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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Surrender to vinyl (again!)

I've given in. Kind of.

I still have a lot of hesitation with beefing up my vinyl LP collection. These days, it's still CDs in the car while I have my iTunes at home. There's no reason to change things around. Vinyl is big and clunky and there's always that snap, crackle, and pop on playback. To me, vinyl is staying in, taking it easy, and listening to music for hours. That's not where my life is on most days.

Yet something happened while I researched my feature story on True Widow: I could only hear the record on vinyl.

Under strict instructions by their label, nobody in the band could burn me a copy. They couldn't burn a copy for anyone. I had to listen to a test pressing on vinyl while hanging out with the band. That was it. No driving around, listening to it in my various moods. I had one chance, so I took copious notes as I sat at Nicole's dining room table and the band sat on the couch. I still stand behind my views on the album. But I will say the record sounds incredibly better on vinyl.

This past week, I've listened to my CD version (thanks, download code!) while driving around. The guitars' propulsion sound toned down. The echo found in the vocals is also toned down. It's not a mastering sort of thing: this is purely a format issue.

I'm happy to say I forked over a little more to have the record on vinyl. Yet hunting down Hot Water Music 7-inches on orange vinyl is not on my horizon. Now, this vinyl-only Foo Fighters compilation of covers? I'll be looking for it on Record Store Day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Sean Kirkpatrick from the Paper Chase and Nervous Curtains. Interesting little fact: he was (and I think still is) the piano teacher for my old housemate/bandmate, Jason. We love our small little world.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Let Me In

I send many thanks to Matt Reeves for slipping one past the goalie. For a buzzer beater. For a Hail Mary pass.

I'm not surprised to say I enjoyed Let Me In, Reeves' take on John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel, Let The Right One In. And I enjoyed it much more so than Tomas Alfredson's Swedish film adaptation, Let The Right One In.

Yes, I'm happy to say what could have been a forgettable, pointless, exercise in redundancy greatly exceeded my expectations. I knew Let Me In would be a worthwhile film, but I didn't imagine I'd be heaping so much love its way.

When I saw Let The Right One In, I did not understand its high praise. I found it to be praiseworthy. It was like if Gus Van Sant went to Sweden to make a vampire flick. I did not hate the movie (quite the contrary), but you could count me out of the kind of enthusiasm the film seemed to generate during its theatrical release.

I should disclose this -- I saw Let The Right One In without its original, theatrical subtitles, and I plan to revisit it with its theatrical subtitles intact. But I must admit things are a little hard to top after watching Let Me In.

With a vivid visual style, the actors (especially its child leads), and Michael Giacchino's score, there isn't a false note in this film. Whether or not you think this is a Xerox copy of Alfredson's movie for people who don't like subtitles, this is kind of movie for folks who don't like remakes or American adaptations. Word is Reeves worked on an adaptation long before Alfredon's film came out, so any accusations of a cash-grab should be rendered false. I believe that to be true after watching his take.

So, yes, as someone who has vocally been against the idea of remakes (with some exceptions), I can't recommend this movie enough. That is, if you like films like this. I'm definitely not going to sit my parents down and have them watch.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Just checked in

Last week, Diana received serious news about her health. This was a kind of serious news that made her, along with her friends, family, and me, quite nervous. Did she immediately write a blog post or make a grand declaration about it on Facebook, mere minutes after the fact? Nope. She collected her thoughts and wrote lengthy posts on her new blog. All along, I thought she did (and continues to do) the right thing in sharing this news.

I'll let her speak for herself about her health (this post is a good starting point). If you want to follow her progress, by all means, read her blog. She's a talented writer, among many, many other things.

While she, along with her family and I, received the status about her condition, we decided to not make a public announcement on our various ways of online communicating. I'm not a fan of having an open invite to a pity party, especially via Facebook. And neither is she. Slowly, more and more people close to us got the news. You can't really post a basic summary of this stuff in a few sentences without explanation, you know?

