Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In 3D

As a way of ending our fist vacation together, Diana and I decided to see Toy Story 3 on Monday night. Unlike my experience of hoping to see Avatar in 3D (which resulted in an unadvertised, VHS-quality 2D version that greatly paled in comparison to how it looks on Blu-ray), we got to see Toy Story 3 in 3D.

The last time I saw a movie in 3D was Captain EO. Yeah, it's been a while.

I understand those who hate the cash-grab that is 3D these days. I'm (no surprise here) not really pro or con about it. I don't think I would have had a lesser experience seeing the film in 2D, but I definitely think I would have had a lesser experience had I not seen it in a theater with a good sound system and a packed audience.

There's a reason why I see certain movies in a theater and a lot of other ones at home: it's about the experience. I think the best way to see a movie like Iron Man is in a theater. I think the best way to experience Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is in a theater. Seeing the movie in 3D doesn't necessarily sway my judgment of a movie. I think Toy Story 3 in 3D is as effective as it would be in 2D: if I get something out of the film beyond the CGI, then it's a movie worth seeing.

Going back to seeing Avatar in 2D, I think my feelings on the film would be the same had I seen it in 3D. Given the spectacle of films on a big screen (whether they're virtually popping out at you or not), the emotional core of a film is what makes the film work or doesn't work.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Camping out

Hearing about the lines outside the Apple stores in town last week, I also heard about those who chose to camp out days in advance to be the first in line for a new iPhone. Couple that with those who decided to camp out for Eclipse and I wondered if I would ever camp out for anything like a movie or an electronic gadget.

The answer is definitely no.

Sidewalks are not designed for people to live on. They're meant to walk on instead of walking on a street with cars. Plus, especially at this early part of summer, being outside in the heat for too long can be rather dangerous.

But there's a bigger reason why I wouldn't camp out for a movie or an iPhone: the movie is still the same movie the following day, weeks, months while the iPhone will probably have plenty of bugs to work out in the first few weeks. Is that really something worth giving up a part of your summer vacation to do?

Maybe I've just become too comfortable with my air conditioned life and just won't live a little. Well, I lived a lot while on vacation and almost none of that time was spent waiting in line for something that might or might not be any good. I don't have to be the first for anything and that's fine by me.

I've never been someone who wanted to have the first thing on the block. If it's something I really want to have, then sure, I'll want to get it eventually. Technological innovations are great, but more often than not, they take time to get the kinks out. Too often I hear about bugs in the system and usually the price significantly drops in a few months. In response, I hear groans from those who must have the latest and greatest until the next latest and greatest. I laugh a little inside.

Maybe I'm too busy these days or motivated to other things rather than essentially put my life on hold for something that I could have bragging rights for. Besides, how valuable are bragging rights? Not much to me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

On returning

I'm back from my first real trip as a grown-up. I've vacationed by myself before, but that usually meant staying on a friend's couch and hanging out. This was a full-blown trip that Diana and I conspired together on, and I must say it was a wonderful time.

Aside from reservations at a bed and breakfast in Little Rock on Friday and lunch plans with Donna and Noel on Saturday, we really made everything up as we went along. Doing that was probably the best kind of trip we could have done.

We explored some of north Little Rock on our first night and ate dinner at a place that served pizza, salad, wine, and gelato. Went with just the pizza and gelato and we were good.

The following day, after a few years of trading e-mails and reading each others' writing, I finally met the fine folks that are Donna and Noel, as well as their two very well-behaved children. Archer was fascinated by the World Cup while Cady Gray read a Pokemon book diligently while us grown-ups talked about various things like Tom Petty, grad school, and The Walking Dead. Afterwords, Noel gave us a nice little tour around Conway. Many aspects of the town reminded me of Selma, Alabama, a place I spent a lot of time vacationing with my parents. Lots of good memories came back to me. This wasn't the only time during this trip that I thought about vacations from the past.

After we parted company, Diana and I decided to hit up Memphis. We didn't know Memphis was so close to where we were staying, so we went there for the afternoon and evening. We roamed around Beale Street, saw the Civil Rights Museum, the Orpheum, the FedEx Forum, and Gibson guitar factory before deciding to try to find Graceland.

Make no mistake, Memphis is in a transition period in many of its areas. From what I know about the town, there's a lot of poverty and it was very obvious near Graceland. We only drove by the place and ate some barbeque at a local place down the street. Not the safest part of town, but it was nice to see such a landmark.

While we ate dinner, I had forgotten that Sun Studios was in Memphis as well as where Stax Records started. We easily found the places off of the highway and we took some pics. While shooting some shots at Sun, a couple from Pennsylvania took pictures of us sitting right in front of the place. Hearing a tom-tom be tuned right inside the studio was a good sound to complement what we saw.

