Lil’ Ol’ Record Release Party @ Make-Out Room SF 11/29

December 7, 2009

Interstellar Lounge Music   

The Lil’ Old Record Release Party for “Interstellar Lounge Music” turned out to be a success, and I have all of my faithful friends and fans to thank for it. It was amazing to see so many people from so many places in the past mixed with new ones, reminding me of that Kinks song, “All of My Friends Were There”. I have many people to thank for their support. First off, Loretta Lynch and The Bang are both awesome bands that I have played a few shows with before, and their music just plain rocks! Not only that, but everyone was wonderful to work with, and brought such a positive attitude to the table. I wish more bands could learn to be friendly with one another, it really does make everything more pleasant and meaningful for everyone involved. I love working with people who get that shows are about entertaining everyone by having a good time.

I also must thank Bunny Whiskers for her amazing album artwork and support at the show, and my roommate Mike for his conceptual contributions towards creating the gift bags with all the fun crap inside, and running the merch table with amazing persistence. He helped bring a fresh perspective to the stale concept of a record release party, and added to the fun. The plastic saphires were an especially big hit! Then I have to thank Charlie and Brian for working so hard to make the music the best it could be and support me, despite the fact that I am a little scatterbrained. Charlie has given me the courage to try new material and always has great ideas on the drums that add something extra to the song. Brian really came through on his first gig with me, and it’s been a long time since I’ve played with a new bassist since parting ways with Bill Cramer. He also fixed my dad’s guitars and is just a really great person to work with.

Next up is all the musicians who came to support that night with their presence. Eric and Paul from the Careless Hearts, TV Mike from the Scarecrowes, Evan from Monsters Are Not Myths, and Rusty from Jackpot were all doing what so many musicians don’t do often enough (myself included) by coming out and supporting their friends with smiles on their faces. I couldn’t want or ask for anything more.I’d also like to throw a shout-out to the newlyweds. Gerry and Carla Thomas tied the knot in October. Strangefeather played its final gig at their wedding (it was at Bimbo’s!). Ryan and Stephanie Vaughan have been great supporters of me for a long time, and I had the privilege of performing with Ryan at their wedding as well, also in October. In this crazy world it is great to see such wonderful people teaming up together, and it’s great to have them in my life. Now, how about some grandchildren already!I want to thank all of the people who worked that night – Chris did an amazing job on sound, and the people at the Make-Out are always easy to deal with, that’s why I love playing there! Thanks to James and Deb and La Bartendress Extraordanaire. And finally, I want to thank all the people who just came out to enjoy the show and got a CD. It’s always wonderful to see so many friendly faces in the crowd, and it’s such a great feeling to feed off the energy of the audience and give it back. For the musician, it’s like being spun on a gyroscope that exponentially goes faster and faster, and then – BLAST OFF! Into the realm of the Interstellar we go. I hope you all enjoyed the lounge music. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much;)A couple of other things. One, I am leaving to play a few shows in the Pacific Northwest next week with my friends Rives and Jesse, and I can’t wait to get back to that cool mountain air. Second, I wanted to let you know that the recordings I’m working on in LA are coming along nicely, and it won’t be long before we are in the mixing stage. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, it was awesome to see so many old friends during this special holiday. See ya soon!

   

Interstellar Lounge Music 

Interstellar Lounge Music

NOW is the Craziest Time of Year

December 1, 2009

Sometimes when dreams come true, it's not a good thing

Now is always the craziest time of year for me. I even have the numbers to prove it. My website stats are through the roof, my email box is full of frantic interactions, and now my blog is getting more action than ever. In the past, I have barely survived the mayhem, only to become ill afterwards and burn out for the rest of the year and months afterword. Last November was a great example. I was working 2 jobs, playing in 4 bands, releasing a record (which involved flying people into town and many rehearsals), and playing way too many shows back-to-back. I remember sometimes hopping from one gig to the next, calling people to ask them to turn on my amp for me. 

