Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thoughts on Bass

First off - since I my name is 'Transformersgeek' - I guess I should include a Transformers-related quip every now and then. In this case, it comes from the movie Clerks II, where Clerks alum Randal (Jeff Anderson) relentlessly trashes god-fearing Elias' (Trevor Fehrman) love of the Transformers, saying it was a terrible show and a possible byproduct of Satan. He does have a point.

The movie is almost worth the $7 for Jay's (Jason Mewes) painfully funny recreation of the Buffalo Bill 'dance' scene in Silence of the Lambs.

So - Lance Bass of N*Sync came out. He's in a stable relationship and he said he was afraid to come out because it would have endangered the popularity of the band.

All valid reasons and I have nothing ill to say about him (other than the fact his band aided in the decline of popular music over the past decade). It's ironic that one of the most gay-friendly industries and an industry that's probably more obsessed over by the gay community moreso than any other community (the entertainment industry) is also an industry where almost no one comes out until it's a last resort. The dude from Savage Garden, George Micahel, Bass - most of these people had their careers at a near-end when they came out.

But the gay community is like an accepting aunt or uncle for these outed celebrities. These celebrities get big, strike it rich, have fame. And then, after a few failed movies or albums, they knock on the accepting aunt or uncle's door in the middle of the rainy night. "I know I haven't called, but I'm broke, the big city kicked my ass and spit me out and I have no where else to go." And for the most part, the accepting aunt or uncle pats the person on the back and gives them their guest bedroom for a place to stay until they get on their feet again. You look at most lineups for big city Pride festivals and you will see headliners who maybe scored a hit or two in the late '80s or early '90s.

Some folks, like Rufus Wainwright and Ian McClellan haven't lost their starpower because of their sexuality. But recently, it seems like coming out of the closet is just another motion in the celebrity dance. Big movie or album, fame, tabloids, a few flops, a stint on a reality show, Betty Ford, coming out, the inevitable career turnaround, rinse and repeat (but on second cycle, substitute 'finding God' for 'coming out'). Basically, it seems that coming out is something celebrities do when their careers are at a standstill (Ellen Degeneres being a notable exception).
For all of the Tom Cruise speculation about his sexuality, I totally expect Cruise to come out, but only after a six-year string of box office flops. And even then, I wouldn't be totally convinced the dude's gay.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mid-year report

I know it's well on into July, but just thought I'd pass along my pics for my favorite books, movies and albums of the year so far...

Books: I've read Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas", Philip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly", J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." But the only book I've read this year that came out this year is ...

Douglas Coupland's "JPod." I haven't finished reading it yet, but it's a quick summer read. The events are goofy and some of the literary tricks (spilling out Pi onto about 40 pages, appearing as himself in the book) are the equivalent of Wilco's incorporating minutes of static into "Less Than You Think." Still, Coupland nails cubicle worker drone camaraderie better than most novelists. Even though "JPod" is as filling as air crisps, Coupland keeps the pacing light and engaging. I didn't want to put it down, which should count for something when determining the quality of a book.

I gotta say that so far, the summer was woefully underwhelming. I'm going out with a guy tonight and he asked if I saw Superman Returns. Though the movie wasn't horrible, I almost begged him not to pick that movie. Just can't take sitting through that again. Pirates I knew wasn't going to be good, so I wasn't let down. That said, count me in line for the third.
Now, for the top pics so far...

4. Tell Me Do You Miss Me: A great documentary about the now-disbanded Luna.

3. Wordplay: superb documentary, even though it has its share of New York Times ass-kissing moments. As engaging as Spellbound and the gay couple in this movie should give any alienated gay geek boy hope in finding his Mr. Right in the look and fashion-obsessed world that is mainstream gay culture.

2. V For Vendetta: Is Natalie Portman the next female action star? Not nearly as revolutionary as social critics pen it to be, V For Vendetta, like Sin City the year before, threw a Molotov cocktail into cineplexes. One of the few movies I'd consider purchasing.

1. United 93: Hotel Rwanda was the last movie that shook me up as much as United 93. Director Paul Greengrass goes as far to recruit Ben Sliney, who was the real-life FAA operations manager on September 11, 2001 to retell the story of what probably happened on United 93. Greengrass tells the story the only way this story could be told: through a calm, detached eye, using hundreds of pages of transcripts and interviews from family members.

