Monthly Archive for July, 2010

My Pal John

Damn, you're suave! Isn't he suave?

Did you ever meet a guy who is just so damn good-looking, so suave and elegant, and (even worse) so frustratingly intelligent and (here’s the worst part) so friendly and genuinely kind that you just want to turn yourself inside-out and BE this guy? That was my friend John Powers.

I met him about 4 years ago at Trivia Night. He, David Pillinger and I formed a top-flight team called The Triumvirats. We laid Roman siege to trivia questions. We won some, lost more and had a great time. I got to know this John Powers guy pretty well.

While most people struggle through life doing what they must to get by, John decided to chuck that attitude and dive headlong into something meaningful. Like most people sick of the rat race, John thought about what mattered most to him in life. What comprised his most cherished moments? What really fucking mattered?

The answer for him was “good times spent with those you love”. Some of his most satisfying moments in life were: sharing wine with a beautiful woman, listening to really great music and meeting cool, interesting people. Oh, and playing golf. Most everything else was just a burden.

Now all he needed was a business plan. He took up winemaking and set up shop at the bitter end of Chuckanut Drive, one of the most scenic spots in the United States, if not the world. As clouds rolled over the glittering waves of the Puget Sound, John set to work improving his skills at converting Washington State grapes into something worth sharing with a beautiful woman. It wasn’t easy to go from novice to expert in this very daring field, but brains and persistence are two things John had in spades.

After a few years and some success, he moved his tasting room into downtown Bellingham. Now that his wines were not just serviceable and saleable but pretty goddamn good, it was time to leave the empty islands in the shadow of the Chuckanuts and bring his smile and his wares directly to the people.

Yes, John, that thing is on.

He’d drive to eastern Washington to buy grapes, deliver them back to his humble winery in Ferndale, perfect them, then vend them at his humble little joint downtown. But wine is hardly the same without song, so John scratched out a corner of the tasting room to accommodate live music. Being a jazz fanatic, he tilted the names in that direction, but wasn’t afraid to host some of the more eclectic acts as he saw fit. If it worked with clinking glasses and happy faces, it was OK at Chuckanut Ridge Winery.

When you’re tall, handsome, smart, friendly and affable, it isn’t too hard to make friends and attract women. Friends he had in abundance, and his artist gal Jennifer is about as beautiful and kind and talented as any man could hope for. John wasn’t rich, or even successful in American business terms, but he finally had it all. His plan had come to fruition: freedom from the rat race, a respectful living that offered people the cherished moments he so enjoyed, and a beautiful woman on his arm.

That’s all any man needs, really. What’s really crazy is that I wasn’t envious of him. The man simply didn’t engender such a dark spirit from anybody. He earned only admiration. One would think this requires skill, with the tendency to be haughty too tempting for any man. But for John, it was effortless. He operated well beyond the simple tools of smiling and being accommodating. His charm and congeniality were sincere aspects of his personality. The man was preternaturally engaging and lovable.

Last week, at a charity golf tournament, John slipped and cracked his head on some pavement. It was just a freak misstep, but he landed hard. Obviously injured, he was rushed to the hospital where he remained in a coma for about a week. Today, John Powers died.

I can’t burn clichéd words of sorrow. It just isn’t in me, and John is worth more than that. Instead, I’d like to let everyone know that John Powers was one of those rare birds. Not only did he defy convention and carve out something that was meaningful for him and delightful in this blighted old town, he was also patron of the arts, as well as everything in life that makes it worth living.

See ya, Johnny. You will be missed.

The Fucking Beatles

We're the fucking Beatles, godammit!

Some say they’re the greatest musical group of all time. Some say their body of work comprises the best songwriting of the 20th century. Some say they defined an entire generation. Who are they?

The fucking Beatles, of course. I mean, didn’t you read the post title? Jesus. Keep up, willya?

I have a deep-love, deep-hate relationship with the fucking Beatles.  The deep-love is derived from my youth; by the time I was able to discern real music from television sing-songs, the fucking Beatles became my #1. It wasn’t because they were famous or popular. It was their dolphin-like harmonies that grabbed my soft-skulled mind. Couple that with the head-bopping lilt of their infectious rhythms (punctuated with well-choreographed guitar strums to add some drama) and you have gold vinyl.

To this day, there are some fucking Beatles songs that I consider profound and timeless.

Adoring us isn't optional!

Yes, everyone has their favorite fucking Beatles songs. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who likes all – or even most – of their output. Let’s face it: even the fucking Beatles themselves had some serious qualms with some of their stuff.

That said, it’s awfully easy to sit here on a 21st century perch and dismiss the music of the fucking Beatles. Nonetheless, I intend to do just that.

