Monday, February 28, 2011

Breaking down Borders

Mere minutes after I heard almost all of the Borders in North Texas were closing, I figured I should make a trip to at least one of the stores. The second-closest one to my house will remain open, but the ones in Lewisville, Uptown, and Highland Park already have the cheapo "Store Closing" signs up.

As un-shocking as this news is, I have to admit there is a bit of sadness I feel about this. If it weren't for Borders sending me weekly coupons for 20-40 percent off a book, I probably would have not gone to one on a regular basis. In turn, I might have not had the large and diverse (at least in my mind) library in my house.

Then again, the reason why my to-read shelves are filled with books is thanks to Half Price Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. As a matter of fact, as of a year ago, I stopped regularly going to Borders to pick up new books. If went into one, it was to check out their bargain section.

Why I stopped going regularly was based on their prices. I was reminded of this notion when I compared prices of the books I bought at the closeout sale. Even after the discount, Borders still had the more expensive items as compared to Amazon. I figured the extra dough I laid out was a way of saying thanks, but my lack of drive to go back for more bargains started almost instantaneously. Think of it as a pat on the back while you shoot the finger with your hand in your pocket.

And so, with that in mind, I say goodbye to most of the Borders I have frequented. May your soon-to-be-vacant buildings find new tenants in the near future. I'll keep reading and finding more things to read, but from somebody else.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy tonight

Not too long after I finished completing my Rush catalog, I decided to fill some holes elsewhere in my library. I'm not trying to be a total completist here, but if there's a band who's consistently good (and I like), then it's worth considering some looking around local used CD stores.

After I found $2 copies of Oasis's Be Here Now and Don't Believe The Truth, I figured I should finish my collection with a copy of Dig Out Your Soul. I still maintain the attitude that (What's the Story) Morning Glory is my favorite Oasis record from start to finish, but I'm glad I found other tracks, like "Mucky Fingers," very much worth my while.

My reasoning for a lapse in following Oasis can really be summed up by my initial impressions of Be Here Now and Heathen Chemistry. I was simply tired of them and tired of reading about them. Oasis was a band perfect for the British weeklies, given how Noel and Liam knew how to get editors excited with choice words. But when it came time to talking about their music, I heard the most about how they copying this legendary artist and this one and this one. I had enough.

I'm glad I've revisited those later albums with Gem Archer and Andy Bell, especially Don't Believe The Truth. Not the best material of their career, but definitely something that should not be skipped over if you actually like Oasis.

And then there's U2.

U2 was the first band I ever wanted to own every album by. I was in seventh grade and I wanted everything, from Boy through Achtung Baby, on cassette. I still have those tapes in my parents' house, but I had yet to really get into the remastered versions of Boy, October, and War. This was mainly due to confusion with the various editions of each one released.

With purchasing a box set with all the bells and whistles, I'm excited about going back to "Stories for Boys," "Out of Control," and "I Fall Down." Couple that with Pop and No Line On the Horizon, I'm quite satisfied with my U2 portion. I can only hope Rattle & Hum gets some kind of reissue, even though there are very mixed feelings about that collection and its accompanying movie.

Strange as it may seem and daunting as it is to have so much music, but it's only natural for me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Guyton Sanders, drummer for the Demigs. Turns out, we've shared bandmates before: he briefly played with Dave from the 11:30s in one of Dave's many post-11:30s projects.

Small world, er, scene.

Monday, February 21, 2011

(18 holes of) Golf!

After a handful of practice runs at a few driving ranges, three years of Wii Golf, twenty years of Putt-Putt, and a few years of carrying the score sign for the Doug Sanders Golf Tournament, I finally hit the links for eighteen holes.

With a mostly overcast day on Saturday, it was perfect weather to try a few things with Matt and his father, Jeff. Over the course of four hours, I hit a few great shots (including one drop from the sand trap into the hole), but there were plenty of mulligans and strained back muscles by the end of the day.

Still, I look forward to my next round.

Helping matters was how encouraging Matt and Jeff were. Neither claimed to be greatness with the woods or the irons, but they definitely had experience. I don't know if I could have asked for better people to do this.

