…because I’ve got a new tradition in the making.

Last night KJ posted that Steve had, in conversation, wondered aloud why there aren’t more President’s Day carols. I’m snowed in and bored, and I felt that I could rise to that challenge. Behold, seven verses of the President’s Day version of O Tannenbaum:

Oh Washington, oh Washington,
Your wooden teeth delight us.
They were not real, but they are cool;
So we still learn of them in school.
Oh Washington, oh Washington,
You hated pomp and tyrrany.

Oh Roosevelt, oh Roosevelt,
Social Security is great.
You couldn’t walk but hid it well;
By firesides you sat a spell.
Oh Roosevelt, oh Roosevelt,
You beat the Great Depression.

Oh Jimmy C., oh Jimmy C.,
You only got one term, I see.
But we don’t care because you are
The only Prez who has real heart.
Oh Jimmy C., oh Jimmy C.,
Y’ra decent human being.

Ulysses Grant, Ulysses Grant,
You doubtless saved the nation.
But politics was not your game.
Lackeys corrupt ruined your name.
Ulysses Grant, Ulysses Grant,
Regardless you’re a hero.

O James K. Polk, O James K. Polk,
Born in Carolina!
You took Texas; dropped tariffs, too;
Invented stamps; yes, we thank you!
O James K. Polk, O James K. Polk,
I’d like to give back Texas.

Grover Cleveland, Grover Cleveland,
The ‘Lectoral College screwed you.
You won three times, served only twice.
Your Pullman stance was not so nice.
Grover Cleveland, Grover Cleveland,
You kind of were a bastard.

You’re tough to get a fix on.
Voting Rights Act; Great Society;
But did you whack Jack Kennedy?
We’ll have to wonder always.

Share these lyrics with those you love when President’s Day comes around this year. May no third-Monday-in-February pass by in dreary silence.

Pants Wilder and I drove down to Charlotte yesterday to meet up with bascha and goodtofu to see The Cure play at Bobcats Arena. I’ve never seen The Cure in person despite long years of loving them. It was completely rad and I’m very glad I went. Some brief observations:

Robert Smith is a huge dork who started a band thirty years ago and it all worked out. He’s not a big rock star, he’s not all slick and aloof. He’s a fat dude with dumb hair who gets up there and does silly little dances that have not been choreographed to death and he is awesome. This was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen and one of the least staged live performances I’ve ever seen. It felt like spending time listening to Robert Smith kind of rock out for a while and I can’t really ask for better.

I really want their new album to come out because I really like Sleep When I’m Dead, which they played.

Cure concerts are, apparently, the intersection of all demographics. We were seated next to Patchouli Monster goths on the one side and yuppie 40-somethings on the other. In front of us were 20-somethings in frat tees and heavy makeup who looked like refugees from a Dave Matthews Band festival and they were totally into it. Pants Wilder told me later of overhearing a towering redneck say to his smaller, less redneck friend, “Well DAYUMN, nobody told me they was a ROCK band!” There were the old, the young, the drunk, the gothed out, the trashy, the glam.

Robert Smith can totally rock out at seven million years old. He has completely got it.

Bascha pointed out afterwards that one of the things that always impresses her is how much Robert Smith live sounds like Robert Smith recorded. His voice doesn’t get fucked around with during the production process when they’re working on albums. It is very clear that what we hear on an album is his voice, period. He is a very talented singer who doesn’t require a lot of whatever to make his songs listenable. At the same time, they seemed to do some tweaking of their older standards for modern ears. I commented to Pants Wilder that their concert version of Three Imaginary Boys sounds like The Cure covering The Faint covering The Cure, what with a more aggressive bass line and a more driving tempo; I found this to be true pretty much across the board with the older stuff and the version of Killing an Arab they played in the third(!) encore was downright speed metal for all intents and purposes.

