Thursday, May 29, 2008

R.I.P. Harvey Korman

(edit: Here's a bit from Carol Burnett that's actually a classic Tim Conway bit, but it shows possibly THEE ULTIMATE Harvey Korman onscreen break-up.)

Farewell to one of the legends of comedy, Mr. Harvey Korman, who just died today at a very young 81 years old. If you grew up in the 70s, you absolutely watched him on "The Carol Burnett Show," and you absolutely, without a question, adored him. He was the original on-camera breaker-upper, before Jimmy Fallon was even a cluster of chromosomes in his father's wiener. He was the ultimate uptight, stressed-out straight-man, too, frequently funnier than his supposed-to-be-funny costars. Check him out in virtually every Mel Brooks movie -- his Count DeMonay from "History of the World Part One" is mind-bogglingly hysterical, so wound-up he was in danger of disappearing up his own anus.

I just ran into Tim Conway in Venice the other day, and he looked fabulous. I bet he misses the shit out of his best comedy partner right now, and my heart goes out to him.

Let's Get Mercurial Rage On The Radio

So my friend and compatriot Chris Hill is in this amazing band called Mercurial Rage in Minneapolis. And for some reason the local indie station, which is connected to Minnesota Public Radio, won't play 'em. Believe me, I know how that goes -- back when Lunar 9 and Medication were in full swing, some snobby music director on Radio K decided we weren't "cool" anymore and just full-stop ignored us. And that was after one of our songs actually went to #1 on the station -- so I call sour grapes. In this case, who knows why they ain't playing 'em, but they sure should be.

So please, if you have a minute, go here and request them. I requested the song "Moonlight," its my favorite song off their new record. Get your friends and family members to do it too.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Rasher Of Crap

As you may have seen on Trixi's blog we've been dealing with a whole spate of nasty nonsense recently. Its been literally one thing after another after another, and just when we think that karma's taken a day off, maybe to go surfing or something, it turns out its just a little breather between rounds and in s/he goes, pummeling us like Carl Weathers on crystal meth. I keep thinking about that book from the 70s, "When Bad Things Happen To Good People." Then I think "Shit, I never read that book, I was, like, seven years old when it came out, I was probably reading 'Are You My Mother?' or something." Then I think "That title reminds me a lot of those product names from the 70s, like 'Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific' or 'I Can't Believe Its Not Butter' and I wonder why long titles were so friggin' sellable for a while there. Then I wonder if in fact I am good people at all, really, and start enumerating my many faults. Then I ponder the concept of karma, and start wondering if there's something really appallingly awful that maybe I did at some point that I still haven't paid off (see: earlier blog posts, I think I have that covered!). Then I wonder if there's some cosmic bank teller somewhere, some anal-retentive, pinched-faced supernatural curmudgeon in another dimension or something, tallying up karma and keeping track of who's been naughty and who's been nice like a vindictive Santa Claus in Mr. Yuck green. Then I think about how Santa from those Rankin/Bass specials seemed like kind of a jerk -- I thought he was supposed to be all kind and stuff, why is he giving poor Rudolph and that fucking dentist elf such a hard time? Then I wonder what kind of a name Thurl Ravenscroft is, anyway -- who the hell names their kid "Thurl"? Unless they're some kind of twisted H.P. Lovecraft cultists and expect their child to be the Bringer of Darkness or something. Then I wonder if in fact maybe I *am* fucking Damien from the Omen, and that's why all this bad crap keeps happening, and maybe I just haven't tapped into my supernatural powers. And then I think "holy crap, I think I'm maybe losing my mind." And then I think "what the hell IS my mind, anyway? Is it just some kind of chemical construct? Is there a soul? Is there an afterlife? And if there is, how's the real estate market?" And then I'm at "how do I know the color brown YOU see is the color brown *I* see," and at this point, I usually pour myself a drink, turn on something by the Carpenters, and drift off in a drunken reverie. Sigh.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Omnibus Memorial Day Weekend Photoblog!

(as always, photos from the Sidekick of the lovely Ms. Trixi B!!)

The weekend started on Friday, when we had drinks with our good friend The Anonymous Poster (who needs to come up with a nickname so I don't have to call them "the anonymous poster") at the amazing Little Cave, an 80s-goth-themed bar in Highland Park. Anonymous Poster sang the praises of Palm Springs -- "if you love mid-century-modern architecture, you'll love it!" they said.

And hey -- we love mid-century-modern architecture. So on Saturday, after breakfast, we headed to Palm Springs -- once the playground of celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope (though probably not together) -- to have some dinner and take a few pictures.

This was the sky that day -- ominous and overhung, with huge, black, nasty-looking clouds. It never full-on rained, but it constantly threatened. It was, honestly, kinda pretty.

Holy shit, look at that house, will ya? That's located in one of Palm Springs' housing developments. Built in the late 60s by the Alexander Company, these things were atomic-age marvels. I would just about kill for one of these. Every one has a pool in the backyard, too. And these aren't even the nice houses!

In days of yore, this was a department store in downtown Palm Springs. The sad thing is that the city doesn't seem aware how much architectural wonder they've got -- some of this stuff, at least downtown, is in pretty dessicated condition. Dear Palm Springs: LOVINGLY RESTORE, okay?

Case in point: this tower was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. What you CANNOT see in this lovely picture is that it is shoddily painted PINK. A thick coating of bright-pink and rather crumbling paint coats the thing. And I think the building -- once a hotel -- is abandoned, or nearly so. Gorgeous, though -- look at the molding on the corners.

Then on Sunday, Silver Phial played at a party hosted by the Quarter After's Rob Campanello. We're all huge Quarter After fans, so it was a huge honor.

Here's the "scene" -- it was like friggin' Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls only nobody's head got cut off at the end of the night. That I know of.

The Phial in action -- check out the amazing backyard stage setup.

