Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays: What are we going to do about gun violence?

Special high capacity 12-gauge edition! 

12) Whoah, back off! You’re way to close to home! Don’t make me shoot you!

11) Oh, it’s just you. Sorry about that. There’s a lot of crazies with guns out there, so you can’t be too careful about who you might have to shoot. Good thing these babies have safeties or I’d have had another “accidental” shooting on my hands. Plus your trigger finger gets really slippery when it’s covered in blood.

10) Look, if we outlaw guns, only criminals will have them. It doesn't make any sense to ban something when you can’t effectively enforce that ban.

9) Except drugs, of course. And national borders. And speeding. And sodomy. And stealing office supplies.

8) It’s also why we should develop more law-abiding gun owners by giving kids firearms. The sooner they start, the sooner they can start acting responsibly.

7) Of course, this doesn't at all apply to drinking. Or driving. Or voting. Or military service. Or buying lottery tickets. Those things are too dangerous for kids, unlike firearms.

6) Besides, look at countries that have a lot of gun ownership and don’t have gun violence. Like Canada. They should be our models.

5) Except for health care. Or social welfare. Or pronunciation. Or milk containers.

4) Finally, it doesn't matter. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. The Supreme Court has upheld that. And the Constitution and the Supreme Court are never wrong.

3) Except about slavery. And women's equality. And drinking. And maybe income taxes, ‘cause income taxes suck. AmIrite?

2) Plus, guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Especially people with guns. Wait, that came out wrong.

1) Hmm, looks like we’ve backed ourselves into a corner a bit here about solving gun violence. I guess we’ll just a have to shoot our way out.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 11! 

God bless you, three-day weekend, especially for making said weekend occur on NFL Championship Weekend, the last set of games for actual football fans, before being surrounded by people double-dipping salsa while complaining about how long it takes to get to the commercials. I hope it will be Dreamboat Brady against Butt-Slappin’ Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers in the big game, both because I would love to see the Pats lose another Super Bowl and also see Bill Belichick transform his hand into a blade that impales Harbaugh when he shakes the Belichick’s other hand a little too vigorously.

1) “Hey Ladies,” Beastie Boys. One beauty of Facebook is that I get to crash threads started by my teenage cousins. One of them posted a message asking her friends for music recommendations for her school’s turnabout dance. One enterprising young lad stole my punchline—2 Live Crew’s “Hey We Want Some Pussy”—but I suggested this as an alternative.

2) “Hammer to Fall,” Queen. I had lunch with The Lovely Becky today at a neighborhood place with great cocktails, so I decided to have a drink during lunch, a delicious Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned. After we ate, the waitress brought a desert menu, which featured a section called “Unique Scotches.” You couldn’t have gotten my attention faster if it said, “Free Motorboating” at a Christina Hendricks convention. One unique Scotch later, I felt as warm and feisty as the opening riff to this song.

3) “Untitled,” Interpol. I had to drive out to my actual office in Hawkeye territory this week, and on the way back, I played my “Best of the Aughts” mix on my iPod—the full 200-song mix that I later edited down. This song came up, and I realized that it was not only ten years old, but that I was having nostalgia for early 2000s music. I thought, Wow, this really takes me back to my thirties. That seemed all kinds of wrong. 

4) “Call the Doctor,” Sleater-Kinney. I in fact did see my doctor today. I have added a cholesterol-lowering drug to my high-blood-pressure medication (Wow, this song really takes me back to my thirties when I only took drugs that didn't require a prescription.) The blood pressure stuff is relatively cheap, subsidized by my insurance, but the cholesterol meds are $50 a month after insurance. I feel like my provider is telling me, Hey, we understand that there’s salt on everything, but we ain’t gonna pay for your bacon addiction, Porkins.

5) “The Bends,” Radiohead. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I gained about ten pounds. I was in a perfect storm of fat-assery—TLB cranking out huge quantities of cookies with meth-lab speed, every meal being served in a casing of fried cheese, and lots and lots of fermented holiday cheer. I stepped on the scale after Christmas and was almost at a weight that Louis C.K. used in his act to poke fun at himself of being a fat mess. That actually triggered enough motivation to start losing weight, stepping on the scale and hearing punchlines about how much dong I’d service for a case of Ding Dongs. So using WWLCKS (What Would Louis C.K. Say) works much better as my healthy eating motivation than WWMJMSMWHP (What Would Make Jillian Michaels Slap Me With Her Penis).

