Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It's Colllld Outside!!! What Is This, Miami Beach?

While I was in NYC, my landlord had the "heat guy" over Sunday to figure out why my room was freezing. Turns out, the track of baseboard heating in my room is broken. And, best of all, it would require major work to finish. Clear out your room, be gone for a few days, "heat guy" becomes "contractor heat guy" type work.

So...I'm pretty much screwed. My space heater works, but I have to run it from the bathroom because it shorts out the bedroom circuit. That limits it's placements, and it has a hard time heating a ten square feet, let alone the room.

So...a discounted rent, and reimbursement for the space heater. What else can I do?

At least the neighborhood Giant can cheer me up. They brought CDs back a few weeks ago, but they were all lame greatest hits CDs. Yesterday, though, something peculiar jumped out from the cardboard rack at me...

Is that...a fat naked man?

Yes. Yes it is. Among the silver and golden Best Of discs, the unmistakable sight of The Bloodhound Gang's Hefty Fine. How the hell did that get there?

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Laundromat Sketches

There isn't anything I miss about the laundromat. Actually, there isn't anything I miss about going to the laundromat. A few years ago, it was a weekly ritual: hauling a huge yellow sack(like some sort of bizarro cross-bred Big Bird-St. Nick monstrosity) from my S St. apartment, past Rhode Island avenue, and down 7th St. NW to the closest laundromat. The trip was a third of a mile, give or take a darkened corner or two, and I wish I could have given up some of those on some nights. For some reason, I always ended up doing my laundry in the deadest, stillest hours of the city night, or at least that part of the city.

Anyway, the trek aside, I do miss one thing about the laundromat: the downtime. In between loads and folding, I relaxed. There wasn't much time for that in between a struggling marriage and a cluster-fucked disaster of a job, but at the odd hours of the night at a (relatively) deserted Shaw Laundrymat, there was me time.

I read, watched TV, but mostly I sketched. Sometimes from the magazines I was reading(well, most times), and other times I doodled from memory or imagination.

Going through some boxes I haven't touched since moving, I found some of these "Laundromat Sketches", and I thought it would be neat(and self-indulgent) to share them here. Click for full-sized versions.

A dog.

A woman, drawn from a stock photo.

From a magazine photo-shoot, probably GQ. I like drawing the same subject in multiple poses, and fashion magazines provide good material for that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Work, Work, Work

I won an award at my company's holiday party last weekend(don't ask), and like the immortal(though the public record says otherwise) George C. Scott, I was no where to be found.

Unlike the Roman-nosed Scott, who decried awards that made his art-form into a competition, I didn't refuse the award. I simply forgot the unfortunately named "Winter Gala" was even taking place. So, I gladly made my way down to our sub-basement floors to pick up my plaque. Can you picture Scott sheepishly receiving his golden statuette from a clerk in the bowels of the Academy on a Monday morning? Surely not.

Anyway, this isn't the first award for work I've received. I won "Employee Of The Month", a dubious award, at my first job at a Loews Theater. I stuffed the ballot by sleeping with one of my supervisors. Well not really, I just wanted to; she bore a startling resemblance to Katie Holmes, but with bigger breasts. My version of events, though, makes for much better talk around a retirement home card table sometime down the road. So I'd better start getting my fictional facts straight now to spot any holes that need filling. So to speak.

After that scandal - though I deserved the award anyway - I quit my first job. Actually, that's a lie. The first part, not the quitting part.

My real first job was at a produce stand. There were no ladies who could body double on Dawson's Creek, but it was a satisfying job. For a sixteen year-old boy, it had everything: weekly paycheck, proximity to not only McDonalds but the then exotic Checkers, and the daily chore of hoisting huge bags of top-soil and fertilizer onto trucks. The last part is probably specific to me. It's hard to find someone who would enjoy having dirt-filled plastic bags, pot-marked with holes, spilling their dark and pungent contents all over you. To me coming home smelling(and looking) like the damp, dark place under the porch where the dogs shit meant you were working. At sixteen, I wanted to feel grown-up.

When college life beckoned, that feeling went away. If you are in college, that automatically means you are a grown-up(if you don't believe me, ask a college student). So I took the theater job the summer after freshman year for it's flexible schedule(after briefly working as a janitor at UMCP, the less said of that..).

A few weeks into the next fall semester, I realized I could make money with my brain. I took a job as the webmaster for one of the many pseudo-honors programs, and bid the world of manual labor goodbye at the age of 19. Or so I thought.

Three years later, I was so closely tied to the fortunes of the "Dot Coms" that when everything finally hit bottom, the resounding thud left my ears bleeding and my prospects scattered. With no IT work to be found, I started working as a glorified construction worker, fitting conduit, pipes, and running wires.

I still went to work in IT geek-standard T-shirts and jeans, just like at the floundered start-up, but now the ensemble was topped off by a bright-yellow hard hat, accessorized with a tanned-hide tool belt, and finished with a matching pair of old work boots. Dressing up every morning in the image of one of America's lesser mythic figures(if the American Cowboy is a top-tier mythic figure, the Construction Worker must be at least tier three) was thrilling for a week. It recessed and became part of the dull backdrop of every day life after that, until one day when a snobbish lady brought it back into vogue.