Silver Phial's amazing guitarist/songwriter, Mr. Patrick Cleary, surrounded by Rob's wall o' amazing guitars. TO CHRIS HILL: please note Patrick's awesome Chet Arthur 'stache!

This photo didn't really turn out, but that's Nelson Bragg, from Brian Wilson's band and the amazing Now People, through the haze of sunlight, backing up a friend on percussion and vocals.

And last, but not least: true love! Patrick and our drummer/songwriter/singer Cheryl Caddick enjoying a romantic moment. AWWWW.

Today, I think, will bring naught but cleaning and slacking, and possibly drinking. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 23, 2008

GEEKGASM! Or, Cynical People Are Wrong.

Despite what your buddy at work said to you at the water cooler today, the new Indiana Jones movies is awesome.

I mean, it just is. Indiana (he's mostly "Henry" in this one) is still cool even though he's old. There's a hot Russian chick with a totally implausible accent. There's wicked chases and killer fights. There's weird old temples. Shia The Beef is actually really great and proves again that Transformers was, like, a fluke. There's a couple stupid moments you know Lucas added ("I really think we need the groundhog from "Caddyshack," can we get that in there?" "Uh -- okay, George, whatever, just let us film and release this shit now, okay?") but mostly its really credible. And the ending -- I LOVED THE ENDING.

The thing is this. The first 3 were their loving tributes to the serial films of the 1930s, because they were set in the 30s. This new one is set in the 50s -- so it makes total sense that its their loving tribute to the sci-fi films of that era. So I wasn't shocked at all by the ending. In fact, I expected it, and I got it, and I loved it.

And I'll take two Marian Ravenwoods to go, please. ROWWWRRR!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Retro Roller Rink

Dammit, I miss roller rinks.

It's hard to even describe the feeling of white-as-snow excitement I got whenever my class went to Skateland, the roller rink in my hometown. They seemed like such a grown-up place at the time -- you'd see glimpses of disco culture on TV (cop shows, Buck Rogers, Dance Fever with Denny Tereo), with the mirror ball and the crazy clothes and the pumping, throbbing music and suave, cultured people talking slick to each other. The roller rink seemed like that in miniature, a Studio 57 that let kids past the velvet rope. With popcorn and video games, no less! It was a mixture of sexiness and pure innocence and it ruled.

I still have vivid and very fond memories of standing amidst the flashing colored lights, eating a hot dog, listening to "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty (this was Minnesota, okay? It wasn't all disco, we're genetically a rock culture) and watching Michelle Hagen, the cutest girl in 4th grade, make her way around the rink. Her honey-blonde hair was styled in a nascent Farah flip. She was smart and cute, and I loved her for years. She, on the other hand, was enamored with one Alan Smith, who was one of those impossible specimens that's smart and good looking and a hero on the hockey rink. No way I'd compete.

But that didn't stop me -- at the roller rink I felt powerful. English Leather powerful, even. I had on my best disco shirt, a polyester number that, if I remember correctly, had the Taj Mahal on it. Every time we went I'd ask Michelle to slow-skate, and every time she'd say yes (sweet girl, lots of sympathy), but every time I was completely humiliated by the fact that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fucking skate backwards. It vexed me. Whenever I tried, I fell flat on my ass. And if you're a boy, you have to skate backwards if you slow-skate, or else you're a wuss, right?

Naturally, Alan Smith could skate backwards. He was in hockey. So, apparently, was just about everybody else in my class, since they were all dab hands. So after I skated with her, she'd make her way to Alan Smith, and he'd just gli-i-i-i-ide around the rink backwards with her in his arms, and it would piss me off.

But luckily, I was in fourth grade, so the depths of my jealousy and anger weren't very deep at all. I'd just make my way up to the concession stand, order some popcorn, and play a video game, and it would all be forgotten.

So much of my love of music comes from the roller rink, since this was the only chance I got to listen to rock and roll. We were pretty heavily involved in the local Evangelical Church, and attended "Why Knock Rock" seminars and such (Google it and prepare to laugh), so the thought of having too much of the Devil's Own Music (or even just the stuff that was "worldly-wise") in our house was kind of out of the question. This is where my adoration of the Bee Gees comes from. This is why Yacht Rock doesn't make me cringe. This is where I first heard Michael Jackson, whom I'll still defend to this day. And hell, I even loved "Guilty" by Barry Gibb and Barbara Streisand.

But just to prove what a fucking geek I am, my favorite song to skate to -- and I had to ask for it specifically -- was the theme from Superman. Usually I was the only guy on the rink, and I'd skate with my arm outstretched in front of me just like Chris Reeves did (only he, of course, was flying) and for three minutes, while that John Williams theme swelled around me, I actually felt super-powered, like I could take on the world.

Until, of course, I noticed my classmates standing off to the side and pointing at me.

Why'd they get rid of roller rinks? Did cable TV and video game culture just subsume the innocent activity of going out and rolling around? Did they become gang-ridden? Too kid friendly and thus not sexy enough? Did the death of disco culture kill 'em? I'm not sure. Skateland is now a furniture warehouse store, and most of the other 70s relics in the Twin Cities are torn down. I understand there's a couple still standing in Los Angeles, but I bet ten bucks they've renovated.

No, roller rinks are part and parcel of the 70s experience, and like drive in movies to the fifties or hula-hoops and monster models and whatever you lot had in the 60s, its something consigned to the glory of nostalgia and memory. God bless 'em -- I miss 'em.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Short repost

I took down a blog entry but there are two points I wanted to re-make from it.

- Two more wonderful people than the folks that got married this weekend (one of whom likes to remain rather anonymous online, godbless'im, so I shan't mention their names! THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE! I hope) I do not know. They deserve all the love and happiness and amazingness that's out there in the universe, and I have loads of best wishes for them.

