Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bills Music Roundup: 2009 (Part Two)

  • 5. Sunset Rubdown, Dragonslayer - The Boeckner/Krug songwriting team of Wolf Parade--think Lennon and McCartney but with less friction and tighter pants--spent most of 2009 splitting the difference with side projects, and Krug's dubiously named Sunset Rubdown can claim the cup (albeit only slightly--that Boeckner's Handsome Furs disc is a lot of fun, too). Sunset Rubdown is technically a fully functioning band but Dragonslayer is very much a Spencer Krug affair, overflowing with elegant melodies, abstract lyrics, and angular song structures that spin off unexpectedly in unusual directions that make perfect sense upon hindsight. There's a restless creativity at work here, a refusal to sit back and say "yeah, that'll do." Krug's quirky, affected voice can be something of a love it or hate it affair, true, but I fall firmly in the former, and frankly he could possess the pipes of Marge Simpson as long as he kept yelping out lyrical gems like "I hope that you die in a decent pair of shoes, you got a lot more walking to do where you re going to." Dragonslayer not only provides the perfect showcase for Krug's brilliance as a songwriter but also promotes Sunset Rubdown from Wolf Parade offshoot to confident equal. Sample: "Nightingale/December Song"
  • 4. HEALTH, Get Color - HEALTH's eponymous debut was a disruptive and screeching ride that, while rewarding, didn't really have a base of appeal beyond a couple kids and that v-necked hipster sneering at you from behind the American Apparel counter. On their second proper album, HEALTH take a massive step towards, well, songs, and the results is a bit like witnessing an amphibian climbing on land for the first time. Lead single "Die Slow" is actually catchy enough for your girlfriend, and even more abrasive numbers tend to be softened with an expanded sense of melody. "Before Tigers," for example, sounds like great sheets of noise careening across a metal plain, and yet the androgynous vocals soar over the battlefield with pensive beauty. This softer, rounder sense of songwriting also provides greater contrast with the noise, as when the album escalates into the nightmarish "Eat Flesh," you really feel it ("Death+" doesn't exactly play nice, either). Get Color is a riotous journey that pulls between melody and cacophony and eventually pushes directly against you--hard--until expansive closer "In Violet" grants release. It isn't quite the best album of the year, but it was my personal soundtrack to 2009. Sample: "Die Slow"
  • 3. The Flaming Lips, Embryonic - Embryonic's dizzying strengths don't exactly require context to be appreciated--for many the album will even serve as a point of entry into the weird world of the Lips--but its place in their discography is what rendered it such a surprise. 2006's At War with the Mystics was a tired, underwritten mess from a band that had made a career out of consistent, loopy brilliance. The Lips seemed more dedicated to their (admittedly great) carnival of a live show than to, you know, actually making music. As such, the fact that Embryonic is an unapologetically surreal and confrontational volley of weird with nary an uplifting crowdpleaser in sight is a shock that would border on career suicide were the album not so ridiculously good. Much has been made of the spastic freak-out jams that stretch across the double album (that still comes packaged as a single album--what?), but beneath it all is a center that holds it all together--you're never too far from a compelling melody, or a moment where the Lips' pop sensibilities squeak through. The album could be trimmed a bit, true, but its sprawling excess is part of its charm--this isn't a collection of songs so much as a hallucinatory experience. Even if you leave out all the accompanying visuals currently accompanying this album--that guy hitting the everloving shit out of the gong on their live shows, the fully naked people sliding out of a giant, spherical vagina in the video for "Watching the Planets"--the Flaming Lips have solved running out of gas by bolting a jet engine to the car's frame. The Lips are back and weirder than ever. Sample: "Watching the Planets (warning: very, very NSFW!)"
  • 2. The Antlers, Hospice - "I wish that I had known in that first minute we met/ the unpayable debt that I owed you." And so begins 2009's most gorgeous yet unsettling album, which technically isn't the Antlers' debut but might as well be. Hospice is a story on two fronts, the story of its inception--it was more or less written in extreme isolation over the course of a year--and the story of the album's narrative itself, which is either an explicit first-person account of a cancer ward care provider falling in love with a terminal patient or a metaphorical examination of a claustrophobic and destructive relationship. Heavy stuff, sure, but even heavier than you think--generally speaking, if you're finding the going too easy then you probably aren't following along close enough. The lyrics are perhaps this year's best, unfolding and connected upon previous points with successive listens, sweeping yet compact with resonating truths (personal oh-shit-I've-been-there moment: "You say that, 'No one's gonna listen, and no one understands,' so there's no open doors and there's no way to get through, there's no other witnesses, just us two"). The generally gorgeous music doesn't really break any new ground--Arcade Fire and Sigur Ros are definitely taught this younger brother how to shave--but it locks in with the raw lyrics to produce a punch to the gut that lingers uneasily after the final notes, like the album's epilogue that explores the ghosts of traumatic relationships that haunt long after any attempts at a happy ending. The most visceral and emotional listening experience of the year. Sample: "Two"
  • 1. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion - For awhile Hospice was going to get the top honors, but I couldn't do it. As great as that album is, I have to hand 2009 over to joy. To sheer celebration. To dancing with your loved one in a moment so private that the world outside swirls forgotten. To solving insomnia by holding hands and running through the streets in the middle of a hot summer night. To honoring the life of a deceased family member by cherishing and supporting those closest to you now. To the magic of shared moments of intimacy that belong solely to you and the one you love. To life and its habit of being horrible and then incredible and the fact that you need to deal with the former by embracing the latter. And, on a personal level, to the album that has been my constant companion throughout the many highlights of an incredible 2009. Here's to life, joy, love, and Merriweather Post Pavilion. Sample: "My Girls"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bills Music Roundup: 2009 (Part One)

