Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Uh Oh Look Out!

I'm flying by the seat of my pants here. I don't even know what this post is about or what it's going to be about. I'm just going to type the sweet stream of consciousness!

I've never done this before. Feels a little sexy. In some way. Sexy and dangerous, because I'm not going to go back and take anything out! I might fix a spelling error - but no self-imposed (or otherwise) censorship! I won't even fix awkward sentence structure. Just spelling.

So that means, if I type something ill-advised, or perhaps just less-than-well-advised, or advisorily-challenged (no one really does those "P.C. euphemisms" anymore, was it only ever a fad or did people actually realize how stupid it was?).

Shit. I ended that sentence after the parentheses, even though there was more to come. This isn't working out too well so far. I'm not sure I'm too comfortable with this mode of expression. Well, we're committed now! ONWARD!

I'm nothing if not true to my commitments.

Okay, so what's this post going to be about? I must have a score or more, several score probably, of little "stubs" of post ideas to expand upon - but this post isn't about any of those! This post is about the power of the now, the whole gliding-into-and-out-of-the-moment-simultaneously-before-you-so-much-as-realize-it-ness of being present in the mind of who I am as I type this.

I can type pretty fast! Sweet.

This is getting a little long. Maybe I've reached a good stopping point. But what do I call it?? Wait, never mind, I already put "Uh Oh Look Out!" in the Title box.

Seems kind of overkill at this point, but so be it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

He's Not Jesus Christ, But He Has The Same Initials

San Francisco, April 28th, 2007 - the Fillmore

Eleven years on, Jarvis Cocker comes on like R. Crumb possessed by Mick Jagger. To the hugely approving roar of the crowd, the man hits the stage of the Fillmore wearing a smart drab blazer, a tasteful earth-tones buttondown plaid, dark denim and a bright, very large, eye-catching ornate belt buckle.* Still skinny as a whip. Self-possessed to within an inch of his life; every gesture, every sweaty head whip, every laid-back-cocky rock pose struck with such assurance as to seem pre-ordained. Singing not so much with passion as with sincerity - lank forelocks dangling in front of his chunky black-framed glasses, he peers out across the crowd intently as if searching for a friend. By the end of the night, he'd found a roomful of them.

The guy is a bit of a puzzle, though. I say he sings "with sincerity," and I don't doubt that whatever he means, he means it. But what it is that he means, and then again, what he means by it, is open to question. I didn't dwell on such pedantic questions, though - not in the face of the onslaught of JARVIS. His opening number, "Fat Children Took My Life" had everyone jumping in unison as the venue floor bounced like a trampoline. I figured it would hold. Down through the storied history of the Fillmore, surely they'd hosted bouncier audiences than this crowd of once-hipsters pushing their collective expiration date of cool.

No surprises in the set list. With all of one solo album to tour in support of - no Pulp nostalgia here - Mr. Cocker played every song on the disc, plus non-album tracks "Big Stuff" and "One Man Show." Even ace "hidden" track "Cunts Are Still Running The World" was pressed into service as the first encore. For the second encore, they played a cover song which I suppose I should have recognized and which might have been called "Novocaine." Or it might not. After that he thanked us all and bid us good night, insisting "that's all the songs we know."

Don't worry, J.C. It was enough. There was no sense of lack of material, or of the material being lacking. Every song went down well. From the raunchy stomping glide of "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" to the stunning "Black Magic" (which makes great use of its "Crimson and Clover" sample), to the transcendently dingy uplift of "Tonite" and the matter-of-fact creepy "I Will Kill Again," to the brittle thin-edged menace of "Disney Time"...there was no lack of impact numbers. And the gaps between the highest peaks were effectively bridged with good, absorbing, engaging songs; songs by turns disconcerting, wishful, joyous, faux-dopey, and barbed with sarcasm. A varied dramatic and emotional palette, served up by our gracious host: deft of patter, poised of pose, generous with his presence. His manner embraced the crowd and his own Rock-Starness as one, constantly reaching out to grasp outstretched hands from the front rows - even at one point after a post-song collapse, scuttling forward on knees and elbows to let the lucky few grope his sweaty head for ten glorious seconds while the band drew out its crescendo.

