Sunday, September 21, 2014

Promotional content

Please forgive this self-promotional post, but I play in a band called The Early Stages, and we put out a 7-inch recently. Copies are still available, and you can buy one at this link. If you don't want to buy it, you can also stream it for zero dollars at the same link. Ted Nugent sucks.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A song for every year of my life #28: 2004

I haven't done one of these for almost a year. I usually unintentionally abandon every series I start on this blog, but here it is, back from the grave. I want to post more frequently here, even though the nonspecific journal-style blogs seem to be dying (I'm a sucker for any medium or piece of the culture that's slowly dying), and this old series came to mind today. I'm almost always thinking about music anyway, and music is the only healthy thing that makes me feel better when I have convinced myself I'm a piece of shit loser. I'm going through a bit of a phase (13 years and counting is still a phase, right?) where I feel like an unsuccessful, perpetually broke, missed-my-calling, unable-to-communicate-verbally-with-humans, sad, angry, bitter, jealous failure, but music stops those thoughts and is better than my other means of coping (alcohol, television, food, repressed rage). Movies and books are also amazing things, but I have to be in an okay place to really engage with them. Music is some kind of voodoo-salve, cosmic gloom squeegee that can turn the room purple if you play it loud enough and give it your full attention. It's the only thing that works unconditionally in a world that is mostly complete and utter bullshit. (Well, my wife and my cats are pretty great, too, but I take the good things in my life for granted because I have problems.)
How cruel that 2004 is my next stop. Looking at the big list of records released in 2004, I don't see much I care about. I'm sure there are tons of local, below-the-radar 2004 records waiting to melt my face off, but the ones I've heard don't have the juice, except for a big pile of records by people I've already written about in this series (I'm trying to do just one song per artist) and a smattering of others. One of those others is the only musical hero of mine who follows me on Instagram, Doug Gillard. Gillard has played guitar for a metric fuckload of quality bands including Guided By Voices (who broke up again today, goddamn it), Cobra Verde, My Dad Is Dead, Death of Samantha, Gem, Bill Fox, Nada Surf, and Lifeguards. The guy is a guitar wizard who is really good at playing hot guitar sounds on the guitar for guitar aficionados, but never at the expense of a song. He's also a damn fine songwriter, with three damn fine solo albums and a damn fine solo EP. Here is the song "(But) I See Something" from his 2004 album Salamander. This song has a lot to recommend it. It's subtle, pretty, and catchy, with a girl group/early Pretenders/indie pop/classic rock swirl of sounds joining together into a nice little whole, and I dig the old-school parenthetical in the title. I'm a man who enjoys parentheticals.

Alternate choice: Melvins/Lustmord - "The Bloated Pope"
I love the Melvins. They're still a vital band putting out great records and trying new things three decades into their career. They're like the metal Yo La Tengo. This song is from their unfairly neglected collaboration with electronic noise terrorist Lustmord, Pigs of the Roman Empire, that is better than most 2004 records, especially the boring ones by Arcade Fire, Eminem, Kanye West, U2, Green Day, Sufjan Stevens, et cetera and so on that were getting all the attention from the critics that year. I like this song because it kicks ass and sounds good, and also because Lustmord got his start by going to high-profile shows and just getting on stage before the opening band and performing until someone figured out he wasn't on the bill and kicked him off the stage, and finally because I was raised Catholic and forced to go to church as a kid even though I never bought into that organized religion malarkey so you can probably guess the song title warms my heart. Ted Nugent sucks.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tragicomedy is meltdown plus time

Politics are stupid. I'm not mad at anybody anymore. We're all doing what we can with what we've got and none of us are ever going to understand each other and that's got to be okay.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Blog Post

