The Autumn of My Discontent

I apologize for the long delay in posting. I have been making a list of things to mention and write about but life got in the way. I had a freelance project to do and that pays, so that took priority. I am now getting ready to do another one where I interview a golfer. That should be interesting. I also have been working both jobs and picking up some extra shifts. I realize this is not an excuse for writing but, alas, it is what it is.

A lot of really sad and infuriating stuff has been going down over the last few weeks and I do not want to dwell on it and bring everyone down. But, all I can say is this… be active, participate in the process and make a difference. Also, the stupid can be frustrating. That is what alcohol is for.

My two pre pandemic planned trips in September didn’t happen. I miss travel. Although I have done a lot of traveling from the living room to the back porch recently.

Shifting gears……It takes a special kind of jerk to come into a restaurant or place of business 10 minutes before they close. It is kind of rude. People are winding down and trying to finish things up and go the hell home! Now, with the pandemic, people are even more anxious to get the Hell out of there and get home and clean up, decompress and get on with it. Please do not be that person! When in doubt ask or call first.

Also, where the Hell is all the Lysol disinfect spray?

It is insane. Especially since most everything else is coming back.

I also hate how long it takes after I get home to change, clean up, sanitize stuff and then, maybe get onto other things. It gets tedious. So does the whole wiping everything down a few times a day and making sure the ventilation is happening correctly. But I do it and persevere on.

As much as I love baseball, it is a miracle they are getting the season in. There really shouldn’t be sports and this whole ‘let the kids play’ business is moronic when you consider the bigger picture.

It is kind of sad to see all these schools in Missouri rush with excitement about playing sports. I know there are scholarships and titles to win and all of that, but really, nobody is going anywhere and people can slow down and be safe.

One of the best things about St. Louis is that, as a community, most folks are trying to support local businesses, restaurants and when possible, music venues. This is really, really important! Keep it up.

I love how the St. Louis Symphony are doing all these pop up concerts around town. it is a great way to get people engaged at a time when they need a pick me up.

The only appliance news this time is that there is a new garbage disposal unit and new handles for the sink since there was leaking going on under the sink.

I am thinking of getting a fire pit for when it gets cold. A small one so I can still enjoy some time on my back porch and get some fresh air. It has been a welcome relief to get fresh air in a space free of other people.

I wonder if Pushkin ever owned a fire pit? Probably not because he was born into nobility. Maybe a small makeshift one. But one has to wonder if Pushkin strolled into an ACE hardware store would he be moved to prose? I suspect not.

The holidays are coming. Hide! Again, shop local, shop indie and don’t be an assclown to workers. They are trying to not die. I have no qualms at all with not being with family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Peace and quiet for the holidays on my own terms sounds great.

A coworker of mine cannot believe I do not watch The Masked Singer. This is because if the apocalypse is coming I want to watch better television. Plus, I tend to hate all of the judges on all of those shows.

Speaking of TV judges, the new season of The Great British Bake Off is on Netflix. It has been terrific. I have not liked the last few seasons but this year, adding Matt Lucas has been great. He is funny, empathetic and a nice counterbalance to Paul Hollywood, who is still kind of a smug git.

The bakers all seem like nice people. I like Rowan, he’s a music teacher and he likes Bowie. He’s also hilariously funny.

I will never be able to make any of this stuff but I totally appreciate the work that goes into it. I also could never handle that much stress crammed into such a short period of time.

Having interviewed the cast of Cobra Kai, I am a bit partial to the show. They are all terribly nice. Ralph Macchio is very gracious and modest and William Zabka is not pretentious at all. In fact, I was kind of caught off guard by his overall niceness. The kid who plays Joey’s son seems like he’s kind of a doofus, but that’s the only complaint I have.

As for the show, yes it is sappy, over the top drama filled with teenage angst and eldercare regret, but it is sure a lot of fun.

It also is great to see everyone completely flip characters that seemed so one dimensional in the 1980s. I also love how it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I also started watching a Korean drama called Chicago Typewriter. It ran there in 2017 and has been making the rounds globally ever since. Despite being popular it will not have a second series. Most Korean dramas only run one season, however, there have been recent exceptions.