- The other point is that people should listen to Trixi more often. She is possibly the most insightful person I know and I always take her advice as law because it is almost always right. The few times I've gone against her advice I've ended up eating crow and/or picking my ass up off the ground.

The Explorers' Club Loves You

I'll admit, when I first heard the Explorers' Club, I went -- "wow, that's maybe too close to the Beach Boys."

I mean, you can't not. They have it down pat, more than almost anybody's ever had it down pat, every bit of the sound, from the lush harmonies to the exquisite arrangements to the sonic trickery -- all of it. Their first single had a song on there called "Lost My Head" which just perfectly captured the vibe and innocence of the Smiley Smile sessions, moreso than even folks like Panda Bear who've tried to capture that lightning in a bottle before. And they do it without sounding remotely cheesy (or just plain sloppy) which has plagued other bands who've toyed with the form.

"How," I wondered, "are they going to sustain this over the course of an entire album? Surely their songwriting skills won't be up to the task, its not possible."

Ladies and gentlemen, its not only possible, it's happened. "Freedom Wind" is magnificent, and the reason why isn't just that they're doing the Beach Boys. There's genuine songwriting chops to back up the technique, and that's the thing that others in the past have missed. It goes far beyond "loving tribute" and is a sonic accomplishment in its own right, and a hell of an album.

Sure, there are references to the Beach Boys' various eras, and if you're a fan you'll have fun playing "spot the album." Besides the aforementioned "Lost My Head," there's also "Honey I Don't Know Why" which sounds like the best song off "Carl and the Passions." Then there's "Forever," which, despite sharing a title with a Dennis Wilson song, sounds like something off "Today," down to the mono mix. "Don't Forget The Sun" sounds like it could sit comfortably on side two of an imaginary "Smile," while "If You Go" quotes "Today," and "Last Kiss" is "Shut Down Vol. 2."

The reason I care so much about it, though, is that the songwriting is terrific. Dig the way the harmonies wrap themselves around the melody on "Don't Forget The Sun," and when the chorus comes in, it feels like a breath of fresh air on a summer day. Or listen to the lazy lilting lyric on "In The Country," which perfectly evokes its subject matter. And the rocking "Last Kiss" kicks just the right amount of ass in front of its echo-laden backing track, and then the falsetto kicks in in just the right way. Its remarkable.

The only moment the album falters are the couple places it quotes a little too heavily -- "Do You Love Me" sounds far too much like "It's OK" for comfort, down to the saxophone honkings, though its redeemed by a magnificent chorus that isn't at all period correct (thank god -- "15 Big Ones" is my least favorite era of the BB's). And the gorgeous "If You Go" sounds a bit close to "Sherry, She Needs Me," a famous mid-period outtake, though again it wields a wonderful melody that makes it worthwhile.

It goes without saying that if you love the Beach Boys, you're gonna love this, but I'll go further: if you like music you shouldn't really miss this. Songwriting-wise, singing-wise and production-wise its a remarkable achievement. Now for the hard part: sustaining this level of brilliance over two albums. I'm thinking they're up to the task.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wuxtray! Wuxtray! Last minute Silver Phial show!

Hey, LA denizens: we're playing tomorrow night at the Cinema Club!! Just found out today!!

We're playing TOMORROW (Wednesday) night @:

The Cinema Bar
3967 Sepulveda Boulevard
Culver City, California 90230


More idle thoughts

- Minnesota, for those of you in Los Angeles, is just sort of always cold. I had friends tell me before I came out "Oh! It's so warm! You'll love it, there's finally good weather here!" And I got there, and it was frigid. Yesterday was, no lie, forty-five degrees. Either I bring the cold, or its just always cold -- the old "tree/forest" dilemma, or a kind of meteorological Shroedinger's Cat.

- The wedding couple's recessional? The Processional Theme from Star Wars. You know, where Luke and Han get their medals from ultra-hot Leia in a white silk nightgown? CHOICE. I love a good geek wedding. Also: There are very few women hotter than Carrie Fisher in the first Star Wars. People try so hard to cast these uber-hot women these days (Jessica Alba, I'm looking at YOU), and they forget that sometimes the little short super-smart Jewish girl can ooze more sexuality on-screen than all of them combined.

- I found that the food I missed most from Minneapolis was Keng's Chow Mein. I had the choice on Monday to go to any restaurant in the entire Twin Cities, and I went for the most delicious, most MSG-ridden Cantonese food ever, and Jesus CHRIST did I love it. I'd trade one Keng's Chow Mein for all the great restaurants in this entire city, I swear to god.

- I think I miss the 90s. I did not enjoy First Avenue on Saturday Night like I should have, or could have, because I spent the entire time missing that storied decade -- or anyways, the bits of the decade where I wasn't cursing life. Most of them were spent in the 7th Street Entry listening to awesome fucking music. Saturday was death metal night. It ached.

- My favorite comic store wasn't open on Mondays. Boo.

- My old house is in good hands, but I miss it more than I miss the Giant Townhouse which was my last abode in Minneapolis. That house holds lots of good memories, and there was a sense of accomplishment in making it look nice and modern and cool which Sudden Valley didn't have. It was bittersweet to stay there, but I wouldn't have given it up for the world.

- Homebrewed beer is the best. Better even than Surly's, which is, like, the best beer ever.

- My Minneapolis Friends are great, but I love my LA friends too. I have good friends.

- Gee, I'm getting sappy and sentimental.

- I have to pee.

Friday, May 16, 2008

There Are Plenty Of Men In No Man's Land, But They All Suck

For a complete and total nerd (one of the nerdiest, and I can back that up with proof), I sure know a lot of ex-stripper-writers (THREE of them, actually! Edit: and they are all awesome. Shout out to Steph!). Besides the estimable Ms. Cody, though, my best friend among 'em is the brilliant Ruth Fowler, aka "Mimi In New York" from my blogroll to your right.