Back by no demand, it's time for my annual ridiculous musical best-of list. I may be just another self-important opinion howling on the internet, but this is my corner of the internet and howl I will.

I've gone into a bit more detail with each album to (in part) make up for the fact that I've been remiss in my music blogging this past year, and to better handle this increased word count I've decided to things up over multiple posts. As such, I've only got entries 6-10 of my top ten for now, with more to come soon.

And so, without further ado:

Bill's Top Ten for 2009
  • 10. The Mars Volta, Octahedron - I'm not sure you'll find many Mars Volta fans that weren't hanging on for dear life by their last album, the exhausting and busy Bedlam in Goliath which marked the near-unlistenable end point of five years of sonic experimentation. Surprisingly, the Mars Volta have now returned from the unforgiving prog wilds to deliver music that actually has appeal beyond amateur musicians practicing their mixolydian scales at the Guitar Center nearest you. Not only is Octahedron remarkably tasteful by Mars Volta standards--more good ideas survive the production than not--but the songs themselves are the most solid batch these guys have managed since their debut, with gorgeous melodies and hooks that are given enough breathing room to thrive. Not quite as ambitious as their past work, yes, but a much-needed palate cleanser before the Mars Volta head off into digital bagpipe arpeggios, or whatever the hell it is they decide to do next. Sample: "Since We've Been Wrong"
  • 9. The xx, X - Making music that sounds like the way night feels is more difficult than it sounds. You have to capture the shadows, for one, and the dark areas they swallow between sparsely-places lights. And then there's the sensation of a landscape in transition, a hushed tone as the cheerful clamor of day closes shop and activity retreats inside. And, of course, lots not forget the possibility of sex, or of being alone, or of sex that turns against itself and leaves one alone. Effectively capturing all this on song isn't exactly new, of course, but what is stunning is that The xx, a group of four nondescript kids barely out of their teens, could rise out of nowhere to nail it with such deliberate perfection on the first try. Sad and sexy, X provides the surprise essential soundtrack for anyone who gets a second wind as dusk descends. Sample: "Crystalised"
  • 8. Fuck Buttons, Tarot Sport - Fuck Buttons always had two strikes against them in my book: the wall of gibbering vocals they employed to disruptive effect and, well, that name. They're still called Fuck Buttons, true, but they've ditched the meth-addict-behind-the-Shop-n-Go rants on their sophomore effort. What's more important, however, is that Fuck Buttons have expanded upon the strengths hinted on last year's debut and bolted for the horizon, creating an album of noise that twists upon itself to then explode into cathartic melody. Tarot Sport shrugs off unnecessary limitations--genre restrictions, who needs 'em?--and the results, from the wet, electronic pulse of "Rough Steez" to the shimmering, synth-drenched "Space Mountain," is an instrumental masterpiece with surprisingly broad appeal, band-name-being-"Fuck Buttons" notwithstanding. Sample: "Space Mountain"
  • 7. Future of the Left, Travels with Myself and Another - Even the most patient of us have our breaking point--maybe it's trying to debate the moon landing with a conspiracy theorist, maybe it's discussing the tax-exempt status of churches, or maybe it's just when that meathead your friend is dating queues up Creed on the jukebox--but at a certain point social niceties collapse and you want to make it crystal clear exactly how much less you think of the intelligence and taste of the individual in question. Future of the Left make punishing music out of that disdain, that fury at the idiocy of others, but imbue it with a sharp and hilarious wit that renders it approachable, if not exactly good-natured. Smart-assed and sarcastic but never preachy, Travels with Myself and Another turns its guns from one target to another, regardless of politics (overly-sensitive earth hippies receive perhaps the most brutal takedown), and the result is a compact thirty minutes of pointy, pissed off rock for smart asses everywhere--well, smart asses who are cool enough to remain on the right side of Future of the Left's arsenal, which, honestly, probably excludes you. Sample (with goofy fan-made video): "Arming Eritrea"
  • 6. The Lonely Island, Incredibad - Comedy albums are a tricky prospect, as songs that hinge on humor are typically worth only two listens at most--one for you and one for a friend, the end. The Lonely Island's brand of humor avoids this pitfall by typically involving a humorous concept that escalates via repetition until its inevitable horrible conclusion, each song a humorous micro-journey into the absurd that actually gets funnier with each subsequent listen. More importantly, though, The Lonely Island actually brought (and bought) the musical chops to represent on the music, with songs so pop perfect that the line between parody and mainstream radio is rendered meaningless. The opening volley of incredible tracks stack up to the giddy heights of an alternate universe greatest hits collection, and even gimmick tracks like "Sax Man" manage to understay their welcome and operate as breathers before the next onslaught of twisted top 40. Of course, it isn't all perfect--the skits are generally terrible and a few joke genre exercises like "Ras Trent" fall flat--but overall Incredibad managed to not only stand up to repeat listens but somehow become the album I've listened to the most all year. Sample: "I'm On a Boat"
TO BE CONTINUED (suspense!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