I am kind of babbling at this point but that’s in part due to excitement and in part due to lack of sleep. My one criticism is that the opening band, 65 Days of Static, kind of grated on me when they would stop playing lovely melodic things and abruptly cut directly to noisy thrash. Every song would break down into four or five ridiculously skinny kids with hair in their eyes raking their fists across the strings of a tortured electric guitar. My first observation about them was that it’s a wonder their moms would all sign the release forms to let them go on tour; the other was that I like to imagine them going backstage after they’re done, filing past Robert Smith. “Another great show, lads,” he intones at them and they, in unison, drone back, “Ta, Mr. Smith.” As soon as they’re off-camera we hear Robert Smith mutter disgustedly, under his breath, “Bloody noise.”

The Boyf, in his ongoing and relentless awesomeness, got us tickets to see Lou Reed at the Carolina Theatre of Durham on 4/28. I took a couple of pictures without a flash right as the band started up.

The show was indescribably good. He played a couple of songs I’d really hoped to hear – “Halloween Parade” among them, of course – and he played a lot of things that, frankly, I didn’t recognize but did deeply love. They would start out pretty simple with a lot of the songs and then build into this conglomerated and then welded, unified sound that almost became a solid surface one could reach out and touch. The sound quality was spectacular, much better than the sound quality was for, say, They Might Be Giants. As we left I heard a number of people exclaim about how good it was.

The audience was very into it in a way I should have expected them to be with Lou Reed; whereas at TMBG everyone wanted to stand up and dance, at the Lou Reed show everyone stayed in their seats and basically grooved one-on-one with the music. Everyone got to have a very personal or very limitedly shared experience with the music that is a rare gift in a sold-out live performance. (For those of my friends who remember it, imagine something like that time we were five of, what, thirty people at that English Beat show, only surrounded by 1,200 other people.)

There was only one incredibly minor annoyance, this guy in the balcony who kept doing this really annoying whistle. Great, whatever, people react at a concert, it’s a public space. Aside from the fact that we all got a good laugh out of someone yelling at him to shut up, it’s a freakin’ Lou Reed concert. Aggroing at the guy is kind of missing the point of a Lou Reed concert, isn’t it? So, whatever. He was at most an incredibly minor annoyance to me, nothing like those fucksticks from the balcony during Star Trek II at ESCAPISM! last year.*

The only reason he merits a mention, in fact, is that as we were leaving he was leaning over the railing of the balcony to whistle at people from above in some attempt to shake his tiny fist at the world, or whatever. Later, outside, he spent a couple of minutes staggering around and people were a little um… yeah about him. I walked away from the group to take a picture of Evan’s coffee cart, which isn’t always at Carolina events but when it is then I love it in a deep and intense way because Evan makes some damn good coffee and it’s right there. Anyway, I’m taking a picture of the coffee cart and thinking, wow, how sad is it that some guy in his 40’s – I’m being generous – is crazy trashed at 9:30 on a Monday night and being an asshole at a Lou Reed concert? and all of a sudden – BAMF! – there’s the guy, like he’s teleported into the scene. He leaps into my shot, both arms waving, while I take the picture and refuses to move for as long as my camera is out. Still not on the level of the balcony jackasses from Star Trek II but seriously, the dude could probably stand to get some help. His friend who thought Whistler was such a laff riot(TM) could find somebody more interesting to sidekick for, too.

* I will never forgive the people in the balcony. I know, I know, but I can’t let it go.

I don’t even really know what to say about Falwell dying except that one of my first reactions was to think, “Well, finally.”

I felt a nugget of guilt trailing around behind the overwhelming glee. I asked bascha what she thought of that and got this bit of wisdom: “I don’t think our religion believes in ThoughtCrime(tm).”

I mentioned it to The Boyf and he produced this shining truth: “Imagine that we – all the gay men, the lesbians, the bisexuals, the feminists, everyone he hated – had all dropped dead today. What do you think he would be saying about us?”

