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.
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.
10) As college graduates leaving the hallowed halls of higher education, the world is your oyster. Except for those of you who majored in humanities and social sciences. Your world will be the deep fryer and, if you show a little initiative, the shake machine.
9) When it comes to the choices you make in life, remember this: it is better to have had cheezburger and eated it than to have never had cheezburger at all.
8) Ask not what your country can do for you. Seriously, don’t ask, now’s not a good time.
7) If you don’t know what to do, consider graduate school. Not only will you be able to still suckle at the teat of college, but in 5-7 years, you will have the honor of being called “Dr. Loser” in the unemployment office.
6) Success in business is much like success in college: study hard, work hard, and when those two things fail, cheat like a motherfucker.
5) Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life. However, it is an excellent way to get on reality TV.
4) You have seen many changes in your lifetime. The birth of the Internet. The easiest access to pornography in human history. The ability to stalk exes and see if they got fat and/or wound up with someone who is fat. Sexting. Having acts that were once outlawed as high depravity now being considered just another Saturday night. You may not be the Greatest Generation, but you bastards are sure as hell the Luckiest Generation.