I was running wires for a security system at a new apartment complex near Embassy Row in DC. On a hilltop, the site was always obscured by clouds of dust, skeletal metal beams, and a blockade of various vehicles: vans and construction vehicles innermost, trailers for the management in the middle, and their SUVs and heavy-duty trucks parked along the outer ring. Occasionally, a meal-truck would penetrate close to the building to sell the workers bottles of water and Coke, candy and chips. If you were lucky, there were sub-sandwiches(made that morning) saran-wrapped and stored in a cooler next to the drinks.

Anyway, being on the lowest rung of the ladder, I couldn't park on site. Luckily, all of the well-to-do people who lived in the tidy little houses behind the site had usually left for work well before I arrived at ten in the morning. I parked in front of the same tiny, but impeccably manicured dwelling every day. A tiny, friendly dog lived there; he would merrily bark at me every morning.

One day, I crossed the two-way street next to the site through stopped traffic. Embassy Row congestion is a lot like what you would find in Georgetown: a sea of luxury sedans and SUVs dotted with the occasional out of place Geo or Civic. Peering at oncoming cars from behind one such anomaly, I instinctively snapped my head back to unnecessarily check the other direction, having never outgrown the habit since Kindergarten(look both ways or you could die had a strong impact on my little mind). Glancing back, I met a hateful pair of blue eyes floating over thin lips that were curled back in disgust, all framed by conservatively cut silver-blonde hair. A woman, behind the wheel of her gray BMW, eying me like a mutt planning to take a dump on her roses.

Too close for her well-heeled comfort, I suppose. I hate her. Not hated, because I still hate her to this day. To quote Ice Cube, I don't want a "blond-haired pale-skinned buttermilk-complexion-grafted recessive depressive ironing-board-backside straight-up-but-straight-down no-frills-no-thrills Miss six-o'clock-subject-to-have-the-itch mutaniod Caucasoid white cave bitch." And she must have had an ironing-board backside; the way she was leaning forward with her hands perched at one and eleven-o'-clock, something large was sticking up her ass.

Fuck her, fuck her sky-blue pantsuit, her BMW, her house, her small dog(s), her husband, her kids, her newly-remodeled kitchen with it's $25,000 counter tops, and the Prada boots she picked up during a two-hour two-hundred dollar lunch. Fuck her job, her boss, her friends, the vacations to the Disneyland, the Bahamas, Virginia Beach, and any other place she may have been forced to mingle a few minutes with the normals, oh you bet those are fucked. And sure as shit, fuck her roses, if she has any.

After a year, I found an IT job. I've been through a string of them since, good and bad. I've never been as proud of what I do, though, since that day. No job, award, or any amount of money will ever elevate me above anyone.

Anyway, the plaque is nice.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Limp Lizards

I love a good insult. It's not often you find that in advertising, at least since the Cola Wars(the Apple Switch ads being the exception). This, however, is hilarious:

An ad from one of Geico's rival insurance agencies in New York, taking aim at that annoying, inexplicably British gecko. A literal shot below the belt(the flaccid tail is priceless).

Speaking of lizards in New York, my girlfriend and I saw Primeval over the weekend.

All I can say about this movie is, at some point, the following phone call must have taken place:

A disheveled man, pockets inside out, pay phone receiver between his shoulder and ear as he ruffles through his blazer, makes a call from a deserted city street

PRODUCER: Hello? Fuck, Mike! For the love of God tell them you'll accept the charges! Yes, yes this is Mitch! Your producer Mitch! Look, we've....we've got sort of a problem with Primeval...well, um....what do you think about having a subplot about a man eating crocodile? Oh, then I guess you wouldn't want the entire plot to be that either...

pulls phone away with a wince(manic shouting coming from the receiver), slowly returns it to his ear

PRODUCER: OK Mike, here's the thing...I went drinking last night, I met some guy who used to do animation for Beast Wars, we had some shots, one thing lead to another, and I gave him over three quarters of our budget to animate a fucking crocodile...well I don't know what we are going to do with all the civil war footage we shot! Look, all isn't lost, this thing's based on a real crocodile that's killed over three hundred people over there....What's that? Hmm, three hundred thousand? Really? That's a hell of a civil war...guess that's why we were making the movie! Hahaha...ummm...yes I know this isn't funny....

poorly lit city bus drives by, drowning out the conversation for a few seconds

PRODUCER: I SAID YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT JENNIFER CONNELLY OR FUCKING DEREK LUKE ANYMORE! What? I'm shouting because you couldn't hear me! What? Yes, they are both off the project! Well, why do you think? I don't know, some movie about diamonds with Leo and the black guy from Gladiator...something with Tim Robbins...yes because of the croc....well he worked on fucking Beast Wars Mike, how do you think it fucking looks? Yeah....yeah....well also...I might have drunk dialed Jennifer last night...look what does it matter what I said? We can't afford any of them anyway anymore with all the croc money gone...something nasty about that albino husband of hers...not a real albino? You sure? Wow...well, don't worry, I have already have some replacements lined up...