Being a man of Science, I plan to critique the Beatles reductively. Without further ado…

1962 Please Please Me

The early fucking Beatles were raw, raucous and sensational live.  The recording industry’s job was to take all that energy and dilute it for public consumption. In that, they were triumphant. Despite this record’s blockbuster appeal, its actual content of dance-hall rock n’ roll standards and “composed to fit” original hit songs is an embarrassment. Nostalgic vinyl hipsters may swoon over the tube-compressed sound of “A Taste of Honey”, but the rest of us find it dated and boring. Grade: F.

1963 With the Fucking Beatles

Shooting to fame and wealth gave the fucking Beatles a bit more leverage and 1963’s “With the Fucking Beatles” gave the boys a bit more input on the album. Though sonically similar to the first record, this record bristles with some of the energy Lennon wanted to express. Sadly, the album itself is mediocre. The fucking Beatles were leading a trend that they were, in fact, behind. This record couldn’t hold a candle to some of the innovative sounds being wrought elsewhere in the early 1960’s, not to mention the output of some of their rock n’ roll influences who had held over from the 1950’s.  Grade: F.

1964 A Hard Day's Night

Now firmly ensconced as the Biggest Thing Ever, the fucking Beatles took control in 1964. To their credit, this album shows that the fucking Beatles could innovate. A perusal of the cuts on this record shows a slow evolution from dance-hall standards to the expression of something wholly original. This is the album of toe-tapping ankle boots and mop tops that declared a new day dawning. Most of the cuts are pure crap, but the slow-dance “If I Fell” shows the band was capable of tight, sparse composition with an emotional tug. Sadly, any value wrung from this record was tainted by the asinine film that accompanied it. Grade: D.

1964 Fucking Beatles for Sale

This album title is ironic, for the previous records were cynical marketing tools while this one made a valiant effort to do something musically interesting. Songs like “No Reply”, “I’m a Loser” and the very Who-like “Every Little Thing” showed a band describing its environment. England emerging from post-war austerity was a place of low morale. Its youth yearned for something newer and bigger and brighter, and their comparatively trivial travails (broken hearts, loneliness, etc) and desire for more (sex, fun, frivolity) were honored in this record. Nonetheless, there’s a nagging reliance on the ole’ dance hall standards. The umbilical cord is still clearly attached. Grade: D.

1965 Help!

This is the record that “Fucking Beatles for Sale” should have been. I’m gonna be fair and dismiss the awful film associated with this record, but even rating this album on its merits can only be done in light of the contemporary music of the time. And this album still reeks of the 1950’s dance hall umbilical cord. Well-composed nuggets like “I Need You” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and the inexplicably mature “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” are shat on by drivel like “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”. Perhaps most horrifically, the one song from this album that rings through the ages is “Yesterday”, a sappy dollop of syrup that makes me puke bile . Christ, I hate that fucking song. I know I’m losing you guys now, but I don’t care. Grade D.

1965 Rubber Soul

Thank God, the fucking Beatles finally discover psychedelic drugs! Leaving the crutches of crappy rock n’ roll behind, the Fab Fucking Four can finally stand on their own eight feet. This album is dotted with songs that actually sound like they were composed by some guys who thought hard about life, love, stress and longing. “Norwegian Wood” is, for its time, one of the best descriptions of the loosening sexual mores of the times (and their consequences) ever written. Sure, the album is still plagued with trifles like “Drive My Car”, but one can detect a hypnotic drone adding some sonic breadth to the “fucking Beatles sound”. Witness “Think for Yourself”. Ringo’s disposable “What Goes On” should have been binned or sold to The Who.  Grade: C.

1966 Revolver

The fucking Beatles come to fruition in 1966. This is the first album where George Martin pretty much took over control, and what he considered a “light touch” sometimes resulted in some oafish arrangements, but overall it was a record that reflected the changing zeitgeist with verve and precision. Typically fucking Beatlesy fluff like “And Your Bird Can Sing” were lathered in layers of swirling guitar. We can smirk about the shameless Eastern psychedelic expositions “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”, but this stuff was defining a new sound brilliantly. So suck it. Sadly, Paul just couldn’t help buttering up the sandwich with crap like “Good Day Sunshine” and the execrable “Got to Get You Into My Life” (a George Martin abortion if ever there was one). He makes up for it by penning what was probably his best fucking Beatles effort “For No One”. Grade: B.

1967 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Mountains have been written about this record. It’s been called “watershed” and “breakthrough” and all kinds of crap. In reality, this album is George Martin jizzing all over the place. I can applaud the band’s desire to shed its screaming-teen reputation and do something truly epic, but this record is far too hit-and-miss for consideration as a watershed event. Here’s where I really piss off the readership: this record had promise but was littered with effluvia. Specifically, the stilted title track, its awful reprise, “Lovely Rita”, and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” are giant balls of suck that weigh this record down. Fortunately, Lennon once again saves the day with a truly brilliant, off-kilter masterpiece called “A Day in the Life”. That song is clear evidence that George Martin can be harnessed for good as well as evil. And once again, McCartney drops a turd in the punchbowl with “When I’m Sixty-Four”. Grade: C.