6) “Roxanne (live),” Sting. One of my favorite live performances ever, solo Sting on an electric guitar. So good I won’t cock it up with a dick joke.

7) “My Year in Lists,” Los Campesinos!. When (if) I’m 80, I wonder if I will still be list obsessed. I think in lists all the time now. Hell, I spent December trying to get the order of my favorite songs from 2012 in order. Will this ever go away? I guarantee my grandparents never did shit like sit around and list Top Five Abbot & Costello movies or Top Ten Blacklisted Writers You Would Sleep With. Will it fade with age, or will I be telling the orderlies Top Ten Movies About Old People Being Disappeared by Their Monstrous Children?

8) “An Ode to No One,” Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan opened a tea house at the end of my street. Why? Because he’s Billy Fuckin’ Corgan, has millions of dollars, and wants some green tea, motherfucker. Anyway, TLB does her writing there occasionally, and she’s seen BC twice. That made me we want to go there so I could bump into him and tell him how much I agreed with his feelings about Rush, and we’d bond, and then the next time Rush was in town, he’d be like, “I should go with Brando.” He’d of course have backstage passes, and I’d meet the Trinity, and then I could die. Really, it’s a flawless plan. Anyway, today I finally went there, and there was no Billy Corgan. There wasn’t even James Iha bussing tables. I felt robbed and feel like he should post office hours.

9) “Rats,” METZ. Sometimes I buy albums because I want to like them. METZ are loud, angry, and sound like PiL turned up to 11. That sounds like it should be a 7-10 split to my ears. Almost every time I do that, however, I never actually like the album. In fact, I enjoyed listening to Kidz Bop with Libby last night much more than the three minutes I spent listening to this.

10) “1963,” New Order. From Substance, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About My Heterosexuality and Love Synth Pop. I had the rock-lover’s reflexive hate of all things electronic, but Substance showed me that it was okay to not only like keyboards and drum machines, but also to elevate my hands from my sides to over my head while dancing.

11) “Sledgehammer,” Peter Gabriel. TLB and I were in the market for a new mattress, as the one we had began to sink in the middle—from all the action happening there! High five! I was online doing some research on different mattress types, and I came across a ranking site that had a bunch of criteria like Durability, Heat Absorbtion, Comfort, and so on. They had not one but multiple rankings for having sex on the various mattresses, including Allows Multiple Positions and Active Sex Friendly, because you definitely don’t want a mattress that’s Inactive Sex Friendly. I couldn’t tell you whether memory foam is a good comfort choice, but I can tell you it gets an A for Sexual Discretion, a majorly important rating when your children are one hallway width away from wondering what that squeaking is and walking into a lifetime of expensive therapy. However, I was really confused by one rating, Allows for Faster Climax, because who is climaxing faster? And if it is for him, does any heterosexual couple ever buy that mattress?

Due to that ambiguity, we had to research this ourselves, and now we have been banned from every American Mattress in America.

Have a good weekend! And here's a little something that football and non-football fans can enjoy

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Favoritist 11 of 2012

With the bonus Extra Padding EP!

If time travel was possible, I would like to go back to the start of 2012, find myself, and punch my face right in the nose. While my 2012 self laid on the floor asking what the fuck my problem was, 2013 Brando would deliver this message: Shut up, you fucking baby!

The reason why I could have used that punch in the nose is because I let way too many things get to me this year. I’ve always had a complex about aging, but this was the first year where I felt aged. I got fatter. I had to turn up my music a little louder. I noticed that the gray-to-dark chest hair ratio was rapidly increasing. I got wigged out enough about my mortality enough that I thought I was having a heart attack.

Then there was the lack of accomplishment list. Not finishing my novel. Letting my blog go fallow. Reading less. Feeling like I wasn’t working hard enough. I was hosting my own negative self image party with an open whine bar.

Why do I make myself crazy? The Lovely Becky thinks it’s because I like to make myself sad, that somehow this makes me “serious” and “brooding” and “artistic” instead of a guy who could literally make every Top 10 Tuesday a list of boner puns (instead of 80% boner puns) and who makes people laugh via boner puns.

