Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fuck ABC News... don't watch on Tuesday night...

Digby says it so much better than I could...

I can't believe those pandering sacks of shit could flush their souls down the toilet with such ease by hiring a child molester like Andrew Breitbart to cover the elections.

Then again, I can't think of ANY reason I'd watch ANYTHING on ABC, anyway.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


That's what I am.
Slather me up with butter and then rub jelly all over me.
Then take a bite. I assure,I won't mind.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The soccer diaries

My, we live in interesting times.

Goddamn it was cold.
We have been lucky this year, weather-wise. Last season, storms came up daily every game during the last two weeks of the season as winter edged its way over summer remainders of the season, as a test of parental endurance, hoods pulled tight, backs to the wind, stomping on decaying turf to our keep limbs alive, each of us wishing the ref would just call the game and let us get back into our warm vehicles. While children practiced their practiced chaos, chasing and kicking the parquet ball and sideliners showered each other with blades of grass, oblivious to the mayhem on the field.
Until today, the weather held and we've been blessed with frabjous skies, a blessing for the parent out on the soccer fields four days a week.
Three kids, three different age groups -- you do the math. Between conflicting games and gratuitous practices, I got much more fresh air than I require to pass the centurion mark. My curse, I suppose.
After we move into the house (the "special surprise" Jonboy asked about), we can return to some semblance of normality, even if I'm moving some 10 miles out of town. I'll get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, we'll have time to interact before bed and everything will return to a regular schedule.
Until basketball season starts.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day sumpin' sumpin'

Only one day left of soccer -- thank God. With three kids, three different age groups, games four days a week and often not getting back to the house until well after 7... and then making dinner, organizing homework, doing dishes, coordinating baths and bedtimes...Christ, I'm exhausted.
Maybe I'll finally get some time to write now that the season is almost over.
Good night.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday night, nothing to say

Actually, working on this week's column (about The Yardbirds) and "nothing to say" actually means, "no time to say it here," since I'm busy buttering my bread. But, to give you an idea of where that's going, I give you this...

I'm sure that fine video gives you an idea of where my column will go -- certainly, you'll read it here, in due time.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Nikey turkey, what?

No need to travel over the river and through the woods to get your obligatory Thanksgiving column, my friends; your heaping plateful of turkey is right here. No room for seconds, for which we’re all thankful, I assure you.
There’s scant music for a Thanksgiving mix, barely a handful of tunes even remotely associated with the holiday. In fact, I can think of only three songs directly related to Thanksgiving, only two of which are worth a serious listen. Adam Sandler’s “The Thanksgiving Song,” doesn’t warrant discussion here: The lyrics are infantile (much like Sandler) and his singing is cloying, annoying and mind-destroying. Not that I’d give Sandler the benefit of the doubt — I’d rather inhale a bucket of candied yams than sit through any of his movies. Adam Sandler has all the appeal of a head cold, massive amounts of mucus and the rest.
Much more appealing is Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” an 18-minute plus monologue”telling the story of Guthrie’s arrest — for littering — on a Thanksgiving Day in 1965, a song that became a classic of anti-war protest songs. “Alice’s Restaurant” is a Thanksgiving Day tradition in my household (and really, the only time I listen to the song). But the song is hilarious, almost a Guthrie stand-up routine.
Not associated with Thanksgiving in any way, I usually follow up the song with Jamie Brockett’s “The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic” only because it is folky, long and very funny (and likewise gets heard but once a year).
It is the last song of the three that is the most powerful in its evocation of the holiday — and, by far, the most beautiful.
The final movement of “A Symphony: New England Holidays” by American composer Charles Ives, “Thanksgiving” captures not only the Puritan roots of the holiday but the sweetness arising from Thanksgiving’s place as a quasi-family reunion, its power residing in the ability to capture the emotional and psychological contradictions of the holiday — why bringing a family together for a feast can be joyous ... or tragic.
Not so much a symphony as a song cycle, the “Holiday Symphony” is probably Ives’s best known work (though, arguably, not his best work); it also shows Ives to be one of the most original and most challenging composers of the 20th century (at least, to my untutored ears). “Thanksgiving” is more conservative than the previous three movements of the symphony, more subdued, less dissonant. While the movement begins ominously, portentously suggesting the anxiety of being thrust into a situation where scabs are torn from old wounds, it eventually softens its tone, taking bits of inspirational and traditional music (Ives quotes liberally from American standards and hymns) in most of his music to weave in moments of joy and tenderness.
Like most music that matters to me, I recall the exact moment when “Thanksgiving” made it into my holiday repertoire. At the time, I was working towards an honors distinction in an undergraduate neuropsychology program, spending several hours every day administering stress hormones in rats and running them through several behavioral tasks. Since research doesn’t take the day off, I was in the lab on Thanksgiving, focused on the task while resentful that I had to be there.
I’d tuned the radio to the local classical music station for background noise, when Ives came on. I stopped everything that I was doing. Sitting down and listening, it occurred to me that it was like nothing I’d heard before. More than that, when the announcer said that the song was “Thanksgiving” from the “Holiday Symphony” by Charles Ives, it was as if the entire piece was perfect for that moment in time.
Those of you who have read this column from time-to-time will know that the ability of music to lock a moment in time is a common theme with me. Indeed, it is how I define most great music. Furthermore, I’ve written about how some music stands outside space and time, actually evokes a moment, through creating a tableau, one that ineffably brings to mind an atmosphere or feeling by its very essence. “Thanksgiving” manages, for me, to accomplish both.
Believe me, it’s probably not a piece you want to slap on to create the festive spirit you need for your Thanksgiving gathering: It’s far too disconcerting and there are moments in the movement that are far too reminiscent of drunk relatives releasing some long-held animus while unfortunate spouses huddle in the kitchen and weep. Nor is it something to play after the wine and tryptophan have kicked in for the inevitable post-gorge nap. You. Do. Not. Want. To go to sleep to it (bad dreams, I assure you).
However, after the guests have retired to their rooms or have driven off into the night, the symphony (or at least that movement) is something I highly recommend for your personal enjoyment, to see how it jibes with the gathering you’ve held, or attended.
As I said, this obligatory holiday column was not meant to build a mix; the options are far too thin to build a cohesive whole for the holiday. If you’ve insistent on creating some kind of themed collection for the party, you’re out of luck. Fix your food and don’t bother with Thanksgiving songs. Be thankful you have just enough time to plug in your shuffle or stack some CDs into the carousel.
However, if you’re driven, Sam and Dave’s “I Thank You” is about as good as it gets, Thanksgiving-wise. It has “Thank” in the title and, while it speaks to gratitude for something bigger than themselves (“You didn’t have to love me, but you did, but you did … and I thank you!”), there’s no mention of turkey or mashed potatoes or the Bears vs. Lions game. And a great companion piece to Sam and Dave would be “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca (with Dooley Wilson singing, as he did in the movie). Although it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving and nominally dealing with thanks, it speaks to memories which is, I think, a huge component of the season.
If indeed, “the fundamental things apply,” Dido’s wonderful one-hit wonder “Thank You” seems to capture the season’s zeitgeist: As things build up and everything appears hopeless, there’s someone to catch us, preparing us for the next time we’re overwhelmed (probably why Eminem sampled it for his scary-stalker cut “Stan”). At the end of the night, if the relatives are being far too judgmental, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” is a perfect side to let the chinless, soulless examiners of our lives know that we’re snubbing every snippet of gossip they’re holding onto like a slab of gut built with their own indulgence.
Really, that’s all I’ve got. You’re on your own as far as Turkey Day music. I assure you, you can’t go wrong with Arlo Guthrie (and the accompanying Jamie Brockett — it’s a good follow-up, really) as a Thanksgiving tradition. Sam and Dave, Dooley Wilson, Dido and Sly and the Family Stone (maybe toss in Led Zeppelin “Thank You” from II, Ben Folds’ “You to Thank” and Earth, Wind and Fire “Gratitude” (for, um, just something) and maybe you’ll have a mix.
For myself, I’m popping a turkey in the oven, putting on “The Wizard of Oz” and “Singing in the Rain” (a couple of traditions, hereabouts) and during dinner, probably listening to Phoenix, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” (my favorite, recently) while my kids ask, “Do I have to finish the asparagus?” with an eye on the pecan pie and whipped cream.
Then, after they’ve been overwhelmed by tryptophan and too much fun, I’ll put on Charles Ives, pour myself a couple fingers of port and allow the music to transport me because, despite the inevitable battle over asparagus. There’s much to be thankful for and, in this economy, that says so much.
I sincerely hope that you likewise find a reason to be grateful. We’re a close community in Pagosa Country and there’s no reason anyone should go for want. There are many who have plenty and, in my experience, they’re willing to share. All one needs to do is ask.
Ask me, though, and you’ll eventually be subjected to Charles Ives.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Day one or something

Obviously, I picked the wrong day to begin fulfilling a challenge (blogging daily for the next two months). Enjoy the tune, so you can share my pain -- our pain.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Something old, new, belated and true

No one's telling me what the fuck to do

This was published here a couple weeks back and I'm just now getting around to posting it. Sue me.

