June 30, 2008

Where Have The Rouges Gone?

As I have scanned the modern times in search of ingenuity, innovation, and other hip sounding "i" words, I've noticed something startling: There is a distinct lack of rogues out there.

Musicians, once the breeding ground for malicious and unsavory characters is now a dried out, post-apocalyptic wasteland of all things rebellious and rude. Where once nicotine infused, leather clad warriors of the cause existed, now only the emo-approved, Gap wearing poetry class rejects remain. Angst riddled they may be, but where's the fury? Where's all that vehement anger that only a few short years ago seemed to be in hefty demand?

It's a little strange for me to speak out about these things, considering how when I first picked up an instrument, anger was the last thing on my agenda. My initial aim was to be the voice of civility in otherwise aggressive music. Someone who could speak intelligently over the dim of loud electric guitars and double bass drums. As such, I had no time for the angry rantings of my more militant brethren. But, time makes fools of us all, and while age softens most mortals, it seems to have only made me more pissed off. And when I am enraged by the times we live in and seek a little furious testosterone set to a 4/4 beat, I look into the plethora of modern music available to me and find......nothing.

Seriously, there's nothing out there. Everyone seems very confused these days about what they're supposed to be doing. The pop guys are starting to dress like the emo guys, the emo guys are starting to dress like rap gusy, the rap guys are starting to dress like the metal guys, and the metal guys are starting to dress like the homeless. And the fury? Well songs about fancy cars, fly women, and associating inner turmoil with mortuary jargon may do it for you, but it doesn't really do it for me.

Even in the psychobilly realms, where that historic rebellion is claimed to be carried on is lacking somehow. Sure the songs got the beat, but it's hard to take them seriously when they're playing on Gretch guitars and upright basses costing several thousand dollars. And don't get me started on the clothes. Those old fashioned leathers and bowler shirts run a few benjamins, believe me I've checked.

Look back at the grunge era of yore. Sure there were a lot of guys tearing their flannel shirts and buying old, fucked up guitars to fit the scene, but at least the brunt of them were genuinely pissed. Throw a handful of 90's rejects into a rubber room with the current crop of hipsters, I promise you only the grunge disciples would be walking out.

And it's not happening in my little corner of artistic inequity. Remember the latter part of the 90's, how we had this wave of rebellious independent filmmakers out there trying to show the film industry how to make honest, raw movies? Tarrantino and Rodriguez were out there leading the charge and saying, "Hey, you don't need to be sucking on the tit of the major studios to make some good shit!" It was a breath of fresh air, and many undisciplined young men and women ran out there with camcorders to make their statement in the new age. Most of it was crap, but at least there was spirit involved. What about now? Rodriguez has made family films and leaves his wife to bang one of the Charmed? Where's the rebellion in that?

And what about the restaurant business? Once the home of the most despicable scum out there, slowly it too is being civilized. The drug bending, dangerous fringe of society that could only earn an income by wielding sharp knives on other people's food is slowly being washed out. In it's place, are culinary school grads. Eagle eyed and honor bound people with high hopes of becoming the next Rachael Ray. And yes, I am glad to see the kitchens of my local eateries finally getting some respect. It's hard work, and they deserve credit for what they do. Still, the cacophony of the disreputables is missed.

Leather jackets have been converted into semi-casual attire. Harley Davidson speaks more for businessmen than it does for biker gangs. The musical bastions who once spoke about living dangerously and against the system, are now trying to get with skanks on VH-1. And where are the leagues of young folks who grew up with this venom and were destined to succeed them? I don't know. Not here, that's for sure. Even in times like these, where there is so goddamn much to be pissed off about, the fringe voice seems to run pretty silent. The occasional outcry of hippes with petitions is about all we have anymore. It's been near 50 years since Vietnam, and when the country was against the war and the government said, "you're either with us or against us," people made their choice. And from that came an explosion of flower children, Hell's Angels, vagabonds, marauders, and others who went against the grain. And yet here we sit in similar times and have been given a similar ultimatum, and the fringe has disappeared.

