Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Recap - Netflix

This is a list of all the movies and TV shows I watched courtesy of Netflix, that soothing opiate of the people that massages our eyes as we waste our lives.

This list (in reverse chronological order, excluding films that were released in 2009) contains a few sentences regarding each program. As you can imagine, it took a bit of time to compile. If you could let me know if this kind of thing is useful or appreciated, it will help me guide Tornado Slide into the future.

I thought I had seen Robocop. After all, Grandpa bought us grandkids the sucktastic NES video game. Look at this dumb game! You punch motorcycles and shoot dogs!

Either I was too young to remember this masterpiece of cinema, or I blocked its greatness from my mind. This movie is great! It's like Idiocracy/WALL-E crossed with Roadhouse crossed with Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. If it wasn't full of curse words and gratuitous breast shots, it would be on cable every weekend, and every weekend would be a party. This is not sarcasm: rent Robocop!

Sexy Beast
Please do not watch this modern London gangster movie. Check out a couple clips of Ben Kingsley acting up a storm and call it a day.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I wanted to remember how far we've come from the original Star Trek films to the 2009 reboot. How far? Well, for one, we don't put Kirstie Alley in them anymore. The special effects are much improved, of course. The spaceship battles are no longer boring. I could go on. But Khan is okay.

Hitchcock movie where Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman spy on Nazis living in South America. After the first 20 minutes or so I thought I was in trouble, but the movie improved significantly as it went forward. Very good stuff. For the Minority Report superfans out there, watch for the scene that inspired the framing of the Tom Cruise/precog embrace.

A watchable Hitchcock movie about a wrongly-accused man trying to clear his name. There is too much overt war-era patriotism, and many characters help the accused for no good reason.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
I read the plot synopsis of the remake, and I'm so glad I watched the original 1970s film instead. The best thing about the original is the swinging '70s action movie music, Walter Matthau, and lack of John Travolta.

The Mighty Boosh: Season 1
Like, uh, a British "Flight of the Conchords"? Set in a zoo? About 15 minutes in, you'll know if you like it or not. I don't.

Sunshine Cleaning
Amy Adams and Emily Blunt clean crime scenes. A neat idea and a good cast, but it's forgettable.

Charley Varrick
I watched this because of a Patton Oswalt recommendation: "The first one that came together was the Walter Matthau double feature [The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three and Charley Varrick]. Those are two of the best action/suspense movies of the '70s, and the fact that Walter Matthau is the John McClane character—I mean, that's how great movies were in the '70s: Walter Matthau was your badass action hero. Who's gonna save the world? Oh, Matthau. The guy who's hungover and kind of slouching in a really cheap suit and eating a hot dog. That guy. I love it." Walter Matthau is this small-time bankrobber, but by the end of the movie he's basically James Bond. The best part, though, is a scene where the bad guy repossesses a guy's car, punches the guy, and the camera pans over to the guy's son watching through the living room window, silently crying. The movie never revisits the guy or his son. I'm beginning to think there was a lot of cocaine abuse in Hollywood in the 1970s.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
A classic I'd never seen. I love the over-the-top Capra patriotism, even if it's hokey and unbelievable. Am I really to believe that some political machine thugs could turn a fire hose on a group of boy scouts -- in the middle of town in the middle of the day -- and there would be no fallout? The town is just like, "Boys will be boys hosing down boys! La la la! There is probably no reason to look into this!"

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Humphrey Bogart and some dudes decide to mine some gold, so they do, but problems arise. Featuring the worst beard ever captured on film (Bogart's). Okay, but probably not worth the running time.

Role Models
This is obviously great. I saw it in theaters and wanted a refresher.

Midnight Run
Robert DeNiro tracks down Charles Grodin. An excellent movie to explain why the hell Charles Grodin keeps popping up to be interviewed on Letterman. Really funny, actually, for an '80s action comedy.

The Man Who Would Be King
Michael Caine and Sean Connery take over India or somewhere. Kinda fun. Why don't they show movies like this on cable now and then, instead of "National Treasure" over and over again?

Eastbound and Down: Season 1
Danny McBride is funny, duh, as Kenny Powers. I also like Andy Daly as the high school principal. I recommend listening to this podcast interview of Daly, which features some of his comedy CD bits. If you purchase "Sing-a-long with Skip McCabe", you won't regret it.

The Larry Sanders Show: Season 1: Disc 1
The '90s were a strange time. I might get the best-of DVDs of this show, but I certainly don't need to watch every season.

In a Lonely Place
Humphrey Bogart is a writer who has to convince his lady that he didn't murder another lady. Kind of dumb, and there aren't any characters to root for. I'm all like, "Maybe you didn't kill that lady, but you should kill this lady! And yourself!"

Tell No One
A French mystery thriller about a man who receives an email from his murdered wife. Good if you like that genre and subtitles.

Spaced: The Complete Series
Matt implored me to watch this for well over a year now, but the proper DVDs weren't released until 2009. Matt was correct, it is really, really, really funny! And like many BBC TV shows, it's only a couple of seasons long, so you can finish it in a lazy weekend.

Tom Petty: Runnin' Down a Dream
Four hours or so of Petty-related interviews and concert footage and whatnot. Recommended if you like: Tom Petty or The Heartbreakers. Or Mudcrutch.

American Dream
An Oscar-winning documentary I watched at Tom Arnold's suggestion via the Adam Carolla podcast. Weird, huh? Anyway, there was a big strike at a Hormel plant in Minnesota that lasted a really long time. The business was predictably heavy-handed and the worker's union was insanely incompetent, and after 10 months, over 700 people lost their jobs! Watching this will make your stomach hurt, and if you then start to think about all the production jobs that used to belong to working-class families that are now fought over by desperate people, your brain will also hurt.

Party Down: Season 1
A very funny TV show that airs on Starz for some reason. Catering company hijinks. Highly recommended.

Paper Moon
The Depression! Kansas! Con men! This is the best movie I watched all year, which I previously urged you to rent. Try to forget the Ryan O'Neal / Farrah Fawcett situation and enjoy.

