I’ve Never Understood

I’ve never understood Monty Python. Their humor completely escapes me. To this day, I have not seen all of Monty Python and the Holy Grail because I cannot stay awake for it. The count now is around seven. I admit the part with the Black Knight is pretty funny, but the rest I’m not entertained by. The same goes for Monty Python’s Flying Circus and it’s Ministry of Silly Walks. Let’s get the record straight: I don’t actively dislike them. Make your case to me in the comments, and if it’s good enough, I’ll give them another shot.

I’ve never understood why people continuously find OK Computer to be a better record than Kid A. It’s not. It’s a classic case of parts being greater than the sum. Sure, you’ve got “Paranoid Android”, “Exit Music (From A Film)” and “Karma Police”, but the whole record, after several listens, doesn’t fit together congrouously. Kid A, in all of it’s discordant glory, is a much more impressive feat. There’s the antiseptic title track, with it’s inhuman vocal processing and gorgeous wash of synthesizers, the unforgettable bass riff that starts “The National Anthem”, the spectacular pop of “Optimistic”, and of course, the overlapping vocals on “Idioteque”. Kid A takes you to a place. It breathes. It’s alive. OK Computer spends an entire record telling you it’s not.

I’ve never understood audiophiles. I love music, but I’ve never been particularly concerned with how music sounds. Most of my music listening comes digitally, either when I’m on my computer or through my iPod, and on the rare occasion, a record or CD. That’s fine enough for me. With that said, I don’t enjoy fuzzy mp3s, and anything below 128kbps is UNACCEPTABLE.

I’ve never understood mayonnaise. In fact, it should be abolished. Absolutely disgusting.

Books Are Hard

I’m trying to read a bit more lately. I’ve always liked reading and have tried to read more than a few books a year, but lately, I’ve noticed, it’s very difficult for me to pay attention to certain books – mainly those considered ‘classics’.

Admittedly, most of my reading material nowadays probably comes within the past few decades. I’ve been enjoying books by NPR contributor Sarah Vowell – I’ve read both The Partly Cloudy Patriot and Assassination Vacation in the past two months, Craig Thompson’s stellar graphic novel/autobiography Blankets, and a little less recently, Jonathan Safran Foer’s brilliant, yet mistifying Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

I’ve tried to read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road on three separate occasions. Every time I’ve tried, I’ve fallen asleep before the 50 page mark – in broad daylight, no less. For someone as my self who enjoys going on road trips, you’d think it it’d be a no brainer. Instead, I feel zero connection to it. Let’s take a quote lifted from the first chapter:

“They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…”

The slang fails to hook me. I want to be able to enjoy Kerouac’s prose, instead it comes off kind of rambly and self-serving. I find that when I’m reading something, and it’s not linear, I have a hard time following. I’ve found that books written from an era I’m unfamiliar with are also a struggle to read. I’m disappointed in myself, as I feel these are the types of books I should read, but don’t particularly enjoy. Era specific novels such as Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald have been miserable failures on my part as well.

on-the-road

I don’t get you.

I’m not attacking the integrity of these works, I’m stating that I simply lack the ability to deconstruct and analyze them effectively. In more recent books, I’ve spent reading – Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius comes to mind – the author’s stream of conciousness writing is alternately fascinating as it is frustrating. I have a real desire to finish the book, but often have had to put it down for long stretches of time. I began reading the book in March 2006 and have yet to complete it.

I’ve made many references to how I’m attempting to read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. It’s an incredibly dense, if not readable novel that I still feel a bit unprepared to get in the thick of. Before giving it a serious crack, I’ve acquired his Consider The Lobster: And Other Essays collection to complete first. One thing I’ve noticed about his writing is that it commands the reader’s absolute attention. There is an incredible amount of analysis and detail written into his pieces. It’s certainly accessible, but can also be a bit exhausting.

