Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Brief Reflection On My Privilege


I feel like the country I love is bleeding out. Words are poor bandages, but still I am compelled to write and so I offer this brief reflection on privilege in the hopes it may lead others to similarly reflect.

I was stopped by the police—twice—on a walk from the strip mall where I’d eaten lunch back to the hotel where I was staying for a business trip. The stops occurred just a few weeks before Covid-19 shut down most of the country, in a commercial sector filled with upscale strip malls, chain stores, and mid-priced business class hotels like the one where I was staying. I was wearing a gray hoodie, jeans, and gray sneakers. I was on the sidewalk; the walk was maybe a block long, point-to-point. I was happy. I’d found a local falafel place with comfortable seating so I was able to write a few pages while enjoying my food, and when I left I popped my earbuds in and was listening to music on an iPod as old as my children. I may have even been singing as I strolled down the sidewalk.

And then the first policeman stopped me.

He pulled his cruiser over to the shoulder of the road and was smiling when he got out of the car. He was still smiling while he waited patiently for me to take out my earbuds so I could hear him.

“Are you Joe?” he asked.

“No,” I told him, supposing I did look a little suspicious in my hoodie—the little yellow “Life is Good” logo over my heart would have been hard to read from a distance. “I’m not Joe. I’m Dan Waters.”

“Okay,” he said, and then he got back in his cruiser. I watched him drive away. I hadn’t felt afraid or even irritated. If anything, I felt amused that saying “I’m not Joe” was enough to send him on his way. It was like I'd cast "Dispel Policemen" with that short incantation. I was singing again in moments.

I was approaching the stoplight at the intersection of the hotel access road no more than a minute later when I spotted the second cruiser. It was waiting on the other side of the red light and somehow looked expectant. Even before the light turned green, and before the cruiser’s flashers came on, I knew this other vehicle was also going to stop me. 

I proactively removed my earbuds. Sure enough, lights still flashing, the cruiser rolled to an abrupt stop on the shoulder in front of me. This time two policemen got out. One, the driver, had his hand on the holster at his back hip.

I still was not afraid. Unnerved, maybe, but I really didn’t think his gun was going to leave the holster.

“Hey there,” he said, smiling. I thought it was a “we gotcha” kind of smile, smirky.

“Hi,” I replied. No fear. “I’m still not Joe. Your colleague stopped me down the road just a moment ago.”

He looked at his partner, eyes narrowing as he tried to get that cop telepathy going.

“Would it help if I gave you my drivers license?” I said, hoping to cut through the confusion. The offer surprised him, just a little. “I’m staying at the Hampton down this street.”

“It might,” he said, and his hand came off his hip and he dropped the smirk, exchanging it for a pleasant smile.. “I’m really sorry for the hassle.”

“No worries.” I replied, because truly, there weren’t any.

I gave him my license; he glanced at it and gave it back. He apologized a second time and before driving away he turned to his partner and said, “The guy we’re looking for looks exactly like him.”
I thought it was a funny thing to say, because the cop and I looked similar. We were both white and bald; he was a few years younger than me and a bit bigger—swole, my son might say--but it would be hard for a casual witness to differentiate us in a line-up.

I walked the short distance back to the hotel thinking primarily about two questions, questions I’d be turning over in my head the rest of the day and on into night as I waited for the sleep that so often eludes me when I’m on the road for business. The questions still haunt me.

How would I have felt in and after that situation if I had been a person of color?

Would that situation had even gone the same way if I had been a person of color?

Despite being confronted by the police twice in five minutes, I did not have a single moment of doubt where I thought that maybe—just maybe—things wouldn’t go my way. I was abundantly certain the confusion would be cleared up with a few words and an ID card. I never thought the police would find my earbuds, my hoodie, or my general demeanor disrespectful. I never thought speaking to them before being asked a question would be a strike against me, and I never once thought that the brief exchange around a mistaken identity or false accusation would end with me in handcuffs or with a knee on my neck.

Not everyone in our country has the freedom—the privilege—to be that confident and fearless in interactions with the police.