I’ve gotten pretty tired of overburdening myself and not sleeping right for weeks. It seems every time I burn out it takes 3 months just to get back on my feet. I could see how being a musician working for a record label that keeps pushing them when they’re burned out probably contributed to the demise of many a great talent (and Britney Spears). This year was no exception in the busy department. I released yet another album and had a great record release party at the Make-Out Room. All the cd’s and their packaging was hand-constructed, and I had to organize the entire night of 3 bands (it’s hard enough to organize one band!). Now I find myself embarking on a short 1-week tour (my third of the year), only to be faced with the daunting task of booking a longer one in March (tours book 2-3 months in advance). Meanwhile, I’ve been bouncing back and forth between SF and LA in what spare time I have to record new material and am still in the process of moving all my stuff next door, getting two new roommates, and dealing with the insanity of the remaining roomie.

But this year I made myself a promise:  I Shall Not Burn Out. I know it’s like saying that I won’t get old and die, but I’ve prepared as much as possible to avoid the inevitable. After having gone through this routine a few times, I’m able to anticipate the onslaught of insanity and avoid stress by eliminating things that aren’t important. I have taken as much time to get good rest and lay off the booze a little. I’ve taken on less work for money in exchange for the things I really love, and spent time socializing with good people and eating good food. I walk at least a couple of miles every day, and I try to focus on the most overwhelming tasks first and deal with the less important details later because most things come together at the last minute in my life anyway.

So far I am doing ok, although I can already sense the inevitable overwhelming sensation that follows accomplishing so many tasks and makes me wonder if I’ll want to do anything else ever again after surviving the experience. Accomplishing so many goals in such a short time is a wonderful feeling. It’s as if the entire year has built up to one maelstrom of events, and it’s all very climatic. I’ve had some great moments recently that I will remember for the rest of my life. But with the feeling of accomplishment comes a vacancy of inspiration, and it always takes time to realize new dreams and think them through enough to gain the confidence to enact them and following through. I plan on taking some time off in the second half of December to recover, but not for very long. I hope I make it through to the other side this time with a positive attitude and desire to keep moving forward. I don’t want to take another step back like I have so many times before. I’ll see you on the other side and let you know how it goes.

Too Much Coffee Makes Head Spin

November 20, 2009

GIVE ME MORE!!!

I drank too much coffee and now I feel like the Incredible Hulk on speed. I’ve already had one near mental breakdown this morning, and I figure only a valium could help now. Gotta get on a plane to LA in a couple of hours, and I already have a problem with fidgeting. I’m going to lose my mind, help!

Ok, gotta get it together. Quick, put on some music! No, not that song… or that one either. Must type faster. Oh – stupid computer, you’re not typing fast enough! Damn! Oh, god, I feel good, oh shit, I almost crapped my pants. This is insane. Someone should make coffee illegal, or at least you need a license to drink it. My mouth is dry, and it tastes like coffee… mmm. My head is big like a balloon and I can hardly focus my eyes. My neck hurts, gotta stretch – aaah! I almost fainted! My heart is beating too fast, and my lungs feel like they’re going to cave in. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that Vicodin last night. Jesus. When will it stop?

Basically, I don’t have anything to say, except that coffee is ruining my life, and I love it! Nothing like getting paid to have a panic attack. I also noticed that even though I have all this energy and am completely wired, I can’t seem to get anything done and I’m making a lot of mistakes. This is gonna be interesting…

New Album, New World

November 12, 2009

Interstellar Lounge Music

The last few months have been dizzying. After surviving the not-so-cool breakup of Strangefeather in August (the day before our tour, might I add), I set out to reinvent my solo thing which I had kind of left on the backburner to tour with a rock band, which has always been a dream of mine. Luckily, I already had a solo record finished since March ’09 called Interstellar Lounge Music (it’s about the Summer of Two-Thousand and Great!), and so I am just now getting around to putting it out on a limited-run basis, and it will eventually be available for download, too. I’ve decided to create a few handmade copies of the CD and give them out at my upcoming record release party (Nov. 29th @ Make-Out Room) – so come and get yours! Charlie Note is still in the band, and I’m happy to announce that Brian Michael, from San Jose band Careless Hearts will be playing bass for this show.