Maybe the times are harder, I don't know. Gas costs too much to take in any soul-searching journeys. Hitchhiking is deadly, jobs are lacking, and the drugs aren't as much fun anymore. But I would assume that music, the birth-child of rebellion, would still be free. That the loud volume of heartfelt individuals who are displeased with the state of things would stand out as a lighthouse in the dim. But I see very little of that happening. Technology has robbed a bit of the old musical soul. Electronic drums and samplers are replacing more traditional rhythm sections, and the amatuer has the ability to showcase his work. A collage of bloops and bleeps that are far more sterility clean than any Erasure album. But at least Erasure knew how to spin a melody. So far the brunt of what I've heard leads me to believe they haven't even gotten past the presets on all that shiny new synthesizer equipment that Santa brought them. And presets doth not bring the rebellious spirit.

I have no idea what comes next, or even if anything comes at all. This may be a lull in our collective, or simply the evolution of a more civilized human. Regardless, I'll be shifting between Link Wray and Parliament albums waiting for the next revival of the rogue.

June 23, 2008

Shortcuts Part 2

Okay, so it's been awhile since I've written anything. And the last thing I did was admittedly very melodramatic. What can I say? It gets hard sometimes to deal with what feels like total failure sometimes. You see your hard work out there not making a single bit of impact on anyone, and you start to question whether or not what you do is any good. The doubts hit you hard, and you start to rationalize that maybe the product isn't that great, maybe I've done all the wrong things to get here, maybe I've shortchanged myself, been lazy, cut corners that are never meant to be cut. In doubt, any of these things seems like a reasonable and likely cause for your lack of greatness.

But I've had some time to think about it. And I keep coming back to the same bit of logic. The simple truth that no one who's heard my work has ever suspected the primitive techniques in which I've made it. Not one person has ever pulled me aside and told me it sounds like a poorly constructed demo, or that it was even too turdy to be labeled "lo-fi." Most have been pretty positive when speaking about the BGO. Worst I've heard yet is "not my type of music," and "a little too much bass," which is probably true. but overall things are pretty good. In fact, if didn't keep opening my big mouth, everyone might just assume I went to a professional studio to make this.

This got me to thinking about "The Industry." Those big boys with tons of cash and handfuls of attractive artists in their pockets. The very people I seem to be working against. I thought long and hard about those fancy studios with Pro Tools in the hard drive, extra LCD screens, and overpriced egg cartons on the walls. Having never been in one, I can only imagine what it's like. But if my suspicions are correct, it's pretty similar to what I do when I'm making noise. Granted, I don't have microphones costing several hundred dollars plugged into pre-amps costing several thousand. And I probably don't have as many toys loaded onto those hard drives to make even more interesting and compelling sounds. I don't even have the egg cartons, preferring the warm ambience of wood, and the ease of direct recording. That does sound like a lot of differences I suppose, but at it's root core, we're both pressing a REC button and waiting for someone to make noise. And at the end of the day, we're probably both trying to make the best out of all the noise we're left with.

Tossing the matter around further, I cam to conlude that "The Industry" cuts a hell of a lot more corners than I do. Yeah I may have spent less money and work with fewer options, but I've put in the work. Can any of you testify that "The Industry" has labored harder on a body of work than I?

Tune into your favorite form of music television, and watch the people gyrating on your screen. Do you see artists? I don't. I see talent. And believe me, there is a difference between the two. An artist burns a great many calories in pursuing their own stamp on what they do. The talent just delivers a finishing touch atop someone else's efforts. It's a good touch, no doubt. Great technical accuracy, and more musically utilized improvisations. I could take any contestant from American Idol, and get sung under the table every time. Solid performers all of them, but when you remove the karaoke machine or backing band that's playing behind the stage, what happens then? I can assure you, not very much. The brunt of the competition is based on these technically capable people singing songs that other, more passionate people made popular. If you do good, eventually "The Industry" will hire a team of songwriters, producers, and engineers to write something catchy and moderately new for you to sing over. He or she who sings the best over someone else's work gets to be called an "Idol," the very word losing it's meaning more and more with each passing season.

Returning to music television, you see more of the same. I would say that 90% of what you see on your screen is talent. Most of these people don't write their own songs. In fact, a good chunk of them don't even do the singing. Varying degrees of Auto Tune, ranging from mild Beyonce-isms to sub-plastic Britney Spears to Akon/T Pain overkill are slowly eating away at what's left of your eardrums. This technology doesn't require you to be accurate or even passionate for that matter. I suspect that if you wanted to come to the studio and drunkenly mumble into a microphone, a few whisks of Auto Tune could make you too, sound like the new Lindsay Lohan album.