In receiving this news, I didn't want to say anything until things were firm enough. Notice there was no mention of this stuff last week while I was with her in the hospital? Well, it's because we know a few people who make their lives very public online. And frankly, it's uncomfortable to read posting after posting about whatever drama is derailing somebody's life. From a bad boss to car trouble to clothes not fitting, somebody else's business can be on everyone else's radar. Life can get trivialized that way, especially when there is not a sense of humor about it.

I know I'm very guilty of writing very public things in the past (feel free and scan those archives to the right of the page). But I've always tried to be careful about things and really think matters through before posting stuff online. From my blog to my Twitter to my Facebook page, I choose to not make this an online version of a diary.

Think about it: a diary is supposed to be private, yes? And what usually happens when someone (say your brother or mother) reads a diary written by someone else? Pure embarrassment, yes?

Blogging may have blurred some walls together in telling the difference between what's your business and what you tell people, from your best friend in high school to somebody you just met (and to people you've never met). Twitter and Facebook have blurred more things together. But is it demanded of us to update everything that we're on in the online realm, from Foursquare to Blogger? I don't think so.

It's not like I shy away from writing what I'm feeling. But you can write too much about yourself. We all have daily drama, some days it's bigger than other days. But, even as technology expands, there are plenty of reasons to not broadcast every single detail on your life online.

We still want privacy in the world, right?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Chris Bonner from THe BAcksliders. I definitely enjoyed his part about seeing KISS as a kid and then taking his kids to see them many years later.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fast food for yuppies

As the wait continues for In-N-Out's Texas debut, Matt and I decided to check out Elevation Burger. I had heard some good things about the place, so I figured it would be worth my time.

I'm no expert when it comes to burger places, but Snuffer's remains a must-visit place for me. Even though I visit the place (maybe) once a year, I hold the place in the highest regard. Now after having Elevation, I think I've got a tie going on.

Elevation makes a big deal about the quality of their beef, and it is something to cheer about. Matter of fact, that's probably the best thing about their food. Yes, this was still a greasy burger, but it didn't taste like processed meat claiming to be 100 percent beef. Plus, the added cheddar was absolutely delightful.

While the amount of fries they gave me was a little too much (and their prices were a tad high), I see plenty of reasons to go back to the place.

As Matt and I left the parking lot, he declared the place was "fast food for yuppies." We had a good chuckle, but it made me reflect on a few things.

I figured out a while ago that if you want good food (as in, it tastes good and is good for you), you have to pay a little more for it. When it comes to burgers and fries, I rarely eat them. Matter of fact, if I have a burger, it's usually at a barbeque at my house or a friend's house. This is not the kind of stuff I eat on a weekly basis. If I do have a desire for one, I prefer to not eat at McDonald's or Burger King simply as a matter of taste, not because of business practices.

So if I'm going to have a burger, I want it to taste good. I want something good since I like to eat vegetarian stuff most of the time. While it's usually chicken, steak, hamburgers, or hot dogs also fit the bill.

Maybe this mindset puts me in a prime target demographic for Elevation. I guess I am a yuppie by association. But the way I see it, choosing to eat the food you want to eat instead of trying to impress people with what you eat is a very different sort of thing. You're going to be typecast wherever you eat, so it best be a place you like to eat.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Adam

My computer access has been sparse for the past few days, but I did read Pete's post about the death of Adam Carter, bassist of Spector 45 and the Felons.

I didn't know Adam too well. We had mutual friends, but I never hung out with him one on one. I had seen him play with the Felons a couple of times, but I got to know him when he ran sound for the Pull Tabs. He was life-saver at the venue we were playing.

You see, when a venue books a rock band, you should expect a rock band to show up. And a rock band that doesn't play loud is not a rock band. So when this venue (that has rock bands all the time) believes a loud band scares off customers from keeping a beer tab, they tell bands to turn down. As somebody who has been to this venue before, I've seen the venue packed and the bands playing at full volume. So, why tell any bands to turn down?

Before working with Adam, a couple of soundmen at this venue told us to turn down, whether it was a guitar amp or me to tone down the drumming. Adam never pulled that with us. He wanted us to be ourselves and play however we wanted to play. In turn, he granted us some of the best monitor mixes we've ever had as a band, and he made us sound good.