The breakup of a band is always hard, especially when the people in it are your friends that you have spent years working, sleeping, travelling, and partying with. The worst part for me has been explaining to all the fans of our music that we are no longer playing shows. But the good news is that I have grown and learned so much from my experiences that I am now ready to go out there and apply all that energy to my own music. A brief Pacific Northwest tour has been planned, and I’ll be visiting Portland, Seattle and Roslyn around December 9-15th. I will be playing some shows with Power of County (Portland) and Rives, the band’s guitarist, will accompany me on the tour. I’ll post more details as they become available.

I’m very excited about the new direction my music is taking. In 2009 I have played 90 gigs (so far), will have done 3 tours, and released an album, all while keeping my job and some sanity to boot. I’ve got tons of great material in the works, and am recording four songs with Jenni Alpert and Eric Boulanger in LA. I hope to have another album ready this time next year and tour the southern states of the US in March (I’ve already got a SXSW date lined up, too). A lot of changes always bring new beginnings, and it’s all a part of the growth process. I’m not giving up on playing music any time soon, so look out for me somewhere on down the line.

Success in Creating the Most Unpopular Blog of All Time

November 11, 2009
Unpopular

It wasn't easy, but I've finally done it!

In an effort to completely alienate my audience and leave them confused and frustrated, I have achieved the impossible title of, “World’s Most Unpopular Blog”. While most bloggers are trying to get people to read their thoughtful ideas and gasp with amazement at how incredibly cool their ability to find strange and interesting things on the internet is, I have been writing long and winding incomplete sentences without proofreading for errors. I’ve been purposely misspelling important words for the sake of frustration. My subject matter has been dull and uninteresting, and I’ve gone on ad naseum about topics that have already been better covered by more capable and professional internet writers. I have purposely chosen subject matter that is offensive and insensitive to just about every type of person you can imagine, while maintaining a droll monotone of unexciting prose. This methodology has been applied to all things that I hate or dislike, and without any variation from this routine, I have simply bitched and complained a lot without offering any better ideas or compelling critiques.

It’s been a hard road, but I am glad I finally made it. Being at the top of the pile of the worst blogs in the world is an achievement I never thought I would accomplish, mostly because I don’t have any confidence in myself at all. But by avoiding hard work and critical thinking despite all odds, this moment has finally arrived. Of course, no one will ever read this because I have less than two visitors to my blog in the past four months, and both of those were me. This is a personal accomplishment, and now I can go on to do other great things with my spare time, like sharpening my fish hook collection and shooting rats at the dump. With the extra void that this blog has filled in my life, so shall I find another outlet for my less-than-average creative energy. Way to go, me!

Hipster Poses as Real Musician, Gets Ass Kicked

November 5, 2009
William Chestnut, just prior to his beating

William Chestnut, just prior to his beating

Late last Friday night, 24-year-old Mission resident William Chestnut (nicknamed “Chesternut” by so-called friends), was savagely beaten outside the Knockout Room at Mission and 29th Streets by an unknown group of men for attempting to pose as a musician and actually being a hipster. He is in critical condition at  UCSF, after being initially taken to SF General because paramedics assumed the unconscious victim was homeless. He was later identified as the son of an affluent lawyer and doctor from Menlo Park. Chestnut suffered severe injuries to his whiny jaw, beady eyes, and scrawny legs, but surprisingly, several well-placed kicks to the groin area caused very little damage. He is expected to be released in the next couple of days.

According to police, Chestnut moved to the Mission after enrolling in , and quickly dropping out of, the Academy of Art. His parents, unaware of his decision to leave the school, said that he used the tuition money in addition to his allowance and some of his hefty trust fund, to purchase vintage 80’s electronic musical equipment and cocaine in an attempt to jump-start his musical career. He was actually successful in getting a band of similarly greasy, precocious hipsters assembled together by throwing nightly parties at his apartment on 18th and Valencia St, under the guise of “auditions”.

“We knew he couldn’t play music, but he had all this free coke, and all my friends said he was like, not a rapist, and stuff,” said apathetic hanger-on Sarah Plumb, who witnessed the beating that occured shortly after Chestnut’s band, known as “Turd Muffin” was booed off stage and dragged into the streets.