The Searchers
John Wayne hates Indians, or "Comanch" as he calls them, because they took his beloved niece during a raid. Not enough killing in this Western, and the comedy tacked on is INSANE. You tacked on a "funny" marriage subplot to this film about a girl being kidnapped by Indians! She was forced to live among them for years and years! Sometimes I think Hollywood is out of touch.

This movie is so full of doubt! I have no doubt it is an amazing play, but the film is not great.

Ricky Gervais: Out of England
Ricky comes with high expectations, and this was only okay.

Dana Gould: Let Me Put my Thoughts in You
My favorite joke from this stand-up. "My whole approach to marriage is simple: my wife will do something that drives me insane, I won't say anything, and then, later, I'll die of cancer."

Raging Bull
I have Netflix so I can watch movies like "Raging Bull", which I'd never seen, but is acclaimed as one of the all-time greats. I didn't love it. I suppose anyone from my generation and beyond won't ever appreciate boxing movies, and I suppose that's why no one went to see "Cinderella Man".

The Verdict
Paul Newman is an alcoholic lawyer. For a David Mamet script, it was pretty low-key, but it's nice to see a courtroom drama that is somewhat believable instead of "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH"-type malarkey.

People have said it's got the same plot as "Idiocracy", and they're correct. I spent the whole time thinking about SkyNet reaching self-awareness and saying, "Man, he really wants to fuck that lady robot!"

Rachel Getting Married
Well acted. Solid. But if I ever go to a multicultural wedding like this, I'll have to get insanely drunk to withstand it.

Let the Right One In
This Swedish vampire movie will get an American remake, which could be bad. The original's slow character development and cinematography are its strong points (the climatic swimming pool scene is amazing), and I assume the American version will be sped up.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
A pretty pleasant little comedy. Its brevity works in its favor.

Bringing Up Baby
Professor Cary Grant is pursued by Manic Pixie Dream Girl Katharine Hepburn. Zany in a really, really good way (not like a Cannonball Run way). Highly recommended

Adam's Rib
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy are married, and they go up against each other in court. It's supposed to be a comedy, but the jokes about spousal abuse and infidelity must have been funnier back in the black-and-white era. Now they're really confusing.

The Wackness
New York kid likes early 90's hip hop and selling pot to his therapist, Ben Kingsley. One of those movies that you like, but can't recommend, because some people will hate it.

The Visitor
Richard Jenkins gets involved with illegal immigrants. I watched it because of his Best Actor nomination. He is good, the movie is not good enough.

The Promotion
Two normal guys compete for the same supermarket job. John C Reilly continues to be The Best. I've already mentioned my love for it, comparing it to "Election".

Ace in the Hole
1950's journalist Kirk Douglas instigates a media circus. Okay, but a little heavy-handed and preachy.

The Asphalt Jungle
1950's heist movie. Recommended if you like either of those adjectives, but don't expect it to blow you away.

Ghost Town
Ricky Gervais is an asshole dentist. It made me laugh many times. It's better than "Ghost", which I re-watched in '09, and "Ghost Dad", which I've never seen but I confidently assume it sucks.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mega Beers And Mega Cheers

Jack Serpentine, Circle V, and I grabbed some mega beers in small town Kansas last night.

Four dollars per mega beer and all the second-hand smoke you can inhale. That's what small town living is all about.

Here's what Christmas (Eve) is all about -- my brother and I receiving some toys from the attic as part of our gifts. (Not "Toys in the Attic", which would have ruined Christmas.) I grabbed a few old favorites and hit record:

Christmas on Dagobah from chester reboulet on Vimeo.

That was completely improvised, so please spare me your corrections. I KNOW Dagobah is a planet, not a moon. EMOTIONS WERE CLOUDING MY BRAIN FUNCTION.

Fun fact: that Dinobot Transformer was purchased at a garage sale. Your loss is my awesome gain, stupid west Wichita kid who is now a depressed adult somewhere!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Potpourri Times Three


Please note you can now stream most of the songs in my previous post.

Tonight we ate at a new restaurant downtown. An old couple sat at the table to our right. I heard the woman say, "I fear Mary is going to make a ham."

Driving home yesterday, I saw a minivan with a personalized license plate: SCATCAT. Again, that was yesterday, Friday, December 18, 2009, AD, anno domini, when I sighted an auto accessory that costs a significant amount of money, yet touts a cartoon MC last seen in 1991 Paul Abdul video.

(Yes, I am aware that his name was really spelled MC Skat Kat. But is the driver aware?)

Earlier this week I got this message:
Hi, [redacted], it's [redacted], calling from [redacted]. I think I promised to send this to you before, but I have a completed form that has some updates on a report you sent us about a month ago, and it's from [redacted], so I'd like to send you that case with the updates we've received, and I didn't know if you'd like to me to fax that or if you'd like me to send it to an email account. Could you just let me know what you'd like and I'll get that to you? My number is [redacted], and if you don't get a live voice, if you wouldn't mind leaving your preferred method of sending this and the email address or the fax number to which you'd like us to fax if you choose to fax. Thanks, bye.
Hey, thanks, but I already know how voicemail works.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Soundtrack

[NOTE: Readers expecting or desiring a copy should say so by leaving a comment below.]

This year-end CD used to be bound by many rules, but I abandoned those last year so I could focus on LIVING MY LIFE. And live I did! And while I lived, I listened to a lot of music! According to my "2009 downloads" folder, I've kept over 300 new-to-me songs. Here are 23 of my favorites (not exceeding the storage limit of an 80-minute CD), sequenced in an order scientifically proven most pleasing to your ears.

1 - M Ward - Helicopter

I've been trying to take a different approach to finding new music. I can't stream music while at work, where I do the majority of my listening, so I have to download files at home, then bring them to the cubicle for evaluation. As you could imagine, because imagining things is easy, this method results in a lot of so-so songs from up-and-coming artists. Instead of trying to keep up with what's new, I've tried to pick out a few established artists I've previously ignored, and explore their discography. I expanded my M Ward knowledge in 2009, so much so that I spend much of my time wishing I was M Ward. I associate this song with New York City, for no good reason besides the "climbing up a fire escape" lyric. New Yorkers: embrace your new soundtrack for no good reason!