While the calendar claims that summer has crawled off into memory, I’m not convinced nor am I letting go gladly, clawing desperately to warm, long days and frost-free mornings.
I can be stubborn that way.
The ostensible change of season brought a busy week for me: six soccer games, preparation for parent-teacher conferences and, two days after the autumnal equinox, the twelfth birthday of Eldest Daughter. And like my refusal to let go of summer, I cling to my daughter’s childhood like a dear plushy, cradling that idealized vision of her nine years ago, bare feet beneath her nightgown and tussled, golden hair falling over her eyes, her soft hands holding a stuffed Simba close to her chin.
There are a few things I own and cherish but their value is meaningless compared to the significance of those memories. Although all I have is today, ultimately, the here and now is never a clean slate and possessing the memories of my children makes my being in the moment all the more sweeter. It is the treasure of those memories that remind me how important it is to hold fast to present.
Eldest Daughter is my Golden Child, the one consumed with doing the right thing, devastated when she disappoints daddy. She’s been like that ever since she was born. Whereas her siblings cavil and cry at the injustice of me telling them there’s something they can’t do, willful and obstinate imps they are, Eldest Daughter cries because her deep, inbred sense of shame tortures her with the idea that she has not done the right thing. It troubles her to the core, knowing she has displeased me in some way.
Although twelve and at the threshold of adolescence, she retains the innocence of her earlier years as she explores (treading lightly) more adult themes and concerns. Last year, she replaced her tween obsessions (Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, High School Musical, etc.) with everything “Twilight” — books, movies, soundtracks and merchandise.
I confess I haven’t read the books nor have I seen the movies. I’ve heard the books are innocuous, if inferior to the “Harry Potter” series and that the movies are definitely geared to specific, inchoate tastes. Nonetheless, she adores “Twilight” and I have no inclination to subvert her affection.
After all, my parents had no compunction against dropping me off in front of McNichols Arena, when I was about Eldest Daughter’s age, to watch Alice Cooper (my own preteen obsession) cause my ears to ring with his brand of nascent heavy metal and entertain his audience with mock executions and buckets of blood.
Indeed, if there is anything about the “Twilight Saga” that excites me, it’s the quality of the movie soundtracks. Populated with big names of the Indie Rock scene, it is not without undue alacrity that I’ve greeted her own pre-teen obsession given that she has been exposed to, and embraced, an entirely new brand of music in her preteen world.
To the credit of the movie’s producers, the soundtracks have included terrific cuts by some really exciting bands: Muse (providing songs on all three soundtracks), Perry Farrell, Iron & Wine, Death Cab for Cutie, Thom Yorke (wow), The Killers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Sea Wolf, OK Go, Grizzly Bear, The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend (but, of course!), Unkle, The Dead Weather, Band of Horses — a veritable Who’s Who of College/Indie Rock.
Despite my desire to keep Eldest Daughter locked into the precious years of her childhood, I’ve learned to embrace the fact that she slowly, steadily marches towards adulthood, with baby steps (thankfully). Rocking all the way with a new found sophistication.
Thinking ahead to Eldest Daughter’s birthday and considering her new found affection for Indie Rock, I spent a few hours last week creating a new folder for her in iTunes. Somewhat inspired by the “Twilight” soundtracks but also filled with songs meant to say, “If you liked that, you might really like this!”
Boldly, I included a great deal of ’60s Motown, Soul, R&B, and Girl Groups in her folder, my rationale being that the pop tradition informing the type of Indie Rock that Eldest Daughter has grown to love. There would be no Death Cab for Cutie had there been no “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Baby Love” by The Supremes or “The Way You Do the Things You Do” by The Temptations.
Unabashedly romantic and celebratory, the Soul Music of the ’60s perfectly captured the urgency of the teenage heart, that desperation of adolescent longing and unrequited love. While The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Jefferson Airplane, et al edged more and more towards adult themes and psychedelic excess, African-American music of the era remained firmly entrenched in matters of the heart — the redemption of a first kiss, the security of intertwined fingers and the exhilaration of a love note.
Yet, that music was anything but formulaic: the performances alone made the music transcendent while some of the finest writers and composers endowed the songs with an emotional power and timelessness that endures today. I would have been tragically remiss had I failed to include Otis Redding, The Four Tops or Martha and The Vandellas in Eldest Daughter’s iTunes folder.
Naturally, I included some new music as well. Ratting myself out here — if I’m putting these artists into Eldest Daughter’s folder, it means that I necessarily have those songs on my iPod — Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Cee Lo Green, Aaliyah and Missy Elliot, artists that get her and her sister rocking and singing aloud as we blaze down the road, “Turn it up, daddy!” they shout over music that’s already overly loud.
A guilty pleasure of mine from this summer was Robyn, playing Swedish pop at its best. Probably a little too twisted for American radio, Robyn’s music combines techno/electro beats with pop rhythms that could only come from Sweden.
During the summer, Robyn released two EPs from her “Body Talk” trilogy, a cycle of songs so infinitely danceable and incredibly entertaining, I would have been a bad dad to exclude them from the Eldest Daughter folder. Songs such as “Dancing on My Own,” “Fembot,” “Hang With Me” and “U Should Know Better” (with Snoop Dog), I knew I couldn’t go wrong introducing Eldest Daughter and her sister to the most fun I had this past summer.
However, it was Robyn’s song, “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do” that was the essential inclusion into the folder. Full of bravado, attitude and adolescent snottiness, I may have stepped into something that I will regret somewhere down the road (although I somehow doubt that, given Eldest Daughter’s investment in being good). However, it is Robyn’s message that the pressure of society — and the expectations of being a woman in that society — that is both hilarious and compelling. Hoping to raise strong, self-sufficient women, ultimately, I hope both my girls carry that steel with them well into adulthood.
Robyn demanded a certain amount of Hip-hop in the mix and I was not shy including songs that will surely get Eldest Daughter censored if she’s blasting 50 Cent (“In Da Club,” of course) or Jay-Z (“99 Problems”) on the team bus.
Black-Eyed Peas and Outkast were easy selections to make — “Hey Ya” or “Pump It” are chaste enough to hear during an Aerobics session at the Senior Center — but I’ll confess to a brief pause (and sustained cringe) with songs such as Kenye West’s “Gold Digger” or Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.”
Not one to censor what my kids listen to — if they don’t hear it from me, they’ll hear it somewhere else and with that will come a certain amount of subversive energy — I’ll nonetheless ask that the iPod stay home during sleepovers; not many parents understand my libertarian approach to music.
With well over 200 songs in the folder, Eldest Daughter has not had the chance to hear everything. And while the Hip-hop and old soul have been with some enthusiasm (“I love this song!” she cried when Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry Bout’ a Thing,” came on), most of those cuts were met with the resignation of, “Well, that’s just Daddy, he listens to all kinds of stuff!”
However, with the folder designated for her, she took new interest in the Indie Rock I had included, associating them with the music on her “Twilight” soundtracks. Thus, while “Beat Your Heartbeat,” by The Kissaway Trail or “Yellow Dress,” by Sore Eros might have slipped into the background of my pod set on random shuffle with Eldest Daughter’s attention turned elsewhere, the tunes took on a new significance as she listened intently to her special folder. Although “Actor Out of Work,” by St. Vincent, “Rill, Rill,” by Sleigh Bells and “Mexico,” by The Soft Pack had previously passed without her notice, suddenly she heard those songs anew, as if hearing them for the first time, placing them in proximity to everything she’d heard on her “Twilight” disks and suddenly deciding that she really, really liked those songs.
For the rest of my life, I will repay a debt (and never fully repay that gift) owed from the moment the delivery nurse pushed a bundle toward me, “Here’s your daughter, dad,” the nurse said as took Eldest daughter in my arms for the first time with a tremulous and uncertain embrace.
It was as if I had been touched by an alien and the knowledge of another universe had been telepathically transmitted to me. In that moment I became immediately aware that my own life had no significance in relation to the tiny life I held in my arms, that my own safety and well-being, my own aspirations and desires, were all secondary to the needs and security of the tiny person in my arms.
It was at that moment that I became aware of authentic love was — unconditional and nurturing and compassionate and dedicated to a higher purpose, serving something else beyond my own selfish appetites. In that moment, I realized that my own life held a purpose that would light my way forever.
That way continues to unfold in tandem with the evolution of Eldest Daughter as she glides seamlessly from her infancy into adulthood, a process that has occurred in the blink of an eye, faster than I had anticipated and could have ever wanted.
My debt continues to grow, gifted as I am watching her evolve and become the person she is supposed to become. If I can provide that process with my own soundtrack, bringing her the gift of music, I am ecstatic that my own gift is well-received.
As summer eases its way into fall and Eldest Daughter grows from toddler to teenager, I can only cling to the memories of what she was and these present moments of what she’s becoming. There is nothing I would trade to pass up those transitions.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

CNN: the most trusted name in Teh Suck

Yeah, but when do I get the REAL drugs?