poorly lit city bus drives by, drowning out the conversation for a few seconds

PRODUCER:...yes Mike, Orlando fucking Jones. Well I don't know what he's been doing since the Seven Up commercials, but he was pretty damn funny in them, wasn't he? What? He was in the same bar. Yeah, what are the chances....oh, for Tim I got that guy from Prison Break...yeah I know it's a good not that one, the dumb one....the one who needs to be fucking broken out of prison...yes, I'll tell him to keep his shirt that's not a fucking promise...look, I've got to go, I'm not even sure where the hell I am...oh real mature Mike...yeah...yeah...see you tomorrow.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

If You Can't Sweeten Your Green Tea, My Bad

I'm slowly making this Starbucks Splenda-less, two or three packets at a time. It's stealing really, because I don't use the sweetener. In fact, I hate it. My girlfriend swears by the stuff, however, and I'm clinging to anything that reminds me of her: Christmas presents, pictures, checking Manhattan's daily weather, and swiping extra Splenda from Starbucks just like she would(though she takes two or three handfuls).

We've been long distance for almost two years, and leaving New York gets harder and harder. With every visit, my Greyhound Bus deadline inches across the clock. It started at the ground level of three in the afternoon(I need time to grocery shop!), sunk to five(Monday's great for grocery shopping), hit bottom at six, and now has dug it's way up to the other side of the world, resting at nine o'clock(I'll take a taxi, straight to bed). I'm gathering hours like pennies underneath couch cushions; I'm desperate and there are never enough.

Inevitably, no matter what side of the world I'm on, the time comes. A year ago, when the ridiculousness we call our relationship started, I never cried at leaving. That bothered her(at least a little). She wanted me to wipe away my own tears with my shirt sleeve. And that never happened.

Instead, I tried to imbue her with a comfort - this pain is temporary, my love - by repeating it over and over. Looking into her big brown eyes, I tried to reason with the pleading, begging pain behind them. Soon, baby, soon I'll be back. Don't cry, two weeks will be over before you know it. What, it's going to be more than two weeks? Three, three weeks isn't that long either. And to me, for a while, it never was.

Then, the gloom of the bus ride home started to stretch far from it's beginnings at Gate 71 in Port Authority, through the Lincoln tunnel, past the gray and bleak New Jersey landscape, over the Delaware bridge before finally resting with me in my Columbia Heights basement apartment. It faded with a phone call to let her know I was home safe, only to reappear in the emptiness of my bed.

Still, I never cried.

Occasionally, she coaxed out a single tear(an informant let lose from prison, sobbingly spilling his guts), but crying means many tears, or at least two. Otherwise, it doesn't count as crying. I never cried.

Last Monday, I cried. A cloudburst too, not my two-teared bullshit technical definition of crying. You see, I failed to fool myself into thinking my bed wouldn't be empty when I awoke, or that her hand would be under mine during long Subway rides. It's going to be two(or more) weeks before you see her again, you know. A thousand times before I brushed away similar thoughts, but not this time. Two weeks is fine, two weeks make sense. No, it doesn't.

Anyone can go two weeks without seeing a loved one(I'll bet some of you are up for two months, if you're married). I have a habit of visualizing things, problems, and putting them in a vacuum. Inside my thought bubbles the problem floats alone, bordered by vast expanses of blackness. I imagine this is how communists think. There, in a vacuum - free from any temporal considerations - my solution makes sense: two weeks apart isn't a long time, so bear with it.

In real life, spending two weeks apart - over and over for more than a year - wears you down. It tires you out, bursts your bubble, and pushes you bawling like a baby into your girlfriend's lap. It fucking sucks.

I miss her.

So I'm taking little yellow packets of artificial sweetener - that I abhor - and storing them in my right coat pocket. I'm desperate, and I'll never have enough.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Kodak Moments

So far, I'm one for two on New Year's Resolutions: I bought a digital camera. This camera, which I bought so I could finally join the 21st century(even my mother has a digital camera; she prints out her own photos now), has already proven one thing: I'm the reason they have very explicit directions that insult most (other) people's intelligence.

You see, I couldn't open the battery latch to my new camera. The directions said to slide the battery lock to "open" and then to open the latch. Which I did. The latch wouldn't open.

Holding the lock in the open position with one finger while prying at the latch with two others, I let out grunts of frustration while crouched cross-legged on the sofa. I tried all kinds of hand positions, desperately trying to get the damn latch to open. Getting a fingernail in between two plastic panels, I tried again, pushing the camera away from my body with outstretched, straining arms, afraid I would break my new toy. Nothing was working. I wanted to use this thing so badly, why would they make this first step so impossible? Did I get the one defective battery latch in a thousand? Fuck this! I thought, Open...Open...ohhhh-penn....OPEN! OPEN!! OPEN!!! I gave up, covered in the slight cold sweat you get from frustration and embarrassment.