Innocence is not enough, by the way. The fact that I wasn’t “Joe” alone wasn’t enough to ensure I could speak freely and act under the assumption there could be no possible negative repercussions for my actions. Even though I apparently was a dead ringer for this miscreant “Joe”, in the first instance all I had to do was boldly declare I was not Joe and the encounter was over.

Does it work the same way for everyone?

 Is a simple declaration of innocence, without any tangible proof, all that is needed to peaceably end confrontations with the police?

Not for everyone, it seems.

Over the next few hours as I replayed the event in my mind, I realized that I’d stepped toward the second cruiser before the police had fully exited their vehicle. Could that have been construed as a hostile approach? Were my hands visible? Did my smile appear friendly, or insolent? Did I reach for my back pocket—where I had my wallet, not a gun—too quickly?

It doesn't take a narrative genius to imagine several different outcomes for these two interactions. No creativity is required to paint a tragic ending when society has provided plenty of them in similar situations. Change mine and Joe's ethnicity and perhaps the story gets told in exactly the same manner--but probably not.

Is it fair to say, that of the many benefits I enjoy as a middle-aged white man, one of them is the benefit of doubt? I have fifty years on the planet enjoying that benefit, that confidence, that lack of fear. My childhood in the seventies, my adolescence and young adulthood in the eighties, my life here in 2020—are likely to have been very, very different than another person’s. Society and culture spent those decades teaching me not to be afraid; society and culture taught many other people over the same time period that they have every reason to be afraid.

Privilege results in many things, but one of the most prevalent—and most polarizing for people who don’t take the time to try to understand it—is the ability to move and interact in society without fear. The realization that many, many people we live, love, work, and interact with every day do not enjoy that very basic freedom should be both sobering and actually terrifying to all of us. The reality that the freedoms we consider to be inalienable rights are routinely denied to people simply because of who they are flies in the face of the things we think we believe in and stand for.

Until we live in a world where people can live without that fear, we live in a broken world.

In the end, I was grateful I was stopped by twice by the police that day. It led me to think deeply about a disease our society must cure. It led me to have more empathy for those who don’t have the freedoms I enjoy; empathy is a path to understanding and understanding is a path to action.

But then again, it is my privilege to be grateful. All I had to do was say my name.

Friday, December 27, 2019

My Favorite Music of 2019



Here’s my favorite new releases of 2019. If you are suitably intrigued by any of my choices or the sounds they lead you to, do the world a favor and purchase music and merch in a manner that would most benefit the artist.

The RosedalesStereoghost 
Long-awaited new release from one of the finest horrorpunk bands ever to record. Horrorpunk may be a bit of a misnomer, though, as The Rosedales' unique blend of music includes shades of rock, rockabilly, goth, metal, and doo wop for an utterly unique and ofttimes haunting sound. If any of the tracks here excite you, buy their entire output as they haven’t released a single disappointing track.  

Sin ThetaSin Theta 
Incredibly versatile debut EP from a band with limitless potential; I wrote about them last year when I included their demo—one song—on my best of list last year. One of the only bands I can think of (Opeth being another) who is skilled enough to super-charge your adrenaline or lull you into a state of harmonic relaxation, sometimes within the same song. One of those rare bands where all of the components excel both individually and collectively, a must-listen for those with even a passing interest in metal.

Kristeen YoungThe SubSet 
Years ago I bought her whole catalog after seeing her perform once, and I’ve bought every release the day it came out since. This one may be her best, and it shows off both the full dynamic range of her beautiful voice as well as the bottomless depth of her lyrical ability. I’ve spun it a dozen times and still get chills with each subsequent listen. “Everyday Subtraction” might be my favorite song in a year that I found overflowing with great cuts.

Ray AlderWhat the Water Wants 
Debut solo album from current Fates Warning vocalist; immensely affecting and powerful. As Fates Warning, especially the Alder years, was the soundtrack of my college years (sharp eyes can spot me and my voluminous, beautiful blond hair at the front left of the stage HERE) , Ray’s voice affects me mentally and spiritually.

Arch/MatheosWinter Ethereal  
I was turned on to Fates Warning (thanks, Dan) after John Arch had already left the band, but the first three albums he recorded with them are among my favorites, not only in the Fates oeuvre but in my entire collection. I love that he periodically rejoins forces with Fates’ mainman Jim Mattheos, and I love that Winter Ethereal is one of their strongest collaborations yet. Great year for Fates fans.