2 - The Magnetic Fields - Born on a Train

Something about deep-toned vocalists turns me off, so I haven't found many Magnetic Fields songs I like. I love this one. I listened to this more than any other song this year. Every bit of instrumentation is perfect.

3, 4 - An Horse - Camp Out

Gav suggested this song and band. We went to see them play a sparsely-attended Tuesday night show, and got to say hi to Kate and ask her about the Hole catalog. More on that in a later post. I love the Australian pronunciation of "last year" in the second verse.

5 - Credence Clearwater Revival - Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

This has always been my favorite CCR song. This is a remastered version. If you like CCR, I highly recommend you seek out the remastered songs. Listen to the bass on this motherfucker! It's like an old AM radio transformed into a pleasure robot!

6 - Franz Ferdinand - Ulysses

I don't know what to say about this one. Listen to the bass on THIS motherfucker?!

7 - Echo & The Bunnymen - Lips Like Sugar

If you aren't listening to this through good headphones or a loud stereo, you might think it sucks. The chorus maybe sucks, but it's kind of fun. The pre-chorus -- is that what you call that -- is much better. And the verses are pretty dope. And the music. Maybe I should have just said, "I like this song."

8 - Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers - Long Division

This is the second Gav recommendation on the list. If a song features both a female singer and horns, it increases my likelihood of loving it by 40%.

9 - Peter Bjorn & John - Nothing to Worry About

I first heard this via Fluxblog. I heard it at the Red Lyon as Kim and I chatted with Cara and Sina -- I also drank the Guinness Anniversary Stout that night, which was a huge mistake. I heard it every Thursday I watched "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", when FX used it in the background of their Sunny promos. So good.

10 - R.E.M. - Radio Free Europe

Here's another remastered classic. R.E.M. is very hit-or-miss for me, but this is a direct hit. You sunk my battleship, Michael Stipe! With a torpedo you fired, like, 20 years ago! Also, this was the year we learned that you are apparently a huge ass.

11 - Thao with The Get Down Stay Down - Goodbye Good Luck

Since "Bag of Hammers" made a couple friends' mix CDs, I'd assumed Thao was a male singing in falsetto. I felt like a rube until mentioning this to my carpool partner last week. "This is a woman?" she said. Yeah, so she's not a great singer, but I dig her groove. I love the feedback and alliteration in this song.

12 - Cursive - From the Hips

I associate this with a pre-scandal David Letterman overpronouncing the album title, "Mama, I'm Swollen".

13 - Death Cab for Cutie - Little Bribes

I liked this year's EP more than last year's album. The imagery in these lyrics is what I expect and demand from Mr. Gibbard.

14 - The Beatles - Good Morning Good Morning (Anthology version)

I had an irregular exposure to The Beatles, and heard most of their songs via the Anthology trilogy before I heard the proper album versions. I still prefer this stripped-down version to the real deal, because I like to Ringo the shit out of my steering wheel while this plays. If all goes as planned, I'll be waist-deep in remastered Beatles goodness in 2010.

15 - Wilco (featuring Feist) - You and I

Has anyone ever regretted adding Feist to their music? She's the bacon of vocals.

16 - David Bowie - Cat People (Putting Out Fire)

"Inglorious Basterds" made this a good song.

17 - The Raveonettes - Last Dance

Certainly the finest Danish song I heard all year. This is The Raveonette's first appearance on a mix of mine since 2003. Welcome back, Danes!

18 - Cat Stevens - Miles from Nowhere

I liked the use of this song in "The Brothers Bloom", which you should rent. You might think, "Adrien Brody? Gross!", but don't! It's a good flick. I also recommend "Brick", by the same director.

19 - The Bird and the Bee - Love Letter to Japan

Inara George used to be two degrees of separation, so I try to see what she's up to now and then, when I happen to be up late on a Tuesday watching Jimmy Kimmel. Alipete would agree: if you watch Inara and her backup band's head and hand motions, the value of this song doubles. Oops! Disney decided to take that video down. You can watch an inferior performance if you like.

20 - Phoenix - 1901

Most of us hadn't heard of them until they played SNL, and most of us liked them immediately afterward. No matter how many times you hear this in a Cadillac commercial, it's still great.

21 - Jenny Owen Youngs - Led to the Sea

The third and final Gav suggestion, which came several months prior to Alipete's recommendation. I liked it immediately, then hated it for a while after an unfortunate night when it repeated in my head as I tossed and turned, then liked it again.

22 - Golden Silvers - Please Venus

I suspect if I took the time to listen to the words in this song, I would find they are terrible. Still, it's got enough accents and backup vocal bop-bop dit-dits to keep me humming (not literally). Also, very nice work on the band name.

23 - M Ward - Requiem

Get it? "Requiem" is last on the list? Do you get it? How great would it be for someone to sing this song at your funeral? And really mean it? How great would it be to be M Ward? That guy is the coolest.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Final Word With Chester

I don't know quite how to explain this. Since the NES days, I've been coming home from school or work and unwinding with some sweet video game action. Also, I'm pretty cheap. So I guess that's how you explain a forced retirement of your video game football coach after 60 seasons.

During Wednesday's snow day, an unfamiliar plaque was presented after the season ended.

And a popup message followed

It was quite a run. Coach Chester Reboulet began at a school he built, led them to the promised land, and then moved on, winning 25 national titles. Due to some memory card issues, I can only account for those below - I think I'm missing one school:
Fiery Furnaces
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Duke Blue Devils
2017 Pearl Harbor Kamikazes
2021 Stanford Cardinal
2022 Iowa State Cyclones
2025, 2026, 2027 Fiery Furnaces
2031 Bowling Green Falcons
2035, 2038 Boston College Eagles
2040, 2041, 2043, 2044, 2045 Minnesota Golden Gophers
2051, 2052, 2053 Idaho Vandals
2058 University of Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns
2062, 2063, 2064 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Farewell, Coach. You're in heaven now, leading the angels to collegiate football championships.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Best Albums Of My Decade

Reading "best music of the decade" lists posted at Largehearted Boy was stimulating, but the more links I clicked the less interesting it became, and I realized I was spending way too much effort to publish my own list. The online examples I enjoyed most were short, so here is a short list of my favorite albums, released between 2000 and today, that I own.

