Sunday, July 29, 2007

Well that about sucks

Well folks, I apologize for not writing more this past week but it doesn't look like I'm gonna be writing much this week either. Last night after getting home from a barbecue in Manhattan Beach I realized my key didn't really turn in the door. Weird.

Cut to the interior of my house where my computer, my laptop from work, my digital camera and my electric guitar are gone and the place is kinda turned upside down. My shit, fucking gone.

Mercifully, they left my external hard drive so it's not a total loss. But everything from work is gone gone. That's gonna make tomorrow awesome.

Two and a half hours later the LAPD did come by (3 in the morn!)and filed a report and all that but the truth is this is a job for State Farm at this point. It'll all work out of course.

But WTF, right?

Ahh, life in the big city.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Headlines that make me think my browser needs to be refreshed

"Linday Lohan arrested for DUI."

"Car bomb kills people in Iraq."

"Britney Spears pregnant again."

"Bush says everything is going great."

My folks

I've found as I've gotten older that most everyone I know talks about their parents in a very favorable light. Gone are the days of "my parents are such dorks" or "they never bought me that BMW or sent me to fancy private school" or whatever. You get over it and can be civil again. To their credit, I think most parents get a lot cooler when they get their lives back after 22 or more years (here's looking at me!) of putting up with our crap. That's got to be a relief, right?

That being said, no one's parents are cooler than mine.

Now, a lot of people don't know this but my parents attend every Austin City Limits taping. That means they not only see pretty much all of my favorite bands when they play there, they often see them before I do. I routinely get questions that go something like these: "have you heard of Modest Mouse?" or "you like Explosions in the Sky, right?" Or a lot of times I'll just get reviews of the shows I didn't know they were going to so I'm all like "whoa, wait a second, rewind it, back, it, up, there. Did you just say you saw the Killers?"

"Oh, and they also had a gospel choir," she would then add.

Of course they did. Why wouldn''t they?

So Saturday in the mail I got a package from them containing a couple of tidbits from the Decemberists' appearance the week before last. First, Colin Meloy's autograph on the program. Nice, right?

And you know, in case the autograph wasn't enough, they snagged the setlist.

These are my folks. The best in the biz.

And they're prolly better than yours. I'm just sayin'. I mean, if you want have a parent-off or something, just let me know and we'll do this. We'll come to you.

(don't worry Mom and Dad, I'm just throwing out a little of what we call "online bluster". A little cyber-foolery, if you will. It's common on the world wide web to talk a lot of trash to people, many of whom you don't even know. It's all the rage now. Just so you know. Oh yeah, and there won't be any "parent-off" or travel to said "parent-off" so please, no training. I'm just blufffffing.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

And in the 78th minute, God...

...strode out onto the pitch and all of us there in the stadium that night knew we would never be the same.

Well, maybe.

Sort of.

Last night we went to the Galaxy vs. Chelsea game and witnessed the spectacle of David Jesus-ham making his debut. Oh right, here was the only thing: he may or may not play. So don't get too excited.

Grant's tenacity on craigslist this week got us some last-second cheap seats in the grass to watch the game (prices plunged when news went out Becks may not play) so we rolled down there for what was to be the second game of a doubleheader, Beckham or no beckham. I was super pumped for it. I love ths kind of stuff.

It was insane. And I have no idea why the one cameraphone picture I took is sideways.

And since this was the Galaxy playing the crazy-good Chelsea club (Drogba!), it brought out pretty much every ex-pat in southern California and apparently got them all hammered drunk in the process. Really helps get the chanting and singing going. Good guys though. Very British.

And there really was a chance Becks might play. I figured he had to take a spin at some point or it'd be pretty anticlimatic. I knew if he could walk he would sub-in late or something. He had to. Everyone in the whole place was wearing his jersey. JD and I both agreed the guy's a baller and he'd lace 'em up if he could.

Then some time late in the second half with the Galaxy down 1-0, he did and began jogging a bit on the sideline (eliciting screams from everyone and of course flashes from their cameras/phones). He barely kicked an out-of-bounds ball back to the ref and the place went nuts. Then he began to take what looked to be a lap around the joint (now the game's still in full swing, btw, but no one's watching it of course) but then he suddenly turns right and disappears into the locker room. We're all like "huh, would you look at that. What a debut. We got to see him 'jog'."

Then he popped back out a few minutes later. The place goes nuts. Turns out he was just putting on his long sleeves. He likes the sleeves. And then he got serious about stretching out before he walked over to the sideline.