I realize that we need more movies showing what's really going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do realize that with upcoming September 11-themed movies, this problem won't go away. Still, September 11, like Pearl Harbor, like the Cold War, was an event that separated "pre" and "post." Pre-World War II, post Cold War, post September 11, in 91 minutes, United 93 once again puts us in that day, where the unimaginable was unfolding before our eyes.


3. Destroyer: Destroyer's Rubies - Dan Bejar's manic energy hinted in the more abstract songs from The New Pornographers is toned down a bit on this release. Still, it's a huge album that rewards patient listeners.

2. Ghostface Killah: Fishscale - The rap game is not kind to the 25-and-older crowd. That said, it was awesome to see an elder statesman mop the competition on this release.

1. Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood - I may not have liked this as much as Blacklisted and it's not as revolutionary as Destroyer or Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise, but Fox Confessor is my favorite album of the year.

iPod shuffle mix for the day

"Rose Parade" - Elliott Smoth ***** (great way to kick off a rainy day)
"Maureen" - Fountains of Wayne ***
"You Are What You Love" - Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins ***
"Hi-Desert Biker Meth Lab" - Cracker *
"Family Tree" - Loretta Lynn ****
"The Naming of Things" - Andrew Bird ****
"The Politics of Time" - Minutemen ***
"Weeping Willow" - The Verve **** (another rainy day amthem)
"Stop Breaking Down Blues" - Robert Johnson *****
"Severed Hand" - Pearl Jam ***
"Price of Gas" - Bloc Party **** (borderline *****)
"Could We" - Cat Power ***
"Slowly Surely" - Jill Scott ****
"(untitled)" - DJ Shadow ***
"I Can't Stand It" - The Velvet Underground ****
"Transona Five" - Stereolab ****
"Man-Size Sextet" - PJ Harvey ****
"Soolaimon (live)" - Neil Diamond ** (sounds like Neil Diamond's love letter to Saruman) "Flux=Rad" - Pavement ****
"Window (official version)" - Fiona Apple ****

Matt Perrone: budding journalist

Those who are in the journalism profession, or regret taking a PR or HR job instead of a low-paying reporting or copy editing job should check out today:

The article not only nails the futility that many reporters feel in this age of slashed staff and budgets as more and more journalism grads enter the workforce each year. Writer Matt Perrone also does a great job retelling his meeting with Jayson Blair. When he was interviewing Blair, the disgraced reporter was still looking for a job. It's sad to think that even in his disgrace, he is still more recognized that some of the best reporters for the Financial Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Celebrity has a way of doing that to people.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Weeks of July 9 and July 16

Good god, the news has been alarming the past two weeks. Hell, since July.

Even with Iraq removed, we've had two instances where the possibility of war is very real. Take North Korea. Japan stated it would consider striking North Korea if it kept up with their missile testing. Japan strikes. North Korea retaliates, South Korea gets involved.

Israel and Palestine. There have been hints that the kidnapped Israeli soldiers could be sent to Iran. Israel strikes Iran. Neighboring states get involved. All of this seems like such a stark contrast from the '90s. True, the '90s wasn't the 'decade of unprecedented peace and prosperity' as some folks paint that decade (just ask those who lived in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda). But without underplaying the horrors of those conflicts, those conflicts were fairly self-contained in their respective regions.

Today, it's like reliving the '80s again: where we were told that at any time, Russia could launch all of their nukes at us just like in Red Dawn and War Games or other movies I used to watch on HBO after school. These two weeks, we've had the on-edge Israel, the over-the-edge Kim Jong Ill, the on-edge Lebanon and the on-edge Japan prove that even after a decade of relative stability, just how quickly situations can turn into a possibility of all-out war.

On a brighter topic, I saw Wordplay and A Scanner Darkly this weekend as part of a geek double-feature to escape the 105-degree-plus weather. Just by reading A Scanner Darkly, I thought it was going to be nearly impossible to translate Philip K. Dick's book to the big screen. And with the music, direction, animation and vocal talent, I can say that it probably couldn't have done a better job. That said, it was still a bit of a bore. Wordplay was great. By far the best documentary on crossword puzzle fandom I've seen. It was oddly affirming as well: knowing that there are cute, intelligent, gay geeks out there who would rather spend an afternoon playing vintage pinball games and working on the New York Times crossword puzzle as opposed to passing time at the mall to kill time before the latest wet underwear contest at the gay bar.

