Sunday, November 29, 2009

Office survival guide: footwear

It is important to balance the conflicting needs to look professional and be comfortable. Often these are mutually exclusive goals; the point of professional clothing is to be constraining and uncomfortable. Dress shoes and sport coats are conspicuous consumption. One cannot wear these clothes and build a house or spot weld on an assembly line. The only thing you can physically do is push papers around. But I like to push the envelope of comfort.

If you work in a more casual office you can get away with wearing shoes that aren't made of leather and don't have hard heels. My choice is Vans Camacho. Skate shoes? Surely you jest?

I kid you not. I haven't found athletic shoes that are as non-descript and all black as these. They are comfortable and I can easily pass as professional wearing these. And I can run in these shoes. They have soft heels so my feet and ankles don't hurt from wearing them. And because they are generously padded and not leather, I don't have a sweat problem with them either.

These shoes regularly go out of production and then come back in a few months later, so if you can't find them be patient. I almost bought a pair of Sketchers instead, but that is another story.

If you can find some inexpensive shoes that look like dress shoes but feel like athletic shoes, let me know. I'm not married to skate shoes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Golden Snail

Here is a treat that will keep you warm all winter long. It is a cartoon by the Russian master Yuri Norstein, aka the Golden Snail.

They call him that because his work process is so slow. He makes these all himself. No animation studio, just his wife.

I'll keep repeating this: those Russians know how to make the most of winter. Get ready to bundle up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From my childhood 6: Yacht Rock

Now, I thought I was with the times on internet humor. But apparently I missed the boat with the yacht rock skits. In case you missed it too, here is a video from the yacht rock documentary:

Here's the deal: my parents listened to AM Gold as a child, so I know the tune to every one of these yacht rock songs. However I could not tell you the name of the band or artist, or even the name of the song. The Doobie Brothers are smooth rock? I thought they would be acid rock. Steely Dan is smooth rock too? I would have pegged them for hard rocking classics from the South, opening up for Lynard Skynard. Hah.

So there are my smooth rock yacht rock creds. It was simply from my childhood.

Post Script: I wish I would have known about this several months ago. I was searching for a theme for my summer of unemployment. This would have been perfect for July - September. Maybe next year?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shred guitar you might have missed

I'm sure you know the names of all the essentials: Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci (a lot of paisanos in that list), Michael Schenker, George Lynch, Marty Friedman, who the fuck is Eddie Van Halen, etc.

But you might have missed two of my favorites. Fat Mr. Crab and Uli Con Carne Rotweiler. Their instructional DVD Born to Shred 2: Emotional Playing; Stage Positions and Wild Antics is one of the all time best guitar videos ever. Behold:

After watching this, you will understand why I always pronounce Mesa Boogie as "may-sha". I am also prone to complaining about "slow amps". It is also what changed my opinion about 7 string guitars. I looked at it in a new light, which was furthered my Mithras and Morbid Angel (and of course Vai though he is mostly a Jem player). Don't let a bunch of 16 year old dorks from 1999 ruin your opinion of a musical instrument.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bundle up!

With November's doom settling in, it is time to girdle your loins and prepare for winter. For us Northerners a good strategy is through coats. Yes, you may like your coats just fine down South. But up here, coats aren't just fashion accessories; they are functional as well.

Now I know that many of my fellow Northerners feel experienced on bracing Old Man Winter based on years of living. But I'm here to tell you that even an old dog can learn a few new tricks, and a careful examination of winter coats may be in order.

Are your coat pockets warm and deep? Could you fit a pint of whiskey or brandy comfortably in your coat pockets?

If you answered no to these questions, you might need a new coat.

Does your coat keep you really warm? Is it warm in all sorts of weather? Are you allergic to wool?

If you answered no to all these questions, you might need a wool coat.

In my experience, the best is a big heavy wool overcoat. Christmas is right around the corner (or Hanukkah for my Hebrew friends...though I don't know how you'd divy up a coat over 8 nights). Put in your request now. Or, if you happen to be secular and need to self finance this project, I have just the thing for you: military surplus.

