November Spawned A Monster

Sitting down to write this I have been thinking about a lot of things. You know, besides that thing and the other thing. Stuff like, my damn phone was acting up until I got lint out of the charging port and why is the garbage disposal suddenly making noises that sound like crushing bones?

What all of this proves is that it is interesting to discover just how much the mundane of now can become a big deal with these “unprecedented times.” The combined anxiety of so many things right now accentuates everything and send folks into a dither.

With regard to the title of this post, it’s from a Morrissey song and seems appropriate. I remember those halcyon days when Morrissey was just weird and not a complete jerkface. So far, November has been a crappy month with lots of ugly people trying to do ugly things. Whatever happened to that Pope of Mope that was so odd and kooky that we bought all of his singles and 2000 best of compilations?

There’s the one thing that started parties in the streets and celebrations but I am reserving judgement until it is all over. So, with that in mind it is kind of a crappy month. Seriously, enough with storms, hurricanes, COVID and idiots who didn’t take civics class.

I am mostly holding up okay. Entropy seems to have permeated everything, causing frustration and insanity. I am really tired of people freaking out about masks and meeting in large groups and being stupid. It is all so frustrating.

But let us turn to other more interesting things……

The International Space Station is now 20 years old. It must have been cool to be around for those early space missions in the late 1960s where each trip to space was a real big event. It must have been a real thrill ride since the public had a pretty cool idea of what was happening with NASA and its missions. Now it is more of a curiosity for the public, unless you have an interest in science of space stuff.

Still, the fact that people of all kinds of nationalities and backgrounds have lived in space for two decades, in relative harmony, is kind of cool. It would be nice, in this time of division, if something like this was more widely celebrated.

The last week or so has seen some really great night sky viewing. The Full Moon on Halloween was pretty cool.

With the exception of a week or so, we’ve been pretty lucky in these parts to have mostly clear skies at night. It has allowed for some terrific autumnal evenings.

A quick note on Halloween. I got a rock and I hate Kandy Korn.

It is still to early to play Christmas music or put up a tree. However, if that gets someone through all of this emotionally I can’t really argue. This is a big step for me.

I also have no qualms with not doing large gatherings for the holidays. I wish everyone stayed the Hell home.

Maybe it was a pang from not being able to go to a movie theater or I was just nuts, but, I recently got a box of Milk Duds. That was a mistake. Sadly, they all glopped together in the box making it impossible to eat just one without chopping each piece up. That’s a lot of work for mediocre candy.

Nancy Noisemaker, the girl on the 2nd floor, still likes to talk loudly into her cell phone. But at least the loud bowling like sounds have stopped. She is really very nice, but for a person living on her own she sure makes a ton of noise.

One of the happy frustrations of the last few months is that there’s been some good television to watch. A lot of it is streaming stuff, but nonetheless, there is some great stuff out there.

I am far behind with what I want to see. It’s gotten so weird I’ve had to go old school and start making lists. My friend has been recommending a lot of Korean dramas and there is always a plethora of British stuff to watch as well. Then, there’s also PBS stuff and sports and great old shows too. It’s maddening to try and keep it all sorted.

The Crown is starting up again. Olivia Colman is a force of nature in anything. I am fascinated by how good the casting always is.

The last season of Schitt’s Creek has been a nice remedy for when I was sad. It runs the board on emotions and never fails to deliver on giving audiences some laughs when they need them.

Matt Lucas has been a breath of fresh air for The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake Off in the UK). I still think the original lineup for the show was the best but I am making do.

Lucas’ sense of humor works really well and his interaction with the bakers is a perfect blend of curiosity and sympathy. He has been a real hoot to watch.

The format makes it pretty watchable and the bakers always seem properly British in that they never loosen their reserve. But, the biggest problem I still have with the show is that Paul Hollywood just seems like a big jerk.

I found out he races cars. Of course he does, I am guessing that goes along with the chasing young girls part of his persona.

The Mandalorian is back. Despite some really subpar films, you can always count on some part of the Star Wars universe to come through and cheer you up in dark times. I am hoping Season 2 is just as awesome as Season 1.

