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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When We?

We have about a month of summer left, and despite my earlier hopes that When We Were the Kids would be out in the summer, it's been postponed until the fall. Finances are the bigger concern right now. Eating and keeping gas in my car are the bigger priorities than looking into self-publishing.

As much as I know there are people that want to read my second book, this is a niche release. How some books get wide acclaim, while many others float out there to hardly any acclaim, comes down to marketing. It amazes me how books like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo can get people like my parents to read them, but that's the power of recommendation from trusted sources.

It's certainly frustrating when I read a highly-touted book and wonder, How did this get passed fickle editors and picky agents? Right now, I'm reading Justin Cronin's The Passage, a book that was highly-regarded upon release (and certainly made into an even bigger deal when its film rights sold in the seven figures). Overall, the book is intriguing, but (without spoiling anything) the narrative shifts way more than most books. Starting off the first 200 pages with development of a handful of fascinating characters, then it jumps decades in time to a few dozen new characters. The reader in me knows there's a point to all this (the book is the first in a trilogy, and I'm sure the first handful of characters will be very important down the line), but the editor in me thinks, How did Cronin get away with this? Wouldn't most editors ask to make this easier to understand for the common reader?

Yes, you have to have a thick skin to navigate your way around with authoring a book. I've been through the metaphorical experience of seeing your child getting beaten up on the playground and you can't do anything about it. It certainly helps when authors you admire receive an even worse beating by naysayers. And it is nice when authors personally tell you everything will be OK at the end of the day.

When We Were the Kids has been read by a few trusted friends; friends that are the target demographic. And they dig it. Their feedback has been a helpful boost to what I've been working on for five years. Certainly is a reminder that you should put out what you want to put out. But I'm of the attitude that I should finely sculpt what I want out there instead of releasing my first assembly draft.

I look forward to the day when my Word file "WWWTK final draft" is printed and bound (and also available as an e-book), but I can't commit exactly to a release date yet. But believe me, it will be worth the wait if you liked Post.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Adopt Me!

Pet adoption is a good thing. I love dogs. I have written a lot about my beagle over the years. I happily adopted her from a Fort Worth shelter. I grew up with dogs. I took care of my previous housemate's dog for five years. I helped take care of an Akita that belonged to a New Orleans police officer for a couple of weeks after Hurricane Katrina. I love my girlfriend's dogs. And I gladly took care of my neighbors' dogs while they were out of town a month ago.

But if there's one thing I cannot stand, it's seeing friends of mine on Facebook clogging up a news feed with pictures and links featuring dogs that might be put to sleep if they aren't adopted in time.

I don't mean to be heartless, but I'm not so sure what "good" there is with posting picture after picture with a description like, "Scrappy needs a home by Friday or he will be put down." I understand the idea of trying to put the word out if anyone is looking for a new dog, but not everybody wants a dog or can take care of a dog. And not every dog can get the care it needs in one household if the house is overrun by dogs.

I'm not about to run a kennel in my house. My daily focus is on Victory, and I happily help out with my girlfriend's two dogs. They all receive plenty of love and care, but I can't even fathom trying to save every at-risk dog in the metroplex. No, I don't like seeing dogs get put down, but I don't want to feel some guilt that I'm not Crazy Dog Man. That pulling on the heartstrings can be overbearing. I can only hope that dogs and cats find loving homes and live fulfilling lives.

Friday, July 27, 2012

In the Bright Rain

I was planning on going to see the Angelus and Crushed Stars at LaGrange as a fan. When Audra asked me to review it, I took some pictures as well.

And our continuing series on Best Texas Songs continues. For this entry, I wrote about Tripping Daisy's "Waited a Light Year" and Pantera's "Walk."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with the Angelus, a band I saw open for Silver Mt. Zion a few months ago.

Also, Audra wanted us writers to come up with some of the best songs by Texas artists. In this first installment, I wrote about At the Drive-In and Old 97's.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Do Your Feet Hurt?