Now I've been to several live sporting events where crazy stuff has happened and records have fallen and stuff, but this was something else entirely. I mean, this game meant nothing really and he was coming in really late but it felt like this was Roy Hobbs coming to the plate at the end "The Natural." Like we're all rapping our prgrams in our other hand and saying out of the side of our mouths, "come on old chap, we need this!" We all figured it would go something like this: Beckham would come in and equalize it on some crazy bender and then put it away with some ninja-ass, bicycle kick. How could he not? The energy in that place could have carried it.

I mean, the whole place was on their feet chanting his name like a bunch of crazies. Me included. We didn't sit down for the rest of the game. One might even say we were mad for him.

Of course he did very little once he did finallly take the field aside from an exciting corner kick at the very end. But that didn't stop the guy behind us from yelling things like "kick it to Beckham" or "pass it to Beckham" or similar thoughts no matter where the ball was or who had it. Or he'd just yell "hey Beckham, score a goal!" as if ol' Becks might have been unclear as to what the $32 milion was for. Sometimes he'd just whistle the loudest whistle you ever heard—well, back when you could still hear, that is.

I'm pretty sure Beckham got the message. But it was not to be.

1-0, Chelsea in the end.

But it was frikkin' awesome though.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It was 40 years ago today

I recently read an article in Rolling Stone about the year 1967 and I gotta admit I never sat down and thought about the plethora of albums that came out that year. On top of that, they were coming from all over. One scene, happening in like 5 cities. Here, check this out:

The Beatles released "Seargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." And while it wasn't relased until '68, Pink Floyd was across the hall at Abbey Road recording "Dark Side of the Moon." And while the Stones only released "Between the Buttons" and the rare misstep "Her Satanic Majesty's Request", they more than made up for it over the next 4 years with "Beggar's Banquet", "Let it Bleed", "Exile on Main Street" and "Sticky Fingers." Jesus, that's just unfair.

New York:
The Velvet Underground released "Velvet Undeground and Nico" under the guidance of Andy Warhol and really defined the New York scene until the Ramones came along.

New York/London:
Jimi Hendrix released both "Are You Experienced" and "Axis: Bold as Love" while globe-trotting. Oh yeah, and he tore up the Monterrey Pop Festival that summer.

The Doors released their debut "The Doors" and "Strange Days" and had Brian Wilson not lost his marbles the Beach Boys would have released "Smile."

San Francisco:
While the Dead never were about albums, per se (more a great live band/experience), they were of course holding it down up north there and developing what was to become the modern rock show.

That's not even getting into the '66 or '68 albums. Craaaazy.

Long story short, I think we're due for another revolution. I mean, there was the explosion of hip-hop in the 80's on both coasts here, there was the '91 grunge movement, there was the mid-90's Brit-pop craze/Madchester scene across the pond, the downtown NY scene in like 2001, and maybe a few other spurts of this and that but there's been nothing on that scale since.

All I'm saying is we're due. And while I've only been here a few months, I do feel like something might be brewing here in LA as there seem to be alot of good bands coming out of here and they're beginning to develop what one might call a "sound." We'll see.

And check out that little light bulb thing there on the right. Click on it if you like. I'll explain more in a few weeks (long story) but if you haven't swapped out your old-school bulbs for them fancy new compact flourescents, you should. It's sick how much more efficient they are. I gotta admit until a few months ago I had no idea silly little light bulbs could draw so much energy. Unscrew and screw or get screwed, I say.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Your typical summer weekend

The weekend kicked off in Hollywood when I met up with the great Paul Janzen who had been in town shooting this past week. We met up at the Roosevelt Hotel where he was staying, smack dab in the middle of tourist-ville. Right on Hollywood Blvd. Despite all the traffic to get there on a Friday night it's still always fun to get up there now and then.

Fortunately we were able to kick it poolside at the pretty chill Tropicana Bar. Then we went to eat at Velvet Margarita which I'm afraid I would not recommend. It was kind of the definition of "so-so." But hey, they can't all be winners. And it was within walking distance. Then it was back to the Tropicana for more drinks and a bunch of "the difference between New York and LA" discussions. Paul's a former west-coaster (and a Canadian!) so he's seen both sides.

The rest of the weekend was spent bumming around, riding my bike, listening to all the new albums that came out this week. I gotta say, that Spoon one is shaping up to be pretty great. Interpol is growing on me.

I also bought the new album by a guy named Nick Lowe whom I've been a big fan of for a long time. It's called, appropriately, "At my age."