Ruth is a journalist, a bon vivant, a cosmopolitan world traveler, a notorious anti-hero in her native UK, and a fucking awesome writer. I first met her when she posted a criticism of "Candy Girl" on her blog. I wrote her to tell her she was totally wrong and, unlike most people when you write them to suggest that they may, in fact, be wrong, she actually read Diablo's blog and posted a reverse opinion, which convinced me that she was a severely cool human being. Seriously -- do you know how rare that is on the internet? Go visit anybody's IMDB page and try to argue with anybody. Go on, try it. I'll wait.

I then began reading her on a regular basis, and vice-versa, and we struck up a friendship, and now we read and edit each other's stuff, which is awesome as her writing is fucking hilarious and a pleasure to read (if her screenplay doesn't sell the second it starts circulating, I will eat an entire milliners' worth of hats).

Anyway: I'm alerting you to the fact that on June 19th her book "No Man's Land" will be released, and you can now pre-order the sucker on Amazon. Its a memoir of her decadent, drug-fuelled time as a stripper in New York. It's completely awesome -- a very different read than "Candy Girl" as its far darker. No sweet, supportive husband (ha!) here: the men that tromp through "No Man's Land" are a series of cold-hearted dicks that you want to smack upside the head. There's an air of kind of beautiful desperation in the tone that makes it completely compelling, and her descriptive ability borders on the poetic.

So go pre-order it PRONTO, okay? Click the link above and spend yr. twenty bucks or whatever and I guarantee you that you will NOT regret it for a second.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Boredom and ennui: officially over

After several days of moping, grousing, complaining, and general nail-biting, tonight we stepped out in style -- Trix got an invite recently to an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gala event from the very sweet set decorator for the TV series Trix works on. It was an amazing dual exhibition: "Ink & Paint: The Art Of Hand Drawn Animation" and "Pulling Back The Drapes: Set Decoration Revealed."

The former was, for animation geeks like me and Trix, pure catnip: designs by Disney genius Mary Blair ("Alice in Wonderland" and "Cinderella" as well as the design for the amazing Small World ride at Disneyland), original sketches from Warner Brothers' cartoons like "What's Opera, Doc" and "The Rabbit Of Seville," backdrop paintings from "Snow White" and production designs from "Nightmare Before Christmas." One of the coolest collection of stills, paintings and odds-and-ends I've ever seen.

The latter was, if anything, more incredible. If you don't know what set decorators do -- they basically put in all the details on the set, from furniture to light fixtures to little bits and bobs sitting around, that make the things look lived in and human and real. There were sets from "Iron Man," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (that was Trix' friend's work, the beautiful Hawaiian villas in the film), "Get Smart" and, best of all, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Coolest detail? A little picture on Indy's desk of Willie (aka Mrs. Steven Spielberg) from "Temple of Doom." Righteous.

The crowd was a veritable who's who of behind-the-scenes folks -- first-string animators and producers and set decorators and Academy members old and young, and, oddly, Larry Storch from TV's "F-Troop." Dunno what he was doing there, but it was pretty damn cool that he was.

Malaise: officially over!

edit: my hair looked far more awesome than it did in that picture.

Yay! California Is Smarter Than Everywhere Else!

As of this morning, gay people can get married in the state of California. I'll spare you the philosophizing and just sum it up with one word: duh. Dear Rest Of The Country, Except (I think) Massachusets and like Vermont or something? Catch the fuck up. Dear Minnesota: you especially, though good luck getting those yokels in, like, Motley, MN where "EMBRYOS ARE PEOPLE TOO" billboards outnumber actual human beings, to see sense.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mid-Week Nothing Going On Blog

This is the White Album cover of blog entries: a big, plain, white block with one or two words written on it at a strange angle.

Nothing much going on. Everybody I know that's in a creative field is in some kind of crazy-ass unbreakable funk. I'm blaming planetary alignment, there's no other explanation.

Not even any crazy foods to report on, unless you consider "99 cent noodle bowls from Trader Joes" crazy food. They're crazy, but more like "stuff schizophrenic people you see walking up Santa Monica at 9 PM barefoot eat" crazy.

Just one of those weeks -- slow, kinda bummer-y. I spent the entire week photoshopping phallic fruits for a movie poster series. Any week that involves more than my share of phallic fruit can't be all bad, can it? Can it?

Hell, at least its warm!


Monday, May 12, 2008

"Sounds like SOMEBODY has a case of the MONDAYS!"

Do you ever get that feeling like everybody you know is doing totally awesome and their careers are fucking TAKING OFF and your friends are in, like, bands that are touring the country and getting reviewed on Pitchfork and your other friends are writing movies and making billions of dollars and living in huge mansions and then some other friends are kicking ass and getting deals and shaking hands and having meetings around swimming pools with martinis and such, and meanwhile you're doing this *awesome fucking work* that nobody but your living room and your cat ever see because you're too lazy and unmotivated to get off your increasingly-fat-ass to get anybody else to look at and appreciate, and maybe you're just this goon who isn't any damn good at self-promotion or maybe you're just fucking impatient and you want everybody to notice what you're doing right now without realizing that sometimes it takes years to get to where those people are, but there's that nagging thought in the back of your mind, like, maybe I'm just not good enough, maybe everybody's right, maybe I'm just stupid-slash-untalented-slash-worthless?

Oh. Uh, me neither, I was just asking.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Weird Food Blog #3: Interesting Mexican Stuff With Chile and Tomato and stuff

YAY! Another food blog! Broke on a Saturday night and nothing to do but eat intriguing stuff!

So -- you folks in other part of the country realize that Los Angeles has a large Mexcian population, right? This is awesome from a foodie point of view, because, for the most part, Mexican food fucking rules. You think you have it good in Minnesota with your Little Tijuana's or whatever? THINK AGAIN, suckers.