Hopefully no one reads this blog, because I am in the process of procuring a surplus coat myself. I have a long wool coat, and let me tell you it is warm. But it is a bit formal, and though not a bad thing and definitely more appropriate in many situations, I find it easier to pull off the casual look with military surplus.

Again let me tell you: wool coats are the warmest coats I have ever owned. Warmer than down, cotton, or whatever synthetic crap they stuff in there these days. It keeps you warm even when wet. And you won't look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man either.

In my experience, wool is warmer than down, is far superior in wet conditions, and doesn't make you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The basic surplus wool coat is the Navy pea coat. These are good coats, and if you do some web sleuthing you can find some real deals. Even better than the pea coat is the bridge coat. The bridge coat is like the pea coat but longer. Longer is better. Longer is warmer. How many layers do you put on your torso? 2 or three shirts of varying insulation plus a coat? And your legs? Maybe a thin sheet of denim? If you are intrepid a flannel layer under your denim. Is that all? Extend that coat down comrade.

We are getting there

Now we're cooking! Longer, and therefore warmer.

If you happen to get one with epaulets you can remove the bars with a seam ripper. And if the brass buttons are too bling bling for you they can easily be replaced with some plain old buttons from a fabric store for cheap.

Even longer than the bridge coat is the greatcoat. And what a coat it is. There are deals to be had if the googles are your guide. For less than sixty bucks you could have this gem:

Could a coat be any warmer? No it couldn't.

Now don't go buying a military greatcoat until I have my gem. I don't think the US army even issues these anymore, and the Canadian ones are single breasted (yuck!). But through used (vintage, dare I say? No no, used!) channels or old Europe or both I will have one. Not this one pictured above though. Oh, it is sharp alright. Grey is alright. But black is better. Black is always better. So off I go to spend this winter tucked away internet sleuthing for a black greatcoat on the cheap. Wish me luck.

Miscellany: you'll notice that a typical civilian overcoat has many of the same design features as the military coats, but in vestige form. The lapels of the coats are designed to fold over for extra warmth. The collar too is made to fold up to keep your neck extra warm. Modern coats often have these designs but they don't work well or are - especially you'll notice in the case of formal business wear like suit coats - pure functionless vestiges. Lapels that can't fold over and collars that can't be turned up.

Folded and buttoned

Up and over. Can your collar do that? Too James Dean perhaps, but hey - warm is warm!

Some people might think of scarves as fashion accessories. But I have learned that it is best to go through life comfortably, and therefor a good warm scarf is necessary for the winter.

Think warm. Especially when you live in Eternal Winter.

Hey, where is his hat? Hmmm, I think I'll cut this short and leave it a coat and scarf edition. Hats for another time. Just remember, don't go ebaying for that greatcoat until I give the all clear, OK? And don't forget which brandy I told you to avoid.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brandy bust

This week I decided to branch out in the cheap brandy isle, and bought some Raynal brand. It was 12 dollars for a fifth. I'll cut to the chase: I don't like it. This stuff will be used solely for cooking. It was more expensive than Christian Brothers VSOP and tasted much worse. I will give this one a Do Not Buy rating. What a shame, but that's why this blog exists; a warning to others.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

People look east

There is something magical about the Orient. The geography and climate is so different. The cultures out there are different too. In Japan, Yngwie Malmsteen is the biggest selling Occidental musician. He outsold Celine Dion in Japan. Crazy, I know, but in Japan he has played with orchestras.

Where can you find this in America? Nowhere!

Is this just crazy Japan being crazy, or are other parts of Asia filled with awesome? Well, boozers and boozettes, I present to you junior Vai:

I can't play as well as her and I am twice her age. Her youtube page says China. So China has officially gotten a lot cooler. I think I will have to keep an eye on what is going on in Asia.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Opportunity is a knife

Lately I daydream about buying a house in Detroit for a few dollars and fixing it up. It would be a Walden experience. The house would of course have a huge lot behind it and I would farm the land. After much hard work I would sit up on my porch drinking tall boys like in Gran Torino.

