Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Bag Of Flour

Jack Serpentine drove us home from The Oasis, the type of bar you'd expect to be the only thing open on Christmas night -- an ugly space with a tiled floor, a garage door substituted for part of its east wall.

We began to discuss Jack's high school classmate; Jack was vehemently opposed to intercourse with this woman, he began to list objects he'd rather have sex with. "A bag of flour," he began.

His idea snowballed until we were proposing sex with items blatantly less attractive than the woman herself. I tried to bring us back to reality.

"I think I would rather have sex with Woman X than with a bag of glass," I admitted.

"But what if her vagina was lined with razorblades?" Floyd asked.

"And cats' teeth?" Shawn chimed.

"And it spoke perfect Arabic?" Floyd added, before our laughter ended the discussion.

Jack pulled into the driveway and shut off his grandmother's Camry, and we retreated to our respective cars, another Christmas past, the reason for the season obvious.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

And Then There Were None

You'll note the right sidebar is now without any BFF.

With the death of Circle V, Tornado Slide is now the only active blog among my friends and less-than-casual acquaintances.

I'd like to say that I will compensate by increasing my output, but I'm not certain that promise would be kept.

But you know my heart will go on. Expect more of the same from me.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2006 Recap - Printed Word

There isn't much to say about what I read in 2006. I could sum it up with one name: Scottie.

In '05, I borrow a co-worker's copy of Tender is the Night. I thought it was spectacular, and decided to explore more F. Scott Fitzgerald. I picked up some cheap copies of Diamond as Big as the Ritz & Other Stories and This Side of Paradise. When those were finished, I went back to the used bookstore and picked up a Scott/Zelda biography that I'd previously left on the shelf.

When I let Jeff know what I'd been reading, he unleashed one of my favorite sentences of 2006:
"That's officially a phase."
Interestingly, the newest issue of McSweeney's will feature short stories based upon story ideas found in FSF's Princeton-era notebooks. I would renew my subscription, but I'm fairly confident they'll revert back to their cute-but-ultimately-terrible ideas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

2006 Recap - Motion Pictures

Movies I saw in the theater, in reverse order of awesomeness:

Underworld: Evolution
Clerks 2
A Prairie Home Companion
V for Vendetta
An Inconvenient Truth
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Stranger Than Fiction
Inside Man
Little Miss Sunshine
The Departed

I saw the trailer before Beerfest, and was bored to tears. The trailer went something like:

JACK NICHOLSON: (talking into phone) There's a rat.

MATT DAMON: (talking into phone) Let me get the rat. I can get the rat.

JACK NICHOLSON: (talking into phone) Well, you'd better get that rat, then.


MATT DAMON: (talking into phone) Trust me. I've got rats before. I will get this rat.

JACK NICHOLSON: (talking into phone) Good. Get the rat.

Boring, right? It was a poor indicator of the film's overall awesomeness.

And while some of these movies were stupid (Underworld) and disappointing, (Clerks II), I was pleased that none of them were "I wasted $8" terrible.

Movies I Netflixed, in reverse chronological order (*denotes Sunday Night Movie Night selection):

The Great New Wonderful
All the Real Girls
Flirting with Disaster
Hoop Dreams
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Blackboard Jungle*
Team America: World Police
Fever Pitch*
Monty Python's Life of Brian*
Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns
The Deer Hunter*

Again, I feel like none of these were a big waste of time. Brick and Junebug were the most surprisingly awesome.

Before I resubscribed with Netflix, I did rent some DVDs from Liberty Hall. I can't remember all of them, but the most memorable rental was Oldboy. Oldboy is a South Korean movie with subtitles, and it's, uh. It's really something. Just rent it. But not for a date night.

In conclusion, this is too many goddamn movies to watch in one year, especially considering I watched Wimbledon and Richie Rich on TBS this weekend. What the fuck am I doing with my life? I mean, I've heard of Unbearable Lightness, but this is fucking ridiculous. But whatever. Beats reading.