It is early in Season 2, but so far we’ve I’ve been pretty happy with things. It’s cool to have the Tuscan Raiders back and Timothy Olyphant was great in the season opener. Boba Fett is maybe back, or its a clone. This makes me happy. I heard he is getting his own series. That is swell.

I finally saw The Go-Gos documentary. Overall, I thought it lived up to the hype. Each one of them has their own issues and problems. they each are kind go a mess. But musically, each of them brought something to the band that made it unique and fun and awesome.

I also really liked seeing the old footage of them when they started out. There is a lot to process but the big takeaway is that Gina Shock is probably the most ground of them all. She has a great laugh too.

Basically, the band got worn out after they became popular and it really accelerated a breakup. Plus there was a to of blow and craziness. Despite this though, it was cool to hear about their chart success and their tours with Madness, The Police and The Specials.

Overall, I would say the film is something that their fans will love as well as anyone who loves ’80s music or is interested in the music business. It’s a very realistic and compelling view about life in rock music.

I have not watched Barnaby Jones or Cannon lately but I love me some Columbo. It is still great. Each of these shows are great in their own way. Cannon has that wavy side hair that needs to be trimmed, Jones is just a guy who you guess smells like a good aftershave and Columbo is a frumpy mess covering a very perceptive mind.

I have been taking advantage of streaming stuff as much as possible. Lately there has been some great live theater to watch from a wide range of sources.

I have enjoyed the The Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard III. It resonates emotionally and maintains all of its momentum from start to finish.

Presented in an audio format, it does not lose any of the performance’s emotion. It is riveting, well acted and nothing short of amazing.

Playbill presented an encore of the Goodman Theatre’s 1999 production of Death of a Salesman. Starring an unstoppable Brian Dennehy, it eventually went on to Broadway and won four Tony awards. It that was not enough, it also nabbed a slew of Drama Desk awards for acting and directing.

Just as intense now as it was when it got a Pulitzer Prize in 1949, it remains the quintessential American drama. I saw it live in 1999 and was mesmerized by it. Seeing it all these years later that feeling remains unchanged as the production delivers some potent rage, raw angst and tension. Dennehy is a force of nature.

Every year around halloween I watch Ed Wood again. It remains one of my favorite Tim Burton films and I love the ensemble and the soundtrack and the way it looks.

Beneath the schlock and goofiness however, there is great tragedy and sadness with Bela Lugosi. This is because Martin Landau completely inhabits the role and takes over the film. While Johnny Depp is quirky and odd and somewhat affable despite his finer jerk qualities, he simply is outmatched by Landau. Bill Murray is terrifically sublime as well. It is one of his more under appreciated performances.

I love the wacky stupidity of it. I love how it is creepy and spooky while still having no problems at all with mirroring Wood’s own ineptitude. Burton also did a great job of giving some heart to a rogues’ gallery of oddballs, charlatans and misfits. The result is a fun film made by a wonderful ensemble.

With science under such ferocious attack I feel compelled to read more science books. The problem is, I am not a brainiac in these areas but am fairly inquisitive. Sadly, my Catholic education did give me a broad understanding of several concepts and theories which means that I have an appreciation for science and a desire to learn more about it, even though I am not really proficient in any one area.

Usually, I get into some archaeology books that I can dovetail into my love for history and nonfiction. I also love astronomy but the math gets me all the time. Nonetheless, I love reading about it.

Everyone should have a physicist friend to ask questions to. It is so helpful in understanding what is going on.

I read a review of The End of Everything and am pretty curious to check it out. It seems like it won’t overwhelm me too much.

I may also try my hand at the new Brian Greene book, Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe. I have seen Greene on PBS and the way he breaks things down is pretty terrific. His books also don’t lose me with lots of smarty pants fiddle faddle.

At a time when everyone is looking for finite numbers and final counts, reading a book that explores infinite possibilities is a welcome sight.

As my city slogs along through a weak economy it is important to support as many of our local restaurants, stores, venues and independent businesses as we can. Most of these are run by really nice, hardworking people who have built something out of their sweat and passion. They deserve your love.

