Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Recession theme song

Many months ago, when the economy fell into ruin, I tried to think of a recession theme song. Unfortunately it didn't hit me until today. Faith No More - Everything's Ruined. Doesn't that sum up the Great Recession?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Libraryster: catching up

I had a few items out and returned them without logging them for you. So instead I'll just mention what I have cooking right now:

Anti-intellectualism in American Life - Richard Hofstadter: originally published in 1963, it won a Pulitzer. In some ways it is a humorous book; the arguments that the American right is making about the left are the exact same today as they were in 1963. While I don't agree with all of his arguments, he makes a few fair points. I'm not far into it, but already I don't agree with the sentiments of intellectuals as "aristocrats". That sentiment is perfectly counterpointed in the book Nixonland (a great read by the way); it fueled Nixon's rise to power in his inquisition against Alger Hiss. I'm less than a fifth through, but it is worth a read.

Penguin Island - Anatole France: winner of the Nobel for literature, Anatole was the spiritual heir of Voltaire. He has the same witty and detached sarcasm. The protagonist in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Offshore Pirate read Anatole France and was an "egoist". So now I read it to understand. Pretty good read too.

Thus Spake Zarathustra - Friedrich Nietzsche: in college I felt that Nietzsche was a product of his time. It reminded me too much of other 19th century industrial revolution Germans: Max Weber, Carl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and the like. I felt compelled to read this one because of our times. These days Ayn Rand is the rage, and the most compelling review of Atlas Shrugged I've read was basically "Nietzsche for stupid people". So I will go to the source and read Nietzsche and then Rand and see for myself.

Beethoven - Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage/Choral Fantasy/Rondo/Preludes and Overtures: What can I say? It is Beethoven. It is good. There are early presages of the ninth symphony, so of course it is worth a listen.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween dilemma

For the past year I thought about dressing as panther dance era Michael Jackson for Halloween. It is a simple concept. I put on dress shoes, dress pants, a black shirt unbuttoned, and a white t-shirt. Some eyeliner, a surgical mask, and a hat. For gravy I was going to get juice boxes and lance them with syringes "for the children".

Now that he is dead, MJ is going to be the most popular costume out there. I'm sure everyone will be milking the panther dance era MJ because it is the least capital intensive.

So simple even I can do it. The dance moves are great, you slap your arms around and grab your crotch.

Well, I'm thinking that this is out. In protest I decided that I would not dress up at all. But now I am starting to get a bit edgy and am looking for a costume. I'm not sure why, I'll be working that day anyways. But then I saw this, and then it all came back:

All hail the King!

So what do you think? Go out as Panther MJ? Any good last minute costume ideas on the cheap? Old Crazy newspaperface?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Navigating the oceans of a new office

In any new office, navigating the new waters can be treacherous. And the first hurdle to cross is the restrooms. Every man needs his Fortress of Solitude. Some place to sit down in peace and put your head in your hands for a spell. Gather your strength, girdle your loins, and prepare for another round.

wash your hands

Maybe the fascists are on to me? Probably not. The Godmachine makes no noise. Thus I disregard their signs. I won't follow your rules!

P.S., yes I do wash my hands, thank you. It is the other sign I technically cross.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Today I took my car in for brake work. It needed to be done; I knew there was a problem more than just new pads. I had thought maybe air in the lines and a flushing was in order. It was worse than that. No matter, brakes are brakes and eventually they all break.

I waited for two hours before they mercyfully drove me home. This was 5 o'clock. They did not have a return ride because of the late hour. Thus, I went home on a one way ticket.

The call that my car was finished didn't come in until 7:30. The place closes at 8. I had thirty minutes to get my ass to the mechanic. So I hopped on my bicycle and put the pedals to the street.

This town requires bikes to have a headlight at night. I couldn't find a working flashlight. This town has been nailing bikes to get cash. Thus I hoped to avoid cops at all cost. Think I'm paranoid? Think again. A few months ago I was issued a ticket for running a red light on my bike. I was on a pedestrian and bicycle only street, and the intersection I crossed was a one way street.

The most salient thing for this ride is having the proper soundtrack. I was riding hard. I was riding at night dressed in black with no lights and trying to avoid cops, and going down a 6 lane boulevard at times. Thus Motorhead it would be.

As I closed in on the main drag I saw a cop car parked. Would I get nicked? No movement. Thank God. I passed by the local porn shop. Lemmy was singing Fast and Loose. Was this fate? Later I passed by a girl on her cellphone. She looked like a "do" from Viceland. Lemmy was singing Jailbait. "Love that young stuff".

Getting close my lungs were burning. The cold October air was like daggers in my chest. Then Lemmy said "The chase is better than the catch". Time was running low. I dug in. Up the last hill I felt like Floyd Landis jacked up on 'roids in the Tour de France.

