Monday, January 11, 2010

From 2007

I just found this while delving through my old livejournal site:

I watched The Last Waltz twice this weekend. I think it's great, but the more you watch it, the more certain things stick out. To wit:

1) Can you take yourself more any more seriously than The Band does? Aside from four Canadians trying to ape the one southerner in the band to the point that they're using a Confederate flag as an interview backdrop IN 1976(!), the whole idea of The Band's last live show being some end of an era in American music is pretty weird. I mean, seriously - who gave a shit? They had enough material to fill one good album, and two legendary singles - "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Beyond that it's a ton of awkward filler with ridiculous record names - "Moondog Matinee," "Northern Lights, Southern Cross," etc. Yet Scorsese directs their farewell concert??? This would be like Pearl Jam hiring Spielberg.

2) With that said, the Band are astonishingly good on this. Levon Helms has said that most of Robbie Robertson's backing vocals had to be overdubbed later, but even if just the music is live (and Helm's voice) they rip the shit out of that place. Helms is criminally underrated as a drummer and a singer. When he starts knocking it out at the end of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," it's hard to believe how good he was. He steals the entire show on a night that featured almost every great rock star from the 70s who was still alive.

3) I love Garth Hudson's hair.

4) How awkward is the scene where Richard Manuel starts talking about how much he loves the women on the road???? For one, he looks batshit crazy, like someone who's living underneath the Fallsway with his urine-soaked Beanie Baby collection. Two, all the other members start hemming and hawing and tripping over themselves trying to cover up Manuel spilling the beans...Robertson's particularly great when he gives him the mock friendly pat on the back that really means "Come on brother, keep it together."

5) Is there a way to get a feed of the microphone that Neil Diamond and Dr. John share on "I Shall Be Released"? That has got to sound fucking insane.

6) Speaking of which, what is Neil Diamond even doing here? His version of "Dry Your Eyes" is completely ridiculous. (Which can be good or bad, depending on your feelings on Diamond...he's a completely ridiculous guy.) It was edited out of the final footage, but when he came onstage he said "I'm only doing one song, but I'm doing it good." Then he told BOB-FUCKING-DYLAN "You better be pretty good to follow that" when he went off-stage!! Dylan told him "What do I have to do - go on stage and fall asleep?" Neil Diamond is terrible (but always, always, always a potential knock-out on the unintentional comedy scale).

7) Emmylou Harris...yowzers. She's a queen and has somehow gotten hotter in her old(er) age.

8) Ric Danko is coked out of his mind for this entire thing. It's pretty bad when you're competing with a guy who looks like Mr. Teeth for the title of Least Healthy-Looking Dude in The Band. When he speaks for more than 10 seconds he starts sounding like Jesse Camp.

9) I kind of love that they invited Ronnie Hawkins back out for the big all-star jam at the end THEN DIDN'T GIVE HIM A MIC!!! He just stands there in the middle of the stage, drinking a beer, watching everyone play. I mean, at some point they had to go up to him and say, "Listen, Ronnie, we want you out there...but stay away from the mics, OK?" How awkward must that have been?

10) Eric Clapton's great at guitar...but who really cares? Seriously?

Dear Michael Steele

So today this is all over Michael Steele is all awash in mock rage and indignation because Harry Reid allegedly told someone in 2008 that Obama was especially electable among black politicians because of his light-skinned appearance and "lack of negro dialect," which makes it sound like the source was actually his daughter's anthropology mid-term. Steele huffed and puffed himself up to three times his normal size when he bloozed: "Racism and racist conversation has no place in America," less than seven days after he used the phrase "Honest injun" on Meet the Press, which despite the clear implication, is apparently neither. The difference might be lost on you, but Michael Steele knows there's one. So, just...yeah...take his word for it, or whatever. At this point, Steele induces so many full-body cringes with the shit that he says that I'm not entirely convinced the GOP isn't being run by Larry David in blackface. (That picture isn't helping either.)

In actuality, the only difference between the two statements is that what Reid said is Gospel truth, despite how unseemly it might sound, whereas Steele was just speaking out his asshole once again. (Not that anyone should necessarily be losing any sleep over a line that sounds like it was stolen from Yosemite Sam, but once you assume elected office, the word "Injun" in any context should probably be purged from your vocabulary. Just sayin'.) Reid is 100% right - if Obama looked and talked like Chris Tucker, he'd be managing the Smithsonian's Orange Julius right now. He could have taken his platform from "The Rights of Man" and he still would have been run out of town on a rail. The fact that Obama got elected is directly tied to him not appearing "black" - anyone who seriously argues differently trades their racism in for complete ignorance. And the same goes for Michael Steele - if he looked "overly" black, he'd be on the outside looking in too. It's the ugly truth that racist, not the one acknowledging it.