So yeah. Good riddance to bad rubbish. As I’ve seen noted in more than one place, Virginia just became a slightly nicer, smarter place on average. I fail to see the downside. I had two pieces of cake yesterday to celebrate. It beats drinking in some respects, anyway.

To compound yesterday’s joys, the new Rufus Wainwright album Release the Stars came out which meant iTunes prompted me to go ahead and download it (I’d pre-ordered). I downloaded it and noticed with excitement that it came with the video for one of the songs on it, Going to a Town. I fired that puppy up and… well…


It’s so good.

I know not all my friends like Rufus, and I guess I can comprehend that intellectually in the same way I can comprehend someone not liking, I dunno, Reese’s cups. Regardless, it’s pretty amazing. Going to a Town is a break-up song, but not in the way you’d expect. It’s about breaking up with the United States. That’s a long row hoed by the guy who sang California with such enthusiastic abandon. It’s a fantastic example of one of Wainwright’s greatest gifts: expressing the global experienced as the personal.

It left me vaguely breathless at the end, the first time I watched it.

So, this week I’ve been on call for work. It’s the first time I’ve ever had to be on call. Lesson learned: I’m a whiny little man-child. I can’t discuss it – and don’t want to discuss it – in tremendous detail but suffice to say I have had moments of sincere displeasure with my customer base. Having gotten the self-critical lesson out of the way, here are some other lessons to learn:

  • Four in the effing ay of the em is not a good time to tune your IDS signatures. I don’t care that you’re already up for your day and want to do it while it’s fresh on your mind. I have to go to fucking work in five hours and I’ve already been asleep for three. Guess who’s going to have to have the exact signatures you want tuned repeated several times because he’s mostly asleep? Me, that’s who. Also, fuck you for calling.
  • Ten in the evening? Not a great time to call so you can have someone to bitch at about your internal processes. They ain’t mine, jack. They’re yours. I understand the jargon, yes, but I don’t actually care and I can’t change anything. I am an engineer. I am not a therapist. Your need: a therapist.
  • Some of my colleagues are just awesome. There is no better time than five in the morning to hear your 3rd shift co-worker say, “OK, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to make sure you do not have to talk to this person. Don’t worry about it.” Then, they do that. It’s really, really amazing. At LastJob there was a lot of fire-and-forget with other people’s problems.

Also, Guitar Hero II: great game or greatest game? On the downside, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a Cheap Trick song stuck in my head and I’m not really ready to revisit those years. Happily, I discovered that my usual antidote – the chorus to Rufus Wainwright’s 11:11 – works even against Surrender. I should write him a letter to thank him.

What in the hell is Surrender about, anyway? Old KISS records? Is the point of this song really that Mommy & Daddy are “alright?” Is this Cheap Trick singing a song about how one’s parents are hip in their own way and one should get over it? Oh, wait, it’s Cheap Trick. They are our parents. Because these are the interwebs I even checked Wikipedia for them and, sure enough, there they are. Upcoming dates: a casino in Lincoln, RI. Honest to the gods, if they came here I’d go see them. I don’t care whether that’s shameful or ironic or whatever.

Here’s what I need to get done:

  • Finalize lake playlists, one for going there, one for coming home.  The theme for Going Up is going to be “Chill Out” this year.  Suggestions?
  • Take the kittens to the vet on Friday for their first annual check-up
  • Pack
  • Do the undergrad taxes
  • Check the comic book store for anything new in my bag and anything I cannot resist taking lakeward
  • Hit the bookstore to use the coupon I got
  • Decide whether to leave the laptop at home
  • Write back to that guy who wrote to me about the zombie story (if you read this, That Guy, sorry I can’t remember your name and have been slow to respond – this is my typical MO, frankly).

Getting a haircut is going to be an impossibility, but hey, the couch is out of my yard, so progress is being made.

Is it wrong of me to admit that one of the things I’m most excited to do this coming week is go back to this store?

Re: Your Brains. (Music link; use headphones if you’re at work, not because anyone cusses – they don’t – but because it’s f’ing rude not to, OK? Thanks.)