Arcade Fire - "Funeral" (2004)

Anthemic. The things that I might find extraneous in the indie era since "Funeral" -- strings and tea kettles and such -- add to the percussion and guitar without being distracting. Just really, really, super good from start to finish.

Elliott Smith - "Figure 8" (2000)

Technically, this is my third-favorite Elliott Smith album, after "Either/Or" and "XO", but I listen to "Figure 8" more than any other of his works. It's louder and messier then the other albums, and songs like "Stupidity Tries" and "LA" can be enjoyed at a high volume, and the lyrics are interesting without being soul-crushing. Of course, there's soul-crushing material here, too ("Everything Reminds Me of Her", "I Better Be Quiet Now", "Can't Make a Sound"), but the ratio of fun to sad is more palatable for me. With other Smith albums, I have to strap in and prepare myself for the goosebumps. I can relax and sing along with a lot of "Figure 8".

The Polyphonic Spree - "Together We're Heavy" (2004)

Dave describes this album as having a lot of "Meatloaf moments", which is a compliment to Dave and an insult to me. Yes, it does have Meatloaf's dramatic flairs, but it's also ambitious and orchestral, two words that surely don't describe Meatloaf's music. "Never the subject of terrible karaoke" would also fit one but not the other.

The New Pornographers - "Twin Cinema" (2005)

An Onion AV Club year-end article listed "All for Swinging You Around" as a favorite song of 2003, and there was a locally-produced music show that featured them airing around that time, so I bought "Electric Version" at Best Buy and started listening to The New Pornographers. I still can't believe I came to like one of their albums more than that first one I picked up, but you can't listen to "Use It" or "Broken Breads" at high volume without knowing it's their best. (And that's not even accounting for "The Bleeding Heart Show", which is so good it makes me want to burn my degrees and start over at the University of Phoenix.)

Spoon - "Gimme Fiction" (2005)

Many best-of-the-decade lists I've seen mention a Spoon album or two, always mentioning something other than "Gimme Fiction". I'm not including it to be contrary -- it just happens to be my go-to Spoon choice, very slightly ahead of "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga".

Travis - "The Man Who" (2000)

There seems to be disagreement if this fits in the decade or not, due to British vs. US release dates. Travis now seems culturally out of place. Their sound wasn't ahead of its time, but the world wasn't quite ready to love them in 2000. Coldplay rose a few years later and took the spotlight. If Travis could have slipped in after them, they might have been bigger. Like, Snow Patrol big. Like the others on this list, "The Man Who" has little if any filler ("She's So Strange" could be better.) "Writing to Reach You" is impeccable, and it's got a nice guitar solo, and just typing that made me put on my headphones to listen to it.

The Shins - "Chutes Too Narrow" (2003)

I don't remember exactly how it happened, but I bought this and they soon became my favorite band. Let's take a moment to reflect on how rarely someone that occurs. (For the record, My Favorite Band started as Nirvana. Kurt killed himself, so I chose Urge Overkill. They broke up, and were replaced by Ben Folds Five, who also broke up, and were replaced by Elliott Smith, who also killed himself. That's when My Favorite Band became The Shins. Although, due to their recent lineup adjustment and lack of production, Spoon has tied them. Meanwhile, if you asked Jack Serpentine to write his version of this parenthetical passage, he'd just type "Pearl Jam, 1991-current". Sometimes I'm envious and sometimes not.)

White Stripes - "White Blood Cells" (2001)

I have to pick between this and "Elephant", unless there is a surf and turf option to these lists I'm not aware of. On one hand, I have deleted the digital versions of three songs from "White Blood Cells", because there is no situation where I am ever excited to hear "The Union Forever" (the ultimate killer to Corinne's "track #7s are the best" rule), "I Think I Smell a Rat", and "Aluminum". The only songs I ignore from "Elephant" are "Little Acorns" and "Well It's True That We Love One Another". Simple arithmetic dictates "Elephant" should be on this list (as does "Black Math", which rocks everyone's balls off forever), but rock is all about what's in your heart, not your head, or Archimedes' head!

Coldplay - "A Rush of Blood to the Head" (2002)

Haters gonna hate, but it's really, really great. Maybe if things continue on their current course and Coldplay becomes their generation's U2, all the cool critics will look back and decide this album was their "The Unforgettable Fire", the gold standard of their "way back when they were good" period.

The Fiery Furnaces - "Blueberry Boat" (2004)

How odd is this album? It's 76 minutes long. The songs under 5 minutes long are somehow less awesome than the ones longer then 5 minutes. Listening is like getting an awesome BJ from a dictionary -- I haven't counted, but there are probably 6,700 lyrics packed into "Blueberry Boat". (I just put the lyrics into MS Word: 4,408.) And these aren't verse-chorus-verse repeat lyrics. They range from onomatopoeia (Plume bloom bloom baby bloom / cheep cheep beep bee-bee beep) to exotic proper nouns (Tea time at Damascus computer café / I’m looking busy and staring off the other way / Arsenal, Inter, Leeds v Valencia / I’m over-hearing all their nonsense in extensia) to "give me kisses, give me kisses, give me kisses, don't say no", phrases which would be unremarkable if they weren't sung in Eskimo language (Canyglow, canyglow, canyglow / don’t say nugo). It's insane, and it's insanely good.

Honorable Mention:

Secret Machines - "Now Here is Nowhere" (2004)
Sleater-Kinney - "The Woods" (2005)
Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins - "Rabbit Fur Coat" (2006)
Tilly and the Wall - "Wild Like Children" (2004)
Ben Folds - "Rockin' the Suburbs" (2001)
Death Cab for Cutie - "Transatlanticism" (2003)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

December Musings

Well, you know, I've been busy watching movies and stuff, but there will be more stuff on here really soon. I'm not going to go all Floyd on you. No posts in 5 months for Floyd! What a dick.

* * *

Two humorous things sent to me recently:

"I just got drunk at CD's bar from Walker, Texas Ranger."