(Next up: my 2006 recap of books)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

2006 Recap - Music

2006 albums I purchased:

Calexico - Garden Ruin
The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity
Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
Mates of State - Bring it Back
Prototypes - s/t
Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon
Tilly and the Wall - Bottoms of Barrels
Yeah Yeah Yeah's - Show Your Bones

2006 albums I received copies of:

Flaming Lips - At War with the Mystics
Guster - Ganging Up on the Sun
Josh Rouse - Subitulo
Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops

Favorite Album Released (and heard) in 2006:
Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins - "Rabbit Fur Coat"

Best Half-rhyming Couplet
Lily Allen - "Alfie"

I'm not sure what to think about non-rock British acts, and Lily Allen is no different. Silly songs like "Alfie" aren't my favorite, but it scores points with its bouncing rhythym and creative couplets:
Oh little brother please refrain from doing that
I'm trying to help you out so can you stop being a twat
Most Odd Lyrical Coincidence
Neko Case & Tilly and the Wall

In "The Freest Man", Tilly's Kianna Alarid sings, "...his voice and echoed chorus." Meanwhile, in "Hold On, Hold On", Neko Case states, "that echo chorus lied to me..."

Have you ever used the phrase "echo chorus"? Has anyone you've known ever said it? Me neither. It's strange, then, that two artists would sing the phrase within the same calendar year.

Best Insertion of Syllables
Yeah Yeah Yeah's - "Cheated Hearts"

Without Karen O's magic, the second section of "Cheated Hearts" would read:
Well, I'm taking off
And she's taking off
And he's taking off
And we're taking off
After intervention, much improved:
Well I'm take-a take-a take-a take-a takin' off
And she's take-a take-a take-a take-a takin' off
And he's take-a take-a take-a take-a takin' off
And we're take-a take-a take-a take-a takin' off
She'd win even without mentioning her use of "up a-ba-ba-bove" earlier in the same song.

Most Precise Adjective
Tilly and the Wall - "Coughing Colors"
And I know they are threatening
But at least we're not the ones carrying
Such heavy, heavy, heavy stoning stones
What kind of stones? Stoning stones. Stones with which to stone an individual. That kind of stone.

Sexiest Lyric
The Cardigans - "Holy Love"
You can really have anything you ask
And I'll be intimate with you
Granted, this award may go elsewhere if you do not interpret "intimate" literally, and if you fail to be influenced by Nina Persson's hotness. Not only is she visually stunning, but Nina's voice is rock's sexiest. Fiona Apple? All sultry, no sweet. Lisa Loeb? All sweet, no sultry. Nina's voice is the perfect marriage of sultry and sweet, PLUS there's a hint of her Swedish accent. What more could you want?

"Songs for Silverman" Memorial Award: Worst Album by a Previously Solid Artist

Guster - "Ganging Up on the Sun"

Guster decided to hang up its bongos and go traditional, and the move was for the worse. "Ganging Up on the Sun" is just plain boring.

I want to make it clear that my inclusion of "Satellite" (track 2 on this album) on my 2006 supplement should NOT be interpreted as an endorsement. Rather, it's a sample of the album's only redeeming quality.

Prettiest Lyrics
Regina Spektor - "On the Radio"

The second verse doesn't read as well as it sounds. She really sells it with her vocal:
this is how it works
you're young until you're not
you love until you don't
you try until you can't
you laugh until you cry
you cry until you laugh
and everyone must breathe
until their dying breath

this is how it works
you peer inside yourself
you take the things you like
and try to love the things you took
and then you take that love you made
and stick it into some--
someone else's heart
pumping someone else's blood

and walking arm in arm
you hope it don't get harmed
but even if it does
you'll just do it all again
on the radio
you hear november rain
that solo's awful long
but it's a nice refrain
Prettiest Song That's Actually About a Kid Dying in the Street
Neko Case - "Star Witness"

Most Overplayed
The Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Dani California"

I was sick of this song by the fourth time I'd heard it. My breaking point was on our annual Memorial Day canoe trip, where I heard it blasting from several campsites.

Rolling Stones Memorial Award: Just Die Already
The Red Hot Chili Peppers

You're from California. We get it. Now just die already.