I was talking to Aaron a few weeks ago and he asked if it was just him or if everyone is all of a sudden really into zombies. “Zombies are the new vampires,” I told him. I’ve thought more about that since then, and wondered why. I’m sure a lot of it is just fashions changing, but we all know that the fashion of horror says a great deal about a society’s fears. In the ’80s it was all serial killers and nuclear-waste zombies: under Reagan our greatest fears were superhuman sex pervs and the irradiated proletariat hordes of post-nuclear Marxism. In the ’90s, our enemy was defeated, long gone, and in the era of trashy talk shows and self-help and Trainspotting we wanted what scared us to be intimate and sexy, to have a face we wanted to kiss before we died. We wanted that which we feared to be some dark reflection of ourselves, not because we were afraid of our inner demons or at all seriously self-critical but because we thought they flattered our waking-life features.

Post-9/11, the enemy is something that has no face, no name, no body; it is a concept, an abstract. It is also, quite frankly, almost impossible to actually fear. Those of us who simply were not busy duct-taping plastic wrap around the windows the last four and a half years and watching the alert level to see if it’s still breathing are busy joking about being afraid way more than merely being afraid. Zombies are a nice fit for that sort of thing: nameless, faceless, relentless, but also easy to be all self-consciously ironic about. Oh yes, the zombies are coming, etc., we’ve seen this part of the movie like a gazillion times! It’s so easy in a society where terror alerts only happen in election years and the fatwahs get issued by guys we’ve never heard of whose names we’ll never remember and whose pictures we’ll never see. Yeah, OBL is out there somewhere, but you certainly don’t hear the Prez’nit talk about him, or anyone else, so he’s easy to forget. He’s just kind of there, like the way Davros is there somewhere in Dr. Who, issuing orders to the Daleks, but nobody remembers Davros, they just remember the Daleks.

Poor mutant, scarred, irradiated Davros, all one big electronic eye in the middle of his misshapen forehead.

See how easy it is? I started talking about terrorism and ended with Daleks. That’s why zombies are so perfect. They’re like the Mad-Libs of horror, just a big sheet full of blank spaces and devoured brains. Add the verbs, nouns and adjectives of your choice to make the story you want to tell. What do they want? What can they tell us about ourselves? Brains, and nothing, in that order. They are unintelligent, unresponsive, inscrutable, unrepentant. They require no complex justifications, no back-story, no catalyst event, no redemption. They show up, they munch cranium, they get axed to death, next scene please. They will repeat, over and over, a thousand times over, so that we can cram whatever meaning we want into them, fill them to the brim with whatever motivation we can’t ourselves articulate. Though I would argue that every zombie movie I have ever seen had strong, often blatant and overt elements of social commentary to them, and always come away believing the zombies represent something, the zombies themselves never make the case. Zombies have no agenda and have no desire to make the case themselves. They have no fear to articulate for us. The ball’s in our court on that one. It’s that simple. Louis can grab Christian Slater by the throat and slam him against the wall and state, plain and simple, that the point of the Interview was to explain why it’s terrible being a vampire and that he knows we all want the everlasting hotness anyway, but no zombie is ever going to produce an almanac of pop culture and explain how their actions over the course of the original Dawn of the Dead will describe the rise of the shopping mall as the new public square, the crass commercialism and remorseless ethic of the ’80s, the end of the “Me” Decade and the beginning of the heartlessly go-getter, active-verb “I” Decade. It’s there, but we have to find it and express it ourselves.

Zombies are open-source horror. Roll your own reason to fear them if you can’t find one you like. It really is that easy. They don’t mind one bit.

So, we went to see GARMONBOZIA (pictures) perform at Local 506
last night.  GARMONBOZIA is an ensemble group made up of members
of a variety of other bands.  As their name might suggest to fans
of quality television, they played music from Twin Peaks.