-- text from Brian

"My parents and I will be up in the Cancun timeshare and I think there’s room for 2 more – you could even have the privacy of your own room and bathroom. I know this sounds excessive to have so many time shares, but I can’t be bothered to explain it. As you know, Cancun is lame in many ways, but it’s warm and relaxing and happy hour is at 3:30. And there are pretty cool Mayan ruins nearby. This might be your last chance to see them if their calendar is correct and the world is about to end."

-- email from Bar

* * *

The new Paul F Tompkins CD I ordered was delivered yesterday. Sometimes I save the first listen of such spoken word items for long drives, but I can't wait until my Christmas travels to enjoy this goodness. Look at the cover -- how could I delay one more moment without listening?

* * *

Does anyone other than @BAGEsq and Nick and Adrienne read my Google Shared Items? If you do, please leave a comment below. I feel so alone.

If you don't, you didn't notice my comments about this Franz Ferdinand video

"I know this isn't an epic video, but it makes me think about the decline of MTV. If this just happened to appear on my television, I'd be really entertained and I'd hope to see it again. As is, with no music video programming on TV, I can't be bothered to call up YouTube every week and re-watch it. All these good videos are single servings, just watched once and thrown away."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday Embarrassments

Although participation has dwindled in recent attempts, I want to do this contest again.

The contest was inspired by an experience of Jack Serpentine. When watching Thanksgiving Day football, a future in-law called Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and Campbell's Chunky Soup enthusiast Donovan McNabb "a humble Negruh". Since that fateful holiday, I have solicited similar stories of holiday embarrassments.

Your relatives' comment could be casually racist, ignorant, or just plain sad. Enter the quote into the comments below, are you are eligible to win! But you'd better bring your A-game, because Shawn's grandpa is super, super, super-duper racist.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Office Decor, Part Four

The great regret of my life is failing to take a picture of the horrible cubicle that belonged to Mrs. Redacted. She had elephant figurines all over the place. It looked as dumb as she was. Alas, she was fired before I could capture the mess for posterity.

Due to some rearrangement in the building, I now walk by a cubicle that could challenge Mrs. Redacted's. And today, after weeks of forgetting my cameraphone, I snapped evidence:

Mrs. Dork has two (2) of Jeff Gordon's #24 stickers on her nameplate. Because if she only had one, you may question where her support lies. Especially if you failed to see the cutout of Jeff Gordon's NASCAR on her wall, or the magazine photo of Jeff Gordon next to that. Or the collector's towel thingy of Jeff Gordon on the other wall (not pictured), and the other NASCAR-branded thingamajigs I couldn't get a good look at without arousing suspicion.

(I decline comment on the traditional Thanksgiving welcome sign featuring a pilgrim turkey, because I like Thanksgiving, which I call T'sgiving for short.)

So I guess my question is this: are her decorations more like a coworker placing a lot of his/her college's memorabilia in his/her office, or more like my 11 year-old self tacking Will Clark and Frank Thomas posters to my bedroom wall?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Bring Me To Yikes

One thing leads to another. You know how it goes. Saturday night in the Kansas City suburbs, you have a few finger foods and some punch, then the gang moves on to the bar, and you rummage through a karaoke songbook full of odd selections, you go through the familiar motions of Chris Martin, and Jared, who used to think karaoke was "unethical", makes a suggestion of questionable merit, and you can't figure out how you're supposed to switch back-and-forth between the male and female vocal, but you're on board anyway, and before you know it there are women of questionable merit dancing to your performance and a camera is recording video.

Duets from chester reboulet on Vimeo.

I am so sorry. We are so sorry.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

From Connecticut With Love


"Hey this is alicia. And my new .#"


"Hey baby what is goin on tonite?"

"It's alicia. Baby I want you so bad."

"I think that is great. However, you have the wrong number."

"Isnt this eldin?"

"Sorry, no. Good luck with everything."


I was very tempted to keep this communication moving forward -- maybe see what the teens find so appealing about this "sexting" thing -- but I didn't. I felt guilty depriving Alicia of her much-wanted booty call. And my girlfriend wasn't really pumped about the idea of sexting a stranger with a Connecticut area code.

Careful backing up those address books, people.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Coffee Talk

While brunching, I stated that my Kansas City Blend was the best cup of coffee I'd ever had.

Where did you enjoy the best coffee you've ever had?

The best song about coffee I've ever heard is this one.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

More Bread Than A Prison Meatloaf

Here is how you don't win the order -- get a large brick of apple bread pudding (which is apparently "famous") and two sausages.

(Kim's hand shown for scale.)

Kim chose a safe eggs benedict plate, so Gav won with a spicy sausage + garlic cheese grits + eggs combo. The best grits he's ever had, he says.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Five Years: Hot And Bothered

You thought that last one was grumpy? Well, grump-a-grump-grump, this one is a grump trump!

Don't let the grumpiness scare you. These two pieces are memorable for at least the following reasons:

1. I reconnected with Bar on this trip. We hadn't been in contact since more or less right after we met, on the first day of orientation at grad school.

2. Thank God I saw "Layer Cake" instead of "Crash" at the theater.

3. Deleted Scene: As I just mentioned, I ate a grilled cheese sandwich featuring green chilies for the first time on this trip.

4. The absolute strangest comment was left in response to part one. An anonymous man really wanted to chime in with his thoughts on wheeled luggage, and the art of luggage in general.

5. Deleted Scene: The book I was reading was short stories by Julie Orringer: "How to Breathe Underwater". I bought it after reading that Nick Hornby liked it.

6. I got an insane amount of site traffic from lonely hotel guests searching for the titles of the porn movies listed. I can't really blame them for researching the films online. If you're going to throw down $14 for a rented movie, you should try to make sure it's a good choice.

7. Deleted Scene: I went to find a place for dinner one night. I started walking down Route 66, figuring it's a hugely famous highway and therefore a taco shop or something yummy would show itself promptly. After walking and walking, I finally found a place.

I had a chili cheese dog. I should have bought a T-shirt - they were pretty dope. This establishment was featured as a drug deal spot in an episode of "Breaking Bad", which is also pretty dope.

8. Note how heavy I lay on the grumpiness and symbolism in the last sentence. DO YOU GET IT, GUYS? MY GIRLFRIEND BROKE UP WITH ME AND I WAS SAD.

