Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
A few Sundays back, as my girlfriend and I drove to breakfast, we heard a song on the Head Trip program on Indie 103.1. At some point into the song she commented how it sounded like Alphaville's "Forever Young"; I replied that it was that song, apparently being covered by a band called Youth Group. I followed that with a quip about how that's what the original needed: more of a beat.
My recollection of "Forever Young" is colored by the memory from high school, where one of my friends turned in the lyrics to the song as a poetry assignment in English class. It was abject plagiarism, but because the teacher was not familiar with contemporary music of the time, my friend not only got away with it, but got an A. Likely it was the only such grade he received the entire semester.
That is utter digression, but it is what first comes to mind when I hear that song (in any incarnation). It's probably why I recall the lyrics as well as I do.
When hearing the Youth Group cover in the car that day, I thought of the line at the end of the opening verse (or stanza, if we're sticking with the poetry theme) asking "Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?" and how it seemed so archaic in this era of targeted terrorist attacks. The song seemed essentially a wistful rumination on dying at a young age in a nuclear explosion—which, in the early '80s, was still a significant concern for the youth of the world.
There was something more easily romanticized about the possibility of mutually assured destruction. It's not that death was any more glamorous back then; the way we thought of such tragic death was different. Since the '50s the Cold War made for wonderfully dichotomous notions regarding how the possibility of wiping our species off the planet—the literal end of the world—was more likely than ever, which were combined with the strange comfort of knowing that because both sides had ICBMs pointed at each other, if they launched their missiles at us, we would do the same in kind, and thus our demise would be theirs as well, thus making it less likely to actually happen.
Now, we have the constant but indistinct dread from a small but significant number of us could be killed by terrorists. Not only is there no comfort to be gained from retaliation (lacking a convenient target to strike back against), there's no comfort to be found in what was ultimately the comforting aspect of all of us being destroyed in a climactic unleashing of the atom: Some of us have to survive.
Nuclear annihilation carries with it the implication of no survivors. Bear in mind, we're speaking in terms of romanticizing the event; this is not the same as what would actually happen, where some would die quickly and some would die much slower. This is the scenario where the missiles launch and we all have 30 minutes to lose our virginity with the nearest available person, and any actions taken have no consequences. Best of all, we all die together, so no one has to stay around and mourn, nor feel guilty for having survived.
This post-9/11 world hold less potential for "the bomb" to take us all out in one fell swoop. It's less tragic, on that ostensible front, but really it's worse, because there's nothing to romanticize about less than 1% of us dying together. There's only mourning.
Who can write a decent pop song about that? Especially one that'll be covered 25 years from now?
Sunday, November 26, 2006
By the water's edge I spotted a sign, which when I read the text I chuckled aloud and knew I felt compelled to take a picture. When I showed it to my girlfriend she laughed as well and immediately stated, "That's going on the blog."
The sign had two empty plastic bottles (like the kind detergent comes in) hanging from it, and the text indicated they should be used to help someone in the water who is in danger of drowning. What possibly could be funny about potentially life-saving equipment?
If you can't make it out from the picture above, the bottles were called "Life Jugs" on the sign, and it carried the admonition:
Surely, this shows the insidious influence of Jay Leno on our society. He'd show that on The Tonight Show after a newspaper clipping of a recently married couple whose respective last names sounded amusing together.
Letterman would get Regis to float with them in a pool of water just off-camera for the entire show, cutting to shots of him getting wrinkled fingers when going to commercial.
Jimmy Kimmell would get his uncle Frank to pester tourists on Hollywood Boulevard with the jugs.
As I had no talk show hosts nor wacky relatives to amuse us while we were at the lake, I merely took the picture.
It's not enhancing society in any worthwhile way, but it's the sort of comedy that at least some of the country finds amusing, so perhaps it will garner me some of the Leno audience by posting it.
It was only a matter of time until I started to sell out.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The story involved me going there by myself on a Tuesday evening after a particularly bad day at the office, intending only to stay for the band's first set and then returning home, but ending up there so long that the bartender was giving me free beers and closing the place down. This resulted in me going to work the next day somewhat hungover, although not really that bad (no one noticed, and it was really no worse than had I not slept well).
