Sunday, December 09, 2012

A song for every year of my life #25: 2001

YouTube failed me. My choice for 2001 was going to be The Dirtbombs' beautifully fierce cover of a Phil Lynott solo jam called "Ode to a Black Man," but the only versions on the site are poor quality live takes recorded from a phone. Fortunately, the rest of that ridiculously great soul covers album, Ultraglide in Black, is on YouTube, so here's "If You Can Want," a worthy substitute.

Alternate choice:
Oneida - "All Arounder"
I think Oneida is one of the four or five best bands of the last fifteen years. They do not stagnate. They do not care about alienating their fans. They will never stop moving. Their body of work makes me vomit with envy, awe, terror, and pleasure.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cutie Calamity Brouhaha Donnybrook 2012

I'm not ashamed to say I am a man who loves my kittens, so when I got to work today and opened an email from my wife informing me that the alarm in our house had been tripped just minutes after I'd left for work, my first and only worry was whether our kittens had been harmed or had escaped. Stuff is just stuff. Shit is just shit. Stuff and shit can be replaced, or barring that, downloaded. But my awesome weirdo adorable cats, Loretta and Fern? Animal God broke the mold when he built those motherfuckers, I tell you what. And I say that as someone who doesn't even believe in Animal God. After several worried emails from me, a visit from the police to check out the alarm situation, and a thorough going over of the place from my wife, who was able to leave work to check it out, the cause of Alarm Tragedy Wednesday was discovered.
I'm going to digress for a minute and ask if you've ever eaten a cutie? A cutie is a hybrid between a sweet orange and a Chinese mandarin, and it has what it takes to provide you with that necessary blast of citrus delight you sometimes need to kick your day in the ass. I bought a bag at the grocery store last night, because they've been pretty good lately. When I got home, I realized the bag of cuties I bought was comically oversized. So oversized it barely fit in the large bowl on our kitchen table I usually put it in. I have three cuties in my lunch today and ate three last night, and still the enormous bag of cuties sits atop the bowl like some mighty citrus mountain.
Back to the story. You can probably guess why the alarm was tripped. The kittens climbed on top of the kitchen table, which they know they're not allowed to do, and knocked over Giant Mt. Cutie, spilling the dozens and dozens of small citrus fruits all over the house and setting off the horrible screeching nightmare alarm. That will teach them. I hope. Anyway, I could conclude here by saying that some cuties knocked over some cuties, but that would be a really uncool thing to say, and I'm pretty fucking cool and make Fonzie look like Jim Lehrer so I would never say some shit like that. THE END
(Bonus fun fact: A Google image search for "mountain of citrus" is disappointingly unsatisfying.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A song for every year of my life #24: 2000

I escaped from the 1990s, much like Snake Plissken escaped from New York, only to find myself in the 2000s, much like Snake Plissken found himself in LA. This was the decade where everything got quicker, shorter, and smaller, except for my waistline, and where we all decided to make our private lives public, on several different websites and electronic devices. Turn on your television. Someone is probably yelling at someone else. If no one is yelling, someone is either crying, looking into a mirror shirtless, falling down stairs drunk, or about to yell. Change the channel. You will see a talent competition involving dancing, singing, weight loss, weight gain, bug-eating, catwalk-prancing, Bret Michaels-sexing, pretend policing, inspirational home building, dog whispering, storage shed buying, wife swapping, briefcase-guessing, Donald Trump-enabling, or strategic insult placement. If you are unable to locate any yelling or competition-based programming, get your bearings and take a closer look at the immediate vicinity. You are probably looking out your window and not at your television.

Smog - "Dress Sexy At My Funeral"


Alternate choice: J Mascis + The Fog - "Same Day"
This song provides the chocolate and peanut butter-worthy combination of J Mascis, Robert Pollard, and Kevin Shields.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Great Body Check Debacle of '12