The SpecialsEncore 
Very strong album, as socially revalent as any of their earlier material and just as groove-worthy. Deluxe edition includes some fantastic live tracks of earlier material.

IronbunnyTettsui No Alternative 
Apparently there is a great deal going on currently on the heavy metal scene than Babymetal, and I will be investigating that scene deeply in 2020. This was one of the first bands I became interested in, featuring precise, riff-heavy shredding provided by an armor clad “cyborg” and gorgeous harmony vocals from a trio of young women. The EP also features a number of world-class guest shredders

RideThis Is Not A Safe Place 
No one was happier than I was when Ride reunited to produce 
2017’s Weather Diaries, and I think This is Not a Safe Place is even better than that stellar release.

V/A--Ready or Not Soundtrack 
I saw more films in the theater in 2019 than any year since the mid-nineties when I was an assistant manager in a theater. The title cut alone makes this a worthy listen, especially if you read or write horror stories.

Volbeat-Rewind, Replay, Rebound
A very solid and generous offering from one of my favorite metal bands, Volbeat once again aren’t afraid to throw in some surprises, like the surf usic inflected “Sorry Bag of Bones”, my favorite cut alongside “Leviathan”

BaronessGold and Gray 
Intricate and accomplished new addition to the Baroness color palette.

HawkwindAll Aboard the Skylark
Somehow, I have 46 Hawkwind albums in my iTunes, plus another six records I haven’t yet converted to mp3, plus at least a couple dozen spin-off and Hawkwind related solo projects (unless you count Motorhead as well, then the number is well over a hundred). So obviously, I like Hawkwind. This is my favorite of theirs released in this decade, the perfect vehicle when I need to escape to outer space, as I so often do.

Death AngelHumanicide 
I’ve always thought “the big four of thrash” designation for Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth ought to be amended to “the big five” with Death Angel being the fifth. I get it—they don’t sell as much—but the quality of their catalog comes close to the best releases of the previous four and eclipses their worst releases. Humanicide is one of their best releases, and managed to get nominated for a Grammy.

Cheap Trick--Are You Ready? Live 12/31/1979 
My love of Cheap Trick is well-documented and so I was thrilled to get this killer live set, a November RSD release.

Lana Del ReyNorman F’ing Rockwell
More songs of Californian disaffection, Lana seems to get her own self-projected vibe even more right on her newer release. Someday I hope to repeat my drive along the PCH playing this at twilight to an off-brand hotel I have never been to and may never leave.

The Dickies—I Dig Go-Go Girls/The Dreaded Pigasaurus
Blink-and-you-missed it (but available on iTunes) RSD single release from O.G. California punks. Pigasaurus especially could be dropped in as a bonus cut on Dawn of the Dickies and it would fit right in.

Magic Circle—Departed Souls 
Brand new old school metal from a Boston based band; I just bought it this week but was excited enough to buy their previous two albums. Riffy and deep, with songs that are accessible enough to seem familiar but often branch out it unpredictable but sonically pleasing ways. I bet they listened to Fates Warning growing up, too.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

I Have Powers --King, Ellison, Fagen, and Voice of the Unknown



I’ve been listening to books on Audible lately. I just finished listening to How to Be Like Walt Disney, which focuses on all the good traits to follow (but omits less beneficial ones like “smoke three packs of cigarettes a day”). Prior to that interesting and occasionally inspiring book, it had been a succession of music biographies read by the musician who wrote them: Kim’ Gordon’s Girl in a Band, Bob Mould’s See a Little Light, Paul Stanley’s Face the Music: A Life Exposed.. I’d forgotten to download next up in my queue, Donald Fagen’s Eminent Hipsters, and had such a long ride ahead of me I did something I’d never done before—pull up at a Dunkin Donuts for free Wi-Fi rather than a coffee.