Reaching the end of 2012, I realized what an idiot I was (am). Sure, I got fatter, but I also had a stress test done after my heart thingy and found that I was perfectly normal (thank you for lowering that fitness bar, Fat America). My performance review was strong to quite strong. The blog did suffer, but I also produced 150 pages of material for my novel, and frankly, it’s better than Veep (which I like). In fact, I’m already prepping for my Colbert Bump. My daughter thinks I’m hilarious without the use of boner puns, and my wife thinks I’m still a “sex god” (I may be paraphrasing). I went through a psychological Dante’s Inferno, only instead of going through hell, I went up my ass until I reached my head, then lead it back out of my butt. (Maybe that’s more of a Poseidon Assventure.) Now I think 2013 is going to be the best year of my life so far, all by simply telling myself to get confidence, stupid.

Throughout the year, music gave me more comfort than it has in a while, maybe ever. It was therapy, release, a call to arms, an armistice, a fountain of youth, and a reminder that getting older is actually a good thing. So here are 17 of my favorites, a Brando dozen that got me through the year, with long-winded fits of navel gazing to explain why you should look beyond my belly lint at some of these fine tunes.

The Extra Padding EP 

17) “Kicking,” Torche. I had been calling these guys Tor-SHAY all year, because I assumed that the e on the end made it all Francophony. Then in finding a video for this song, I found a clip of the singer pronouncing it torch. That made me feel like a dingleberry and reminded me of the time I pronounced biplanes as bip-planes in front the entire eighth-grade class, which my friend Tom still teases me about, even though he’s the idiot who thought Piers Anthony’s Centaur Aisle was Centaur Ay-sill. I swear, I never have the upper hand on my friends. Anyway, this song by Tor-chuh is as kicking as the title, a lighter Helmet that’s like downtuned power pop.

16) “Turn It Around,” The Men. I had a transcendent fantasy football experience this year. Yes, that sentence is idiotic, and yes, I put way too much time, effort, and importance into the dumbest pastime I engage in, but when it all goes well, I feel like I could slay 40,000 Philistines with Brandon Funston’s Big Board (that is an actual thing). And it went so very, very well, because I traded for Adrian Peterson this season. It involved three teams, took two weeks, and required dozens of cajoling e-mails, texts, and phone calls. It resulted with me having a roster featuring Calvin Johnson, AP, and Robert Griffin III, which in layman’s terms is God, Purple Jesus, and the Holy Shit! Spirit. After that trade, I went on a six-game winning streak where I laid waste to the league like stoner zombies at a brain buffet. Well, this song makes me feel like I did right after I made that trade: shot out of a cannon, through a brick wall, and onto a throne sitting atop a pyramid made out of the other nine humps in our league.

Of course, I lost in the finals 175-to-motherfucking-150 because the lucky SOB I played exploded like Borat after letting his wife out of a marriage sack. I hate fantasy football.

15) “I’ll Be Alright,” Passion Pit. I’m not the only one who was a little nuts this year. The Passion Pit dude also suffered some major freakout, along with the Killers guy and Billie Joe Dookie of Green Day. I wonder if their angst was as manufactured as mine? Is there something in us that, as society has generally gotten more safe, we still feel the need to feel threatened? Did they have ennui back in the Middle Ages, when death lurked around every corner with nasty, sharp, pointy teeth? Was their ever this exchange:

Scene: A monastery in medieval England. Clement the Insecure is farming with Cuthbert the Well-Adjusted.

CLEMENT: I just don’t know what it all means, Cuthbert. Is this all we’re put on this earth for? Sowing seeds, milking cows? I’m 19 and I’ve never even been further than Cornwall. 

CUTHBERT: Cornwall’s overrated. Hey, watch it with that scythe! 

CLEMENT: Sorry. I mean, I used to just dream about stuff like seeing a woman’s naked calf, but now I don’t even care about that. 

CUTHBERT: Dude, you’re a calf virgin? We’ve got to get you some calf. 

CLEMENT: It just all feels so pointless. 

CUTHBERT: Yeah, well don’t look now, but it’s about to get a lot more pointed. Those are the longboats of Erik the Bumstuffer.

CLEMENT: Oh God! I love my life! I want to live! 

CUTHBERT: You won’t if he captures you alive. Run!

Yeah, being 42, married, warm, well fed, and unlikely to be impaled seems like a pretty silly thing to get upset about.

14) “Groundhog Day,” The Corin Tucker Band. Like running into an old friend at the co-op. If I play this back-to-back with Wild Flag, it’s like having my own Sleater-Kinney reunion.