Most Horrible Song
My Chemical Romance - "Welcome to the Black Parade"

I heard "Welcome to the Black Parade" and I thought, "I guess they decided they were going to write an anthem, and they thought layering a bunch of noise would do the trick." Wikipedia notes:
The song consists of 167 separate tracks mixed together, including marching band drums, multiple snares and a horn section.
Now, you might think, "Of course the song sounds like shit. What do you expect when you throw that much noise together?" Well, George Martin took a dude counting to 24 and merged it with an improvising, 41-member orchestra USING FOUR TRACK RECORDING EQUIPMENT. The result? "A Day in the Life", one of the most highly regarded singles of all-time. Is it fair to compare MCR to The Beatles? It is not. But goddamn do I hate that fucking song.

Catchiest Song
The Raconteurs - "Steady As She Goes"

"Catchiest", as in, "This song has been in my head all goddamned day and, while the song is pleasant, hearing my brain repeat chorus over and over again is killing my will to live." I haven't avoided listening to a song this much since 1999, when I made it all year without hearing Prince's "1999".

True story, folks: I wrote the majority of this yesterday, and the last bit I wrote was about "Steady As She Goes". I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning, and Jack White was still singing the chorus.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Seasonal Songs

Little known fact: nothing fills you with holiday cheer like a seasonal song from the great Willie Nelson. It's a little family secret I learned from the Serpentines.

In addition to the Red-Headed Stranger, I'm enjoying Christmas classics from Elvis, Aimee Mann, and (oddly) Sufjan Stevens, whom I hate during the secular months.

Bummer alert: you can't get the second-greatest Xmas song of all time, John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" on iTunes.

But you can get the greatest Christmas song, "Christmas Time is Here", as heard in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Also: Santa Claus Lane? Right down Santa Claus Lane, huh?

And: "Jingle Bell Rock" doesn't rock. Far from it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Litter Of The Runt

One of my coworkers bought some Runts candy, so I ate a handful.

Banana Runts: still the shittiest Runt.

Wonka company: stop making banana. It's shitty.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

2006 Soundtrack

I’ve always enjoyed creating mix CDs; however, my production has dropped off in recent years. There are two main reasons for this. First, the distance between my audience and myself has increased. As easy as it’s become to burn tracks to disc, it’s comparatively difficult to make it to the post office to weigh the mail the package. (And seriously – can’t something be done about the hours kept by the US Post Office? How is a working stiff supposed to make it there between 8 and 5? Wouldn’t it make more sense to operate such customer-oriented government agencies – I’m looking at you, Driver’s License Office – when most people are not at work? Say, open from 6 to 10 a.m., then closed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then open again from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.? It’s still an 8-hour workday, Uncle Sam. Let’s make this happen.)

Second, compiling mix CDs is less urgent these days. With the proliferation of flash memory and digital audio players, plenty of music can be heard sans disc. Still, you can’t share a playlist, and for the time being, that means the mix CD is still relevant.

In 2004, sparked by my hatred of Christmas cards and my love of mix CDs, I began to send one end-of-the-year compilation to friends. Previously, I had no set rules for the mix – I focused on including songs that my friends probably hadn’t heard. Now, the laws have changed. 2006 features two CDs: one traditional, stereo-ready audio disc, and one data disc filled with mp3s.

The audio disc is my 2006 soundtrack. Songs included on the disc meet relatively strict criteria. In order of importance, those criteria are:

1. Each song must evoke a snapshot of my year. For example, if I were compiling the soundtrack of my 1998, I would include the Paul McCartney song, “Souvenir”, which was playing in my Accord’s cassette player as I drove from Topeka to Manhattan, after viewing that movie with Paul Rudd (gay) and Jennifer Aniston (not gay), but before my girlfriend broke up with me. If I were compiling the soundtrack from my 1992 (?), I would include Tesla’s “What You Give”. I didn’t buy their “Psychotic Supper” album, but I did get the cassette single, and I really loved it. I seem to recall wanting to use it to inspire my kid-pitch baseball teammates. “It’s not what you got, it’s what you give!”

