Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sometimes, ice cream dribbling off my chin is just... ice cream

"On top of that," she said, "your blog is a piece of crap!"

The blogger people (who have one eye and horns and teeth like those rubber erasers you used to stab with a pencil in first grade), told me that, if I was committed to writing a blog, I'd better do it, goddammit.
At least that's what the email said. It had a link to a site for a bank that I don't use that asked for my personal information, so it must have been legit. Figured I'd better get a'bloggin'. Don't want THOSE people crawling up my drain pipes.
Unfortunately, since all my writing mojo goes into tweeting ("Car won't start no jumper cables and I didnt shave - ur prayers appreciated"), there's little left to do but steal from my column. Once those run out, I suppose I'm back to blogging about psycho ex-girlfriends and my bosses breath.
Until then, another blast from the recent past:

As Steely Dan sang, “When Black Friday comes/I’m gonna’ dig myself a hole.” That sentiment seems to have been shared, if initial reports are to believed.

But not by me.

And while I confess the temptation was there for me, I did not go over to the Dark Side. Not a cent was spent, not here in Pagosa Country, not in Durango, nor anywhere, not even online.

I boycotted the day and I was glad for it.

Besides, I believe the real bargains will be just at the last moment when merchants are truly desperate because, I think, well … they’ll be truly desperate.

My holiday version of Game Theory.

If there was indeed an inclination to dig a hole, it would have been something around six feet deep, in a remote location, and furnished with ample amounts of lime. The brain trust that determined a week off from school during Thanksgiving break was a nifty idea would now be facing charges as accessories to murder.

With them having the whole week off, I was at my wit’s end. Literally. By Sunday, I was lip diddling, drooling, der der derrrrring.

Back when Wooly Mammoth was served during the big day and the Macy’s parade was comprised of a dozen or so Native Americans toting a pilgrim effigy, we might have had, at the most, Black Friday (known then as the-day-after-Thanksgiving) off from school; maybe Wednesday if we were travelling to be with distant relatives. Times were hard back then and it used to snow a lot more.

Thus, it was my three, cold weather, a feast and scant reason to travel beyond the tribe.

If you’re not afraid, yet, get afraid.

With no shopping, no sanity and no motivation to do much of anything (including, digging deep holes — I was wearing the stretchy pants, yo), I was further left with no decent programming on the tube, unless endless holiday movies or Deadliest Catch marathons is your thing. Not mine. Click, Monk. Click, Law and Order. Click, Mythbusters.

Yawn. Rinse, repeat.

Late one night, however, scrolling past the standard dross on HBO, I came across “Control,” a biopic based on the life of Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis. And it occurred to me, as I watched it, that I had stumbled across the final part of an unintentional triptych of movies: the aforementioned “Control” (2007), “Velvet Goldmine” (1998), and “24 Party People” (2004). Although the threads are all there, as surely as they are for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, each movie was produced independently (in every sense of the word) with no connection with the other. Except that, they are all connected, in extremely interesting ways.

While “Velvet Goldmine” is certainly the least of the three, it is the necessary starting point in the trilogy.

Less documentary and more allegory, VG charts the rise and fall of a David Bowie-esque character named Brian Slade (none-so-subtly hammering the point home with four songs on the soundtrack by either Slade, Brian Eno or Eno-era Roxy Music) and through his story, the similar mercurial story of Glam Rock.

Ostensibly paying homage to Citizen Kane (with a young Christian Bale, as the journalist sent out to discover the story of Slade), the movie soon loses its way, slipping quickly from a potentially brilliant story to become a mediocre movie. Thinly veiled references to Iggy Pop-slash-Curt Cobaine in the character of Curt Wild (and, ho hum, Oscar Wilde) and Lou Reed do little to salvage the car wreck the film. However, with a little imagination and ample substances (and a mind open enough to overcome the movie’s outrĂ© sexual themes), one can get an idea of what was happening in the early ’70s that led to the early punk scene in England.