*KSHHHT*--Re-engaging Transmission

Christ, where did all this now come from? One minute I'm writing about exploding rubber chickens and looming Summer and suddenly I'm up to my armpits in Winter, how exactly did this happen?

At any rate, it's time to kick the dust off this thing for some year end activity. I'm working on my best albums of 2009 list, which is horribly self indulgent and ridiculous and perfectly at home at Dogs On Houses.

In the meantime, however, I do have a little something-something for those in the Christmas spirit. Two years ago I assembled 20 track one hour mix CD of "cool" Christmas music that I distributed to friends and family. I wanted something a little off kilter that still stuck close enough to the spirit of the season, a collection appropriate for the whole family that also didn't make you want to die. There's some indie rock bands (Raveonettes, Eels, Bright Eyes) and some classics (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior), but also a few curve balls (Run DMC, etc.) I tied it all together with samples from Gremlins, the Charlie Brown Christmas special, and snippets of 80's holiday commercials.

I've recently made it available for download, albeit as one hour long MP3 to make it, well, less illegal. Tracks are mixed into each other and I can't really imagine it all being of interest to anyone wanting to steal individual songs, but I do want to minimize the chance that this will put me on the wrong side of the powers that be.

Send your e-mail address to* if you're interested and I'll reply with a download link and an exact tracklisting. I'd post the link here directly but I do want to have some sort of screening process that will keep me clear of any trouble.

A frequent question I get is whether or not a sequel is in the works, and after barely missing the cutoff for this holiday season I believe I can go on record and say that next year it's going to happen. I've got most of the songs collected but I just need a bit more time.

At any rate, enjoy the 2007 mix and I hope you and your family find happiness, health, and no herpes this holiday season.

*minus the "nospamthanks" bit, of course.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Of Swollen Chickens

Have you ever seen one of those squeezable rubber chickens?

Yeah, you know the one: crushing its frame causes its insides to balloon through its skin and form a clear spherical tumor, stretched grotesquely until the pressure is released and the wart can recede, no trace left.


Not five minutes ago I found a rubber chicken like this at work, and noticed that it had a tumor that never receded. It hung on its neck like a swollen bubble, the edges visibly irritated.

I squeezed the chicken, and this is what happened:

A second tumor began to swell directly next to the first, but with a shiver-inducing pop it released its load, the stretched rubber pimple ejaculating watery fluid through the air, great spurts arcing and falling and splatting across the tile floor with the wet sound of violent contact. I jumped back, startled, but by the time the glistening visuals travelled to my brain the chicken was already spent, hanging limply in my grip as a drop of juice trickled down my fingers.