I have to admit that I have an extremely bad habit when I go to shows: I grind the soles of my feet into the ground. The Tenacious D show was no exception, even though the ground is pretty smooth in the Palladium. I walked out of that show wondering how sore my feet would be the following morning.

There have been times in the past where I would put my feet in a hot bath. Usually does the trick, but not always. Regardless, if I don't spend too much time putting a lot of weight on my feet, I'm back in the game a day later.

But I ask myself why I do this. I've been to many shows over the years, and I still have a restless anticipation. I figure that's what happens when I'm in a big room filled with people I don't know. I consider it a nervous tick, like when I scratch the back of my head, feel up my chin, and invisibly trace around my chicken pox scar below my right ear.

With the Tenacious D show, there were other factors: I wanted to be kinda close to the stage, but not too close. I was about twenty people back, near stage left. I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of space. My neck started to strain halfway through because two grizzlies were standing in front of me. A lot of people just wanted to catch a glimpse of Jack Black.

Until I get some help from Dr. Scholls, it looks like I'm going to have some feet to rub or soak. But since I usually have a good time at shows, it's only a small sacrifice.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wonderboy

Friday night, I reviewed Tenacious D's set at the Palladium. The band was good, but the sound mix was another story.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with Justin Young, a man of many talents and bands. Currently, he plays in no fewer than four bands.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'M BUSY

Tim Kreider's editorial on "The 'Busy' Trap" continues to be on my mind, weeks after it appeared online. It's popped up in a couple of conversations I've had recently, and it's made me think about how we juggle our workload and free time, if we have any.

I know people who work 60 hours a week and rarely have time to chit-chat beyond a quick e-mail or text message. I also know people work up to 80 hours a week and still have time for bikeriding and kickball. Seems like approaching someone, even a friend or family member, requires some number-crunching these days. You don't want to drag your friends down with long conversations when they're in the middle of something that has to be done quickly, but isn't it nice to just say, "How are you doing?"

In the past few months, I've chosen to do this tactic: send a friend a text message saying, "When you get the chance, would you mind calling me?" Usually I get a call back or an e-mail back, but there are times that text messages fall into a cyber black hole. So whenever I have a chance to hang out with a friend who has a lot of plates spinning, I make the most out of the time we have together.

Recently, a friend of mine from New York was in town. We hung out all afternoon and even talked about Kreider's editorial. Since my friend is a freelance writer and podcast participant, I have no clue as to how busy he is or when he's busy. Being a freelancer is especially a floating thing because you don't really have set hours. I've thought, When is a good time to call him and ask how he's been?

At the wedding I MC'd, a friend I had not seen in a year suggested we talk more on the phone. We used to talk quite a bit, but when life gets busy with doing other things, setting up a casual conversation is like making dinner plans. They have to be in advance and be at an appropriate time.

I'm guilty of the busy trap as well. So much of my post-layoff life has been hurry up and wait. Lots of things come together, but then there's a lot of down time. Last night, I received a call from a friend asking me when I could give him some pointers on social media. Since I have plans for Wednesday, I suggested he call me on Thursday morning so we could set up a time later in the day to talk. As crazy as that trail sounds, it's more of a matter with finding the right time to give someone else your undivided attention.

Being busy is a good thing, yet I think it's important to not stick your head in the water for too long. We're all busy to some degree. Carving out some time isn't too much to ask, is it?

Monday, July 16, 2012

MC Egg Rubbs

Well,"wedding MC" is now something I can add to my list of experiences. I'm not sure it belongs on a resume, but if a friend or family member asked me to MC his or her reception, I'm game.

After a very short ceremony and some sight-seeing around old college stomping grounds, the reception was in full swing. My job was easy, as the groom (my friend and former bandmate) had everything ready to go on his laptop. And turning on the microphone was simple: move the slider into the "On" position.

The first thing I had to say was a mouthful: introduce the entire wedding party, talk up the dinner, and plug the photobooth. Aside from saying "Come on down" for the various groomsmen and bridesmaids, the only other quip I said was that guests keep their clothes on while taking pictures in the photobooth.