“We aren’t sure exactly why he chose to try and be a musician, but it apparently angered some of the audience members who had come to rock out to some real music that night, and weren’t going to stand for any of his bullshit”, stated Police Officer Kevin Danno. He was the first on the scene to break up the fight.

According to ex-bandmate Chad Bigglesworth, “Turd Muffin was supposed to be a real band. We had fanny packs and headbands and everything, and we even figured out how to use the presets on our Casio keyboards and scrape kitchenware across a giant blackboard. We were very avante-garde and ahead of our time. Our time being the 80’s, that is. I can’t believe they took Chesternut down. Whose place are we going to party at now?”

The people responsible for the beating have not been arrested, although Officer Danno did pursue them looking for their autographs. The other bandmembers were spared any injuries after selfishly ratting out Chestnut as the primary leader responsible for the awful racket. He burst into tears as the crowd dragged him out into the streets to receive his punishment as the bar’s staff cheered them on.

According to the club’s bouncer Doug Blunt, “People were definitely not impressed with the awful screeching and cheesy synths. It was pretty obvious that these assholes had never even taken a music lesson before. The lead singer was the most offensive because he was wearing a neon pink loin cloth and velvet cape and was rubbing the microphone all over his pasty body. No wonder he got his ass beat”.

Police are not investigating the crime any further, and it is likely that all criminal charges will be dropped against the attackers even if they are caught, since the act was clearly committed in self-defense for the public’s sanity. When asked if he would press charges, Chestnut moaned, “I don’t care, I’m going to sue the pants off all you people – I am the next Boy George!”

My Posts are Too Long

October 28, 2009

golden_silk_spider_judy

I just noticed that most of my posts are too long for most people’s attention spans. If you are one of these people, I am sorry, I promise to work on it. As a consolation, here is an extremely short post, along with an intriguing picture that is kind of discomforting. And now I’m making it just a little bit longer. Uh-oh, now I’m ruining it by making it too long. Seriously, if I could just stop writing now it would be perfect… but I can’t help myself. Ok, I’m going to stop now. No, seriously, I will.

My Favorite Songwriters of all Time

October 21, 2009

Ok, I hate “Best Of” lists just as much as you do. That’s why I’m just calling this my “favorite” list so there isn’t the feeling of who is better than who. I like to write songs when I’m not writing this blog or herding cattle on the range, and have delved into many a great one and pulled it apart to discover what lies within. Most of the time I’m left with nothing but a bunch of words that sound cool together, but are meaningless and shallow. A great song is like a children’s book – when the story is over and the pages are closed, the world created by the author continues to exist within the reader’s head, and echo of the tale lingers and develops a life of its own.

Great songwriters are capable of creating a world we can live in beyond the limits of the song’s duration. Their words toss and turn in our dreams, their melodies drift in our minds and out of our mouths on the elevator to work, and by the end of the day we can’t wait to get back to our record player, put that needle down and relive the moment one more time. A great song lives and breathes and has a personality all its own. The greatest writers have entire albums full of these songs that actually exist as characters in our minds. If you let them, these writers may climb into your conscience too, and you may feel as if you know them. But you cannot really know this person, no matter how you long to, because their existence is a fabrication of their own design, just like their songs. Even those who are related or married to a songwriter cannot claim to know them. They are the modern shapeshifters of society, taking on forms of different characters and moods, living in different times and places all at once. I bet few songwriters would even claim to know themselves.

Now to the list. These are people that I have wanted to meet and thank for making the world more bearable. Another part of me doesn’t want to ruin the fantasy of who I think they are, and I also wouldn’t want to bother them. But if they ever happen to sit down next to me at a bar, I’d treat them as if they were an old friend, because in my mind that’s what they are.

THE BEST OF EACH DECADE:

50’s – Hank Williams – The original “Songwriter”, and one of the greatest of all time. Before this you have the Tin Pan Alley scene, but no one man could cut to the chase the way Hank did, and no one has come close since. “Cold, Cold Heart” is one of the saddest songs ever written. Definitely the greatest songwriter of the 50’s.