Peering down at my new camera - that I couldn't even put batteries in - I scratched the top of my head, palmed the camera and dragged my knuckles across the arm rest, lurching over to my room to look up the tech support number. Assuming I could still operate my MacBook correctly. I briefly pictured myself as the last man on an apocalyptic Earth, with a can of creamed corn in one hand and a can opener in the other. Looking back and forth at each one, considering each carefully, before muttering "er..derr..derf?", and starving to death. Thus ending humanity, and paving the way for a more worthy species, one whose members won't struggle with their digital devices. Maybe mice, or those really smart dolphins who rescue people. Sorry everyone.

ANYWAY, the guy I talked to at Cannon did his best not to laugh at me. Apparently, you push the lock to "open" then you slide the latch, and open it. The second he said "slide" - and then put me on hold, so he could get the camera-specific procedure for my dumb ass - I understood what I was doing wrong, and I felt really, really, reallllly stupid. I stayed on hold, just so I could tell the guy when he got back that I had figured it out and I wanted my gold star.

So, now I have a camera. And I'm in New York this weekend, so there should be plenty of photo opportunities.

Something else bizarre happened to me with this camera, now that I think about it. It arrived from UPS at my office, and still in the box, I put it in my bag(my man bag, my messenger bag, my card-carrying metro-sexual bag) and started home.

Waiting for the Greenline at L'Enfant plaza, a group of extremely pretty girls got out of a Yellow line train. The leader was a very Nordic looking, tall blonde. I assume she was the leader because she walked right up to me and made the universal camera gesture: the raised hand snapping off a photo. Maybe I was stunned because she seemed to be walking in-step with the music(although I can't remember what was playing on my iPod) but, for some insane reason, when she made the universal camera gesture for a split second I thought How the hell does she know I'm carrying a camera - still in it's box - inside my bag? Is she reading my mind?

No, she wasn't a mind reader after all. All she was doing was asking me to take a picture of her and her friends, with her camera. Something any idiot could have deduced. Any idiot who could later go home and put batteries in his new digital camera without the assistance of an 800 number.

Anyway, she says "Could you take a picture of all of us, and get the Metro sign in it? It's for our job."

I said yes, thinking Sure, I'll take your picture and get the L'Enfant plaza sign in...wait, it's for your job? Then, as I get ready to take the picture, this group of about eight pretty girls all take out Groucho Marx glasses and put them on.

What the hell kind of job involves getting your picture taken at Metro stops wearing a god-damned pair of Groucho fucking Marx glasses? This is still blowing my mind two days later. Someone, someone out there must know what job these girls had. Please tell me.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

He Must Be Anorexic

Before I write this, I want to say to people who know me: you are going to roll your eyes. Yes, I know I've never been fat. Yes, I know a lot of you will find it very hypocritical for me to complain about a skinny person(even though I am not that skinny anymore, I've done some damage in my late twenties). Your objections are noted. That said...

I've been trying to eat better. Usually this entails bringing my own, packed lunch to work. Today, however, I forgot to pack a lunch and I ended up at a nearby Subway restaurant(I say restaurant because they always add that in the commercials for fast food places, "participating McDonald's restaurants, your local Subway restaurant", etc. It's one of the industry's insecurities I guess, not being considered a real restaurant, so they constantly remind you that they are, technically, a restaurant. Maybe that's why fine restaurants have taken to referring to themselves as "fine dining establishments").

Um, anyway, usually I would buy a six-inch meatball sub when I forgot my packed lunch. A treat for being absent minded, which is kind of like rewarding an AA member who misses a meeting with a shot of Jack. Today I switched it to a Subway Club, also six inches, a much more sensible choice for someone watching what they eat.

Ahead of me in line was a tall, rail-thin gentleman. He orders a meatball sub. Not just a meatball sub, but a foot-long meatball sub. Which he then has drowned in extra Parmesan cheese by the friendly people behind the counter. It's a gloriously delicious, cheesy, marinara dripping, meat-filled, fat and calorie loaded bomb. It's a man's sandwich. This sub dunks my sub's head in the toilet after stealing it's lunch money. This sub goes home and fucks the prom queen.

Fine, no problem. When I was younger, I ate like that(worse, actually) and never gained a pound. Sure, this guy is actually older than I am, but who is to say whose metabolism stays super-revved at shrew-like levels for their entire lives? Maybe he has to eat his body weight in fatty, delicious foods just to keep from wasting away. Plus, he could be running marathons and power-lifting(probably not that, since his thin limbs would probably snap) and doing other strenuous exercise that burns off these calories. Or he's a chain-smoking heroin addict. Either way, who am I to judge?

What made me smirk and cough under my breath was when, after taking a minute to get exact change to pay for his lunch, he stopped in front of the chips and actually took time to decide between the "light" Doritos and the "baked" lays. What kind of person, after choosing to eat a foot-long meatball sub, actually struggles with what low-fat chips he should be eating?

