Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mount Rushsmore

Everyone knows that my favorite text on a movie prop is the footnote on Max Fischer's "Heaven and Hell" invitation that reads "Casual dress, refreshments, etc." But what are my five favorite "Rushmore" quotes?

“Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich, and you're going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs. And take them down.”
--Herman Blume

Get some rootbeers for anybody who wants one. I don't want one. OK. Next scene. Frank, you enter stage right with a bag of cocaine.
--Max at “Serpico” rehearsal

You're supposed to say, "Forget about it, Sanchez - the old man likes his cannoli --"
--Max, upset with a student who forgot a line in “Serpico”

These are glorious. Let me put them in some water.
--Mrs. Guggenheim, after Max presents a pitiful bouquet of flowers

Make sure these don't get wet.
--Max, casually handing dynamite over to Dirk

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Life In Song: Nirvana - Nevermind

This is part three of a very slowly continuing series.

Certain songs remind us or certain memories. These are my associated memories for Nirvana's seminal "Nevermind" album. I obtained "Nevermind" through the ubiquitous but technically illegal process of "dubbing" -- cassette to cassette copying -- my brother's purchased copy.

1.> Smells Like Teen Spirit

My home didn't have cable TV, so I don't associate this song with a grunge pep rally. I think of sharing the back seat of my mom's car with fellow seventh-grader and best friend Chris. We were on the way to the Odyssey of the Mind tournament. Chris quoted the a short phrase from the song, "a mosquito", while making creepy hand gestures. He said nothing of the lyric that followed, "my libido", because we had no idea what that meant. (See: Odyssey of the Mind tournament, the weekend activity we became involved in through our school's gifted program.)

2.> In Bloom

Eighth grade. The school bus that took us home from a road basketball game was equipped with a tape deck, an unheard of upgrade over the standard AM/FM radio. After wasting this accessory for the majority of the trip, I was allowed to insert a cassette. Maybe "In Bloom" sticks out because it was the only song we heard before the ride ended, and maybe not, but I do know this: that was the first bus ride on which newly officially recognized couple Jarod E (8th grade) and Angie M (7th grade) sat next to each other.

This song's opening lines became the basis for a joke of my friend Jeff S, which went something like:
"Hey, Jeff! How's it going?"
"Ah, not to good, I had to sell the kids for food again..."
Jeff was in the seventh grade.

3.> Come As You Are

I don't associate this song with any youth event. The only thing it envokes is the billboard outside of Aberdeen, Washington, the home of Kurt Cobain, that encourages visitors to "Come As You Are". Which is lame? Neat? I don't even know anymore.

4. Breed

The 1992 Elite Eight pitted Christian Laettner's Duke Blue Devils against Jamal "Monster Mash" Mashburn's Kentucky Wildcats. Sitting on my grandparents' living room couch, I had "Breed" in my head as I rooted for the upset in what would become the greatest NCAA tournament game ever played. I thought my brain was misremembering the lyrics, and later found I was correct in humming "We can plant a house / we can build a tree" rather than the more logical, less whimsical alternative. Duke won in overtime, thanks to an improbable shot from incredible pussy Laettener, who finished the game perfect from the field as well as the free throw line. Two years later, Cobain killed himself. Coincidence? Or another damning clue that the Seattle police refuse to investigate?

5.> Lithium

I owned a live CD with a killer version of "Lithium", but it was stolen when my house got broken into. Fifteen years later, I could probably find it online. I'm going to look into that.

6.> Polly

Before we drove to compete in Odyssey of the Mind, we had to build our setpiece, a mousetrap-like contraption wherein one event triggered the next. The final phase of construction took place at Keith's house, because his dad had an large, unattached workshed. Despite our parental supervision, JJ had us listening to "Polly wants a cracker / I think I should get off her first". JJ was also responsible for playing Guns N' Roses profanity-laden "Get in the Ring" during a separate after-school project for the gifted program. Smart, athletic, rebellious -- needless to say, JJ was a hit with the ladies.