As for the 10% who do actually play an instrument and compose something once in a while, I would venture to guess that another 8% of them are firmly in the pocket of some well known producer. Producer's who have made a very prosperous career out of genericism. For years now, we have heard the same chord progressions cast under the same talky style singing that Destiny's Child cursed us with so many years ago. You think that happens by sheer coincidence? Oh no my poor reader, there are no accidents in "The Industry." If it sold once, a way will be found to repackage it and sell it again. If everyone started listening to the soothing sound of whale sex, I guarantee you'd find albums with pristinly recorded cetacean fucking set to synthesized backbeats in your media outlet's shelves by next week. By next month, you'd have the duets of popular artists trying to cash in. Justin Timberlake sings with the horny humpbacks, that's Billboard gold right there.

This trend of cutting corners doesn't just stick to my realm of media either. Anyone who's seen a movie in the past few years knows what I'm talking about. CGI, an almost indispensable tool in films today. Sure, it's fancy and it can at times appear almost life like, but don't you ever feel that something is....missing? I mean, when you saw Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and watched those faces melt at the end, yeah it was probably just rubber and wax, but it looked damned impressive. Compare that to the end of the latest Indy film. Yeah, the CGI is in so many ways more realistic, but at the same time you get the sense of "Is that it? I've alredy seen that before." It probably doesn't help matters that actors are now spending more days talking to colored screens instead of real people. It's hard enough to pretend to be someone you're not, but now you have to do that while talking to something that isn't there. How do you respond in real time to something that takes months of sitting on a computer screen before it can even move?

That's probably why actors look so bored these days. No one seems to be enjoying the job anymore. As a result, we pay to see a bunch of pretty faces be really frustrated while a bunch of fantastic animation that they can't see goes on around them. And again, there is just more talent.

So who isn't just talent? Who are the real artists these days? Surely not the talent that puts bedroom eyes and low cut midriffs to bland backing noise. Engineers and computer technicians seem to be better artists than the folks we've been calling artists. And many of them don't deserve the priviledge. Some of these people spend a few hours taking pre-sampled beeps and bloops, sync them to sampled drums, and then filter the shit out of the result. All the while a pretty person half assedly sings, safe in the knowledge that this master of the creative commons license will make them sound like a star.

And this is what I'm working against. And while corners have been cut in the effort to make something I could stand behind with any sense of pride, I'd say that given the competition I'm doing alright. I sing and play my lines until they're right. The voice you hear on my bizarre songs is not much more than me with some EQ, compression, and a hint of reverb. And in the end, I can stand confident in the knowledge that if you took away my beaten computer with its outdated software, and forced me into a small room with a home stereo, two cassettes and a mic jack, I could make it work.

Try and beat that MTV.

June 10, 2008

The Professional

I've made no small habit out of calling myself a professional. Indeed, that's what I assumed I was. Not in any NFL Judas Priest sense of course, but I figured I met the minimum criteria. I created a product to be sold, and have in fact, sold some of it. Not much, of course. Certainly not enough to buy me those diamond encrusted condoms and Maserati's I've so sorely wanted, but money has been traded for goods in this scenario.

And that is the letter definition as far as I'm concerned. I've been paid to play. My craft has been rewarded by the praises of others. So I felt it only right to be talking as such.

In a way, I guess I wanted to be regarded as a professional too. Hell, who wouldn't want to be acknowledged for having some moves? To hear your name attached to the sentence, "That guy knows some shit?" It's a brilliant thing in my world. Just to know what you have to say about the field you're in is respected, would be enough.

But, try as I might, I'm probably no professional I'm no road warrior, no hired gun that gets called in to do the tough gigs and save the day. Most of my musical career, has involved me writing for myself. Sitting alone, getting comfortable, and creating something that sounds, reads, or looks good. I've tampered with sound for a long time. Thirteen years at least. My grizzled old paws have taken much abuse from a lack of stretching, the youthful optimism in attempting .011 gauge guitar strings, and all around careless musical behavior. These hands no longer know how to rest properly anymore. Leaving my hand at my side, resembles a man having a seizure more than someone who knows how to relax. I've gotten some decent ears too. I can spot a certain effect, chord, or when someone is out of tune without too much effort these days. Aren't these the traits, the highly cultivated skills of a professional?

Probably not.

Yeah, left to my own devices I can make things sound good, but things just don't work that way. Not sure anyone would actually want to pay me money to make myself sound good. Most days the people who can print out the paychecks want you making them sound good. When John Mayer wants you to play the root notes while he sings that new song that compares women to food, you play the fucking roots. And if Kate Voegele's sonic team want you doing her remix, you better damn well know how to use Logic and Pro Tools, otherwise your primitive ass isn't going anywhere near their bread n' butter.