Ah, Sunday morning for the un-churched (as the local fundie fusspots like to call us), us great unwashed, unshaven, uninterested in anything other than a lazy bacon and egg breakfast, copious amounts of coffee and political blather on the box.
Every Sunday, watching the babbling rabble opine and pretty much get everything impeccably wrong and wondering why I allow those those fluffheads, zippernits and thimbledicks to chew up a few of my weekend hours, a testament to my ability to suffer fools gladly and spill a few drams of Bloody Mary.
Inside the Beltway, incompetence and a complete lack of perspicuity are rewarded with keys to lobbyist's security boxes and the Cadillac Escalade that broadcasts its OnStar like a CB radio, wheels in the ditch, forehead full on in an air bag.
In the midst of cleaning up kid detritus, Fareed Zakaria (the least odious and best informed of the Sunday chatter-monkeys) finished up his show, followed by the grinning boobs who spew the news. I usually allow the shining teeth crew about 15 minutes of mindless reporting (just in case an asteroid is heading straight for us and I have to pack an overnight bag) then crank up some tunes over a muted football game.
Today's leading (and incessant) story was some homophobic preacher from a Wal-Mart church denying he'd plied teenage boys with sports cars for some of the fun that turned Sodom and Gomorrah into sand and stone -- just like the surrounding landscape.
Normally, when some shitbag religious hypocrite/bigot gets caught with his pump still workin' cuz' the vandals still have their hands on the handle, I get the kind of hard on that would have have made Ted Haggard seek out man hands for his back -- and front.
However, CNN has been raping the corpse of this story as if it was still lactating. For fuck's sake, it's been a week and yes, homophobic preacher, boys with toys due to preacher's largess, doo-dah. Barely a footnote much less four days worth of reporting. CNN, however, made fag-hating fag preacher yet another top story and half hour of mindless
Just before I almost shut down the jabbering idiots, "Dad bloggers are increasing in popularity," teased me past the commercial break. CNN acting like Dad bloggers had just landed on the planet and asked for infants stuffed with kittens, then slow roasted with a red wine sauce.
I've been doing this "dad blogger" thing (off and on) for about five years and I've come to know several "dad bloggers" that warrant recognition; of course, none of them were mentioned in CNN's report. Instead, the focus was on several SAHDs (Stay at Home Dads), one who's wife was "A high powered attorney" and several others with way too much time on their hands (I assumed the wife cooks and does the laundry, despite their sad SAHD status, the bozos looked like pantie wastes).
Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. The dad blogger has been around for years and suddenly see, see, CNN walks in on the party with their borderline retardation and Pabst Blue Ribbon and grinning cluelessness to celebrate a few fat fucks with about as much parenting savvy as an Inernet connection and a nubile, nympho nanny.
Fuck those idiots and the whores they rode in on. If I was living at home while my "high powered attorney" spouse was bringing home the scratch, at the very least, I'd work on being a better writer, engineering a better site at best.
I await CNN to talk to a dad who raises his kids on his own but I assume they're working on the next story, a dog with two heads or the snake in John Boehner's pants.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

3000 miles of delicious

First of all, go check out this site:
I met these hotties while covering a chi-chi soirée on Friday night (a post on that, later. Their site is fun, an ultimate kick-ass road trip. Give em' a visit and say hello.

The Pied (or Pie-eyed) pipers of happy drunks...

2 out of 3 hotties agree: Karen is the rockinest bartender in all of Pagosaland.

Happy travels, my dears... it was a distinct pleasure crossing your path!

Q: It is to be handled with special care! Bond: Everything you give me... Q: treated with equal contempt. Yes, I know.

My girls came along first.

Initially, a whiny, crying difficult child who maintained her distance from the beginning but, through the years, became mellow and laid back, a jeans and t-shirt girl who skis like a fiend, flies down the mountain with aplomb, turns her skis into a stop and asks, “Are you planning on making your way down the hill?” A girl who has realized the role of leader of my brood and wrapped her younger siblings beneath her wings, chucked her beak skyward to accept what sunlight offered to warm her dark, amber eyes.

My Golden Girl, the one so invested in being “good” that, when things turn against her, she cries at the thought of being “bad,” puts down what I don’t want her to do and fills up her eyes with tears with shame, stricken by the sense that she has, in some way, done wrong.

The second was, from almost day one, scooting across the floor to greet me after work, standing up in her crib, arms wide open, to send me off to work, the Daddy’s Girl. Unlike her sister, she became, through the years, the “girly girl,” playing soccer only because she could shine (yet, shining brightly) and, in her own way, attempting to usurp her sister’s “Golden Girl” status despite no investment in being “good” — she cried not because she was ashamed at being wrong, but because she wanted to continue whatever it was that I’d decided was not what she wanted to do.

Raising two girls, very different, I was convinced I was prepared to raise a son; I learned I, um, had a lot to learn.

Once, I read a feminist author who, under my same delusion, assumed that raising a child was a matter of socialization, that gender would not matter to any great degree. In her essay, she identified the “Q” gene — the sound a little boy makes when he points his finger at someone else and spouts out, “cue, cue, cue,” to sound like a gun firing — surmising that the Q gene was inborn and a boy would, lacking a toy gun, create his own.

Little girls don’t make those sounds, point their fingers thusly. Little girls rarely pretend they’re shooting anyone.

Little boys do.

I was unprepared for the “boy” energy – girls crying because a HotWheels car had been bounced off of someone’s head, a little girl had been rolled on the floor and rubbed down with Play-Dough, Barbies desecrated and tossed to the Lego fire that I was supposed to tamp or raise — I was used to little ladies who held a pinky out as they held their tea cup, not a monster chewing at the sides of the saucer and grinning like a fiend as he destroyed whatever stood as “sister” stuff.

Yet, my Little Man is hugely protective of his sisters and indeed, anyone female. He once took on three boys, all two years older, to protect the younger girl those boys picked on. He brought home a “pink slip” for punching, kicking, biting and spitting, earning a lecture from me — and silent approval.

He will be ten times the man I wanted to be; putting his coat down for his queen, taking up a challenge for a woman scorned. Converse to Stone Temple Pilots, not “half the man I used to be,” but so much more than I ever will be.

Given that, am compelled to make a mix for my little boy – and all little boys.

Of course, I used to be a little boy as well; not your typical little boy, but I think what it’s like to be young and wanting to be a hero. After all, there is nothing else a little boy aspires to be other than a hero, a hero to his mom, dad, siblings, society and everything else. So, here is my little boy mix, standing outside myself and wondering where our next generation will go. Given the example of my son, we’re going to do pretty damned well.

Lyle Lovett — If I Had a Boat; probably the best song about being a little boy, taking his pony out on a boat, knowing his sneakers are better than lightning and girls are icky. Few songs are better than this.

They Might Be Giants — Particle Man; ridiculous stuff but if you’re creating a mix for a little boy, why not? If Universe Man can degrade Person Man (beneath Degraded Man, of course), then anything is possible for a little boy.

Africando —Yah Boy; There’s no equivocation here; Yah Boy and nothing else.

Eminem — The Real Slim Shady; kind of creepy (listening to his entire story) but the kid should realize who should stand up and declare himself not so screwed up … Slim Shady won’t have enough to muscle (but enough spine) to shove his face forward and scream… God knows, better him than us.

Kanye West — Jesus Walks; it doesn’t matter if your kid is Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or whatever, Kanye shakes ya’ll down, asks where you’re at and then demands you make a stand. Eminem is a clown; in comparison, Kanye is a prophet. “I want to talk to God but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long,” is, honestly, something Kanye ties us all into, between prostitutes, politicians and everyone else. The hate comes from fear and outdated thinking (look at Prop 8), the love apparently arising from music.

Gorillaz — Clint Eastwood; Little Man and I spend Saturdays watching Westerns, some Clint Eastwood, but mostly John Wayne. I wonder what the Duke would make of, “The essence the basics Without it you make it/Allow me to make this/Childlike in nature/Rhythm /You have it or you don’t that’s a fallacy/I’m in them/Every sprouting tree /Every child apiece/Every cloud you see /You see with your eyes/I see destruction and demise/Corruption in disguise/From this f*****’ enterprise/Now I’m sucking to your lies/Through Russ, though not his muscles but the percussion he provides/with me as a guide/But ya’ll can see me now cos you don’t see with your eye /You perceive with your mind.”

I assume Clint Eastwood would be appalled, but Little Man and I laugh both at him, the Duke, their thin, coffee shop philosophy and a code that never really existed but in a Hollywood script. Libertarianism is stupidity served up on a cracker, a trifle for tastes too unsophisticated for complexity.

Blur — Song #2; Really, why not? Whoo-Hoo!!! Although the song sounds celebratory, it’s actually a kick to our collective solar plexus (plexes?), the joy of wrecking things — something little boys are prone to do. Despite this song’s ubiquitous appearance in commercials and movies, I never tire of its idiotic glee with woo-hooing about wrecking stuff.

Suicidal Tendencies —Institutionalized; sent to a Nut House merely for asking for a Pepsi. We all suspect that Mike’s parents needed more drugs and Mike needed to own up for whatever weird stuff led his parents to come in his room and make a scene. More than that, we wonder why a Pepsi might be a metaphor for dope.

NOFX — Suits and Ladders; do I really need to say anything here? Fair warning for our sons, I suppose, the ladder entails wearing a suit and really, who wants to do that?

Descendents — Suburban Home; I used to have this as a ring tone for whenever my parents called. If this is the least of Little Man’s stabs at irony, I’ve done well.

Bad Brains — Pay to c***m; Little Man heard this song and asked me if music could be any harder; I told him, “No, not much.” Included here because the song makes my little man move (and I defy anyone to say they can understand any of the lyrics).