For some reason this act imbued me with a sense of rebellion, as though I'd gotten away with something; my straight-laced upbringing was not so strict that I needed to still act out well over ten years after I'd stopped living with parents, but going out by myself to a local blues club on a "school night" seemed to fall into the imprudent category.
Perhaps that straight-laced upbringing planted the seeds for latent compensatory rebellion, but such that it held absolutely no consequences (save a bit of a headache). There is no justifying it to someone who wouldn't understand. However, more important, there is no convincing anyone with an actual life where this not uncommon that the story is worth telling.
There are those who are the age I was at the time (early 30's) who go out every night, and who would have many better stories of debauchery. As I noted toward the end of relating the tale, I have very few stories, but those I have I milk for all I can.
Why would that matter? Surely it implies that there's some empirical standard for what constitutes an interesting life, and going out and having a time that wasn't necessarily that enjoyable at the time (and, as one of the friends interjected, could be seen as kind of pathetic—going to a bar alone) will be compensated later by the enjoyment of having the anecdote to tell; the point of what one does is less about the moment itself and more about portraying the moment later.
Being around other people necessitates having something to talk about, and this sort of tale works better than trying to make what one does at the office seem interesting.
Somehow mildly irresponsible behavior makes one seem more relatable (at least I presume that is its appeal), as it reveals flaws that make others not feel so bad about their flaws. An occasional step down off one's high horse achieves a humanizing effect, or something like that.
It's insecurity, ultimately.
As Halloween recently passed, it made me think of the destructive things that adolescents and teens do on that night, ostensibly out of that same aspiration toward rebellion as what I concluded was behind my midweek drinking incident. Why would it be funny to go around and set Jack O Lanterns on fire by spraying them with something flammable, or to throw rolls of toilet paper over a house and lawn, or stomping on the way someone decorated their house? It's not, of course. However, years later it makes for a delightful anecdote that, with the perspective of having grown out of such juvenile behavior, becomes amusing, and a story one can tell over and over, to make one not seem like such a worthless desk jockey.
It's something to do.
Life is only really good in retrospect, I suppose.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
("Absolution"? How I just used it is not what the word means. "Definitivism"? I don't think that's a word at all. What indicates there is no room for interpretation, that there is only one way of regarding something? Perhaps my greatest failing as a theorist is not lack of proof nor lack of interest in proof but lack of adequately impressive vocabulary.)
I also believe everyone should try to come up with his or her own theories, not merely accept those of others (certainly not at face value), so I'm not as motivated to share mine as I might otherwise be; they cannot steal from me what I do not show them.
All theories should be self-serving. How can someone else's theory, in an unmodified form, possibly be in your best interest (even in theory)?
I'd be hard-pressed to convince anyone to even consider my theories if I paid him to do so. There's no reason for any human to ruminate on these things; I cannot justify encouraging this madness in others.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Last month my friends David and Rebecca got hitched in a delightful ceremony.
When I shared with them the photos taken with my camera at the festivities, this shot of me is the only one I didn't include.
However, I know how my readership has been champing at the bit to see me in a dress shirt and tie, so this one's just for you.
Okay, calm down.
Boy, it's a good thing no one took a picture of me (where my head was cut off) when I had on the coat to the pinstripe suit I wore. That would push you over the edge, I fear.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Well, that could have been something. It didn't pan out, at least not yet, because I had nowhere to go with it. I'm not sure I had an interest in making those hanging out in front of the BK seem sympathetic, and if I'm mocking them there's little point in kicking them when they're already down.
Of course, it's only from the perspective of those of us with permanent residence and regular meals that hanging out in front of a fast food restaurant, possibly waiting for a drug dealer, seems worthy of scorn; I have to presume that someone approximating dancing by a major street in the morning must be reasonably happy. I'm not saying it is or is not chemically enhanced happiness, but I'm guessing that if asked she would claim to be so; if happiness is not the belief that one is happy, then what is it?
It serves my attempts at happiness to perceive my choices as superior to this woman I've fictionalized as Janice, but I'm not dancing this morning. And from what I observed, I'm a much better dancer than she is. She was not ashamed of her cottage cheese thighs, displaying them by wearing short shorts; clearly she did not suffer from a great many of the stereotypical hang-ups that afflict women in our society. Sure, if it was her car from which the loud music eminated, she was inconsiderate toward those who lived in the buildings near the BK, but I've encountered much worse oblivious behavior, and from people who didn't seem anywhere near as happy.