It’s important to note, however, that while the early Glam Rock scene influenced the British punk scene (especially bands like the New York Dolls, Mott the Hoople, the previously mentioned Slade and Bowie, himself), punk took an ethos and sound from the Glam Rock scene and twisted it to — well, anarchic ends.

Following the worst of the bunch, “24 Hour Party People” is the best of the bunch. A quasi-documentary about the Manchester scene from the mid-’70s until the early-’80s, 24HPP does a brilliant job of capturing how punk, disgusted in its emergence from the Glam Rock scene, evolved in so many directions. In a short amount of time, like tentacles from an amorphous (and sexually ambiguous) dark cloud, that influence continues to confound record executives. Digital downloads or not, the suits have never figured out what the kids like. Ever.

The next movie charms us from the beginning. Narrated by British TV newsman Tony Wilson (a real character, played by comedian Steve Coogan), the movie charts the fortunes of Factory Records and Wilson’s own demise (for better or worse) as his record company and club gives rise to the Rave scene, something that lingers with us, like a case of herpes.

Don’t let my description dissuade you, however; the movie will have you laughing out loud. It’s not just a movie for music geeks. Of the three, it’s the one that I recommend as a stand-alone, the one that is, by far, the one you should see.

Early in the film, Wilson signs “Warsaw” to his label, a band not completely within the punk umbrella — and definitely problematic. As its lead singer deals with a relationship he doesn’t want and epilepsy he can’t control, Wilson realizes he has genius on his hands and he’s signed all his control away. Furthermore, after the band changes its name to “Joy Division” (the name the Nazis gave to women forced into prostitution in concentration camps), the band acquired an unwanted following by neo-Nazi skinheads. Not an auspicious beginning for Wilson’s first signed act, an act he signed, by blood.

While the next two-thirds of the film deal with the Factory Records fortunes and the aftermath, “Control” sits just beneath 24HPP. It’s not a bad movie (“Velvet Goldmine” is not a bad movie either, in that “so bad it’s good” sort of way). It’s just not great’– and kind of depressing.

If you want to end your mix on an upbeat song, “Control” won’t allow you that; you’re going to bed feeling bummed.

As I said, the movie delves into the life of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis and his, frankly, bleak existence (despite the fame). While 24HPP lets you know that, what remained of Joy Division became New Order (and the biggest money maker for Factory Records), it doesn’t tell you the danger of nihilism, in all it’s stripped down realism; “Control” does, almost to the point of making you gag.

So, how does this all become, as I said, an unintentional triptych?

Joy Division was never a punk band; their influences go back to the Glam Rock movement, no matter how un-glam they seem. In fact, what they did was blur the lines, spread velvet across the fissures that were created while rock was spitting into seemingly indivisible lines.

The evidence is there in the second movie. The wrap up is in the third movie.

The spear that brings it through, like it’s ripping through a hunk of Jamaican goat (seared in the offices of Factory Records), is the weird little movie that starts the watching.

As much press as was given to Curt Cobain blowing his brains out, Curtis had sparse mention. He hung himself. The TV was on while he did it. One in a million in America knew what he did as opposed to Cobain, who one-in-five or something like that knew what happened, a pretty face shattered face all over the covers of grocery store magazines.

Yet, while Curt Cobain gets reverence from a certain, narrow segment of music, Curtis’s influence remains widespread — from Lady Ga Ga to, yes, Widespread Panic.

With more holidays coming up and many of us wondering if we can afford the local day ticket or maybe it’s better to stay close to home, on those nights locked in the cabin, I recommend those three movies, back–to-back or at least, a few nights in a row. Fill your jug, though.

Eh, it wasn't as bad as I made it sound. Neither were the movies, for that matter.
In the future, I'll work on making everything sound worse.
It's why they pay me a substandard wage. Dontchaknow.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Hello, hellhole

Lucy hears about the Stupak amendment.

Psst, psst, test, test, one, two, three...

Well... that didn't work out.

Not going into details but here I am again, no regrets, just rugrats.