Girls Against Boys — Rockets Are Red; boys know this. Applying that knowledge is another matter. A sneering playground taunt of the caliber little boys are know to make and a whole lot of fun.

A.C. Newman — Submarines of Stockholm; the best 60-ish psychedelic song of the last decade. If my son eats acid, I hope I’m there to catch him before he takes an irreparable leap.

The Beatles — Maxwell’s Silver Hammer; when we were heading to hand the kids off to my ex for the summer, Little Man kept asking to hear this song… should I be afraid?

R.E.M. — Superman; never an REM fan, I have to say that the fact they covered this obscure garage band tune elevated them in my estimation (see also, Golden Palominos, “Omaha”). An incredible little boy song as it captures the bravado of a cape made out of a bed sheet and socks stuffed up sleeves to make muscles.

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists — I’m a Ghost; another perfect little boy song, even if it’s about being in love, completely, unconditionally. If Little Man knew what this song was about, he’d ask what the hell was up with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy. Really.

TV on the Radio — Wolf Like Me; a song feeling like being shot out of a cannon and ripped through the tops of trees. More bravado and superhero posing which, well, what this mix is supposed to be about.

Rolling Stones — Can’t You Hear Me Knocking; ostensibly a song about a stalker but honestly, if Jagger and Richards came knocking at your window, you’d call the cops? That would be like Christ speaking at your church and saying, “Yeah, let’s nail this guy to some tree.”

Frank Zappa — Broken Hearts Are For A*****s; because an 8-year old boy should know better. And that little boy would completely agree with Zappa on this one.

Stevie Wonder — I Wish; I guess Little Man should appreciate that I don’t slap him around the way Stevie was, but then, will he be as successful as a blind African-American musician?

Radiohead — Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased); wow. Time to go to bed or… Sheesh. My whole, “Songs For a Little Man” idea seems to end on a bad note and,

Half-Japanese — Baby Wants Music; heh. Not like this.

Honest, these songs are for a little boy and he’ll appreciate you going to the trouble of making the mix. If he, in later years, blames his disposition on this mix, turn your finger towards me.

It wouldn’t be the first time. The Q sounds, I assume, will continue.

Little boys need their guns. No matter how much I try to turn him away from that nitwittery, I know he’ll somehow be bigger, more powerful with the Q satisfied.

For me… I make mixes, my noise, my Q.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Happy "Even though I didn't die and didn't know anyone who did on 9/11, it's my day to hate," day

While the kids and I roasted wienies on a few blazing copies of the Koran ("Quran" if you're not wearing some fruity biker mustache and flimsy comb-over in a failed attempt to deny your parents weren't related, in any way, before they begot another Elmer Gantry), chatting about killing moozlim babies and merkin baby killers, it was remarked how all brown people are really the enemy. "Agreed," I said, looking for another Koran to stoke the fire and, not finding one, grabbed a Torah scroll (they make great Yule logs, BTW).
Wienies consumed and brown people hiding out and calling the cops (apparently I have a constitutional right to own a gun but not to actually point it at people and fire it. What fun is that?), we strapped bibles on the bottoms of our feet and stomped out the fire, singing "My god is an awesome god; your god is substandard, at best."
Swaying back and forth, with our arms in the air and our eyes closed, we stomped those cinders dead.
Unstrapping the bibles from our feet, my son asked why 9/11 was such an important day.
"Why did they fly planes into buildings?" he asked, "and isn't a few more than three thousand dead kind of, um, small potatoes?
"You mean like a few million dead in Sudan?"
“Yeah, that, but why fly airliners into skyscrapers? And why those buildings?”
Chickens coming home to roost, I told him.
Watching the metaphor in his mind (he’d just “metaphor” in school), his eyes tracked a chicken screaming across the sky to topple a tall building, while soldiers torched families in mud huts.
“2 million in Sudan?”
“Two, three, who’s counting? At least ten times that many die in Africa every year due to famine, disease and thug governments.”
“So when is Africa Day?”
Too many brown people, I told him. Not gonna’ happen.
His mind again tracked metaphors and seeking out chickens, counted the eggs, knowing that more than just a few would hatch.
“So what am I going to do with these?” he asked, waving the bibles from his feet, pages still smoking and stinking of burnt Koran and Torah.
“Toss em’ up in the air.”
And, as soon as he had done that, I peppered it with a burst of my AR-15, bits of paper and shards of leather sprayed across the horizon, shrapnel taking to the air like cabbage moths.
Blasting the next one similarly, we watched bits of Luke and Deuteronomy drift down on pine needles and leaves of scrub oak, snow in September so to speak.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A little post for my little man

He turns eight today. Seems like just yesterday when he was like this.
So, I have a party to plan and Tacos to make; no time for blogging.
Mister would like to pass on this party favor, though:

Thursday, September 09, 2010

We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!