60’s – Bob Dylan – What a bastard. How can you be such an anemic prick, sneering and jeering your way via lies into people’s hearts and minds, first with a fake smile, then behind dark darting sunglasses, only to tell them all to go fuck themselves? You write nimble poetry that connects far-off distant memories in our minds and make us thing we know what’s going on, then leave us in the dust like all your forgotten lovers. I hope you can forgive yourself what you’ve done to us, Dylan – I definitely have. You’re still the greatest songwriter to come out of the 60’s, and you’ve done pretty well for yourself in the 70’s and 2000’s, too.

70’s – Neil Young – Neil is friendlier, furrier, and more rustic than Dylan. If Dylan is New York, Neil is Half Moon Bay. Still, a darkness underlies every word the man has written, and sadness is ultimately the subject of most of his greatest songs. What makes Mr. Young so great must be the same thing that makes Steinbeck great – everything is simple, straightforward, and seemingly contemplative of the human spirit, which is treated with reverence and fear. Very few songwriters can put so much of themselves in their songs without it coming out pretentious. Neil’s got my vote for the best songwriter in the 70’s, moving from After the Gold Rush and Harvest through Tonight’s the Night, On the Beach, all the way to Rust Never Sleeps.

80’s – Bruce Springsteen – He is both seductive and honest in his approach to songwriting. Never mind that his voice sounds like warm leftovers after about the fifth song, no one can write a song for the workin’ man like the Boss. His stories appeal to the most basic needs of humans, to be loved, to honor brotherhood, to make quick money and go to Atlantic City. If only judged by Nebraska, he would still come out on top as the greatest songwriter of the 80’s.

90’s – Elliot Smith – Yes, I know he was kind of pathetic and whiny. So was Dylan and Hank Williams. Songwriters are like little brothers – they always get beat up, and instead of fighting back they brood in their rooms for days to perform some act of genius that makes you feel like a jerk for picking on them in the first place. Mr. Smith must have spent weeks in his room, shooting up and drinking vodka in a mad depression, in order to create the incredibly fragile ballads that he is known for. I am aware that most of his songs are about dope and suicide, but no one writes such brilliantly bitter pop melodies that leave you wondering whether heroin is such a bad thing after all (except maybe John Lennon, Elliot’s idol). I guess it was, considering it’s elemental in Smith’s suicide stabbing(!?!). Definitely my favorite songwriter from the 90’s.

00’s – Ryan Adams – Jesus Christ, not again. Another twitchy genius with big mouth and bad hair making snarky comments that cause discomfort. It’s like Dylan all over again, isn’t it? Well, not exactly. Adams is by far the most prolific artist of his  generation, releasing so many albums in the past 10 years it’s ridiculous, starting with the indespensable Heartbreaker. The good news is that he is now “retired” from songwriting after cleaning up off drugs and alcohol, and spends his time writing novels, recording joke heavy metal albums, sleeping with new wife Mandy Moore, painting, and writing blogs about arcade games. What a delightful twist! Actually, I really wish he would get back to writing songs again, because no one can tell lyrical tales of pain and heartbreak in late-night diners over coffee and cigarettes like ol’ Ryan Adams. This decade isn’t over yet, but I’m calling it now:  best songwriter of the 00’s.

OTHER FAVORITES:

Gram Parsons – It took me a little while to forgive him for singing out of tune on most everything he did, but it actually accentuates the earnest sense of urgency that makes his music so endearing. Gram is not the “Golden Prophet” that he is often revered as, rather he was a lost young man with a difficult emotional past that he channeled into great songs. Most interesting is that his concept of “Cosmic Country” is right on – his music inspires a humanitarian empathy that can’t be ignored.

John Lennon – Definitely not Paul McCartney, Lennon was the antithesis of happy safe pop music. This is one is so obvious, but I really like his post-Beatle catalog the most, as he delves deeper into the personal darkness that made him so such a tragic figure (even if he wasn’t murdered, he was still a tragedy). The most loveable basketcase I can think of, Lennon proved that being a genius songwriter doesn’t change the world, but it definitely makes it more bearable to live in.

