Monday, October 30, 2006

If you've got a problem, yo I'll solve it...

Someone once said: there are only two ways to do things. The right way and the wrong way. I am a huge fan of the wrong way. As a matter of fact I take the wrong way to a whole new level. As I have stated in prior posts; I am rubbish when it comes to home repair. I'm the guy the high school dropouts at Home Depot point at and laugh when I walk into the place. I'm the guy every tech, mechanic, and repair guy loves because not only do I not know how to do it myself but I don't know if what they are telling me is bullshit.

And so It came to pass that our heater went on the fritz. In the midst of repairs, part orders and diagnostic check ups I have become very sensitive to little pockets of cold air in my house. One of the windows in the upstairs seems to have a bit of a draft, and even worse is the gap between the front door and the doorjam. I walked by the door the other day an felt a strong gust of very cold air his my naked arm. It has been uncommonly windy over the last few days, but this was above and beyond. I held my hand up and damn if I couldn't see the hairs on my arm sway in this mini jet stream.

So what did I do? I did what any useless, college educated, lazy man would do. I grabbed the duct tape and a roll of plastic wrap. Once I had the plastic film over the crack I taped it to within an inch of it's life. Problem solved! That's some good (if not pathetic) work out of me.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Movie Review: Running with Scissors

Before any of you even get the chance... the book is better. The book is always better, don't you people know that by now. A novelist can take all the time he or she wants to craft the story in the manner they want. The filmmaker, however, has to get the idea across in between 90 and 180 minutes.

Ryan Murphy does a wonderful job in his big screen version of the Augusten Burroughs memoir. The production value of this film almost outshines it's writing and acting. I found it interesting to watch, as well as funny and provocative.

There are a number of standout performances that bring both Murphy's and Burroughs' genius to life. Both Jack Kaeding (young) and Joseph Cross (teenaged) are spot on as Burroughs. Their seemingly placid portrayal of a young man surrounded by craziness and madness is not unlike a bird sitting calmly on a dock in the midst of a great storm.

The interaction between Cross and the "adults" in his life are at times riotous and at others heartbreaking. Annett Benning simply put does her finest work to date as Augusten's bipolar and underachieving writer of a mother. There are times when you see how important Augusten is to her, and then there are times when you wonder if she is on the brink of unfettered madness. Alec Baldwin is quite the opposite as Augusten's alcoholic father Norman. In his later years, Baldwin has really turned into one of the best actors in the land, and he stood out in this flick even though he didn't have a ton of screen time. The real Augusten Burroughs is planning a new book about the relationship between he and his father. If they ever make it into a movie, they should get Baldwin on the phone.

Where this movie really takes off is in the scenes involving the teenaged Burroughs and his adopted family: The Finch's. Brian Cox takes the roll of Dr. Finch to it's rightful place as the most mad of all the people in Augusten's life. When he summons the family to see the miracle that is his morning shit, it was hard to stay in my seat. Then, when he has his wife, Agnes, (expertly played by Jill Claybaugh) fetch a shoehorn so the turd can be extracted and dried in the sun; you see that the inmates don't need to run this asylum, because it is already run by a crazy person.

Not everyone totally fails Augusten. Agnes ends up being a mother figure to him, and he has connections with Natalie Finch (Evan Rachel Wood) as well. In the time allotted, I think Ryan Murphy was able to tell a truly American story, albeit not the full story that Burroughs is able to tell in his book. Still, as a stand alone work of art, this movie is superb. And in the end, you just might end up feeling that your family is not all that fucked up after all.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Movie Review: Man of the Year

I checked out the new Robin Williams movie "Man of the Year" the other day and I really enjoyed it. For anyone who liked the film "Dave" this will be right up your ally. In this "what would happen if Jon Stewart ran for office" flick Williams is actually good again. It's been years since I liked him in anything where he was supposed to be funny and the last movie I liked him in at all was "Good Will Hunting." So I was a bit surprised how much I liked his performance.

The plot was just what the ads make it out to be. A smart ass, yet smart, late night "fake news" host gets his name on the ballot in 13 states. With out giving away any of the plot line I will say that the campaign scenes were worth the price of admission. Some of the points that are made couldn't be more right on then if they were brought up in a Poly Sci class. The humor comes and goes, and anyone that is looking for "American Pie" will be upset. Most of the humor requires you to think, but it is added to by some sex, drugs and fart jokes. I say it is good work out of all involved and I think you should check it out.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Congressman Pantiliner (R-Wisc.)