Because guess what? I can go to my local grocery store and get BUDWEISER WITH CLAMATO, LIME AND SALT. That's right -- Budweiser with Tomato, Clam Juice, Lime and Salt. And so I did -- in my one hand, there is Budweiser Chelada, available at your local 7-11 store, and in my other is Lays Chile y Limon flavor potato chips.

(Note to Univision watchers: this is different than the CARTOON SERIES "Con Chile y Limon," which stars an anthropomorphic chile and an anthropomorphic lime.")

First off the chips. Happy to say they're delightful -- just the right amount of spicy, and the lime flavor provides a SLIGHT twang. Not as good as ketchup chips, but damn close -- a good regional foodstuff. Thanks, Lay's!

And now onto the Chelada. That face looks like I'm hating it, but that's really a look of -- "Hmmmmm, what the hell is THIS?" Because I'm serious: THIS STUFF IS DELICIOUS. Its like a Bloody Mary In A Can Made With Beer, and Trix and I are currently fighting over who gets more of it. And you have to understand: in the freezer is a bottle of grape-flavored vodka that tastes like kool-aid, and normally I'm like a moth to the flame of that stuff, but this is REALLY GOOD.

So in summation: CHELADA. Try it.

SEEN AT THE NEW BEVERLY CINEMA LAST NIGHT... a double feature of "The Time Machine" and "Forbidden Planet": TOM KENNY, star of Mr. Show and the voice of SpongeBob Squarepants!!

Seriously: SUPPORT THE NEW BEVERLY. There weren't NEARLY enough people there last night -- hell, even if all you wanna do is rubberneck cool celebrities like Tom Kenney, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, and DIABLO FREAKIN' CODY, pay yr. 7 dollars and support revival cinema. The chance to see films like this on the big screen come around precisely NEVER, normally, and the opportunity to see them surrounded by the original auteurs? Priceless. This place is a gem, and if you live in LA, you should go as often as you can.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Omnibus Old Days Blog

(In order to draw out the Anonymous Commenter From My Past, I'm doing as instructed and blogging about the "old days." Welcome to "Jonny: The College Yearz.")

My first year of college is a haze of depressive moods, suicidal urges, loneliness, and occasional LSD hallucinations. I genuinely remember none of it, apart from occasional brief flashes of me sitting alone in my room listening to Morrissey and crying about how nobody understood me. I imagine this makes me like every single college student ever but man, did it seem profound at the time. I dated a girl named Karla with bleached blonde hair cut into a severe crew cut, and we made out to Nitzer Ebb every night. It seemed properly existential. Our first date involved me throwing up on her.

Once I met Marcy, my situation began to improve. We were in Russian class together (note: I got an "F"), and showed up to class wearing the same Bauhaus t-shirt/cardigan sweater combination (that pretty much sets this in an era, doesn't it?) and became fast friends. Later, after a complicated situation involving her dating my friend (CENSORED) and me making out with her behind his back (sorry, (CENSORED)!), we started dating. At the time, I still half-lived with my parents, and after a rather difficult and annoying summer spent back at the folks' house (imagine, if you will: tripping on acid while watching "Easy Rider" with your dad), I decided it was time to friggin' move already, so Marcy, my best friend Trevor, and I got a place together in Dinkytown, the area of Minneapolis right around the University of Minnesota, also known, in the late 80s and early 90s, as the Hub Of Everything Cool.

Oh, sure, Uptown thought it was the hub of everything cool, but Uptown always fucking thinks its so great. Sure, it had Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday night which attracted every half-punk and neo-goth ever to its welcoming embrace, but Dinkytown in the late-80s was Where It Was At.

Dinkytown in the late 80s was arranged around three main centers of gravity. Note, please: this is if you were remotely cool. If your memories of Dinkytown in this era involve you getting totally WASTED at Sally's and heading back to your boyfriend's frat house for a wop party where you passed out and were gang-banged by the entire Delta Kappa Nu, you probably weren't cool. Just saying.

Ralph and Jerry's. This 24-hour groceria, a dirty, dismal little superette plunked right down on 4th Street, was, for some reason, the very center and hub of my life for five years. Marcy was general manager there, my roommate Trevor worked there, and eventually every single employee there -- each one cool as shit -- became our circle of friends. Anitra, the uber-hip tattooed waitress at the Triple Rock? Worked there. Rosemary Pepper, online goddess and member of the San Franscisco who's who? Yup, worked there. James Lileks, Minneapolis humorist/bon vivant? Worked there, but way before my time, but I suspect he's responsible for scrawling the lyrics of "Cowgirl In The Sand" on the walls downstairs. Everybody worked there. It was an astonishing confluence of hipsters and talented folks.

Of course, I managed to ruin it. I worked there myself at the tail end of its existence, usually on the overnight shift. One night, a con artist came in and pulled that one scam where he asks for change for money you've already given him and manages to confuse you into giving him change for money you haven't given him -- you know the grift, if you've worked in retail, somebody has tried it on you but you, dear reader, were smart enough to avoid it. I was so fascinated and hypnotized by his patter, and so totally blown away that I was basically being robbed before my eyes, that I stupidly and rather dazedly played into the whole scam. I think I lost the store 100 bucks all told, and was fired the next day, quite deservedly. Soon after, the store was sold. The end of an era. I blame myself and that hundred bucks.

Positively 4th Street / Northern Lights. If you were even cooler than the folks who worked at Ralph and Jerry's (i.e. cooler than me), you worked at "The Pos" (named after the Bob Dylan song named after the street it lived on) or later, once it changed management, Northern Lights, right next door. During the Positively 4th Street era, I spent all my rent money every month on records there, and bought my first bong there as well, a bright green plastic number I had for the next 10 years. Notable employees include: Linda Pitmon, drummer for Zuzu's Petals and now Steve Wynn, Ed Ackerson, Nick Tangborn of Jackpine Records. I kept vying for a job there -- I think they all secretly thought that because I listened to Yes, my musical taste was suspect.