Holy gods, they were amazing.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I am a huge Twin Peaks nerd.  I reach out for the word “nerd” in this context (as in many others) and pull it close that I might embrace it.  I’m in the middle of my – what did I figure, my seventh?  eighth? – viewing of the show with friends (Katastrophes, Mr. Pink Eyes, Mr. Saturday and The Boyf being among them).  I love this show, and anyone who loves the show must surely also love its music.

Thus, with my attitude towards Twin Peaks firmly established, it
would be easy to believe that they could have been kind of shite and
I’d still have loved it.  I will admit this much.  They could
have been kind of bad and I still would have said it was a fun time.

The thing is, they were good.  They were really good.  They had practiced, they knew their stuff, they had sound-bite exits & intros to the songs. 

They were in costume.

The woman who sang lead on “Into the Night,” “Falling,” and “Laura’s
Theme” was dressed as Homecoming Queen Portrait Laura.  She had a
frame she held in front of herself as she sang.

The guy who played keyboards, stand-up bass and sang lead on “A Real Indication” was dressed as Gordon Cole.

Wyndham Earle played bass guitar.  Wyndham Earle played bass guitar.

They opened with some really great arrangements of the classics –
opening theme, the song Audrey plays in the diner early in the show
(“Don’t you just love this song?  It’s the dreamiest…” – Andy,
Angel and I broke into the Audrey Dance when they started playing
it).  Later they really busted it wide open with some Julee Cruise
numbers and “A Real Indication,” which was unbelievably expertly pulled
off.  This wasn’t just some band performing the song.  This
was a band that had seriously put some effort into staying true to the
music of the show & movie and still putting their own creativity
into it.

Halfway through it I thought I was going to have a religious experience.

2nd to last, of course, they just threw it all open.  The band
just rocked out on some Black Lodge action, strobe lights going, the
sound clip of Laura screaming over the top of the band while they were
just tearing the universe a new one. 

At that point, I think I did have a religious experience.

After, I was stunned.  I was just shocked at how good it was, how
unbelievable of an experience it was.  I had quietly suspected
they were going to be folks who’d kind of thrown it together as a
gimmick, otherwise talented, of course, but doing this on a kind of a
lark, but it was really, really good.  That’s what I kept going
back to, as I yammered about it afterwards:  it wasn’t just fun
for being Twin Peaks, it was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen
I was so dazed by the intensity of the experience – a little part of my
very favorite fiction had come to life in front of me – that all I
could do was sit down.

Fabulous. (more…)

So, this morning I went ahead and downloaded the Billy Nayer Show ringtones from The American Astronaut (IMDB listing provided for the unwashed).  They are awesome.  Now, I have the following conditions set up on my phone:

  • When my father calls, my phone asks, “WHAT DID YOUR FATHER TEACH YOU?”  Naturally, he taught me to kill the sunflower.
  • When The Boyf calls, my phone plays, “Hey boy, hey boy… I got a message for you/about a thing called love and the stars above/etc.”
  • When Pants Wilder, Mr. Saturday, Katastrophes or Mr. Pink Eyes
    calls, it will play Ceres Walk, the song that played when the main
    character hops across the surface of Ceres from his ship to the bar.

In case this isn’t patently obvious, I am having kind of a slow day at work.  This is a good thing.

What interests me most about all of this, though, is that I found you
can download from Xingtone a little piece of software that lets you
turn any mp3 into a ringtone suitable for use with your phone.

Yes.  Any mp3.

And they have a demo version of the software, so no commitment.

So, here’s the deal:  if you’re a friend who calls me, tell me
what song you want to be your ringtone.  If I don’t have that
song, I will ask you to provide me a copy of the mp3 so that I might
twist it to my own wicked ends.  I reserve the right to disagree
with your choice of ringtone, so there’s that, but hey.  This
seems like an awesome, awesome new toy.  Also, this is the part of me that is still fourteen.