This is the lasting memory I have of Adam, along with his talents behind an electric bass. He was a quiet, mellow guy who cared. He said a lot with his actions rather than his words. I'm sad this memory has a tragic post-script, but I'm glad to have been around him.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Scott Porter from Record Hop, a band I have enjoyed countless times over the past few years.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Turn Off the Dark

Amidst the weekly coverage about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and its problems, I've tried to keep things at an arm's length. But when my parents got to see a preview over the weekend, I felt compelled to read this thorough article in the New York Times on the play's troubled production.

I have yet to hear from my parents on what they thought of the show, but I already wonder what constitutes a great adaptation of a comic book into another medium, be it a movie or a musical.

Whether or not the Geek Chorus (yes, you heard that right) and Arachne will be in the final version of the play since director Julie Taymor has left the project, I'm curious what kind of appeal this play is going for. Given how much money has been spent so far, it's definitely for a very broad audience, but I wonder how broad it is meant to be.

These days, its appeal is on the same level as watching a certain portion of a highway that is often the sight of bad car wrecks. This plays right into our constant fascination with life going haywire, somehow putting our life's hang-ups into perspective.

I think about my parents and what could appeal to them with a play like this. I believe they know the basics of Peter Parker's superhero story. Yet ask them about Dr. Curt Connors or even Gwen Stacy and they'd probably ask you to say those names again.

In my case, my knowledge is based mainly on the various Spider-Man cartoons I watched as a child along with the three Sam Raimi movies. I know about some of the major plotlines from the comics, like the one where Peter gives up his masked life. Yet trying to tell you the Vulture's origin story off the top of my head, I got nothing.

But I wonder, am I, along with my parents, supposed to feel together in (hopefully) enjoying something with nods to Greek tragedy? What's supposed to breathe new life into something while also being faithful to its source material?

I'm all too aware of geek culture's whines about previous adaptations of comics. I can't believe how much nipples on the Batman suit still infuriates people. Really? Mere inches on a costume is a big reason why people want to castrate the director, writers, and producers of Batman & Robin? Will the same happen for those who are involved (even in the smallest capacity) with Turn Off the Dark?

In the end, I hope people get their money's worth and this isn't thought of in the same arena as that Bob Dylan play.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I didn't even recognize you

I seem to be in the middle of a streak. Not the kind of streak Ray Stevens sang about or something the Dallas Mavericks tend to have every few weeks. Instead, it's involving me attending a wedding and people I have known for a long time don't recognize me.

The people that don't recognize me have a very valid excuse: I was thirty pounds heavier and had a crooked goatee around my mouth when they last saw me. But this was me ten years ago.

Maybe I should have befriended these people on Facebook or sent a random hello message before the wedding. That thought never really crossed my mind. And besides, not everyone is on Facebook and I don't have everyone's e-mail addresses.

You know how when you're in teens and grow a lot vertically and horizontally in only a few months or years? That's a very valid reason for not recognizing someone you don't see every Thanksgiving or Christmas. It's the, "I remember when you were only this [hold your hand in the air a little above your waist] tall." This is a different matter.

This current streak started a couple of years ago, while attending a wedding for someone I've known all of my life. The last time he saw me was at my sister's wedding in 2002. I was a pudgy dude with this (hopefully-rarely-documented) dark red-haired spot. But he knew me growing up and knew what I looked like.

Alas, when he and his new bride made the rounds to tables, thanking those who came, his wife recognized me (even though I had never met her), but he didn't. The awkwardness lasted only ten seconds, but this ball got rolling.

At a wedding I went to last fall, I went up to the parents of two guys I used to play in a band with. They introduced themselves like they had never met me before. Gears were running in my head about why the father and mother were saying their names to me and shook my hand. These were people I was very close to when I played with their sons. Now this was like something out of that Rock Hudson movie, Seconds.

And lastly, certain people in a wedding I attended on Saturday didn't recognize me. Not only did they not recognize me by body or facial shape, but they didn't know how much I love to dance. (When "YMCA" comes on, I transform into a dance machine.)

It was good to reconnect with these people even if there was a moment of reintroduction. With another wedding in pike for me in a few weeks, I wonder if the streak will continue. Frankly, I hope not.