One night, I was working at Ralph and Jerry's. A guy came in, a shabbily-dressed fella who smelled vaguely of urine. He bought a bottle of Listerine. "Jesus, it's about time you freshened your breath," I thought, and sold it to him. He left. He came back in five minutes later smelling even FURTHER of urine, and bought another. I sold it to him, wondering what the fuck was up. Ten minutes later he came in REEKING of THE OPRESSIVE STENCH OF STALE, ACRID PISS, and wanted to buy another. I finally cottoned to the fact that he was, in fact, drinking the Listerine. I refused to sell it to him. He paid me back by staggering next door to Northern Lights, pissing himself until completely sodden, and passing out in the aisle.

Cafe Giocco / Espresso Royale Cafe. Espresso Royale, or just "The Cafe" -- the definitive article, you might say -- was the hangout of choice for underage hipsters and pre-bar drinkers alike. Much like Ralph and Jerry's, just about everybody I know has worked at Espresso Royale at one point in their life (including me). The Cafe mainstay was Jay Hurley, my bandmate in Shatterproof and Landing Gear, who worked there for umpty-ump years before moving on to pastures greener. I met just about everybody in my life through the cafe, in one way or another, including at least one wife, several bandmates, best friends, and on one notable occasion, Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers, whom I gave a brief tour of Dinkytown, pointing out places his dad used to live.

Note to all concerned: THE ESPRESSO MACHINE AND THE DISHWASHER OCCASIONALLY BECOME INFESTED WITH COCKROACHES. We'd see those little suckers and kill 'em with the milk pitchers. Clean!! Also: I slept in the basement on more than one occasion, on the couch where it was rumored more than several lice-infested trysts happened.

Notable people from my life at the time:

Johnny and Christie. Johnny was the drummer for my first band, The Now. Folks: we sucked. I'm not even saying that to be humble, we just, completely objectively, sucked balls. Johnny was a sweet, sweet guy but he wasn't much of a drummer at the time, which was fine -- I wasn't much of a songwriter or guitar player, and Trevor wasn't much of a bass player, so we were evenly matched. His girlfriend was Christie, a stunningly gorgeous girl who was the first exhibitionist I ever met -- she had the intriguing habit of dishabilling in front of us, which wasn't something I particularly minded, mind. She was also the first stripper in my life -- she got a job at Deja Vu right when it opened; then, if I'm not mistaken, married one of the patrons, and disappeared completely. I kind of miss them both. After Christie, Johnny dated Becky, the moddest mod chick that ever modded. Ever. I could never tell if she liked me or was secretly laughing at me behind my back -- probably a combination of the the two, and probably deservedly. I was such a phony-mod it wasn't even funny, with my hairsprayed pudding bowl, stupid suits, and lack-of-two-tone-love.

Interesting tale: Johnny eventually moved into a house in Northeast. The upstairs neighbors were slightly scary punk rock girls -- at one point, some of the punk kids that were over there were busted for grave robbing. GRAVE ROBBING. Then, soon after, one of their other friends was busted for killing his aunt by drowning her in a toilet. We stole his records and his Nintendo. Whee!

Mischka. Mischka -- who I'm not sure had a last name -- was actually a faerie. I'm convinced. Spelled that way, too. I knew nothing about her at all, only that she kind of drifted into our life, this odd, beautiful girl who could easily have been a model, dressed in the strangest mish-mash of hippy, goth and alien, and then drifted out. I don't even know her real name, where she was from, what she did -- but she was over a lot, and we all liked her. She started the brief trend of braiding crystals into one's hair, which everybody adopted in Dinkytown for a while. She seemed like such an oddly ethereal presence that I still, to this day, can't quite explain her. She may have been a government experiment gone awry, or a presence from another dimension.

The Jello Arc. Jello was an odd hippie guy I knew who was Johnny's roommate for a while, then moved to Wisconsin. The odd thing was that Jello was in my life for such a short time, but his relatives weave in and out of my life constantly. Marcy and I inhereted Jello's cat Zoe, who just died like last week (RIP Zoe -- what a sweetheart). One of Jello's sisters dated my friend Ben, who introduced me to Chris, who is the closest thing I have to a brother (besides my actual brother of course, but we didn't grow up together!). Jello's brother Isaac was friends with Chris and Allison and about twenty other people I knew. I just bumped into his OTHER sister the other month at a restaurant where she worked. For some reason, these folks just weave in and out of my life constantly -- weird, for someone I only met briefly and played D&D with a couple times.

Deva. Deva was an employee at Ralph and Jerry's. Deva was also one of the most beautiful women I've ever met. She had gorgeous, shoulder-length, curly Pre-Raphaelite hair; plump, delightfully puckered lips; a smile that could have turned a tyranical despot into a pussycat; and eyes that bore straight into your soul. Deva was an artist. Deva was a bohemian of the Old School. Deva liked music. Deva photographed so well that the inventor of the photograph was heard to sigh in his grave. Deva was smart. Deva was charming. Deva never wore a bra the entire time I knew her, and didn't seem to notice or care. You may think, from reading this, that I nursed a wicked, wicked crush on Deva. You would be dead right. Did I ever do anything about it? I did not. Probably a good thing, since I was engaged at the time -- and an even better thing when you consider she wouldn't have been caught dead with me anyway!

David Beckey. I just got done playing with David Beckey in the Autumn Leaves. Oddly, I met David, like, twenty years ago. The chances that we wouldn't have played together are nearly nil -- we liked the same exact bands, had the same exact circle of friends, dressed the same, did the same stuff. Yet, for some reason, that crucial connection was never made. Explanation? At one point, I expressed a desire to play the rock with him while at a party. One of the people at the party said "Oh, man -- he's NUTS! His roommate came home and found him playing guitar COMPLETELY NAKED!!" And I kind of went -- oh. Uh. I see. And then forgot about this desire to play with him.