Twenty seconds later, I had my book. I’d read a couple years ago and liked it enough that I thought the experience of hearing Fagen read it might bring it alive in other ways, and thus far my preconceived notion has proven true. The book mixes memoir and insightful cultural commentary and achieves the affect of being at once intensely personal and wide ranging. Unlike the bands the three artists I’ve mentioned above spent much of their careers in (Sonic Youth, Husker Du, and Kiss), of whom I’ve absorbed a great deal of information about and have been listening to for over thirty years (and have the entire catalogs of), I know next to nothing about Fagen or Steely Dan and have only been listening to for about five years (and yet I still somehow have the entire catalog, band and solo. Sigh). I’d heard some songs prior, of course—and hated them. Steely Dan would be a mainstay of the AM radio my mother listened to in the car, and often their hit songs would creep into the playlists of the Hartford and New Haven-based rock stations I’d listen to in my formative years. “Reeling in the Years” couldn’t hope to have the same visceral impact as “Something I Learned Today” on the fifteen-year-old Reagan-era me. Somewhere in adulthood, though, the sound, sensibility, and vibe of Steely Dan’s music “clicked” with me, as did later-in-life enthusiasms like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and jazz. Steely Dan’s records often hit the turntable in my house now, and two years ago I bought Fagen’s Cheap Xmas career retrospective boxset, one of my favorite things to listen to in a hotel room when I’m far from home.

Several of the essays in Eminent Hipsters touch on radio personalities Fagen listened to as a kid growing up in New Jersey; the title song of his first solo album The Nightfly is a portrait of a late night DJ in that mold, and Fagen—who I have since learned is reclusive and has suffered stage fright!—appears on the cover as the titular character, one of the few times he appears on any front-cover artwork. After listening to the first half of the Audible, I go home and put Cheap Xmas on, and as usual when absorbing the work of an artist I’m not familiar with, I seek a more immersive experience through secondary sources. Google, in this case, and I’m soon clicking through Wikipedia pages on him, his band, and his albums—my first page is the one for The Nightfly. I went there first because I wanted to know what the first track of the album, “I.G.Y.”, stood for—for whatever reason, my mind plugged “I Get You” into the acronym for the first two or three times I listened to it, so I’m pleasantly surprised to discover it stands for “International Geophysical Year”, which Wikipedia later tells me is the period between July 1957 to Christmas 1958, and was an international scientific project in which 67 countries participated in. Despite being a student and aficionado, or so I thought, of fifties culture and fifties astro-culture especially, I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of the IGY before—both Sputnik 1 and Explorer 1 were IGY projects. My appreciation of Fagen increased, my overall knowledge and worldliness increased, and I was flush with the joys of new discovery. Reading a little further on The Nightfly, I saw that the song “Green Flower Street” is a nod to the jazz standard “On Green Dolphin Street”. I tripped on that fact, slightly, if only because I didn’t recognize “On Green Dolphin Street” as being a jazz standard. I figured I’d probably heard it at some point, but the melody didn’t spring to mind.

Speaking of mind-springs, here’s where I’m going to veer way off the narrative road I’ve established and drop some thought you might find so off-putting that you avert your eyes, close this blog, and never return. I wouldn’t blame you; I’d probably feel the exact same way if a voice I’d hear previously as being relatively sane suddenly flies off into crazyville and wants to take me with it. But here goes!

I believe I have psychic powers.

Specifically, I believe I have not only a mild precognitive ability, but that I also can subtly influence the outcome of the future events.

Still with me? Here’s the problem—this ability—at least how I perceive it—isn’t something I can turn on or off; it isn’t a “wild talent” like in a classic Stephen King novel or comic book. I don’t think it had anything to do with the onset of puberty, an excess of hormones, stress, or altered states of consciousness. It isn't psychometry, but it isn't fully random either. It must be triggered. I think I’ve identified the trigger, partially, at least. Basically, if I see or hear a word or a phrase that was previously unknown to me in completely different contexts twice within a span of a few days, I can anticipate a “precognitive event” before long. It has to be the same word or phrase, and it has to be in completely different contexts. So reading “I.G.Y.” and then “International Geophysical Event” in the same essay would not trigger anything, nor would reading “International Geophysical Event” three times in the same article. There are probably some other stipulations about the context and the word or phase itself that I haven't figured out; I don’t believe the first couple times I heard a word like “chipotle” did anything for me.