On our last day to sight-see, we opted to hit up Hot Springs. We mostly hung around the main street and walked around. We didn't hit up any bathhouses, but we saw plenty. I felt some of the water at a nearby waterfall and it was indeed very hot.

Now we're back home safe and sound. I'm happy to say that the trip went went even though we got lost a few times. Once again, I found myself relieved to think about the future beyond the following week. To more vacations together!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Staff Trax

This week's edition of Staff Trax is devoted to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I don't truly believe I'm an out-and-out loser, but I find this song very apropos for those who want to do things yet take years to break through. As if that couldn't be vague enough.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trail Mix

As Diana and I prepare for a few days out of town together this weekend, I'm putting the finishing touches on something I originally planned to be a one-disc affair: a roadtrip mix. But this is me, Mr. Oh Wait There's That Song That I'd Love to Hear Too. So, it's now a four-disc set.

Add to the pile is a David Garza compilation and (hopefully) a disc of stuff Diana wants to hear, and we're pretty set for driving around Arkansas for a few days.

A band I keep coming back to with this mix set is the one and only, Fleet Foxes. I still think the praise for their debut album was a little exaggerated when it was released, but there are some really, really pretty songs on it . . . even if I can't help but think of My Morning Jacket. (To deal with such, I've thrown in MMJ songs on the discs that feature the Fleet Foxes.)

Since I've only seen Arkansas in pictures and heard about it from friends, I expect to see lots of hills and mountains. In turn, I put a lot of songs that would fit sunset drives around mountains, like MMJ's "Golden" and Bruce Springsteen's "Tomorrow Never Knows."

As much as I love some good chaotic metal or punk, for the sake of time, I've opted out of that stuff. I still can't forget driving back from Austin one year and listening to face to face's self-titled album almost four times in a row. Punk rock is great, but not with albums that are less than a half-hour on a five-hour drive.

So, here's to a good mix to a new place.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I've heard rumblings about this for months, and now the rumblings have become louder: Fort Worth's Ridglea Theater may be no more soon.


I have not lived in Fort Worth since 2002, but I still occasionally visit to see friends and/or a show. The Ridglea is one of the few venues I went to and still went to whenever there was a good show. I'm not talking just good local shows; I saw Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Dinosaur Jr, the Flaming Lips, and the Dillinger Escape Plan there.

And, oh yeah, I saw the greatest show I've ever seen there too: Fugazi in 2002.

So, please allow some extra sorrow to emanate from me about this place closing up shop. I know this is a venue and a business and a business can't last forever and ever. But since I put more emotional attachment to a physical place (and also have a hard time coming to grips with its closure and/or demolition), this is a hard thing to take.

In some ways, I equate this to a house you either grew up in or spent many important years in be purged. Over the weekend, I heard that the house my great aunt and uncle lived in their entire married life (and I, along with my sister, spent many days in playing Battle, watching TV, looking at paintings my great aunt had made, looking at photos taken from around the world) was raised and replaced by tacky boxes doubling as condos.

Again, it's like the physical places you place so much emotional stock in are always subject to closure. Man, that's a little too heavy to understand.

But, on the flip side, thanks to existence of this theater, I did get to see those amazing shows. I even had the pleasure of playing there three times (twice with the 11:30s and once with Ashburne Glen). There's plenty of value in that. Usually the "cool" shows were in Dallas, a good 45 minutes away when I lived in Fort Worth. The Ridglea was only ten minutes away from the various places I lived.

So I thank those who were involved with the place over the years; you really touched those who cared about the place.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oral histories

As I keep tinkering with the first proper draft of When We Were the Kids, I stand firm that this should be told in the oral history format. There are way too many characters that a third-person narrator and a narrative would be detrimental. There are a lot of voices and it can't just be one person.

In a roundabout way, the oral histories I've read in the past ten years have served as examples of what I want to do and what I don't want to do my book. Aside from Punk Rock, I've read (or am about to read) every oral history I know of. I've read Please Kill Me, U2 by U2, All Over But the Shouting, and so on. I hope to read I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and The Clash sometime this year.

I still stand behind the idea that Fool the World is the best oral history I've ever read. The way the story of the Pixies unfolds is fantastic and pretty much everyone ever involved with the band has something good to say. The flow is what I'm trying to do with WWWTK.

I've blogged before that Gimme Something Better has inspired me. It's quite a good read for those interested in the San Francisco/Bay Area punk scene, from the Avengers to Operation Ivy to Green Day. And definitely easier to digest than Please Kill Me.