Kris Kristofferson – Most people don’t know that Kristofferson wrote hits like, “Me  Bobby McGee”, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, and “Help Me Make it Through the Night”. Plus, he was in the Highwaymen and is a great actor (which has nothing to do with his songwriting, I know). He evokes feelings of the best of times, along with the worst of times. Without sounding too much like a Dickens novel, I can’t live without him.

Lefty Frizzell – A lesser-known contemporary of Hank Williams, Lefty wrote some incredible songs in his short career, most notably the ones covered by Willie Nelson. “If You’ve Got the Money” is the #1 sugar mama track, and that was waaaayyy before it was cool to have one.

Leonard Cohen – If Gram Parsons is the loveable boy-child of songwriting, then Cohen is definitely the Ice King. His lyrical content is seductive without frills, and while Parsons will sing about the Armaggedon with cautionary hope, Cohen will sing as if it has already happened and he is the product of the fallout, mourning the loss of innocence in a land ravaged by sin and overconsumption. It’s no wonder that his adult themes of cheating wives and fallen kings resonate so well with the Hollywood crowd and strip clubs. His voice is the last shred of humanity left standing in Babylon, and it’s like we’re listening to the folk music of the future. I’m guessing that this bard would have fared well in the world of “Total Recall”.

Loretta Lynn – People give Taylor Swift so much credit for being so young and writing her own songs. They forget it’s happened before, and it was done better in the past. Loretta’s about the same as Swift, except she had already had a couple of kids and was married to a no-count drunk which gave her much more interesting things to sing about. She was also poor and uneducated, but that didn’t stop her from becoming one of the fiercest female voices to ever stick up for the forgotten housewives in America. With song titles like, “The Pill” and “Fist City” Loretta could be considered one of the first feminist songwriters. If she isn’t the first, she most certainly is the best of the lot. A special place in my heart is reserved only for this strong woman.

Lou Reed – Inspiring generations of noisy garage bands is easily forgiveable when you write a song like “Heroin”, which has never  before or since been matched in meniachal intensity. The voice of the urban New York underground, Reed has never played it safe lyrically, and almost always delivers in creating the paranoid, zonked-out feeling of hanging out with a tranny, midget twins, and a drug dealer at one of Warhol’s parties. Even Nico could sing his songs and they sounded cool.  Not to mention that his solo exploits, while often scattered, continue to display his mastery of the language of filthy human resiliency.

Lucinda Williams – The queen of modern country, or Americana, as it is now referred to. She has the wail and moan of Hank Williams in her leathery voice, but what makes her so amazing is that she is poetic without being flowery. Much of the themes in her music (especially the more recent “West”) are biographical in nature, conjuring images of single mothers driving buicks in the desert. The forlorn sadness captured in her stark imagery reflects both spiritual and existensial realities, and her writing abilities continue to stretch outward successfully. Definitely the strongest and most responsible female voice of modern songwriting, Williams just keeps getting better and better. I can’t wait to see what she does next. 

Merle Haggard – Never before has the voice of the prisoner been so well emoted as with Merle Haggard. If it just came down to songs about leaving behind mama and getting into trouble, then Merle would be well ahead of the game It just so happens that he also wrote some of the best ramblin’ train songs of all time, too. Try to understand the humor and irony in songs like “Okie From Muskogee”, “Workin’ Man Blues” and “Fightin’ Side of Me”, and you’ll find yourself a happier person. You can’t play a single juke joint from here to Texas without knowing some Merle Haggard.

Townes Van Zandt – The most depressing human on Earth. Seriously, why do you have to do this to us, Townes? What I like best about his music is that for a second you think things are looking up, and then he swoops in like a bird of death and kills all hope. I can’t listen to him too much, but his music fills an irreplaceable void in my life – the depressed space. “Waitin’ Around to Die” pretty much tops the charts of all-time biggest downers, and makes Neil Young sound like Bob Marley. He also writes great story songs like “Pancho and Lefty”, too.

Willie Nelson – He definitely is a beloved country icon, but before Willie was famous for being Willie, he wrote “Hello Walls”, “Mr. Record Man”, and Patsy Cline’s best song, “Crazy”, and sold the rights to them all for less than a bag of weed. Of course, he’s written hundreds of great songs since then, and continues to pump out one great tune after another to this day. The best part about Willie is his sense of humor, and when I heard “Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other” I nearly died laughing. Please ignore the fact that he lets people like Toby Keith and Kid Rock sing on his albums. Please at least try.