Though true to the stereotype, I did blow $100 at Kohl's the weekend on a pair of hiking books (originally $90), a pair of running shoes(originally $75) and two decent shirts for work. The benefits of a second paycheck...

Friday, July 14, 2006

iPod shuffle mix for Friday

"Who Dares Wins" - The Streets *****
"Svefn-g-englar" - Sigur Ros *****
"How the West Was Won and Where it Got Us" - R.E.M. **
(about as exciting as a history lesson from my 9th grade history teacher)

"This Modern Love" - Bloc Party *****

"Limp" - Fiona Apple *****
"Honeybear" - YeahYeahYeahs ***
"The Love Below" - Outkast **
"Goin' On" - The Flaming Lips **
"3rd Planet" - Modest Mouse ****
"Don't Stop The Rock" - The Chemical Brothers ****
"Brenda" - John Spencer Blues Explosion ***
"Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" - Neko Case *****
"Cherry Cherry" - Neil Diamond *****
"Don't Wanna Know Why" - Whiskeytown ****
"Into Dust" - Mazzy Star ***** (Indisputable 5-star song)
"Tropicalia" - Beck ****
"Saturday Morning" - Eels ****
"La Femme d'Argent" - Air *****
"Plug Tunein" - De La Soul ****
"I Must Have Been Blind" - This Mortal Coil ***
"Jennifer's Body" - Hole ****
"Rope on Fire" - Morphine ****
"Take Me to the River" - Annie Lennox ***
"It's Martini Time" - Reverend Horton Heat ****
"Tender" - Blur ****
"Criminally Insane" - Slayer ****
"War Ensemble" - Slayer *****
"The Faster Blade" - Ghostface Killah *****
"Clipse of Doom" - Ghostface Killah (feat Trife) **** (two Slayers, two Ghostface - too weird)
"I Got to Let You Know (live)" - Los Lobos ****
"Remote Control" - The Clash ***

Taking the long way around

I put in an inquiry to my apartment leasing office today. I've been here since May - and it's a nice place. But I requested if the apartment complex (right now, I think it's 100 percent capacity) is full, if possible, I would like to make my apartment available if someone wants to sign a one-year lease and there are no complexes available.

I watched a great documentary on the now-disbanded New York band Luna. "Tell Me Do You Miss Me" follows the band throughout their final months. One of the band mates, I think Britta Phillips, said Dean Wareham (the lead singer/songwriter) has a personality trait where at times, he can be funny and actively engaging in social circles, but his introvertedness causes him to retreat and not be seen for weeks. One of my friends chuckled "it sounds like someone in this room."

I'm pretty sure I know why I'm in retreat mode. The general dissatisfaction with this job, combined with having to surrender a dog and yes, regret for not chasing after this newspaper job at a small town with crap pay - has done a number on me that I can't recover from this city. So when I get out of my lease, job or not, I'm moving. Most likely to Albuquerque, but maybe Olympia. If I wait for the "right" job, I could be here for two more years. And when you're in your early 30s and you primarily are chasing a writing career, time gets to be a critical factor when you're at this age.

I'm not a big fan of the Dixie Chicks' music (though I bought their latest album primarily as a show of solidarity for the shite they went through during the buildup to the war in Iraq), but I saw a performance on Bill Maher's show and the lyrics, albeit a bit sappy, I could definitely identify with at this time of my life....

My friends from high school Married their high school boyfriends
Moved into houses in the same ZIP codes Where their parents live
But I, I could never follow No I, I could never follow
I hit the highway in a pink RV with stars on the ceiling Lived like a gypsy
Six strong hands on the steering wheel
I've been a long time gone now Maybe someday, someday I'm gonna settle down
But I've always found my way somehow By taking the long way Taking the long way around
Taking the long way Taking the long way around
I met the queen of whatever Drank with the Irish and smoked with the hippies
Moved with the shakers Wouldn't kiss all the asses that they told me to
No I, I could never follow No I, I could never follow
It's been two long years now Since the top of the world came crashing down
And I'm getting' it back on the road now But I'm taking the long way Taking the long way around
I'm taking the long way Taking the long way around The long The long way around
Well, I fought with a stranger and I met myself I opened my mouth and I heard myself
It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself Guess I could have made it easier on myself
But I, I could never follow No I, I could never follow
Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else Maybe someday, someday I'm gonna settle down
If you ever want to find me I can still be found Taking the long way Taking the long way around
Taking the long way Taking the long way around

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I'm working two jobs right now. Both in the environments close to Douglas Coupland's new book, JPod. One of my friends is worried that my desire to slug out this 60-hour-week schedule will result in lost friends, bad skin (due to poor eating) and general irritability with the fact that I'm not writing on a consistent basis.