Apologies for having delved into the cream of the crop as far as Rock and Roll cinema — an admittedly mundane exercise in which my poison pen was set on “dull” and aimed in the worst fanboy direction. A nominally interesting column meant to steer the untutored towards some truly great movies but ultimately, my self-indulgence got the best of me; mea culpa.
This week, I steer my craft to the galaxy of stupid and, adjusting my poison pen to “obliterate,” I set my sights on the worst Rock and Roll movies, the ultimate losers, those films that aspired to nothing and inspired even less. The most worthless and meretricious pieces of trash exhibiting a feckless disregard for the music and the viewer, lame ideas germinated in the well-fertilized fields of corporate greedheads and then cultivated for no other reason to feed the fatted, golden calf. Films that didn’t just fall flat, but sagged so low their bellies displaced the detritus, taking their dubious position at the bottom of the barrel.
What binds these turkeys together is their unabashed cynicism; all over-preening big studio releases basted in bombast and barfed upon the movie-going public with no other reach than to the bottom line. More than that, the music — Rock and Roll — takes a back seat to the sludge that the studios, producers, director and everyone else involved dumped on our doorstep like a flaming sack of dog crap.
Last week, I mentioned the gawdawful schmaltz from the late ’50s/early ’60s, a class of dreck unto itself. Doubtlessly, the studio heads responsible for those abortions were due the bad acid trips they inevitably suffered (a twisted karmic retribution where the infantile were reduced to wearing diapers ala David Vitter) but they achieved a level of Technicolor camp, harmless (and mindless) B-movies meant as nothing more than 90 minutes of cotton-candy piffle. They can only be viewed as quaint, in retrospect, like walking down into your grandmother’s basement and finding a washboard and an old ringer dryer — with sufficient imagination and psychotropic adjuncts, the entertainment value is immeasurable (if not perverse).
Conversely, nothing redeems the mangy curs on this list and the only a masochist, strapped down and forced to watch a few minutes of these, would appreciate a single frame of these monstrosities.
Working backwards, from the least worst to the absolute wretched, behold the power of Hollywood to walk the strip in fishnet stockings, stiletto heels and a faux latex miniskirt and ask, “Wanna’ suck on a sewage pipe?”
It has always been my considered opinion that Karaoke is one of the signs of the Apocalypse and “The Rose” (bound to be sung several thousand times a night across the country by tipsy account executives) arose from one of the most overwrought and maudlin cinematic murder scenes ever produced. Why, in 1979, Hollywood felt we needed an extended allegory on the life of Janis Joplin is beyond me; it reminded me of the Monty Python sketch where a slimy movie producer promises Marilyn Monroe to star (her corpse falling out of cupboards or standing in as a footrest).
Bette Midler’s histrionic performance as the drugged-out Rose (“Pearl” — get it?) is all emoting and no emotion, endowing her character with all the psychological depth of a junebug banging against a light bulb. Worse yet, Middler and the music make a travesty of Joplin’s legacy. Whereas Joplin could command her corner of the universe with her boozy, bluesy ferocity and move mountains, the performances in “The Rose” are flat and flatulent, moving little more than my feet to the exit.
The fact that the Academy granted this stinker four nominations merely proves that, with enough powdered sugar, waste products can look like a cruller.
Never a fan of Oliver Stone — “Salvador” and “Wall Street” were OK — I’ve found most of his work pedagogic and preachy. However, as bulimic as his worst excesses are (tons of junk thrown in, followed by the inevitable purge of a movie), “The Doors” (1991) presses the gag reflex beyond human endurance. Between the trippy sequences and the pseudo-spiritual palaver, Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Jim Morrison, while probably accurate, amounts to a movie that (in the words of Roger Ebert) “is like being in a bar with an obnoxious drunk while you’re not drinking.”
Apparently uninterested in endowing his characters with any depth or sympathy (like the incidental cartoons of Mickey and Mallory in “Natural Born Killers”), Stone seems torn between trying to reproduce the high of a peyote trip as well as the gut bomb and somnolent agony of a hangover. He succeeds on the latter; on the former, well, only someone who’s ingested a fistful of buttons knows where that goes.
Neither a fan of Stone’s movies nor much of a fan of The Doors music (though I’ll concede they made several truly great songs, however), I can say that no animals were harmed as I decided this garbage was about as endurable as a BB-sized hole in a molar.
I really, really should have enjoyed “Streets of Fire” (1984). With direction by Walter Hill (“The Warriors,” “48 Hours”), Ry Cooder’s musical direction and the pulp/comic book attempt to tell a “Rock and Roll fable,” the movie should have achieved greatness. Unfortunately, this seven-car pile up amounted to little more than art-house pretention and some truly awful Springsteen mock-ups (compositions courtesy of Jim Steinman, the creator of Meatloaf… nuff’ said) via Eddie and the Cruisers, the band for which “Bruuuuuuuuuce” really is “Booooooooooo!”
I won’t even go into the absurd plot except to say that it merely confirms Willem Dafoe has, by far, the worst actor’s instincts for choosing roles. Michael Paré (with a face looking like silly putty wrapped around the head of a G.I. Joe doll) and Diane Lane (um, actually at her hottie-est) round out a cast babbling out dialog that Raymond Carver would have ascribed to a night of bad whiskey.
The harder this movie attempts to achieve its “fable” status, the more it comes across as an episode of “Robot Chicken” after the writers had huffed gold-speckled spray paint.
Breaking out the Miller’s Analogy Test booklet, “Streets of Fire” is to inhalants as “Tommy” (1975) is to horse tranquilizers and self-induced oxygen deprivation — an interminably bad trip with all the joy of landing face-first on the floor.
With performances by Tina Turner as The Acid Queen, Eric Clapton as The Preacher and Elton John as The Pinball Champ, one wonders how the movie could go so horribly wrong but it does to an extent surpassing “so bad it’s good” territory to “Anyone associated with this road kill of a movie should be sentenced to a year in rehab.”
The blame has, I’ve always believed, largely rested with the confused direction of Ken Russell. Many of his films (“Altered States,” “Gothic,” “The Lair of the White Worm,” among others) have been almost rococo in their surrealistic and hallucinatory elements; in “Tommy,” Russell outdoes himself, splattering the screen with images both sickening and scatological (the scene with Ann-Margret writhing around in a sea of baked beans had all the erotic impact of Don Knotts in a speedo). The more Russell assaults us with fetishist imagery and dumbed-down Dadaism, the more our skin crawls with the distinct sense that we’re watching something filthy (in a John Waters “Pink Flamingos” sense of the word). The result is a execrable piece of cinematic excess that should only be viewed under severe restraints with a ball-gag firmly in place.
Along with casting non-singers like Ann-Margaret and Oliver Reed in principal roles — Ann-Margaret has a two key range (both flat) and Reed moans like a man with a bad hernia — Russell certainly deserves his share of the blame for the 30-car pileup that is “Tommy.” However, the real culprit is producer Robert Stigwood, the same producer of the Gehenna Toilet of bad Rock and Roll movies, by far, the worst of the worst.
Having produced one of the best Rock and Roll movies ever made (“Saturday Night Fever” — see last week’s column) and a passable piece of pop pabulum (“Grease”) back to back, Stigwood decided to embark on an ambitious (if ill-conceived) project in 1978, a cinematic version of The Beatles’ classic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
As careful as The Beatles had been up to that point with their catalog, largely due to their entrenched mutual acrimony, I’m surprised this clunker even made it out of the scrapyard. Unfortunately, the laws of physics and the dictates of good taste were shamelessly violated as this lemon wheezed its way into theaters everywhere, fouling the air wherever it appeared.
With the BeeGees and Peter Frampton starring as the Fab Four (I. Kid. You. Not.), the movie strings together performances by a few late-’70s headliners (Steve Martin, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Earth, Wind and Fire) and a cast of thousands who, for all intents and purposes, wander in and out of scenes as if they’ve lost their way to the buffet table.
The venerable George Burns was enlisted to provide the film’s narration — I guess after playing God it was felt he could raise Lazarus and make him dance like a frog on a hot plate — citing a tale, told by an idiot, full of ear-splitting sound and moronic fury, signifying nothing.
Whatever plot existed in pre-production was subsumed by the musical-revue construction of the film that took over, with bands taking the stage and then shuffled off to make room for the next act, with the ruthless efficiency of a subway turnstile.
As for the performances of Frampton and the BeeGees, to describe it “wooden” would be to deny the organic quality of timber. Their acting repertoire amounts to raising one eyebrow to express pleasure, both to express dismay. Otherwise, “deadpan” takes on an entirely new meaning as they sleepwalk through their roles and even their musical performances exhibit all the animated glee of half-filled water glasses shimmying with the vibration of a passing city bus. Apparently, the shame with which they obviously felt in butchering perfectly good Beatles’ songs held them in some sort of catatonic paralysis.
There was no reason to make this film and even less reason to watch it. The original Beatles’ album was already cinematic in its ambition and effect; putting on the headphones and closing the eyes is more than enough to produce an infinite number of mind movies.
As far as watching Stigwood’s atrocity exhibition: Imagine yourself trapped in a flea-bag hotel room with an hysteric, coked-out drag queen while you watch paint peel. While you have a raging hangover. And your wallet is gone.
That would be heaven compared to watching this movie.
Maybe I’ve been overly cruel in applying my poison pen to these horrible movies. I think not. What was cruel was taking the time to commit these to celluloid and expecting us to be entertained by them. Sometimes, I concede that sociopaths are born and not made, that the extent of sadism knows no bounds.
Watch these movies (this is not a recommendation) and see if I’m right.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Good movies, Pt. I

While movies embraced rock and roll a little late in the game, they did so with the same cynical precision that has tainted the studio system since celluloid itself became more than just a fad.

Hollywood, an industry run by pseudo-puritanical suits possessing a tin ear (like almost all businesses) has never been very kind to rock and roll. Most of what passes for rock and roll in cinema is, and has always been, innocuous schmaltz presented with the sole purpose of making a quick buck (not unlike much of the music industry).

Yet, when the movie industry managed to look at rock and roll off the ledger and acknowledge it as something more than the silly music of adolescent angst, the results have been sublime. Unfortunately, it took some time to rise above the sludge.

One of the great unanswerable questions of the universe is when rock and roll began. Certainly, some of the blues, R&B and jump jazz of the late ’40s and early ’50s qualified as rock and roll but the success of the sound on those sides was confined to a handful of white teenagers (with whom “race music” was rising in popularity, in every sense as an underground movement) and African-Americans — something that hardly mattered in the Jim Crow America of the time.

It’s the Sun Records session of July 1954 that is largely agreed upon as the point where rock and roll found its voice, when Elvis Presley cut Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right” and Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” for Sam Phillips. Within a few months from the record’s debut on a Memphis radio station, DJs across the country were spinning records similar to Presley’s sound. Chuck Berry, Little Richard and various Rockabilly bands had been recording for years but it took Elvis to ignite the fuse on the underground and make it a movement.

Hollywood, like the rest of the establishment, refused to accept that America’s youth had fallen under the spell of the new sound. Convinced that teenagers across the country had succumbed to mass psychosis, the establishment negated rock and roll as nothing more than a moment of pubescent hysteria.

The first rock and roll movie was the 1956 comedy “The Girl Can’t Help It” and was produced merely as a vehicle for propelling its star, Jayne Mansfield, to prominence. The opening sequence, a none-too-sly innuendo of Mansfield walking down the street clutching two bottles of milk against her prodigious breasts (with Little Richard’s title tune pounding out on the soundtrack), the tone was set for a satire of the silly fad that was sweeping the nation — rock and roll.

Yet, despite its sneering disregard of the music, the movie sabotaged its own intent, convincing American teenagers that their new music had at last achieved affirmation.

What followed was, in Hollywood’s cynically greedy tradition, was a slew of rapacious rubbish that was both sophomoric and soporific. Almost all rock and roll movies amounted to nothing more than a musical revue (with current hot acts) tied together with the thinnest of plots, all meant to cash in on the budding baby boomer’s taste for The Rock and Roll.

By the early ’60s, those movies had largely devolved into Beach Party movies (riding the wave of surf music’s popularity), almost all of which involved a plot in which some middle-aged villain was determined to squelch the kid’s desire to just dance and make-out. In the end, the bad guy was vanquished, either locked in a closet or found redemption in that, well, the kids were all right and that music was actually kind of catchy.

On the flip side, while Elvis made a few movies that rose above the standard Hollywood Rock and Roll movie dross (“Jailhouse Rock,” “Kid Creole”), asking what was better is rather like asking, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

Given the truly dismal state of Rock and Roll movies, it appeared that the music would remain marginalized by Hollywood; the music presented as Rock and Roll in “proper” movies of the time was largely lousy jazz passed off as “that crap the kids are listening to.” However, in 1964 two movies forever changed how the movies would treat Rock and Roll.

In 1964, experimental film maker Kenneth Anger released “Scorpio Rising” with the first all Rock and Roll soundtrack. Including artists like Elvis, Ray Charles, The Crystals and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (among others), the film hinted at a trend that wouldn’t find its footing until the ’80s — exploiting the emotional power of rock and roll to score a narrative.

That same year, The Beatles released “A Hard Day’s Night” (directed by Richard Lester), the first excellent Rock and Roll film.

Largely regarded by film and music critics as the greatest Rock and Roll film ever made (although not at the top of my list), the movie fictitiously chronicles 36 hours in the life of the band that was, at that time (and in the words of John Lennon), “more popular than Jesus.”

With zany dialog and madcap action, the movie zips along with the chaotic energy of the best Marx Brothers as The Beatles dodge throngs of screaming fans, confused cops and British blue-bloods just to make it to their gig. Interspersed with numerous Beatles’ performances (a precursor to modern music videos), there is barely a wasted frame in the film.