I've often said one of the biggest problems with this country is that there are too many people who just had it all handed to them. These are the descendants of people who actually worked hard to make their millions, and then when they died had no one else to give it all to but their lazy, privileged kids. There was a group of people in this country at one time who made their money through (menstrual) blood, sweat, and tears. Take Frank Sensenbrenner for example who invented the Kotex line of feminine hygiene products almost 90 years ago. He had a good idea that no one else thought of and made it happen. He took all of the money he made from his product and became the CEO of the company that distributed them. That was good work out of him.

The problem is that Frank has a great grandson named Jim Sensenbrenner who has a ton of money he never had to work for, and he is making choices in Congress that impact all of us work-a-day stiffs. There are tons of other privileged kids who have gone on to be lack luster leaders of our country; like our current President, and our former Vice President for example. They have now idea what life is like for 90% of the people in this country, and shit needs to change.

Maybe we should impose a limit on the net worth you can have upon entering public office. Or perhaps we should really just put in the damn term limits people have been talking about for 40 years. Let these second and third generation rich kids ruin America by running big corporations that send our jobs overseas, but not the government too. That's like having a cannibal who is in charge of getting your meat and also cooking it. As long as you give him the steak you can be pretty sure what your eating. But, if you let him get the meat you may be eating Mr. Nichols from next door. And that's not good for you, or Mr. Nichols.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ouch, My Fucking Foot.

At my last job I got to wear comfortable shoes because I worked overnight and did physical work from time to time. Since I have taken this new suit and tie job I am back in work shoes. I think the shoes coupled with the fact that I don't get a lot of physical exercise during work like I used to have led to a ton of fucking pain in my left foot. Since starting my new job I have been able to eat in the cafeteria each day and I think I may be fighting the freshman 15 again. So add to the uncomfortable shoes with a few extra pounds and the next thing you know my foot is killing me. I guess it's time to hit the shoe store and the gym.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Record Review: Veruca Salt

In the last two months I have picked up two records by bands that I had thought were done. Once it's been a few years since a band has put out a record, and when those bands have lost members you assume they are done. One of those groups was the Gin Blossoms, and I still don't know how I feel about their new record. The other, however, is Veruca Salt who dropped IV this past September. Ok, sure, the idea of a band called Veruca Salt putting out their 4th album and calling it IV is kind of ridiculous. Louise Post is the only one in the band now who was there for all of the lauding of "Seether" and "Volcano Girls." And sure both of those songs were written by Nina Gordon, who broke with the band over a Fleetwood Mac-esque love triangle 8 years ago. Gordon left with the more recognizable voice, and Post got to keep the recognizable band name. We all loose out on their killer harmonies. Gordon put out her second solo record a few weeks before IV hit the stores, or at least the internet. Good luck trying to find IV on the shelf of a record store, because the label: Sympathy For The Record Industry has very limited distro capabilities. But, if you can find it... buy it. Cause it is one hell of an album.

Post does miss having Gordon to play with, but that doesn't mean the songs don't hit hard. She still sounds like a aggressive, powerful 20 something on this record. On "Damage Done" her vocals mesh perfectly with Stephen Fitzpatrick's guitar and sound like vintage 90's indie rock. "Can't you see the damage done? It's all over now. You can't cry anymore girl, cause your tears dried up with the needle and the score, yeah." Just as easy as the anger and resentment come across in that lyric so to do the joy and contentment in "Perfect Love." "I want to be lovely. I want to be cute. I want to make all your sex-kitten dreams come true... perfect love, perfect man, perfect hand to guide me to: perfect you."

The current line up consisting of Post on vocals, Fitzpatrick on guitar, Nicole Fiorentino on bass and Kellii Scott at the drums, is tight. They play well together and really complement one another. Scott and Fiorentino's rhythm section is rock solid through out the 14 tracks and from time to time Fitzpatrick's lead guitar steps up to an awesome level. But in the end it is Post that sells this record. The staple of this genre will always be excellent writing and playing on the instruments but what causes a act to separate from the pack of good musicians is the vocals. Post just flat out sells it to us. On the track "Closer", a sexy, come hither romp, she lays it all out there. She starts off with "I will you to me like a river. Wash away all the war paint from your face." Before coming back with "I waited for you like a lion. Lay you down, weigh me down. You make my limbs ache." In the next verse she takes it over the top by singing "My body's holding your for ransom. Gotta make it happen, honey's gotta get paid. I want you at an angle, I want you face to face." That about says it all.