When I'm frustrated by the concerns of the choices I've made, I can imagine how loitering outside a Burger King on a November morning in an area where it's warm enough to wear shorts with nothing troubling me enough to prevent vague rhythmic movements could an improvement over what I am suffering at the moment. I'm sure waking up sober on a stranger's couch, or on a cold piece of sidewalk, would not seem so good, but I can understand the appeal of relinquishing all responsibilities.
The other night I caught a bit of a stand-up special on Comedy Central featuring comedian Ralphie May. Part of his routine talked about a friend he had growing up who was mentally challenged. Or as he put it, retarded. He mentioned envying the guy because the friend was always happy. He noted the only time the rest of us achieved that level of (ahem) "'Tard Happiness" was for those few seconds of euphoria during a really spectacular orgasm. Not during a regular orgasm, but the kind that leaves one incapable of speech. That's how happy the retarded friend was all the time.
Thought is the enemy of happiness. And I think way too much. But still I must delude myself with beliefs that it's better (approximating happiness) to be a thinking person and fit in with mainstream society, because it's what I've chosen to do.
That, and no one has had the decency to come up behind me and hit me in the head with a blunt object. People claim to care about my happiness, but do they take action to help bring it about?
I've left a note absolving the assailant of any culpability…
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
(I'm going to assume my audience is not so young as to be oblivious to how music used to come on vinyl discs which could be played on either side, and thus a song that wasn't good enough for the album would get released only because they needed something to fill the other side of the disc, on the off-chance that the purchaser of the single got tired of the "good" song and decided to turn it over.)
At some point in the early 1990s I went to a record show at a rundown mall in Buena Park, found the UK promo single with "Election Day" on it. As I was a big 'Mats fan, and as the song was otherwise unavailable (at least as far as I knew at the time), I purchased it for $15.
The song's a kind of sloppy little number with a wailing slide guitar playing over Paul Westerberg's semi-slurred singing. I'm pretty sure drinking was involved--which, if you know anything about the band from that period, is not much of a stretch to believe.
For not particularly clever reasons, today I present the lyrics to said song:
I meant to close the polls
In the chill night, bitter cold
Someone close the polls
On a chill night, in the cold
I can't stay
Wannabe, wannabe, wannabe, wannabe
I don't care who gets elected
I don't care who gets to find out
I don't care who gets elected
Till I find me a one (to love)
Wannabe, wannabe, wannabe
I said election!
I don't care
I don't care
Our election day
By 1997 the band had long since broken up and Reprise threw together a double disc best-of/rarities collection, All For Nothing, Nothing For All; the second disc of that included "Election Day" (and you can hear a sample here) amongst many other hard-to-find tracks. That album I found in the used CD bins of Aron's Records in Hollywood for around $12.
If only I could have been more patient.
In a sad postscript to that tale, I should admit that I have fallen so far from fanatical 'Mats collecting that when a new retrospective album, Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?, came out earlier this year--complete with two newly recorded tracks--I passed on buying it. I'm sure if I wait a while I'll find a used copy on the cheap.
I like to think I have learned a little over the years.
(If you prefer a lighter background with dark text, you can read this same post over on my test blog.)
Sunday, November 05, 2006
That night my girlfriend proposed we head down to Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood to check out the Halloween festivities. We walked for an hour to get there, seeing many people in various costumes striding down the street with us, but nothing that impressive. By and large the women were "sexy" versions of everything from witches to girl scouts to police officers. However, we figured once we got down to where the street was blocked off the renown drag queens would be the real display.
After walking around the crowds, past the Chrystler/Jeep entryway (yes, corporate sponsorship has come to the WeHo Halloween), we saw some worthwhile costumes, but the event proved disappointing; it seemed (at least where we went) there were more people there to see what was going on (many not in costume at all) than there were people there to have much going on. The drag queens, alas, were not to be found. We turned and started heading home after only about half an hour.
Most disappointing. And definitely not worth the walk.
However, if you're wondering what was the most common costume we encountered, here's a picture to demonstrate (not for the squeamish) :