While Rock and Roll movies had been maudlin and mawkish in their portrayal of the music’s effect, “A Hard Day’s Night” is vibrant and fresh, never missing a chance to make fun of the music (or The Beatles, for that matter). The movie is, quite simply, celebratory, an expression of utter joy that is at the authentic heart of Rock and Roll.

What makes the greatest Rock and Roll movies is that spirit of celebration, that expression of the joy of life lived at its fullest and on the edge. It is a characteristic shared by all the best Rock and Roll movies I discuss here.

Number two on my list is “Almost Famous” (2000), a veiled retelling of Cameron Crowe’s adolescent experiences as a budding rock critic (Crowe wrote and directed the movie).

Probably the best cinematic portrayal of what it’s like to be in love and, more so, what it’s like to be in love with music, the movie the young William Miller from his first stab at rock journalism to his travels with the fictional band Stillwater (a kind of amalgamation of The Eagles, Allman Brothers and Led Zepplin). Transcending familiar Hollywood plot lines of emergence (and the journey leading up to that), love, betrayal and redemption, the movie possesses the gift of transporting the viewer into William’s world, allowing us to see that world through his innocent eyes — and experiencing his transformation as we share his pain.

Honestly, I have never met anyone who has said that they don’t like this movie; on the contrary, anytime I have mentioned “Almost Famous,” they’ve only said that they love this movie.

Not so, regarding my fifth favorite Rock and Roll film, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (2001). Definitely a “love-it-or-hate-it” movie, I think some people are disturbed by the transgendered lead character while others find some of the film rather depressing. However, the movie is, from start to finish, celebratory in its declaration of the redemptive value of music and how that value is the soundtrack of a life lived on the edge.

Also depressing in much of its plot, “Saturday Night Fever” (my fourth favorite Rock and Roll movie) from 1977 is nevertheless a celebration of life and how important music is in that.

Stuck in a racially-charged Brooklyn with a dead-end job, a squabbling family, and a group of lunkhead macho friends, Tony finds himself elevated at the local disco, the king of dancing. Painfully aware of his limited chances in life (and made more self-aware by his new dance partner, the successful and educated Annette), Tony seeks an escape from his narrow existence and the trap that life has set for him.

With a soundtrack comprised of some of the most exhilarating music of the ’70s, the movie is liberating, both for Tony and the viewer. Like “Almost Famous,” “Saturday Night Fever” is about how someone risks everything in order to fulfill a dream, to make life everything that it is supposed to be — an expression of love for someone and something.

In its own odd way, “This Is Spinal Tap” (1984) is precisely about expressing love of someone or something except that it does so in a way that is sidesplittingly hilarious. In fact, it is not just the funniest Rock and Roll movies ever made, it is one of the funniest movies ever made.

Marty DiBergi, a documentary film maker and longtime Spinal Tap fan, follows his heroes around on what proves to be, the demise of the band.

With a lethal history of losing drummers — one by spontaneous combustion, another by choking to death on vomit (“but not his own vomit”) — and apparently having outlived their shelf-life, Spinal Tap is unable to bring out a single fan to an autograph signing, gets lost in a labyrinth on their way to the stage, wind up with midget stage props (due to a misunderstanding of proportion), find themselves trapped in other, malfunctioning stage props, find their latest album rejected by their record company, and unceremoniously land a gig for an officer’s dance in a U.S. Air Force hangar.

Yet, in the meantime, the band remains completely optimistic (even the drummer, aware of the life-span of past drummers) at their ability to make their comeback and oblivious to their ineptitude. Indeed, they have complete faith in their talent and music, even if the rest of the world has passed them by.

“It’s very special, because, as you can see, the numbers all go to 11. Right across the board. Eleven, 11 ... And most amps go up to 10? Exactly. Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder? Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not 10. You see, most blokes are going to be playing at 10 — you’re on 10 on your guitar, where can you go from there? Where? I don’t know. Nowhere! Exactly! What we do, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? You put it up to 11. Eleven. Exactly. One louder. Why don’t you just make 10 louder, and make 10 be the top number, and make that a little louder?” says guitarist Nigel Tufnel to Marty as he explains the unique configuration of his equipment. And it is that “one over the top” attitude that expresses the sheer joy of Spinal Tap.

It is that joy that sets these movies far above the standard Rock and Roll cinematic fare. In these movies, the liberating quality of music and the Zen of maximizing the moment are evident in every frame.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A 1974 Ford Pinto

In less than four months, our country is having an election and, frankly, I’m depressed.

Not in a partisan, us-against-them kind of way; I’m far too realistic and jaded to concern myself with party politics. Ideas excite me, political parties both amuse me and bore me.

No, I’m depressed because I fear our system is so broken that a fix only distracts the voters from the real condition. Politicians and a complicit, duplicitous media (more interested in the stench of celebrity than in honoring the spirit of the First Amendment) are merely morticians applying makeup to a corpse.

There’s a lot that needs to be done in this country but we won’t get there under the current system. Short of creating a Parliamentary system (my preferred solution, giving rise to a multi-party system, one among many advantages), the House and Senate need to :

  • Restrict races to six weeks; if a candidate can’t articulate a clear vision in that amount of time, they’re just more muddle for the game. The endless media circus we call political campaigns is an essentially endless process. Allow the electorate catch its collective breath and force the media to pursue real news.

  • Pass The Fair Elections Now Act to get the mega-rich and large corporations out of the business of buying politicians. Influence peddling has become the primary purpose of politicians and our representatives too often side with paid interests rather than voting in the interests of their constituents. Legislators are so busy rounding up favors to fund their next campaign that they forget why they’re in office.

  • Pass filibuster reform. It’s silly that the Senate requires 60 votes to pass critical legislation and the only argument in favor of the filibuster is that it protects the rights of the minority party. What drivel. The only purpose of the filibuster is to create gridlock, preventing the Senate from getting any work done, and creating a tyranny of the minority.

  • Enact Legislative reform. Rules for legislation in the House demand that amendments are germane to a bill and no riders are allowed. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply to the Senate and too often, good bills are killed by bad amendments or riders. Conversely, bad legislation often gets passed riding on the coat tails of a good bill.

Look, if your pet legislation is so crappy that no one will vote for it, get a clue. And if you oppose a bill, be honest and lobby against it, round up votes or get over the fact that things don’t always go your way. Defeating a bill with a poison pill amendment or grabbing some pork through the use of a rider is puerile.

Call me a dangerous radical (or depressed idealist) but until our government can pass the four reforms above, we have a 1974 Ford Pinto of a government.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The worst of the Best Of

Too often, so many “Best Of” CDs contain what amounts to a collection of cuts from albums that, on their own terms, weren’t worth buying — a single cut and a dozen songs of absolute crap.

Or so we think.

As conscientious music buyers, we buy the “Best Of” CD in an attempt to avoid buying an entire collection, assuming we’re getting the “Best Of” as determined by the artist’s record company or some other dimwit who has decided they’ve decided what you’ll consider what’s best by the band, disregarding the gems by the band. Worse yet, some worthless weasel has decided that a band deserves a “Best Of” designation due to their years of assaulting our ears and our spare moments of avoiding that band’s crap.

As a service to my readers (or as a way to irritate a lot of people), I present you with the Worst Of the Best Of: Those collections of hits and knock-offs that should be avoided at all costs, to avoid embarrassment (and someone like me identifying the worthless cur in your collection, in an announcement as welcome as genital warts on a wedding night) or save you precious coinage when you could have purchased something worthwhile.

You’ll thank the IMS in the end, I assure you.

Strictly Commercial: The Best of Frank Zappa. Yes, commercial, but hardly the best and barely anything I’d want to hear as far as Zappa’s output. Indeed, a Zappa “Best Of” release is about as much as an oxymoron as “Pagosa night life,” Chimera, like the Black-Winged Snipe or the left-handed Skyhook. “Best Of” Zappa barely scratches the surface and the cuts on this disk, while “Strictly Commercial,” are hardly the songs that matter to anyone looking for an introduction to the man’s genius. Skip this and purchase a score of Zappa (and Mothers) disks.

The Best of Billy Joel: Really? Was there anything he did that resembles real Rock and Roll? If there was anything Joel produced that didn’t elicit at least a slight gag reflex, please alert me and we can listen to that cut over a slice of white bread slathered with Ragu. Until then, send this disk flying towards the back 40 and fill it full of buckshot; spare the clay pigeon.

Ultimate Yes: Ultimate migraine. Between Jon Anderson’s hideous screech, Rick Wakeman’s onanistic manipulation of the keyboards and the rest of the band’s plodding, prog-rock pretensions, a minute of this tripe is like an evening trapped between two stoners discussing theories of The Pyramids, aliens and Eleanor Roosevelt’s breasts. If you’re intent on playing this disk, do so with the engine running and the garage door closed; we’ll figure out why it was important to you at the inquiry.

Legend — The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers. A disk for people who don’t really like reggae but believe they need a Marley disk to impress their friends. Sure, all the Marley songs you’ve ever heard are here, all overplayed and redundant in their own way, with the collection a complete disservice to arguably the most influential musician in the world (even more than Elvis or the Beatles). A true “Best Of” Marley collection would include at least a half dozen disks and even those would be impoverished and not worth owning with the availability of his individual albums.