Additionally, I'm not predicting major world events. I've yet to be able to steer people away from calamity; I'm not like Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone seeing apocalyptic scenarios caused by a  future President (at least not with my psychic abilities). The future events I "see"--if that is what I'm doing--are only very personal glimpses into my own future. 

Make sense? No, I don’t think so either. And I've read those wonderful books on cognitive biases You Are Not So Smart and You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney, and what I'm describing exhibits several of the biases and fallacies he describes so beautifully. But... reality is just a construct anyway, man, and we all employ different architects. On the average, I have zero to one of these events ("delusions", if it makes you feel better) a year—I have had maybe fifteen my whole life. On at least three of those occasions, I believe my having seen the future event allowed me to influence its outcome. 

So why mention this now, when we were having such a nice conversation about Donald Fagen’s work? I happened to be listening to The Nightfly through headphones while reading the Wikipedia article, and when I was done I set my tablet aside a picked up a book I had bought last month at NECon, Stalking the Nightmare by Harlan Ellison. I was thrilled to discover that the introduction was written by Stephen King; the book was published in 1982 (same year as The Nightfly was released!!!), and while I love just about all things King, I especially love his 80’s writing—that’s when he began warping my mind in earnest—and so finding a fragment new to me was a thrilling surprise.

But then on page nine I read this:

Weirdness #1

So, I figure after reading that I’m quite likely going to have a precognitive event. And yes, all the while I’m thinking—maybe I’m just ignorant, and everyone in my age bracket knows what the International Geophysical Year was, or I’m a dullard who has been exposed to the concept dozens of times before but never let it sink in through that thick skull to penetrate my brain-mud. Whatever. I keep reading, because Ellison’s own forward is up next, and I enjoy his biographical material as much if not more than his fiction.

And another nine pages later I read this:

Weirdness #2

It is interesting, for the moment, just to imagine the probabilities and synchronicities needing to happen to create these supposed conditions for precognition. Skeptic at heart, and in my head, I consider the vast amounts of culture I consume and how that influences the odds of me running into previously unknown words or phrases on a regular basis. But when I add the timeline elements into the mix in this specific incidence—what weird confluence caused me to pick that particular book (and it was off the NECon 5 bucks a bag table, which was like a rugby scrum with competitive consumers), but then even weirder to not read or even open it until the very same day I listen to The Nightfly, and then read those passages within moments of first discovering them on Wikipedia? And by the way, Stalking the Nightmare will be the 100th book I’ve read this year (unless I finish listening to Eminent Hipsters first; I count Audibles). I’m not positive, but I don’t think any of those ninety-nine books prior mention the International Geophysical Event, nor do I think I’ve heard it in any of the songs I’ve listened to or the movies or television I’ve watched (although full disclosure—the Eric Dolphy recording of “On Green Dolphin Street” exists in my music database after all, nestled among another 79, 751 tracks). 

Maybe it isn’t so strange after all; 1982 would have been the 25th anniversary of the IGY; maybe there were celebrations, news magazine profiles, articles galore, and maybe at 13 I was too ignorant to have noticed any of them. But maybe that anniversary somehow inflamed and inspired both Fagen and King, or both King and Ellison had heard the Fagen album, had discussed it even, and so the ghost of influence was transferred to their individual work on Stalking the Nightmare.

Who knows? And, more importantly, who other than me cares?
That’s it, end of story. For today. I figure I’m moments away from launching into some Nostradamus-level future-gazing. I’m feeling the urge to write up a few quatrains, actually. If you see me post about fleeing the country, avoiding certain brands of snack foods, or investing heavily in coastal real estate, you might want to act accordingly.
* * * * *

Postscript #1 Interesting that another essay in Eminent Hipsters contains commentary on Philip K. Dick, L. Ron Hubbard, John W. Campbell, and A.E. Van Vogt, writers who may have harbored para-psychological ideas at least as crackpot as my own. They were all featured extensively in the seventh book I read this year, Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee, a history of the Golden Age of science fiction. Once that synapse fired, I figured I might have read about the International Geophysical Year within the pages of that book—that crew was all writing then and certainly would have been interested. A quick flip through the index yields International Astronomical Union, but no IGY. Curiouser and curiouser.