An obvious needle-sharing heroin addict, that's who.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Year, New Roommate

My current roommate is moving to Virginia; her last day in lovely Columbia Heights will be Monday. She has been a great roommate, largely because she was gone for long stretches of time(weeks, not days). Really, all you need out of a roommate is someone who is quiet and doesn't hog the TV and leaves you lots of space on the couch. When your roommate is always backpacking in Guatemala or scuba-diving in the Caribbean(this is part of her job that she - gasp - loves), that's a lot of space to stretch out and enjoy the 6:30 Simpsons.

When she was here, we got along fine; even when she left the door unlocked, or open, or locked me out with the deadbolt she warned me about not locking when I moved in. She would also go to sleep with a lit candle on the window sill above the oven(which was still on). Still, a lovable woman. I'm sure I did my share of dumb and dirty(I am a boy) things, though none of them would have burned down the house.

My landlord found a new roommate for me; I met they guy, he seems decent enough. A little older than me, Mediterranean looking. I'm pretty laid back when it comes to living arrangements, which can baffle some people. As long as my roommate is relatively clean and respects my privacy, I'm cool with whoever. If my landlord is going to write an ad and do all the legwork, why get my nose in it? Everyone is going to be run by me anyway.

I'm going to have to acquire some furniture though. It was fun moving into a new apartment with all new(to me) and strange things, but they are all packed or already on their way to Virginia. Good excuse to buy a new TV I guess. And a Wii to go with it! And an Apple TV! know, one of my New Year's resolutions was to save more money, and Nintendo and Apple are making that much harder. Time to creatively budget, which usually involves ludicrous statements like "If I just stop eating solid food for a month, this can so work!". So, I guess I'll just wait on a lot of things.

Anyway, I've been toying with the idea of doing rundown of my favorite posts of 2006, but since I only blogged for about a quarter of the year(68 posts worth, though), seems a little inane. Besides, it's getting to be mid-January, the time for 2006 lists has long passed. Right? What do you think?

Mid-January also means the time for Christmas music has passed. As a rule, I don't rate my Christmas music in iTunes. This way, it doesn't show up in my smart playlists; I only hear Christmas music when I want to. Interestingly, though, I have one exception to this rule: "White Christmas" by the Clyde McPhatter edition of The Drifters. I don't know exactly what it is about that song that sets it apart from all other Christmas music, but I never mind hearing it, no matter what time of year it is. The original, pre-Ben E. King Drifters could really sing together.

Anyway, 2007 should be an exciting year. New roommate and all.

Monday, January 08, 2007

And Duke Lost Too

I was already having a good weekend Saturday. I was watching football with friends and family on my parent's brand new 46" high-def television, playing pool, snacking and just relaxing. I asked myself, can things get any better? And then, they did: my weekend achieved perfection with 1:19 to go in the Cowboys/Seahawks game.

Romo dropped the ball.

I don't usually partake in schadenfreude(no more than any other American), but I gorged on it Saturday night. The failure, the shock, the head hanging, the barely held back tears during the press conference, all of it was such a delight. I'm still half wearing the same shit-eating grin I had while I was pointing and laughing at the TV while NBC showed Romo on the bench, all alone, staring at the ground. If karma really does exist, I'm sure all of this will come back at me three fold, but I suspect the payback for laughing at multi-million dollar athletes fucking up routine plays will be having to wait an extra five minutes at Starbucks or something.

My friend Jamie wondered aloud if this was the end for Tony Romo. After all, such a confidence shattering mental lapse during the biggest play of his young career could send him into Chuck Knoblauch forever choking territory. As Jamie noted, the re-play of "The Drop" will be played during the off-season, the preseason, next season, and any playoff game where a field goal is kicked for the rest of eternity. And people will post the video on their blogs, like this:

I don't think Romo is done, however, even though all the Carrie Underwood hummers in the world will never make Romo feel better. I'm sure that won't make him turn them down, though, would you? I can just seem him now:

ROMO(driving): This just isn't helping like I thought it would. (Carrie's head pops up from under the steering wheel) I didn't say stop.

Anyway, I can't wait to see the Super Bowl on that high-def set(official motto, provided by Jamie: A picture so good, you can see Shannon Sharpe's razor burn). Everyone I know is unofficially invited.

After that, the rest of the weekend was a blur. I think I went to Best Buy to spend a gift certificate for Christmas, but who the hell knows. Romo dropped the ball, and that's all that matters.