Walking out onto the stage, I saw a sight I hadn't seen since I did stand-up comedy in elementary school: a room filled with people looking at me in silence. Nerves were small thanks to a strong rum and Coke I had before getting up on the stage. But ultimately, since I had a general idea of what to say, the words rolled out.

My desire was to keep things rolling with the wedding reception and not turn this into a comedy routine. Since the bride is Polish, she honored a Polish tradition where the groom drinks vodka from the bride's shoe. I couldn't help say "Chug! Chug! Chug!" as the vodka came down. And with the tossing of the bouquet and garter (I picked that one up after I fell on the floor near my left shoe), it was all about dancing. And I danced for about 90 minutes.

You want to be there for your friends on one of the most important nights of their lives. Even if I wasn't the MC, I would have been immensely happy that I got to be present in the event.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with Tony Ash from Trophy Wives. Not to be confused with the Dallas band of the same name, this four-piece hails from Louisville, KY. We talked about Fugazi and Black Flag, so it was an easy interview.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Scenes from a Dream Theater show



When I wrapped up my interview with John Petrucci a few weeks ago, I mentioned that their show at Verizon was going to be my first time to see the band. He sounded surprised, given how much I knew about the band's history.

Well, I had my reasons. Many reasons, actually. The biggest one was how there was a tremendous gap between my initial exposure to the band and my rekindling of appreciating their music. And their vocal, fervent fans really weirded me out for years.

Like a lot of people, Dream Theater came into my life with Images and Words. My enthusiasm carried over to their 1994 follow-up, Awake. Then the band slipped off my radar completely a couple of years later. I knew they were still making records, but I had no interest in hearing them. I was too much into the raw passion and melody found in pop-punk and post-hardcore than anything remotely resembling progressive rock. Dream Theater could rock, but their love of odd-time signatures and dozens of changes per song didn't grab me like a Face to Face song.

Not helping matters was how nerdy elitists clung to Dream Theater and endlessly championed them online and in person. In my eyes, going to a DT show was like entering the Math Olympics at a Guitar Center with a few breaks to play Magic: The Gathering. Completely alien to my world of DIY punk shows, I never imagined seeing the famed five-piece.

Things turned around when I fell in deep with prog-fused hardcore found in The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Mars Volta. The passion I was attracted to was there, and these guys could play a ton of notes or just a little - and it all worked out. Thus, a few years later, after Mike Portnoy quit Dream Theater, I decided to play a lot of catch-up with their music. Turns out, they put a steady string of great records, and my desire to see them live reached Ludicrous Speed.

Keeping this all in the back of my head, I walked into Verizon Theatre on Monday night hoping for a good show. I figured I'd hear some funny, nerdy discussions about technical prowess, the band's post-Portnoy work, and so on, as well. Instead, things turned out to be a much, much better than anything I could imagine.

-If there is one word to describe most DT fans, it's "nice." Not creepy-nice. Nice, as in, genuinely friendly and courteous.

-Milling around the lobby area, I saw a roaming T-shirt museum of previous DT tours. Harking back to Images and Words to Scenes from a Memory to Train of Thought, guys showed their stripes as longtime fans.

-Lots of fathers and sons together at this show. Near the restrooms, I overheard a teenager talk to his father about how much money he could earn as a concert promoter. Number-crunching aloud, lots of money was talked about. I didn't hear anything about taxes and service fees though.

-Dream Theater fans come across as well-spoken and well-educated. They also seem to have a lot of money to throw around, especially like a friend of mine who has seen them five times on this tour cycle (including dates in Phoenix, Chicago, and Paris).

-Overheard en route to my seat, as Pink Floyd's "Learning to Fly" played on the PA: "At least they play good music. They should play Rush."

-Twenty minutes into opener Crimson Projeckt's set, a male and female in my row got up and went to the lobby. "I don't like them," the woman said. "I have a headache now," the man said. Still, plenty of people stayed to listen to the dystopian prog of this King Crimson offshoot.

-Taking a bathroom break before Dream Theater, a guy my age asked me at the towel dispenser, "What did you think of Crimson Projeckt? Best. Opener. Ever!"