2. I must enjoy each song. (This year’s disqualifications include: The Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dani California”; Fergie, “London Bridge”; My Chemical Romance, “Welcome to the Black Parade”; all the goddamned Maroon 5 I had to listen to when I was carpooling with Melissa.)

3. Songs shall not be placed in chronological order or in order of importance. They should simply fit together well – one song should merge into the next in a way that is pleasing, if not smooth. Audio files should be manipulated with Audacity software to this end.

4. Songs that hold no greater significance than “I performed that at a karaoke bar this year!” shall not be included. (This year’s disqualifications include: Tears for Fears, “Head Over Heels”; Chicago, “Saturday in the Park”; The Police, “King of Pain”; Soft Cell, “Tainted Love”; Modest Mouse, “Float On”; Fleetwood Mac, “Go Your Own Way”; The Cardigans, “Lovefool”; The Beatles, “Help!”, Coldplay, “Clocks”; Doobie Brothers, “China Grove”.)

5. Including songs I became familiar with through a friend’s mix CD is strongly discouraged, so as not to present him or her with a CD full of songs they already own. (This year’s disqualifications include: Damien Rice, “Volcano”; Nickel Creek, “Jealous of the Moon”)

6. Including two songs by the same artist is discouraged.

7. Significant songs with poor audio quality (such as live recordings or terrible bitrates) shall be pushed toward the end of the disc, if not excluded altogether. (This year’s disqualification: a live recording of a yet-to-be-released Shins’ song, “Circus Walk”)

The mp3 disc was designed to catch the tracks that failed to meet the soundtrack’s strict inclusion policy. It includes songs or albums that I discovered in 2006 and enjoy, but are less representative of my year. Dumping all of the "other" songs on the data disc also helps my psychologically -- I don't have to agonize over the exclusion of an awesome song, just because it wasn't on the radio when I learned I got a chick pregnant (for example).

SO. Without further ado, this year's tracklisting and liner notes:

1. Mates of State - Nature and the Wreck

I had to be in Hays on Sunday night, so I stopped in Manhattan on Saturday, March 25, to visit Shawn. We watched a lot of Arrested Development on DVD, but also found time to walk around campus and Aggieville. I bought the new Mates of State CD as a treat for my remaining drive.

So, it was Sunday evening before I heard the CD, and things were going okay, and then track seven played. "Nature and the Wreck" is a short song, piano and vocal. One of its vague lines begins, "Since the wreck..."

I slowly convinced myself that I was going to get in a wreck on my way to Hays, and that wreck would be fatal. I made it to about to Russell and ran into a storm, and the wind blew no fewer than six tumbleweeds directly into my path, and they crunched underneath my rented Stratus.

When I returned home, I began to write about the experience, intending to include it in an apology to the ex-girlfriend. The writing went less than smoothly, and I aborted the idea. In the end, I decided that I was entitled to be a dick sometimes, particularly when involved in situations with a girl who broke up with you.

You could consider "Nature and the Wreck" as the turning point in my post-breakup funk.

2. Mates of State - Fraud in the '80s

I rode back from downtown with Allison, Lindsey, and Kim -- my car was parked at Lindsey's house. Kim needed a ride home, and had to wake up early for a walk-a-thon or some such bullshit. Who would drive Kim home? Me? "I'm going to go inside and sober up," I said, and the rest joined me. A sober Allison took a sobering Kim home. Lindsey went to sleep. I went to my car, and this song was at high volume as I drove home, because it sounded FUCKING AWESOME in that moment.

This is probably the song I listened to more than any other in 2006.

3. The Flaming Lips - The Spiderbite Song

Shawn and I drank bourbon at Auntie Mae's the Saturday of my Manhattan visit. As we talked about our 10-year high school reunion, "Race for the Prize" played on the jukebox. "Other than 'Waitin' for a Superman', what is your favorite song on 'The Soft Bulletin'?" I couldn't decide at that moment, as the bourbon and the hot waitress with the vintage Clash t-shirt were fogging my capacities. When I returned home, I put the album in my car, and knew my second favorite was "The Spiderbite Song".