I'm happy to say the golf clubs my father gave me are still in tip-top shape. Give me a few more rounds and they will have seen more action than they ever did in the last forty years.

I need to give my back muscles a rest for a few weeks, but I can still exercise. This is becoming another great way to get out and do something fun. Besides, I can only spend so much time in front of a computer, TV screen, or a book.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My first show

Travis Hopper from Elkhart was cool enough to help out on this week's edition of My First Show. Pretty nice he saw the Jacksons when Michael Jackson was the king of the world.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gone with the Schwinn

Until this past Sunday, I had not been on a bike since middle school. That's right, a good twenty years since a ride.

Once I climbed back onto my Schwinn mountain bike from 1991, all sorts of good feelings came back. With new tires and a helmet on my head, three miles flew by. And I've taken a ride every single day since.

Helping matters is that the weather has been the exact opposite of what it's been in the past two weeks. Sunny skies and 70 degrees -- very similar to what Donna and Noel have enjoyed as well. Also helping is that Diana can take rides with me on her bike.

Getting my old bike back has been welcome because frankly, the exercise routine I've had for the past two years was wearing thin. As much as I love taking Victory out to either the dog park or up and down three miles of hills, there are limits. I wanted to have a little more consistency with pace. I figured it would nicer to not have things like cars, other dogs, and poop breaks to interrupt.

Since Victory whines (quite loudly, mind you) if she's not taken for a run/walk first and foremost, I've devised a new routine. I take her first to the dog park and run ten laps with her. We come home and I grab my bike. Off I go for three miles. In total, ninety minutes pass by quickly and the experience is great.

I'm trying not to border on parody here, like Patrick Bateman talking about his exercise routine and Evian water consumption in American Psycho, but I've chosen to try harder when it comes to exercise. There are few pounds I'd like to lose, sure. I merely want to have some more variety with how I choose my time off from the computer, TV, and books. Couple this with some golfing, it sure feels nice to get out of the house for a change.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Good things

I turned 32 yesterday. Henry Rollins, Jerry Springer, Peter Tork, Peter Hook, and Prince Michael Jackson also celebrated another year of their lives. I'm incredibly happy to say that my life in the 30s is shaping to be much better than my life in the 20s.

I was 22 going on 23 when I graduated college. So much of life was a big series of question marks then. These days, there are still plenty of question marks, but I think I have a better handle on them. I think about plenty of possibilities instead of assuming the worst and thinking there aren't any.

I think things really boil down to how view your life instead of defining it by age. I don't think I ever set myself to achieve a goal by x-amount of years. Merely living life and not letting life go completely down the tubes, you can accomplish plenty.

There are people that I've known (before and now) who, with age, give more and more up on life. The longer the life, the less satisfying. What's the use since it's not getting any better? They choose to make their walls higher, more impenetrable, and closer in. Maybe I listened to too much of the advice of Kermit the Frog, Petula Clark, and Hot Water Music, but that's not the road I want to go down.

So that's why I don't feel old or dread hitting 40 in eight years. I like to joke about being an old soul, but it can be hard to gauge when I'm deadpanning a joke or being serious. Changes are brewing in a good way and I don't need a fortune cookie to remind me of that. Amazing what happens when you don't give up on life.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My first show

Matt Pittman from Red Animal War and the Light Fantastic was kind enough to take time out this week to share his experiences. Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


After a very long and stressful week of dealing with ice-filled roads, I received some news I wasn't surprised to get. But when I received the news, it still stung. I finally received word back from an agent who believed in POST and tried to find a suitable home for it with a "name" publisher: he politely passed on When We Were the Kids.

I make no bones about how When We Were the Kids is a slightly more difficult read compared to POST. There are a couple dozen speakers, all describing a music scene that once existed. I have yet to read an oral history that didn't have a couple dozen speakers, all almost sounding like it was from one voice. This is the nature of the beast.

I'm not trying to be difficult -- I can't really think of any other way in presenting a story like this. Would you really believe a story about a multi-person rock scene from one speaker or narrator? I wouldn't.