Please enjoy this completely unrelated photo of President Taft before you read this blog post, compliments of the creative team behind Mr. Krauter, the half-robot, half-hologram, all-hunk who was programmed to write this crap. 
Wowzers. Haven't updated this thing in a while. Need to put all the shit in my life that's out of whack back in whack, blow the dust off the neglected parts and give them some sweet, sweet attention, and stop wasting time like I did on Sunday arguing about politics with my relatives on Facebook. Is there anything worse than arguing on Facebook? I don't even give a shit about politics. I only give a shit about art and sandwiches. I lose respect for myself every time I get ensnared in that bullshit. I used to get ensnared in it a lot, because my relatives write and forward a lot of crazy shit and I stay up late and enjoy the occasional drink and the combination of all that stuff became deadly. Now I either hide the posts or ignore them, and I feel a lot better about myself. But, Sunday, man. They were dogpiling on my mom like bullies and making a lot of generalizations about a large, disparate demographic, and that pisses me off. I jumped in, things got heated, and crazy, crazy things were typed by almost all. It's impossible to write an eloquent sentence in the Facebook argument. Everyone ends up looking like the world's biggest jackass. No one came out of that online battle royale looking like a champion. I can be a real loser sometimes. I'm pretty disgusted with myself for wasting my time on it. Still don't get what happened to my relatives. They went through the neocon meatgrinder and came out the other side in a shiny Limbaugh/Hannity/O'Reilly sausage casing. Facebook-forwarding footsoldiers in the dissemination-of-bullshit army. Best to just keep on keeping three or four states in between us and remember the past is dead. We had some good times in the pre-Facebook days, before the pod people bodysnatched them. We're not any good for each other in the present.
The idea of family is something that troubles me. I used to think I had a handle on what it meant, but now I feel like I was in a balloon that popped. Every member of my immediate family lives in a different city or town in four different states, I can't relate to my uncles and cousins anymore, all the cool old folks died, my parents split up and made some very bad post-divorce relationship decisions I don't support, and I have my own life here with my wife and wacky cats and rock band and unfulfilling day job and mild depression and impending middle age and list of regrets. My life is statistically half over, and I haven't figured out a damn thing about how I can be useful to myself or others. And that's the weird place I'm at tonight.

Postscript: I posted this last night, felt weird about posting it, and then deleted it, then felt weird about deleting it, so here it is again, with some changes. Nobody even reads this shit anyway, so why censor myself?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Sitcom Catchphrase Quiz Party

I was walking down the street behind a sitcom writer a fortnight ago, and a document fell out of his pocket. I picked it up and kept it forever. This document was a quiz for prospective writing staff hires testing their catchphrase chops. I now present this document to you:

You will be presented with several hilarious and comical situations. Underneath the situations are four catchphrases that can be said by one of the totally outrageous main characters. Pick which one is the best. If you get them all right, we may interview you for a position on one of our madcap situation comedies like "The Slappies," "The Theory of Relativity," or "Single Robot Dad." Good luck, and as we say in show business, break a leg!!

1. The boss is coming over for dinner in three minutes and you are all out of Chianti! What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. You've GOTTA be kiddin' me!
B. It's not even Monday!
C. I must have slapped a baby in my past life!
D. This world we live in would seem cold, empty, and cruel if it wasn't so pointless!

2. You've accidentally arranged dates with two sexy ladies on the same night ... at the same restaurant! What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. Holy guacamole! (bites knuckle)
B. I can't believe I did it again! Goodnight, America!
C. Who do I think I am? Mick Jagger? (shrugs shoulders and grins toward camera)
D. My continuing objectification of women reveals a deep flaw in my character!

3. You walk into your swinging single neighbor's duplex and see an unsavory sexual act (tastefully presented offscreen). What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. That DEFINITELY ain't kosher!
B. Give me a time machine, somebody! I need to erase the last two minutes of my life!
C. Now that's the OPPOSITE of Viagra!
D. I will scoop out my eyeballs with a spoon and dance upon them until they are as flat as the terra firma on which we stand to ensure a revolting sight such as this will never again impress itself upon my soul!

4. Due to an administrative mishap, 200 extra pizzas have been delivered to the pizza party boy band benefit concert sock hop! What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. I said I could eat a lot of pizza, but THIS is riDICulous!!
B. I need a Caribbean vacation!
C. Cut me some slack!
D. There are starving children in this world who will never taste even one bite of pizza in their short, miserable lives, while here at Beach Party High, the streets are paved with hundreds of surplus pizza pies!

