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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My first . . .

Nice little background on this week's edition with Jake Bannon from Converge. I had never interviewed him before, but one of my friends had. The word on Jake was, "He's intense." I didn't know what to expect, but when I called him a few weeks ago, he was one of the nicest guys I've ever interviewed. Obviously we talked about a lot of different stuff, but I'm happy it's stuff you don't normally see in an interview with him. Looks like all that time listening to the band's material and following MMA helped me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

22

I made a big hub-ub about getting a new bike, but I haven't really written anything about it since then. Well, the bike has served me incredibly well. So well that I clear an average between 20-45 miles a week. The key is to stay consistent and there is immense enjoyment in staying consistent.

I've had to make some adjustments to the bike in order to handle everything I like to do: got new tires (the ones that the bike came with had large nubs, so it felt like I was peddling a tractor), new tubes (it's not fun to get ready for a ride and finding a flat tire), and new pedals (the plastic ones that came with the bike broke after a few long rides). Thus, I recognize all the employees at the bike shop I go to.

Finding a safe route from my house to the White Rock Lake trail, I can clear 22 miles in two hours. That's two nine-mile laps around the lake as well as four total miles to get from my house and back. I get a strong feeling of happiness when I'm able to accomplish this feat and still walk the next day.

Stating all of this, I wonder what kind of bicyclist this makes me. I care about how well I can do, but I'm not aiming to do a marathon. I wear gloves and a helmet, but that's no-brainer safety. I announce "On your left" when I pass people by but I don't run over them. I don't wear skin-tight clothing; I wear my sweats and training shoes. I don't think of myself as a bike Nazi, but I'm definitely not the type that casually rides down the street with no respect to my safety, pedestrians or cars on the road.

I'm certainly not one to drop $10,000 on a new bike or equipment. I just want to stay in shape by combining this with a regular walking schedule. I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone other than I care about my physical and mental well-being. So far, so good.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Turn On the Fun

I know I've written about going back to the Best Buy I worked at in college, but there were new thoughts that came into my head when I was in Houston last week.

I don't miss working there, and the store layout that I remember is completely different now. Instead of drawing customers in with CDs and VHS tapes, the emphasis is (and has been for a few years) on cell phones and computers (especially their Geek Squad service). My area of expertise has been relegated to a pit stop before checking out. What was once a dozen aisles and shelves is now a couple of shelves and kiosks. And the CDs are shelved in alphabetical order with no room to break things up by music genre. It's Kanye West next to Wilco across from Jason Aldeen and As I Lay Dying. I'm not bitter or hurt; I simply reflect how I've moved on from there as a former employee and a regular customer.

Working at the store between 1997 and 2000, I experienced the last hurrah of the music industry with CDs. I stocked boxes upon boxes of Celine Dion, the Titanic soundtrack, N*SYNC, the Spice Girls, and the Backstreet Boys. I was not the greatest employee, but I liked the people I worked with and was seen as a reliable person. I never grasped being a salesman; I was happy to help people find what they were looking for. I was not a fan of trying to make people buy something they didn't want. (This was only really enforced in my last few months working there before my college graduation.)

I don't think of my time working there as a waste of time. Far, far from it. I learned valuable lessons about the working world and how to work with other people. Those things certainly helped me when I worked in radio and TV. I do, still remember a valuable lesson: retail is not a career for me. Some people love the experience, but I prefer to spend my holidays with my family and friends in a good mood.

I used to buy CDs every few weeks. This year, I've purchased two CDs from Best Buy. One was for an interview I did and I didn't want to wait a few days to get it from Amazon. If I buy CDs, normally, they're used copies found at Half Price Books or Good Records. I still consume a ton of music, but like millions of other people in the world, it's from online sources. Not everything is available digitally, so if I find something dirt cheap on CD, I do what must be done.

Looking at what my old Best Buy is now, I remind myself that moving on is a good thing. There's no more Best Buy Radio to (jokingly) aim announcing for. I like the thought of giving money to a touring band directly for their merch instead of playing hot potato between their record label and retail outlets. These days, I don't think I fit working at a place like them, and that's certainly fine by me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with Hormones, a local band. Turns out, we have a few close mutual friends, so there was no shortage of things to talk about. And it certainly helped that these three guys had been friends for a long time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Screams

I don't think it's ever too late to try something, but there are matters that seem more apt when you're younger in order to fully experience. It's like a rite of passage; getting the sense of what it means to be an adult and (mostly) unafraid. Latest examples: riding a Ferris wheel and visiting a haunted house. Kind of like those John Hughes movies I wrote about a few weeks ago, you can experience those at any time, but there's more of a lasting impact when you're becoming an adult.