I made it just in time. I got my wheels back and loaded my bike into the trunk. I drove off the lot with The Hammer taking me home. Tonight there was no finer chase music than Motorhead.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The way it used to be; Heavy Metal edition

Essential reading for the week is this interview from Metal Inquisition with an inner member of the Century Black team. I could probably write a book on this topic. Instead, we'll use the interview as a guidepost down memory lane.

"You'd have bands that would sell 10,000 copies solely by word-of-mouth, and when I say "word-of-mouth", I mean literally, one person talking to another, face-to-face or on the phone with someone. Chain stores didn't carry metal back then, period."

I remember, during summers, biking to the one good record store in town. It was probably a good twenty minute haul each way, and while this sounds like grandpa telling you about walking to school uphill each way, it was dangerous. I lived in the suburbs, mind you, so in many places the sidewalk ended and you had to bike on the soft shoulder. Drivers were often hostile towards teenagers on bicycles for reasons I will never understand. An old parishioner in the family church was hit while biking and cannot walk. That always stayed with me while biking in the suburbs. But I digress. I believe it was Sam Goody, and they actually had a section labeled "Heavy Metal", and I would go with a discount coupon from the Entertainment Book and buy an album. In those days buying albums was a complete gamble because there was no internet, radio only played garbage, and Mtv was mostly a joke (though briefly there was Headbangers Ball through which I discovered some good bands like Slayer, Testament, Carcass, Sepultura, and Morbid Angel). You had to pay your money and take your chances. Sometimes you bought an album based on the cover art and the band photos on the back. I bought the Iced Earth album The Dark Saga based solely on the Spawn cover art. I'd never heard of the band before, nor had I any clue what the album would be like.

"When you saw someone with a cool shirt, or holding a cool album in a shop, you'd talk to them -- I made a lot of my best friends through common interests in music."

Right. In those days it was difficult to get the good stuff. I remember, after seeing Vader play live, trying in vain to get a copy of De Profundis. Back in those days, if you could find a Century Media album at Sam Goody's, they had a short mail order form stuffed in the jewel case. If you found something on the list you liked you ordered the CD and then when your order came it was packaged with a full size brochure.

Naturally, my metal friends and I pooled our resources for an endeavor like this. First, you had an order form that had a few CDs each of us wanted. Then you had to find the one guy with cool parents who would write a check. After all, back then no teenager had credit cards, and my parents certainly wouldn't write me a check for anything. You could send a money order, but back then I had no idea what a money order was. And since there was no Google or Wikipedia, I had no way to find out. My parents certainly wouldn't tell me. They'd probably berate me for asking. "What the hell do you want with a money order? You're grounded". Assholes. Finally, pooling your order saved you precious money on shipping.

So for me, buying a copy of De Profundis involved going to a concert and seeing Vader as the opening act. Then making an order though a mail order and getting the full catalogue, and then placing another order. Also saving up money, because in those days allowance was 2.50 a week, and being friends with people who had the same weird musical tastes and having a cool parent that would write a check for you. This sounds like some economics lesson in pooling resources.

Worth the hassle!

"I remember going to Gothenberg in '93, opening up a phonebook at the train station, and asking people walking by what the word for "records" was in Swedish so I could look up all the stores, mark them on a map, and go hunting all day long. And later that day, I had Eucharist "A Velvet Creation" and At The Gates "Gardens Of Grief" in my hands... and when I bought the At The Gates, it was Tompa who sold it to me, working behind the counter at Dolores Records... holy shit!"

It seems like back then you worked your way through music in sort of a linear fashion. The gateway artists were different for every generation. For my generation, being at the tail end of the Thrash movement, it was Metallica and Megadeth. Then, as you worked your way though classics like Black Sabbath, you started to dig deeper and find more obscure artists. Those crusty old guys were the one with the knowledge. They knew about band like Mayhem and Venom. For a long time, Venom CDs were out of print, and there was no Ebay to find used copies. So getting a hold of Venom required both insider knowledge that they existed and were important, and a serendipitous occurance where you chanced upon their album. Maybe a copy would show up at a used shop or flea market. Maybe not.

"probably the next example after that would be the Swedish death metal scene and how that wound up crossing over to US metalcore where you had pudgy short-haired dudes from Nebraska forcing pit-friendly breakdowns into the middle of At The Gates riffs. Americans are always reluctant to admit that someone else thought of something first that's better, but hey, sometimes you can't deny what's good. I mean, fried chicken and cheeseburgers are fine, but I'll take good Mexican food over that any day, you know?"

