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Monday, November 17, 2014

November, 2014

Merrill Garbus- the brains behind tUnE-yArDs

It's a dark and gloomy Sunday.  Maybe the best kind in my opinion, on a November day.  A few trees are holding the last remnants of life.  The colors range from vibrant red to dull beige.  Starbucks on the other hand is awash in red.  It's like a Christmas blood letting.  Thanksgiving is still weeks away.  Remember that Holiday?  With the food, and football, recollection of all we are thankful for.  A kind of excused gluttony is you will.  Airing of the grievances.   Bull shitting by the fireplace.  Coffee and whiskey on a brisk morning.

Do kids still meet up with old high school friends the night before Thanksgiving?  Amateur hour, right?  And, with the exception of the amateur hour drinking and driving that night, a rollicking good time.  

Hell, back at my place the Christmas China is making its way into our display furniture.

If you can't beat them, join them.  

It gets bleak pretty soon during the Northeastern winters.  Darkness travels with you during the morning commute and guides you home on your way home. Scraping car windows kind of sucks.  And if it is anything like last winter, shit's gonna get real cold.  Old(er) bones get a little colder, don't they?

I always thought that was baloney.  Now I can feel it wasn't.

This will be my last Sunday off for a while.  The basketball season starts up next week and will continue through March.  That means no more concerts for a while.  Time to write and update this blog and Facebook page becomes more scarce.  

I know I am not alone.  If your town is anything like mine folks have two calendars in their kitchens. They are white boards filled with test schedules, practices, social events, work events.  You are well versed in Team Snap and subscribe to more calendars you would care to.

So we are all moving fast, taking less time for ourselves, racing.

Why wouldn't the seasons move fast with us?  If you have a free moment you only have to get MORE done.  Idle time?  What is that?

Essential if you ask me.  Buying that new Swavorski Christmas ornament is not going to add value to your life.  And it sure ain't helping anyone else either.

Except of course Starbucks.

Here is hoping you all find a little cheer, and chill, during the frantic end of year rush.

It's another year.  Another victory.  Another reason to be hopeful.

Starting this month and through the end of the year we are counting down our favorite films of all time.  Tune in here daily to follow along and join the conversation.

*  Editors Note:

So that was last Sunday.  It's now this Saturday.  The Saturday before Thanksgiving.  The first real big one of the Holiday.  This morning found me roaming a suburban mall and growing increasingly anxious.

At 9:50 am, 10 minutes prior to the mall's official opening, a 10 store line had begun at the Frozen "Take a picture with Santa" display.  Shit got real in a hurry.

Little girls in Disney princess dresses mingled with varying degrees of Real Housewives and their effeminate husbands and kids.  Every store was a sea of red.  Clerks and sales people were cheery enough and polite.  In a few weeks the banter becomes less friendly as the tensions begin to rise.

For now, smiles and salutations.  And pity the poor "Take a pic with Santa" workers.  We are mostly ungrateful, selfish pricks.  Add to that a miserable wait in line and we all teeter close to the edge.  Kids screaming- hunger pangs- expectations unfulfilled.  All in an effort to get out that perfect card.  The one that adequately conveys "things are going just fine, thanks or WE ARE DOING BETTER THAN YOU!"

We actually needed some things.  Phones have to be upgraded.  Clothes for a growing girl have to be factored in.

I prefer to think of this as an anomaly.  In a few days we will all be with loved ones.  We will drink and eat without regard for our health.  We will all hopefully smile.  Not for the latest gadget.  Or a new pair of shoes.

We are all on the right side of the dirt.  

In the meantime, here are this months selections for best in song.   Take some time to enjoy, maybe with your favorite warm beverage.  Or whatever substance you might need to get you through it.

Happy Thanksgiving all.
The Decemberists have a new record coming.  That will make the winter a little warmer.