Last night, I attended a hot, sweaty sold-out Dinosaur Jr show in a venue a bit too small for the group. The teeming mass of sweaty humanity was packed "butts to nuts," to quote a high school PE teacher I once had, and there wasn't one second of the show in which my personal space wasn't violated. I'm such a Dinosaur Jr superfan that I managed to enjoy the show anyway, and the band was in particularly fine form, but something stupid happened in the middle of the show that momentarily threatened to turn the whole experience into one big stupid downer. I have to share some of the responsibility for the stupidity. Despite the uncomfortable conditions, the crowd was on pretty swell behavior and people seemed to be in a good mood. I managed to squeeze into a spot next to a friend of mine and was happily enjoying the show until some drunk, high, smelly idiot and his stupid girlfriend started shoving their way into the crowd. This moron put his hand on the shoulder of my friend, which is a universal concert signal for "hey buddy, I'm trying to get through, could you please step aside while I squeeze past you," so my friend and I moved a little to accommodate him and his girlfriend. I also need to mention here that the dude was wearing a large backpack that appeared to be fully packed. Two people could have stood in the space the backpack was taking up. I don't know if this guy thought he would be moving into the venue for a few days or what. I had to stand sideways to let them squeeze through. Instead of continuing on their way, they just stand there. They stole our spots through a ruse involving deceptive rock concert body language. It was an outrage. Meanwhile, I'm stuck in a sideways position and can't move. My friend is able to squeeze back into his spot, but I'm stuck in my weird half-spot. I nudge the guy politely to try to get some of my old spot back. No response. I nudge him again. No response. Now I'm fuming. This guy, his girlfriend, and his stupid goddamn backpack are taking up way too much space at this sold-out show, and his method of shoving people out of his way is not sitting well with me. I'm pissed. So pissed that I do something stupid and childish that I immediately regret. I throw my body weight full force into the guy, which sets off a domino effect that knocks about 37 people over. No, I'm exaggerating. But it did knock over between three and six people. Oh shit, I only meant to get my spot back and now I'm probably going to be in a fight. Several people in the crowd get pissed at backpack guy, assuming he's the one who knocked them over. He turns around and looks at me and says, "What the fuck? Why'd you shove me?" I respond, "You shoved everybody else to get your spot." Some other guy comes up and says, "Be cool, guys. Be cool." Backpack guy keeps saying, "Be nice, man. Be nice." Over and over and over. I say, "Why don't you take your own advice?" He responds, "Be nice, man. Be nice." I say, "Yeah, I heard you the first time." Then, he turns around and continues watching the show. I move a little and continue watching the show. My shitty behavior has the positive effect of actually creating a space for me to stand in, so that's something. I feel like an idiot for a few minutes, and then I feel relief that the situation didn't escalate into a fistfight. I'm not 12 years old anymore. Me, and Danny Glover, are too old for this shit. Backpack guy did get his comeuppance later in the show, in a moment of karmic beauty, and no fists had to be thrown. He proceeded to annoy everyone around him for about 30 minutes. A guy tried to squeeze past him, and backpack guy shoved him. Backpack guy raised his hands in the air and clasped them with his girlfriend's and swayed annoyingly back and forth. Backpack guy yelled between songs, "J, YOU KICK SO MUCH ASS!!! I LOVE YOU, J!!!!!!" (How could this shit-eating mouthbreather and I love the same band so much?) Backpack guy took out his phone and started filming the show. A few minutes into the song, he dropped his phone, hard. After a few minutes of crawling on the ground looking for his phone, he picks it up and starts filming the show again. Ten seconds later, he dropped the phone again, hard and then accidentally stepped on it. Then, he and his girlfriend moved somewhere else. Did I mention he also wore a backwards baseball cap? He did. In many ways, I am a small man, so I took a great deal of pleasure in his cell phone fiasco. The End. Moral of the story: People are dumb. I am a person. I am dumb.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A song for every year of my life #23: 1999

Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker" is one of his strongest pieces of music and my favorite music video. Besides the way the editing and physical movements of the participants and the camera's framing of those movements complement and reinforce the threateningly propulsive yet lasciviously slithery music, the video succeeds at being both hilarious and unsettling and takes mainstream R&B and hip hop videos of the period to their logical conclusion. Nice work, people.

Honorable mention: Built to Spill - "Carry the Zero"
I'm a sucker for melancholy guitar weepers that combine the post-punk and classic rock traditions, and this one does it better than most.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

I think I am done learning new things about the youth

A few months ago, several friends and I were drinking in the outdoor section of a bar. A very young band was playing inside. I went inside to catch a few minutes of the set. Instrumentally, the verses sounded exactly like Pavement, the choruses exactly like My Bloody Valentine. The vocals, however, were the Cookie Monster death metal thing. Visually, the band were wearing cargo shorts, no shirts, black soccer shoes, and black socks pulled up to their knees. They all had Skrillex haircuts. There have been several moments in the last five years where I've thought to myself, "Am I too old for this, and is that a sign of conservative stasis and closed-minded death?" For the first time in my life, seeing these kids play, I thought to myself, "I don't give a fuck if this is some artistic breakthrough and I'm too stubborn to acknowledge it. I am glad I don't get this and I am glad I don't give a shit." Last week, I saw this video on television. I don't know whether this is the end of music or whether I'm looking at some kind of teenybopper morphine drip version of the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film. All I know is that I don't have a fucking clue why anything like this would become reality. If any of you know what the hell I'm looking at here, please keep it to yourself. I don't want to know anything about it. I have my own problems.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A song for every year of my life #22: 1998

Sparkle and R. Kelly's "Be Careful" is a he-said/she-said smackdown worthy of Tammy and George or Conway and Loretta. No one believes they can fly here.