Some days, it truly feels like I've cheated myself. I've made remarks to the contrary, but in low times, it would be of some comfort to know you're at least kind of marketable.

If it all disappeared tomorregaow, I would have nothing. I wouldn't be rrded as a professional by my more well paid brethren. I'm not even sure I'd be regarded as being capable. Just some punk kid who knows a few chords and can make some noise. Could I learn Pro Tools and figure out how to use the industry standards? Easily. But who wants to pay some stubborn mule to figure these things out when they could hire a yes man who already knows this shit? It's proper business, I can't even hate on it much as I'd like to.

I never bothered to learn how to read music. I've done everything in my life by ear, and have been completely happy doing so. But there's no way in hell a studio would call in a mercenary like me who's gonna need three or four takes before he can even play right. Time is money baby, and ignorant swine need to keep up, or step down.

Hell, if I was really really lucky, I might get one of those sweet gigs as a live performer in a backup band for any number of the people I hate. I'm sure Britney Spears or Celine Dion would love to have me in the background, so long as I smile constantly and sway with them on the rare occasions they feel up to gracing me with their presence on stage.

Most likely I would just disappear.

Vanish from the sonic underbelly and join the regular folks, hoping to god that no one ever speaks of the dismal failure that was the Boogie Man's BGO. Anytime anyone says "You look familiar," I say "Yeah, I get that a lot," and pray that it's left at that.

I'm a big talking guy, but I'm not sure I have any reason to be. I haven't done anything respectable. Yeah, I made a body of work on my own terms, but is that enough? In this day and age, is the boundary of the finished product really stopping anyone anymore?

I don't know. Much as I'd like the folks who know me and the bunches that don't to acknowledge me as a pro, the truth is I'm probably still a child wandering through the big boy's world.

June 9, 2008

Courtesy Flush

This site is my bastion for the rude and crude tendencies I tend to have, and regularly need to express. If something needs to be said, then god help me I'm gonna say it here. But, I know that the world is not limited to the keyboards, alcohol, bad TV, and constant music I use to stream the unconscious flurry of bad craziness that I do. In fact this behavior I entertain is pretty much criminal on the outside. People expect a bit of normalcy in their day to day, lest they get ornery As such, standards must be maintained. Courteous behavior and polite actions with the people around you make for a more tolerable relationship in the end. And the rules are usually simple: Be cool to your waiters and waitresses, as they are the bringers of sustenance, Smile occasionally at those who make paychecks, don't scorn those who try to endure you. All the basics.

But once in awhile, a situation comes where the proper action is a little murky. Something so off the norm, that you're just not sure of how to handle it, and still be regarded as respectable. I was left with one of these problems just the other day, and I'm hoping you loyal readers can help me here because frankly, this throws me a bit off.

Alright, here goes: What is proper conduct for dealing with a snoring man in the public bathroom stall next to you?

I'll give you a second to reread that sentence, so you can confirm that it was, in fact, what I asked.

It was a Friday like any other. I popped by the local bookstore to meet with some folks, do a bit of reading, and try and feed the muse. And as I tend to do upon entering any bookstore, my first stop was to the bathroom. Take a minute to clean out the plumbing and mark out my territory before I got on with my evening.

As I walk into this comfortable facility of the public variety, I hear a sound I've never heard before. It's a strange feeling to be sure. Usually, a trip to the bathroom has few surprises in the sonic territory. grunts, groans, putrid air flapping against skin, items with substantial mass connecting with water in a stomach-turning splash. And once in a big while if you're very lucky, an agonized plea for death to anyone who might be listening. Very little aural disturbance is surprising in a public restroom. Some days, you can even get a feel for a person's diet just by what there is to hear. And disturbing as it all sounds, it's actually a thing of comfort. If you're gonna drop trou to an audience, unsure of what you're body is about to do to you, it's nice to know that what ever toots you're gonna be making, everyone around you has made it once before. Relax there weary solider, we've all experienced the darker sides of sound. Just let go and become one of our brothers.

That said, sounds of the more unusual variety, can make a person pretty nervous. It's a vulnerable time you're about to subject yourself to, and you want recognizable things there to help you in your time of need. If you're going to die in a hideously postulated position, in some hideous looking stall, with toilet paper at your feet and time-proven erectile art at your sides, you would hope that you could at least go out relaxed and relieved.

