'm fired from a band. I've received that call a few times, where a bandmate that I don't normally talk to tells me I'm a great drummer but still has to fire me from his band.

Turns out, Kyle (who I talk to regular outside of band stuff, by the way) called to tell me that he had landed a job in Oklahoma City and would move there in a few weeks. In short, that means the Pull Tabs are on extended hiatus.

I can't say this is a permanent hiatus because I'm still friends with Kyle and completely understand his predicament. He landed a pretty good job in a place that he has friends (and it's not too far away from Dallas), so it's not like he's moving to New York for the rest of his life.

As sad as it is to put the band on ice for the moment (or, maybe permanently), I'm not going to make negative, revisionist statements about my experience. There was no waste of time or hurt feelings. If anything, I felt like I got my groove literally back.

I've made no secret that my style of drumming has been to blame for a certain band firing from three years ago. Because of the career path that I wanted back in college, that got me fired from two other bands. Since I helped start the Pull Tabs last year, it would have been hard to fire me from a band that I helped start and had a hand in arranging (and even writing a couple of) songs.

I don't think of this as like a finely-made sandcastle suddenly hit by a crashing wave. I have no reason to stop being friends with Mike and Kyle, and I have no reason to not play with them again. Mike and I have talked about inviting friends of ours to jam in our practice space. I wouldn't say this is an audition process per se. Rather, it's about coming over and having fun. Just like how the Pull Tabs started.

If I were to say the best thing that has come out of this band, it's that I can still play like how I want and not compromise. And that I can have even more fun playing drums (and playing in a band) now more than when I did in high school. That's a very good lesson to have learned in all of this.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Staff Trax

This week's edition is about the Gaslight Anthem. I've yet to be sold on American Slang, but I've found The '59 Sound quite good.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Library surge

Roughly two weeks ago, I looked at the handful of shelves nailed into a wall in our reading/sitting room. Filled with many books by Stephen King, along with a few books on mixed martial arts, as well as The Passage, I Am Legend, Let the Right One In, and The Ruins, I decided I had enough books to read for a number of years. Aside from a one-off purchase here and there, I thought that's all I needed.

That was, until last weekend.

Whenever I go into a Borders or a Barnes & Noble these days, I hit up the bargain bin and stock up. I don't think I'll ever have a lack of curiosity about books, and when decent-to-mint copies are available for less than five dollars, I can't say no.

Even though my library has grown significantly in the past year, I really like to have a variety of options when it comes to the next book that I read. I can't read Stephen King all the time. Rather, it's nice to have an alternative to this stuff, like a Joe Strummer biography or an oral history of The Simpsons.

Of course, when I'll finish reading all of these books remains to be seen. I joke that I'll be done by the time my kids are in high school. Then I think I'll probably have way more to go through by then.

Monday, August 09, 2010

This ain't no nostalgia

As I dive into finishing up the first proper draft of When We Were the Kids, there's something I want to make abundantly clear: this is not some nostalgia trip. Nostalgia trip in the sense that everything was so much more innocent back then and everything is horrible today. I might think a lot about the past, but I strongly disagree about its supposed "better time."

I want to put forward how certain things were different from today, like how teenagers got into bands that weren't on the radio. Whether through seeing a T-shirt, hearing a song on a Sunday night radio show, or having a record that someone's older brother had, I think there is value in talking about those pre-Internet days. But I don't want to wallow in those days either.

What I'm aiming at is the idea of playing in a band that "never makes it" in terms of mainstream or even underground success. If playing to hundreds of people in a big bar and selling a few thousand copies of cassette are the biggest claims to fame for a band from the suburbs, then that's good enough. The emphasis is on the experience on playing in a band that is nowhere near considered the cool or hip part of town. I experienced that, so have many thousands of other people.

When it comes to material that I want to document in a book, I choose to focus on stuff that is barely documented or just not documented at all. Sure you hear stories about suburban rock bands, but they are usually only mentioned in the beginning of a band's profile article. It's the kind of stuff that's made light of. Well, if a baby's first steps are seen as brief touchstones, I think there's something to be said about all of those first steps.

Whether or not When We Were the Kids does more business (or less business) than POST, I want to completely put everything I have into this, and make something worth reading. But I gotta stress, the best days of these characters didn't end at graduation.