13) “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” Frank Ocean. I’m not immune to hype. Channel Orange was probably the most hyped album of the year, and after the Grammy nomination, I decided I should finally see what all the fuss was about. Turns out it was well deserved. There is so much soul packed into this album and especially this song, I think it’s impossible not to be a least slightly moved by it.

12) “Foreigner,” Pallbearer. Twelve-and-a-half minutes of heavy-ass Sabbath prog. The riffs could move mountains, the vocals could soar over them, and the lyrics include the phrase “arcane thrones.” I completely failed my saving throw against swooning when I heard this. It’s the kind of song that makes me wish the back of my wardrobe really opened into a mystical world, just so I could play this on my iPod before I hoist my two-handed sword Nutripper against the Arch-Daemon Cobbagus for control of Brandonia.

The Final Countdown

11) “The Only Place,” Best Coast. It is the equivalent of liking a California tourism commercial, but fuck if this isn’t the catchiest tune I heard all year. After hearing that chorus, indeed, why would you live anywhere else? Although there should be an extended version that says We’ve got the gangs/got the quakes/got the debt/we’ve got the shakes.

10) “The Keepers,” Santigold. Nothing encapsulates America in 2012 like seeing breaking news of a school shooting during a televised discussion arguing against gun control. The conservative solution is apparently this, where everyone is “safe” because everyone is armed. We’re moving toward a future where every performance review will need to be conducted behind bulletproof glass with cover from an HR sniper, lest a firing lead to “FIRE!” This song could serve as the lead single for that soundtrack.

9) “We Can’t Have Nice Things,” Kelly Hogan. A tremendous voice and a terrific attention to detail made this my standout track from a standout album. The quiet resignation in her voice really makes the sadness shout, an acknowledgement that things are probably not going to get better, so why not make the best of them?

8) “Gates,” The Menzingers. The Lovely Becky, who is quite lovely, bought me a pretty fabulous Christmas present: a new receiver with network capability, so I can stream music upstairs from iTunes. Of course, I had to just show her how we can play ANYTHING WE WANT in the living room. This also led to me playing some new tracks for her, because even with my wife, I like to be The Old Guy Who Knows About New Music.

TLB: Who are The Menzingers?

Me: Oh, that’s a great album. Not sure you’d like it, though. They’re a little emo.

TLB: Since when do I not like a little emo?

Quite fucking true. Sure, I don’t want to hear screamo screeds about why she won’t call or they don’t understand or that our love is more broken than our 4G reception. But catchy, lonesome pop-punk song about throwing your soul back to that girl you wanted? Please, sir, can I have some more?

7) “Shivers,” Divine Fits. Nothing says Are you ready to rock?! like an opening line I’ve been contemplating suicide. Jesus Christ, maybe I am living the High Fidelity conundrum of making myself miserable because I listen to pop music. Of course, as our singer quickly explains, suicide is not his style, so we’re all good. This is a cover of a Nick Cave song, whose version feels like Prince covering Bauhaus. I prefer this more earthy version, which feels more smoky bar than empty cathedral.

6) “Pirates,” Jenny Owen Youngs. While I like to be The New Music Guy, I’m pretty obvious in my sources for new music info. I look up stuff on Metacritic, Pitchfork’s Best New Music (because even assholes sometimes produce meaningful shit), the Onion AV Club (which has the comments section Pitchfork deserves), and so on. I don’t really care how I find something I like—the liking is the key—but I do love the happy surprise, the accidental discovery of a musician I wind up loving who had a 95% of going completely overlooked by me were it not for lucky coincidence. That was Jenny Owen Youngs last year. I don’t even remember how I found her album—I think it was just some random browsing on eMusic—but once I heard this song, I was hooked. There just isn’t that much good, straightforward, guitar-driven, propulsive pop music that sounds like stuff I love while still sounding fresh. The whole album An Unwavering Band of Light is terrific.

5) “Comeback Kid,” Sleigh Bells. I have been a Culver’s fan for years, to the point where all other fast food burgers tasted like the horse that finished last. However, TLB and I discovered Five Guys this year, which now elevated shoving massive amounts of beef into my mouth to a quasi-religious experience (that may have come out wrong). This song was Five Guys for my ears. It’s just a burger—no more, no less—but it is delicious and creates an insatiable desire to repeat the experience. In fact, this has to be my most repeated song of the year. I had this CD in my car for the better part of six months, and there were trips where this would get played three or four times in a row. It’s catchy, has great vocals, distorted guitars, and has double-bass drums. And it doesn’t make my ass fat.