Perhaps youth is the best excuse for my intolerance for classic or dense literature. Maybe I haven’t hit the emotional plateau necessary to break down somewhat difficult books, or maybe I lack the ability to find the threads in these books that make them so engaging to such a wide audience.

I’ll keep trying. No promises, though.

Portrait of the Author as a 10-year-old

After years of searching, I’ve found the Holy Grail of my personal writings.

Picture 6

It’s the ‘Goosebumps’ Journal I wrote in from 1996-1997.

I initially thought it was lost to the sands of time. I know I hadn’t thrown it away, but I didn’t know where I put it either. Walking on to the loft where we keep most of our books today, it just stared me right down in the face.

I didn’t write very long – there’s probably about ten entries total, and most of the time it was about what I ate, or Beanie Babies.

Anyways, I thought I’d share some select, unedited lines from the journal today, and maybe some more at a later date.

Until then, experience the bowlcut and the mid-nineties stench of Alanis.

March 5, 1996

Dear Journal,

Today at school I felt lousy, when I got home I had a fever of 100.8. I was “suffering” at school today. I was at the office 4 times today. But man, I really feel sick.

I probably wasn’t sick. This was during my compulsive ‘go down to the office cause they’ll send you home’ phase. I think I was lying to the journal in case anyone else read it.

March 10, 1996

…We are just to about to have lunch. We are going to have chicken nuggets. Sometimes when I’m writing I will stop and wait. Then I will keep going. Well as I always write, “I gotta go, bye!

First documented signs of my still-undiagnosed ADHD. Stop and keep going. Like a car. Honk Honk!

March 11, 1996

…Tomorrow I have a Pizza Lunchable. They are awsome. They come in Extra Cheesy and Pepperoni. I am going to go to bed now.

I think what’s more awsome is my spelling of awesome.

Pizza Lunchables, for reference:

lunchablespizza

WTF is a “Pepperoni Flavored Sausage Pizza?” You ate these COLD. Gross. Papa Murphy’s now makes a business out of this shit and calls it “Take and Bake”.
Back in those heady days, we just TOOK, and WE LIKED IT.

April 10, 1996

…I feel kind of dizzy. I am going to wear shorts tomorrow. Some of my friends are too. Hopefully!

I have no idea. And this was the year after I got heat stroke.

I Still Fucking Hate Jam Bands

I won’t lie, I went through my jam band phase in high school—Phish, String Cheese Incident, moe., all that shit. Looking back on it now, I don’t understand it for the life of me, probably because I don’t smoke enough weed. I mean, I’m sorry, but I don’t enjoy listening to a band play three songs in an hour, or hearing extended guitar solos that go nowhere. That 20-minute tabla solo just isn’t that riveting, bro. Though it must be said, I did find a few really solid groups that I still spin occasionally today, namely in the form of the Disco Biscuits and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, and the one band that I loved long before that phase, and continued to listen to for some time afterwards, was the Dave Matthews Band.

I remember my mom picking up a copy of “Crash” after hearing a song on the radio, and being blown away by it. Insane drumming, funky bass and sax, and the singer was playing some of the most unorthodox acoustic guitar I’d ever heard. Even after I started listening to jam bands, DMB never really struck me as one. Later, once I got past my jam phase, I realized that they had a lot in common with the bands I’d quickly grown to hate—more live albums than necessary, extended jams I didn’t care about—and on top of all that, they had a spectacularly douchebaggy following. The “Busted Stuff” album had a couple of decent tracks, but at that point, I just was past caring; and when “Stand Up” came out, with that creepy fucking “Dreamgirl” song, I completely gave up hope.

I saw in passing that LeRoi Moore, the group’s saxophonist had died. I was a little bit sad, because one of my favorite aspects of the band’s earlier work were his amazing horn lines; but I was more troubled at the idea of him becoming some sort of jam-band martyr, spawning new legions of fans and a further spike in the group’s already-too-prominent popularity. Receiving word that the group’s newest album would be dedicated to Moore only furthered that notion. I assumed the album would be full of the same generic, vaguely creepy ballads as the last, the type of music guys with popped collars and upside-down-and-backwards visors would play on acoustic guitars at bars and parties in hopes of getting laid by chicks in Sublime shirts.