This is not a metaphor.

I am traumatized.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NYC: Take One

I have witnessed one common strain among all New Yorkers and it is this: they consider New York to be the city, with all other competing metropolises little more than barely mentionable also-rans.  Oh sure, they'll show appreciation for other cities like Chicago or Los Angeles, but it's always accompanied with a half-smirk that makes it clear that you've got a cute city and all but let's not get too carried away, hmmm?

When I caught my first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline I texted my New Yorker buddy: "That's one hell of a skyline."

His reply: "The only one that matters."

It must be said, also, that this common strain has always struck me as incredibly annoying.  New York is a big city, yeah, but for god's sake get over it.  There's a world out there beyond the borders of your five boroughs.

While in New York City, though, I began to see that this New York superiority complex wasn't really the result of narrow-minded arrogance as previously suspected.  New York really is the biggest, boldest city in America.  Love it or hate it, New York has the population to push things further than any other city is capable of.

I am something of a connoisseur of dive bars.  There's something about drinking cheap beer at a dimly-lit hole in the wall that resonates with me on a spiritual level.  I've done a considerable amount of globetrotting during the past two years and a theme throughout has been a need to seek out the best of local dive bars.  It's a way to take off the tourist hat for an hour or two and connect with the denizens of the city.

In New York I was taken to Mars Bar.

The hallway-like interior had no lighting except for that which emanated from the flickering neon beer sign in the window.  The walls were white and covered in graffiti.  I could see open pipes in the ceiling toward the back.

"What do you have on tap?" I asked the bartender.


I paused.  "What do you have bottled?"

She pointed wordlessly to the towers of beer boxes stacked against the wall.

I paused, and then noticed the smell from the bathroom.

This was New York City's answer to the dive bar.

It ain't boasting if you can back it up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

4:35 PM on a Tuesday

I watched the brilliant day through the breakroom window, green trees saluting a sharp blue sky.  Grass danced restlessly from the wind.  Sunlight reflected a warm world both blinding and inviting.

"Incredible day," someone said.

I agreed.

I then retreated into a stark hallway, my eyes adjusting to darkness as phantom colors danced across my vision and plotted the course that could have been.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

One down, five to go

Warning: I am about to blather on about matter that is most likely uninteresting to anyone other than me, because I feel the need to mark the fact that last night I finished writing my book.

This is a pretty big deal in the world of me, you see.

True, I must pare back that accomplishment with a series of qualifiers.  What I have written is still probably a little rough in places and at least a couple editing passes away from true completion.  And then, of course, is the fact that it's a script for a graphic novel, so the book has incalculable hours of sketching, layout, drawing, inking, coloring, and lettering ahead before it can truly be considered complete.  Add to that also that even then this is simply the first installment of a story that will (in theory) span six volumes.

You know what, though?  Fuck the bigger picture.  Four years of character development, world building, and meticulous planning followed by five months of obsessive and labor-intensive writing have finally has paid off in something more than a collection of notes.   I have written a book that has a beginning, a middle, and an end (of sorts).  The words and ideas and characters have survived the translation from thought and ambition to finished page.

I'm not sure I really can adequately sum up the feeling of blissful payoff.  Chipping away at this monster night after night has turned into such an obsession that I hardly know what to do with myself otherwise.  I work and sleep, yes, and take care of other things on the weekends, but I've adapted every other bit of free time into moments tuned toward producing finished pages of script.  Evenings are essentially nothing but writing.  My solitary commute to and from work is when I retreat into my brain and work out unresolved scenes.  Even my cool down relaxation period before bed as turned into me lying in bed and editing dialogue on my netbook.

Writing is really such a self-absorbed and insular activity.  Tapping into that corner of your brain that produces breathing worlds and living characters involves pulling the plug on the outside world, and as such I've spent the better part of the past six month firmly ensconced up my own ass.  All things considered it's not too bad a place to be, but I'm looking forward to coming up for air.

The day in/ day out slog of writing is also a continuous exercise in suppressing the urge to share excitement.  When working on any extended creative work there are (hopefully) moments of inspired brilliance, and the urge is to reap instant reward by enthusiastically sharing it with others, but I firmly believe that giving in to this temptation dilutes the project and robs the people around you of the opportunity to experience the work in its intended form.  This applies to any form of art or entertainment.  Describing a song in progress reduces the finished song to be.  Sharing a written exchange of dialogue starves the moment of context and accompanying visuals.  The best course for anyone in the throes of creation is to shut up, buckle in, and let the finished work speak for itself.