9. The title for these posts were also the title of a planned detective movie (or TV series?) by my pals Floyd and Jack Serpentine.

Okay, enough. Please enjoy:

Dry Heat - Part One


This is the second consecutive trip in which I have been randomly screened by airport security. After passing through successfully, I sit and watch as others are pulled aside. No one is nonchalant. They shoot flabbergasted looks toward their traveling companions.

"Oh my God, me?! Selma, look! They think little old me could be a terrorist!"
"For gosh sakes! That Latino man just went right through!"
"Look! He's making me spread my arms like I might have a weapon!"

One man finishes the screen and walks toward the seats to my left. A woman his age and a teenage girl are waiting for him. He is speaking in a foreign language - East Europe sounding. Maybe they are from Strawberry Hill, across the river. I listen to him speak, wondering if it's profound or useless chatter. If he was speaking English, I would assuredly be mocking his words. Since it is Russian or Croatian or else, I give him the benefit of the doubt.

The mother begins to assemble lunch. Empty paper cups appear from her carry-on bag. Hen House lunchmeat, possibly bologna, definitely smelly. Bread. One half gallon of milk. She builds modest sandwiches and hands one to her daughter and husband; she pours the milk. I consider the logistics required for their rushed meal - I calculate the odds of a resulting foodborne illness. Is there an ice pack in the bag? What are they doing with the leftovers?

The flight is Southwest. I am among the last to board, but get a decent isle seat next to a thin woman with a book - an ideal neighbor. The first short story in my new book is about death. The second is about low self-esteem. The third is about death and guilt. This trip will not be relaxing.

I do not want to stop my session mid-story, so I close the book as the plane descends. Almost by mistake, I catch a glimpse through the window at the earth below. There are mountains, and for a moment I am shocked. I have not seen mountains in more than five years. This is my first trip to New Mexico. I've never been near it. The airport floor is brick, or, more precisely, has been fashioned to look like red brick. Wheeled luggage clicks relentlessly. I want a word with the architect.

It will be hours before my room is available. The clerk stores my luggage, and his associate gives me directions to the old town district. I turn right and walk to Lomas. I turn left and walk for about 15 minutes. It is hot but I don't care - this is what people mean when they say, "It's a dry heat." I picture myself as a local, tanned after a few days in this sun. I am the bassist from Albuquerque's own The Shins.

Hispanics are gathered in the quad of Old Town. A nearby church has something to do with the celebration. Music plays over a PA as a man in the gazebo sings. He looks like bullfighter, minus the cape; he sings different songs in Spanish. They sound the same to me. I sit on a restaurant patio and eat flat chicken enchiladas. I can't see the entertainer from here, but I can see much of the crowd, and I can hear him all too well. He makes very brief conversation with the crowd between each song: he has been here many years in a row, his family has come from Dallas to see him today, he is happy to be here. I pay after sopapillas, looking at photos under the glass at the cashier's stand. John Kerry is in two of them. Gloria Estefan is in one. These should all be on the wall.

I make a lap in Old Town. Some shops sell jewelry. Others sell jewelry. A few even sell jewelry. He is still singing - the man's voice is tireless. This is why they keep asking him back.

The museums are on my way back to the hotel. I choose the natural history museum. It is a mistake.

I walk through neighborhoods on the return trip - the multitude of law offices on Lomas (immigration?) were not nice enough to see twice. The Shins are in my head. I can't relate to their lyrics - I do not smell the engine grease and mint the wind is blending. I don't smell anything. I am suddenly aware that I don't hear anything, either. No dogs bark. No lawnmowers run. Even the breeze can't be bothered to make a sound. It's three o'clock on a Saturday but quiet like a snowstorm. I consider if desert is an insulant, like snow. I reject the hypothesis.

Downtown features a handful of tall office buildings, almost all of which are named for banks. They are squatting, hiding behind the mountains that circle the city, apologetic for their non-adobe abilities, a tall man between yourself and the movie screen.

My hotel room faces south. I can see baseball stadium lights a few miles away. Every time I look at them in the next few days, I will think, "You hear that, folks? He said, 'Go 'Topes!'".

I'm too late to see Crash, so I decide to see Layer Cake. The movie ticket costs $9.25, and my $.75 of change goes to a charity that seems to be supported by a smiling black and white photo of The Rock. I start on two generous scoops of Dreyer's rocky road ice cream - my dinner - as the trailers begin. Later, The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" is used perfectly. If I could show everyone this scene, they would understand why I was disappointed with Garden State's use of "Caring is Creepy".

My walk home takes me past the bus station. A vagrant is yelling at a better-dressed man who wants the bus to take him away from the situation. Two uniformed policemen watch from twenty yards away.


Anonymous said...

Don't blame the architect. Wheeled luggage sucks. It's automatically heavier, has less interior space, and is hard to stuff into overhead compartments, because it has to be at least semi-rigid. It just generally slows you down. Think more about what you really need to take with you and save weight. Lighter is better and faster.

Dry Heat - Part Two


I want to get a nice late breakfast before the conference starts at noon. I walk around downtown - nothing is open. I abandon the morning constitutional and eat at my hotel.

The conference room is crowded. The panel of experts is seated, and their tables form a U, facing the Powerpoint display. Myself and the riff-raff are behind them, squeezed next to one another, chairbacks against the wall. I am among the last to arrive, so I have a poor view of the screen. The woman that is seated to my right has an even worse angle. She compensates by leaning into my personal space whenever she feels like seeing what the speaker is reading. She is the exact opposite of the woman I sat next to on the flight to Albuquerque. She's constantly fidgeting, and preferring both the standard leg bounce and the unconventional lateral knee touch - the latter performed as if there is an invisible Thighmaster in her crotch.

I meet Nathan and Julie in the hotel bar shortly after 5:00. I knew they were inside after seeing their large truck in the parking lot, loaded for their cross-country drive. The bed is packed high, and a blue tarp covers everything but part of a bicycle frame. I think of the Joads.