5. You and your loose cannon best friend, Jock Blingo, are handcuffed together for an entire weekend when he loses the key! What catchphrase best sums up the situation?

A. You've done it again, Blingo!
B. And it was such a pleasant morning!
C. I am not laughing out loud THIS time!
D. Our friendship is thin, superficial, and no longer of use to me!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Dr. Mystery guide to "Miami Vice" for gentlemen and gentlewomen of leisure (Part 5: Season 5): The Final Chapter

The epic saga is finally at an end. I have exhausted the supply of Miami Vice episodes, leaving only a Miami Vice-sized hole in my heart. There were many highs, many lows, many ups, many downs, and many inexplicably strange lines of dialogue. For the past year and change, Miami Vice has been the wind beneath my wings, my surrogate father, a weirdly inappropriate uncle, and that guy who tried to sell me weed from his frat house fire escape that one weekend in 1996. But that's all over now. I'm on my own, the only set of footprints on the beach, a lone wolf, a shy bad boy with a heart of gold and no one to look out for me but me. I knew this day would come, but a man can never quite prepare for the day when he has to pack up, move on, and leave his 1980s television show behind. Thanks for taking this journey with me. (wipes away fake tear, chugs flask of leftover Zima)
To be honest, this season was a bit of a chore to plow through. The first two seasons were hilariously awesome, the third season showed some strain but was still 2/3 hilariously awesome, and the fourth season was terrible but in hilariously awesome ways, but the fifth season was pretty tired and worn out. Most Miami Vice fans consider the fourth season the worst, but its over-the-top ridiculousness (alien abductions, serial killers with multiple personalities, a snuff film made by an "erotic performance artist," contraband bull semen, samurai swordfights, ill-fated marriages to pop stars, cryogenically frozen reggae superstars named Robillard Nevin, a boat explosion that gives Crockett amnesia and makes him think he's an evil drug lord) was so, so amusing to me. The fifth season is my pick for the worst. Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas are clearly bored with the show and sleepwalk through their performances, the show's distinctive visual style and color palette are replaced by blandly generic '80s network TV blocking and framing and bland cinematography, the rest of the cast is barely on any of the episodes, Jan Hammer's electro-synth music is replaced by Tim Truman's noodly hair-metal blues guitar licks, Crockett's houseboat is only seen once, and his pet alligator Elvis is never even mentioned. The show tanked in the ratings, and the network kept moving it around to different nights. Three episodes weren't even aired until the summer reruns, and a fourth wasn't aired at all because the network got cold feet about its subject matter. The show was tired, the audience was tired, the actors were bored. It was time for the Old Yeller treatment. That being said, there were still plenty of ridiculously bizarre lines of dialogue, interesting guest stars, and moments of entertainment.
Miami Vice began in the most 1980s year of the '80s, 1984, and ended in 1989. It wouldn't have made sense in the '90s. It couldn't have transitioned to a '90s aesthetic. You don't want Crockett and Tubbs investigating grunge- and new jack swing-related cases. It just wouldn't have worked. Here's the final Dr. Mystery recap.

"Hostile Takeover"
Guest stars: Jon Polito is a crazed drug lord named El Gato. Mr. Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer, is a shady underworld type with connections to several drug lords. Mickey Rourke's ex-wife and a current yoga teacher Debra Feuer is the widow of a drug lord with the hots for Crockett. Victor Argo is not a drug lord but he is a South American comandante. Joe Santos is an ill-fated drug lord. Anthony Crivello is the son of the ill-fated drug lord. His character's name is Miguel. My notes about the episode contain this phrase: "Miguel? -- crazy, crazy hair."
Out-of-context quote: "Nice groceries. Roll over, Beethoven."
This episode picks up where the Season 4 cliffhanger left off. If you remember, Crockett thinks he's a mercenary drug lord because he got amnesia during a boat explosion. It could happen to anyone. My notes tell me that El Gato wears a chain that is a giant gold eagle, and that this episode features the return of Tubbs' awful Jamaican accent.