7.> Territorial Pissings


8.> Drain You

As I've mentioned...
I listened to [Nevermind], particularly Drain You, over and over again on the ride home from a field trip - the first and only field trip we ever took out of the state, to a cave and a salt flat in Oklahoma; I was in the seventh grade, and I was wearing sunglasses. The tinted lenses allowed me to stare at the girl I had a crush on with zero repercussions -- she would look at me a few times, but I just kept looking straight ahead at her, confident that my hideous yet effective sunglasses would shield my obsession.

9.> Lounge Act


10.> Stay Away

Pay attention, because this sums up everything you need to know about my relationship with "Nevermind". In environments that prevented me from listening to a personal cassette player -- such as time spent mowing lawns -- I passed the time by playing "Nevermind" in my head, nonstop, front to back. I have a tangible (not literally, of course, but in the parlance of our times) memory of mowing the eastern side of my driveway, just south of the large pine tree, "listening" to the introductory drumbeat of "Stay Away". Related: circling the maple tree in the middle of the yard with Metallica's "Unforgiven" in my head.

11.> On a Plain

Not much. "Love myself better than you" probably seemed a more impressive lyric to me as a teenager than today, and that's even before I saw it as a sexual reference.

12.> Something in the Way

One school night in 1993 or 1994, there was a fundraiser in the auditorium that amounted to an open mike night -- sparsely attended by the group of seniors that developed it and those seniors' younger siblings that tagged along. One male student sang The Lemonheads' "Being Around" solo, unable to find Dan V., his would-be duet partner. Shawn happened to be there, too, with his acoustic guitar that he was learning to play, and we decided it would be a good idea to perform "Something in the Way" -- a perfect choice for budding performers, as it was easy to strum and easy to sing. We rehearsed briefly in the commons before taking the stage, and made it through a verse before my brother walked toward the stage and said, "We're leaving". He wasn't kidding. I hopped off the stage and followed him to the car. I assume the song stopped behind me, or maybe Shawn (and Keith? He may have been up there, too) finished it. Either way, dick move by my bro, who pulled the same stunt at the big, free Collective Soul concert that year. (Making me leave early, not pulling me off stage. Collective Soul and I were close, but not that close.)

Thus ends Nirvana week on Tornado Slide.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Archives: Personal Nirvana

A Tornado Slide first: I am reprinting an archived post.

In New York, my young friend Dave pondered if anyone could have really cared about Nirvana. He was being serious. Taken aback, I informed him that Nirvana was my first favorite band (because really, who would have risen to that position prior to Nirvana? Firehouse? The Arc Angels?), and my favorite band of all time.

Dave can't comprehend what that music meant to those who lived through it. Hopefully, this hastily-written memoir will enlighten him. It is reprinted without edits -- the only change is the addition of the "Seasons in the Sun" performance that inspired it all. (It was missing from the original post because we couldn't find junk on YouTube back in 2005. Thanks, progress.)

* * *

Saturday, January 08, 2005
We Had Joy, We Had Fun, We Had Nirvana

I spent the majority of Wednesday (my snow day) pouring over the contents of the Nirvana box set, With the Lights Out. I read the full color booklet, listened to some of disc 3 (In Utero demos with alternate lyrics!!) while cooking dinner, and watched the DVD. The DVD features a lot of rocking out in Krist's mom's house, some live performances, and a few early videos. The DVD is essentially the fourth and final disc of the box set, and ends with a Nirvana cover of Seasons in the Sun -- studio footage with Kurt on drums, Dave on the bass, and Krist on guitar.