Alternate choice: Shellac - "Didn't We Deserve a Look at You the Way You Really Are"
I like repetition in music. I'm not talking about the same hoodly-woodly guitar solo from some finger-tapping poodle-sniffer or a Miley Cyrus chorus or a radio jingle. I'm talking about those songs that lock into a minimal, sustained repeating pattern. When exposed to this repetition, the concentrated hypnosis laser brain picks up on the tiniest, subtlest changes in the pattern, which in their turn completely rewire the subconscious freak zone of the pleasure hemisphere, creating a reversal of accepted cultural listening habits and turning the careful listener into a glowing blue flesh computer. It's called science, jerk, look it up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A song for every year of my life #21: 1997

A new house, two new kittens, an old rock band, and a newish job that is probably the most stressful experience I've ever had barring family tragedy have pretty much spelled box office poison for this blog. But I'm back, baby. Back and way behind on my musician obituary posts. Before I continue with the business at hand, R.I.P. to the following people who won't get posts of their own because there are too many of them and I'm lazy: Donald "Duck" Dunn, bassist with Booker T. & The MGs who also backed Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Neil Young, among many others; banjo player and bluegrass and country rock pioneer Doug Dillard of The Dillards and Dillard & Clark (not to be confused with Doug Gillard, who is alive); Donna Summer, whose mid-to-late '70s electro-disco collaborations with Giorgio Moroder are like a much hornier Kraftwerk and deserve to overshadow some of the cheesier stuff she did later; Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, who wrote and sang the lead parts on a lot of the melancholy baroque pop of their early years, which has been partially buried by the revisionist media historians who pretend the Bee Gees were only a late-'70s disco thing (though a lot of those songs are really good, too); John Harrison, first bassist for Hawkwind; Doc Watson, legendary country/bluegrass/folk guitarist and singer; Pete Cosey, who played guitar for Miles Davis in the early '70s and was also the house guitarist for Chess Records; Dennis Flemion of the Frogs, a band whose records should be next to hollowed-out Bibles containing dirty secrets in every good home; Lol Coxhill, a big, bald improv saxophonist who played with everyone from Kevin Ayers to Rufus Thomas to The Damned (I know that's a false range, but fuck it, it's not, really); the mighty Jon Lord from Deep Purple (we can all pretend he was never in Whitesnake, right?); Kitty Wells, who should need no introduction; and two of Motown's Funk Brothers, bassist Bob Babbitt and trumpeter Maurice D. Davis.

On to 1997. Robert Wyatt's music is a gorgeous, dangerous, mysterious thing. I love his voice and his ideas and his assemblages of surprisingly compatible musicians and his songs, and he just gets better and more interesting as he ages. I don't have to tell you that's a rare thing. I'm not generally a lyrics guy, and I tend to fixate on the sound of words rather than their content when they are part of a piece of music, but "Free Will and Testament" is a sharp bit of poetry as well as a fine piece of organized sound.

Alternate choice: Belle & Sebastian - "Lazy Line Painter Jane"
I had a hard time seeing the appeal in this band when my coworkers at the record store were losing their minds over them. I thought they were delicate, fussy, and lacking in abandon and immediacy. Gradually, I became an admirer of at least some of their work. The world could use a little more fuss and delicacy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The annotated Mercer Mayer

The drummer's all like, "Damn, saxophone player. A frog just jumped out of my snare drum and I know you are somehow responsible. This is insanity." The sax player's all like, "Hmm, well." The frog's all like, "Fuck yeeeeeeessss." The waiter doesn't give a damn about anything except carrying trays. The customers are all like, "I didn't spend 80 bucks for a bunch of nonsense." The trumpet player's all like, "Oh, my sides."

This has been the annotated Mercer Mayer. Join us next week for a special audio version of the annotated masters when the Human Beatbox takes on Kierkegaard.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Adam Yauch R.I.P.

