Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

Holy balls, has it been six weeks since I did this? Time flies when you’re not having fun.

I have been in a creative funk for sure. Being busy with work has certainly kept me away from writing dick jokes/missives about Canadian prog rock. But it’s been more than that.

After climbing to the mountain of getting a draft of a novel done, I was on a big high. Then I started trying to revise it, and also shared it with a couple of trusted advisors (you can probably guess one of them). That process confirmed something that I already suspected: that I had a draft with some pretty funny stuff in it but hardly something resembling a real novel.

The Lovely Becky has said the hardest criticism you receive is the kind that reveals a bit of truth you know but try to suppress. She summed up my novel perfectly: it was like an action buddy comedy. I have nothing against action buddy comedies, and they can certainly be lucrative. But I didn’t spend two years of my life trying to write a mildly entertaining book. I want to write a searing social satire of American foreign policy and hubris, a book that could be a Catch-22 for the War on Terra era. That’s a lofty goal and I doubt I’ll get there, but fuck if I’m going to settle for meh-cond place. You can’t shoot for the moon by building bottle rockets, even if bottle rockets are kind of cool.

At the same time, I realized I had to put the book away for a bit, to get space from it and also so I could start another novel that was the 1B to my 1A.

That caused some emotional complications for me. I realize this is a perfectly normal part of the writing process, but like an adolescent battling with puberty, I had never gone through this before and didn’t know how to act. So I reverted to my usual MO: feeling sorry for myself and not writing anything. Hence not only the lack of novel #2 writing but also any blogging.

I always have to go through this process, unfortunately. It’s like I have to sweat out all my you suck vibes, like the cold sweat of a hangover, until I feel like I can face the creative process again. The first part of that is realizing that feeling sorry for yourself has never, ever produced any actual work. If it did, I would be the James Patterson of negative self image parties.

The second part is sitting down and doing the work. I started the new book, and even after just writing a little bit, I love it. I feel like I have something really special on my hands, and not only do I think it’s benefitting from having written a shitty first draft of another book, it has the punch of some of my favorite posts I’ve written here. Which in turn reminded me how much I have missed blogging.

So it feels nice to be back and to feel like myself again, and what better way to celebrate that than with some tunes.

1) “Urgent,” Foreigner. One of those groups like Loverboy who are kind of terrible but have a handful of songs I really, really like. This song and “Hot Blooded” are insta-crank material whenever I hear them on stations with lunkheaded slogans like “Where Classic Rock Still Lives!”

2) “When You Were Young,” The Killers. It’s a toss-up between this and “Mr. Brightside” for songs of the last 10 years that I most like to sing when no one is listening. “Mr. Brightside” probably wins due to the absurd theatricality of the lyrics, but this has a louder arena-shaking quality to it, where I can see myself picking up one of the stage lights ala Bono in Rattle and Hum and shining it into the upper rows as I sing, “When you were youuuuunnnnnnng!” That would be completely awesome.

3) “Army Bound,” Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. He borrows a little bit of the bass line from The Kinks “Victoria” before turning up the rock, especially with the marshalling guitar riff at the end.

When I’m at the gym and doing any mindless cardio stuff like riding the bike, I love to throw one artist on random and do the rock star fantasy thing as mentioned in #2 above. Ted Leo gets the nod a lot because his music is energetic and I see myself on stage, sweaty and singing pointed barbs about my sorrowful country.

4) “Cody, Cody,” The Flying Burrito Brothers. I should really listen to them more often. I don’t like Crosby, Stills, and Zzzzzzz, but this sounds like CSN covering Wilco, which is not surprising because Wilco sounds like Uncle Tupelo covering The Flying Burrito Brothers.