The reason I started this post was to convey their recording of Seasons in the Sun, but after staring at the screen for a few minutes and browsing through the Nirvana Fan Club site for another 30, I still have no idea how to explain it. The three of them are just fucking around, Kurt casually singing, casually altering lyrics, behind the drumset, Krist and Dave looking back at him (when Krist isn't looking down at his axe, struggling to play the notes in order) -- just a perfect, throwaway, early-nineties moment in a tiny room, imperfectly playing a sweet, wistful, seventies hit.
Goodbye Papa please pray for me
I was the black sheep of the family

This post is not going well. How can it? I can't possibly explain it. I can't possibly explain exactly why I spent the majority of the day -- up to the moment I fell asleep -- thinking "I miss Nirvana". You can't know how much I liked Nirvana, and I can't know why I liked Nirvana so much.

A framed picture of a rubber duck hangs between the two surround sound speakers on my back wall. Prior to that, it was stuffed into my files. Prior to that, it was taped to the inside of my high school locker. Prior to that, it was artwork within the liner notes of Incesticide.

I have no idea what struck me before Nevermind, but after I dubbed by brother's copy, that was it. My tape was clear, with some yellow on it, Memorex, 90 minutes. It belonged to my walkmanesque Memorex personal cassette player. I listened to it every day on the bus, to and from school. I listened to it, particularly Drain You, over and over again on the ride home from a field trip - the first and only field trip we ever took out of the state, to a cave and a salt flat in Oklahoma; I was in the seventh grade, and I was wearing sunglasses. The tinted lenses allowed me to stare at the girl I had a crush on with zero repercussions -- she would look at me a few times, but I just kept looking straight ahead at her, confident that my hideous yet effective sunglasses would shield my obsession.
In a passionate kiss
From my mouth to yours
Sloppy lips to lips
You're my vitamins
I'm like you
(Except that, in my youth, my dubbed tape with no liner notes -- not that it really matters, even the liner notes didn't have all the lyrics -- I thought the last part was "I like you".)

I listened to it on the tractor -- I was on the 80 acres surrounding my home, and I remember Mrs. Mies waving as the bus drove by, so it must have been one of the days I was kept home from school so I could help plant wheat, which makes sense because then I would have been on the smaller tractor, the one that makes less noise because it's not as big as the 1066. The larger tractor was so loud that it was pointless to wear headphones; even at the highest volume you could barely hear what song was playing, and I suspected that listening to headphones at their highest volume was likely bad for my hearing (although that didn't seem to stop my father from ordering me to work on the loudest tractor in the world). So, I must of been on the 686, and I know I was listening to Bleach, because I the memory is connected to Love Buzz. I learned from my new box set that Love Buzz was actually a cover song -- Shocking Blue, a band from the Netherlands of all places, wrote it -- and part of my youth was a white lie.

In Utero was released when I was a freshman in high school; coincidentally, I bought it on the same day that I borrowed a Blind Melon album from Danelle. In those days I rode shotgun in my brother's '79 Cutlass -- those familiar with the Oldsmobile line will recall that particular model did not feature a CD player, so we had to wait to get home until we listened to it. I put in the Blind Melon album when my brother wasn't looking and pressed play. "It sounds like Blind Melon," he said. Then we switched to the real deal; after hearing Rape Me, he brought the other stereo upstairs so he could play Smells Like Teen Spirit at the same time as Rape Me, to prove to me and to himself that it was the same riff at different speeds.

A bootlegged live album was taken when my house was robbed. I called the store I bought CDs from to ask if it had been sold to them that day. It had not. She explained that they would need a case number from the police -- that's how this sort of thing usually works. I looked around to see what else had been stolen.

Kurt died at some point due to a shotgun blast. (I have always opted against renting the movies and reading the books that debate murder versus suicide. In the end, it matters, but it doesn't matter.) Where was I? I don't remember. For me, his death was cemented the next morning at Shawn's locker; Simmons was there, too. Shawn and I had once made a little dance routine to Son of a Gun.
The sun shines in the bedroom
When we play
The raining always starts
When you go away
Joe was on my baseball team around that time, so I guess he died in Spring (a Google search confirms it was April). (I believe this must also have been the season that Joe hit three dingers in one game, and accepted an intentional walk later in the season when we face that team again. The three home run game by Joe remains the most inexplicable display of power I have ever seen, and will hold that slot until I witness one of those grandmother-overcome-with-adrenaline-lifts-car-to-save-the-baby-underneath events, and that intentional walk had to be the greatest and strangest feeling Joe G. had ever felt and has felt since.) I told him a kid at my school had killed himself, and he asked if it was because Kurt did. He said there were kids across the country committing suicide just because Cobain died. He thought it was unbelievable. I did not.