With the benefit of thirteen months of America's unadulterated racism firmly in mind, it's even more incredible now that Obama got elected than it was when it actually happened. The open hostility nearly everyone not on the Nobel committee has shown to him has been galling, and folks have been lining up to put him in his place before we even figured what place he belonged in. It's like America has suddenly gone - "Wait a minute - we elected the black guy?!" and then got angry about it. How else can you explain someone being practically burned in effigy for proposing Universal Health Care, while the guy who started two deficit-digging wars while collapsing our economy didn't even get so much as a strong middle finger during his eight years in office. How do you explain him being retroactively blamed for the economy and Afghanistan? Maybe it's who I'm related to, but I never felt this base anger, this seething resentment towards any politician, and there doesn't seem to be any cause for it...except for one small characteristic. What's most harrowing is that, while he's revealed himself to be a difference-dividing politician at heart, Obama hasn't publicly fucked anything up too badly; and yet he's still somehow managed to reduce the chances that we see another black president in our lifetimes by about 400%.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Scenes From a Restaurant #1

[A family - father, mother, son and daughter - sit at a family restaurant talking about work. The father is a police officer. The son, a substitute high school teacher.]

Son: The thing that annoys me the most is when they make me cover a class during my break period. As far as I'm concerned, after three periods my job is done and anything I do beyond that is simply out of the goodness of my heart. Just the gall of these people to ask me to cover another class, essentially for free! Seriously. They obviously have no idea what it's like being a sub - covering four periods ought to make you eligible for Hazard Pay. What about you, Dad? What calls do you hate taking the most? Is it domestic disturbances, because you don't know what you're walking in to?
Father: No. [Thinking it over for a few moments.] I hate the hangings, because then you have to cut the guy down.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts on Cardinals-49ers

When one teams turns the ball over 7 times and the other still only scores 24 points, you know you've just watched a Bad Football Game. As the Cardinals limped off the field after Kurt Warner's third turnover of the first half - and the team's fifth - I could imagine Ken Whisenhurt turning to an assistant before taking Warner out behind the shed: "Son, that wolf was rabid..." He just looked so confused out there, throwing to phantom recievers who would have been triple-covered anyway, and holding onto the ball so long it grew mold. On one of his interceptions, Warner threw into a pack of 49ers defensive backs so thick they blotted out the sun. It looked like he misfired into the 49ers bench.

Not that Alex "19-of-35, 144 yards" Smith was making a case for Canton either. At one point in the third quarter, you could see the thought crossing his mind: "Thank God Kurt is so bad tonight that all I have to do is complete a 10-yard-out once in four tries and I look like the second coming of Joe Montana." He would have had to set Frank Gore on fire to have had a worse night than Warner.

Scenes from a High School #2

Another actual exchange with a student, this time in Childhood Development. She was a sophomore, and very, very Brooklyn Park. There wasn't an ounce of sarcasm in her voice, so either she has the driest sense of humor in comedy history or this is real shit passing through her brain. To wit:

Me: "Ok, everybody. Today we're gonna watch a movie and you guys are gonna take notes. It's called Stand and Deliver."
Student: "Aww shit. Is this gonna be about childbirth?"
Me: [Picturing a doctor yelling "Stand and deliver!" at woman in labor. Smiling broadly.] No. No, it's not about childbirth, thankfully. It's about teaching AP Calculus.'ll see. [Presses "play" on the VCR. Eerie string section creeps in. Footage of some flags waving in slow-motion, like they're underwater.]
Student: "Is this about whales?"

Thursday, November 12, 2009


[Editor's note: I wrote this a few years ago and recently decided it could use some cleaning up. I've always wondered what happened to this guy.]

Keith Curley was a pizza delivery man in Pasadena, Maryland in the late-1990s, who moved into my friend Elliott's folks' bungalow down on Bodkin Creek the summer before our senior year of high school, which is how he came into our lives. He was a few years older than us, in his mid-twenties, tall and thin, with a nest of long red hair that was always hanging in one huge tangle on his shoulders. He wore baggy, drab clothes and sandals and smelled like patchouli and gangrenous feet. In short, he was like a posterchild for the burnouts who became labeled hippies, solely for convenience sake - the kind who solely refer to people as "brutha" and everything as "cool beans." The kind of guy who couldn't pick Timothy Leary out of a line-up but probably believed that Terrapin Station was a real place.