Even though it's only 33 minutes long, it's another solid winner from the elder statesman—easily his best since "Dig my mood." It's like his radio broke somewhere around the Buddy Holly era and, despite his being British, he just keeps turning out these beautiful albums of organ and horn-drenched songs that sound like they're coming straight out of an old hi-fi. You can practically hear the martini glasses rattling atop it. Delightful.

Oh yeah, and then today at the beach we saw like 15 dolphins swimming down the coast like 30 yards out in the water. While I've had the good fortune of seeing whales that was the first time I've seen that. It was pretty darn cool. I just kept calling out "swim on little daddies, swim on."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

That can't be good

During a spectacularly un-busy day at work yesterday Grant and I went to see the Michael Bay fest “Transformers.” My official review: ehhh. It was kind of like a big GM/eBay/Pepsi/Mountain Dew ad mixed with cool special effects and loud ass metal-clanging action sequences. Oh yeah, and Michael Bay’s heavy-handed directing. But it was fun I guess.

We did get there early enough to see the mystery trailer for the unnamed JJ Abrams project that’s due out in January. And I gotta say, it was a little frightening. God knows what the movie is about but it scared the pants right off me. Check it:

Yeah. Not sure what to say about that. I’m sure it’s aliens attacking or something but still.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I’m off the lot

Anyone else think that “On the Lot” show (where a bunch of aspiring filmmakers go at it “Idol”-style for like a studio deal or a sack of cash or a chance to meet Spielberg or something like that) could be a hell of a lot better?

Me too.

I really wanted to like it. But something’s off with it. Several things, really. I’ve muscled through like two or three episodes but can’t take anymore. And I heard today the foxy Chelsea Handler hosted the first episode that I missed! She’s way better than whoever that ball of insight is they got on their now. And I’m not sure if I was a filmmaker that I'd care what Princess Leia, the guy who directed “Pretty Woman”, and last week's guest judge who directed the Rob Schneider suck-a-thon “the Animal” have to say. I mean, ok. Great. I'll call you when I wanna make a hit movie in 1987.

And this may just be the guy whose job involves getting assignments and turning around cool ideas for little short films in a matter of days talking, but most of their little shorts suck. I know they’re not writers but still. Try to come up with something we haven't seen before. Just a thought.

Then again, just like our best musicians will never end up on American Idol I’m afraid the best filmmakers out there are the ones out actually making movies.

It's a crazy concept.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer of Rock

I used to always say if I had a band of my own, it would probably sound like one of three bands: Interpol, Spoon or the Dandy Warhols (circa “The Dandy Warhols Come Down”). Why the Dandy’s gave up that multi-guitar attack of “Boys Better”, “Be-in” and “I Love You” is beyond me. Lord they were cool. But that’s another topic for another day.

Tomorrow, my Austin boys Spoon and my NYC brothers Interpol (and Carlos’s new mustache) both release new albums. And word on the street is they’re both pretty damn good with Spoon’s perhaps having a leg up with the critics.

Here’s Spoon’s new “The ghost of you lingers.” Very spare, very Spoon.

And Interpol’s interesting video for “The Heinrich Maneuver.” The song’s good, I know that much.

Personally, I’m rocked about both of them. And I’m amazed I didn’t Russian site both of them. I’m clearly off my pseudo-illegal/deeply discounted/”$1.15 for an album sounds about right to me” downloading game.

Los Angeles, I'm Yours

Through a fortunate turn of luck, Saturday night I found myself in the good seats at the Hollywood Bowl for the Band of Horses, Andrew Bird, Decemberists show. And it dawned on me as I sat there that “I’ve wanted to do this my whole life.” By “this” I mean “see one of my favorite artists—preferably three of them—play at the Hollywood Bowl on a beautiful summer night.” And if for some reason the LA Philharmonic was to play with the last band and that band just happens to be one of my all-time favorites? Well all the better.

While I’d certainly heard people rave on about it, I don’t think I was fully prepared for the Bowl itself. It’s beautiful in every sense. The park-and-ride shuttles work with Swiss-like efficiency. It’s extremely well-designed. It’s a natural amphitheater tucked into the woods. The acoustics are insanely good. You can bring in any food, wine and beer you like.

Oh yeah, and it’s the same stage on which the Beatles, the Stones and the Doors all played. In fact, that there’s the same stage where Jim Morrison famously delivered a few key lines of “The End” to his mother and brother who were sitting in the audience.

Right. Frikkin’. There.