"Redemption in Blood"
Guest stars: Jon Polito, Matt Frewer, Debra Feuer, and Victor Argo return from the previous episode.
Out-of-context quote: "I am El Gato! You have not died in vain, amigo. El Gato will take your strength. El Gato is a player."
Bonus quote: "What are you boys waiting for? A Christmas bonus?"
Another bonus quote: ""Yesterday he threatened to kill me." "So?"
Polito knows how ridiculous his character is and wisely adds another 12 glazed hams to his already scenery-chewing performance in "Hostile Takeover." From my notes: "Polito is a cross between Pacino's Scarface and Rip Taylor ... & Cheech." Also from my notes: "(Crockett) should have stayed as his (drug lord) persona. Sexy girlfriend, money, slightly better hairdo, sweet jukebox, pet panther." Yes, Evil Crockett owned a panther that roamed freely in one of the rooms of his mercenary drug lord pad.

"Heart of Night"
Guest stars: Bob Gunton is a drug dealer. Rosalind Chao takes over for Joan Chen as Castillo's long-lost former wife. James Saito is Chao's current husband. Michael Lombard is Saito's boss.
Out-of-context quote: "What was he carrying?" "Strange toy birds."
Bonus quote: "You're gonna look like a serious freak and for what?"

"Bad Timing"
Guest stars: Melissa Leo is a bartender Crockett meets while on vacation recuperating from his amnesia and amnesia-related villainy. Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gary Farmer, and William O'Leary are murderous escaped prisoners. Stephanie Roth is Crockett's psychiatrist. Jermaine Stewart, late one-hit-wonder ("You Don't Have to Take Your Clothes Off"), appears as himself.
Out-of-context quote: "I hope you got something to drink and the treasure map."
In a plausible scenario, Jermaine Stewart performs his brand of effeminate dance-pop to a captive audience of murderous prisoners. They hate his music so much, they start a prison riot, and our trio of killers escapes.

Guest stars: Juan Fernandez is a counterrevolutionary who is good at killing and good at being a target for assassination. Brion James is a mercenary intelligence agent for hire.
Out-of-context quote: "Some street punk in New York tried to touch me there once. You know what I did? Had to carve a new face for that sucka!"
Bonus quote: "I let you live, peasant. Thank the Virgin."
Normal quote given a hilarious line reading: "What the hell is happening?"

"Line of Fire"
Guest stars: Barry Primus is an FBI agent. Justin Lazard is a heavy metal-loving witness to a crime who Crockett and Tubbs have to protect until he can testify. Aasif Mandviwala is a doorman.
Out-of-context quote: "They tell me you guys were Vice. I figure, hey, man, that's rippin'. Vice dudes know what's happenin', right?'
Bonus quote: "I hear Miami's a pretty moshin' scene. Insane clubs, huh?"
Another bonus quote: "That was a bonehead play, junior."
Yet another bonus quote: "They shot my boombox. I'm outta here, Crockett."
Sonny Crockett, rock critic: "This speed metal crap is just warmed-over Hendrix riffs played twice as fast and half as well."
I have several things to point out about this episode. Every time Lazard turns on a television, Ministry's "Stigmata" video is playing. Lazard sneaks away from police protection to attend a concert by Rugged Edge, a real local Miami band that combined hardcore punk with hair metal guitar solos. Crockett tries to turn Lazard away from metal by playing him Derek & The Dominos and telling him that metal won't be around in 20 years. Crockett gets into a shootout with a helicopter and EXPLODES it. Crockett and Tubbs visit Lazard in the hospital and bring albums by Anthrax, Megadeth, and Crumbsuckers.

"Asian Cut"
Guest stars: David Schramm is a professor of Asian studies. Russell Horton is a photographer. Julian Brams is a prostitute. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is a crazy nut who loves knives.
Out-of-context quote:  "You don't mind if we talk while my latest acquisition is being mounted?"