My heart-shaped box set adventure was Wednesday - on Thursday, the memories of junior high were put on hold, back to work. I picked up the two women in my carpool and drove us to our cubicles. But it was okay, because In Utero was playing on my car stereo, 30% louder than I had any right to subject my passengers to.
Ecto-plasma, Ecto-skeletal
Obituary every birthday
Your scent is still here in my place of recovery!


Anonymous said...

Man, you are in the wrong line of work. I demand that you become a writer before you waste away on a phone in a cubicle somewhere, trying to explain to people that they will not get West Nile from hookers.

I remember I was at school when I heard of Kurt's death. I was in 12th grade--I think it was technically after school (the line between class time and free time became blurred by spring of senior year), and I was putzing around in a classroom with some friends waiting for baseball practice. It was a teacher who told me (this probably sounds strange, but this was the same teacher who taught us how to make homemade beer, showed us that we could drink hydrochloric acid if it was diluted, and eventually got fired for giving students makeshift tattoos). I fell speechless. I think the early 90's grunge/alternative scene had as big an effect on me as anything I've ever encountered musically and stylistically. This probably explains my lasting fondness for dissonance, flannel and heroin.

I feel cheated by Kurt's death, whether it was suicide or murder.

Is it better to burn out or to fade away? [-jeff.]

dn said...

Let you forget Kurt's (alleged) suicide note, "I don't have the passion anymore and so remember, its better to burn out than to fade away."

Thanks for the compliment re: my writing, but I think there's some work to be done before I am a novelist. In the meantime, I will save lives.

Anonymous said...

on new year's eve, i went to a party-type thing at a really nice hotel in cleveland with some friends. more than half the crowd was in tuxedos, so it's safe to say that we were out of place. in one of the rooms, there was a casino set up. so, we were playing at a craps table when i heard some guy behind me say "i would never waste money on the nirvana box set." as if it were a reflex, i immediately turned and said "that's the dumbest fuc*in' comment i've heard all night." as you can imagine, i received some strange looks from a crowd whose average age was ~40. but, i felt it had to be said. kurt cobain and layne staley/jerry cantrell defined a 4-5 year period of my youth, and i'll be damned if i'm going to let some tux-wearing, mini-cooper-driving moron tarnish that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lust For Lifetime

When I first saw the commercials for "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist", I recognized one of the actresses, but couldn't place her. IMDB revealed that she was naked in "Broken Flowers", but that wasn't the movie I was thinking of. Turns out I remembered her from "She's Too Young" (Tagline: "To fit in, you've gotta put out."), a Lifetime Original Movie (starring Marcia Gay Harden!). An outbreak of syphilis forces students and parents to examine why kids shouldn't bone all willy-nilly. There was a scene where the school nurse mistakenly calls syphilis a virus. Great flick.

That Lifetime DVD cover image is pretty small, so here's the nude scene. You know, just so you know what actress I'm talking about.

Alexis Dziena in Broken Flowers - Funny bloopers are a click away

Anyways, this week, I bit on the trailer for "Twilight", the upcoming smash based on novels about teenage vampires that aren't really teens, but look like teens, and they're pale and gross, but terrified looking chicks want to bone them anyway.

Twilight HD Exclusive Trailer

Deja vu, kids -- where did I recognize that actress from? Why, "Speak", of course! "Speak" was another Lifetime movie (starring Steve Zahn! As the understanding, hip art teacher!), much less hilarious than the aforementioned film, because it was about non-consensual sex that didn't result in syphilis.