Robustly tense and spanning eighty years, it tells the story of three friends who helped resist the Japanese during their occupation of Korea in the 1930s. Today, they live as reincarnated versions of themselves. Adrift in the modern world, there is a snobbish and arrogant writer named Han Se-joo, whom, after experience a serious case of writers block, hires a ghost writer (with a penchant for jazz and antiques) named Yoo Jin-oh to get hm out of his funk. Their partnership is problematic. Loving fame but resentful of his adoring public, his life is upended when he meets Jeon Seol, an obsessively kooky fan.

It is here, in contemporary times, where the trio must discover themselves again before they seek out elusive answers from their past. Their journey is not easy, but it certainly compelling.

Spanning 16 episodes, Chicago Typewriter is a race against time filled with the usual tropes of redemption, betrayal, loss and love. The series begins as a slow boil before percolating into a compelling story. Jou have to stick with it and it is pretty worth it at the end.

I first saw Chungking Express in 1994 and remember really loving it. The balance of pathos and comedy work well and the acting is great, especially Tony Leung who says volumes with just his castaway glances. Takeshi Kaneshiro and Faye Wong are also both charming in it.

To be honest, I love Wong Kai-wai. For me his nonlinear narratives are not difficult to follow and his films generally translate well to a Western audience. He also has incredibly solid music in his movies which really punctuate the emotional tones he is going for.

I discovered his films in the early and mid-1990s when I dove head first into Hong Kong cinema. Although, most of the films coming to the States in wide, art house releases were solid, I was drawn to the fact that he has interesting characters and is not afraid to surprise his audiences. His cinematography is also magical.

In the Mood for Love and Ashes of Time are two other films of his that impressed me. it also is hard to not like Happy Together, even if it is a be redundant.

Do we need another Lion King movie? No!

I also have no interest in a live action Mulan film. Remaking animated classics is dumb.

In addition to the 2000 other things I’ve told myself I was going to do and because we can’t have nice things or go anywhere now, I have decided to rewatch some Wes Anderson films. My motivation for this is that I want to laugh and appreciate nuanced moments of tenderness and beauty.

I don’t remember seeing The Darjeeling Limited in theaters. In fact, I had very limited memory of any of it. So I got it for my local library and got to it.

I am not the biggest fan of Owen Wilson but he’s okay in this. The triad of him, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman really work wells and they collectively create a very real sense of dysfunction.

Anderson again is visually stunning as he mixes terrifically shot scenes onboard the train with vibrant images of India. It’s beauty, poverty and spiritual resonance seep into every pore of the movie as Anderson skillfully uses the country itself as a character.

I was surprised at how much the zen-like empathy of the film came into sharper clarity amongst the backdrop of contemporary times. Despite the overwhelming sense of melancholy and loss, there is a tenderness lurking beneath the surface. It is perfectly nuanced. The movie’s themes of familial disunity and personal reflection also provide a nice counterbalance to the cinematography and dry humor.

I also loved the music. Anderson always uses interesting sounds in his films and I argue his use of music is as good or better than Tarantino’s when it comes to framing the drama onscreen. Besides, any flick with three Kinks songs in it cannot be all that bad. Plus the Joe Dassin cut he uses is terrific.

On September 29th, 1986 New Order released their 4th studio album, Brotherhood. Having really loved Lowlife, I was looking forward to hearing it. I remember picking it up at West End Wax and then listening to it on the steps across the street from Metro High School where I was waiting to hang out with some friends.

While Bizarre Love Triangle is one of the most heralded and beloved tracks from the ’80s I think some of the album’s other tracks, Paradise, All Day Long and Every Little Counts exemplify that tis was a band really finding their footing.

I remember that Brotherhood was interesting in that a lot of people were expecting a more dance oriented album. Pardon the pun, but it has some real substance to it in the songwriting and production. Peter Hook’s bass really shines here in what is the last record of theirs to really let him do his thing. His bass playing really gives the tracks some texture and helps ease us into all the synths and beats. Weirdo has a vibe to it the makes it an ideal mid album surge of energy.