In one 24-hour period on Saturday, Jenny and I went on the Texas Star for the first time and went to Screams, a haunted amusement park, for the first time. We had a ball with both, and neither of us came away frightened or scared to go do those things again.

Riding the famed Texas Star, we (including my sister and one of her daughters) enjoyed an amazing view of the city and the rest of the State Fair. Motion-wise, it felt like we were in an elevator with a windy 360-degree view. My niece was a good sport through most of the ride, though she did have to bury her head in her mother's lap a few times. When we got out, she said she enjoyed the ride. I can only hope she wants to go on it again, because I certainly do.

With our visit to Screams, I had myself on the defense at all times, ready for anything to pop out at any time.  Jenny and I were jolted a few times, but didn't come away sickened or sentenced to ugly nightmares. Given my enjoyment of a good scare, while also knowing this was as harmless as seeing a play, I often said hello to actors dressed up as monsters. It was my way of saying that I was having a good time and I wasn't frightened. I knew these actors weren't trying to physically harm me; they meant to spook and nothing more. We heard a number of screams coming from teens and pre-teens, and it didn't feel like a One Direction concert.

While waiting to go through the Arcane Asylum for the second time, we saw someone who clearly did not have a good time. Running out of the emergency exit with her father, a pre-teen was red in the face and about to erupt into an avalanche of tears. We both felt for the girl and thought about how disturbing a lot of the images and shocks could be for someone of that age. I hope she grows up unafraid of the dark . . . someday.

I like a good scare, and still get scared. The most recent one was when I saw Insidious at home. The first gotcha moment came out of nowhere and I was lifted a few inches off of my couch. And after seeing The Brood and the first Paranormal Activity at home, I had a hard time sleeping those nights.

I hope I can go through these attractions next year, still unafraid. I'm pretty sure I will. I experienced plenty of scares when I was a kid (I still can't live down my "reaction" to E.T.) but those helped me say, "You're not going to prevent me from living a happy life."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My First . . .

This week's edition is with Matt from Joyce Manor. If it seems rather short, well, it had to be done over e-mail since the band was on tour in Europe. Matt gave some good answers, and the brevity of the interview seems apt for how short their songs are.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Your Eyes Were Shining

For the past two nights, I was able to let go at two different shows. Absolutely let go without breaking the law or making a fool of myself. Just being able to do that has been difficult in recent memory, but it looks like the Afghan Whigs and Jealous Sound helped me get out of this box I've been in.

Prior to Sunday night, I had never seen Greg Dulli perform live. Not with the Gutter Twins, the Twilight Singers, or the Afghan Whigs. Thankfully, I was able to see the reformed Whigs (assisted by players from the Twilight Singers) play a magnificent set at the Granada Theater. Playing all of the songs I love by them (especially from Gentlemen, Black Love, and 1966), I was quite a happy camper.

I sang along without a care about who was around me. Dulli's lyrics and singing certainly convey an incredible vulnerability -- hence why people still love him. Even though he sings about a lot of broken relationships (and I've sung along to them while going through one in recent memory), I didn't feel tremendous anger come out of me. Rather, it was relief. Especially during "Faded," with a musical cameo from "Purple Rain" in the outro.

The same kind of relief happened as I watched the Jealous Sound play last night. I saw the band earlier in the year, still trying to come to grips with a broken relationship that had turned incredibly bitter. Watching the band play while a couple who couldn't keep their hands off each other, it was a very vivid experience, especially given how many Jealous Sound songs about people breaking up, whether as friends or lovers.

Last night, there were no goo-goo couples in front of me. Instead, I watched up in front as the four-piece powered through a spot-on set. Not skimping on any beloved song, they sounded like they were playing a 2,000-seat theater instead of a bar. With songs like "Got Friends," "Change You," and "Perfect Timing" seemingly sounding like the soundtrack to the past twelve months of my life, there was a release seeing these songs live.

Yes, release.

Thinking about the shows now, I'm extremely relieved to be in a safe, secure, and loving relationship, yet I can still understand the language of these great songs. Makes me thankful for where I'm now instead of wondering about what went wrong in the past.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with Jayson from California Wives. Special note: this is the first time I've ever asked a band, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" It won't be my last.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Sixteen Candles John Hughes?