As such, finishing this script is an odd exercise in celebration and reward on a purely personal level.  Nobody but the necessary few will see it, and I'll have to wait months until the rest of the world can read so much as a single word in its intended art-accompanied glory.

Which, to some degree, just emphasizes my sense of accomplishment.  The finished book, while obviously fiercely personal, is for everyone else.

Last night, however, was just for me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Of voting attempts and church ladies

This morning I voted.

My local polling place is the meeting room of a church, and as such the polls tend to be manned by elderly church goers.

There was one other voter present, just ahead of me with his young son in what technically counted as a line.  He was identified and handed a ballot, the voting-specific transaction thus completed.

One of the eldery pollworkers--a woman--turned to the little kid as I waited in line (technically).  She put on her beaming "talking to children" face and asked, "How old are you?"

"Five," he said.

"Wow!  That's the same age as my grand-nephew!  What's your name?"


"Max?" she said, her voice rising in delighted pitch.  "What a great name, Max!"

I didn't want to be rude, but I moved to draw attention to the fact that I was waiting.  Her eyes connected with mine and then turned back to Max.

"Do you know the book Where the Wild Things Are, Max?"

"Yes," Max replied.

"I hear they're turning it into a movie," the father said, his empty ballot tucked under his arm.

"Oh really?" she asked.

I was already late for work.

"I'd like to vote," I said.

Max and his voting dad took the cue and walked away.

The woman held onto her "talking to children face" and addressed me.  "And what is your last name?"


She began flipping through her registered voter list while continuing to address children.  "S...E...L..."

"No," I said.  "S..A..L..I..S..B..U..R..Y."


"S..A..L..I," I corrected.

"S...A...I..."  she turned from one page to another, having trouble finding the name that is not mine.

"No, S.A.L.I"

She looked up at me, said, "oh," and then turned back to the registered voter list.  "S...A...I..."

The elderly church man sitting next to her interrupted her.  "No, S.A.L.I."

"S...A..." she trailed off.

The man leaned over.  "Top of page two."

She flipped one page, then another.  "Uh..."

"Never mind, I'll do it, " the man said, crossing out my name.

I took the offered ballot and walked to a booth.

Go vote!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Spiders and the Legend of the Beast

The spiders that live in my basement have a tale that is passed down from generation to generation, a story presented as fact but only in the fashion that all children's stories are.

It is the telling of a massive roaring monster that appears but once every spider eon, a screaming, sucking beast that arrives without warning and massacres everything in its path.  It's long tube-like mouth is unforgiving in its ability to reach even the deepest of spider hiding places, and even the biggest, strongest spider is sucked up with frightening ease.  The beast destroys homes, slaughters families, and gobbles up even children with its bottomless hunger, and it isn't until the previously thriving spider population has been completely decimated that the sated beast finally retreats, lumbering off to god-knows-where to hibernate.  The few survivors who managed to escape the beast's wrath have no choice but to pick up the pieces of their shattered civilization and attempt to rebuild.

Fear can't last forever, of course, and as the spider population begins to recover and generation after generation passes without a return from the beast, the story retreats into legend and transforms from frightening to sexy, something young spiderlings whisper about at slumber parties while shivering under their sleeping bags.

The spiders are mistaken, however, as the beast is real and the passing of time has only strengthened its hunger.

Today is the day the spiders once again learn.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: The Hazards of Love by the Decemberists

On some level, Decemberists fans always assumed it would come to this.  Original cast recording-style musical numbers were a hallmark of theirs as early as album two ("Shanty for the Arethusa," "The Chimbley Sweep"), and the band's obvious fascination with prog went from nascent on 2004's The Tain to full blown on the three-part fifteen minute eponymous suite on 2006's The Crane Wife.  Honestly, a seventeen track rock opera about a shapeshifting forest dweller trying to rescue his true love from a villain called the Rake was pretty much an inevitability, and so it is that we have arrived at The Hazards of Love.