Looking back, I can’t help but think of it more as an album of a time in my life more than anything else. I do enjoy it, but I cannot hear it without being taken back to an easier time when discovering music was more organic and, in many ways, satisfying.

The band has a new single out called Be a Rebel and a shoe deal with Adidas. Weird.

They also have reissued Power, Corruption and Lies in a new ‘definitive’ edition. I wish they would stop putting out greatest hits albums and reissues and get down to the business of sorting things out with Peter Hook. They sound a bit hollow without him.

Stephen Morris’ new memoir is finally coming out over here in paperback. Released last year in the UK, Record Play Pause finds the New Order percussionist giving his side of the story of events that have been covered in both Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook’s books.

The problem those two are bickering aunts right now so finding out what really went down requires a voice probably somewhere in the middle. This is where Morris comes in.

From his stories of growing up around Manchester to his discovery of music and involvement in Joy Division it is a one of those great memoirs that is also a bit of a snapshot of time and a scrapbook of memories.

However, unlike those two, Morris seems a bit more grounded. With a second volume coming, Morris clearly knows he has a lot of things to say, and he’s pretty good at it. His prose is more casual than his constituents and he’s also more astute in describing the inner workings of both bands.

IDLES!

In a year where everyone wants to scream, yell, stomp around and break things, the arrival of Ultra Mono, the new record from IDLES is well timed.Loud, angry, aggro and fuel injected it’s a record that minces no words. It’s abrasive, catchy and cathartic.

It’s also distorted, disturbing and raucous. Utterly magnificent, it distills the anxiety of Joy Division anxiety with the jitters of Gang of Four, creating songs that are intriguingly blemished yet beautiful. But perhaps the best testament to its greatness is the fact that I cannot stop listening to it.

Mac Davis died this week. He was the man. He acted, he sang and he wrote some of the best songs of the last half century.

Helen Reddy died too. Her career is greatly under appreciated by casual listeners. This is a shame.

We also lost Frederick Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals. Even if you are not a person who is deep into reggae you have probably heard Pressure Drop. I have never really dug as deeply into that genre as I should, I do know that Toots’ voice was golden and smooth.

A pioneer in music for sixty years, his Do the Reggay is considered to be the source for coining ‘reggae’ as a name for an entire genre of music. He also worked with both Willie Nelson and Public Enemy which is pretty cool.

The part where the protagonist comments on the rubbish music he hears at work!

Everyone has to cope with hearing music they dislike while on the job. Whether it is a coworker playing stuff in their office or just bad songs at an office party, suffering through bad tunes is (or was) a part of the American workplace.

Look, I get it, I worked in a record store for six years and heard a lot of music I didn’t necessarily love. But, I can at least say that it was selected by people who had some taste or a sane rationale for what they threw on.

With this context I must say that the music I hear currently at one of my jobs is dreadful. And, even though my hours have been sliced to a laughable four hours a week at that gig (hence needing more than one job) because of Coronavirus, the piped in music I hear there is excrement.

It’s like they took all the worst music featured on the soundtrack for Felicity and dragged it out for eternity. I am not screwing around, this is some seriously bad music. I understand the folks at corporate want to connect with the kids, but doing it by playing the blandest, most mediocre music ever is not the way to go.

I get that I work in a corporate culture that wants to have a pleasant environment for customers, in this case college students. It is the belief that need to hear upbeat pop songs as they look for textbooks that drives their musical selections.

However, it all is played on a programmed cycle where the same tracks are regularly repeated. This, of course, leads to having my ears beaten down during each shift by some awful music.

Here are some examples…..

Weezer’s Beverly Hills gets played every damn day at work. Don’t get me started on how miserable they make me feel. They are so bad that I am glad I have fewer hours so I don’t have to hear it four times a shift. This song is so terrible they had to reuse the hooks of Undone (The Sweater Song) to make it even remotely listenable. In the annals of Western Civilization this record is a low point. To make it worse, they slogged deeper to rock bottom by releasing an annoying cover of Toto.