Oh, and this(as the title of the post says):

Saturday, January 06, 2007

My Top 24 Songs Of 2006, According To My iPod

I'm taking the two most played songs by month, giving me 24 songs for the year(only counting songs released in 2006). So, here we go:

From January: "Vision Of Division", "Juicebox" The Strokes, First Impressions Of Earth. This was the first album I bought in 2006, and at first, I was a little disappointed. The stylistic departures didn't sound right, and the album was unnecessarily long(a symptom of bands wanting to make their first "good" album). After a few listens though, the first half of the album really began to grow on me. "Juicebox", the first single, is a heart pumping track. Plus, the video features a hilarious cameo by David Cross:

"Vision Of Division" is a great example of the "clean Strokes" sound that sets apart everything on First Impressions Of Earth from the two previous Strokes albums. Julian Casablanca's vocals can be heard clearly at last, and although that's not a good thing all the time, here it works rather well. This particular passage really spoke to me, describing some of my previous(re: bad) relationships:

All that I do, Is wait for you
All that I do, is wait for you
I can't get along, with all your friends
Dont know how to act, that's all there is
Where do I accept all the things you say
You know what to change,
But not in what way

From February: "I'll Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor", "Red Lights Indicate Doors Are Secure" The Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. It seems all I did in early 2006 was obsessively listen to one album a month, as these two tracks were far and away the most played between the Superbowl(fuck the Steelers) and the 28th. Insanely catchy guitar hooks paired with lyrics that are so wet with wit you can imagine yourself Alex Turner turning tricks at dive English clubs are a recipe for repeated listens. Not only did I believe the hype, I was a big part of it.

From March: "Dick Around", "Metaphor" Sparks, Hello Young Lovers and "A Dangerous Woman Up To A Point" Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies. The first two songs were actually tied, so I put them together. I heard "Metaphor" on a Stylus podcast and downloaded the album from emusic immediately. The entire album is an exercise in the absurd, but "Metaphor" and the Bohemian Rhapsody-like "Dick Around" are it's crowning achievements. Silly and fun, this is pure Sparks.

The Destroyer tune is the best track off of Rubies, showcasing some of the best songwriting of 2006. Destroyer has been labeled "European Blues" by, well, Daniel Bejar himself. If that's what this is, I like it - but - unlike other artists playing blues-like music, Bejar so strongly inhabits his songs that the label almost seems like an insult. "European Oils" was my favorite track off the album, however, for the part when Bejar sings "Her father...the fucking MANIAC!" at the end.

From April: "Poor Doggie" The Eagles Of Death Metal, Death By Sexy and "Phenomena" Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones. After their recent tagging by Axl Rose as the "Eagles Of Shit Metal", there has been a lot of hate directed at this band. The music has been called juvenile, stupid, and a waste of Josh Homme's time. I agree with the first assertion(it's what makes the band good), but not the last two. Listen: not everything has to be Radiohead, The Decemberists, or whatever other band people listen to and pretend to appreciate on a level usually left to Mozart and other dead Europeans. Sometimes, rock music just has to rock. This band is pure attitude, KISS without the makeup, and I love them in all their crude glory.

As for "Phenomena", that is my favorite track of Show Your Bones, a good sophomore effort from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I don't have much else to say about it, I just like the pacing and Karen O's vocals.

From May: "Have Mercy On Me" The Black Keys, Chulahoma and "Despair In The Departure Lounge" The Arctic Monkeys, Who The Fuck Are The Arctic Monkeys? EP. Obviously, I was not over the Arctic Monkey hype. I purchased this EP off of iTunes(yeah, I'm a sucker who buys music online). It was a nice little addendum to the first album, the music equivalent of deleted scenes. "No Buses" is actually my favorite track from it, but "Despair In The Departure Lounge" is good as well.

"Have Mercy On Me" is from the Key's EP tribute to the late bluesman Junior Kimbrough. Arguably better than their full-length album Magic Potion released later in the year(which has no songs in this top 24, though they were close), this track is nice grooving blues tune whose intensity is turned up a couple notches by the Keys. This track also features a nice cool organ in the background, meaning it has something Magic Potion did not: growth.

From June: "Head (Of State)", "My Favorite Mutiny" The Coup, Pick A Bigger Weapon. This was my favorite album of the year. From your boss to the President, Boots Riley cuts fiercely and eloquently on everybody. "Head (Of State)" features maybe the best chorus line of all time: Bush and Hussein together in bed/giving H E A D head/ya'll motherfuckers heard what we said/billions made and millions dead/. Ball-grabbing, isn't it? "My Favorite Mutiny" just absolutely kills. An anthem of irreverence, social uprising, it's the soundtrack to revolution.

From July: "Chasing Cars", "You Could Be Happy" Snow Patrol Eyes Open and "Night After Night" The Sounds, Dying To Say This To You. This is where honesty could result in some harsh backlash. Snow Patrol is not the most revered band in the world, and yes, "Chasing Cars" can sound like that game from Whose Line Is It Anyway? where everyone sings a made-up song one word at a time, but it and "You Could Be Happy" are still a good listen. Plus, the band is Irish; I have to stand up for the old country.

"Night After Night" is one of my favorite songs from Dying To Say This To You, and I've already talked about it's merits before. "Night After Night" is the ballad of the album, and lets Maja Ivarsson's smokey vocals fill out the space left by a lack of instruments: just the beautiful keyboard playing of Jesper Anderberg. Ivarsson is one of my favorite rock singers, ever.