For many years, I had seen only a couple of movies with ties to John Hughes (whether he was the writer or writer/director): Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. That meant no Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, or The Breakfast Club for me in the 80s. Of course I knew about those movies, but I wasn't drawn to R-rated movies in general because my parents didn't want me to see them. The R-rated movies I was attracted to were action flicks, not salty-language pics about romantic triangles.

When I really got into movies that were beyond what the multiplexes had (aka, college), I was more into horror flicks and indie movies. I'm talking the Scream franchise (and its ensuing knock-offs), some of the Halloween movies, Good Will Hunting, Swingers and all of Kevin Smith's movies. While I did see Weird Science, I had been told that I must see The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles by many friends. The whole, "You haven't seen it? Awww man, you gotta see it!" came up frequently. And not even a reference to Shermer, Illinois in Dogma made me drop everything and watch those movies.

Well, it only took ten years to get there, but I finally saw Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club this year. And guess what? I didn't hate them, but I thought, If I saw these when I was in high school, I'd completely relate and worship them. I think they're essential to watch when you're in high school/college because the topics are incredibly fresh and timely. But as we age and embrace adulthood, topics like taking somebody to the prom and choosing the right boyfriend don't resonate as much as the central theme of Ferris Bueller's Day Off ("Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and take a look around once in a while, you could miss it.").

I'm not weeping over misspent youth here. I wouldn't change a thing about watching Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Buckaroo Banzai repeatedly as a suburban kid. I find life to be a series of playing catch-up while doing what I want to do. Ah yes, the joys of being stubborn.

Monday, October 08, 2012

VIP

What happens when I receive an e-mail about a VIP pass sitting at the Observer's front desk for me and a couple of other freelancers? I go by and talk with Audra for a little bit. Knowing that the pass is good for a show that's very close to my home, I then open my big mouth and ask, "Is anybody covering this?" That's how this review came to be.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

My First . . .

This week's edition is with Jeff Klein from My Jerusalem. Jeff is the first person I have interviewed three different times. That's a record for me.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

3

Well, since I talked about it on Twitter last week, it looks like I can make this official here: I strongly believe I have another book in me to write.

That's book number three for me, officially. Even though I had an idea to write something about vampire zombies in suburbia during Christmastime (really), I've shelved that idea for now and will focus on something different. It will be a (gasp!) novel and I've already begun working on it. What it will be is an extremely loose concept: pop culture critics. That's all I can say for now since that's about all that I have in the can.

I don't foresee this book taking years to write, but if that's what happens, then that's what happens. As exciting as it would be to write an entire book in the month of November, I'd rather create qualitative results over quantitative. Meaning, fifteen pages of useable stuff after a few weeks instead of fifty pages of crap that must either be chopped into pieces or thrown completely away.

I don't commit myself lightly to book projects. If I'm going to devote time to writing them every week, I should try to create something I can stand by. Hopefully, this third book will be something I can stand by.


Monday, October 01, 2012

I Want Your Skulls

When it comes to decorating, there is usually only one time of the year that I do it.

And it's not Halloween.

What gives? I've always enjoyed Halloween as an adult and a kid. I'm always happy to see what my nieces will be each year, and I'm very eager to check out horror flicks I have not seen before. Giving out candy can be fun, but in the neighborhood I live in, it can take a lot out of me.

But for all my time out of my parents' house, the most I've done in terms of decorating was placing a plastic jack-o-lantern on the kitchen counter and filling it with candy. No skeletons, skulls, vampires, goblins, or ghouls.

In the last five years, I've had the pleasure to carve jack-o-lanterns with my friend Amy. Making a party of the event by adding caramel apples, this has been a wonderful get-together every time. This year, though, Amy is moving out of town, taking a great job in Houston, so there probably won't be a party. But I'm adamant that Matt, Jenny, and I carve some pumpkins before October 31st.

An idea I floated to Jenny was about Halloween decorations, and she was game. I don't want to go overboard and buy up a lot of expensive stuff, but if there was something we'd like to get while grocery shopping or clothes shopping, we should get it. Hence the picture above, with two different skulls saying "Hi" while I spend most of my day at the computer.

Couple that with two pumpkins (with a cord in the back each to to light them up) and a small skeleton that adorns Jenny's apartment, we have something brewing. Again, not to be overblown with decorations, the thought is to do something fun and macabre.

This will begin a new tradition, and we'll surely take advantage of those after Halloween sales on November 1st. This isn't the same as decorating for Christmas, but it's surely fun.