"Hard Knocks"
Guest stars: Richard Jenkins is a mobster in charge of collecting gambling debts. Victor Slezak is a sports agent with gambling and mob ties.
Out-of-context quote: "You run a fine organization, Chi-Chi."

"Fruit of the Poison Tree"
Guest stars: Amanda Plummer is a lawyer from a powerful family of lawyers. Paulie Walnuts himself, Tony Sirico, is a gangster. Stephen McHattie is another lawyer. Edgar Allen Poe IV (apparently, he's a distant nephew of the writer) is listed in the credits as "Junkie."
Out-of-context quote: "The man said he didn't have any sauerkraut."
Bonus quote: "You look terrific wet."

"To Have and to Hold"
Guest stars: Miguel Ferrer is the very intense son of a drug lord. Elpidia Carillo is the widow of a drug lord who gets in a little too deep with Tubbs ... between the sheets. Oh, snap. Belinda Montgomery is back as Crockett's ex-wife.
Out-of-context quote: "Wish I'd known you were into the classics. Last two pictures I checked in on, a moth ate a guy's head and a worm slimed Cleveland."
Bonus quote: "You're a very tender lady."
Another bonus quote: "Dr. Tubbs?"

"Miami Squeeze"
Guest stars: Rita Moreno is a hardball congresswoman whose son gets in trouble with drug dealers. Paul Provenza is a drug dealer. Robert Joy is a posh British drug lord with an unhealthy attachment to his pet dog.
Out-of-context quote: "Our transportation plan seems to have gone awry. Most unsatisfactory."

"Jack of All Trades"
Guest stars: John Santucci is a small-time gangster who is owed a debt by Crockett's cousin. Fame's Jesse Borrego is a big-time drug lord with the most ridiculous outfits I've ever seen on television or in life. You need to go to Netflix right now and stream this episode just to see the sleeves on this guy's shirts. From my notes: "It's like Seinfeld's puffy shirt if it was only sleeves or he's wearing two of Steven Tyler's mic stands on each arm."
Out-of-context quote: "I think you're wack. This is stinko."
Bonus quote: "We don't really have time to tally up all the bonehead plays you've made."
Another quote: "Call Dan Quayle. He'll vouch for me."
For some reason, this episode has a bizarre musical score that relies heavily on a capella and fits the scenes about as well as the glove in the OJ trial fit OJ.

"The Cell Within"
Guest stars: John P. Ryan is a criminal Tubbs busted years ago, and he's now a published author and reformed friend of Tubbs. Or is he? L.M. Kit Carson, screenwriter of Paris, Texas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, is a documentary filmmaker making a movie about Ryan. Richard Gant is a former professional boxer who is now Ryan's bodyguard.
Out-of-context quote: "Maybe he got lucky last night with some literary chick."
This episode would have fit right in with the fan fic-style insanity of Season 4. Ryan kidnaps Tubbs and locks him in the simulated prison in the basement of his mansion, complete with working electric chair, because Tubbs refuses to assist his vigilante crusade to kidnap, jail, and execute prisoners at his own home.

"The Lost Madonna"
Guest stars: Michael Chiklis is a detective and art enthusiast responsible for investigating stolen art. Ned Eisenberg is a drug dealer and thief. Elizabeth Berridge is an art lover and the wife of a drug lord.
Out-of-context quote:  "My work is beyond syntax."
Bonus quote: "The latest exploratory probe into neo-Dadaism."
Another quote: "The painter here is engaged in an aesthetic mysticism."
And another quote: "Dig the prof."
Tubbs goes undercover here as a renegade art professor who is selling stolen art. He convinces because he slicks his hair back. A shirtless musclehead guy with a long ponytail is an angry, inarticulate yet famous sculptor.

"Over the Line"
Guest stars: No one I know (except Martin Ferrero as Izzy).
Out-of-context quote:  "We know that Dr. Dinky tipped Tommy T, but who tipped Dr. D?"
Bonus quote: "Certain reptilian fluids."