That is not going to happen. But I have another daydream. This time I buy a small lot in Chicago and farm my yard on weekends. It is more like a garden than a farm. I take the train to work during the week and generally live a strange mix of urban and rural life. This might actually happen, or some variant of it.

My woman is graduating this spring. Once that happens there are many choices for us. Chicago is a real possibility, but where she would work is in Lake Forest, which is a good deal north of the city. Neither of us are looking forward to the suburbs, but there is a Metra line out there. There is a 70% chance of this.

Detroit is a view from the wasteland that won't happen for me. However, there is another option on the horizon. Vegas. There is a new facility opening in Las Vegas and they would love to hire my woman. It is a city built on dreams and stardust. It is foreclosure city USA. I could spend my days tending to the moisture vaporators and fending off Sandpeople. It would be interesting to see the meltdown so close to ground zero. I have family in Vegas too. The only problem is what would I do for work?

Sometimes it is good to take the broad perspective. If you lived in Rome in the year 1000 you probably thought the good times were gone for good. Rome had only a fraction of the population it once owned. Buildings were empty and pieces were stolen and hauled away to fit in new buildings elsewhere. Spolia they call it. Today it is called scrapping. Today Rome is bigger than ever. Other cities that looked like hits in the year 1000 are gone.

Opportunity is a knife. Sometimes you are holding the hilt, and sometimes you are stuck with the blade.

The nostalgia wagon takes off

Remember when I had nostalgia this spring? Remember when I was pining for the dot com boom and listening to Fear Factory? Well, original guitarist Dino is back in the band and the new lineup has a new song for you.

I'll be honest, it isn't what I wanted from them. I wanted more techno. I was hoping that they could revamp their sound with more trance beats and samples. I am listening to trance sometimes these days. If they aren't working with that Rhys fellow anymore, I suggest they hook up with Buckley. He is a trance DJ out of Las Vegas, and has a great podcast. Episode 2 is my favorite. Come on guys, give me a Fear Factory trance album.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The latest from the Subcontinent

I'm sure that you, like I, have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Amrut Indian whisky. Where is it? The latest word from my sources is: held up in regulations. Apparently import regulators aren't too keen on letting them use the label "single malt". Hopefully the confusion is cleared up soon. Though at this point, in my head, this is more of a warm weather summer whisky. So as long as it is out by spring, I'll be pleased. That and of course hopefully that it tastes good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Thanks to my buddy Brian for the reminder, today is the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Gordon Lightfoot... now if I could record a metal version of this with a chick lead singer...yeah.

I like the truth in the lyrics. Unfortunately I'm too busy these days to take a trip north to see the November Witch. But I can attest that

"Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen"

Lake Michigan

Clear sailing


My young man's dreams

Michigan Coast in Fog

I think seeing the old ore dock in a November gale would be interesting. Time is just not on my side.

Ashland Ore Dock

I guess time wasn't on the side of Lake Superior iron either.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chick lead singers

These days chick lead singers are commonplace. Because I am an old curmudgeon, I remember when they were a rarity. Back in the 90s it was a new and novel thing for a heavy metal band to have a woman sing. The Gathering switched from a Celtic Frost style band with Always to a different style when they added a woman singer (I bought my copy of Always for 99 cents, but I think I lost it, oh well). It worked well on Mandylion and Nighttime Birds. Then they turned into Pink Floyd stoners and I lost interest. But they were one of the first heavy metal bands of the 90s to have success with a woman singer, and I actually liked them.

Did you like her batusi dance? I did!

Some other forgotten lady singer bands have gone by the wayside. I have a soft spot for Crisis. Fronted by Karyn Crisis, they were a bit death metal and large parts hardcore, but back in the 90s when death metal was largely Florida style and hardcore was more like Earth Crisis. Hey, they both have Crisis in the name. She also did singing mixed with grunting, which is very popular now but new back then.

I usually am not a fan of the hardcore style, so I was never a Crisis fan, but I recognized what they did for what it was. Some people probably owe a debt to Karyn Crisis but don't know it.

As I said, before them there wasn't much. The only semi-popular group I can think of is Doro, 80s group fronted by Doro Pesch. I always thought of Doro as being more like Judas Priest and Accept. For me they were too mid paced and I was not a fan, but I still can respect what they did.