One of the characters in these books also claims to possess telepathetic powers. If my own story didn't scare you away--or even if it did--you might enjoy them. They can be found HERE




Tuesday, July 23, 2019

QE Results for June: Backslidin'

My best selfie ever? Snapped on accident after checking a weather app

In January I wrote a blog post entitled Queer Eye, My Daughter, and I where I related some of the experience and pleasure I had binge-watching the two season of the show with my daughter over the holiday break, and in doing so basically laid out a self-improvement (or self assessment, at least) plan for the year.  The plan involves taking an honest inventory of where am in life with regards to five categories, as I see them, as exemplified by the men on the Netflix show Queer Eye.  And so, an honest assessment on my performance for May in the five QE categories:

KARAMO: "Culture, Confidence, Put yourself out there". I'm knocking myself down a whole point to a 3.5 because I've detected a certain amount of fraudulence/self deception in my game plan. I'm not going to go into it in depth here, but suffice to say I'm working hard to make some changes here in July.
Thank you, Columbia

I didn't crack the two hundred page count for the first time this year (although that is not why I'm shaving a point), finishing with 173.5 pages. Respectable. Not enough of it was fiction, though.

I Still See You, the film based on my novel Break My Heart 1,000 Times that I never shut up about, is now available on Hulu and Amazon Prime. Watch it!

I had a business trip to Chicago and extended it so that Kim could join me to explore the city and attend a wedding. We went on a ghost tour which culminated in a trip to the Congress Hotel. Spooky.
Various ghosts and Slendermen visible in windows


In June I also began to fill my mostly neglected Twitter feed with articles on the for-profit concentration camps we are running in America. Articles like This and This and This  and This. I realize the overall issue is a complex one, but one piece of it seems very simple to me: we are systemically abusing children, and we need to stop.

TAN: "Make an effort with your personal appearance". I'll stay at a three. Kim has been helping and bought me some summer clothes that actually fit.
Add caption
BOBBY: "Create and maintain a physical environment that promotes productivity, creativity and inner harmony". I'll stay at 3.5, as I kept busy doing yard work and wrestling with vast jungles of bittersweet the horrific week that Kim was away. The top photo is at the start of one such campaign.

Toddlin' Town




ANTONI: "Make nutrition healthy and enjoyable, cook for others". A half point raise to a three. I made myself some great meals when Kim was away; I didn't really have the chance to cook for anyone else which is too bad because I was on my game. Maybe because the only person who could have died eating my cooking was me, so the pressure was off?

JONATHAN: "Take care of yourself physically" Staying at a 4.  I ran 109 miles, making June my fifth consecutive +100 month. I'm about fifty miles away from my yearly Personal Best (or PB) of 800.8 miles, achieved the first year I started keeping statistics, way back in 2011. If you squint you can actually see some abdominal definition...50 likes/reposts/comments and I'll post a photo of my Herculean, hyper-jacked #DadBod (any other number, and I won't).

So June is my first month of the year where I'm downgrading my QE score.

Speaking of hyper-jacked, you can find all of my thrilling novels HERE, Check out the beautiful covers below.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What I Watched: May

I was reading The Avengers while you were still in cast-iron short pants, Mister


1. The Romanoffss, Season 1, Episodes 3-8

Kim and I watched the rest of Matthew Weiner's The Romanoffs, which we enjoyed very much despite my having spelled it incorrectly last month. Like any anthology series, casual views might find the episodes uneven--and they are lengthy, with most being "movie length", and the range of dramatic subject matter might leave viewers loving certain episodes and hating others. I've read some critical reviews of the series and many found fault with the pacing, but this was a common knock against Mad Men, the pacing of which, I thought, was one of the shows' chief appeals.

The show made me want to get into Weiner's creative headspace more deeply, and after listening to the 100th episode of Illeana Douglas's I Blame Dennis Hopper podcast with him I found a number of podcast seminars/interviews he gave during the various stages of Mad Men's run--he's is a fascinating speaker on what moves and motivates him in his creations and I'd wished I'd been able to locate more. I did discover he'd written a novel, Heather, the Totality, and have added it to my tbr pile.