 I should really just change the name of the blog to Cancer Is Killing Awesome Music People. Adam Yauch was only 47. He was one of the Beastie Boys, of course, and one of the only musicians in the Free Tibet movement who did more than just slap a bumper sticker on a car. He directed a few documentaries, one about his own band and the other about street basketball. I was surprised to learn from his obituaries that he founded Oscilloscope Laboratories, a film production company that fought the good fight against multiplex CGI-rot by bringing Meek's Cutoff, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Wendy and Lucy, Dark Days, Rare Exports, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Nicholas Ray's We Can't Go Home Again, and documentaries about Nicholas Ray, Scott Walker, John Cazale, and William S. Burroughs to theaters, festivals, and video stores. He did a lot in the relatively short lifetime he unluckily drew from the genetic pile.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chris Ethridge R.I.P.

Chris Ethridge was the last bassist in the International Submarine Band and the first bassist in the Flying Burrito Brothers. He played on Safe at Home and The Gilded Palace of Sin, and he spent a lot of time in Willie Nelson's band. He was a damn good bassist, and now he's dead from cancer, four days after fellow cosmic American musician Levon Helm's cancer death.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Levon Helm R.I.P.

Levon Helm was an Arkansan in a band of Canadians who worshiped Southern music. He was a great drummer and a great singer and one of that small, impressive club who could do both at the same time. He wrote a lot of good songs and was a gifted, natural actor, particularly as Loretta Lynn's dad in Coal Miner's Daughter and a small but wonderful role in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. He's on at least four of the greatest rock records of all time: The Basement Tapes, On the Beach, Music from Big Pink, and The Band. That's a good life by any measure.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A song for every year of my life #20: 1996

Boy, I've been away from this blog for awhile. You know why? I'm fuckin' tired, that's why. My new job is exhausting (in both good and bad ways), my wife and I are buying a house, and I've rekindled my love affair with falling asleep on the couch. Don't worry, chum-mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmps, this time I'm falling asleep on the couch on a regular basis because I'm actually sleepy, not because I'm praying for death. I spent the first part of 1996 praying for death and sitting aimlessly on the floor in my dorm room's walk-in closet and sleeping and watching 17 movies in one sitting and taking only three classes and barely getting by. That was a rough time. Then I reconnected with a friend from the previous year's unsuccessful dorm experiment and made a bunch of new friends and spent the second half of the year having the antics, mirth, hijinks, shenanigans, hoopla, fracases, melees, barnburners, and disco infernos that young people are supposed to have as sophomores in college. Long story short, box socials every night. I've been slacking on these posts in recent days because I'm kinda tired of the '90s. I'm not that tired of the next two jams in the series, though.
Silkworm is so goddamn underrated. That's what happens when you consistently make good music and present yourselves in the least sensational way possible. No one gives a shit except rabid weirdo shut-ins like yours truly. The surviving members of Silkworm are in another great band now, Bottomless Pit, that gets even less attention than Silkworm. Bigger crimes have been committed, but not much bigger.
Silkworm fun fact: I picked up an accidental hobby of collecting awkward conversations with members of seminal indie rock bands in bathroom lines. I sprung an effusive fanboy gush on Silkworm bassist Tim Midgett while he was waiting to use an outdoor facility at a SXSW several years ago. Others in this series include Mike Watt, Clawhammer's Bob Lee, Pavement's Steve West, and, most recently, Ted Leo. Collect them all in a limited-edition box set. Every 12th box contains a stick of unwrapped, pre-moistened gum.

Alternate choice: R.L. Burnside - "Goin Down South"
This song makes me want to fire a mini-cannon out of a full-sized cannon and then drive a tank through a couple of miniature golf courses while arm-wrestling a bear for a flask of gin. Fuck yeah it does.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Heads up

Hey Internetters,
My brother has restarted and retooled his blog. After a long break, he's started drawing again and posting some of those drawings. I particularly like the goat and the Harry Dean Stanton. Here's the link.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Mad titties, or the varieties of human experience