In short this is just a damn fine rock n roll album. And while I'm sure it would have been better with Nina Gordon in tow, that's not what we have, so why not just enjoy the group as is, which is very easy to do. This is some good work out of Veruca Salt.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

History Stoned.

In my last post I talked about the business trip I was going on. I just got home from that trip and I have thoughts from the trip I would like to share. The first is inconsequential but, in my mind important, and goes thusly. You shouldn't be allowed to put a sign up at a highway exit for a gas station or restaurant if it is not right off that exit. I don't want to take a tour of the quaint Virginia country side with my tank on E and my stomach grumbling loud enough to loosen the lugnuts. Enough said.

The second point is, in my mind at least, a bit more salient. What are the statues of modern heroes(if we had any) going to look like. As I walked around D.C. today I took more time than usual to look at the statues. Here are colonial era heroes on horseback with their full dress uniforms on. They have a sword or cutlass on their hip or in their hand, and the plaque at the base of the visage tells the tales of great deeds or decisive action.

What will our statues look like? first off; they will all have the same goddamn suit on, with nothing to differentiate the 1960s from 2006. The people in these statues will not have any impressive accessories like those from the olden days, let alone a horse. And we can be damn sure that their plaques would have few if any impressive accomplishments.

I can see it now. On the corner of 13th and K St. the statue of President Bush. There he will sit atop his horse (Condie) with a Cross in one hand and a sack of ill gotten campaign money on his hip. The plaque will read:

George W. Bush
President of the United States
2000 - 2008
Starter of the Iraq War
Taker of Civil Rights
Friend to the Religious Right
And that's about all he did.

"George Bush doesn't care about black people" - Kanye West 2005


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Business Trippin'

For years growing up my Dad would be gone for 4 or 5 days at a time on business trips. Some times he was gone for much longer trips, having spent one 10 month period working in DC during the week and coming home to Jersey on the weekends. I thought all Dads traveled for work, but when I got into the work force I began to think I would never be one of those people. For the first 8 years of my career I went on only a handful of work trips, and they were very small. When I was working for a baseball team, I went with a friend from another team to see the Richmond Braves Video display, because we were getting our own. When I worked for a huge corporate bank I went to the headquarters for two nights to learn how to train other people, and... well that's it.

In my first two months on this job I have made a few day trips to Baltimore, DC and Western Maryland. Now I am getting ready to embark on my first overnight trip. I will drive down the Delmarva peninsula and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel into Virginia Beach. (See a photo of my hotel above) I'll spend the night there and have a big meeting the next morning before heading out to Richmond where I will spend another night. The next day it is off to DC and then back home. This is nothing huge, mind you, but it is a big step for me. Plus the mileage check won't hurt either. So off I go in to the wild biz yonder, just like dear old Dad. (I wish)


Friday, October 13, 2006

How Are You Supposed to Know When to Not Do Your Job.

You hear corporate zombies talk all the time about thinking outside the box. They go on and on about how the customer is first, and how the company will succeed through good service. But, what always trips them up is their military-like insistence on sticking to policy. This becomes an Iraq (oh, I’m sorry I meant to say quagmire) because the customer gets upset at the person for following the policy that they have no control over, and the boss gets upset no matter what the employee does. If you follow the policy and it pisses the customer off the boss says things like “you have to think outside the box and know when to handle a situation differently, because the customer is always right.” However, if you choose to break a policy to please the customer then the boss wants to yell at you about adhering to all the company’s policies. This is one of the reasons I no longer work for a big company like that.

Here now is the perfect example of the above dilemma. A hotel clerk in Sydney was so excited when she saw John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) enter the hotel that she broke one rule and asked the star for his autograph. He signed it happily and proceeded to check in for his stay. When he presented his credit card, the clerk followed company guidelines and asked him for his ID. I’m sure your thinking: “How stupid of her, she obviously knew who he was.” But, think about it this way; don’t you think she ever got yelled at by her boss for not checking ID every time some one checks in? You just can’t win sometimes.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

They Don't Even Believe Their Own Shit.

This is one of the few times I wish I had a camera phone. I was in DC for work today, and on my metro ride in from New Carrollton I glanced out the window of the train and saw a really funny sign. It was in the window of one of those city storefront churches. You know the kind; with names like Church of the Redeemer LLC, or Holy Church of Christ Inc. This one was called something like The First Evangelical Church of the End Times. A bit of a downer to be sure, but they were still up beat. They had a fundraising sign asking people to donate to their long range capitol project which went from 2007 to 2012. I guess the end times wont come till after 2012 then huh? Good to know.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yankee Schadenfreude.

schadenfreude \SHOD-n-froy-duh\, noun:A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.