Mad Men, full disclosure, gets my vote for greatest television drama, all-time. I like Breaking Bad, but I don't think it is a close race at all.

2. Avengers: Endgame

In early May, my father and I decided we would try and go to the movies together once a week, and we've kept to it except for a week I was away for business travel. Endgame was our inaugural adventure; we'd actually seen the previous Avengers movie together at the insistent and persistent urging of my son, an avowed Marvel Movie Universe scholar.

Endgame was the perfect launch point for weekly movie excursions for a number of reasons; in addition to having brought me to countless movies when I was a kid (1977-1982 being an especially halcyon time),my Dad was also the person who most fueled my desire to own and read every comic book ever published--he would often come home from a yard sale with boxes and boxes of comic books. One of my favorite title was The Avengers, and I managed to collect the entire first series except for #1 and #4.

My vast knowledge and lore of comic books of the 60's, 70's and 80's gets me in trouble sometimes with regards to the Marvel Movie Universe, as I can be hypercritical of things I feel are not within the spirit of the print MCU (an absurdity, I know), and there's all sorts of places where I could find fault with an Endgame story with Thanos--although I suppose it wouldn't be anywhere near as universally popular, I'd likely not be fully satisfied with anything less than a faithful adaptation of the original Jim Starlin material. 

Fortunately, though, I was able to just shut up and watch, and of course Endgame is a fun, exciting movie. I only really, really hate one thing (I am an enemy of the "Iron Spider" suit; I think Spidey is a much more interesting and engaging character without it. Yeah, I know he needed to be able to survive in space, I still hate it). And my favorite part really annoys my son--I think Fat Thor was the best thing ever and would queue up tomorrow for a Fat Thor movie. I'm considering writing a lengthy essay on why I find Fat Thor so relatable but I don't want to annoy him further.

My father's comment after the show made me realize I'd be including a quote from him on every movie we watch together:

Dad on Endgame: "I had no idea what the hell was going on, but I enjoyed it."

3. Tolkien
This was the second film Dad and I saw together; I'm afraid I liked it much more than he did. There were flaws, and if you don't have patience for Dead Poets Society type material you would likely hate it, but being familiar with Tolkien's work but not his life I found it interesting and well done. The later WWI scenes I especially liked.

Dad on Tolkien: "Next time we see an action movie."

4. John Wick Chapter Three: Parabellum
Wanting to make good on Dad's request, there's fewer actiony action movies than this. Probably my fault for not having seen the first two, suffice to say Dad liked this one more than I did. It would be impossible not to.

That isn't to say he loved everything about it: Dad on John Wick: (during a scene toward the end where John and friend are knifing/shooting/killing an interminable squadron of assassins) "Booorrrrr-ing!"

5. Fleabag Season 1, Episode 1 and 2

Watched these with Kim. One scene in the first episode had me laughing so hard I had to pause the streaming service. The actor playing the boyfriend (Hugh Skinner) had a much different role in the last episode of The Romanoffs and it was both jarring and interesting to see him play such disparate roles back to back. . 

My books can be found HERE for pennies a page.
None of these is a television show. Yet.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What I Heard: May 2019

Mixtape Masterpieces

My first month in seven years without eMusic...seems weird. And now I hear the iTunes is shifting their platform, which always makes me more than a little nervous as I'm already using alternate universe technology. I have two iPods Classics, a full 120 with a large chunk of my Metal collection, and the beauty below, which is a customized gold "U2" edition Classic with a terabyte chip. Referred to in my household as "The Precious", it is rarely out of my sight and plays for several hours a day at a minimum. I was warned it would become unstable at a certain capacity, so I haven't put my entire digital collection on it but 57015 songs is a pretty good base. 
The Precious

I've mentioned I've done my fair share of business travel over the years, and never without the Precious, one of my dearest companions. I believe the Precious listens to me as much as I listen to it.

Such meticulous curation


Yeah, that isn't at all weird, disturbing, or obsessive. But then again, neither is painstakingly converting all of one's vinyl (a whole wall of it) to mp3--and it seems like yesterday I'd converted all the vinyl to ATRAC so I could enjoy it all on long playing minidiscs! 
Thousands of hours of music! (Thousands of hours of life wasted not pictured.)