I haven't mentioned it here yet, but I'm once again gainfully employed and have been since December. I don't know why I haven't let the news slip even in passing on this blog, especially since the tumultuous events of the past several years have become a near-constant topic in this rarely visited corner of the artist formerly known as the information superhighway. Now that I'm no longer praying to a deity I never believed in to strike me dead, I'd like to raise a glass to my first three months of regained sanity and another glass to hopes of continuing trends in no-longer-looney-tunes monkey business. I'm not being that hyperbolic. I was nuts. I wasn't really a person anymore, just a kind of slug-robot-sad-old-country-song hybrid. Because I have an amazing wife, I am still here and I am employed. If she wasn't a part of my life, my last few years would have been an extended, real-life, tragic version of the first three episodes of season two of Eastbound & Down. I would also be dead, a homeless alcoholic, or the accidental cockfighting impresario of Ciudad Juarez.
I am now a case worker for a state Health and Human Resources office, deciding if people qualify for food stamps and/or Medicaid. My new job requires extensive training because I have to learn a lot of state and federal policy and apply that policy to individual situations using a needlessly complicated computer system while talking to needy, hungry people who are sitting in front of me or talking to me on the phone. I also have access to all kinds of private information about these people, which can get me fired if I compromise it in any way. Since I'm a new guy with a limited caseload who's only partially finished with training, I sometimes have to help out in the front lobby. This part of the job is pretty mindless, consisting of finding out why people are visiting the office and giving them a corresponding ticket with a number on it that will eventually be announced over a loudspeaker. I don't mind doing this because I know it's only temporary, and I also don't mind because it's some pretty amazing people-watching. Frighteningly, the lobby is massively overcrowded about two-thirds of the time, thanks to the Bush/Obama never-ending war economy. (A retired Army vet who recently started working there told me that our beautiful government was spending one million dollars a month on Gatorade delivery alone. Halliburton contract employees made $95,000 a year hitting the play button on DVD players in base media rooms. That was the entirety of the job. And that's the small-potatoes, anecdotal shit.)
The shortcut to the point is, I see a wildly varied cross-section of humanity. On Tuesday, a chubby boy with corn rows and glasses, estimated age of nine or ten, walked into the office. I said hello. He stopped, pivoted in my direction, lowered his head and glared directly at me with withering contempt over his glasses, hands on hips, foot slowly tapping. He then walked over to the security guards, gave them the same silent stare of disdain, and strutted over to his mother, whose application was being screened. He stood next to her and began loudly tapping the wall with his open palm. Two or three minutes later, this same boy sits down in the vacant chair next to me at the front desk and makes himself at home. "My dad's a security guard, so whenever I go anywhere, I just start being a security guard," he tells me, by way of explanation. "Shut your mouth," he then yells at the security guard sitting directly across from me. A woman comes up to me with a new application for aid. I direct her to the coworker behind me, who can help her set up an Internet account. "(Name redacted) can help you get started," I tell the woman. "(Name redacted) is gay," the kid tells the woman. He then turns toward me and whispers conspiratorially, "Did you ever notice how gay this day is?" Another woman comes in for help. The boy sighs, leans toward me, and says, "Oh boy. Here comes another crackhead." A woman tells me she's just been accepted for Medicaid and asks me when her benefits take effect. "A year and a half," the kid tells her. Several women come in who speak only Spanish. The kid starts talking to them in Spanish. My high school and college Spanish has slowly been coming back to me at this job. I can understand him. He says hello to each woman, then tells them that he's in love with them and wants to give them a good time. The kid then informs the male security guard that the guard has "mad titties." Finally, the child's mother and both grandmothers tell him he has to go wait in the car. On his way out, he says to me, "Here, have a Taco Bell hot sauce packet." He then takes a Taco Bell hot sauce packet (mild) out of his pocket and places it on the desk in front of me and leaves.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones R.I.P.

The excellent work The Monkees did as musicians and songwriters once they wrested control away from their handlers has thankfully provided some balance to their only partially deserved reputation as a pre-fab proto-boy-band manufactured product, though the earlier songs were pretty great, too, thanks to the top songwriters and session musicians who created them. Whether you prefer the pop-tart TV entertainers of the mid-1960s or the pop/psych/country experimentalists of the late '60s, you have to concede that either version of the band is pretty damn likable and it's sad to see one of them go. Here's Davy Jones' big moment from Bob Rafelson's highly recommended Head (1968):

Monday, February 20, 2012

Michael Davis R.I.P.