I was born in Maryland, and when I was a kid my family moved to New Jersey. By then I was already indoctrinated in following the Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Orioles. I love both teams with a white hot passion, which means I hate the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees with a passion that burns in me like a golden hawk. Because of this the 90's were hard on me. Sure the decade started off with the Yankees and Cowgirls both sucking, and the 'Skins winning their 3rd Superbowl, but it got ugly. The Skins began to stumble the second Joe Gibbs left for NASCAR, and the O's have been pathetic - save two very good years while I was in college. During that time the Cowboys won 3 Superbowls and the Yankees 4 World series Titles. It has been hard to not become a hater.

And so today finds me as happy as any Sunday in the fall has in quite some time. The Yankees laid a huge turd of a series. And in doing so, were forced to watch as a team that if just a few years removed from losing 119 games sprayed their crowd with Champaign. I don't have any real attachment to the Tigers, just as I didn't much care for the Angles, Redsox, Marlins, Angles, or Diamondbacks over the last 5 years. But the old sports axiom came into play: "I root for the Orioles and whoever is playing the Yankees." And so there I was; sitting with Inky rooting on the Tiger's and baking in the failure of Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees. Here is a group of guys who make 200 million a year, but who don't make up a team. There are too many cooks in their kitchen, or more accurately; too many expectant patrons in the dining room with no cooks in the kitchen.

And so it is that the high point of my weekend was laughing with glee when the Yankees stumbled. I look forward the next few weeks as the Boss fires Joe Torre, trades Arod and others, and tries to mount another effort to buy the only thing that fills his black heart. A winner. Sorry George, your boys are losers!


Friday, October 06, 2006

Record Review: The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity

I was right there with so many other American music buyers back in 1996. I drove to the mall and plunked down my hard-earned on “First Band on the Moon” by the Cardigans. Like the rest, I was lead there by “Lovefool” the big US single that was in the soundtrack to “Romeo + Juliet.” Once I had the record, however, I loved so many of the other tracks, such as “Been It,” “Heart Breaker,” “Choke,” and the cover of “Iron Man.” So here we are 10 years later and The Cardigans have just dropped their 6th record on the US. “Super Extra Gravity” was released in Europe last October, but just came to America this month. Damn Europeans get the jump on all the good shit these days.

I didn’t have too much in the way of expectations when I picked this record up, because I have been striking out of late. I only review a record on this blog when I think it is good, because there is already too much negative coverage of art. The last few I thought I would be writing about here didn’t meet my expectations. “Super Extra Gravity” did, however. Nina Persson has some wonderfully crafted lyrics on this record to go along with some very catchy beats from Drummer Bengt Lagerberg and Magnus Sveningsson on bass. The guitar Peter Svensson is inspired at times and down right sick at others. Add to this mix the multifaceted play of Lars-Olof Johnasson (best name in the music biz by the by) on both Keys and guitar and you have on hell of a record.

There are a few stand out tracks in my mind, including the songs that have been used as the singles in the EU: “I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer” “Don’t Blame Your Daughter” and “Godspell.” My favorite tracks by far are “In the Round” and “Good morning Joan.” On the former a mid tempo drum line accompanied by Svensson’s axe lead into Persson’s sultry groove. She asks “When I’m done, please hang me high for everyone to see. ‘Cause I do my dance, in the round.” Her voice is perfect for Indie Rock, and no matter the content of her lyrics you can’t help like the way she sings. On “Good Morning Joan” I got a very Liz Phair feel, which I think is saying a lot. Like Liz, The Cardigans deal well with once being at the Indie forefront, but now having the guts to make the music they want to make. She opens the song singing to a friend, Joan, saying “Good morning Joan, no pick up your phone. It was bad, but just a dream, and you are remembered. Put on something city, go back to the city.” The song goes on to rhyme other friend’s names with lessons they have to teach, but somehow they aren’t trite. Eve – Sleeve, Louise – Freeze, Mary – Scary, all very simple but the song is playful and fun, with a wonder full message. “I’d call on you if I could. If you were less like me I would save you from this.”