It was not to be this way on this evening, as I stroll into the mens room to a strange grumbling/purring sound. It's so foreign in this place, that I can't even compare it to something similar. Flooding pipes don't purr, nor do fluorescent lights. At least not this loudly. On the few occasions where I've walked into a men's room where a bit of intimacy was occurring, nobody ever sounded that relaxed. This was weird.

But, I'm here, and I have a job to do. No sense in stopping now. As I approach the stall, the sound becomes louder and deeper. Pants hit the floor, I take my position, and as much as I play the denial game, I know full well what it is: A grown man snoring in a public bathroom stall.

So what am I supposed to do?

My first gut reaction, is to go adolescent here. Walk up to the man's stall, lift the boot, and kick that door with as much gusto as I can muster, all while screaming "Hey! Wake up Mr. Peabody!" This would be less than polite, of course. And there may be consequences, for example an angry man in a violent terrified rage with his pants around his ankles and hands reaching for my throat. That would make for a pretty bad scene.

So the obvious and more mature solution would be to create just enough noise to have him wake up, realize the silliness of his situation, and adjust himself accordingly. It's perfect. You retain your courtesy, he maintains his dignity, and best of all no one gets hurt.

Well it sounds good on paper, but when the man in question seems to be able to sleep through anything, things get a bit more complicated. Doors slamming, flushing toilets, various drips, drops, and other such wonderful music, all with no effect. Even loud conversations and hefty sneezes didn't phase my sleeping compatriot. This man was dead to the world.

So, I'm feeling like I'm out of options here. The obvious stuff isn't working, and I just can't get all that creative staring at my naked knees. In such instances, I've found that a little recon can make all the difference. So, I do the only amount of surveillance that my limited position allows: I tip the neck to the right and glance down. Through the space between our respective stalls, I can catch a glimpse of my colleagues feet. Not a view I particularly try to take in when sharing space with strangers, but times are desperate here.

I see just enough to decide my course of action: flip flops, weather-beaten socks, and blue jeans with muddy legs. I was willing to bet money that this man was homeless. Some poor soul who needed a few minutes of calm outside of the regular hell of having no home and no money. Possibly drunk, didn't smell like it though. Most likely, some poor fella wanted a few minutes of normal sleep in a thermally balanced place where insects couldn't eat you and the weather couldn't mess with you.

As such, I did the only thing I could think of to do: I left. I figure a man like that deserves all the good times he can get, and who am I to intrude upon them? It's not my store, nor my problem. And I don't feel particularly compelled to make it so. As I let the door close behind me, those snores could still be heard echoing off the walls. Sleep well my newfound friend. You've earned it.

I mean, come on. What would any of you do?

June 5, 2008

More Dreams

Last night I dreamed I was going to an event with Anthony Bourdain. Some food-related hulabaloo, I'm not even sure why I was invited. But anyways, I shook a few hands, sampled some generic eats, and then Anthony introduces me to Alton Brown, who's a total gentleman by the way. We start sipping Mai Tais and talking all things music and movies. During this bonding time, we decide that we should be the new incarnation of The Rat Pack. There was no argument that Bourdain should be Frank Sinatra, but we were stuck on who Dean Martin should be.

It was decided that a drink off was necessary to make such a delicate decision. So, I hit shot after shot of highly distilled alcohol against Mr "Good Eats." Few people know this about Alton, but the man can hold his liquor. He's not just goofy chuckles and hard-core science, the man can drink most mortals under the table. Of course, I'm not one who ever goes down easily, which made for a very interesting competition for any soul brave enough to watch.

Several drinks later, I win. But only barely. Alton takes the role of Sammy Davis Jr. with dignity and pride. And the new Rat Pack is born. We decide to christen ourselves as such by throwing deviled eggs at all the Food Network celebrities.

Again, I have no idea what it means, but it's put me in the best of moods.

June 4, 2008

Down Memory Road

Many years ago, I played bass for a local group called The Trip. They were a crazy bunch of rapscallions with a penchant for good times and an extensive repertoire of homemade material. It was my first experience in a functioning band. Up until then I had been performing a series of solo acts, or some hastily thrown together duos and trios, running under a few hours of rehearsal and a lot of "seat of the pants" tactics. But this here, was a legitimate band. Big manly guitar and bass amplifiers, double drum kit,and microphones withing arms reach, all managed by men who had seen the south side of surly bars and unmaintained backyards. These men had played, forcing songs to fit into ever-changing tempos, hoping that any mistakes made could be covered in the rebound by the rest of the band. Hefty quantities of beer fueled the need to ride the groove for all it's worth, and hopefully finish the tune without looking like a complete ass.