MC5 bassist Michael Davis died of liver failure on the 17th. I was lucky enough to see him play with the other surviving MC5 members seven or eight years ago. It was a great show, but I wish I could have seen them in their full pomp and glory between 1968 and 1972.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

A song for every year of my life #19: 1995

Remember all that jive I was laying down about the fancy new phones of the day destroying society, human interaction, and life as we know it? Boy, is my face red. When I was volunteering for a film festival back in October, the twentysomething manboys and womangirls made fun of my outdated cell phone, which I used only under protest in highly specific circumstances. They told me to get hip. I told them to fuck off. Nevertheless, when a pretty 20-year-old makes fun of your technology, you have two choices: 1) put on some suspenders, check into a nursing home, and watch sitcoms until you die of inertia or 2) get with the now and buy the items that today's metrosexuals, extreme sports stars, reality celebutantes, and screamo bands need to survive in the future of the now. Well, I got one of these Satanic new robot droid smart phones because I was tired of feeling like Andy Rooney, and I take back all the bad things I said about them. Since age 21, when I decided I liked things the way they were, I have violently resisted every technological advance. When it becomes more work to fight than to join, I reluctantly join. I'm always wrong. I need to be more like the Scorpions and embrace the winds of change. I get it now. I like this phone. It makes my life better. I can avoid all kinds of small talk by pointing my face at it in public. I can check the Internet and play games and shit. But you know all this already. You bought one two years ago.
Here's an epic 1995 dinosaur jam from yesteryear, Yo La Tengo's "Blue Line Swinger," loved by me, one of today's oldtimers.

Alternate choice: Pavement's "Half a Canyon," another classic oldie from the sock hop and cave stomp days of the mid-1990s, back when we were all swinging on the flippity flop and macking on lizard butts. I think I finished high school at some point in this song's six-plus minutes. Matt Pinfield is in the trunk of my car.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

A song for every year of my life #18: 1994

Like a lot of misfit teenage music-loving loners stuck in small towns in the early 1990s, I was obsessed with Kurt Cobain. I'm embarrassed to admit I was devastated by his 1994 suicide, taking it almost as hard as a death in my own family. Really, I just needed a girlfriend, but any of you who shared my circumstances can probably relate. Now, I think of Kurt Cobain as a selfish, immature celebrity junkie who wasted his talent and cruelly left behind a young daughter, and I think of Nirvana as a really good band who made a few really good records and probably could have made even more instead of as one of my primary reasons for living. Teenagers are some melodramatic, inexperienced fools, and that's why I have affection for them. Still, my pain was real, though misguided, and Nirvana's records got me through my naive period of mourning for the famous man-boy who created those records. Music can get you through some hard shit.
Now that I'm a grown man ("grown-ass man" now needing to be retired in the storage shed of overused white hipster slang alongside forebears like "batshit" and "word up"), I've had to cope with bigger problems than teen angst and celebrity death. My parents' divorce, deaths in the family, unemployment, depression, real adult alienation from the world replacing mannered teen ennui, lack of opportunity, money troubles, periods of strained relationships with both parents, Zooey Deschanel's divorce from Ben Gibbard (gotcha), et al. These problems put my teenage depression into perspective and taught me that life is mostly hard and brutal, though it's spattered with fleeting beautiful moments where the light comes in and the bullshit temporarily disappears.
What happened to an acquaintance less than a week ago, a close friend of several of my close friends, on New Year's Eve has put my difficult last four years in the same kind of perspective those difficult years put on my immature teen angst. A stranger murdered this woman in her own home after she celebrated the new year watching bands play two blocks from where she lived. I didn't know her well, only enough to say hello in the grocery store or a rock club or a friend's party in those hello-friend-of-friend moments of recognition, but many of my good friends in this usually safe city adored her. She was a friend to one of my bandmates, and she saw us play a few times. Like me, she was a drummer and a music freak who had planned to be a teacher. She was a special education assistant in an elementary school and a volunteer at a rock camp for pre-teen and teen girls. She was only 29, and I don't understand it. I've always been fascinated by true crime and real-life murder mysteries, but I hate this one. I hate it.
We lie to ourselves sometimes, but most of us know the deal. We know that death is part of the gamble of getting out of bed and getting on with our lives, day following day. We could drive too fast, step off a curb without looking, fall off a balcony, get some disease from smoking or drinking or sitting on our asses too much or just having lousy genes. Most of us just get too damn old. But each one of us should have the right to take this gamble without some pigfucking cretin fixing the odds just because he can. She deserved to get home safe and didn't because this world is such an unfair place. The news channels are calling this murder a tragedy and it is, but I don't like this juxtaposition of her life and name next to the word "tragedy." She made my friends happy and taught young girls to rock and inspired her students and supported tons of great local bands. That's not a life of tragedy. The tragedy is that her killer's mother didn't have an abortion.
My 1994 song, and my alternate choice, is dedicated to my friends and her. I hope I didn't pick a song she hated.

Sebadoh - "S. Soup" This is a real shit soup of a new year so far.

Alternate choice: The Magnetic Fields - "Swinging London"