Merrill Garbus project released their record very early in 2014.  This first single was inescapable in the spring on the alt dial.  After nearly 6 months it finally beat me down.  They happened to play one of my favorite shows, Jools Holland, last month and make an impact.  After nearly 6 months it finally beat me down. They happened to play one of my favorite shows, Jools Holland, last month and make an impact.    When someone likes Robert Plant takes notice, I thought maybe it was time I took a harder listen.  Better yet, I WATCHED her perform it, from that program.  And it resonated far more than hearing it on the radio as I have for months.  I kinda get it now.  That has to explain why I catch myself singing it most days.   

Posted more for the video, which features Michael Shannon.  A more fascinating working actor I dare you find.  He is mesmerizing.  The song is pretty darn rocking too.

Father John Misty "Bored in the USA"

J. Tillman has an amazing voice.  He debuted this song, from his forthcoming record, on the David Letterman show a few weeks back.  The laughter as her performs is unusual.  In fact, the whole damn thing is awkward.  This is a power, piano ballad.  Tillman brings a full orchestra.  You wait for the slow build to have a thunderous ending.  It never does.  Sure, Tillman and the strings take flight, and even soar for a bit.  Take a look/listen and decide.  I am on board, but tentative.  

The Decemberists "Make You Better"

Colin Meloy, vocalist and brains behind Portland, OR The Decemberists, can be galvanizing.  He is the embodiment of geek rock.  The "Keep Portland Weird" creed passes through his thick rimmed, Clark Kent looking glasses.  Worse, or better if you ask me, is his voice.  Too nasally for some, or most- but not me.  So it was good news that, not only is keyboardist Jenny Conlee back after a battle with breast cancer, but that Meloy et al are releasing a new album.  Here is the first track- and it's wonderful.

Sleater-Kinney "Bury Our Friends"

Speaking of Portland, Carrie Brownstein has taken a break from IFC's brilliant Portlandia, to get her band, Sleater Kinney, back together.  90s lo-fi rock and roll served up with sass and/or frass.  It is just like I remembered.  

Palace "I Want What You Got"

London rock and roll.  I can't find much about these guys or this song.  I heard it somewhere.  And I keep wanting to hear it.  Good enough for me.  For fans of Kings of Leon or White Denim.

Grouper "Call Across Rooms"

Seriously!  Another Portland, OR artist.  Liz Harris is the one woman "ambient" project, Grouper.  Nuff said.

Parkay Quartz "Content Nausea"

They changed their names and put out another record all within 6 months or so.  Parquet Courts is, for now, Parkay Quartz.  Who cares about the name.  Its still post punk noise with a beat you can stomp too.  No friggin frills fun.

Chet Faker "Gold"

Australian Nicholas James Murphy is Chet Faker.  He is riding the George Ezra, Passenger, Vance Joy folk thing that has mesmerized many of us.  Soulful voice, charisma and a little tongue in cheek on your next ride to the wall.  Or, if your lucky, headphones on your easy chair in front of a warm fire.  Smoking jacket and dog at your feet optional.

Foo Fighters "Outside"

The Dave Grohl show Sonic Highways on HBO is the best thing to happen to television this year.  The album that the show supports I cannot tell you much about.  I appreciate and understand Grohl and his band have on the rock and roll landscape.  I was never, and probably will never, be a huge Foo Fighters fan.  Maybe it's Grohl's voice, or how many of the songs sound alike, or the fact I was never into ALL those guitars.  Who knows?  But I do know I like and respect Joe Walsh, who is on display here.  Grohl's legacy is intact, and his documentary series about the

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hard Truths

So I have a birthday next week.  Anything over 25 is old, right?  Let's be honest.

Sure, folks run marathons, keep fit, and are clearly live longer.  But to be young, that is a different story.  To go out on a Tuesday, get shit faced, roll into the office at 8am and do it all over again the next night.   Its way easier doing that in your 20s.  Now, don't get me wrong your 20s are for the most part pretty miserable.  You don't know who you were.  You have to find a career, soul mate, "American Dream."  You desperately try to find your place.  It kinda sucks.