Friday, March 11, 2011

My first (face to face) show

My friends Eric and Amy Mueller have a new blog going devoted to punk rock memories. As a guest columnist, I wrote about the first time I saw face to face.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Jeff Parker, someone I've seen play many times with [DARYL] and Les Americains.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

I'll just look it up

Prior to hitting up the Trashcan Sinatras show, I was reminded of the difference between my generation and a younger generation's approach to technology.

As I've mentioned before, I love having my old bike and riding it. I had to get some new handlebar grips since the old ones had fallen apart. Figuring it would be easy to glide these rubber tubes on my bike, I didn't think of looking online about how to put them on. Why in the world would I stop and do that? Seemed like a no-brainer situation.

Well, after forming three blisters on my two hands (two of them were on my thumbs and they both formed and ripped off in the span of a few minutes), I was about to give up and try again the following morning. I sat down at my computer and typed in a few words with a Google search. Finding a video tutorial on the topic, I realized there was a secret: spray hairspray on the inside of the grip and the grip will easily slip on.

After grabbing a can of hairspray from Matt's bathroom, the process only took a couple of more tries, but I was successful mere minutes after the fact. I had to think about why I didn't look this up in the first place. I had never put grips on a bike before, but I'm not wired to resort to the Internet for answers on all things I didn't know yet.

A few weeks back, I teased a friend of mine (who's barely into his twenties) about how he resorts to his cell phone's wifi for information on almost anything. When telling him the general location of the bar we were going to later that night, he told me not to worry about telling him exact an street name or address. "I'll just look it up," he said as he gestured to his cell phone.

In response, I jokingly brought up the idea of looking for the meaning of life by looking that up online. He joked back that he had an app for that.

Maybe it's with people who had their first cell phones equipped with Internet or never knew what it was like to use a dial-up modem. As helpful as I find the Internet, I'm not so locked into it the notion that "my life" is stored on a device. The thing is a guide to me, pure and simple. Above all else, I'd prefer to learn from what I can from human interaction. For the rest, there's the Internet

Monday, March 07, 2011

People

I might be new to the Trashcan Sinatras' work, but I had a great time watching them play on Friday night.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

As High As the Highest Heavens . . .

The last time I did a full-page feature for the Observer was last summer. Here's my return, this time on the great local band, True Widow.

And for this week's edition of My First Show, it's with the Trashcan Sinatras.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Big Payback

Two of the three books I bought at the soon-to-close Borders were books I've had my eye on for a while. I've already read one of them and I'm in the middle of reading the other one. (The third book, I should mention, was purchased as a birthday gift for my father.) The two books were Mustaine by Dave Mustaine and The Big Payback by Dan Charnas.

Ever since I saw Dave Mustaine's appearance in Some Kind of Monster, I wondered about the guy. I knew he has said choice words about Metallica ever since he was fired from the band, but after I watched his conversation with Lars Ulrich, I had a lot of questions.

I'm happy to say I got a lot of answers by reading Mustaine. Not only is there a first-hand account of the early (garage) days of Metallica, but plenty behind all those times I saw Megadeth videos on MTV and Dave's various appearances on the channel (including the time he was a political correspondent in the '92 election).

There's very little in the way of sour grapes. More or less, Dave is very blunt about his time as an alcoholic and drug addict. There are plenty of swipes at former bandmates of his, but he blames himself more. Definitely a good, compelling read.

Dan Charnas' The Big Payback is a book that looks at the history of hip-hop as a business. Since I'm convinced modern pop music is sold based on the hip-hop model, I wanted to read all about it. I still scratch my head about hip-hop's appeal with the League of Meh but I've been aware of how it's been sold to a mass audience since the early '90s. From the Sugar Hill Gang to MC Hammer to Dr. Dre, there's something to be said about what was once considered a fad.

I have yet to pass the one-hundred page mark with the book (I just started on Sunday), but I'm quite happy to have this in my library. As great as the Dark Tower series is, I need breaks from it. Specifically, by reading nonfiction. And I'm glad Borders helped get the ball rolling for me in the first place.