The Decemberists almost pull it off, too.  Chief songwriter Colin Meloy is on comfortable and well-tread ground here, simply stretching his penchant for musical storytelling from song to full album.  The labyrinthine plot takes numerous twists, and the music generally oscillates between the mildly pleasant and the demandingly compelling.  Very few songs exist well enough on their own, but they are not without a certain cumulative power, a raw force that pulls you through and occasionally rises to heady peaks with standout tracks.  Almost any band could call this an unqualified success.

And yet it isn't just any band, it's the Decemberists.  Unfortunate expectations, perhaps, but once a band releases an album as perfect as Picaresque there's simply no dialing back to the realm where "mildly pleasant" is good enough.

The first sign that all is not right on The Hazards of Love is the baffling absence of that much beloved chestnut of musicals everywhere: the big opening number.  The Decemberists have belted those out of the park before--"The Infanta," anyone?--and as such it's borderline unforgivable that the album whimpers in with a tonal drone that initially made me wonder if my CD was broken.  From there the album limps into a couple of undercooked songs that are pleasant enough but never really build into anything on their own.  It's a rock opera, fine, not every track is supposed to be a scorcher, but it isn't until ten minutes in that you get the first real hummable melody via the beautiful "Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)."  It's a stunning song, yes, but it only illustrates that the first couple songs might as well be called "PLACEHOLDER MELODY: WRITE ROUSING OPENER SOON."

Other highlights manage to be decent additions to the Decemberists canon, but few could survive the Pepsi Challenge against virtually anything else they've recorded in the past five years.  "The Rake Song" is a faux-heavy ode to infanticide that would be disturbing if it weren't so funny (regarding his progeny's birth: "first came Eziah with his crinkled little fingers/ then came Charlotte and that wretched girl Dawn/ ugly Myfanwy died on delivery/ mercifully taking her mother along, alright!"), but ultimately it sounds a bit like an inspired idea in search of a memorable chorus.  "The Wanting Comes In Waves" is fairly standout-ish and yet it is punctuated with digressions (both musical and plot-wise) that render the song conflicted at best.  Meloy is telling a story, I know, but is it really too much to ask for a tune that hangs together from start to finish?

"But it's not about the individual songs!" I hear the hardcore shout!  "This is a concept rock opera, not a greatest hits collection!"

Except nobody wanted this all to work more than me.  I love this kind of ridiculous high-concept shit.  Prog-heavy opuses complete with interludes, four-part movements, and a dense backstory detailed in the booklet via eyeball-shattering microscopic font?  Sign me up; I'm one of the few who still consider Mars Volta albums to be release day purchases, after all.  But The Hazards of Love is caught in an odd rock opera middle ground where the songs aren't quite solid enough to survive on their own and yet the music doesn't form a swelling sonic journey to accompany the plot.  It's a bizarre memento of a stage musical that doesn't exist (and probably wouldn't work very well if it did).

But it also must be stressed that The Hazards of Love--the album--does ultimately work, and it will almost certainly be embraced by a certain subset of their fanbase as The Decemberist's underrated masterpiece.  Swap in a couple songs on the caliber of "We Both Go Down Together" and I might be inclined to agree, but prog epics are all about the balance between build up and payoff and The Hazards of Love rings up a little skimpy on the latter.  It's a success, yeah, but only if you manage to ignore past Decemberists discs to keep from being reminded of what could have been.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lunchtime at Target

How do you sell a videogame?

I'll tell you how you sell a videogame.

I held it in my hands, strongly considering a purchase.  The color palette (high contrast black, white, and--get this--red) appealed to me, as did its cartoonishly violent promise.

The clerk looked at me, considered his options, and proceeded to say the following: "You can pick up bad guys and toss them in a deep fat fryer and then they throw up."


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cancún: round one

Cancún, a summary to possibly be expanded upon later:

The plane trip to Cancún was filled bow to stern with douchebags and as such my vacation was off to a grumpy start.

"Someone's ready for some brewskis!" a woman behind me brayed.

"I'll get the first round once we land!" a nearby guy shouted.  "Who's gonna to get the second?"

"I'll get the second, you get the first on the plane!" another guy answered.

"I'll get the first once we land," the first guy clarified.

"No, I mean the first on the plane," the second guy answered.

"When we land."

"I mean on the plane."

Behind me, the brewski woman decided a brewski was in order but then declined when she discovered that the only light beer options available on the plane was Bud Lite.


There was one saving grace on the plane and the saving grace was this:  the woman sitting directly across the aisle from me was startlingly beautiful.  I don't really remember what she looked like beyond a certain ethereal quality, but once I noticed her I wanted to do little more than gaze at her for the remainder of the trip, drinking in as much as I could before our time together drew to a close.