It's a valid point. Two desk jobs, both of them plagued with vending machines and long meetings. I've gained ten pounds (up to 178) in two months. True, a few weeks, I was fairly inactive due to some surgery on my foot. But gone is the gym membership. That said, I've never been a fan of gyms. They are a great asset for people who want to get in shape, but I prefer to get in shape with long hikes, longer bike rides and yoga classes. I get paid once a month for the second job. The first paycheck went to the dog (who has been surrendered, but is currently living with a great family), the second paycheck went to taxes (since they don't take cash out since I'm contracting). The third will go to whatever isn't covered by my insurance for the surgery. I would really, really like the next few months to go to saving up for moving out of Omaha next year. But at what cost?

Brighter, but equally frustrating topic.
When, when, when is the new friggin' TV On the Radio album coming out? Each time I head to Homer's, the release date has been pushed back. It's already out in the UK and has garnered some great reviews.

TV On The Radio: Street Account

TV on the Radio

Sort of reminded me when Soundgarden came out with Badmotorfinger (ok, reallllly showing my age here). After getting totally hooked with Louder Than Love, I eagerly went into the record store each Tuesday as the record store clerk said 'August 1' - only later to hear 'oh, they pushed it back to August 21.' I think the clerk was a closet sadist.

In other music news, if you're a Sufjan Stevens doubter, the usually-conservative AllMusicGuide shows some stones by giving a high-profile dis of the beloved indie artist. After seeing Sufjan Stevens play at Sokol, while still liking most of his stuff, I left perplexed - wondering how much of his stuff was genuinely sincere and how much of his stuff was utter bullshit.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My Own Private Superman

Had a great weekend. Went to a BBQ with a few friends on Saturday and took my niece to Pirates 2 yesterday. Both of us agreed: it was long as hell and not as good as some folks are making it out to be. Still, $132 million for an opening weekend...damn. And despite the gripes, both of us agreed that we'll probably break down and see the third.

Gay and straight worlds collided routinely this weekend. While trying to unload a cluster of CDs I no longer need (free REM Monster CD to a loving home), I found Neil Young's Prairie Wind for only $7.99 and Madonna's not-quite-fabulous, but still good Confessions on a Dance Floor for the same price. A cute record store clerk griped that if she knew if Neil Young's Prairie Wind was in the used lot, she would have snagged it up.

I went to an Ultimate Fight Night gathering with a few friends. I'm not a huge fan, but I was more into hanging out with the group of friends than the event. Some shaved bald guy beat this other guy, but it looked more like a boxing match, which the audience of almost-has-been celebrities didn't like. I wanted the fight to end sooner than later since it was getting late and I was due at The Max - a gay-friendly dance club in Omaha. My jeans were the same, but I had a Boston Red Sox shirt donned for the Fight Night. Not that these folks are homophobic or anything, but the shirt was more appropriate to wear than the tight-fitting, brilliant red, jellow and white soccer-style shirt I was wearing to The Max.

I left UFC night and went to The Max. I opened my bookbag and saw the red shirt with some cologne next to it. I just kept thinking of Superman or Spiderman - a situation arises, he has his outfit, either worn on the inside of his 'ordinary' clothes or in his bookbag. Hidden. I did a quick change, put my 'ordiniary' Boston Red Sox shirt in the bookbag and splashed some cologne on and went into the club.

And got absolutley no love for the shirt, with the exception of a few creepy troll-like figures. I asked for a vodka tonic and the shirtless bartender took almost two minutes to make it, not because he was busy, but because he was flexing and shaking his goods to the howling onlookers on the bar. Dude put the ice in my glass - then shook his hips and flexed, reveling in the cheering adoration. He then asked me again what I ordered. I said "vodka tonic." He nodded absently and grabbed some vodka but before he poured, he flexed and shook his ass. Again more people cheered. I wasn't one of them. I was getting impatient. He poured the vodka and then asked "tonic...right?"