Great songwriters who should be on this list but aren’t (with excuses):

Alejandro Escovedo – I must confess, I only own one album (Boxing Mirror), but the words are awesome!
Beck – If humor were the main criteria for a great songwriter, he would be #1.
Brian Wilson – He loses points for writing songs about surfing. No one wonder he went insane.
Buddy Holly – I love Buddy Holly, he wrote perfect pop songs. But Carole King isn’t on this list either.
Cat Power – Sometimes her words are gibberish, other times fantastic. Keep writing, Cat!
Curtis Mayfield – Songs for the ghetto, I guess. Curtis is a political spokesman, but he isn’t a lyrical genius.
David Bowie – I’m also tempted to add him now, but his words don’t quite carry the power of some of the other cats.
George Jones – A great songwriter indeed, but his songs never sound as good when someone else sings them.
Jim Morrison – Really more of a poet than a songwriter, don’t you think?
Keith Richards/Mick Jagger – Rock n’ Roll isn’t supposed to have good lyrics. These guys do it for me, but I’m not taking the words to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” with me to the grave.
Neil Diamond – The man did write some amazing songs, but the schmaltz aspect of his act has always detracted from his genius.
Nick Drake – Neil Young and Townes are depressing enough. I can’t take it any more!
PJ Harvey – She is fun to listen to, and her lyrics aren’t burdened with depression and sadness. I need those in my songs.
Ralph and Carter Stanley – Bluegrass couldn’t exist without these cats. But cautionary religous tales about drinking too much just don’t resonate much with me. I never knew why:)
Robert Hunter – I love his lyrics, they have important life lessons in them. But clever they are not.
Roy Orbison – He definitely wrote great songs, though I can’t exactly admit that he is one of my favorites.
Tom Waits – Awesome lyrics, hideous, overwraught voice. I can’t stand his music.
Stevie Wonder – What a fantastic writer, especially his melodies. But one of my favorites? I gotta say close, but no cigar.
Willie Dixon – The greatest blues songwriter ever, to be sure. But seriously, how hard is it to write a blues song?
Win Butler – Pretty good, pretty good. I’ll make the decision when more albums are released.
Woody Guthrie – Ok, I know he’s great. I’m just not educated enough on his music to make a valuable assesment. Maybe when I finally get enough cash together to get some of his records…

WTF!? Black Taco?

October 19, 2009
Finally, dinner for the poor Existentialist!

Finally, dinner for the starving Existentialist!

Marketing is everything… except when a company that has run out of interesting ways to reorganize beans, cheese, beef, sour cream, tomatoes, and grease resorts to making its food black in order to keep it interesting. And did I mention that the public is going to call this is racist and sexist, even though it clearly isn’t? Could this represent the death of the taco as as whole in society, or just the death of Taco Bell as a relevant fast food choice? It’s in danger of leaving the A-List likes of Jack in the Box, McD’s and Burger King, and being pushed into the B-List Hardee’s, Del Taco, Arby’s category. Either way, it doesn’t matter… nothing matters… except the “Nausea” that Sartre would have felt had he eaten on of these things…

In the meantime, here is the commercial for this new black sheep of fast food:

Is Your Favorite Reality Show Fake?

October 16, 2009
Operation Repo, or Operation Hippo?

Operation Repo, or Operation Hippo?

Ok, I’ll admit it. I watch Reality TV from time to time. I mean, after all, where else can you find desperate bimbos and shameless douchebags needlessly screaming at each other in order to resolve some issue that was created by the production staff of the show to make interesting television? I fondly remember the early days of COPS and Real World (what ever became of Puck, by the way?). I even jump on board to watch the first few episodes of American Idol every year when the crazy people sing. And yes, I was witness to probably the greatest season of Reality TV ever created, Surreal Life, season 2 (remember the first episode where Verne Troyer peed on the rug?). Yes, I have indulged and continue to consume Mark Burnett’s out-of-control creation that pretty much dominates modern television today.