So true! I remember when the Identity CDs were available in the rock specialty store in Garbage City, and how they mislabeled the Emperor song. They also mislabeled the Gathering as well. Though I did find a copy of Death is Just the Beginning Vol 2 and Ten Years of Nuclear Blast at the mall. Sometimes you could find real jems in random places. I found Venom in a bargain bin. I also pulled a cassette copy of The Ultimate Incantation from a bargain bin. That's where my lifelong loveaffair with bargain bins originated, maybe. Anyways, I remember being surprised at how most of the good bands were from Europe, and mostly Scandinavian Europe, or else Florida. Florida? God's waiting room? Yes, Florida. Sort of a contrast with Scandinavia, but hey, they're both peninsulas.

Today anyone in any Godforesaken Middle-Western town can hear most any band's music online. And if they are really generous, even buy a CD online. I remember discovering At The Gates in the late 90s, after they'd broken up. Five or six years later, when the internet blossomed, kids in the hinterland started tuning in and then this happened...

I'm not saying its good or bad. But I'm not really a fan, and seeing it makes me feel really old. I find it to be a weak, watered down, American version of the original. Ok, I guess I am saying it is bad.

The original. It like like comparing a good Czech beer to Bud light.

We went went from this

To this?


Anyways, maybe this will explain why, after leaving my homeland in the diaspora, I didn't make any new heavy metal friends. Also, you get bonus points for naming the band that inspired the post title.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dreams in my Motörhead

Last night I had a dream that I was watching Motörhead play Born to Raise Hell live. And then I was in a band that was covering Motörhead. We were supposed to play Born to Raise Hell, but we forgot how to play it and started playing Iron Fist instead.

Enjoy Motörhead's Iron Fist!

As you probably guessed, in my dream I was playing bass but not singing.

Doing Stuff

A few weeks ago I did a photo shoot. It was a free gig, sort of a charity case. Cats and dogs for adoption. I wondered if there is any money in photographing pets? I'm sure there is, but man I hate that hustle of trying to be a salesman and pleasing clients.

Sometimes I wonder if I could have been a good porn photographer, or if there is really any money in it. Do you get paid more for shooting porn photos, or less? I'm guessing less because, let's be real; most people who pay for porn photos aren't appreciating the lighting and angles.

These days most everyone I see has an SLR. When I went to the botanical gardens 4 years ago almost no one had one. Today almost every other person has one. And they all want to do weddings and portraits. That leads me to believe that the market will soon be saturated with wedding and portrait semi-pros. Good for consumers, but that means I will forget about moonlighting as a wedding photographer. Not that I really wanted to anyways, but it was always in the back of my head. Let me tell you it is stressful shooting that sort of gig. If you miss a photo or something gets screwed up, there is no re-shooting. Also, without hard deadlines I procrastinate.

I suspect being profitable is all about finding your niche, and being lucky enough that it is something people are willing to purchase. I mean if your niche is taking pictures of poop then that is good for you but I doubt you will make any money selling those prints. When I first started getting into photography I had this idea to do a coffee table book of artsy pictures of guitars. All different guitars - Fender, Ibanez, Jackson, Gibson, you name it. I don't know if it has been done, but similar things have been tried. Maybe I should make a coffee table book of things collectors are into, like model trains or old Star Wars action figures. You know collectors would have to buy that book. Or maybe a book of 40s; all different ones like King Cobra and Colt 45. All the college kids would buy that, I'm sure. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In ages past

When I was in highschool a new tardy policy was introduced. It was called the tardy tank. It worked like this: when the final bell rang, the teachers shut the door. If you missed the door, that was it. The hall monitors would sweep everyone who was not in a classroom into the "tardy tank".

The tank was great. There are some days when you know that they are not teaching anything worthwhile. There are some days when you just need an hour to zone out in peace and quiet.

The tank was originally located on the second floor of the library. I was not previously aware that there was a second floor because the library was very tall, like an open air atrium. Consequently the view from the tank was nice. I remember sitting in the tank watching the sun rise in autumn and feeling glad that I was not in class.

You could only go to the tank so many times per class or they would call your parents, so I made sure not to go too often. By the end of my senior year it was relocated to a dungeon room next to the cafeteria kitchen, and I stopped going.

I mention this because training at work reminds me of high school. I am bored all day long in a drab conference room with the other drones, and wishing that I could go to the tank next period. Time to implement the office tank!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The folly of work

Going to work tomorrow. Because I am a sucker. It should be better than my last job, based purely on location. Let me show you what I mean.


This is the hallway to my "office". If it looks to you like a dank basement hallway that's because it is a dank basement hallway.


And here is my cubicle. You can't see from this perspective, but the cubicle divider between myself and my co-worker is the width of the desk; only about two feet deep.

This place was drab, and not to get all woe is me but I am a bit allergic to dust and mold. And guess what dank basements are filled with. So as you can imagine my allergies were going haywire from the minute I sat down at my desk to the time I left at the end of the day. It got so bad I had sneezing fits and had to take Benadryl and find some way to not fall asleep by lunch.