It's not that I haven't been writing: in fact, I'm still at the paper, columning and everything (which, at a small town paper everything means high school sports and bikers with bags of Bakugons strapped to a sissy bar).

Come to think of it, since I've just reappeared here, I guess I could step back out quietly and slip back into the darkness. Light a cigarette and wait. A Ninja with no thought of his lungs. Blending into the background. Hmmmmm. I eat my cigarette butt.

But I'm not like that. The humor value of a doorbell, flaming poop and stomping feet.

And since the two or three of you who read me remember the kiddie snapshots, I give you this:

When it comes to my children and my music, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Well, that’s one-third true. For awhile, my girls have immersed themselves in the tween scene, all Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers. Prepackaged pap bundled with product placement, the insidious reach of the Disney empire (I, for one, welcome our mouse-eared masters). Tentacles of consumerist madness that go back farther than the Dan Quayle My Little Pony. Indeed, in my time, girls bought into the Osmonds and David Cassidy (and all their crap), while we guys laughed at how gay those guys were. The same-oh lame-oh.

Nuff’ said, that nonsense gets shut down at bedtime. Then, Mozart seems to be their favorite, with Debussy and Bach a close second and third. Smart kids.

My son is another matter. He has no taste for tween twaddle or sing-a-long schmaltz (no “wheels on the bus go round and round” for that kid). In fact, at any given moment, Basement Jaxx, (or other CD remnants from my prior taste in trance/house/electronica), Black Sabbath or Bobby “Blue” Bland blast from his room — and those are just the Bs. He has the same mad eclectic tastes as his dad it seems, abecedarian or not.

Not that this surprises me; it was something I noticed about him early on, when he was maybe a few months past two. I was up late one night, reading, listening to Frank Zappa’s album “Hot Rats” (one of his best, a jazz-inflected excursion in the tradition of the Sun Ra Arkestra), reveling in the brief down time. An hour or so into my repose, Mister arose, wide awake, “I can’t sleep, daddy.”

Mellow, I agreed to allow him to hang out with me, “Do your own thing,” I told him, “just be quiet, let me continue reading, let me pretend you’re not here.”

I tried to focus on my book but my little man’s body kept banging against the couch, in time to the music. I had to stop, watch, put my book and see him bump as “The Gumbo Variations” (the jazziest of the jazz on that album) pounded through the room, the rhythm of his bounces increasing with the songs steady race to its crescendo. Suddenly, the song stops, with a singular, conclusive beat. “Awesome!” he yelled just past the thud of that beat, his chubby arms in the air with a wave, his eyes still staring straight ahead, his body twisting with resonance of the groove.

He continues his taste for jazz to this day.

Just as Justice Potter described pornography (“I know it when I see it”) and Louis Armstrong described jazz (“You know it when you hear it”), my little man will ask me to rule on any given moment. John Coltrane or Oscar Peterson or Dave Douglas, “This is jazz, isn’t it daddy? Because, I like this!”

Yes, I say, I’m glad you like this. Alpha male watching his pup take down a doe. Sweet.

I was up early, throwing up a batch of oatmeal (so to speak). Little man was likewise up, yakking. He diverges from his dad in that he’s an early riser, stirs at the first light and pads around the house while the rest of us snore. Conversely, as a morning person by necessity and not by choice, I was making breakfast and relying on coffee and loud music to shake the sleep from my eyes.

Mister was sitting in a futon, wide awake and watching daddy zombie stomp through the kitchen while “Pay To C***m” by Bad Brains rattled the rafters (if you’re not familiar, it’s arguably the first-ever, hard core punk, the song ripping by like a 440 Nova, fat tires, loud, dual pipes).

Tugging at my shorts, Mister declared, “Daddy, this song is fast!”

“Yes it is,” I said, listening to him and the song. “Do you like that?”


He bounced around and pressed his elbow to the floor, rolled, began dancing again.

“Did they play music this fast when you were a kid?”