Please buy local and give back to your city. I would not preach about it if I didn’t know so many chefs, bartenders, booksellers, stage crews and business owners who were up late at night trying to plan their next steps.

I wrote about the plight of local bookstores for Sophisticated Living. But don’t just take my word for it, go out and read the blogs, social media and press releases of local entrepreneurs and then see for yourself.

As 2020 winds down I am determined to make it work on my own terms. I will probably fail, but I am determined to get some more reading in and make a dent in all the pop culture I am waiting to consume. From a practical standpoint, I am hoping to make cabbage in a cornfield and find some decent work where I am not an underling getting barked at by a burned out boss whose spirit has been nibbled away by an aching resentment of almost everything.

If that dense;t work then there’s always Vonnegut and Vicodin.

Of Masks and Men

It has been way too long I know. I have been woefully negligent with posting anything but this is mainly because of a combination of going back to work and tackling this crazy series of articles I have due for a magazine.

The articles are fairly intensive with talking to sources, researching and editing. But the tricky bit is that both big assignments are back to back and due on the same day.

Add Zoom calls, my other job and some decluttering and my time has rapidly been filling up. It has been kind of annoying to be so busy during a time when folks are still on lockdown.

Another thing that has kept me frazzled is the way people are casting aside sage advice in favor of listening to morons. Somewhere out there, in the weirdest parts of America, Carol and Stanley Idiot are just hanging around, selfishly refusing to wear a mask, social distance or show any sense of compassion for their fellow man.

Carol and Stanley Idiot are the dumbest form of sheep. Inconvenienced by wearing a mask to help flatten the curve but exuberantly happy to wear a hunting mask when they out to kill some squirrel or whatever it is they eat. For all I know it could be possum. Sadly they are part of the new normal.

But the point being is that when John Steinbeck created a really interesting character named Lennie Small he had no idea that over eight decades there would be thousands of people walking the planet who were just as mentally challenged. Unlike Lennie though, their mental challenges are self-inflicted and their big hearts are nonexistent.

I also have had a pileup of stuff to transcribe and edit and fiddle with and it is time consuming. I also have been interviewing folks for the KDHX website which has been fun. So far I have interviewed Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, John Doe of X, Hazel English, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads. All of that has kept me busy.

Both Valentine and Frantz have books out which is why I talked to them. Remain in Love is Frantz’s new book. It covers a lot of ground and is a great oral history of New York in the 1970s, a time when so much was happening. There’s a lot of ground covered, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, The Ramones, the Bowery etc..

But the really interesting stuff is about David Byrne and his relationship with the rest of Talking Heads. It was not rosy.

It is not pretty. I won’t ruin anything but as someone who is a fan of his music it put me in a weird spot emotionally. He was kind of a jerk back then and I sincerely hope he has mellowed with age.

Frantz also has managed to have an amazing love affair with Tina Weymouth and the book goes into that as well. It is very heartwarming in these crappy times.

Here is a link to my interview with Tim Burgess. his Twitter listening parties have been a great time occupier during all of this.

https://kdhx.org/articles/music-news/2051-telling-stories-with-tim-burgess

After talking to Burgess, which I might add was pretty cool, I got his first book. Going into the interview I was expecting him to be aloof and kind of distant. instead he was jovial, although serious, and very nice. He’s lived a real rock star life and his band is still under appreciated in the States in my opinion.

The first time I heard The Only One I Know was in 1990. My friend Jennifer took me to Wax Trax Records in Chicago and I was scouring the imports bin. The guy at the counter threw the 12″ single on and it began to play. I was in a different row from her but we could see each other. There we were, her with wildly black disheveled hair and I with a short mop, both decked out in leather jackets trying to just not stick out.

The record started and we both did that cool head bob thing you do when you her a record that hits like a delicacy on the tongue or good whiskey. it was pretty cool. I somehow managed to get one of the last codes of the damn thing and spent the rest of the day grasping it like a nun with a rosary.

From that point on I have checked in on them now and then. I think they are a great singles band with a few great albums smattered in-between. Burgess knows how to take his influences and pour them back into his music which is harder to do than it may appear.