-Dream Theater played non-stop for almost two hours. Five of their 14 songs were from A Dramatic Turn of Events. Those sounded great, newest member Mike Mangini handled everything effortlessly and passionately, and older songs like "A Fortune in Lies" and "Surrounded" were absolutely killer.

-John Petrucci had not one, but two moments where his guitar didn't generate any sound. You could say it was a Spinal Tap moment, but hey, go easy on this. It's not like he had a violin or a miniature Stonehenge next to him.

-Did have a good chuckle as I walked out and heard a group of guys talking about the bass drum tone and another couple of guys complaining about the lack of older songs. You can't please all DT fans.

Here's the full setlist:
"Bridges in the Sky"
"6:00"
"The Dark Eternal Night"
"This is the Life"
"The Root of All Evil"
"Lost Not Forgotten"
"A Fortune in Lies"
"Surrounded"
(piano solo)
"On the Backs of Angels"
"War Inside My Head"
"The Test That Stumped Them All"
"The Spirit Carries On"
(piano/guitar duet)
"Breaking All Illusions"
Encore
"Metropolis Part 1"

Monday, July 09, 2012

Three years of Victory



On this day, three years ago, I wasn't expecting to adopt a beagle.

Not at all. A former neighbor of mine had a beagle and he howled constantly. As much as I loved Snoopy as a kid (and still do as an adult), I wasn't about to get a dog that always sang a B-flat.

In the month I had between housemates, life felt very empty. I had spent so many of those five previous years with a terrier named Juliet. Now the house was barely half full with my stuff, awaiting Matt's arrival on the Fourth of July. Once Matt moved in, I looked into getting another dog.

A trip to the Dallas SPCA was rather heart-breaking; not many dogs, and many with life-threatening conditions that required an expensive upkeep. But thanks to a friend of a friend, I was tipped off about the Humane Society in Fort Worth. Seeing a dog that I liked on a pet adoption website, I decided to make the trek out. The dog wasn't there, but Victory was.

The key factor for me was that she didn't bark her head off at me. Most dogs did. She just gave me googly eyes as I passed by her pen multiple times. I ended up taking her home that day.

And every day since then has been elevated because of her.

I never imagined saying that about a dog, but it's true. No matter how good or bad a day I'm having, she's always there, happy to see me and Matt. And it helps she's still strong enough for daily three-mile walks.

She turned eight a few weeks ago, and I hope many more days are filled with joy because of her.

And she's a daily reminder that putting effort into finding the right situation is absolutely worth it in the long run.

My first . . .

My First didn't run last week because it usually runs on Wednesday and last Wednesday was a company holiday. Plus, the band I'm featuring this week plays tonight. So without further ado, here's my interview with John Petrucci from Dream Theater.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Warped

I covered the Warped Tour yesterday. Lots of good sights, ending with a great set by Taking Back Sunday. Read the whole thing here.

Monday, July 02, 2012

MC

As I look forward to the fourth and final wedding I'm attending this year, I also have something else on my mind. This will be the first wedding I've MC'd. That's right, me, Master of Ceremonies at the reception. The bride-to-be asked me and I said yes without hesitation.

Getting together recently with the couple, we discussed what needs to be spoken and when. Seeing as how I recently went to a wedding with a phenomenal DJ/MC, I'm going to attempt to take a lot of cues from him. If I have a script or just some copy points, I can do this.

Yet speaking in front of people with a microphone is still a new thing to me. I did standup comedy in elementary school, gave funny speeches at band banquets in high school, and I once introduced the high school band at a football game. Couple that with all my years reporting traffic on the radio and hosting my own show on KTCU, I'd be comfortable in front of microphone by now.

Well, I'm not.

Most of the time, when you talk on the radio, you're talking to either an empty room or to only a few people. How many people that are listening on their radio is a phantom, theater-of-the-mind sort of thing. If you imagine too much, it will drive you crazy. I attempted to not think about that and focus on what was going on in the room.

Alas, I welcome this challenge. I want my friends to have a great wedding and fun-filled reception. I just hope there's not a lot of microphone feedback.