In addition to some pop from Lady Gaga, Madonna and Katy Perry there is a lot of Coldplay going on. I get it, they are safe and appeal to a wide audience. But my point is that the music I hear while working is so bad that it makes the polishy sounds of that band sound like punk rock.

The other band they abuse my hearing with is The Killers. Why do people like The Killers? They sound like New Order with all the trauma, struggling and hardscrabble of working class Manchester sucked out. Every record they make sounds formulaic and trite.

This brings me to Matchbox Twenty. If You’re Gone is a song I hear every time I work and I hate it. It’s like spending eternity walking around an empty mall. They are terrible. Period. End of story.

Sometimes while I am doing mundane tasks on the job I am interrupted by The All-American Rejects’ Move Along, an utterly useless piece of garbage that causes agony for the ears and dying cells for the brain. Can we trade them for hostages somewhere?

There is not a Turkish prison big enough to hold the sheer craptitude of Blink-182’s All the Small Things. Seriously, they need to do time for their years long con of making American youth think they were cool. They could donate every cent they made to fight hunger and then hang themselves and I would still find them repugnant.

Have you ever had kimchee? If so, then you know it has more flavor than anything by Plain White T’s. Every single time this gets played at work my boss bobs her head and hums along. Kill me. Please make it stop. Oh, and they have the stupidest band name ever. It reeks of suburban uncreativity and parents buying instruments for their entitled kids. Ironically, when I hear Hey There Delilah while folding sweatshirts or stacking coffee mugs I can’t help but feel like this is a band that embodies everything that is wrong with being in a band when you really should think about going to trade school.

Jimmy Eat World. I don’t get it. I have now heard The Middle at least a hundred times and I just cannot fathom how this is appealing. It’s got no soul, no heart and the lyrics are fecal. Call The Hague and try them for crimes against humanity.

Sometimes, you get a hamburger and want to put ketchup on it only to find you have one packet for the whole thing. If this feeling of exasperation could have a musical form it would be Suddenly I See. To her credit K T Tunstall has made a catchy as all giddy record.I can’t say anything bad about it other than it is not my thing. Hearing it so often I cannot help but feel like I am trapped on a show on the CW Network or sitting in a store that sells fancy soap. It is not the best songwriter either. She’s Scottish. Where’s the fierce sense of independence? she sounds like watered down whisky served at Denny’s.

This brings me to Fergie, an artist who, despite understanding how pop music is crafted for the masses, takes the easy road to hitsville by sampling Little Richard’s The Girl Can’t Help It. Another excuse for my boss to bop around, Clumsy is a cheap sham. Because she has enough talent to know better and instead opted to do this, she needs to be held accountable for her misappropriation of someone else’s talent.

I could go on, but you get the gist. The long and short of it is that I take it on the chin each week by exposing my eardrums to nonsense as I work around college kids who have no clue about the pandemic.

Sadly, I don’t think I am going into a movie theater any time soon. In addition to health concerns there just aren’t that many films I want to see right now.

This brings me to Lindy West’s new book. It’s a cracker.

In the book she takes on the popular films of the last few decades and offers sage criticism of why they do and do not work. Her humor is writing and her critiques are spot on. She demystifies classics like Top Gun and Forrest Gump with great fervor and it is a hoot.

Nicky Hornby also has a new book out. Just Like You is another of his works to examine the nature of adult relationships, but this one has a few more twists.

Despite having all the usual ingredient of his previous novels; clever dialogue, references to music and film and rich characters, this one sees Hornby switching things up a bit as he slyly comments on post-Brexit England, love and race. I am curious to see where this one goes.

I also am reading more graphic novels these days. More on that later I guess.

Until then I am just another sad bastard carrying on and doing what I can each day. One thing is certain, living in a ‘challenging’ world filled with insipidly cruel and stupid people is incredibly hard.

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.