I’ll admit I got just as excited about the Garden. And about Red Rocks. Historic venues, good seats and great bands. Same story, pretty much. I'd put the experience on par with the first time I went to Yankee Stadium and saw how it's just on a different level. I mean, even the grounds crew is part of the show!

But back to Saturday night.

Band of Horses came on and opened the evening up. The crowd was crazy for them even as they were filing in and most of them in mid-picnic. A tough slot but they made it work. “The Great Salt Lake” (complete with boot stomping as Ben counted out the silence during the choruses) and “Funeral” were both crazy good.

And bonus points for the cowboy boots, beard and South Carolina shirt.

Then the sun seemed to disappear instantaneously and the amazing Andrew Bird came on. This guy. Wow. I’d only been introduced to him a few months ago but the best description I could come up with is Wes Anderson with a guitar. Could have been the tan suit. And that he played with no shoes, just striped socks. He made Dave Werner-like use of the looper and pretty much played everything except drums—guitars, violin, xylophone, you name it—and all at the same time. Oh yeah, and whistling like you ain't heard. I’d go see him in a heartbeat when he comes back around.

And he had these crazy, trippy pipes whirring around the whole time which I felt were pretty cool.

Then the wall came down and people in white dinner jackets began milling about, taking their places.

And then the Decemberists took the stage.

This was one of those shows where you fall in love with a band all over again. I had raved about the Crane Wife when it came out back in October but I don’t think I ever fuly got it in the sense of how beautiful a record it is.

They opened the show with the lovely “Crane Wife 1&2” that played out over like 15 minutes. Let me set the scene: just imagine Colin (in full seersucker suit, btw) all by himself with a full band and orchestra sitting quietly behind him as he plays that quiet opening bit of the song, the whole place ready to pop with anticipation of seeing how this “playing with an orchestra” thing was gonna be. And then in the second verse the strings start building up and then a few moments later the show was underway, full-orchestra belting it out. The hills, as they say, were alive with music. It was one of the best musical moments of my life. I’ve always thought “Crane Wife 1&2” rather than “Crane Wife 3” should have opened that album. Good lord, it’s good.

And while it ain't ideal, here is someone's video of the opening of the show.

The band itself sounded fantastic all night and was incredibly loose considering this was the first time they’ve done this. They were having as much fun as we were. Colin even played drums.

All I could think the whole time was “this is about the best thing I’ve ever seen and/or heard.”

All of the “holy crap” moments began to blur together at that point. They did, of course, play “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” which despite being a total slag on the city, was pretty magical. And it was just made for an orchestra. Speaking of, here is the orchestra waiting patiently before the encore, the conductor gently motioning to the crowd to keep it up.

They played a good deal of both “The Crane Wife” and “Picaresuqe” but they closed the show with a couple of gems: “I Was Meant for the Stage” which was positively fantastic and then they came back out to play “Chimbley Sweep”, both from way back off “Her Majesty the Decembrists.”

Here's the LA Times review: LA Times Review

I kept thinking there were probably songs I wished they’d played (California One, Oceanside) but I kept coming back to the same thought: this is perfect.

Just like it is.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What’s with all the clouds?

For all the time I’ve been here it’s been cloudy like once. Maybe twice. And then there was yesterday.

We celebrated the holiday over at the ever-hospitable Jeff and Anne’s house down at the beach. It was lovely but it would have been so much more lovely had the sun been shining. It was wall-to-wall overcast. We went out to the beach for a bit to throw the Frisbee and kick the soccer ball around a bit but it felt like we were Long Island or something. I felt like we should have been crabbing.

Fortunately, the sun went down and the clouds cleared a little bit for the fireworks which we watched from a rooftop in Venice that, having never seen it from 6 floors up, looked a lot like Baghdad when fireworks were coming from every conceivable place. The day was filled with was lots of eating and drinking and bike riding and Grant getting pushed in the pool by some fat, crazy chick. And for some reason, Grant and I felt it necessary to make a light night ride to In n’ Out burger after having eaten gobs of food all day. Not sure why we felt the need to eat yet again, but it was fun.

Work this morning was like a cruel joke.

How was the weather today, you ask? Sunny and beautiful.

Here’s looking forward to an Independence Day/half-birthday that’s not on a Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Stuff that makes me happy

Kona Longboard Island Lager. It’s delicious and the packaging is dope. It makes you smile to see it in your fridge.

Ryan Adam’s new “Easy Tiger.” A bit uneven in places but a solid album from arguably my favorite musician. “Two” is a fantastic song.

