Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Shins - "Sphagnum Esplanade"

What to make of this song ... fuzztone bass line, a guitar and piano picking out single notes, the vocals are mostly in falsetto, no drums, a synthesizer solo (I think), and a solo by another instrument that I can’t quite identify. If had never heard it and read that description, I would have scoffed. Plus I can’t decipher the words. But I realize googling those lyrics would take most of the fun out of the listen anyway.

Reminds me of early last decade when I first heard tracks from Pink Floyd’s first two albums and said: “Now I see where the Shins got that sound from.”

Conclusion? This song haunts, oh how it haunts.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bourbon And Water

Until recently, my choice of mixed drink was rye and ginger. The way the ginger ale brought out the peppery taste of Old Overcoat was brilliant. Those went down sooooo good. Problem is with ginger ale though, it’s got about 50 calories per dose as a mixer. When you’re a middle-aged drinker who needs to focus on not putting the pounds on (for good health, for lower blood pressure, because I have flat feet which don’t need the extra poundage and pounding, because cardio workouts go so much easier when I’m lighter), it’s preferable to imbibe a whiskey drink neat or with a no-calorie mixer. Why not drink light beer instead of regular beer to reduce your drinking calories, you say. Please, I say. You’re not talking about eliminating Surly Bender or Summit India Pale Ale from my diet instead of ginger ale? You must be kidding.

So with rye and ginger out of the mix, what did I go with as preferred cocktail this summer? Well, I started with scotch (White Horse) and soda and then moved on to Glen Moray on the rocks. (It’s been on sale at my favorite neighborhood liquor store.) But buying a bottle of Evan Williams on a trip up north last month became a tipping point. At my parents, I started drinking it neat in a Dixie cup (an odd ritual, Old Fashioned glasses were available) while writing nightly on my laptop. I was turned on to Evan Williams by David Wondrich in Esquire a couple of years ago when he reviewed “best cheap booze” and immediately fell in severe like with it. It’s just as good as Jim Beam in my book and a lot lighter on the checkbook. Not to mention I saw John Munch pour from a bottle of it in an episode of Homicide. Sold!

Eventually what happened mid-summer was that I found myself in the mood for Evan Williams here at home. And since I didn’t have any Dixie cups, I started to pour myself some bourbon and waters on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass, thereby reviving a fave drink of mine from the early part of the last decade. Sipping this drink is a favorite ritual while I write my eight hundred words a day (typically written at night), a task I set myself to do the rest of this summer for some unknown but noble reason back in early July. I'm generally not a good summer writer and most of what I end up writing is crap or at best middling writing practice. But it keeps the writing mind active and my fingers love it when I actually do tune into something that I genuinely want to write about. In such good times, I thank Evan Williams and whatever music is playing as I type. In bad times? I only have myself to blame. And I’m sure I’ll pour another drink in order to try to get over it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Steam - "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"

Dedicated to the now-dead presidential ambitions of Tim Pawenty, who had been running for the White House for oh-so-many years. May he run for dogcatcher somewhere, sometime. Maybe then he might move above fourteen percent in the polls (which he recently couldn't do with Iowa Republicans) and perhaps even win a majority of the votes (which he never did statewide in Minnesota.) I've even got a catchy nickname for him if he does win that job of catching dogs: "TPaw."

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Fatback Band - "(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop"

I recently got rid of my car as I realized: 1) I barely drive while in town, 2) Half my miles were driving up north to see my folks, 3) Most things I need in my day-to-day life are within six blocks of my apartment, 4) The two clients I still travel to (the rest are all handled via telecommuting) are on easy, thirty-minute bus commutes. So now I bike to the close things and bus to the further things. No big hassles so far, and the one time I decided I needed a car, I went with my HourCar option to fill the void. Biking around the neighborhood is relatively easy, I avoid major traffic areas and tend to favor coasting, to nobody's surprise. Bussing has been the revelation, the drivers have been ever-friendly and helpful, it's where I get a ton of reading done and it's where I start to think, and think a lot (too much?) I'm sure it has something to do with the bus stop waiting and the passivity of the bus riding experience. My notes:

At the bus stop:
- If there is time between transfers, look for a coffee shop - this is Minneapolis, one should be within a stone's throw - and caffeine up.
- If there is bar near your transfer stop (this is on the ride home), ponder what exactly is important that you have to do today/tonight or tomorrow for that matter.
- Check Twitter on your mobile phone, you know you want/have to.
- Mentally citizen arrest all the drivers who drive by and are texting.
- Nod at the cyclists when they pass you.
- Drink from your flask (optional).