I was a kid when I first heard this music, I thought, and now he’s hearing it for the first time, a generation later. Thinking that there couldn’t have been anything like it, way back when.

“This is the best music, ever,” he said and, in the spirit of that, I mixed him a CD: Bad Brains, 7 Seconds, The Misfits, all kinds of early hard core. Even though he still listened to Paul Oakenfold, Miles Davis and Green Day, hard core ruled his world for a year or so.

And then, he heard the Stones.

The other day I was doing dishes when “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” came on a mixed CD. Mister stopped, doing nothing, no longer lining up cars and army men and making “cue cue cue” sounds, just sitting still, alert, listening. “What is that, daddy?”

“The Rolling Stones, Mister. They’re the best band ever.”

“Even better than Beethoven? Because I like him.”

“Depends on your perspective,” I told him. “Where you are, at any given moment.”

“What does that mean?”

I considered his question. “It means that there’s are all kinds of different answers, there are no winners.”

“There doesn’t have to be a best of everything?”

“You mean like Superman?” Mister loves him some Superman.

“Yeah, like Superman.”

“Do you think Elvis was, like, the Superman of Rock and Roll?”

“Mommy says so,” he says, his eyes searching the room, unsure.

“Well, if Elvis was Superman, the Stones are like a shower of Kryptonite.”

He thought about that, wondered if it was bad or good, or what it might have even meant. “Do you have any more Rolling Stones?”

I put on “Jumping Jack Flash” as an example of what I meant. Tons of Kryptonite at once and no way to duck it, just find a cave and wait it out..

He agreed. Superman was dead.

Slipping back and forth on his skateboard across the floor, Mister grinned, enrapt, Stones falling on him like beams of warm light.

“Daddy, this music makes me happy.”

At that moment, watching him roll, rock, beaming, in tune, there in love with what he was hearing, the whole thing wrapped my heart in wool. I snuggled in it and remembered.

For now, he’ll be enamored with the Stones; for awhile my girls will continue to hang onto fluff. In thirty years, the girls will look back on their music as a goof, an embarrassing karaoke moment. And all three of my children will rock with the Stones.

And I’ll be thirty years older, happy to have just locked all of them into that moment, Bad Brains, Jonas Brothers and all of it.

After I wrote that, I woke the kids up, made them watch me pour a can of lighter fluid on a junk tire and roll it down the hill. The flaming tire crested the hill and kept on going, rolling center on the road, heading into downtown.

Then we went to bed. The sirens never woke us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Well, I went and did it.

As I said in my last post (ok, my next to last post), I have been kicking around with starting another blog since this old place was losing its luster, getting a little threadbare and, admittedly, becoming dreadfully boring. Furthermore, I'd started this blog to chronicle the life, loves, and trials of a single dad. In case you haven't been reading carefully, I got married. No really, to a wonderful woman and everything, not to some farm animal as a few of you were placing bets that would be where I'd end up (I mean, before the inevitable stint in prison).

Having lost my enthusiasm for this - the 4 or so posts in the last year should have been the clue - I've decided to move on and write about what's going on with me right now. And not make up crap, like I was doing.

So, it was fun for awhile but time to say "toodles" and have a toddy.

I'm not going to get all weepy. As much fun as I had with this, better things are in the boiler and my life now rocks. I don't regret leaving this to wither away.

For those of you who stumble here, my new blog, co-written with my beloved, is called Hogepotte and can be found at where you can read both our takes on everything from blending a family to how to stretch roadkill into a veritable feast.

I'll keep comments open here for a month and then, we're done. If you have something to say after April 19, shout it into your pillow. Saying it over at the new place wouldn't hurt, either.

I guess this thing will stay live as long as blogger keeps it up (or gets hacked by some nitwit Russian thug) but for all intents and purposes, it's a ghost blog by sometime next month.

So there you have it. Goodbye. Hope your blogs are better read than this spot on the road and I sincerely hope you'll come visit the missus and me over at our new place, - if you drop by, bring some beer, wouldja'?