Not bad for such a reputed emotional cripple! Maybe that was just a rumor I heard, started by tawdry unsophisticates vacuously interpreting lyrics as memoir.

I loved the show. I was surprised and knocked out. I'd always thought he was a great songwriter - I never agreed with those who'd brush him off as merely "clever." He's clever as a bloody stiletto. His wordplay is a delight, true, and many listeners stop there and go no further. But beneath that facile layer are worlds of shamed pleasure, sad truths, and perfectly-observed terrors. His look at the world is seemingly detached and without judgment, and maybe it is without judgment. Except that he knows one thing: if you look closely enough at anything for long enough, you will shock yourself with the things you hadn't noticed. In his songwriting, Cocker gives you that stuff right up front, all casual-like.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that he could put it across so well live, but I was. I mean, I knew Pulp were a world-class band, and he certainly had a reputation as a performer to match. But his current boho Clark Kent look belies that. I thought maybe people were grading him "on a curve" - grading him based on how hard you'd expect a dude who looked like that to rock.

Don't you believe it. He's a debauched Rock God, just with better taste in books.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Is The Right Way Wrong? Morality and The Problem of Authority

The question remains: "On what final authority do moral judgments rest?" It needs to be clarified.

But not by me! I don't have the authority.

A deeper consideration of this troubling issue to follow, once I get my working day down to a manageable ten hours. Or so.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NEIL TENNANT.

I tell you: I am totally sweating this Neil Tennant solo album. I hope he just goes ahead and calls it: NEIL TENNANT. All caps! He's earned it.

No exclamation point, though. That's gauche.

A lot of people will tell you he's got a weak voice. Well to them I say: try singing one of his songs. Try singing "London" from the album Release. Try to belt that one out. And while you're at it, record your best effort so you can play it back against his rendition in comparison. Which one sounds better? I'll tell you which one: NEIL TENNANT's.

Tennant's voice is what I would call "deceptively weak." It sounds a bit thin, true, but what people don't realize is the sheer level of vocal chops it takes for him to get his voice to sound that way. His voice can project hurt, reserve, elegance, wounded pride, scathing wit or tentative joy - but whatever feeling it carries is carried with a certain vulnerability, essential to bringing that song home. In fact his so-called "weak" vocal style is the key to the success of the song. I don't care whether you've got the pipes of Aretha Franklin or Mario Lanza - you can't sing these songs any better than Neil sings them.

I'm so looking forward to this Neil Tennant solo album. I hope it's got Chris Lowe on it someplace.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I Never Have Yet, But...

Every now and then, I have this urge to (upon returning home) stand in the open doorway, look around frantically and holler, "What the FUCK!!!" while glaring at the contents and inhabitants of the living room with a grimace of mingled fury and bewilderment. Even though everything pretty much is as it always is.

I just think it would be cool to do that. Liven things up a bit.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Karaoke Standup

And why not? The singer wannabes have had the spotlight hog-tied long enough. What about all those of you out there with the burning urge to get up in front of a crowd of drunks and bring the house down with your side-splitting brand of attempted humor?

Now I know what you're thinking: that won't work! Nobody wants to sit there all night watching a long line of talentless, unfunny hacks going down like a procession of lead balloons. And anyway, isn't this exactly the same thing as open mic night at the comedy club?

But that's where you're wrong. Because that's where the karaoke comes in!

Now you're really skeptical. Don't bother denying it! What possible good could it do to try to put your routine across over a backing track of some Jefferson Starship hit? How does that help? Well, it wouldn't!* And that's not how Karaoke Standup works! So QUIT INTERRUPTING.

Regular karaoke has the lyrics scrolling along the screen for the singer to read as they go, with a backing track of music and backup vocals to fill out the experience. Same thing with Karaoke Standup, only instead of lyrics and backing music you get fed lines and a hilarious laugh track!