I played with them for more than a year. Not long compared to the life histories of other bands, but extensive for a guy like me. And much as I would like to point the finger at the men who headed the band, citing bad blood and hostile tendencies to the company I shared in that cramped basement, truth was my leave was mostly my own doing.

While I hadn't flexed my stage skills much, I had been standing the line for near a decade by that point. And though the technology changed from Casio keyboards and boomboxes from the 70's to something reasonably more advanced, I still had been writing material for a very long time.

This made me a very cocky bastard.

I wanted control over every single thing that went down. The acoustic guitar was too trebly, the snare had too much snap. And god forbid if anyone actually told me how to do my job in this! You want to complain about my bass EQ? I've been recording the shit for a long time buddy. Maybe you just need to turn your ass down. You don't like that bass line I whipped up during the spur of the moment and would prefer I play something similar to what your old bassist played? Fuck you man, if you want his ideas so bad, hire his ass back. Boogie does shit differently around here, so try and keep up.

I was a smug prick who did not like to have his ideas, which were transported from Jesus himself into my highly advanced brain, altered. By the end of my run, I was completely burned out, and since I was almost finished with a certain project under the codename "BGO," I was ready to jump p. When a well-paying job that required evening hours came up, I couldn't escape quick enough.

Since that time, I have become even more of a control freak over the small world I made for myself, but somehow managed to get some product out as well. And while I avoided holding a grudge, I also completely turned off that aspect of my life, never reviewing the sounds, or the music again. That is, until recently of course. A recent slew of memories from my heydays with The Trip all came rushing back to me, and from the most unlikely of sources no less.

Last night I was reading a review of the Dresden Dolls latest work. Curious, I happened over to Songza to see if I could take a listen. Up until now, my only knowledge of what they do was "Coin Operated Boy" which was a fine enough song, but not enough to compel me into repeated doses.
Has I browsed what was available, I saw a listing for something that made my jaw drop. The Doll's doing a live cover of War Pigs.

War Pigs? Surely it can't be the same song that Black Sabbath raped my fertile mind with? So I listened, and I'll be damned if it wasn't the same song done by a piano, drums, and two twisted minds. And I'll be even more damned if it wasn't simply amazing. Actually, mind blowing is a better word for it. both Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione put a lot of fury into that song that is as intense, if not more so, than the original.

And while I enjoyed the sonic fury that was being presented to me, I couldn't help but think of The Trip.

War Pigs was a constant staple of the live shows. One of those few songs on the set list that was unquestionably perfect, and guaranteed to get a crowd going. My bass work on our version was, of course, completely sacrilegious. Altered lines and changing keys, all completely overplayed and sharing nothing with Geezer's fine respectable work. And yet I remember it was some of my more subtle work. One of the few songs where playing four to the floor was actually kind of fun. And when the section that was Luke's Wall exploded in a mass of drums and cymbals, my adrenaline levels peaked into a high that no amounts of sugar, muscle relaxers, or quality alcohols have ever matched.

As the Dolls wrapped up their take on the classic, I embraced a whole slew of memories from those days. Sure there were nights I hated making the drive to practice, knowing I'd be blasted by decibels from unforgiving musicians, and that I would somehow have to make these same songs from the same set list interesting enough for me to play through. But, on those moments, like the four count before War Pigs, things were good. It was a distinct pleasure to perform with these men.

It's strange to visit those ashes in the present. Black Sabbath is still very much a band to be respected and admired, and The Trip was definitely heaps o' fun. And yet, the paths I'm on now are different. I'm not sure I'll ever play that song again. Which I suppose in some ways is good, but I do long for the nostalgia. A simpler time when a man could just be a bassist, and be comfortable in the knowledge that any missed notes or off keys would be covered by his fellow band mates. When a cold beer and a little Black Sabbath, would be enough to get you through.

June 3, 2008


Mrs. Boogie was in need of a spectacular set of new spectacles. And as such, I was called upon to be present for the festivities. To be a source of comfort, give my honest opinion on whatever overpriced metals and plastics she puts on her face, and try to find something she's very happy with.