On the bus:
- Read a newspaper.
- Read a book.
- Find any songs on your iPod that relate to busses: “Kiss Me On The Bus”, “Bus Rider”, “The Load-Out”, “Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street”, and of course “(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop.”
- Check Twitter on your mobile phone, you know you want/have to.
- Always say “thank you” to the driver. Because as governor, Tim Pawlenty treated the drivers like some sort of bogeymen and boasts about it during his presidential campaign, means they have earned our courtesy and respect. Power to the unions, power to the workers. Speaking of our former (yet currently) pandering, whiteboy governor, I can’t wait for TFraud to drop out of the GOP race due to the extreme boredom he has inflicted on Republicans nationwide ... and/or due to his topping off at five percent in the polls ... and/or due to his coming off like a conservative version of Michael Dukakis: a wimp and a bore. Because if Dukakis had never done that tank photo-op, you just know that TClown’s people would have been calling around the country, looking for a friendly tank factory in an effort to shore up his foreign policy creds. The morning after “TPaw” (this is why I call him “whiteboy” only a true dork would allow himself to be called “TPaw”) drops out of the Republican race, I will have a hangover the size of Iowa and New Hampshire combined. Don't worry Timmy, you still have a future: I hear Sears is looking for a middle-aged man to model the men's version of Mom jeans ad in their weekly circular.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Surfaris - “Surfer Joe”

The things you find out while surfing (pun not intended) the Internet. Like that “Surfer Joe”, an okay song most notable for its protagonist showing up in others’ songs - we’ll get to that later, was an A-side and its B-side was The Surfaris’ biggest hit “Wipe-Out.” The B-side went to number two on the charts, and the A-side went only to number sixty-two. This makes sense as “Wipe-Out” is eternal rock ‘n’ roll genius, all noise and laughter and rhythm and further proof that it was more often than not that it was the little one-hit-wonder instrumental bands that made the best surf music.

“Surfer Joe” on the other hand, is tenative and features an awkward white guy singing, it's kind of proto-indie rock. Surfer Joe gets drafted and with this being 1963 it means the Gulf of Tonkin incident was about a year away and Joe likely got shipped off to Vietnam war with LBJ’s escalation. Poor Joe, indeed. Though this does lead me to believe that Surfer Joe was in part the inspiration for the Lance Johnson surfer character in Apocalypse Now. (And I gotta point out that Lance’s middle initial was “B”, which made him an “LBJ” ha ha Coppola that’s a good one, as good as naming Harrison Ford’s character “Lucas.”)

So “Surfer Joe” is middling music, a kinda-interesting story, and a grade-A musical history footnote as nobody would guess it was an A-side to golden oldies smash. But it gets interesting when Joe starting popping up in other people’s songs. The first I know of was when Neil Young featured him in “Surfer Joe and Moe The Sleaze” from his underrated 1981 Re-ac-tor album. It’s my favorite Young album ever, it features killer hard rock and keeps me interested at least seventy-five percent of the time during a listen, a win in my book for Young. But I’m not part of the Neil Young cult and can't be trusted, as when I delve into his albums I find them - aside from Tonight's The Night and Time Fades Away - not living up to the acclaims.

In 1990, Paul Westerberg referenced Surfer Joe in the Replacements’ “I’ll Be You”: Well, I laughed half the way to Tokyo / I dreamt I was Surfer Joe /And what that means, I don't know. “Half the way to Tokyo” has Pacific Rim written all over it, which indicates Westerberg definitely had Joe’s Vietnam fate on his mind while he slept. Neil Young, on the other hand, hints that we might able to see Joe surf again in the early eighties. It'll never get hailed as a Major Achievement, but I find it somewhat comforting to see such highly-regarded songwriters attempting to make a cult figure out of someone who otherwise would have ended up an obscure folk hero. Next stop, Cooperstown.