The concept is a piece of cake. You select from a wide selection of joke "routines" (some famous, some classic, some corny, some not). The lines from the routine scroll along the prompter, and the Karaoke Technician works the "laugh track" to milk it for maximum effect! And it's so easy: just set the response level. The actual laughter is automatically keyed in on the "laugh points" of the specific routine (as it unspools on the prompter). Whoever is operating the Karaoke setup can toggle the response from uncomfortable-chuckle level all the way up to maximum killing-them-in-the-aisles riotous-gasping-cacaphony-of-side-splitting guffaw level. Who in the crowd can resist joining in, when the hilarity is booming at them from all sides?

I mean, what says "funny" like a laugh track? It must work. Sixty years of American television executives can't be wrong.

Karaoke Standup. Next big craze, you betcha.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Game of Darts Explained

So, I went out the other night for some darts at the Poet (or as they call it, "The Poet & Patriot"), and it seemed like it was like this:

B
20
19
18
17
16
15

That was the scoreboard. The scoreboard just showed a vertical row of squares down its center, with the listed values displayed inside each square. But get this: you weren't supposed to hit the scoreboard, in order to score. No. There was a separate board, called variously the "round board," the "dart board," and the "target" - that was hung just over and to the left of the scoreboard. You were supposed to hit that board. There were numbers arranged around the perimeter of this circular board, and the idea was to get a dart into the section that corresponded to the certain numbers you were after (as listed on the scoreboard).

Sounds crazy, right? But it worked! Each "slice" of the board, or perhaps I should say "arc," was bordered in a thin metal wire that made it impossible to land a dart "right on the line." The dart would be forced to one side of the wire or the other, so you always knew what you'd hit (after a little close inspection). No "either-or," no arguments. Sweet!

There were also two "rings" that cut across all of the slices. A hit within these narrow rings was worth special. The outer ring around the circumference of the scoring area of the target - that was worth double. The inner ring, that bisected each section, was worth triple. And then there was the "bull's-eye."

Now, if you're like me, you kept calling the whole target the "bull's-eye" all night, annoying everyone with triumphant but ultimately unjustified exclamations such as "bull's-eye!" just because you hit the target. But no - the term "bull's-eye" is technically reserved for the double-circle located dead center on the target. A hit on the bull's-eye was worth extra special: 25 points for the outer green circle - fifty points for the inner red circle!

"But what's this 'points' business?" you ask? It's tricky, I admit. The first game we screwed up the scoring entirely and ended up with a double-forfeit once a helpful passerby noticed and explained how it worked. That was one crazy, high-scoring game, though!

Here's how it works: before you can begin scoring at all, you need three "hits" in the section in question. The first hit gets you a slash next to that box, on your side of the scoreboard. The second hit adds a slash to make an "X". The third hit puts a circle around that "X" - now you can score. First side to get a "circle-X" in that section "opens" it for them to be able to score, and "closes" it for the other side. After the hit that "opens" the section, subsequent hits are worth the same number of points as the number of that section.

But remember: a hit in the outer ring is worth double - so if you haven't hit in that section yet, that gives you two hits worth - an "X" not just a slash! And if you hit the inner ring it would be a circled X in one fell swoop! Same when it comes to scoring points: if the 15 section is open for scoring, and you hit the inner ring - that's a sweet 45 points!

But you can only score in a section from the time when you "open" it for your side by getting a circled-X, up until the other side closes it by getting a circled-X of their own. It's a struggle of offense versus defense: the first side to score three hits can run up points in that section, until the other side shuts it down by scoring their third hit. Once both sides have the circle-X, that section is CLOSED FOR BUSINESS.

So anyway, I'd already played one game of darts years ago, but I'd forgotten a lot of the little details. I won that game (years ago) on a very tough throw, though. So I've always been a little reluctant to put my undefeated streak on the line. Good news: My undefeated streak is still in business! Undefeated in team play, over 3 marathon games of "girls vs. boys" (which I switched on the scoreboard header to "XY versus XX" after the first game - to add a little dignity to the proceedings and also because as I observed, "women are always right"). The first game, as I alluded, was a double-forfeit debacle due to everyone running up the score even on sections that had already been "closed down." But on the two games after that, I not only served on the triumphant side, I also hit the game-winning shot both times! "Bull's-eye!"

So the upshot of all that is, if you ever have any questions about darts - I'm the guy to ask.