We've recently abandoned our last optical locale, a great source of comfort for many years, as such we're a little more vulnerable, and leery of any strange purveyor of fine eyewear. It's been a long time since we've even needed to set foot into one of these places. As such my tactical system is on high alert.

We walk into the establishment, the smell of strong perfumes and weak sterility filling the air. The women at the reception desk are an angry looking bunch. No medical training or optical professionals here. These women wake up every morning and thank their lucky stars that they're blind enough to get the work.

Yep blind. Everyone who works in this place is wearing glasses. I'm guessing most of these optician type places have standards similar to Hooters. Except instead of huge racks and bubbly personalities, we get combative women with corrective eyewear.

They don glasses of varying strangeness. The type of frames that the practical amongst us would probably never choose for ourselves. Loud colors sharp edges and fake diamonds hammered into the plastic. One almost suspects that they were given a dollar an hour raise if they picked something that was a bit more hip.

I turn my attention to my surroundings. Yards of mirror, tons of frames and weather-beaten furniture. But it was near the ceiling where the real fun was to be had. Renowned eyeglass frame manufacturers had paid to get models to pose with their product. It was a surreal thing to say the least, seeing these really beautiful people with really well done lighting, and wearing really stupid glasses. The sort with the sharp corners, and exaggerated edges. The kind of shit nobody in their right minds would wear on any day other than Halloween.

And make no delusions about it, these are professional models. Their whole fucking career is to stand still and look decent. You know these specs aren't something they wear on any kind of regular basis. The only reason they even put those monstrosities on their face is because some guy with a camera crew said "We'll pay you if you put these on." Shit, if the price was right, it could easily be a sea bass around the shoulders, or a half-empty can of tomato soup on the genitals. This is what they do.
But hey, when you're browsing for glasses and in need of some new spectacles, these people stand in front of you like Roman gods. You glasses-wearing folk know the routine. You go in there in need of some eyesight enhancement. But, secretly, you're scanning for a new style of frame to "define you." Those thin pieces of middle around plastic or glass have the magical ability to bring out parts of your soul that no one has ever seen before. And you just know that the right selection of eyewear will automatically make you appear more intelligent, deeper, sexier, or any other adjective you can think of.

You're vulnerable, no way around it. Glasses have always gotten a bad rap and you need this new set to go against tradition and make you even more amazing than you previously were. As such, your self conscious nature is in control. And then you look up to the ceiling and see the posters of these living gods, in their glorious glossy beauty. And those frames on their face, those frames! They stand out above the din, telling the world to notice. They make a statement on such magnificent faces, surely they could do the same for you. You have found your soul.

There are people who have forked out money for these frames based solely on the fact that they looked good on that picture of the model who was staring at the floor. And a few days later, when they strap on their overpriced troll-ware, they'll be flinching at their own reflection. Turns out that if you don't have a team of makeup artists and a photographer who knows your "good side," you may not be able to pull off these glasses.

This place suddenly feels a bit more icky as a result of this revelation. Good people come in and out of this place every day. People who probably already have issues with the fact that they have to wear glasses. It doesn't even have to be about physical beauty. Hell, the idea that you have one more piece of baggage to tote around because of your body's inherent flaws is enough for most. And of course, the cost of the fucking things can put anyone in a bad mood. Any of these factors can make someone more uncomfortable in the purchase of their new eyewear.
And considering that most eyeglass places offer the multitudes of frames that make their models look good, and yet a limited stock of the more casual, normal type frames that would make anyone look good. They're pushing crap people. High class named, hideous looking glasses that any person would regret within minutes of looking at themselves in the mirror in the comfort of their own homes. The modern spec monger is taking advantage of our discomfort with this kind of false advertising. Playing on the need to feel beautiful combined with the need to see is dirty pool.

So, for my glasses-wearing peers, when that time for the eye exam comes, and new eyewear is on the menu, be wary. Keep your eyes away from those ceilings and on the prize. Don't be swayed by a group of people who must eat tofu to remain employed, and who can lose their jobs at the sign of a few pimples. You are better than them, and more than capable of finding your inner beauty through a pair of specs all on your own.

June 2, 2008

Boogie In The Real World

The wild and weird worlds one creates for themselves can be very addicting things. Over the past few months, I've been living the dream. Every day waking up, turning on an aged and beaten computer, and donning the uniform of the Boogie Man. Writer, coinessuer, and musician extrodinare. He's the one people deal with, who's music is on constant repeat on some of your favorite websites, and the person who reads all those amusing comments that come in throughout the days. And while the pay sucks, it's worth the lack of any real payday to live the dream.