TURNS OUT THIS WAS COMPLETELY FALSE. So to whoever told me that story? Total, bald-faced lie! I coulda been in the 'Leaves years ago.

Okay, so if that isn't enough of an "Old Days" blog to draw out the Anonymous Poster, I don't know what is. Jesus. I have to get back to work now. Hopefully people who weren't there will find something to amuse them.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Genius of Brad Neely

I first became aware of the MOST GENIUS ARTIST EVER Brad Neely when I stumbled upon the following, which made me laugh so hard I literally threw up. I then proceeded to become completely obsessed with it, watching it over and over and over again and quoting it to my befuddled friends, at least some of whom thought I was fucking nuts. And I probably was. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you've not seen it, I bring you -- Washington.

Meanwhile, completely unbeknownst to me, Trix had become equally obsessed with Wizard People, Dear Readers, which was some nutcase's homespun commentary over "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" that had been circulating the web. I'm talking about the whole movie, narrated in the weirdest voice you've ever heard, turning the film into a dark, disturbing, hysterical thing it was never supposed to be.

(the rest of it is on YouTube -- probably not for long, watch it while you can.)

At one point, one of us -- not sure if it was me or Trix, but it was definitely one of us -- figured out that both items were by the same guy, one Brad Neely, an artist who'd been doing fucking freaky-ass drawings and paintings for years and who had just ventured into the world of multimedia. Since then, Brad signed to SuperDeluxe, an awesome web-based Flash content site, and did a ton of other laugh-puke-incuding videos, including the genius Professor Brothers series.

"And we danced -- like the people in the hyper-tight lighting of fried chicken commercials."

His other series for SuperDeluxe, I Am Babycakes, is almost as funny. Not quite but almost. And ten times more disturbing.

GOOD NEWS: even though SuperDeluxe is apparently closing its doors for good, both Professor Brothers and Babycakes have been picked up by Adult Swim, so more fucking awesome hilarious Brad Neely is on its way. You must watch.

"I heard that motherfucker's got -- like -- 30 goddamn dicks."

Edit: Neely's ALSO the guy behind Creased Comics. That's his official site. Absolutely awesome.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Beekeeping For Fun And Profit

So, like, there's this period of time in my life where I was one of those annoying trust-fund-hippies you hated in college, okay? I'm not proud to admit it, but I spent about a year-and-a-half of my life with really long hair (well, longer than now) listening to -- CHRIST, people, I'm baring my soul here -- Phish (I know -- don't start, please), and smoking so much pot I'm surprised I didn't actually shift into an alternate dimension. I wore tie-dye t-shirts and Birkenstocks. And worse yet, I felt like this was as good as it got. Listening to fucking Phish and Blues Traveler and hanging out with people whose record collections included a Bob Marley best-of, Van Morrison's "Moondance" and three badly-chosen live Dead tapes.

So the thing that pulled me out of that despicable funk was a record, of course -- Up by Minneapolis psych-popsters the 27 Various. Their lead singer, Ed Ackerson, had discovered and imbibed My Bloody Valentine's Loveless (which of course I was totally unaware of in my pot-induced haze -- the one time somebody played it for me, I thought there was something wrong with their record player) and filtered it through a uniquely midwestern pop sensibility, and something about that record just clicked. My eyes were opened. I got it. Noise was beautiful. Burying your vocals under a layer of guitar fuzz was magnificent. Repetition was fantastic. It all made sense. I cut my fucking hair, turned the amps up to 11, and started my first pop group, Deep Shag, within a few months.

Look: just about everything I know about pop songwriting and music production I learned from watching Ed (and Jay Hurley -- always Jay Hurley, but that's another blog entry). I learned how to write a song with Verses! and Choruses! and Hooks! from Ed. I learned that sometimes just repeating the same thing several times is preferable to coming up with endless new things to confuse people. I learned that simplicity was righteous, that weird noises frequently fit perfectly just where you heard them in your head, and that if you want to make a song sound good on record you have to really fucking THINK about how you arrange the god-damn thing.

And all through my life, Ed's records spurred me on, made me think, pushed my own songwriting into ever-different directions. The first Polara record came just as I was forming Lunar 9 and I stole mercilessly from it. The second one came just as Shatterproof was making big and made me think about getting Lunar 9 together yet again, and making a serious go of it this time, dammit. Formless/Functional came out just as I had discovered Drum-n-bass music and made me think it was at all possible to take dance music and warp it into the fabric of rock and roll.

I kinda lost touch with Polara for a while, right around Jetpack Blues -- hell, lost touch with everything! -- and there was a part of me that sure missed the righteous invention of the earlier stuff. But man, their new record, "Beekeeping" is maybe the best thing Ed's ever done, or at least its up there with "Up" and that first Polara record in terms of sheer songwriting brilliance and production adeptness. Case in point: head to iTunes and download "Game Over," which I think is Ed's best single, possibly ever. There's something so perfect about the verse melody and the way the chorus just hangs on it -- and the weird guitar noises that slip in and out between both speakers during the whole thing, its a complete package, man, and it rocks.

Then have a listen to "Another Phase," which has a hugely melancholy vibe but slips into such a celebratory chorus you won't fucking believe it, or "Talk Me Down" which wields a wicked Dandy Warhols organ as well as a magnificent melody, or "Both Ends Burning" which pulls out the phony horn stops the same way some of my shit does, and just as unapologetically. And make sure you make it to "Out Of Your Hands," which is so damned heavy it almost shouldn't exist, and the gorgeous, optimistic finale "Live And Learn" which is almost gospel in its exhultation.