It was more of a visual fascination than an attraction, if that makes sense.  It wasn't that she was beautiful so much as she was striking.  I would have felt the same had she been shockingly ugly or adorned with a pig snout for a nose.

On second thought, the pig snout would have been more interesting.


Cancún was a surreal six days of complete removal from what can reasonably be called "The Normal Life."  No snow, no job, no bills, no driving, no cooking, no appointments, just large expanses of white beach coupled with time stretching off into forever.

And a constant stream of alcohol.

It's not that much of the trip was spent drunk--far from it--but it was rare that an alcoholic drink of at least some potency wasn't being sipped on, regardless of the hour.

This has a bit of a cumulative effect.

"Reality is ripping at the seams," I said somewhere around the fifth day.


The lowlight of the trip, or perhaps the highlight, if you ask my friends, was when I awoke sleepwalking around the resort in my Batman underwear.  I had no key-card slipped into my boxer-briefs and was therefore locked outside my room, so I tried to break in via the sliding side door but the chain latch actually proved to be an effective deterrent to breaking and entering, so I eventually had to resort to stumbling down to the front desk--in my Batman underwear, remember--to ask for a new key-card.

This is not the first time my Batman underwear has gotten me into trouble.

It might be time for me to admit I'm not Bruce Wayne.


My last plane back to Madison was on a tiny jet with ancient leather seats and landing gear that shook the plane violently with a deafening KRA-KOW whenever they were pried open or closed.

Things you do not want in a plane ride: deafening KRA-KOWS accompanied by violent shaking.


Mexico must have been very fond of me because Mexico is proving quite resistant to letting me go, and I apologize and beg for your sympathy if you know what I mean by this.

It started Friday morning and is still going strong, three days later.  I do think I'm on the mend, but I still have to tear for the bathroom with clockwork regularity.

While in Cancún I told some fellow vacationers, "This resort is nice, but you've really got to get off the tourist strip to truly appreciate Mexico.  Take the bus into downtown Cancún and find a small restaurant on a side street to eat a meal.  Dine on some true Mexican food, and drink in the heartbeat of the city.  You won't regret it."

You won't regret it.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The State of Dogs On Houses

I haven't written for this blog lately and the reason I haven't written for this blog lately is because I've been writing something that is not this blog.


Since the New Year I have been obsessively chipping away at the manuscript for a project that's been slow cooking for a couple years now.  This is good, as it means I'm making nightly progress and at the end of every week I can look back and count the amount of new pages that have survived the laborious transition from brain to computer.  Tangible progress is being made, to the extent that the finish line is in sight.  Within a month or two I should have a completed manuscript that can be read from start to finish.

The downside to spending one's time writing, however, is that the only thing I then have to write about is this: writing.  Only other writers would be interested in reading about that, and then only non-writing writers desperate to live vicariously through someone who manages to sit and stare at Microsoft Word for three hours a night while clicking on plastic keys.

Sit poorly, might I add.  I hunch like I'm assembling a puzzle that forms a massage therapist ad.

Also: I guess I am lying when I say that things haven't been happening to me beyond writing.  I wanted to write about my crippling guilt over abandoning my '98 Corolla for a shiny '08 Scion TC.  I wanted to write about the overwhelming joy I felt on January 20th, and the ripples of pride I still feel when I hear the words "President Obama."  I wanted to write about the queasy horror of reading about bush fires sliding all over an area of Australia I visited last October.  I want to write a review of the Lonely Island CD. 

I would write about all these things and more, but here's the catch: I am too busy destroying my back and staring at Microsoft Word for three hours a night while clicking on plastic keys.

You can't have everything.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

America Twitters: standin n line @ the soup kitchen

I had wondered what the most ominous economic quarter in recent history would do to the pricey gadget industry--Apple, more specifically--and as it turns out America is pretty eager to drown their unemployment fear in sexy tech, as Apple just posted record quarterly revenues

We're probably not hurling toward the apocalypse, but if we are the canned food hoarding will be accompanied by ipod music and the rampaging raiders will be documented with our iphones.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The most accurate epitaph imaginable

Something occurred to me tonight as I scrubbed the carpet again.

Someday I will die and there will be a headstone, and on my headstone should be inscribed this and only this:

C. Bill Salisbury

"In his life
there sure was a lot of cat puke"