Still, there is the guy who takes over once that computer turns off. The quiet and soft-spoken kid who spends nights worried about things he can't control. I try hard to keep him out of these tales, since the happenings that go on in his life aren't very interesting, and can frankly be a bit annoying.

Still, his role in all this is a necessary one. He's the responsible one. The guy who pays the bills, who will make that long half-dead drive to work some day, the guy who's on time and dedicated to whatever paying task is in front of him.

Recently, it was him who needed to be out in the world. Work was calling, real work. None of the "make noise and think up some funny shit" con that I've been running for awhile now. Nope, that sort with bosses and taxes and all that gibberish. As such, it was time to let the mild-mannered alter ego out on the town.

It was an unusual thing to be dealing with the real people again. Average citizens, concerned mostly with paying the mortgage and doing what's right for the kiddies. People who don't know, and are better off not knowing what an infamous little prick I'm making myself out to be. My job on ths night is to smile, answer questions thoughtfully and enthusiastically, trying hard to stay on topic. No telling it like it is tonight. These people don't want my opinions on the sad state of the music industry, or whatever bad programming I saw on television that just needed to be spoken about. We're here for the kids, and to pitch a program that's based on their enthusiasm for a lot of time and money spent. As such, I must be on the best behavior, a trait I have seemingly forgotten how to do locked away in Mello-Drama.

And I have a supervisor to answer to no less. This isn't my show. I don't run it, didn't coordinate it, and have nothing to do with it's execution other than to be here. It's a sensation I had actually forgotten, not being the last say in things. The fear of reprisals for work shoddily done hit me like a speeding Hummer. You walk a tightrope for the Big Cheese. So long as he or she is happy,you keep getting paid. And payment, is paramount in the real world. For my duration on the job, I felt as though parts of my mind must be unplugged entirely. Entire sections of brain were left disconnected, cables flailing in the wind, begging to be reconnected. I don't much like holding back anymore, and I actually get a little nauseous now that I have to.

Dealing with my colleagues doesn't make things any easier. Suffice to say, this isn't they typical rabble I run with. This is a hand-picked bunch, representing the standards of the elite and the snobbish. A bunch I never cared for when I had to deal with them, and in my long absence from things, have become even harder to cope with. I had gotten very used to dealing with the blood n' guts artists who can polish a turd into something magnificent. That wacky bunch who thrive best when left with piles of crap, who have sacrificed friends, family, and time to do what they do. The whole lot of us share an unspoken language when discussing our bodies of work, knowing that some shit has hit the fan for us to be here talking like this.

Such a language doesn't exist in this place. These people are the sort who complain about having to be in the boonies for days at a time. Of the strange brown semi-edibles in the greasy spoons of the nameless counties in this state. The pain and agony of having to drink gas station coffee instead of that name brand novelty fare they've grown so accustomed to. Poor bastards.

I can't talk to them for any great length of time. I've seen enough in my time to know that their idea of "bottom of the barrel" barely fondles the iceberg. I keep my focus on the job. Dealing with every person who comes in, painfully contorting my face into one of those "smiles" everyone always raves about. I keep a firm eye on the clock on my cell phone, counting down the minutes. A strange sensation to be sure, since I can't seem to find enough time in the day to be the Boogie Man. But here I sit for just two hours, and the clock can't run out quick enough.

But time, as it always does, goes by. I have earned my freedom, and a few extra dimes to contribute to the cause. My drive away is fast and vicious, fearful of any kind of magnetism that might pull me back to that godforsaken place. I badly want to get back to normal.

What scares me most is that what I have done tonight might lead to something more serious. 40 hours a week, salary, all those fine words that most people can't wait to hear, they put the fear of death into me. If two hours of minding my manners has caused me this much agony, What will happen if spend a third of my day doing it?

I suppose I'll adapt, like any other hardworking decent soul out there. Head down, running lean, waiting for the second when the clock plays nice and you can remove that icky persona that you need to pay the rent. That moment when you can don your true self and step out into the world. Perhaps this will be good for me. I've had a good chunk of time to figure myself out. I know who I am, and I know how much shit I'm willing to take for any man's cause. Maybe it's time to take that newfound identity and thrust it into the real world and try, just try to not lose my head in the process.