4) “Wasted Days,” Cloud Nothings. The hardest hitting song I heard. It’s a nine-minute monster that starts off in angry indie jangle, morphs into Whole-Lotta-Love-meets-SXSW freakout, and then charges back with a screaming punk climax that was my favorite musical minute of the year. There’s a universalism to the shouted line I thought I would be more than this that’s perfect for loan-saddled 20-something graduates wondering how they are going to get their post-college lives going as well as jaded 40-something bloggers. Fuck and yes.

3) “The Descent,” Bob Mould. This song is the 50-something guy at the gym with the gray hair who is ripped like a hurricane current and is doing reverse-forearm-pull-up-squat-shrugs in such a bad-ass fashion that it temporarily gives me a daddy complex. This is how I want to sound in 10 years, lean, mean, and mighty unclean. Well, not mighty unclean, because I’m pretty fastidious and if I miss my daily shower, I feel like a homeless Petri dish. So I want to be lean, mean, and age-appropriately groomed. Anyway, it was refreshing to hear, amid a revival of the 90s rock sound among the indie set, one of the godfathers of alternative show up and show the kids how it’s done.

2) “Headlong Flight,” Rush. When I visited my brother Tickle in October, my cousins Youngblood and Zoolander (aka the Nasty Boyz) were visiting as well. After a night of drinking, we stayed up late playing cards (shockingly out of character, I know). Tickle was taking music requests to stream, so I told him to pull this up. My cousin Youngblood saw it was Rush and then said, “This is seven minutes long!”

That’s right you little shit, and you’re going to sit there and listen to every last second of it, because these guys are 60 and rock harder than your dad after downing a box of Viagra with a case of 5-Hour Energy. They’ve made 20 albums and they are better now than they were when your mom was still wiping your ass. They play for three hours, they can string together complete sentences, and they are nice guys. And this song kicks so much ass that you’d need an army of giant spiders plus a armada of giant squids to have enough appendages to match its butt-kicking awesomeness. So shut your Rumchata receptacle and show a little respect, or else I’ll speaker-fist your ears with 18-minutes of “Hemispheres.”

I didn’t say that, because Youngblood is a good kid. Instead, I just smiled and said, “Yes it is. Suck it.”

1) “The House That Heaven Built,” Japandroids. I knew this would be my song of the year the first time I heard it. The astounding thing is how just two guys are able to pack so much of what I love about rock music into their songs: Monster riffs, epic drum fills, arena-shattering choruses, odes to drinking and being young, realizations that the party has to (and should) end, and Canadian-ness. No other song, not even a tour de force from my beloved Holy Trinity, filled me with as much joy as this song did in 2012. It’s refreshing to hear a rock album in the Age of Irony has such real emotion and isn’t afraid to be genuine. It’s impressive to hear such a huge sound made without much more than a couple of overdubs and a huge force of will. No matter what I’m doing when I hear this, my mental fists are pumping. It’s fitting that they called the album Celebration Rock, because that’s exactly what it is.

So there it is. A good year for music, a good year of lessons for me. Here’s to being happier and healthier in 2013 and accepting the aging process.

Except gray chest hair. Gray chest hair can eat a bag of follicles.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Top Ten Wednesdays: What New Year’s resolutions have we already broken?

Special extra weak flesh edition!

15) Reducing the blow-by-blow in our play-by-play.

14) Using the treadmill without having takeout delivered to us.

13) Avoiding making Piers Morgan look sane and sympathetic.

12) Not using sex as a weapon.

11) Not using Pat Benatar as a weapon.

10) Not using cheap, dated pop culture references in place of original thoughts.

9) Standing firm instead of reaching across the aisle to satisfy a stiff Boehner.

8) Acting like less of a Dickensian.

7) Trying hard to be more sophisticated.

6) Respecting boundaries in the champagne room.

5) Finishing novel instead of converting it to Pinterest format.

4) Using Mapquest to find the gym we signed up for last year.

3) Complimenting minorities without using the backs of our hands.

2) Doing that thing we’ve always wanted to do but have never gotten around to but are finally going to…ooh, Keeping Up With the Kardashians marathon!

1) Writing funny blog posts.