1967 Magical Mystery Tour

Oh, man. I could really unload a can of whoop-ass on this record, but my own nostalgia stays my hand. Once again, I’m going to give them a pass on the awful film tie-in to this record and judge the album on its musical merits. And there are a  few: the absurd instrumental “Flying” is a charming bit of silliness. “Blue Jay Way” is an wonderfully creepy sludge of filters and flangers, slugging forward on the low notes of a lugubrious cello. Lennon’s equally dark “I Am the Walrus” featured some startling use of studio trickery to create an abstract whole from a set of mismatched melodies. I won’t acknowledge the idiotic theories regarding this song. So STFU. The rest of the record is an awful face-slapping of mediocre McCartney middens. If Paul wasn’t dead at this point, somebody should have actually killed him. “Hello, Goodbye” and “Penny Lane” are the stuff of nightmares. Grade: D.

1968 "The White Album"

By 1968, Lennon had found Yoko and decided to jettison the cutesy crap in favor of artistic endeavors. McCartney was dragged kicking and screaming into Lennon’s vision, leaving the other two fucking Beatles feeling quite uneasy. This double-record set is clearly a mish-mash of solo tunes by each of the bandmates, held together by George Martin’s increasingly frustrated hand. As a result, while thoroughly modern and maybe even bold, the death of the toe-tapping ankle boots that hung their earlier works together was costly. Fortunately for us listeners, this means we can pick and choose some truly great songs from the minefield of dog crap. Lennon’s angry steel rage shines through (“Glass Onion”, “I’m So Tired”, “Yer Blues”), Harrison asserts himself with some timeless bits of songcraft (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Savoy Truffle”) while McCartney continues fucking that chicken (“Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”, “Rocky Raccoon”, “Honey Pie”) and Ringo just doesn’t give a shit anymore (“Don’t Pass Me By”, “Goodnight”). 1968 was a year of tremendous forward movement in modern music, and despite its abstract sheen, The White Album is nowhere near as innovative and inspiring as output from Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and dare I say: The Doors! Grade: B.

1969 The Yellow Submarine

When I was a little kid, I loved this album and I adored the film. But like many things, when you become an adult you put away childish things. Particularly crap like this shitty album. Harrison comes to the rescue with “Only a Northern Song”, and “Hey Bulldog” is a powerful song that probably belonged on The White Album. But nothing can save this record. Nothing. Grade: F.

1969 Abbey Road

George Martin needed to rally the troops after the Yellow Submarine was flushed down the toilet of disposable pop culture. He wanted the cohesion that was absent on The White Album. He wanted the fucking Beatles back. What he got was a fully disinterested John Lennon and a Paul McCartney who enjoys penning garbage. As Lennon looked on with cynical amusement, Martin cobbled together another incoherent mess of solo songs, running together Side Two of the record as a “concept”. Once gain, Harrison stepped up to the plate with the smooth, timeless “Something”. Then, on cue, McCartney dropped his pants and wiped “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Oh, Darling” onto the tapestry of popular music. Not to be out-done, Ringo chimed in with what may be the worst song ever recorded, “Octopus’s Garden”. What was a sad laugh for Lennon, a failed gambit for George Martin and an exercise in wankery for the rest of the band has become a time-honored classic in the fucking Beatles discography. Grade: F.

1970 Let It Be

At this point, the fucking Beatles were done. But for some reason ($$$) Apple Records decided to cobble together this godawful menagerie of terrible songs. Search high and low; every track sucks donkey balls. The only thing that could make this album worse would be the inclusion of “Hey Jude”, a single release that is so heinous, so terrible, so irredeemably shitty, that most people would rather throw themelves out of a window than endure one more fucking “na na na na-na-na-naaaa” from that irritating exaltation of Satan’s dominion on Earth. The fucking Beatles went out not with a bang, but a simper. Grade: F.

As you can see, while the fucking Beatles remain in the forefront of popular music history, their actual output was pretty damn dismal. This is sad, because they had a lot to offer: humor, style, talent and what became a unique presentation.  The fucking Beatles had a tremendously attractive ambiance. From their trend-setting hair styles to their jangly guitar strums, they could have been something truly moving, though perhaps ephemeral.

Lennon loved loud, sweaty dance hall rock n’ roll. Who can blame him? When the dance halls closed, he started creating some very interesting music. Then he decided to become an artist. George turned to weird religion and hypnotic Eastern sounds. Paul (to paraphrase Yoko) spent the balance of his life rhyming June with Moon. And Ringo? I have no fucking idea what Ringo is about.

Feel free to vent your spleen in the comments section.


Phwned

Can you fucking hear me now?