5) “Caught In a Mosh,” Anthrax. Speaking of gyms, I just recently started hitting the weights again (after letting the weight hit me). It’s so very, very difficult to work out again after a long layoff, and every time I have a layoff, I vow to never have a layoff again. It’s a vicious cycle like time travel in the Terminator movies (“but how can the Terminator come back if it was killed before, unless he went forward in time to make it possible to go back, or maybe he went back before he was killed and then went forward…fuck this, let’s just listen to the remix of Christian Bale swearing at the crew.”) Anyway, I need all the support I can get, both physically from forcing my muscles to move and mentally when I have to start over with baby weights. Anthrax comes in handy for that.

6) “All the Small Things,” Blink-182. I have confessed this before, but I really like Blink-182. Beneath the horndog puns and high school antics, they can both write catchy little punk pop ditties like this or crank the speed like this. And I’m obviously a sucker for horndog puns.

7) “Norway,” Beach House. I need to stop buying albums I think I should buy. This one got a lot of raves, but didn’t do much for me when I sampled it on eMusic. However, said raves convinced me it would be a grower. Sadly, it is still just a lump of potting soil on a sunny day. I’m not sure why—after all, I like stuff that’s definitely in the same pop zipcode as this. I just feel, as they say, that there’s not a lot of there there. It’s a bunch of pleasant-sounding stuff that happened.

8) “Dance Song ’97,” Sleater-Kinney. The Lovely Becky and I officially rejected the new IFC sitcom Portlandia. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a sketch show from Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, guitarist of the late, great Sleater-Kinney. They do pieces about Portland specifically and about liberal/progressive culture in general. I love the idea of mocking those things, because it’s good to have your sacred cows roasted. One of my favorite SNL sketches of all time is “Dukakis After Dark” which skewered so many late-80s liberal icons. The problem with Portlandia is that, while it’s very creative and the ideas are original, there are no jokes. We watched an episode where Aimee Mann was working as a housekeeper because the music industry is in the toilet, and while clever, it wasn’t funny, which is important if you’re writing “comedy.” It’s almost like someone decided to make a sketch show out of New Yorker “Shouts and Murmurs” pieces, which is the sketch show I will be working on if I wind up in hell.

9) “Angel,” Massive Attack. Starts out so menacingly until the female vocal shows up. Is she my savior? Or my adversary? Will she show me the way out of the computer program that we are trapped in, or will I learn she has been sent by an android Rutger Hauer to seduce me before she kills me after we mate? Or will we start out on opposite sides before realizing we must unite to prevent both Keanu Reeves and Ridley Scott from making any more movies, unleashing a slow-motion fury of automatic gunfire as the empty shell casings hit the floor in perfect time with the drum beat? That’s the beauty of Massive Attack, they are so deep.

10) “She Sells Sanctuary,” The Cult. Oh hells yes. Easily one of my top 10 80s songs. I was really into The Cult back in the day (as the kids say). I saw them open for Billy Idol when they were supporting Electric and Idol was supporting being Billy Fucking Idol. Just as The Cult were singing “Rain,” Ian Astubury’s mic went out. The band kept playing anyway, and finally he got a new mic at the very end of the song. I remember feeling ripped off that they didn’t stop or play it over. Sure, keep playing when something off the B-side of the new album doesn’t go right, but don’t skimp on the hits, bucko.

The other two things I remember were having a perfect view of Idol guitarist Steve Stevens standing on the side of the stage before the show and talking to two women wearing, shall we say, the costumes of the sexually liberated. The other was of a guy in front of me. He was the size of a pro football linebacker and was dressed in a pink t-shirt, white baggy pants, and a pair of pink Nike slip-on shoes. He stood up and shook his groove thing throughout the entire Billy Idol set in one of the greatest displays of amateur male Caucasian dancing I have ever seen (outside of Trapper, that is). God, I miss the 80s sometimes.

11) “Just Like Honey,” Jesus and Mary Chain. The Lovely Becky and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary last Saturday, which is amazing considering we are both 29. Anyway, we celebrated on the Friday night before with a terrific dinner and then a so-so trip to see The Hangover 2 (My review: See the movie you loved all over again for another $12!) However, said screening was awesome because we were two adults out for a night in the city and watching a movie with penis shots and smoking monkeys and Billy Joel jokes instead of something animated and cute. Let me say that the built-in babysitting of family members alone has made the move back worth it.