What I hope won't be an issue is that the story of WWWTK is fictional, but told in a format that has traditionally been 99 percent nonfiction. I don't think I should run a disclaimer or something since authors like Bret Easton Ellis and Dave Eggers do not do such with stories that are very autobiographical. I'm not comparing myself to them here; I just think I should just tell a story and tell the publisher it should be filed under "Music, Fiction."

As I've read in oral histories like Live From New York, I've decided that I don't want each quote to be too long. Meaning, many single quotes take half of page or more. Something I learned in a screenwriting class in college has made me think the shorter the quote, the better.

So, that's the rough update on Book #2. I'm still in the mode of "write your damn book, then worry about how to release it." I'm really excited about how the stories are unfolding. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gold Box

With a lot of DVD fans slowly replacing their standard DVDs with Blu-ray discs, I really, really hope this is the last bastion of high definition discs. Bring on the 3D television sets so someday my children will get to watch movies like when Luke saw Leah for the first time in A New Hope.

All I ask is that the 1080p resolution not be topped. It's still stunning to look at. It's just not stunning to look at a DVD collection with multiple copies of the same freakin' movie.

Last week, Amazon had another one of their I'd-be-stupid-to-pass-up Gold Box deals: the entire Matrix collection on Blu-ray for only fifty dollars. That's right, the three proper films, along with the Animatrix shorts and all those documentaries from the standard edition box set (including the one Donna was interviewed for).

Even though I got a used copy of the standard DVD box set for cheap last year, I have to admit that the Matrix movies must be seen in Blu-ray. I want those greens, blacks, and whites to jump out of my TV, darn it! And it's sure nice to watch a DVD without fingerprints all over the bottom of the disc.

As much as I bitch about DVD/Blu-ray double-dips, I've never regretted getting a great movie on Blu-ray. The only reason why I keep my standard DVDs is just in case somebody wants to borrow a movie from me and doesn't have a Blu-ray player. That, and if a supplemental feature from the standard DVD is not on the Blu-ray edition.

Hoping for a stop with new DVD formats post-Blu-ray is probably a lost cause. I'll have to visit friends' houses who not only still have VHS tapes, but LaserDiscs as well as DVDs and Blu-rays, to truly understand the pattern. I say bring it on with a bit of grumble.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fast Cars

Friday night, I was lucky enough to see the legendary Buzzcocks at the Loft. My fellow Observer writer Doug Davis seemed to perfectly sum up the show in his review, but I wanted to add a couple of observations.

For as long as I've enjoyed punk rock, I have always hated being in a mosh pit. Pits are fun to watch in Pearl Jam and Pantera videos, but they're not fun when you're trying to enjoy the music in person. I prefer to have my eyes on the band and not on somebody wanting to treat other people like a pinball machine.

The pit at the Buzzcocks was nowhere near the kind of pit I found myself stuck in when I saw Green Day in the late 1990s. Nobody was stage-diving and from what I could see, nobody got hurt. I was able to stay upfront for most of the first half of the set, but the tide pushed me over to stage left, where Alan from the Observer just happened to be. For the rest of the set, I stood comfortably even though a girl in dreads thought it was so awesome that she spilled her mix drink and lit up a joint.

In the words of Bill Cosby, this is called having a good time? To an extent, yes for me, even though I smelled like I came home from a fully-clothed orgy. Nothing like combining sweat from guys and girls as well as cologne and perfume. But I got to see a band I've only really know about since the late 1990s. Sure was nice to see them right up front, at least for a little while.

Something that I thought about as the band just rattled through their first two albums in order: the first time I ever read about the band. Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-a-Rama book introduced me to a number of bands I would spend years investigating and slowly getting into. I'm talking Mission of Burma and plenty of others. The entry about the Buzzcocks praised their Singles Going Steady compilation since, in the mind of the reviewer, many of the band's albums had filler. Seeing the show on Friday, I was in complete agreement.

It's not like the material was pure filler. There were no wasted moments or self-indulgent workouts. Rather, there were great songs and OK songs. And of course the encore with all the singles was fantastic.

I might want to say at this point that I'm getting too old for shows like this, but I can't. Pete Shelley might look like he should be teaching English at a prep school, yet he still has the voice and charisma that has always made him and his band such a special group.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Staff Trax

This week's edition sheds more light on my near-lifetime enjoyment of Bruce Springsteen.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Reading surges

The reading surge is still going, thankfully. Last weekend, in a 24-hour span, I was able to read Stephen King's new novella, Blockade Billy. I'm still reading Gimme Something Better and it's been like an egg cracking on the side of a pan for me. I have gained a lot of inspiration from this book in terms of how I want to finish the first complete draft of When We Were the Kids. As I get through its near-500 pages, I'm charting the course with which Stephen King book to tackle next.