Keith fancied himself a big-time show promoter in the making, and the first we heard of him was when he delivered a pizza to Elliott's house while our old band was practicing. He offered his "services" to us, and without really knowing what he did, we took him up on his offer to have a sit down. We were 18 and didn't really know any better.

We met him at the bungalow, which he had only lived in a for a few weeks at that point, though he had already converted the hall closet to a greenhouse and there were dogshit stains everywhere, even on the kitchen floor. A filthy Lhasa Apso who smelled like a compost heap was tearing away at it's fur in the corner. "Althea!" he yelled, and the dog scurried away. I remember not wanting to touch anything.

Keith broke the ice by asking if any of us had ever taken a canoe across the creek, which of course none of us had. He proceeded to enlighten us.

"You go across there in daytime, man, it might take you an hour. But you go out in a thunderstorm, man, those waves are just like SLAMSLAMSLAM! SLAM! SLAMSLAMSLAMSLAMSLAM! SLAM! SLAAAAAM! ROCKIN' THE BOAT! SLAM! SLAM! It's some wild shit, brutha!"

From that moment on, Keith was known to us simply as "Slam."

Slam managed to get us a few decent shows in city bars that wouldn't normally deal with underage bands, and he always kept the money. Whenever we would come by the bungalow to collect the $60 or $80 he perpetually owed us, he would go to ridiculous lengths to pretend to not be home, even when both cars were in the driveway and we could hear him dropping things in the kitchen. Once, his girlfriend called for him to open the door while we were standing there knocking, and he simply refused to answer her. Finally, to settle the score, Elliott and Heath started going into the bungalow when Keith wasn't there - he never locked the door - and taking the loads of weed he left sitting out in the open. Keith never caught on. Later on, when Elliott would go through the charade of buying weed from him, Slam was always surprised by how little he had left. "Man, I could have sworn I had more in here yesterday - I must be getting burned out, brutha!"

One time Slam brought his best friend's band up from Annapolis to play a show with mine and Elliott's band in Pasadena. They jammed for an hour-and-a-half on what felt like the same chord, and then managed to convince Keith to give them nearly all of the money from the night because they were "going on tour" to Philadelphia the next night. While I was in the middle of a world-class conniption fit, the band's bassist ran in the hall with a terrified look on his face. "Keith, you gotta get out here - the cops are here!" I darted outside to see Keith's friends' band's van hooked up to a tow-truck, with half of the band in handcuffs on the ground outside a squad car. I was impressed at how quickly karma had acted. Turns out the local fuzz had made a sweep of the parking lot after the show and discovered some of the band smoking weed in their van - they arrested them and then had their van - and all their instruments - impounded. Looks like "tour" was being postponed! Keith was completely distraught as the van was towed out of sight. "Not cool, brutha - not cool" was all he could mumble to himself.

As the months went by and Slam made plans to move out and slowly stopped coming around, we would still occasionally run into him when we went drinking on Elliott's pier in front of the bungalow. One time, Kuhlman and I took Slam's canoe from beside the house and rode it across Bodkin Creek in the middle of the night. Every time the oars hit the water we'd yell, "SLAM! SLAMSLAMSLAM! SLAAAAAAAAM! ROCK THIS BOAT!" When we finally made it back, we were so tired that we simply left the canoe on the beach and walked away.

A few weeks later, we were drinking on the pier with my friend Dan, who decided in a drunken rage that Slam needed to be dealt with, for no real reason. He staggered onto Keith's deck and grabbed both of his trashcans and his recycling bin and threw them into the creek. Gathering steam, he then pissed inside Keith's grill and all over a pair of sandals he had left out on the porch before finally hurling a pair of Keith's shoes and a hackysack into the creek as well. Just as we were getting ready to bolt, Keith appeared out of nowhere, visibly upset.

"You guys happen to know who might have taken my canoe out last week?"

I prayed no one would sell me out.

"If I get my hands on that guy, there's gonna be some trouble. That asshole didn't even bring it back up off the beach, and high tide carried that motherfucker a mile downstream. I had to wade underneath some dude's pier to get it back."

We sat there in the dark trying not to laugh, watching Keith's trashcans float slowly up the creek.

"Anyway...anybody want some burgers?"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Deep Thoughts #1

1) When shopping for more than one box of cereal, you should be cognizant of how the different flavors will taste together, should you get to the bottom of both boxes around the same time.