The Queens of the Stone Age and their new “Era Vulgaris.” Four words: “Make it wit chu.” Listen to it. Trust me.

Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators and their song “No one’s gonna love you.” Drenched in Hammond B3 and slinky guitar, it’s a burner. Soul from Brooklyn by way of Finland. You tell me.

Listening to my parent's review of the Explosions in the Sky taping at Austin City Limits. Two thirty-minute long songs, no encore.

Swimming in the ocean. Beats swimming in a pool any day of the week.

“The Queen.” A lot of people don’t know about my fascination with the royal family but I finally watched this a couple of days ago and found it positively fascinating. And Helen Mirren deserved every piece of hardware she got.

Bike riding. A much more pleasant way to get around. I highly recommend it.

Half-birthdays. Mine’s tomorrow and I plan on celebrating it. You should too.

Have a good fourth, everyone.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Home shopping

When I finally moved into my place here a month ago I was presented with the option of getting cable or satellite or whatever tv and splitting it with the owner of the front house (I’m only rigged for the basic channels as it stands now). Given my situation at the time I thought “how much am I gonna be watching it anyway? I’ll see if I can get off tv for a bit.”

Give it a month. Suddenly I find my free time to be very much my own. And, given what I do for a living, it’s honestly kind of necessary to see what’s up on the ol’ airwaves. So I may bite the bullet this week and at least get the standard cable line-up.

But not having cable again has been interesting. And part of it has been downright awesome. Here's why:

LA’s basic television channel line-up is like most cities in that it runs between channel 2 and channel 13. For the most part, anyway—after that it’s pretty much just Spanish and Asian channels and local access. But the weirdest thing is smack-dab in the middle of those network channels are two home-shopping channels. Like people in the back of family vacation photos who make you think “what are they doing there?”, there they are on channel 6 and channel 8. Right on either side of ABC.

Having not watched a collective 5 seconds of a home-shopping network in probably 10 years, I’ve begun to find them fascinating. There I am, hopping between NBC and FOX or whatever when I’ll stumble across them and—BAM!—next thing I know, ten minutes have gone by and I’m wondering “who the fuck would pay $120 for a portable tv?” or “who can’t just use a toaster oven to get the exact same result?” or “who would ever need to reseal that much meat in individual airtight plastic pouches” or “wait, are they really selling a portable tv in 2007?” And the hosts are all like “this is breakthrough technology!”

It sure is! If this was also 1984 and Reagan was still in the White House.

And if you’ve ever wondered where old ladies get all those loose-fitting/elastic-waisted clothes made out of flowing chiffon-like fabrics and knitted with “intricate beading” and “delicate flourishes,” well, it’s on those channels. It’s awesome. Even the “labels” sound b-rate: Susan Lucci, Suzanne Sommers, etc. And of course everything is available on payment plans.

Listen, I’m no money manager, but I’m gonna come right out and give you a good rule of thumb: clothes shouldn’t be bought on credit or payment plans (exceptions can be made for shoes and suits). They’re seasonal. And no one wants to pay for something they don’t wear anymore.

And people will call in to talk about purchases they made! Who are these people? It all has a bit of a “Requiem for a Dream”/”keep believing” feel to it. ‘Cause you know there are people out there, credit card in hand, buying stuff I assure you they or anyone will never need.

But the best of the best came yesterday as they tried to unload an $899 Gateway desktop (I know! a Gateway! $900!) that to hear them talk about it, pretty much would have you mixing and editing your own full-length features in a matter of minutes. Of course, they had a little trouble showing you how exactly to do it given their difficulties in operating the Vista software but, they repeatedly assured the viewer, YOU would be able to. And of course they spent time talking about how this particular desktop had room for “expansion drives” and “peripherals” and “multi-layer DVD burner” as if magically the viewers had suddenly become Cal-Tech or MIT students.

I could just see one of those overpriced desktops going out the door and heading (possibly bundled up with a porcelain figurine or bad jewelry or other hair-brain purchase) out to a yard-less house in some place like Joplin, MO, or Dawson, GA. There the new owners would excitedly open it along with the requisite encyclopedia of manuals and software that all need to be loaded onto it. The kids all take a break from their home-schooling to pitch in but, alas, weeks later it all proves too overwhelming and at best the machine ends up being a glorified “email checker” or “DVD player-machine.” It’s hard drive would never be filled with “250,000 photos” or “40,000 songs” or a single “home movie.”

Oh wait, is that a vacuum-sealer/food dehydrator? I gotta go…..