But boy were you fit.  It would take an exceptional bender to knock you out of commission.

Around 40 you can go out and close bars.  Ain't no way you are gonna be productive at work the next day.  And more often than not you are feeling nauseous days after the big night.  Recovery time is what defines "youth."  If I have as much as a beer tomorrow I know I will feel differently in the morning.  Lame.  Ass.  Punk.

Not that I obsess about age.  Any day above ground is a good one as far as I am concerned.

Each year is more valuable though, and I get that.

And it occurs to me that I am not like everyone else.  Certainly not in the suburban setting I find myself living in.

I am not really good at making money.  So how can I correct that?  Where does that drive come from?  What is it that prevents me from wanting more?  It is not for lack of effort.  This year I have done more than any other, and McMansions we aren't buying.   Not a complaint, rather an observation.   We have had way better financial years but that did not necessarily make our lives any better.  In many ways it may have caused greater issues.

So it has been a leaner year, yet somehow there is an inward peace telling me, "its gonna be ok."

Over the last year or so our daughter, a 7th grader, has been diagnosed with ADHD.  It has been a challenge.  Mostly though, it has been enlightening.  My wife and I have joked for years about how we suffer(ed) from it.

We all knew kids on Ritalin during the 70s and 80s.   It was the "overactive" kids remedy.  The term "ADHD" was not in our collective vocabulary so for the most part those kids were labeled "problems."  If you grew up in a town like mine their school districts were ill equipped to handle them.  Worse still, if those kids came from lesser means and would inevitably drop out of school and find trouble.

Maybe my wifes' parents and mine had just enough to get us the help we needed.  For us, it meant private schools that shielded us from bullying and let us find our place amongst a smaller band of misfits.  Let's not underestimate nuns with rulers as a persuasive tool to gain one's attention.

But I think if we were tested using today's model my wife and I would both fall somewhere on the ADHD "spectrum."

The rules are way different now.  Whereas I hate the idea of "participation trophies" in youth sports I think leveling the playing the field in the classroom works just fine.

In sports it is pretty easy to keep score.  Lacrosse team 1 Other Lacrosse Team 0.  Easy.  Winner and Loser.

Although ice skating and gymnastics is a different story.  How on Earth can you tell who wins some of those events??

But in Math, Science, Language, we don't all process the same way.  And that is ok.  I know I see math differently than many of my friends.  The fact that they see it at all makes them more an expert than me.    I look through it.  I avoid it.  It humbles me like very little else.

That is not to say I could not have done well in math.  But I did enough to get through it and once I went to college I did not need it again.  I know my daughter sees math very similar to me.  The trick is to convince her 1) no she does not and 2) get everyone else on board with it.

Her report card for the first term comes home later today and I would be surprised if she didn't have an A in math.  Shit I most likely don't understand.  But with parental knowledge comes the ability to parent efficiently.

Do I want to medicate my daughter?  Of course not.  This is a decision we did not take lightly.  Richard Friedman wrote an outstanding piece in the New York Times detailing the evolution of the "disease" and suggests it might not be an illness after all.  His notion that those diagnosed are not unlike nomads or ancient hunters.  We move from one thing to another out of boredom, out of the need to learn and discover more, to evolve.

Should that be looked at as a disability?  Or even a hindrance?

People are just different.  Everyone has a skill set that needs to be cultivated.  Now, to somehow navigate through it with the least amount of tears.

It will be age 42 next week.  And it is about time to start putting some wisdom to good use.

Our job is to move forward.  To leave this place better than how we inherited it.

Because that is what maturation has is all about.

Maturation is nothing more than tempering expectations, minimizing and/or avoiding bullshit, and eliminating persons and things that fail to yield positive results. Oh, and eating well and exercising. But F that last part!!!