We enjoy beer as we wait for our food to arrive - we're on a patio off Central Ave, also known as Route 66. I am three feet from the neighboring table, where a bikerish woman is straddling a bikerish man. My boss walks by on the sidewalk, and I say hello. She approaches our table and sits down. Damn. A best friend, his wife, a liter of Sam Adams Summer, a warm evening on the Route 66 patio, my supervisor. One of these things is not like the other. It's over soon, and I show Nathan and Julie the theater's ice cream selection before they drive further west.

The hotel has HBO. Unlike the host cities of my last two conferences, Albuquerque does not sponsor a hotel channel that features local restaurants, museums, and landmarks. I take this as another bad sign.


For the past handful of years, I've tried to surround myself with my favorite things during my birthday. I listen to my all-time favorite albums, I watch my favorite movie, I bathe in my favorite champagne. This year, I battle my peers for complimentary bagels and muffins before sitting through plenary and breakout sessions.

A well-dressed, gray-haired gentleman sits a few seats down from me during the opening presentation. The speaker tells an anecdote involving Senator Robert Dole for some reason - a reporter asks Mr. Dole if it's effeminizing to be second fiddle to his newly elected wife. She pushes him away from the microphone and says, "Move over, cupcake, I'll take this one!" The crowd laughs, starved for something resembling humor.

"Heh heh. Savoir fare..." the man says creepily.

A speaker uses the phrase, "Not sure if the juice is worth the squeeze," and I try to think if I've been previously exposed to that wording.

There is a reception at 6:00 with a cash bar, appetizers, and a mariachi band. Why would a culture that lives in such a warm climate choose to uniform their bands in restrictive suits? Barbara, a friend from grad school that I found earlier that day, tells them it's my birthday. They ask me to stand as they play "Happy Birthday". The pacing of the mariachi version is far superior to our slow, pained, American chorus.

Later that night, Barbara and I try to find alcohol. A hotel shuttle driver takes us to Seven-Eleven, where we purchase two bottles of Yellow Tail. We drink the cabernet and catch up on the past two years of each other's lives. There are about a dozen adult films available for rent through the hotel, including Swallowing Shanks, Cream on my Face, Hot Young Snatch, and Hairless Honeydrippers. $13.99 is greater than our curiosity.


Tuesday lasts forever. Eventually, I am in a hotel bar with Barbara's female peers. The British-sounding one looks at me.

"Why do men ask 'Do you swallow'?"

It is unprovoked and accusatory, but at least we are not talking about risk ratios. The other girls talk about feelings of power/submission/control. I give my opinion, which I adopted from Loveline's Adam Carolla.

"It has little to do with power. It's more flattering. It shows that you're not disgusted. I don't care what you do, just don't seem incredibly disgusted by the process."

I'm sure she doesn't hear any of this.


I am waiting for a cab to the airport. I'm tired of feeling cold in the hotel, especially because it's so warm outside. I stand on the sidewalk by the entrance. There is an abundance of shade, but I want to spend my last minutes in the sun. The dry heat is nice, but it feels like there is something missing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Five Years: Oklahoma City Thunder

I mentioned the prolonged grumpy period that I dragged this blog through. The archives indicate my grumpy period (very similar to Picasso's Blue Period) ran from May 7, 2005, when my girlfriend broke up with me, to January 1, 2006, when Gav and I ate Triple Whoppers to celebrate the new year. ("More sticks in '06!" Gav shouted as he came home from HyVee with a bounty of frozen mozzarella sticks. What a year that was.)

In July 2005, a few months into the grumpiness, Matt and I trekked south to the Oklahoma City suburbs to visit our fine pal Brian. Matt's father had passed away that spring; I'm not sure why he put up with my mood when he had reason to be much more upset. It could be because we're friends.

Here is what happened that weekend, with my grumpy postscript, and some photographic aids taken much later.

Oklahoma City Recap

"You promised me a fight."
"Just wait."

Brian had not yet spent an evening at J.R.'s Bar and Grill without witnessing violence. A half hour later, bareknuckled fisticuffs erupted in the parking lot of, stretching Brian's streak to record lengths. Watching from a distance was bittersweet. I appreciated the insanity of the roadhouse, but it was now clear that the Friday night police response time to the southern outskirts of Oklahoma City was poor. If the motorcyclists or the would-be frat boys (as in, they would be frat boys if they could get in to the community college up the road) inside had a problem with me, I'd be square in the middle of a vicious cockfight.

There had been precisely one non-country-western song performed by J.R.'s karaokists, and Matt wanted me to sing the second. Prior to our arrival, I had planned to sing "Nothing Compares 2 U", but the roguish atmosphere intimidated me. Imagine my surprise when the younger set danced and cheered my rendition of the Spice Girl's "Wannabe", and I escaped J.R.'s without a scratch.

We bought great, cheap seats for the OKC Redhawks game Saturday afternoon. The ticket girl was reading the new Harry Potter book - she didn't yet know who the half-blood price was yet, and believe me, I asked. On the way to the stadium that night, the three of us took a denim short census. Within 20 minutes, we counted twelve adult males sporting jean shorts. Fair enough, Oklahoma City, fair enough. Maybe we all jumped off that bandwagon a little too hastily.

A fat boy raced a skinny girl during one inning break. The fat kid put on the oversized uniform more quickly than the girl, who especially struggled with the pants.

MATT: Congratulations, you peaked. Enjoy life.

The Redhawks' effort that night was lacking, but ours was not. After enjoying fine Boddington's and Guinness', we headed to the Wormy Dog Saloon. There was a steep cover charge, yet the bar was packed, presumably to hear the live band. To my surprise, I did not hate them - it was a huge upgrade from the previous night's country karaoke, and the band even pulled off sweet covers of "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" and Reel Big Fish's "Beer".

MATT: I guarantee you we are the smartest people in this bar.

Several beers and shots later, that fact might have changed. One of the attractive women directly in front of was showing plentiful cleavage, but our view was obscured by an Asian male.

MATT (to me): Look, I'm sorry that tidal wave killed all those people. Now move.

On the way home, we pepper Patrick, our cabbie, with curiosity. A different cab driver had once told Brian and Matt that he had driven Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake - we asked Patrick about his famous fares. "The Riverdance guy," Patrick said, and we knew he wasn't lying.