On the actual anniversary, we had company: Tickle, his wife, and my one-year-old niece. However, we also had Tickle’s friends Veetz, Smoke, and Pancake Z. They were originally supposed to come for game 6 of the Heat-Bulls (fuck!), so instead the dudes played Risk. And then the next night the dudes came over again and we played Rock Band (with the ladies, too). Note that this was all done with the blessing of my wife, which is why I am one of the most happily married men I know. If I may paraphrase Chris Rock and use one of Jennifer’s favorite words, “New pussy don’t let you nerd out!” And one of the reasons I love my wife is that she never, ever prevents me from nerding out, even when she’s making fun of me for saying things like, “I will drive you from Kamchatka!”

Have a great weekend. Oh, and I wasn't sure if I was going to finish the last Vegas piece, but Tickle and Smoke reminded me of some funny stuff, so I'll get it done soon.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

You can’t shoot for the moon by building bottle rockets, even if bottle rockets are kind of cool.

Bottle rockets are awesome.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

He stood up and shook his groove thing throughout the entire Billy Idol set in one of the greatest displays of amateur male Caucasian dancing I have ever seen

sorry about that.

Brando said...


Thunder, I was always more of a pack of Black Cats man myself.

blue girl said...

Great, great post, Brando! I laughed out loud several times and even read some of it out loud to The Skimster! Also, you're making me want to write again. So, thanks for that!

Ok, tell me more about The Hangover II. Is it worth seeing? I, like 98% of the world, loved the first one so much and I'm actually offended that the 2nd one's such a rip off of the first. But, if you think it's worth it, I'll give it a chance.

Brando said...

BG, I have mixed feelings on Hangover 2. It really is the same movie in a different location, which takes away the surprise of the first one.

At the same time, it has some very funny moments. And at first the parallels with the first are funny -- there's a knowing wink that this is all happening again. I just feel like the story wasn't nearly as good this time.

So it's hard to say. TLB and I were so happy for an adult night out and to see a movie in a theater that we would have watched almost anything as long as it wasn't animated.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

comparison trailers:

Von said...

Glad you are back.
I'd read anything you've written.
I'd pay money for it to.
Because, you see, you ARE that funny.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

In college, I cobbled together a stage for the Jesus and Mary Chain out of some platforms and 2x4s. To test the stage, I jumped all over it, figuring that I must have had 30, 40 pounds on those reedy Brits. The college radio station that sponsored the concert pissed me off by asking me to work as security during the concert. Shee-it, people, I pulled a goddamn stage out of my ass, and you want me to work the event?

Kathleen said...

C was just telling me that I don't really like The Cult, but I do like that song.

Kathleen said...

I almost said "thanks a lot bin Laden" this weekend when some one was complaining about something airport/airplane related, but realized they would have no idea what I was talking about.
Still, I skipped HO2 for Kung Fu Panda 2 and X-men 5: Younger and Hunkier. I can just watch my HO1 dvd.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I pulled a goddamn stage out of my ass,

I hope you loosened up first.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

while clever, it wasn’t funny, which is important if you’re writing “comedy.”

I have been reliably informed that jokes about penises can very often make people laugh.


Pinko Punko said...

C is such a fascist.

Brando, I hear you. Hang in there.

UC will hypnotize you into loving Beach House. I think you might not be depressed enough to appreciate them.

exford legs said...

Great post.

Not female vocals in 'Angel'. Is Horace Andy.

exford legs said...


fish said...

First rule of comedy, monkeys are always funny.

Juke Box Hero is my deep shame. So deep, I couldn't even offer it up for 3B radio.

Brando said...

Thank you, exford legs, and welcome!

Sorry for not getting a new post up this week. I had a lot to do before heading up for my cousin's wedding last Thursday. Regularly scheduled half-assery to resume this week.

Snag said...

Bridesmaids is much funnier than Hangover 2, notwithstanding the former's lack of a smoking monkey.