He grabbed the tonic and ...yup. Flexed, strutted and vogued for the onlookers. I was getting pissed. It was like I was invisible. I don't subscribe to the belief that a bartender should fawn over you, but they should either be a) courteous and attentive or b) pour a really strong drink. This one did neither. I had a nice, crisp dollar in my pocket for the usual tip I give a bartender. Fortunately, I also had two quarters in my pocket.

The bartender got the two quarters.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Movies, Books and Music

Movies: Promised a friend I would see The Devil Wear's Prada if she would buy the vodka tonics it would take to get rid of the headache after the movie ended. Pirates seems to be a polarizing movie - Rolling Stone gave it a respectable 3-star review while Entertainment Weekly dropped a D+ bomb on it.

Quick rant on movies. A ton of folks I know keep saying "If I'm paying $10 to see a movie, it better not be an hour-and-a-half." This is totally ridiculous. Same argument I hear about albums ("If I'm paying $15, goddamnit, it better not be a 45-minute album). I'm a fan of brevity. If it's an awesome album that's only 40 minutes long (read Hole's Live Through This or virtually any album by The Beatles and Rolling Stones in the '60s) - I'm buying it. Unfortunately, studios are taking note - hence the length of Superman Returns, Pirates and even Cars. If I'm looking at my watch after the second hour, I'm no longer thinking I'm getting my money's worth. I'm thinking how much longer is this damn movie going to last.

Books: Just finished Thomas Frank's excellent What's the Matter With Kansas? Regardless of your political affiliation, it's essential reading for these screwed up times where people routinely vote against their own economic welfare in favor of empty Biblical rhetoric. Next up on my 'to read' list - Douglas Coupland's JPod. I've read lukewarm reviews, but I've also read it's a fun summer read.

Music: iPod mix of the day...
"Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings (live)" - Lucinda Williams *****
"Untitled Song For Latin America" - The Minutemen ***
"Deep Six" - Mark Sandman ** (Morphine singer rapping)
"My Only Friend" - The Magnetic Fields *****
"Helicopter" - Bloc Party ***** (Have the urge to play an XBox racing game for some reason)
"The Big Come Down" - NIN ****
"Radio/Video" - System of a Down ****
"So Called Friend" - Uncle Tupelo *****
"Never Believe" - Ministry ****
"Sky's the Limit" - The Notorious B.I.G. *****
"Oh Well, Okay" - Elliott Smith ****"
The Girl I Can't Forget" - Fountains of Wayne **** (finally, a shuffle song I haven't heard before)
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" - Johnny Cash *** (sorry, Cowboy Junkies does this song so much better)
"Rub 'Til it Bleeds" - PJ Harvey *****
"Spring Summer Feeling" - Jill Scott ** ("It takes more than diamonds to woo me" - deep)
"What More Can I Say" - DJ Danger Mouse ****
"Hangwire (live)" - Pixies ***
"The Big Country" - Talking Heads **
"Green Peppers (remixed by Anthony Marinelli) - Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Band ***
"Kid Gloves" - Fountains of Wayne ***
"Plastic Bird" - Galazie 500 ****
"December 4th" - DJ Danger Mouse *****
"In This Temple, As in the Hearts of Man" - Sufjan Stevens ** (not too much to it)
"Over the Hills And Far Away" - Led Zep ****

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Another June has gone by...

"Today's the Fourth of July / another June has gone by / and when they light up our town I just think what a waste of gunpowder and sky." - Aimee Mann

Since hearing this song, I've played it every July 4. The biggest impact came in 2002 when I just graduated from college, I was working at a newspaper for an internship and I was about 1400 miles away from anyone I knew. I was working on the 4th and the loneliness of that song just hit. It may have been the fact that I was one of the people who was working on a holiday and I was picturing what everyone else was doing at that exact moment: watching their kids light off fireworks in their driveway on a steady beer buzz. It could have also been the fact that I was frightened with each week speeding closer to unemployment with no interviews in sight. Whatever the reason, that song now is forever associated with July 4.