The album was still in my car as I drove to the Olathe airport to board a small jet to Garden City. I was still afraid of dying at that time, and I was pretty certain that our plane would go down. There was a priest on board - he's half-doctor, half-priest, and gave a powerpoint presentation like the rest of us passengers - and I called dibs on last rites. He thought I was kidding, but I wasn't.

I met Raegan on that flight - she sat kitty-corner from me on the jet, and she held my undivided attention until I finally noticed her wedding ring. Weeks later, on the night The Flaming Lips were set to play at the Wakarusa festival in Lawrence, I went to Raegan's house in Kansas City for a barbeque. I was thankful to get out of my hippie-infiltrated city -- I would have loved to see the Lips live, but I refused to associate with the mass of unwashed humanity that would also be attending.

There was a boom box outside Raegan's house during the party. It played their new album, "At War with the Mystics", which Shawn had copied for me a few weeks prior. I disliked most all of it, save for the opening track. It was on repeat, though at low volume, for the entire evening. We played badminton. It hailed. No damage.

4. Neko Case - Star Witness

I wanted to hear this song BADLY when I woke up to leave for D.C. I got on the turnpike, headed east toward the airport, and slid the CD into my car's player. Error. I tried again. Error. I was pissed.

This is my favorite song that was released in 2006.

5. Spoon - They Never Got You

I saw Spoon perform this at Day on the Hill, but before that, it played during a marathon poker game among Chris, Gavin, Bobby, and myself. When the CD changer was cashed, we watched the Synchronicity DVD, and still had time to view the Rattle and Hum DVD.

6. Franz Ferdinand - Eleanor Put Your Boots On

This CD was one of those stolen from my car early in 2006, and this song was the one I missed hearing the most. It played in my head for the majority of my Chicago trip, because Kim wore boots. And because we all shared a room, I witnessed Kim put her boots on.

7. Tapes 'n Tapes - Insistor

Long story short, my ex-girlfriend's friend was their bassist. Then I listened to their album, and I liked it, and I was excited that I knew somebody in an up-and-coming band. Then they got a new bassist. Oh well.

8. Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins - Rise Up With Fists!

This album made me deliriously happy in 2006.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeah's - Gold Lion

"Gold Lion" was among the few likeable songs I heard on the radio this year, and I finally bought the Yeah Yeah Yeah's album after I heard the second single, "Cheated Hearts", on the radio. Other solid radio songs in '06: the Pearl Jam single, the Raconteur's "Steady as She Goes", and MAYBE one Angels and Airwaves song. Maybe. I am willing to admit that this is a function of KC-area terrestrial radio, rather than radio at large.

If you don't like this song, you're not listening to it loud enough. Turn that shit up!

10. Modest Mouse - Perfect Disguise

A little too much free wine in the hotel lobby. More wine during dinner at the restaurant. Looking out the cab window, watching the lights of Atlanta pass by.

11. Middle Distance Runner - Naturally

Serpentine and V took me to see Middle Distance Runner on my first night in DC -- not because the band was spectacular, but because the opening band invited V via MySpace. OMG! ROTFLMAO!!

I befriended a woman at the bar who claimed she didn't want to drink, but then ordered a chardonnay AND a club soda, mixed them together, and tossed it back. Turns out she was the wife of one of the band members, and she invited me to stop by the merchandise table. When I went, she wasn't there, but I picked up a demo CD. To my surprise, I liked it far better than their live show, which earned only a shrug from Serpentine and I.

12. Prototypes - Danse sur la Merde

I Google-translated the title one day at work, and tried to hide my browser the second "Dance on the shit" appeared. If I knew what this song was about, would I like it more, or less?

"Danse" was featured on my OKC Wedding Road Trip CD, and Matt took to it immediately, cranking the volume in the Corolla. Many times over.

13. Sleater-Kinney - Modern Girl

I bought this album used. Jeff had put a track on his '05 mix, and I was confident it would deliver the goods. This CD rocked my shit -- it's now my preferred "I'm driving and I'd rather not fall asleep" album. It also happened to be my, "Let's drive to SAS training in Overland Park 3 days in a row" album.