From August: "White Unicorn" Wolfmother, Wolfmother and "Jealous Girls" The Gossip, Standing In The Way Of Control. "White Unicorn" is, simply, a great rock song in the tradition of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. Wolfmother benefits from the fact that there aren't many bands making music like that anymore, helping them standout in a sea of Coldplay and Strokes clones. I expect big things from this band.

The Gossip's Beth Ditto is the latest woman making 2006 a banner year for female rock vocalists. She really carries the trio's fifth album with her powerful performances. I like "Jealous Girls" because I'm a sucker for slick guitar licks, plus, I really like the part when Ditto sings Over, Oh-o Over over a dropping guitar riff. That part kills. The rest of the song is still good, but the title track "Standing In The Way Of Control" is really the best song off of the album.

From September: "I Gotcha" Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor and "Workingman's Blues #2" Bob Dylan, Modern Times. I hated "I Gotcha" the first time I heard it, and I don't have the faintest idea why. I listen to it now, and I find Pharrell's beats infectious and Fiasco's delivery smooth and flowing. I know I hated it at first though, because I wrote "I HATE THIS SONG" in my review notes. Was it all the references to smells in the beginning of the song? Did that make me a little uneasy, the smells? I have no idea, and I never will.

"Workingman's Blues #2" appeals to the blue collar worker in me, though I haven't really been blue collar for a few years. Still, music for the working men and women in America(if it's good, Sam's Town) appeals to me. This song has one part, though, that I always sing along to incorrectly. Dylan's lyrics go They say low wages are a reality/If we want compete abroad or something close to that, and I always want it to be If we want to compete overseas. I'll defer to Dylan.

From October: "First Night", "Citrus" The Hold Steady, Girls And Boys In America. I don't know what it says about me that I like two of the slower, ballad-lite songs from Girls and Boys In America instead of the straight-out rockers like "Chips Ahoy" and "You Can Make Them Like You". Wait, yes I do: it means I'm a big, big pussy. I can live with that.

That said, buy this album if you haven't already(even if I disagree with most of Craig Finn's critiques of 2006's singles in the last issue of Spin).

From November: "God Only Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)" El Perro Del Mar, El Perro Del Mar and "Shine On" Jet, Shine On. El Perro Del Mar's self-titled debut was the first album I reviewed for BigYawn, which is probably why I listened to this song so many times in November. Even if I wasn't reviewing it, though, I still would have enjoyed it. It's insanely hummable in the way that gets your head bopping.

"Shine On" is my favorite track of the Jet album of the same name. Maybe it's because I like to root for the underdog, or maybe I just like being difficult, but I like Jet(in a non-ironic way).

From December: "Hand Of Stone" Mastodon, Blood Mountain and "Tell A Story" Rhymefest, Blue Collar. In my salad days, all I listened to was metal. Mastodon brought me back to weekends playing Rifts and D&D in friend's basements while rocking out to Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, and Tool. Metal has enjoyed a resurgence in the past couple of years, and Mastodon is one of the bands leading the renaissance. "Hand Of Stone" is a new classic.

Didn't I say something earlier about liking music for the blue collar worker? Rhymefest's named his album Blue Collar for God's sake. "Tell A Story" is an ode to everyone just eeking out a normal existence, and Che Smith's flow is so charismatic I can't stop listening to it(or the rest of the album).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Agent Zero

Gilbert Arenas is the new king of Washington.

He turned away before the shot was even in. What a bad ass. That's Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, killer instinct type shit right there.

Damn, this guy is good.

My Only New Year's Resolution

Keeping it real, as David Chappelle has brilliantly shown, can be dangerous. It's a fine line you walk when it's realism you want to keep, and today I'm going to dangle a foot on the wrong side. Be warned: the following blog entry may be too real for the faint of heart.

My Only New Year's Resolution:

Being in a long distance relationship, I only have sex about every two weeks(except during holidays). Not surprisingly, this means I masturbate. A lot. More than you think.

Anyway, I've fallen into the habit of doing the solitary nasty soon after I get home from work. While it's a great activity to unwind with after a hard day(or any day), sometimes you want to get shit done before the next work day is upon you. It's hard to do that when you are already in a very relaxed state, shoulders slumped, legs uncoiled, and exhaling the deep breath that follows.

So, for 2007, I resolve to:

  • Delay self-gratification until the end of the evening, making it the last thing I do.

That's right, I'm not resolving to stop it - not even to let up - but to reschedule it.

If this has been too real(you failed to heed my warnings, crybaby), I apologize. In my defense, you must know that a) I'm a man and therefore b) I have a penis.

A lot of you are never reading my blog again, are you?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Here It Goes, Here It Goes Again

Above, you can see my running totals for 2006(or at least as far as I've been tracking it with Nike+ for my iPod, July through December).