Monday, April 09, 2007

THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES pt2: Jersey vs. North Dakota

I was driving home, and I assure you: I was minding my own business. When all of a sudden there was a car in front of me with North Dakota License Plates. And I said to myself, "I don't think I've ever seen a North Dakota License Plate! What a nice-looking...! Wait a second..."

Cue sudden surge of implacable fury.

Along the bottom edge of the plate, where Pennsy used to put "The Keystone State," and NY used to put "The Empire State," and where NJ still does put "The Garden State," this North Dakota mother fucker had had the temerity to put: "THE PEACE GARDEN STATE."

What!? The!?!!!!!!???? WHO DARES!!!!!

There is only one Garden State my friend, and it is Jersey. Who are these scurrilous somnamabitches who think they can cop our motto? I don't care if I am technically expat, living our here in Cali; I don't care if North Dakota and Jersey don't share a border (which complicates things a bit) - this means war. We are going to wipe that motto right off of their stinking plates. We are going to show those potato-growing-or-whatever-they're-known-for mofos who the REAL Garden State REALLY is!!

What the hell even IS a "Peace Garden"? COME ON!!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

I've always had a hard time understanding the nature and purpose of Christ's sacrifice. Sometimes I ask myself: what lesson are we meant to learn from God's decision to be made flesh? Why did God choose to be born into humanity? And then, to allow himself to be sacrificed! To undergo agony and tortures of the worst kind - on our behalf? How exactly did this help us? What was the point of it?

It staggers the mind to think that a being so majestic - all-powerful, all-knowing, God! - would choose to be born as a human. To take on lowly humanity, and walk the earth just as any mortal. That alone staggers the mind. But to add to that, the willing acceptance of such a horrifying death...why would anyone do this? Why would God...?

Why would the one being who could never at any time be forced to suffer - choose suffering?

When we struggle through our trials, when we find ourselves suffering through seemingly undeserved punishments...many times, we see and feel how often life is unfair. All of us have at some point found ourselves in a place where we doubted our importance in God's eyes. Where we felt that there was no plan for us, that we could not be any less significant; that what we do doesn't matter. That who we are doesn't matter. Who among us has not felt hurt, unjustly hurt? Who has not felt at times, that the path of life was too long to walk, that the pain of life was too great to bear? Who of us has not cried out in despair, "oh God - why have you abandoned me?"

Yet was there ever a more blameless sufferer than Christ? Was there ever anyone less deserving of a seemingly endless, drawn-out torture and humiliation, ending in death? We could have been sent down alone, to walk a path beset with dangers - a path of pain, of anguish, a path of agony - while God sat on high and watched from a safe distance. But God did not do this. God said, "I will not forsake you. I too will walk this path." God became one of us. For the sake of us, God forsook his only begotten son - for the sake of us, God forsook himself.

Life is painful. Life is dangerous - by its very nature. There must be pain, because we are mortal, and must die. But God came down to show us that suffering and death is not the end. This world is not our final home. God came to show us the way to our true home, and to reassure us that even as we walk that path and suffer those pitfalls, God has suffered with us. God walks that path with us still.

God never needed to suffer for his own sake - but God chose to suffer for our sake. So that we would know that God is not aloof from us in our pain. God took on our pain, so to show us our salvation. And in his final words on that day of suffering so long ago, Christ himself cried out in despair: "My God! Why have you abandoned me?"

Do not believe that you have ever been abandoned. No matter what pain and shame and torture this world may put upon you, even in the worst pain that you will ever feel: God is with you. No pain can last. After suffering, solace. After imprisonment, release.

After death, there will be life.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Not The Same

I am not the same man since you've left.

I'm short with others.

I grumble into the phone.

I arrive to work disheveled, and depart looking sharp. I "peel out" when I leave in the evenings. I take my coffee cold with a ton of sugars. I scowl at anyone who stands next to my desk, but I don't look directly at them while I'm doing it.

I throw small objects across the room - erasers, styrofoam puffs, chewable lozenges - without looking to see who gets hit.

I don't sing anymore.

You wouldn't even recognize me, kid. I've changed.