Light & Heavy: Best of Iron Butterfly. Owning this disk is like framing and displaying that freshman year report card for the semester you pulled a .25 GPA. This disk is a testament to the fortitude of the sound engineer who, apparently, enough drugs in his system to tranquilize a herd of elephants, still managed to stay vertical at the mixing board. Including 21 cuts of some of the most pointless and moronic sludge ever recorded, the collection doesn’t even include the LP version of “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida” — as interminable as any Grateful Dead self-indulgent noodling — but the “single version” which, in its very existence, verifies that humans are not nearly as evolved as we’d assumed. Living Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida Loca translates into “A quart of tequila and a quaalude won’t get me through this garbage” without a power drill and several well-placed targets along the scalp.

Hold the Line: The Very Best of Toto. Fly to Africa, eat some monkey brains, catch a nice case of Ebola and then chart the progress of your decaying flesh with a cheap digital camera. Print your favorite photos from that process and glue them onto pieces of cardboard, all tied together with old shoestrings. Your “Best Of” photos, chronicling your lesions and oozing scabs will be immensely more entertaining and socially relevant than anything included in this collection. “I bless the rains down in Africa,” indeed; a nice dose of Ebola is preferred.

Tom Waits — Greatest Hits. Owning this is like buying a .44 Magnum and a box of Nerf bullets. I can only imagine that this exercise was the result of some meretricious contractual obligation that Waits was unprepared to argue away. Ill-conceived and essentially useless, this collection forsakes truly great songs (“Goin’ Out West,” “The Earth Died Screaming,” “Filipino Box-Spring Hog,” among dozens of others) for some truly baffling choices. It’s as if some record executive hired his idiot nephew to pick whatever he liked and the kid made hash marks on the back of Waits’ albums while playing “Metal Gear Solid 4.” Waits deserves much, much better.

Very Best of John Coltrane, is not just a lie but a damned lie: At best this collection is a Reader’s Digest sampler for a twisted rest-home version of musical chairs, at worst, a proud declaration of ignorance regarding Coltrane’s expansive and inestimable genius. There’s no excuse not to own dozens of Coltrane CDs and even less excuse to own this expression of absolute disrespect for an American treasure. Owning this disk makes one as about as cool as Tucker Carlson astride a plastic pink pony.

1 — The Beatles, is OK, I guess, if you’re 14 years old and your parents think an evening of Lawrence Welk is a nifty way to kill a couple of hours, but how realistic is that (and is Lawrence Welk even broadcast anymore?)? I remember this disk topping the charts about a decade ago and thinking that, in this age of easily digestible information, broken down into fruity and chewable Flintstones vitamins, “1” was a perfect example of how distracted our society had become. A race of shattered skulls, continuing to run face first into tree after tree while the forest remains obfuscated. Apparently millions of listeners bought this shameless attempt to continue to milk the Beatles cash cow but the only purpose for owning this disk is to hand it off to our alien overlords and saying, “Listen to this and get back to me when you can tell me what you think of these guys.”

Best of the Beast, Iron Maiden. No true metalhead would own this and the only purpose I can think of for releasing this collection was to give it space on countless jukeboxes in pool halls.

Made in the Shade, Rolling Stones, was a cynical attempt by the Rolling Stones to make a few more million dollars and skirt the fact that they had done far too many drugs in the early ’70s. Drawing cuts off of two great albums (Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street) and two mediocre albums (It’s Only Rock and Roll, Goat’s Head Soup), Made in the Shade was released as a way to mollify fans and make a few bucks while the Stones dragged themselves out of their most debauched and demoralizing period. Unfortunately, Jagger and Richards would not redeem themselves for a few more years, nearly going over the edge with the halfhearted Black and Blue, rising back to something of their former stature with the cocksure Some Girls. Skip Made in the Shade, buy Sticky Finger and Exile on Main Street (truly, two essential albums) and if you absolutely must own the rest of the cuts on this travesty, purchase them off iTunes.

Playlist: The Very Best of the Spin Doctors, is a groove-infused, hippy-dippy whippit fest of putrid mid-’90s jam-band excess. These guys didn’t do anything remotely memorable or notable and to there’s any “Best” here is like choosing between puking in the shower or in bed.

Every Breath You Take: Classics (the Police). I don’t know what is more amazing: that these guys managed to sell so many records or that they had so many people that they were a “new wave” band. If edgy haircuts and skinny ties make the “new wave” band then I guess you could include Huey Lewis and the News and Hootie and the Blowfish in that category (and you’d be dead wrong). The Police were, from start to finish, a band that produced some passable pop music and gave millions of teenagers an excuse to puff up their dos and dye them blue. I shouldn’t be so hard on the Police except for the fact that they gave us Sting, the most annoying, nauseating pap-producer to hit the carousels of middle-aged women attempting to stay hip and young, a Vegas lounge act for the geriatric Gen X set.

Enough. It was a good friend who led me down this path and, this far into it, I’m beginning to realize that the Worst of the Best of is an infinite road, a moebius strip of mediocre and mindless music that, not worth listening to when it was first released, is even less worthy on a Best Of compilation.

Either bands are far too great to require a Best Of compilation and their output should be recognized on the merits of individual works or bands are so inept and awful that a Best Of compilation is a painful reminder of a bad idea gone horribly wrong.

Perhaps the age of the MP3 player has made the era of the Best Of compilation as dead as cassette tapes. Unfortunately, I don’t have faith in that evolved state. While my music snobbery may be insufferable, my savvy regarding the recording industry’s infinite capacity for greed refuses to bury the dead an rotting cur. And, in the words of H.L. Mencken, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy non-snark day

A lachrymose start to my day. Was just getting out of the shower this morning when I heard a tiny knock at my door. Throwing on my bathrobe, I ran to answer, discovering my nine year old neighbor (a friend of my daughters), holding out a little envelope to me.
"This is for you, for Father's Day," she said, pedaling off on her bike after I took it from her.
"Ohhhh... thank you so much, sweetie!" I called out to her as she rode away, looking back to make sure I had the gift in my hand.
After closing the door, I looked at the envelope, "from Dani" and "To: Jim" written on the back in a tenuous, second-grader scrawl. Opening it, a carefully folded sheet of stationery, the same scrawl reading:
"To: Jim From: Dani," underlined and then, printed below, "happy Father Day I wish you have a fun Father Day Jim your nice and funny." Beneath it all, a smiley face drawn, speaking of the breadth and width of a nine year old's heart.
I cried. Not in that in neurotic, maudlin Glenn Beck way but with a genuine flood of emotion. Missing my children, of course, but mostly touched by the fact that my little neighbor remembered that my kids were 200 miles away and that I was alone today.
It's just after 3 P.M. and it's already beer-thirty for me. Hammering out this week's column, a piece on building a house and a Lego-like approach to my novel, I am incapable of drawing upon even a scintilla of snark or cynicism -- it escapes me.
The bittersweet atmosphere made sweeter and less bitter by the light tap at my door this morning.
Thank you, Dani, more than you know.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

No particular place to go...

Kids are gone for Spring Break and I'm about to head out to a friend's for a day of food and frolic...

Bad blogger me, I've been terrible about reading other's blogs, much less posting anything here. And as mean-spirited as my last post was, it was a true tale and little there that was strictly bilious. Anyway, thanks anonymous and Johnboy, I do appreciate the support.

I'll again cheat and post last week's column but I have HUGE news to post here (probably in the next day or so) but, until then, I hope you enjoy this:

The lamb laid down this past weekend, after the lion took a somewhat vicious nip on Friday. A nice slice of springtime on Saturday and Sunday, following a blast from the past the day before; as if March is a spoilt child — adorable one moment, a candidate for the river-bound gunny sack the next.

For more than a month, I’ve heard locals grumble at the hint of snow, “I’m done with it, already.” No argument from me but I also know that, if this spring is anything like the previous two I’ve experienced in Pagosa Country, the massive mounds of snow will disappear quicker than we could imagine, the afternoon sun will warm our shoulders, with more hope than despair and more green than white, brown or gray, but the lion will continue to return.

Readers here will have noticed that I keep bringing up springtime in my columns and for that, I won’t apologize; spring is, for me, air. Arising from the dark cave of my despondency, the winter of my discontent, I embrace every ray of sunshine and bask in the warmth, breathe deeply, savoring the aroma of new life, celebrating the numerous moments of my own rebirth.

Yet, the season does not come without some regrets; some bittersweet some need to seriously reflect on the march of time (as Pink Floyd said, “Shorter or breath and one day closer to death”).

This spring is no exception. During the past week, the passing of one Rock God occurred in tandem with the resurrection of another Rock God.

Close as we are to Easter, I’ll begin with the resurrection: the release of “Valleys of Neptune” by Jimi Hendrix, a compilation of previously unreleased material that, apparently, hasn’t pissed off Hendrix fans in the way that previous posthumously released albums have.

And, considering the album shot to number one on the album charts the day it was released, I figure the rest of the world was, like me, waiting for another Hendrix album.

Considering my first guitar came with a “Hendrix note-for-note” tablature book, I have to admit to a certain bias and affection for Jimi, “Purple Haze” being the first proper song I learned how to play on guitar (my band would eventually arrange the tune of “Purple Haze” to feature the lyrics to the “Green Acres” theme). Everything Hendrix played was my standard as a lead-guitar player. I knew I’d never come close to the bar but we all need something to shoot for, no matter how impossible to reach.