After Nightwish, a glut of ladies' metal bands emerged, which I have talked about before. I think that because of Nightwish's success, and the way that their singer joined the band, it was easy for a bunch of guys to recruit women from opera schools to moonlight in power metal bands. Before this, it was rebellious women with problems starting bands rather than joining them. Forgotten along the way was Tura Satana.

Again, I was never a fan of their music, but I remember them coming up at the time when the Gathering was starting to sell records and get noticed. But I guess they deserve mention because they were part of something new, though I don't recall them ever being popular.

Do you remember the Awakening: Females in Extreme Music compilation? By the late 90s women were either sidekicks in real bands, like Opera 9, Therion, and Theater of Tragedy, or fronting bands that were going for something more than novelty. No offense to earlier bands, but I had always thought Anneke joined the Gathering because they needed a singer and she was dating someone in the band. She wasn't really a metalhead, nor was Tarja from Nightwish. So you shouldn't be surprised that they are not in the band anymore or in the band but not playing metal.

I was always hopeful about chick singers for several reasons. One, it is easy on the eyes to watch a band whose singer has boobs. Two, I think women have pretty voices as well, so much so that even an average singer can pass off well in a metal band. I'd rather hear an average woman sing than an average man. Finally, more women singers would naturally attract more women to heavy metal, and increase my odds of meeting a gal. Remember, life is essentially a numbers game, and if you went too far into the "subculture", you were dooming yourself to life as a eunuch. Now I am old and don't care. Most of the bands with women singers didn't pan out. I don't want to be a part of any subculture anymore, and I date a woman that doesn't like heavy metal. And its an experiment that's most popular result was this:

Sad, I know.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane into the 1990s, when the ratio of guys to gals at any concert was about 9:1, and of that 10% most were there with a boyfriend. I don't know what the ratio is like today, but I hear it is closer to a 60:40 equilibrium. Strange times indeed.

Like vultures

At the office my new digs were sparce. I did not even have a pen, let alone the coveted swingline. Sad, I know. Good news; the guy in the cube down the row was fired. As you can guess, like a vulture I waited for the office to clear and then extended my talons. Like a vulture my prey does not move. I now have a stapler, a tape dispencer, and a tray full of pens. Thus is the circle of office life.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Missing in action

I haven't drank since Saturday. I haven't bought any new weird booze in weeks. Where have I been? Working, sadly. I'm sure the mayor of Diamond's will tell me how I used to be. I can only tell you how it is.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In my head

Lately I have been listening to Motörhead non-stop. It is strong and sinewy. It is lithe and quick. It is rough and dirty. It is like a gangly old hobo with a belly full of rot-got and a head full of demon's voices. It will fuck you up. As Lemmy told me "we are Motörhead and we're here to kick your ass". If you don't own it, go out right now and buy Ace of Spades.

If they moved next door to you, your lawn would die.

A year ago when I was shopping for an overcoat I thought about buying a military greatcoat, but I couldn't find a black one. I almost bought this one, but thought the better of it. That's why I'm not as cool as Lemmy. Really I should have bought that Soviet navy officer's coat though. That's the real deal right there, and I've wanted some Soviet memorabilia for a while. From my childhood and all that. It would go well with my Maoist propaganda posters.

Raise the Red lantern

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Post Halloween roundup

Like most people I enjoy this time of year. I never had allergy problems in the past, but this year was bad. I don't know what it is, but I know other people only have allergy problems here. So there it is. The air is crisp and clear, and the fall colors were great. Sadly it is mostly gone. And I watched the video for Love You to Death about 100 million times.

I even bought the DVD and ripped the video onto the godmachine.

As you know last night was Halloween and I listened to Creepy Green Light and All Hallow's Eve about 5 million times. Enjoy what you can of this time of year because it does not last long. Like the morning fog, it is burned away by the day. Or rather, the lack of day as it were.


The fog rolls in, only to burn away


The autumn leaves have an ephemeral display


They are almost finished for the year