Anyway, I woke up one day and this song was in my head.

14. Fleetwood Mac - I Don't Want to Know

Chuck Klosterman discussed this song in "Killing Yourself to Live", which Corinne gave me for my birthday. He talks about the opening chords, and how you can hear a guitar string being scraped as fingers move down the guitar. I read this and forgot it until one fateful day, when the song began as I drove from the lab to the office.

15. Rilo Kiley - Ripchord

This would have been the song in my head as I drowned at sea, were it not for Nathan's rescue. I'm sure it popped in because "ripcord" is similar to "riptide", which is what carried me away from the shore. (And how awesome would it be to die with the lyric "and you're sleeping again alone, 'cuz nobody loves you" in your head? Good times.)

16. Tilly and the Wall - The Freest Man

This song was played during the air conditioning-less set at The Bottleneck. I said this vocalist looked like Becky Conner from television's "Roseanne", but everyone else disagreed.

17. Fiery Furnaces - Benton Harbor Blues (bonus track version)

I was all set not to buy the new Fiery Furnaces album, but after I downloaded this song I couldn't stay away. Fun fact: it's assumed that "Eleanor Put Your Boots On" was written about the Fiery Furnaces' female vocalist, Eleanor Friedberger.

18. Gary Jules - Mad World

19. Tears for Fears - Mad World

I was aware of the cover version back in '05, when I watched "Donnie Darko" for the first time at Shawn's place. (I was less than impressed with the film, by the by. As Jack Serpentine would say, "I can't believe the indie community lied to me.") These mp3s were up for grabs in '06, and hence put into heavy rotation. I kept looking for the Tears for Fears version at karaoke bars, but no dice. The Gary Jules version is now being used in a commercial for a video game.

20. Of Montreal - Wraith Pinned to the Mist (and other games)

Adrienne made a CD for the road trip to Minneapolis/IKEA that Corinne and I took in January. That's where Corinne found this song -- she had to play it at least 10 times. Jesus. But then again, it was a good change of pace from the 5 disc audiobook we listened to: Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation". Of Montreal sold this song to Outback Steakhouse, and the music is now used in their commercials.

21. Dave "Diamond" Damm - Cherry Cherry

I went to several good concerts this year, but I was most excited to see my friend Dave play the hits of Neil Diamond in May '06. I walked around the house shouting "CHERRY CHERRY!" all day. We ate cheesesteaks in the evening, and arrived at the Jazzhaus before the band began to set up. I got kind of drunk. I danced like a moron. It was a good night. I hope to do it all again this Saturday night.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Winter Warning Redux

Floyd and I went to Henry's Upstairs last night (and hit on undergrads -- we've still got it! ...kind of). It was the first time we've attended since the cold snap; as a result it was our first look at this winter's fashions: scarves, scarves, and more scarves. Man or woman, grad or undergrad -- if it had a neck, it wore a scarf.

It's important for two reasons. One, I was looking to purchase a scarf this winter, a move which may now be interpreted as bandwagoning.

Two, scarves are deceiving. As I wrote last December:
I saw a woman from a distance today and thought, "Oh, she's pretty cute." Then I realized that she was almost entirely hidden beneath winter clothes. Heads up out there, people - winter fogs the senses. Something as simple as a scarf can make a girl 15% more attractive. Add a cap with a fluffy ball on top, add 5%. Adjust accordingly.
Kim chimed in with a cautionary tale for the ladies:
i could not agree more ... i recently saw a man with a ski cap on in a bar and thought, similarly, "oh, he's cute" ... (yes it's weird and yes normally i would have wondered why his head was so cold inside a warm bar, but i'd had a few ... and so my judgement was off 5% to start with)... anyway a few minutes later i found myself chatting with said gentleman, and soon i found myself harassing him about why he needed a hat in a warm bar and encouraged said gentleman to remove the cap. then suddenly "oh, he's not cute at all". fuzzy ball or no, some guys can get the same 5% from a ski cap ... thank goodness he wasn't wearing a scarf or i could have been in a lot of trouble :)
You've been warned.