For years I could enjoy Lindsey Buckingham's "Holiday Road" on Minidisc long before it was available digitally (it came back when the movie was rebooted)! Also Cheap Trick's "Up The Creek" (came out last year as part of Epic "rarities" compilation!

I still haven't seen Wall of Voodoo's "Exercise" on a legit digital release...

8-Tracks? I had a few. Cassettes? Never my favorite format, but I loved making mix tapes. I loved making collage art for the various tapes even more. I will always take physical formats over digital, and a digital file over streaming.As convenient as they might be, I don't like streaming services for a number of reasons--control, gaps in content, signal, different mixes, advertising, possible glomming of preferences and metadata, etc.  Quite possibly some if not all of those objections can be overcome but I don't care to try.  Get off my lawn.

I'd still take these over streaming

CD
1. Arthemis, Back From the Heat
My favorite Italian Metal band, and this an earlier album, acquired off eBay to complete the catalogue. If you want to have the greatest Metal cover of a pop song ever--yes, even better than Anthrax's cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time", then go to their website for the free download of their 6-song unfortunately named EP. You heard it here: Arthemis's cover of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" is the greatest Metal cover of a pop song, ever. Here, I'll make it easy for you: ARTHEMIS . Just listen to Fabio Dessi nail it! 

Fabio isn't on Back From the Heat, but it is still a solid record

2. Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped
3. Sonic Youth, Murray Street
4. Sonic Youth, A Thousand Leaves
5. Sonic Youth, Sonic Youth Live
6. Sonic Youth, Made in USA

I wrote about Sonic Youth a little in this month's "what I read" blog, and decided to fill the last remaining holes in the "official" catalogue. These are all great--and distinctively so. I'd forgotten about their movie soundtrack Made in USA, which I used to have on cassette before my cassette eating car stereo munched on it like twenty-five years ago. It appears to be OOP digitally (another great reason to trust only in the physical). Probably my third or fourth favorite of all SY-related discs.

7. Pink Floyd, The Endless River
8. David Gilmour, Rattle That Lock

I was able to pick up the super-deluxe CD/DVD versions of both of these for a reasonable price. Haven't watched the DVD's yet but love both discs. The Endless River was my morning coffee choice two Sundays running.

9. Hawkwind, Bring Me The Head of Yuri Gagarin

Live set "Classic" line-up, with Lemmy, Turner, Brock, Dik Mik, even Del Dettmar, but a very fuzzy recording and even the big songs lack the punch they have do on other live recordings from this era.

Digital
10. Megadeth, Cryptic Writings

$5.99 on iTunes for the deluxe version; not my favorite Megadeth (this one isn't as thrashy as many) but still a very enjoyable record

11. Bill Callahan, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

Half the album; as a promo they released a side at a time weekly for the digital release, so I didn't get the second half until June. I'll buy this on vinyl, but Callahan is one of several artists I don't want to wait to hear (or mind if I contribute extra profits by purchasing multiple formats). With my usual sense of good timing, I became completely enthralled with Callahan's Apocalypse and Dream River (not to mention Have Fun With God) just before he got married, had a kid, and took a five year hiatus from recording new songs. Luckily he's got an extensive back-catalogue to explore while I was waiting, and it was love at first listen for  It was love at first listen for Shepherd. And what does that title mean, anyway? Is it a warning? Is he saying, "don't join my flock, because I will leave you shorn and skinless in the end"?

Kim tells me I've said this hundreds of times about hundreds of records, but I consider Apocalypse and Dream River life-changing albums for me. Fittingly, I bought them when I was on the road--the first cut on Dream River, "The Sing", is one of those strange cuts that is intensely personal and yet universal enough to make seem my biography, not Bill's--at a great little record store in Phoenix called Stinkweeds

No vinyl this week, but I appear to have infected my son with both the vinyl rockin' pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu, as he has been scouring the shops and flea markets for records and has come home with dozens of LP's in the past few weeks. Good stuff, too! We're listening to one of his Magic Sam acquisitions as I write this!


I wrote a novel called Aural History about a musician who sees ghosts of other musicians. You can buy it HERE

Cover Intentionally DIY