I've lost track as to exactly how much time I've spent on this book, but I believe it's safe to say it's been four years in the making. I'm not about to abandon ship now because I believe in the material, even though others don't. This is a kind of mantra that has followed me my entire life.

All this said, I feel incredibly free to do whatever the hell I want to with the material. I have 100 percent creative control by self-publishing and I don't really have to answer to anyone. Yet I don't want to spit out something half-baked. I'm giving myself until May to make a final draft and hopefully release the damn thing by the end of the year.

How's that for an update?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Gamelan D'Drum

Due to weather issues, only one performance of the heralded, Stewart Copeland-penned "Gamelan D'Drum" was this past weekend. And I was lucky enough to see it.

Darryl wrote a pretty thorough write-up of the performance, but I wanted to add some of things I noticed. As a drummer who is usually cautious about a 35-minute drum-fueled piece, I had some slight hesitation this would be a repetitive novelty after a few minutes. Thanks to the Dallas Symphony performing behind the five percussionists of D'Drum, I was pretty taken the entire time. Plus, conductor Jaap van Zweden was absolutely the real deal: he clearly cared about the music and conducted in a (dare I say) artful and precise way.

Given that my knowledge of composers is limited compared to my knowledge of say, death metal or emo punk, I thought of composers like Bernard Herrmann, Igor Stravinsky, and John Williams while the piece was performed. Meaning, the many various sounds of percussion were at the lead while there was a bit of free time mixed with grand sweeps of melody. Quite a great thing to experience live.

Before the performance, Stewart Copeland spoke to a relatively large room of curious attendees. Wonderfully well-spoken and friendly, he even politely took a question about the Police. I didn't get a chance to speak with him, but I sure would have loved to ask him about his father. Nevermind the fact that Copeland was the one of first rock drummers I have a memory of ever seeing (due to my regular viewing of Friday Night Videos on Saturday mornings) or how much I still love his drumming in the Police. No, I wanted to know if his father ever spoke of my grandfather, Roy Grubbs Jr.

You see, all through the twenty years I got to be around my grandfather, he'd tell jokes and stories over and over again. One thing he frequently mentioned was how he was fraternity brothers with Miles Copeland Jr. He'd mention how one of Miles' sons was in a rock band. I, of course, would get very excited and tell him how I knew who Stewart was. A nice little connection between generations, I thought. Especially since those generation gaps tend to be incredibly wide.

I didn't get to ask my question on Saturday night, but it's OK with me. I appreciate Stewart as a performer and a writer in so many ways that I couldn't simply ask him one question. I'd ask twenty more if I had the opportunity. Instead, I got the satisfaction of hearing and seeing someone who has never been forever locked in the world of punk rock's parameters.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My first show

This week's edition of My First Show features Don Cento, someone I saw play many shows with Chomsky. He talks about seeing Van Halen on the same bill with Metallica and Scorpions. Also on the bill, the still-hated Zeppelin-like Kingdom Come. Fun times.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Allow me to break the ice

Driving in this morning while freezing rain and high winds made it hard for me to stay on the highway, I thought about something that's been making me laugh a lot lately. It's all here, a collection of puns spoken by Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin, as portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I'm not someone who thinks Batman & Robin is the worst film in history (that distinction, currently, is a tie between The Beach and the original When A Stranger Calls), but I've never had a desire to rewatch the film. I remember seeing the film in the theater with my bandmates at the time. I didn't hate it, but I'd say I was entertained. The whole "It's not nice to mess with Mother Nature" line bugged me though.

All these years later, there's this crazed desire I have to watch the movie again. No matter how bad those puns are ("Allow me to break the ice" and "What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!" are some of my favorites), I want to re-examine this franchise-killing film. I think the film still looks fantastic with its use of color and I think it would be much more suitable for younger kids. Once they hit puberty, it's all about the Christopher Nolan adaptations and nothing else.

I find things rather peculiar in how, no matter how much money Batman & Robin raked in, it's still considered a flop. Once again, any movie's legacy is based on its reputation by the people who wanted to see (and probably paid to see it), not by how much money it pulled in at the box office. So that's why I probably would like to borrow it from somebody I know. Or just make it a quick Netflix rental and be done with it.