So the new place shouldn't be so bad because I've been through worse. Also, closing loans can be a real intense experience when your borrower has no place to live because his lease expires today and the underwriter won't approve your loan because the appraiser hasn't sent a re-cert of value and everyone (loan officer, borrower, realtor) is freaking out and losing their mind. So yeah, I'm not worried about being able to handle the new digs.

I do worry about how I'm going to watch the last half of college football season. Hulu? Should I buy a Tivo? Dust off the old VCR and pray it will still record? Get torrents? I have two weeks to figure this out.

Music is terrible

Years ago when I was unemployed I spent a lot of time looking for new music. It was a chore, I can tell you that. How would you unearth a Russian version of Dimmu Borgir? Too much time on your hands, that's how. Eventually I found myself working and with no time or energy to find wacky music. Good heavy metal is so hard to find. The last good band I found was Lykathea Aflame.

Suffice to say, with my last week of freedom winding down I couldn't help but start a bit of googling. It is all so terrible. Really, I am at a loss. I'd like to show you some great new discovery, some band that is good and new. Sadly, this is what I found...

I liked early Cradle of Filth's music, but hate hate hate Dani Filth's "singing". It doesn't fit the music at all. It wouldn't even be good in a band like Darkthrone. It ruins the band for me. You would think that by now someone would have tried making Cradle of Filth music with good singing. Instead it seems everyone decided to write wimpy riffs and put cheesy orchestra hits over it with some chick crooning. There are so many of these bands. I remember when it was only Nightwish, and of course Theatre of Tragedy. The latter was especially terrible. The woman sang falsetto and the man grunted and growled. The contrasts didn't work at all. And the riffs were boring.

Grunt over the most boring riffs ever invented coupled with a chick singing falsetto with simplistic piano playing. Who buys this stuff?

On Amazon I found a million of these bands. They are: Coronatus, Sirenia, Epica, Imperia, Eyes of Eden, Delain, After Forever, Tarja, Within Temptation...I could go on but I won't. Basically a thousand versions of Nightwish. It is like someone took a good idea and did it poorly over and over and over again. Chick singer, generic fast riffs, orchestra hits. I tell you people this is no good.

In theory, this should work well. When someone besides Dani sings on Cradle of Filth songs it isn't so terrible.

Notice the lack of orchestra hits? Wouldn't this sound better without Dani singing at all? Funny, it is really just an extension of the idea from earlier Cradle of Filth songs. And strangest of all it is the woman from Theater of Tragedy singing. Notice how her singing isn't so bad when she sings in her range? I guess you can't expect people who dress so terribly to get it right. Hey, at least they remembered to put lesbians in their video. Everyone loves lesbos.

Anyways, the point is that music is all terrible, and heavy metal is really terrible these days. There are so many terrible bands to wade through to try and find one good band. And that one good band will either break up, turn terrible, or take years and years to make a new album. Who has time for this? I don't. That's why I haven't found any good new music in forever. Luckily there are plenty of old albums for me to buy to round out my collection. I could spend a fortune just buying Motorhead albums I don't own. Crazy, I know.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

For your autumnal studies

Falling leaves, cold precipitation, and grey skies; these make for a good autumn. And what can be better for a cold snap than something to warm your mind and spirit? I have said before and will state again; the Russians really know how to enjoy a good winter. Perhaps it is the Thoreau I'm reading that brings out the bucolic musings, but they are magnified by reading the Russian Romantics. And that is my advice to you when things get chilly.

Reading list: I have a great love of Anton Chekhov, but am now finding Turgenev to be near equal in greatness. His writing is quintessentially Romantic. We find a love of Western intellectuals coupled with a quixotic pastoralism - in contrast to the industrial revolution I should note - and a wistful longing for the atavism to an ancient lost time (one that surely never really was), and almost a reverence for the hinterland.

Listening mix: Tchaikovsky, naturally. Sure, there are other Russians, but none so good in winter. Blasphemy? Not Myaskovsky or Shostakovich? Surely I write in madness induced by cheap brandy! No sir, Tchaikovsky exemplifies the Russian soul. He is the archetypical romantic. And his love for winter is prevalent in his symphonies (Little Russian, 4th, 5th, and 6th).

Drinking mix: I haven't made any punch yet, but nothing warms the soul quite like hot cider and brandy. Get it while the cider is still in season, kids. Whiskey and water can wait; the cider mill is open for scarcely a few weeks. Also, in lieu of a samovar I have a thermal carafe filled with black tea. But more on that later I suppose.


The buds of spring end up the detritus of fall...


Autumn inexorably gives way to winter


Winter is a wonderland of lights in a time of darkness. The worst we can do is forget this in January and February, two very long months fast approaching.