All in all it is a great listen. The only track that sounded out of place was “Holy Love” and that was only because it sounds like a song that starts in the middle. The first notes of the song sound like the bridge to a chorus, but that is nitpicky. This is one of the best records I have picked up this year, and I have to say it is good work out of our Swedish friends.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Good things come in small buns.

All these restaurants are starting to sell mini burgers these days. The O.G. mini burger was of course White Castle, but other places have been selling them for a while. Burger King had one in the late 80's called burger buddies. I remember them because my cousin used to shove a whole one in his mouth and then talk to us. My brother and sister used to play this game chubby bunny with sliders as well. One thing was always true: they were good 'n tiny.

So Inky and I were talking the other day about how any food stuff can be made better when it is tiny. Who doesn't love baby corn? Is there anything better then a mini taco? Does it get better then bit size pizza? The answers are: No one. No fucking way, and Big pizza is still better. I said that one mini item I would love to see was a mini cheesesteak, and so it goes.

Tonight in my kitchen I wiped up mini cheesesteaks and they were everything I could have ever prayed they would be. Three bites and they were gone. Just the right amount of steak, cheese, peppers onion and mayo. I could do wop version with red sauce, or even cali style with lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. There is no end to the possibilities. I have to say... this was good work out of me.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Two Different Types of People: Part III

There are two different types of people in the world: Those who think it is up to them to keep up contact with someone, and those who think it’s up to the other person.

I was driving home from work yesterday, when I thought I saw someone I knew across the street from me. I rolled down my window and prepared to shout her name, only to get that all important second look that told me this person was not who I thought they were. In those few seconds between seeing her and realizing I didn’t know her, I played out how the conversation would have gone. I would have started by saying ‘hi’ and something like ‘it’s been forever since I’ve seen you…’ She would have responded by pointing out that we are both just so busy, and we would say we have to keep in touch, and not let months go past without talking. As we parted company we would both have had the same thought in our heads: the phone works both ways you know.

There are some people who are just comfortable being the one who always makes the phone call, or sends the email to keep up contact. They’ll realize it has been a few months since they talked to a person, and with out being angry at that person for falling out of touch, the will make the call. It’s not that they are the better friend or even that they have more free time or less on their plate. It’s just that they have the self discipline to realize that time got away from them, and to step up and rectify it.

The other type of person will realize it has been a while since they have talked to a person and get angry that their friend has forgotten about them. It’s not that they are a bad friend, but they are probably a bit less self confidant and take this lack of contact as an affront. They have probably been abandoned by a friend in the past, or at least set aside temporarily when that friend started a new job or a new relationship. These feeling build up and the person begins to get jaded in their friendships. So when months go by with no calls, they say ‘screw them if they don’t have time for me.’

This is when the idea of the phone working both ways comes up. It’s a way of making yourself feel better about your own lack of contact while indicting them for theirs. We have this way of getting all up in arms about the things people do that we don’t like, while having all the excesses for our short comings. Don’t believe me? See Mark Foley and Rush Limbaugh who rail against behavior they don’t like but have all sorts of people sticking up for them when they fuck up.

Of course the best scenario is the one where you get about as many calls as you make, and never really have to think about who is carrying the water in your friendship. If you can have a few of these in your life I say: that’s good work out of you, and your friends too.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

New Ink.

There are few things as permanent and as meaningful to me as a tattoo. As a lover of tales of 17th and 18th century mariners, I really enjoy the history tattoos carry, even within the upper classes. A captain of a ship of the line could eat at any table, could attend any play and could drink and fight in a bar. Their skin would be dotted with tattoos symbolizing where in the world they had been, and things they left behind or just didn't want to forget. But, there was always the top coat, and uniform of a navy man, which covered his inky table of contents to his personal story. This garb allowed him to walk freely among the upper crust of colonial era society.

And so it is today. I put on a suit and tie every day and go to work, were most of those I work with are non the wiser. I have sat in meeting where people have put down anyone who would get a tattoo. I have been looked upon by others who have them with disapproving stares while in my suit. I sit astride these two worlds, but, am happy to do so. I don't think there is any place I will ever feel 100% comfortable, and so I will try and cut my own pattern. I will try and live my life every day.

That's what my newest tattoo is all about. It is a scroll which contains two lines from an old Latin drinking song, typically sung by University students. "Vita nostra brevis est. Venit mors velositer" or "Our lives are short. Death comes quickly." The tenor of the song is not depressing, but cautionary. It tells all who hear it to live life to it's fullest while you are alive. I can't help but forget this axiom sometimes, and so I had it carved into my skin to help my memory.