Recently I have been watching some of the new reality shows and found myself staring in awe and amazement at what they were able to capture on tape. My first reaction was , “How did that just happen?” As the shows progressed I started thinking the forbidden, and by the end of each one I let out a scream of frustration and the following taboo words:  “This is so fake!”

Now, I know what you’re thinking. All reality shows are fake to some degree. Many scenes are instigated and controlled by story editors, who manipulate common folk and turn them into pseudo-actors. But this is just outright fraud that I’m talking about. Remember those “reenactments” from shows like Unsolved Mysteries, interspersed with commentary from the actual people involved? Well, that’s what they’re doing on these supposed “reality” shows nowadays, except the people involved are also taking part in the reenactments, and they’re playing it off as reality.

I first noticed this happening on Jerry Springer. While it seems impossible that the guests aren’t paid actors, but real specimens of American society’s dark side, it was Richard Dominick’s The Springer Hustle that so brilliantly revealed the degree to which guests were coached, coerced, and coaxed into “performing” on stage and elaborating their stories. No, the Springer show isn’t fake, but it’s not real either. At least it’s not trying to pretend to be a reality show, though.

The first show that I can, beyond a shred of doubt, proclaim to be fake (except that the reenactments are based on true stories), is Operation Repo (which is ironically broadcast on TruTV). While I don’t doubt that Luis ‘Lou’ Pizarro and his gang of repo dudes/dudettes are the real deal, it’s clear that filming of the actual repossessions are actually overly-dramatized reenactments. There is no other way that this kind of action could be happening to them on a regular basis and be caught on tape. One viewing of a single show is enough to convince me that these people have collected stories over the years and decided to make a TV show out of them. Of great concern to me (although I’m sure no one else cares) is that we don’t even know if the stories happened to the people on the show, or if they are collected from other sources. The worst case scenario would be that most of these stories aren’t even true, and they are created by a television writer who is probably an underpaid intern under the guise of “story editor”. Hey, wait a second. Wouldn’t that just mean that we’ve come back full circle to actually writing television shows again instead of relying on real people and real stories to provide us with entertainment? If so, I’m totally ok with that, as long as I’m told the stories aren’t real and the writers are getting paid. Neither of these things are happening.

This show is obviously the worst offender, and there are many more out there that are almost as bad. I specifically point my finger at Rehab:  Party at the Hard Rock Hotel (also suspiciously on TruTV), and any of the VH1 “Love” shows (Rock of Love, I Love NY, etc). While some elements of these shows are based on reality, the fights and confrontations are all staged and, in some cases, don’t even involve the people who were actually in the real fight (if there ever was a real fight). Half the time there is a huge build-up to something that looks like it’s going to be a fight, and then the situation is resolved without a confrontation. Apparently this disappointment makes you crave more action – like having a steak wafted under your nose and being fed carrots instead. 

There’s an interesting article that TIME ran about this phenomenon, and even though it’s a little outdated (2006), it reveals what’s really going on and why this continues to happen. The bottom line I guess is that studios don’t want to pay real actors or writers to do television because they have to hire union workers and pay more money. Those bastards have figured out how to make TV entertaining without spending big money by eliminating talent from the equation. At least the cameramen are safe, or at least until they can train a monkey to hold a video recorder.

The saddest news in all of this is that Americans absolutely love this format, and most people don’t even question whether what they are seeing is real or not. The shows are entertaining and people are fiercely loyal and identify with particular characters, despite the fact that they are really just underpaid actors whose lives are scripted for our amusement. Offices are still filled with mindless chatter about what happened to Spencer on The Hills last night, or whatever they’re talking about over there. Couples continue to gather around with their pets and children, eyes glued to the boob tube. Yes, it does seem like the television is a destructive force in society. It’s doing a great job at keeping you from getting up and doing something else that might be more interesting than watching teenagers get drunk and yell at each other, fat people hanging from ropes, or gangsters getting their rides repossessed. Sometimes I feel like Running Man is closer to reality than we think. What it’s not doing a great job of is fooling me into thinking that any of this crap is real. I guess reality isn’t actually all that interesting after all. America, you are being lied to again. Alas, I’m still waiting for the revolution.