Dude, if there was any point you dropped off the Polara train, you need to JUMP THE FUCK ON right now, again, because this is seriously some of the best music the man's ever made. After a great solo record a few months back, for him to come out with something this solid and righteous in so many ways -- well, shit, there's more to come, for sure, so LISTEN, okay?

Dear Diablo,

Hello! How are you doing up there in Vancouver? I address you in this public forum because there is something I need from you, and it is something only a person in your unique position can give me. My need for this thing is great -- but alas, given my current position, I am unable to obtain it. Perhaps, given that I've now made it a matter of public record, you can find it in your extremely large and ever-bursting-with-generosity heart to grant me this one wish, this one pleading.

What is this thing for which I beg?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Breakup Checklist

So. You wanna break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, eh?

Not so fast. Before you act, print out this handy-dandy breakup checklist and take it with you. If you care one jot about the sanity and mental health of the person you're breaking up with, if you have even the tiniest bit of sympathy for them, make sure you check off all the items as you break up with 'em. That way, a year down the line, they might actually speak to you, or -- gasp!! -- become your friend!! I know, I know, crazy talk. But having been privvy to a few nasty breakups in the last year (2007: The Year Of Many Breakups) I have seen the effects of not following my checklist firsthand.

(Note for looky-loos: I'm happy to say the Diablo/Jonny bustup fulfils virtually every single one of these criteria -- note, please, that we are still very great friends on the other side, to prove my point -- and the couple places where it lacked, we've both apologized, made amends and smoothed our friendship over. Nobody has the perfect breakup, and there's always hurt feelings at points along the process, that's inevitable. However, if you have honor and respect and real friendship behind your relationship, it won't matter ultimately. We sure did, and do, and continue to. Shout out, Deebs, you my homegirl. Representin', up in the 'Couv!)

So. Here we go.

_____1. Be honest, but don't point out every single one of your S.O.'s flaws. You hear "be honest" in breakups a lot. It's so very, very, very true. "Honey, I'm leaving you for another woman" is infinitely preferable in the long run than making up a cock-and-bull story about, say, moving to another city for job opportunities and springing the "other woman" on 'em later on. It's the "rip the band-aid off quickly" theory. However: this comes with a major caveat, and its almost as important as being honest. If you feel the need to list every single one of your partners' flaws to justify the reasons for your breakup? Don't. All you're doing is making you feel better. That isn't being honest. What you're actually doing while you're pumping up your own ego is damaging the self-esteem of your partner who, if you're the break-ee, is right now as emotionally vulnerable as he/she will ever be. Skip it. Write 'em in a letter to yourself and bury it or something.

_____2. It's not them, it's you. Related to number one -- come up with some reasons that you are to blame for the breakup. Don't make it seem like its all the other person's fault. Because it isn't (unless, of course, you're in an abusive relationship, then it probably is, and fuck them anyway -- just get out). There are two people in any relationship, and unless you're Jesus Christ Himself, you have flaws, and your flaws are probably part of the reason for the split. Chances are, the main reason, if you're honest with yourself, is that you've changed and become someone else and you're just not happy being where you are now with your current partner. Fair 'nuff -- but admit that rather than pushing the blame off on your partner. That's crap.

_____3. Take care of your responsibilities. Think your breakup is a way to become more financially secure by pushing off your shared debts and responsibilities onto your partner? Think again. If you want to be a decent human being -- and you all do, right? -- you need to acknowledge your role in the shared financial status of your coupleness and take care of your stuff as quickly as possible so your partner doesn't suffer. Did you know that 50% of all breakups end in one of the partners declaring bankruptcy? I just made up that figure, but the actual figure is somewhere close to that, and that's so unfair and retarded it beggars belief. Only a complete ass thinks bailing from a relationship = financial clean slate. Take care of your shit, Sherlock.

_____4. Initiating the breakup? Participate in the process. You want out of the relationship? Uh huh, then don't make your partner take care of all the legal whatsits. There's nothing worse than having to take care of a divorce you probably didn't want or didn't expect in the first place. Furthermore: don't just sit out the process and then bitch at the end that it didn't work out to your advantage. You have to actually get involved. Show up to your court dates. Argue with your partner's lawyer. Get in there, get your hands dirty, do something about it. If you don't, you have no excuse whatsoever if things don't end up how you want. See also: Move Your OWN Shit Out Of The House, Fester. Your ex doesn't want to sift thru your skid-marked underwear you left behind.

_____5. Be fucking careful. Your significant other is sensitive right now. If you're leaving them for someone else, make damn sure you don't, say, accidentally send them something for your new girlfriend/boyfriend, or make them accidentally privvy to part of your life that they don't want to know about. Let them guide you into how comfortable they are in hearing about your new life.

_____6. Make sure if you say "let's be friends" that you actually MEAN it. Everybody says this at some point in the breakup. Almost nobody means it. Becoming friends with your ex is something which takes a great deal of effort on both sides, and you're going to have to go through a lot of pain and agony to get there. If you think its worth it, great -- again, I'll point out that Diablo and I did a great job of this because we both felt that even though the relationship as such was over, we both genuinely cared about the other person a great deal, and it was worth the effort to get there. My point is this: if you don't mean it, don't say it. And guess what? if you fail at #1-5? You probably ain't getting #6 anyway, pal.

Anything else you folks would like to add?

This Is The Funniest Thing Anybody's Ever Made.

I'll just throw it up with no comment. Read the description on the page if you want more, or google it. Pure art should STAND ALONE.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Silver Phial: MOUNTAIN BOY!

Hey, folks -- our first recording, "Mountain Boy," is available at the Silver Phial MySpace page!!!

As mentioned in my bragblog a week-ish ago, we cut all the vocals completely LIVE, everybody grouped around the mike, and it sounds pretty damn good!! I heard a lot of "wows" from Trix when I played it just now for the first time all mixed. Go have a listen.

Friend us if you haven't already!!