But then last night, I saw the current lineup of the group (including guitar whiz Tim Reynolds and Flecktones saxophonist Jeff Coffin) play a song from the new album on Jimmy Fallon, and my perspective changed. The song, “Why I Am,” is dedicated to Moore, whose nickname was “GrooGrux King,” after the funky edge he brought to the band. Fittingly enough, rather than the song being a weepy ballad, Matthews straps on an electric guitar, and the band plays it funkier than they have in over a decade.

I picked up the new album today. It’s good. It’s really good, actually. Sure, there are the weak points (namely the ballads), but there are some heavy funkers and some driving rockers, the solos are all sharp and to-the-point, and the new horn section—Coffin and session legend Rashawn Ross on trumpet—sounds great. Moore’s saxophone is sorely missed (and the haunting opener, “Grux,” is presumably the last thing Moore was able to commit to record) , but this personal tragedy seems to have lit a fire under the band’s collective ass, pulled them out of frat-jam purgatory, and restored my faith in a band I used to have a great deal of respect for.

Around the World in 10 Days

For ten days, my girlfriend Kim, my friend Emily and myself went on a ten-day stretch of going to see The Hold Steady in seven cities. Instead of doing the usual writeup of each show, we decided to capture the experience in a series of video blogs posted to the band’s message board. We have yet to do the Epilogue/wrap up, but felt it was necessary to post this now while it is still feels fresh in our minds. There’s so many stories that these videos don’t contain, and it’s stuff I’ll never forget, either.

Inaction

There’s very little action in life. Sure, we’re in constant motion–physically and mentally–but there’s very little action that actually takes place. However, I had a little bit over the last few days. In this case, “action” is a very literal term. Working for and alongside my favorite non-profit organization, I participated in an event protesting the continually unacceptable business practices of a major American company. Pretty vague, huh? They don’t even train me in this shit. I just point the camera. And that’s exactly what I did.

While three brave activists chained themselves to the main gates of one of the company’s manufacturing facilities, I wielded two cameras, live and still, to immortalize and publicize the event. All said and done, it was a tremendous, exhausting, sweaty, and incarcerating experience. (The latter doesn’t directly relate to me, but yes, people ended up in the pokey.) Aside from that, though, I’d like to return to my original thesis. Involving myself in such a proactive environment really made me take a hard look at the rest of my life. For the most part, I don’t accomplish much. I work a little, I write, I spend time with my girlfriend (which is pretty active, if you know what I mean! High five, anyone. . . anyone?) The point being, I wish my everyday life were more action-centered. If I could maintain a perpetual state of motivated engagements, I think I’d sleep more soundly.

I’ve been thinking about the last lines of David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees. Essentially, it goes something like this: Jason Schwartzman and Mark Walberg sit on a lone rock, having just established their existential path (something else I’m working on). Schwartzman, an environmental activist in the film, is asked by Walberg, a part-time fireman, “What are you doing tomorrow?”, to which he replies, “I was thinking about chaining myself to a bulldozer. Wanna come?”

“What time?”

“About four o’clock.”

“Sure.”

Then Walberg hits Schwartzman in the face with a large, rubber exercise ball.

That moment, that conversation, is one that I’d love to have on a regular basis. When asked what I’m doing tomorrow, my answer is generally somewhere between the fabulously interesting ends of I don’t know and Not much. I don’t mean to say I think it’s entirely necessary to steer my life towards hardcore activism, but still, it would be incredibly fulfilling to have something that reflects that quality. Be it community outreach, social activism, or masked crime-fighting, it’s becoming increasingly important to me to find that motivator, whatever it may be. Fortunately, I should have plenty of time to think about it tomorrow. What am I doing? Not much.