Brian wasn't lying, either. "I left my apartment keys in the car," he said, referring to the cruising sedan parked downtown. We climb back in with our man Patrick to retrieve them.

ME: Maybe we should have just broken a window.
PATRICK: Is there a window you could break? It might be cheaper.
ME: No, only the patio's sliding door. Hey - did anybody lock the sliding door? I didn't.
ME: We could climb up and get it that way!
BRIAN: No we can't.
MATT: Well...
PATRICK: I used to do things like that, back in my younger days...
ME: Let's do it! I've done it before at Lance's place! Let's do it!

Patrick made the U-turn, and soon we were studying the building's architecture. Breaking in to Lance's second story apartment was simply a matter of standing on the lower rail and reaching up to the second floor. This building had higher ceilings. Brian lived on the third floor. There was no chance of repeating the Lance method.

It's terribly difficult to describe the first attempt, but suffice to say it required more upper body strength / Jackie Chanesque abilities than I possessed, especially half-drunk at 2:00 in the morning. My first pull-up attempt fails; standing on a pitched roof overhang thingy 2.5 stories up, I ready myself for another try.

ME (to myself): Remember, you don't want to fall to your death while trying to break in to an apartment.

I axed the second attempt. We survey the situation again.

MATT: What if you stood on the rail and--
ME: I see where you're going with this, Matt.

Utilizing a nifty, undescribable move, I manage to reach the balcony's rail. I look back at my mates and gave Patrick a fist pump. "Thanks for believing in me, Patrick!" The door slides open, and I unlock the front door from the inside. Parody of happiness, arms around each other's shoulders, our triangle jumps clockwise as we shout stereotypically happy yeas. I've got an old text message from Matt is still on my cell phone. It reads, "I like the way my boner feels in the palm of your hand".

But this little dance is the gayest thing we've ever done.

We head over to the apartment pool to celebrate. After a brief period, a cop spoils the fun. He kicks us out of the pool and moves on to harass the similarly quiet group in the hot tub.


I woke up late Sunday morning. Earlier, I heard Matt open the front door a couple times before going back to sleep. I asked him where he went.

MATT: I went to my car to get the charger for my phone.
ME: Who were you going to call?
MATT (pauses):
God. I was going to call God...
...I was going to ask Him when the joke is going to be over...
...and if He thinks he's funny...
...and if He wants to fight.

It would be the funniest thing I've ever heard if it was a joke.


The janitor at work liked to talk. Because I drink water from a plastic KC Royals cup, he assumed I liked sports and would ask me about whatever game occurred the previous night. If it was up to him, the Royals would have re-signed Carlos Beltran AND brought Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson on board. It was a stupid idea and I hated the obligatory chats with him. Still, he didn't deserve to be stabbed to death last night by his 14 year-old stepson. He said something to me last week - something bad must have happened last weekend, because he said something vague about letting go, just trying to have a good time from now on. His new philosophy didn't last a week.

Ricky Gervais created and starred in the BBC's (the original version of) The Office. He was interviewed in The Guardian:
In among all of his theories about comedy, one that he won't accept is that it must always come out of a kind of darkness, the tears of a clown. I ask him if there have been times in his life when he has felt down; has he ever not wanted to get out of bed in the mornings?

He looks genuinely appalled at the idea. 'No. No depression. Oh God, no. I mean, when someone dies I cry. But I would never say: "What is the point of life?" I know there is no point to life. The point to life is having a laugh, getting on with everyone. Full stop.' He thinks about this a bit. 'I know how lucky I am. I don't allow stress. Being out of my comfort zone annoys me a bit; you know, if I have to drive a long way or something. Then I go: "Gervais. Your Dad used to hod-carry. Fucking grow up." That always tends to work.' He giggles to himself at this admonishment, at the idea of unhappiness, and, as ever, you cannot help but join in.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Five Years: Solitary Spider

The first showcased piece of The Very Best of Tornado Slide's Five Year Retrospective is a bit written September 5, 2006. Although it received only one approving comment (from Heather), I recall an additional kudo or two outside of the internet. Let's enjoy it once more:

Spidey Senseless
The first spider was unremarkable. It wasn't large, it wasn't small, it wasn't brown, and it certainly wasn't reclusive. It was Spider Edmund Hillary, the first to reach the second floor master bathroom ceiling. It clung there, and to the higher portions of the supporting walls. Showering did not disturb the spider, and neither did I. I respected its achievement, and left it alone. But my mind pestered him.

"Spider," my mind spoke, "I respect your achievement. You are the first. But surely you must see that this isn't the right niche for you. Do you see any food around? Any flies? Any sort of buzzing insect at all? Of course not. I keep a clean home, and you are only an exception. How are you going to sustain yourself?"

Days passed, and I grew more concerned. "Spider," I thought, "this is becoming absurd. Why don't you feel the need to sew a web? Even given the unlikely event of a fly intruder, you are unprepared. The fly would circle around your position on the wall, mocking you. Where are your instincts? Aren't you getting hungry?"

Seven days into the ordeal, a breakthrough -- the spider moved to a much lower position on the west wall, flanking the toilet. The bathroom was still devoid of any silky webs, but it was clear that the adventureous arachnid was planning something.

Another day went by.

And another.

And he died.

But not before giving birth to two more spiders.

One tiny spider took to the corner of Shower and West Wall, while its sibling stayed at Door Frame and North Wall -- a spot located just above his mother's dead body. Upon discovery, both had already built pathetically small, uncomplicated webs, and were perched among the invisible strands, hovering a few centimeters above the white linoleum.

Still, without so much as a single ant in the environment, the webs remained bare. The first spider disappeared after two days, dead -- or, in the spirit of his mother, exploring uncharted territory.

The second remains in place, without food for nearly a week now. Perhaps it is as optimistic as ever, sure that an insect will be trapped any moment now, anticipating the deadly dance that will ensue, and the succulent meal that will result. Still, it would be easy to forgive a gloomier mindset. The young spider lives in a strange world, dark for all but 30 minutes a day, the only other sentient occupant a six-foot-tall mammal, its deceased mother's shriveling corpse always within view, an ominous harbinger of a likely and terrible future.