For the Constant Readers that have been reading King's work, you know there is a lot of overlap and references with many of his books. I did not know this until I bought a couple of his books last year. That's pretty much the primary reason why I now own all of his books, save for that book he co-wrote on the Boston Red Sox's championship season.

What's been a little daunting about the whole desire to read all of his work is knowing which should be read first. I decided to read a couple of stories from Skeleton Crew before jumping into The Stand. It was nice to see the last name of Carmody in both "The Mist" and The Stand. It was nice to see "the shine" mentioned in The Stand as well as The Shining. And it was nice to see the last name Faraday in "Morality" and The Stand.

Once again, these easter eggs are simply for the fun of paying attention. Since I want to tackle the seven-book epic, The Dark Tower, this year, I figured I should read 'Salem's Lot before that. Since a major character from that one has a major role in the later Tower books, I figured I should know the guy's backstory.

With a ton of other, non-King books to read on my shelves, all I can say is that reading is not just sleep aid for the time being.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Come on up for the rising

For as long as I've enjoyed Bruce Springsteen's work with the E Street Band, I've been really, really late with diving that far into his essential work beyond Born to Run. My lateness will continue until Sony ponies up and remasters Nebraska, The River, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and Born in the U.S.A. I'm not hoping for a deluxe reissue like the Born to Run CD/DVD set -- I just want better-sounding discs that don't sound flat.

If you want to understand why, just pop one of the CDs into your car or iTunes and be ready to play with the volume knob. It truly sucks to hear the depth of these records be zapped and I won't stand for it. And I won't be giving in and buying the records on vinyl. If there's a sound I hate more than anything, it's the pops and crackles with vinyl records.

While I wait for that to ever come to fruition, I recently picked up Bruce's last three records with the E Street Band, The Rising, Magic, and Working On a Dream. I'm glad to know that my money was well-spent as I've enjoyed them quite a bit. I wouldn't recommend a Springsteen newcomer to these albums as starters, but I would highly recommend that a newcomer not skip over them.

Since I'm coming from a light diet of Springsteen (my collection only has Born to Run, Born in the U.S.A., Greatest Hits, Essential, and the Tracks box set), I could sure use a transfusion to get the whole picture. With Dave Marsh's Two Hearts on my to-read shelf, that might help understand a few more things.

Monday, June 07, 2010

September 15th

Barring any natural disasters, dismemberment, or family crisis, I have placed a deadline on finishing my first draft of When We Were the Kids. I'm under no other deadline, but this book has been kicking around in my head for four years. It's time to get something really going.

By no means have I had a bout of writer's block. Far from it, actually. Almost every day for the past few months, I've come up with something that can be used and that streak continues. I can chip at things all I want, but I have to really kick things into gear or this will never get done.

So, for the reason I wanted to have a first full draft by the end of summer, I just picked the middle of September as my deadline. That gives me plenty of time and I'm committed to that date.

As of late, the recently-released oral history Gimme Something Better has inspired me to try a chapter format that I'm quite sure will help make my book easier to read. When you're inspired, go for it and keep going until you want to stop.

This date in September is not the date my book will be done. Rather, this will give me a chance to understand what kind of book this really has turned into and what kind of changes I want to make. I'll also seriously take into consideration how I should release this thing. There are a few options, but that's all I'll say for right now.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Staff Trax

In this week's edition, it's all about that awesome mash-up of Slayer's "Angel of Death" and people going wild in church.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Reading surge

Something that happened last year almost happened again this year. After trying to finish one book for a couple of months, the next book I read took me only two days to finish.

Last year, I read Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon. This year, after taking a couple of months to read the 1,153 pages that is The Stand, I read the 200-pager Carrie in essentially two days (I read the first twenty pages about a month ago while on a video shoot). What's going on here?

Too often, with the constant desire to work on my next book, surf the Internet, watch DVDs, and check out Facebook, reading often becomes reduced to a sleep aid. I like to read a few pages before I take my afternoon nap and before I hit the hay for the night. Reading makes my eyes relax most of the time, so that's how it can take me months to finish one freakin' book.

As I reached the final 200 pages of The Stand, I was determined to finish no matter what. With all these hundreds of pages of build-up to a big showdown in Las Vegas, I wasn't going to hold off on knowing how this all goes down. A charge ignited in me and I've kept going.

Over the weekend, I picked up some more books to read, in addition to my backlog of Stephen King books I want to read. Gimme Something Better is an oral history of a punk scene (this time, the San Francisco area), Runnin' Down a Dream is an oral history of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Clash is the story of the Clash in the words of the band members, and To Hell and Back is Meat Loaf's autobiography. (If this sounds like research for a certain book I'm writing, you're right.)

Let's hope this surge in reading will continue through the summer.