Finally, let me again point to Videogum.com's brilliant summation of the Twilight trailer. ("Again" because I've already pointed to it via my shared items site, which you should have bookmarked by now.)
...if you're like me, you don't entirely understand the Twilight phenomenon. In fact, you might not care about it at all. Here are a few reasons why.

1. You are an adult.

I think that's mostly it. Although that reason breaks down into some more specific sub-reasons.

1. As an adult, you recognize that vampires do not exist. At all. Not like 'they probably don't exist, but I'm still keeping garlic in my locker because I'm going to be a junior next year.'

2. As an adult, you are interested in adult relationships between human beings that have meaning and resonance in your own life and are not based on mythical creatures that can stop mini-vans with their bare hands and make you stand up in some tree after barely escaping the ragball game with your life.

3. As an adult, you understand the realities of sexual intercourse, and as such you find metaphors about the power and tension and adultness of sexual intercourse to have very little to do with the actual act and sometimes those metaphors make you embarrassed for the things you used to think and feel when you thought about sex but didn't really know what you were thinking about.

4. As an adult, you are unaware of Twilight because Twilight is a book for children, and maybe you finally caved in on the whole Harry Potter thing but at this point it's getting ridiculous and maybe it's time for adults to start reading books written for adults again, like, hey, Bob Woodward and Thomas Friedman both have new books out about the inner workings of our government and the ecological ramifications of our global economy that are way scarier than some pubescent vampire who's waited 400 years to kiss some mousy girl up in some tree after barely escaping the ragball game with their lives (and unlives).

Probably. Those are just guesses as to why you might not care about Twilight.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jesus, Resurrected

Another trip to the antique mall with Kim, another impossibly odd painting of Jesus captured with my cell phone.

Jesus is giving you that look. You don't want to drive him all the way across town to the mall (so he can hang at the arcade with Josh, and maybe -- hopefully! -- run into Melissa Sandstrom and her girlfriends at the fountain outside of Hot Topic), but he's a good kid and he DID finish his math homework, so what's a parent to do? "Okay, Jesus, grab your coat and get in the Camry."

You made the right move, Dad.

Jesus earned his leisure time. Plus, you know, he'll be dead by 33, so fuck it. LIVE FOR TODAY, JESUS!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

New York, Embedded, Kind Of

Ugh. Technology, guys. So many different things going on. Do I upload New York City photos to Facebook or to Flickr? Both? Okay. The people are here on Facebook, and the landmarks are here on Flickr. Both.

I don't know what to say about the trip. My scheduled events did not disappoint. The Upright Citizens Brigade ASSSSCAT improv -- featuring Horatio Sanz, Rob Riggle, and Bobby Moynihan, among others -- was riotously funny. The $10 entry fee is absurdly cheap for an hour and a half of top shelf absurdity: uber-heterosexual males auditioning for "Grease", Jews at a Christmas party, two strangers meeting at a urinal and discovering they have similar-looking penises ("Is this the guy you were talking about? Okay, I've got to go, but I still wanna see your dick later, alright?"). Superb, and cheaper than a movie. If you're curious what it's like, here's a video I have not yet watched:

The Fleet Foxes concert was nice, and surprisingly gorgeous -- I thought they were more of a studio band. I took a photo, but there are better ones around.

Seeing Conan O'Brien was surreal. When I watched the show air a few hours later, I noticed it wasn't all that great, but that didn't really matter. What mattered is that I got into the studio to see the show (and the man) that has influenced my sense of humor (read: from whom I have stolen the most quotes) more than any except The Simpsons. (Or you could consider it a wash, since he wrote for The Simpsons.)

Here are the best bits, or you can watch the entire show:

Also, I had a marvelous time with my hosts, who subscribe to VH1 Classic, which allowed me to see Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' For You" video. I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be ridiculous, but MISSION FAILED. Please promise me you'll watch this until the end. No? Then promise you'll watch to the 3:25 mark. PROMISE.