Happy Halloween, everyone! For this year’s batch of Halloween songs the other human in this house, Melissa, has put together a YouTube playlist titled Sexy Beast and is full of werewolves, ladies, and werewolf ladies. Here’s one to get you started:
Have a great Halloween! We hope it’s your sexiest yet.
For those who read this blog, but may not read the official blog of The Harvey Girls (the band my wife and I comprise) called $10 guitar, I posted a long lost mix that was asked for by Ian Manire of Musicophilia but never quite made it (not his fault).
As a teenager, I liked to play video games. Duh. I also liked to play video games without any sound and listen to music. Duh. Anyway, when my parents were around I listened to things that I thought my mom (because my dad, who worked nights, was usually asleep) would like. That meant R.E.M. instead of Slayer or Hüsker Dü instead of Corrosion of Conformity. Except my mom hated R.E.M. and Hüsker Dü. They gave her a headache apparently. To me it sounded like The Beatles or The Byrds. And kinda like Herman’s Hermits (they were melodic, you know).
One day mom came home from work and asked, “What is this you’re listening to?”
“Hüsker Dü,” I said.
“Oh, I wish you wouldn’t have told me that. I was liking it.”
(love ya, mom. thanks for putting up with me and my music.)
The Bats–”Block of Wood” (live on WFMU, recorded from the 45 released on Merge)
The Bats are a New Zealand pop band that have been around for over 20 years (and they just released a new album December ’08 called The Guilty Office and you should buy it ). And yeah, they have a member of The Clean (Robert Scott to be exact). And if none of that matters to you, then it needn’t.
But here’s the thing, “Block of Wood” is one of those perfect pop moments in which the three (to four) chords come together with the melody and the words and the surf guitar and even if you are feeling like a block of wood, you can revel in that for those 2 1/2 minutes. This version is from a well-worn 45 of a performance from the band on WFMU in 1993. The original, in a much slower form, appears on Daddy’s Highway, a very fine album. Melissa and I danced to this many a night in the small house that I lived in years ago. I’m sure some music geeks and NZers will want to poke my eye out, but this is my ultimate NZ single. Not as much fun as The Clean, not as literate as The Verlaines, not as absolutely fantastically mind-blowingly awesome as Tall Dwarfs output, but just for the 2+ minutes, it’s the simple sound of heaven.
I’m sitting in a meeting discussing performance evaluations using a forced bell curve that is to be used at our little satellite created and enforced by the mothership office. I’m not involved in the discussion because my department is even more splintered than the rest. Here’s the deal (without explaining too much): I directly manage a group of 2 (used to be 3) people who belong to a subcontracted group in a workplace that has “actual” workers for this company and “contract” workers (and subcontractors!), which means I can make suggestions for the evaluations–even write them–but it doesn’t matter. The main company I contract to has me oversee three separate offices that contain other subcontract employees, but, once again, I can only make suggestions as to what they should do with their time (luckily, I don’t have to write performance reviews for these people since they’re spread throughout the country). Each office’s situation is different, therefore whatever works in one office must be adjusted in order to work with the others. Any suggestions I can make must be filtered through at least three organizational managers and then upheld by people I’ve never met. So, basically, I do a lot of shit; catch a lot of shit for both doing and not doing too much or not enough; and no one cares or even knows what my job means. I’m like a ghost that can get blamed for a house fire, but mostly just gets the reaction of scared surprise when I rattle chains or make myself known.
So what does this mean for this song by Hüsker Dü? A song that can be viewed as either an 80s version of a “My So Called Life”-ish ad for teen angst or as a cynical look at high-school-as-life (or is that redundant?). Is it a “golly gee whiz life is hard but there’s something better” or is it more of a “I love my dead gay son!” statement about teen years; a time that most people I know thought to be the most horrible and easily forgettable time in their life. It’s because the above situation is a lot like high school for many people and that irony isn’t really lost on me at all.
I really don’t know at the moment. I guess what I’m saying is that the shit you deal with in high school drags on much longer than just those four (sometimes three) years. You should stop to smell the roses every day.
*I was let go from this job pretty close to when I wrote this. I don’t think that’s related to anything–and in fact I know it’s not–but it seems like a relevant point.
I found out last night that my friend and former professor Phil Heldrich died from complications of the cancer he’d been fighting for a year or so and I’ve been crushed about the news ever since. Phil was a great friend to have and I can’t help but think of some of the times we had together, some of which he wrote about in his book of essays Out Here in the Out There. I was Mr. Tecate Man in the book. This came from my talking him into buying beer for our hotel rooms in Albuquerque for a conference so that we wouldn’t have to go to the bar and pay ridiculous amounts of money for my favorite drink. When looking at the beer selection (by the way, they have drive through windows at liquor stores in New Mexico, something that Phil just couldn’t believe) I grabbed a 12 of Tecate and jokingly said, “Well, when in New Mexico, drink what the Mexicans drink.” So the name stuck. What Phil did in the essay that he wrote about the trip, “Epiphania,” was to write about the poverty and nuclear power of New Mexico, contrasting it with the singular beauty of the state and how he experienced it. He bent the actual events to fit into his art. I’m not sure I actually said 99% of the stuff “I” do in the story, but I did fall off a bar stool at a Stanley Jordan concert and that, my friends, is about as much fun as a Stanley Jordan concert can be. But this was how truth could be found, we had once discussed, through art(ifice). Phil had a gift for writing essays.