76 runs since July, 311 miles, at a pace of about eight minutes a mile. That's the addictive part of Nike+, the raw numbers are right there in front of you. I almost look forward to updating my "stats" more than I do running the actual miles. This is the closest I will ever get to seeing my name in a box score.

About 50 miles a month, and I don't really plan on improving that in 2007. I'll be happy with just keeping up the pace, and adding some actual weight routines to the mix(I've been doing it slop-job and piecemeal, with no focus or purpose - I need to do some research, because personal trainers are way too expensive).

I do enjoy running, at least when I'm consistent about it. Three, four times a week - for me - is very good. When it drops to less than that, it becomes a chore instead of an accomplishment.

One thing I do want to change in 2007, though, is what I eat. I was doing pretty good for a while, but I collapsed under the weight(ha!) of the holidays. Now, I need to add more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats(I have almost eliminated read meat, though, from my daily diet, so that's something).

My girlfriend is back in New York, which makes me sad, but she left me some healthy things to fix for breakfast and dinner, which makes me less sad.

I just realized next week is restaurant week. Well, even when changing eating habits, there are always exceptions. Everything in moderation.

The Holidays

I hope all of you had some good old fashioned holiday fun. My family managed to avoid the emergency room this year, so I think we are ahead in making 2007 a good year(last Christmas Eve, my youngest brother James was stricken with horrible stomach pain at the Redskins/Giants game - it turned out to be appendicitis - and we all took turns at the hospital until he returned on the 27th).

My girlfriend stayed with me up until this morning, when she left to go back to New York. It seemed we spent most of our time either at my parent's house, her mom's house, or travelling to one of those places. We did manage to get in some quality alone time somewhere in there, but the holidays sure can drain away from that.

We saw so many movies: Apocalypto, Rocky, Blood Diamond and Night At The Museum. Apocalypto was a very good adventure movie, though it has noted historical inaccuracies. It was still very well made and visually stunning. A lot has been made of the blood and gore, but it's really not that bad. Maybe people are more affected because this depicts things that have actually happened in human history, but I think that's giving people too much credit. It's because of Mel Gibson, and despite that Apocalypto isn't nearly as gruesome as Passion Of The Christ(Side Note: I first saw the trailer for this movie at a theater near 86th street on the east side of Manhattan, when I saw The Departed with my girlfriend; the audience hissed it incessantly and then booed when Mel Gibson's name appeared).

Rocky is the feel-good movie of the season. Don't listen to the naysayers, they are all cynics who still hate the Academy for giving Rocky I the Best Picture Oscar in 1975(despite the fact that the sequels did diminish the franchise, that movie deserved the Oscar - yes, even considering the other nominated movies like All The President's Men, Network, etc.) Stallone is excellent, the supporting cast is excellent, and the entire movie just feels right. People cheered when I was there. I can't remember the last time that happened at a movie I was at.

Blood Diamond is exhibit B in Leonardo DiCaprio's case for the Best Actor Oscar, with The Departed being exhibit A. In both movies, you forget that DiCaprio is playing a character. Diamond's other leading man, Djimon Hounsou, is also excellent. Maybe it was residual enthusiasm from Rocky, but when Hounsou's character finally gets some measure of revenge, I was pumping my fist.

Night At The Museum was really, really forgettable. Fun, Everyone else seemed to really like it.

I haven't been writing much about music lately, but you can see more of my reviews at BigYawn. Specifically, my reviews of Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? the best of The Replacements, Food & Liquor by Lupe Fiasco, and Shine On by Jet. Two more reviews, of Mastodon's Blood Mountain and The Coup's Pick A Bigger Weapon, should be posted soon.

I hastily put together my official Top 10 of 2006 for BY, but I wish I could have devoted more time to it. Holiday related activities and work(which had a late holiday push) and took up most of my time the last few weeks, so the Top 10 I'll write here before the end of the year may be different than my "official" BY one. Really, there are just a few albums I wished I could have listened to more(or at all) so I could have made a better list: Once Again by John Legend, Let My People Go by Darondo, The Information by Beck, Return To Cookie Mountain by TV On The Radio, and The Greatest by Cat Power. Some of these I've had and just neglected, some were delivered to my desk just a few minutes ago. Now that I write for an established website, I should be able to get some free copies of new releases, and staying timely won't be so hard(on me and my wallet).

I spent a lot of time the last two weeks scanning old family photos, mostly Christmas related. My mother wanted a slide-show of them on a CD to show the family. I one-upped her and put it together on my MacBook and made it into a DVD instead, along with a bonus slide-show of non-Christmas family photos showing how much we have all changed(to the tune of John Legend's "It Don't Have To Change"). It was fun, and I'll admit a little tear-jerking, to spend time with all of those old photos. A lot has changed, but our love hasn't. I also put together a slide-show with photos of my late grandmother, on my mother's side, for my mom and aunt.

My family loved all of them, especially the bonus show. That felt real good after putting a lot of time and effort into picking out photos, ordering them, and finding good music to go with them.

I need a digital camera. That's my one New Year's resolution, buy a digital camera.