"Victims of Circumstance"
Guest stars: William Hickey is a Nazi war criminal. Karen Black is his crazy daughter. John Leguizamo is the younger brother of two murdered drug dealers. Paul Guilfoyle is a crazy white supremacist. Xander Berkeley is a homicide detective.
Out-of-context quote: "The liberal cabal controls the media."

"Freefall: Part 1"
Guest stars: Ian McShane is the dictator of a fictional Latin American country on the verge of revolution. Robert Beltran is his aide-de-camp. Elpidia Carillo is a political activist nun who is Crockett and Tubbs' contact while they are in Latin America. Greg Germann is a lowlife punk.
Out-of-context quote: "Social life in the '80s. Isn't it a kick?"

"Freefall: Part 2"
Guest stars: See above. They're all back.
Out-of-context quote: "You don't just catch fish, you achieve a oneness with them, but I sense that you're not here for pescatorial pleasures."

The Lost Episodes
The next three episodes never aired until summer reruns because the network kept moving the show to different days and times and preempting it for special programming because of low ratings in its last season.

"World of Trouble"
Guest stars: Dennis Farina is back as Al Lombard, the gangster with a heart of gold. Vincent Schiavelli is a scientist who has created HAVOC, a stun gun for vehicles that disables them while they are in motion. Luca Bercovici is an arms dealer with a yacht. Ned Eisenberg is a gangster who wants to kill Lombard. Julian Brams is Lombard's daughter-in-law.
Out-of-context quote: "Wait a minute. This weapon shoots lightning bolts and you say it isn't dangerous?"
Bonus quote: "I never liked your hair."

"Miracle Man"
Guest stars: Jose Perez is a mentally ill ex-drug addict who thinks he's a crime fighting superhero named Miracle Man. Zach Grenier is a tabloid TV reporter.
Out-of-context quote: "I need a place to kick back where the forces of evil can't reach me while I make my plans."

"Leap of Faith"
Guest stars: Keith Gordon is a psychotic college professor, drug maker, and leader of a drug cult. Jennifer Rubin is one of his students and followers who starts having doubts. Laura San Giacomo is an investigator and computer expert. Justin Lazard is back.
Out-of-context quote: "I don't give a damn if you were assigned by Dan Quayle."
Bonus quote: "Me, I'm into surfboards and bikinis. I'm from Long Beach, California."
This episode is hilariously bad and was meant to be the launching pad for a spinoff series about the Young Crimes Unit. Crockett and Tubbs are in the first few minutes of this episode, but after that, it's a whole different show. Justin Lazard, whom you may remember as the heavy metal-loving informant from "Line of Fire," joins up with two other young undercover cops, a Southern boy from Arkansas and a surfer dude from California, as well as computer whiz Laura San Giacomo, and their boss, the old man of the group, Kiel Martin, to work undercover in the young world of young crimes concerning the young. Lazard butts heads with the other two young undercover cops at first. He works alone and he hates California surfer dudes so much, but they soon earn the grudging respect of each other and become best friends forever. In their first case, they're undercover at a club where the live entertainment is one guy lip-syncing to "Sweet Child O' Mine" for a crowd consisting of hair metal rocker dudes, punks with mohawks and safety pins in their leather vests, and asshole Wolf of Wall Street types snorting coke and wearing professional office attire. Needless to say, this spinoff never became a show because this episode was not aired during the regular season and also it was fucking terrible. But hilariously fucking terrible.

This last lost episode was approved by the network, shot, and completed, but NBC decided at the last minute that its depiction of the rape of a young girl was too controversial and pulled the plug. It was never aired until syndicated reruns in the 1990s, making it the only Miami Vice episode not shown in the 1980s.

"Too Much, Too Late"
Guest stars: Pam Grier is back as a New York detective and Tubbs' ex. C.C.H. Pounder is a coke addict and old friend of Pam's. John Toles-Bey is her sadistic drug dealer. Malinda Williams is her pre-teen daughter.
Out-of-context quote: "Esto es un tango, and also a little financial advice."
Bonus quote: "Hey, I am talkin' life's highway."

That's it.