I also reserve the right to scrap this entire idea a week from now when
I get really, really tired of rushing to answer my phone because I have
it obnoxiously packed with ringtones.  That’s the part of me
that’s thirty. (more…)

The Billy Nayer Show has ringtones.

What did your father teach you? (more…)

I am, as we speak, encoding an old mix tape (the soundtrack to Mr. Pink Eyes Xenophobia Trinity game) as mp3’s.  This is an activity by which awesomologists could find new standards for awesome, and that’s their specialty. (more…)

I picked up a couple of The Billy Nayer Show CDs while I was ordering The American Astronaut on DVD the other day.  They arrived today, and I’ve been givin’ ’em a listen.

Weird.  Extremely weird.  I once described Julee Cruise’s The Art Of Being A Girl
to a music store cashier as “the lounge music in purgatory,” but I
think The Billy Nayer Show may take the cake.  The CDs I got, to
be specific, were The Villain That Love Built and Goodbye Straplight Sarentino I Will Miss You
Weird, weird, weird.  Like the music in the movie, sometimes it’s
big and loud and shouty and manic and sometimes it’s quiet and
restrained and deeply surreal, like the music that friend of yours used
to sit in his basement and make with nothing but a Casio keyboard and
some teen angst and at the time you were all, “Man, he really gets it,”
and now you wonder when you’ll see his stubbly face on CNN with a text
overlay that reads GRISLY DISCOVERY.  Every song, though,
regardless of what’s going on in terms of surface appearance, suggests
that there’s something more to the story, unrevealed dimensions of the
narrative they’re telling that might somehow explain it all and still
leave you wondering what the fuck

I’m not just trying to be pretentious there, either – every song is a
story.  I haven’t given them some sort of intense examination, I
just listened to it while playing out on these here interwebs, but
anytime I stopped to really listen I would realize I needed to jump
back to the beginning of the story and that there really are stories
here.  With titles like those, there have to be stories here.

Just a tip – if you buy the DVD of The American Astronaut, which is
worth it entirely on its own, it comes with a postcard you can mail
back to them to get a free copy of their new CD, Rabbit.  The two together, for $19.95, is like paying $5 for a great movie.  Or it’s like getting a free CD.  I’m just sayin’.

At any rate, if Compound folks or gaming folks or whoever folks want to watch The American Astronaut, it’s here.  Just let me know when.  Woot! (more…)

Oh holy crap,
the stars are weakly gleaming.
It is the night of a feared, alien birth.

Long lay the gods, inert but never dying
Soon they’ll appear not in dreams but here on Earth.
The shrill-sung note, the weary cries of madness,
For yonder breaks the last, inglorious morn.

Fall on your knees,
Oh hear the chanting voiceless.
Oh night devoured,
Oh night when R’lyeh rises again from briney deeps to strike fear in
mortal hearts as pale moonlight washes over its profane geometries once

Damn.  I just can’t make it fit.

For a real, honest-to-the-gods CD and songbook of Lovecraftian carols, check out the HP Lovecraft Historical Society Singers.  I have the CD in question, and it’s my pleasure to tell you they are actually very, very good. (more…)

Must remember to harass Mr. Pink Eyes
about submitting his music to someplace like Magnatunes.  I’m
sitting here grooving to Track 16 on a CD he burned for me and I’m
thinking, as I have thought a hundred times before, “I would pay for
this – it’s better than a lot of music I did pay for.”

Seriously.  Dude. (more…)

I’m sitting here at Cup a Joe’s at Timberlyne, working on my NaNo (I’m
about to cross 25K words, which is awesome, though I still feel like
I’m behind schedule somehow).  I’m listening to a bunch of
electronica and dance music as I write, as one of my favorite things
about NaNo is the excuse to arrange playlists.

I’m currently listening to the new RuPaul album, Red Hot.

She does a cover of “People Are People” by Depeche Mode.

It’s really, really good. 

What makes a man, indeed.

Also, RuPaul has a blog on her site.  Holy CRAP, I love RuPaul. (more…)

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