As for his book, Telling Stories is pretty straightforward. It is a quick read and Burgess does indeed have stories that are informative, funny and insightful. Burgess has a new book, One Two Another coming out over here soon. it is a collection of lyrics accompanied by lyrics and annotations.

Now onto The Wants. They are from Brooklyn. they have a new record out called Container that is rad. They have this Interpol/Gang of Four thing going on and it totally works. They are grimy and dark and murky and they have great chords.

Their new ‘single’ is The Motor.

Fear My Society is also really good.

Beneath the surface is a serious sense for pop sensibility that also plugs into a minimal techno vibe in a few places. These guys sound like all the dark underbelly of New York places that I used to go to when New York still had such things. If you want more info on these guys check them out on social media or here: https://thewantsnyc.bandcamp.com

IDLES have a new record coming out called Ultra Mono. I love IDLES. they make great musical hissyfits and Joe Talbot has a distinctive voice. I also love that they are mostly angry. Grounds is their latest single and it does not disappoint. It flails uncontrollably in a wash of snarls and abrasive guitars.

IDLES are the perfect band for the disenfranchised minority. In this case that minority are people who appreciate the awesomeness of loud, angry post-punk and want to punch Nickelback in the face. Their songs are intense, crunchy and filled with lyrics that are clever and sly. They are the real deal.

I started watching The Mandalorian which has been a nice break from the hell we are living in. I am that guy too, the one guy that thinks there is too much Baby Yoda. But it is not that big of a deal. Beyond that there is some real character development going on. And I love that it is a Western.

I also started watching Derry Girls which has been fun. I have not needed subtitles. I have heard some Americans “don’t understand” the accents. If you are American and cannot understand an Irish accent by now I can’t help you. Just saying.

Schitt’s Creek is still great and I never want it to end.

I have taken the plunge and started watching The Expanse. There is a lot going on and they just throw you in feet first.

Nonetheless, it is just gritty enough to keep me curious. It isn’t shiny or cute either which is good. At first I thought the premise was a bit hokey but it grew on me.

Edward Hopper has kept me sane during the pandemic. So many of his paintings feature figures that are in isolation despite being in a large city. His elegant landscapes of urban areas are beautiful but desolate.

As this thing goes on I find myself looking at his work and finding comfort. If there are people in his paintings they look burdened or miserable or just tired. People can relate to that. If they are landscapes or houses or gas stations they are appear desolate and abandoned. the tis another thing that resonates today. They drip of melancholy and that makes me oddly calm.

Appliance news for this month……

There is a spiffy new rotating fan that has really helped cut down on running the AC. We also got some new hospital grade air filters. Hopefully that will help keep germs and viruses at bay, or at least slow things down.

Not quite an appliance but there is a new kitchen table. It has opened up some space in way too small kitchen which is fantastic. It is nice to have the extra space.

There has been workmen outside the apartment playing terrible classic rock for the better part of two weeks now. It is like an obstacle course trying to get around them because they are of the ilk that doesn’t social distance, even outside. They are nice but….

  • 1. They have crap taste in music
  • 2. I do not know what form of English they speak
  • 3. They love to litter
  • 4. They don’t clean up after themselves
  • 5. See social distancing complaint above.

Anyway, the poor bastards have bene out in the heat taking down hornets nest and walking on roofs so I can cut them some slack. They have a cherry picker that has been out in front for a while and they love it. They go up and down all day like giddy school kids.

Randomness…

I need to see that damn comet.

They should not be playing sports.

Selfish & stupid people are going to be the end of us.

On some mornings I find myself watching old timey steam trains in North Wales. They are on webcam and you can see them as they come and go. Everyone is socially distant and wearing masks. They run mostly from Porthmadog and Tan y Bwlch.

You can see the mountains of Snowdonia in the background too which is also calming. My dad worked for a railroad and I remember when he took me to the roundhouse and it was pretty cool.

Link: https://www.festrail.co.uk

I miss being able to travel. I still have no desire to eat inside a restaurant or go bowling. I wish I could say this is all going away, but nope it is not.

I just want one day where it does;t feel like 2020 is piling on. Just one. Ok, maybe a few. Like the rest of the year.