Put the goddamn phone away. Seriously.

Day and night, you’re cramped over the thing, neurotically hammering out  yet another worthless text message or just futzing with the goddamn thing. You’ve just GOT to have your fingers wrapped around it, like a four-year-old boy who grips his penis incessantly.

God forbid you find yourself with more than 25 straight seconds of inactivity. You’ll have to reach for that phone. Is there a new text? Maybe it chimed and you didn’t hear it. No message? Hmm. Maybe you can go in and change one of the 8,000 possible parameters, like the one that lets you set your wallpaper to sequentially display the last 10 photos you took. Oh, look! You can even add some cool wipe transitions. Alright!

This is what you look like.

No message, no incoming calls, no cell phone activity at all? No problem! Just fire up any number of tiny-screen games or “apps” that help make your 3-inch life so much better. Why don’t you fire up Happy Dangy Diggy and blow someone a virtual kiss. How cool would that be?

Better yet: let’s get on the 3G network (the one’s that setting you back $110 a month) and try to look at some website that requires endless zooming and scrolling and paging and futzing. Anything to keep your face buried in that goddamn phone.

"Hey! Guess what I'm doing? What? Can you hear me now?"

Most of all, it’s critically important that you are talking to somebody about whatever, whenever. Solitude is for losers who don’t have a crystal-clear network, right? Nowadays, the concept of rudely ignoring those in your presence is known as “get over it”.

Making a purchase? The cashier can go fuck herself because you are within your rights to yap on the phone to your bestest friend about how much it cost to get your car fixed last week.

On a date at a nice restaurant? Whatever. That will.i.am ringtone means it’s Kayden and she just got botox! OMG! Touch touch TOUCH THE PHONE! That guy will get over it. Fuck him anyway. As long as he pays the bill and and settles for a blow job later on, he’ll be fine.

Speeding down the highway? That’s the best time to pick up a call from Jared. It’s really important: Jared just got home and he was wondering what you were up to. Like, not right now now, but, like, what you’re up to later. Yeah, so you weaved a little. Nobody got hurt, right?

Concentrating on what's important.

I’ve fucking had it. You people are crazy. Yeah, I have a cell phone. But its most powerful feature is the “ignore call” button that shuttles people to voice mail when I’m doing things like – you know – interacting with my fellow human beings, driving a car or just enjoying a bit of quiet time.

Texting? Fuck that. Not in a million years. I can understand why children like it; they can send each other messages like “Ur a FAG LOL!” and nobody’s the wiser. But if you’re an adult and you have something to tell me, you can call me if its urgent or email me if it’s not. Texting me is like saying “I can’t be bothered to talk to you, and your precious few hours away from a computer screen don’t deserve freedom from interruptions, so here’s a goddamn text message.”

At this point, I’m probably losing friends, but I don’t care. I refuse to become one of the dual-thumb craned-neck masses. Instead, I like to use my mobile phone as if it were (get this!) a telephone. I like to talk to my friends and family on it. I like to confirm times and dates and just chat about our lives. I love all of you. I really do. When we’re apart, it’s important to me that we can talk.

0110 1000 0010 0001!...............1101 0011 0010 1110!

What I won’t do, however, is join you in this mobile phone madness. When I’m out and about, I want to see, hear, smell and experience that hi-resolution interactive experience known as “outside”. No iPod, no ear buds, no tiny screens, no ads. We can talk, though. Just don’t be surprised and hurt if you go to voice mail. It’s not that I hate you; I’m just busy with real life at the moment and I’ll get back to you later, I swear.

Remember before cell phones? When we had a telephone in the house and if you weren’t home, people left messages? Was that life really so bad? Did thousands of horrible deaths occur because you couldn’t get a hold of Lori to tell her that “Pretty in Pink” sucked and Kathy Jenkins puked up buttered popcorn in the lobby?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a Luddite. Having a portable personal telephone was a futuristic dream that has come true. It’s easier to coordinate with people and share information. But do we really have to be buried in the things all day and night?

Hot or twat?

I was biking home a few weeks ago. Some assmunch with one of those kiddie trailers got in the bike lane in front of me. He reached into his pocket and started fiddling with his phone, swerving into the road a bit. He corrected himself and slipped the phone back into his pocket. Then, not 30 seconds later, he pulled the phone back out and started futzing with it again. He swerved once more, this time causing traffic to avoid him. Rather than put the phone away for good, he simply darted his gaze between the phone and the road more frequently. For safety.

It has gotten to the point where attending to our cell phones is more important than the health and safety of our children. Furthermore, we’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars a month for the sheer joy of being an oblivious asshole.

You’ll never hear me say this on any other subject, but in this case I believe innovation should be halted. Mobile phones should be re-purposed to be…telephones.

You may now commence with the hateful denunciations. I can hear you now.