So, to see some dead Hendrix stuff released had my chain yanked — and I was not disappointed. While the previously recorded songs on the album — “Stone Free,” “Fire” and “Red House”— all involve much more production than the originals, yet not substantially different, we hear those cuts as if experiencing them for the first time.

Of course, Jimi’s playing is sublime … who the hell else plays like him?

No one. Hendrix stands head and shoulders above anyone else, not just as a guitarist but as an arranger and “Valleys of Neptune” shows him as both, miles above Count Basie or George Gershwin — I’d bet Hendrix will continue to stand long after many of his predecessors have fallen from renown and memory.

For instance, the version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” bypasses anything Eric Clapton could have done, raising it beyond — if you can imagine — anything Cream or Clapton could have conceived of or arranged. Whereas the Cream version is a classic in its own right (deservedly so), Hendrix turns it into a garage band rave up that nonetheless pits the slow hand against Magic Sam’s dice. Who shot the sheriff? Who cares, there’s a new sheriff in town, Hendrix declares.

As a guitar player, however, I listen to songs like “Hear My Train a Comin’” or “Ships Passin’ Through the Night” or the title cut and wonder how I ever imagined that I could even imagine to play guitar. Hendrix didn’t just intimidate me, he reminded me of my tiny place in the universe. Just an insignificant speck on a small planet in a tiny solar system residing in one in a billion galaxies ... dude.

Rising from the dead, Hendrix brings an awareness: the eternal nature of music, the miracle of his talent and its ability to transcend time and death itself.

Likewise, lyrically (and compositionally) so did the guy that died last week: Alex Chilton.

I have to admit that I walked backwards in order to understand Alex Chilton. Whereas Hendrix held me close to my guitar (I slept with my first one for years, a Fender Broadcaster teddy bear), Chilton escaped me for a long time. In the ’80s, as a punker, I read how bands like REM and Teenage Fanclub would go on and on about how awesome Big Star and Chilton were and, well, I just wasn’t convinced. The little access I had to Chilton and Big Star didn’t really impress me.

It was another example of how nearsighted and closed-minded I could be. When I finally took the time (and shelled out the scratch for the records), it was apparent to me how wrong I had been. It was as if I’d pulled an old suit jacket out of the closet, something I’d never worn before because I’d made up my mind that it was ugly and boring, only to discover a hundred dollar bill in the pocket and the coat made me a chick magnet.

Anyone listening to indie rock now hears Big Star (and, by implication, the genius of Alex Chilton). #1 Record” — Big Star’s first release —has plenty of evidence: “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “In the Street” (which became the theme song of That 70s Show (with a brilliant remake by Cheap Trick), and “My Life Is Right,” are complete classics. Likewise, songs like “Thirteen” and “Try Again” remind one how modern how Big Star was — off of one album. One incredible album, that was, one off for whatever reason. While we were listening to Zep or Lou Reed or whatever, this album was out there, floundering, unheard until we got hip.

Whereas #1 Record never came close to grabbing whatever Chilton hoped to achieve (he’d done fabulously with the Box Tops and hits like “The Letter” and “Soul Deep”), Chilton continued to create some of the most revolutionary pop music ever. The rest of us be damned; his follow up album, Radio City, really wraps it up with an emphasis on Beatlesque harmonies and song structures thirty years ahead of their time – songs like “Life is White,” “Way Out West,” “Daisy Glaze” and “September Gurls” could be heard on XMU today, without a second thought or a wayward glance.

Whether #1 Record or Radio City, it’s all contemporary, as fresh as if you’re listening to the latest Frightened Rabbit or the Shins or A.C. Newman (all profoundly influenced by Chilton) — and the records were from the early 70s, amazingly enough.

Whereas most music contemporary to those two albums sound dated and quaint, snapshots of that place in time, #1 Record and Radio City remain timeless, not of that time or any other time, for that matter. The Zen quality of Chilton’s music on those two albums is that it captures the here and now.

While Chilton’s arrangements refuse to be locked in time, it’s the lyrics that seal the deal. Universal and consistently fresh, Chilton’s themes are simple: a celebration of love and life, even if heartbreak is involved. He manages emotional complexity only because he is capable of capturing exactly how we feel; there is never a false note nor inauthentic phrase. There is nothing maudlin or manipulative about the music, nothing rococo or pretentious. What draws us in is that we know precisely what Chilton is singing about.

The music is an exuberant testimony of what it is to be young, to have no other worry than to steal a kiss or score some beer, to drive all night with no particular place to go. “Hanging out, down the street/the same old thing we did last week/not a thing to do but talk to you,” might have been turned into a dirge of adolescent angst and ennui (see Big Black, “There’s kerosene around, there’s something to do ... set me on fire!”) but Chilton makes it a paean to having nothing but time to talk to his sweetheart, there is absolutely nothing angry about the sentiment.

At the risk of being a blowhard, I state the obvious and declare that adolescence is a tumultuous time, the threshold between the nursery and the workplace, full of adventure and sorrow and confusion and discovery and love and fear — but mostly, fun. Chilton risks nothing, he states it with such clarity and unassuming wisdom that we are only reminded what it is to have loved and lived, reminded that the simple things are indeed what we should most appreciate.

And so, with his passing last week, I was reminded of those simple things: the slight chill in the morning after sleeping with the window open all night, the distant sound of a lawn mower and the smell of fresh cut grass, the rattle of a baseball glove dangling from the handlebars of a bike, the taste of Coke from an ice-cold bottle, the way the horizon looks like it has caught fire at the end of the day, well into the evening, with the chatter of the neighbors on their porch, the cool skin of the hood of a car and the exhilaration of finally, finally touching the fingertips of a new love and feeling her hand move timorously to respond, palms pressed together, warm and wet.

Chilton’s music is just about that, really, and not much else. Were he still with us, he’d ask us to crank up the new Hendrix CD, I think, pull a cigarette from behind his ear and light it up, smiling and looking up from behind the bill of his ballcap to say that, yes, it’s about time. Spring is here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

OH! To be her!

In better times, seeing what a phony tastes like

So, last year we filed taxes together, 'married, filing jointly' because the IRS likes everything on the up and up, supposedly.
However, this year we're no longer married and I need copies of those taxes.
Nope, she says, you can't have them.
What? I mean, I signed my name to that shit and everything, I should have them. Already one agency has asked for my taxes from the last three years and I have this big blank from last year, because she... well, she just doesn't want to give them to me. God knows why she just doesn't want to, maybe she has her reasons, but it seems fucked up.
Supposedly she's all spiritual and shit, moaning at the moon every other week with her supposedly-spiritual friends, burning incense and chanting in their made up moon people babble but, hey, isn't spirituality about treating people right?
Right. All you have to do is look at all the Christian assholes and Muslim assholes and Jewish Assholes and Hindu Assholes and on and on, with their guns and fire and bombs and frothing-at-the-mouth zealotry and you'll see that "spirituality" gets you a hole in the head when you're standing on the wrong end of dogma.
OK, not getting my taxes from last year is not the same as a hot poker down my gullet but stay with me, in some circles, it's just as good.
Per my last post, I live marginally -- hell, I wouldn't pay for internet except that sometimes I have to work from home when my kids are sick (I swear, that's the only reason... well, you got me there but it is handy) but we're frugal. No vacations here, no nights out. I'm no welfare mom.
So, as my last car was on its last legs, I decided to buy a truck from a co-worker, a big truck, a pig on gas but relatively new and reliable. What I didn't know (nor he) was that I'd have to pay nearly $500 to get plates on it. I'm not shitting you, $500 for plates on a 12 year old truck.
Tax refund, I figure, is the best way to get out of this conundrum, I can keep my trips to a minimum and keep the cops ignorant until I get my plates. Going on Turbo Tax, I find I get about $2000 more than I can figure out on paper -- cool. All I need to do is efile and all I need to do that is get a PIN from the IRS based on information from last year's filing.
Uh-huh. Except, she's not going to give me that even though, um, it's kind of mine, also?
This is a woman living off her dead dad's money, doesn't work at all, doesn't volunteer in the community, kind of squirrels up in the family's 200-acre compound and pretends she's head Hecuba for a handful of other aimless women, all going up to the Big House to bow down at the Goddess's feet. Big time spirituality and watch where you walk, motherfucker; bombs and all that shit.
Thing is, if I want to get my own copy of the tax forms, I have to ask the IRS to fax it to the nearest office (in Farmington, NM, a five hour round trip). On my expired tags (she doesn't have to purchase tags, dead daddy's company pays for those), in my vehicle (again, dead daddy's company pays for that), with my gas (ibid), taking a day of from my job (she doesn't need one, dead daddy, yadda)... yeah, there's your spirituality!
It's always amazed me how socialism is considered obscene in his country except how it applies to the rich (the hand outs go to them) and how "a sense of entitlement" gets bandied about for those of us struggling but those at the top -- again, they're immune, it means nothing.
Don't get me started on her lawyers insisting on me filing on 'married - filing separately' to benefit her rich ass (and keeping my kids from their EIC, which she had NO problem filing for last year!)...
Sorry for "my ex is such a bitch" post but there you have it.