When I was in the last half of my 20s and in grad school, I just couldn’t see why everyone wrote confessionally, especially when that could be done so horribly and often was. I can think of one writer who was an earlier professor of mine, and who was a professor of Phil’s as well, who made a name for himself as a second-tier poet in the 70s and 80s by writing poems that were not-at-all-veiled tales of himself cheating on his wife and generally doing dickish things. Maybe this was why I hated confessional writing, because you had to put yourself on display and most of those people willing to do it weren’t people I’d really want to hang out with much. But Phil didn’t write about sexual conquests (because he didn’t have any, since he was very faithful to his wife and loved her and his daughter) or other macho things that were the literary equivalent of Burt Reynold’s moustache. Phil liked writing about place. He had a special way of folding himself into a landscape and its history and using this to look at your life in a way to relate to others. It sounds simple when I say that, but that was the beauty of his writing. It wasn’t that simple at all. It wasn’t quite regionalism, but at the same time it was a way of measuring yourself against the land like a pioneer staring at a Kansas sunset. He knew that life wasn’t all related to geography, but that the land could have a big effect on how we live and how we view our lives as well as other lives. Even a story he once told me of how he happened to get a ride home from someone who later was outed as a killer became as much about Chicago as finding the gun under the seat. I guess it’s a kind of post-regionalist mentality in a way, but even putting that kind of moniker on it sounds flatulent and probably smells that way as well.
And here I am, age 37, writing about someone who touched my life, trying to lay out my feelings for the man and wrap it up into a coherent few paragraphs on death and music and loss in 1s and 0s. Because I don’t have Phil’s genius at essays, however, I won’t bore you with my flatulence and will instead leave you with a story. On our way to the airport from Emporia, KS, to Kansas City (to fly to that conference in Albuquerque), I mentioned a funny thing I had just read in the front pages of Harper’s. It was a bit called “What Would Journey Do?” and was a riff on the “What Would Jesus Do?” movement that seemed to be everywhere in the small college town where we lived that sat like a cracked jewel in the buckle of the bible belt. As I was telling him and the other passenger, Amy–another professor, about how taking random lyrics from a horrible band was akin to religion (or something equally grad-school stupid), he said that he loved Journey. That he and his wife listened to them all the time when they first started dating and that he had lots of warm memories of LA and California and that time in his life. I told him that his mullet now made more sense (it was a bit of a mullet, not a true one). I then explained to him what a mullet was. And as much as I still hate Journey, I now will never be able to listen to them without my own warm memories of Phil. I guess I can thank him for that. I do know that I will miss him immensely and I’m thankful for all that he taught me. I don’t know for sure how Phil felt about San Francisco, but I’d guess he would have had some great stories about it–maybe relating it to Jack London or Haight Street or Harvey Milk. And I know he would appreciate the irony of making me listen to Journey. Doubly so for forcing me to write while listening to Journey. He’d laugh, “Ha ha, gotcha on that one. Yeeeaaaah,” waving his finger in the air and then go into musing about the history of the block of whatever town we were in.
Kindertrauma is hands down one of the greatest horror blogs running right now. Entertaining, hilarious, and dealing with all things wonderful about horror movies, sing a simple song is pleased to have Aunt John from the blog write a bit about his experience with Asia.
“Only Time Will Tell” –Asia
When I think back to the year that was 1982, a few key events come to mind: cable TV and the spoils of HBO and MTV had finally made its way to my suburban, po-dunk neighborhood; E.T. went home, and I had entered the fifth grade (aka the senior class) of my elementary school.
When classes began in September, we were greeted with two new additions to the grade school faculty: a new art teacher with haunting silver-blue eyes and a new music teacher with a home perm, definitely an Ogilvie, and oversized glasses that would make Charles Nelson Reilly say, “Damn!” The new music teacher was unlike anything we had encountered in previous years; she was cultured (every week she would tell us about her most recent trip to New York City) and she had little regard for the tired song book of choral arrangements utilized by her predecessor who went on indefinite maternity leave after getting knocked up by a fourth grade teacher.
Looking back, the most awesome thing about the new music teacher, aside from her tales of the Big Apple, was that she was a die-hard fan of the then prog-rock supergroup ASIA and she decided that it would be a fantastic idea for us to kick off the annual chorus presentation with a rousing rendition of, well as rousing as pre-pubescent voices can intone, “Only Time Will Tell.”
In preparation for the concert, we sang the shit out of that epic tune of infidelity, and the music teacher played her little upright piano like we were performing at Madison Square Garden.
I can’t imagine what our parents really thought when they finally heard us perform it. My mom said, “It was nice,” but she did comment that she liked it better when we sang “Both Sides Now” the year before.
Every now and then I catch this ASIA song at the local pharmacy when I am waiting for a prescription to be filled and I think back to the fifth grade. To you, my frizzy-haired music teacher, I will forever sing this simple song.