Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oh, My My!

"My My"

Lyrics by Menomena

What if all my enemies were dead
and i could forget everything they said
could I be then who I really am?
What if I sold everything I own
And ran away from everyone I know
could I make another place my home?
And if I let go all of my ghosts
who would I dump over the months?
What if everyone is right?
Should've taken their advice
But I can't change my mind
And if I let go all of my ghosts
who would I dump over the months?
(What if everybody else is right?
should've taken more of their advice)

Gabcast! "My My" by Menomena

From: Friend And Foe (Barsuk, 2007)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Red Light! Green Light! (Or, Who Goes There?)

(On awkwardly praising, while simultaneously damning, the internet age...)

That's the name of the game as we age.

Red Light, Green Light.

A game we played in youth to test boundaries and to demonstrate how to control power, and exercise judgment, within our circle of companions.

Back turned.

Green Light! (eyes closed)

Go! Menacing, amiable, horde of our peers fast approaching from behind but without question with us from the start.

Red Light! (eyes open)

Stop! We spiiiin around darned-quick. Players all remaining. Standing still some. Moving others...

Caught you!

Back to the starting line!

Back turned again.

Green Light! (eyes closed)

Go! But this time. Some mysteriously run off in another direction.

With our backs turned, and our eyes closed, we might argue having not even noticed them slip away ... right?

Red Light! (eyes open)

Spinning around once more.

Stop! Yes, confirmed. Some have, indeed, disappeared out-right . A few, maybe even most, are still playing, though.

Take a deep breath, now ...

... and follow my lead - if you dare:

Turn your back around. One. More. Time.

Green Light! (eyes closed)

Go! Wait. What's this? Some of those numbers that had strangely disappeared ...

Red Light! (eyes open)

... are catching up again. How is that?

Stop ... hey! when did you start playing again?

Time-travelers! No fair!

We all make choices as we're playing along: Do we wish to remain in the game or is it our curtain call for this day, this decade, this lifetime?

As we age... it becomes an insidiously loaded question.

While we're wondering just what happened to the "run-offs", the now future 'Him or Her' of a former life, or the ones that didn't exactly jump right back in, if at all (ed. - guilty as charged...), something can occur that throws you for a complete loop.

They pull the ole 'rabbit out of a hat trick' and make things oh-so-very interesting. Without so much as a clarion they suddenly reappear.

It's a lot to allow in when the Fates fortuitously indulge 'Today, its just gonna happen ... meet so-and-so again', isn't it?

So much Newness spanning (and spinning from!) so many years (Who goes there!?).

"How have you been?"

So much to digest.

"Wow. Really?"

So much to contemplate.

"You are? You do?"

So much to consider.

"That's great! So..."

(Or, conversely, "Woah. Really? They did? When? That's ... that's tragic.")

We will, for the most part, happily welcome them back regardless of consequence; it's our sincerest will and desire after all...

But first,

"So, are you here for the long haul? Or, just stopping by for a quick visit?"


You're 'It'.

(Yellow Light... eyes wide open)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dreaming Of A White-Out Christmas

Hundreds of schools closed and businesses let their employees out early Thursday as a winter storm blanketed the Bay State, canceling flights and causing a treacherous evening commute.

Snow started falling early in the afternoon, and accumulations were expected to reach as much as 1 foot in some areas of western Masssachusetts to as little as 2 to 4 inches on Cape Cod."

Enjoy your 'White Christmas', New England!

Save some of that white stuff for our visit in about a week or so... (we'll actually get to wear winter clothing again ... Well, I'll be!)

Living In My Father's Shadow

(Throwing caution to the wind on this entry the author warns; a very personal recounting ensues...)


These are things that persist ... all the doo-dah-life-long-

These are things that loom up and stretch out from the Past.

These are the things that I reflect upon about this time of every New Year dawning ...

They're not all bad.

But, still, they typically have shades of gray.

Even when they might have had a relatively positive influence in our lives. A set of principles derived, a lesson learned, something gained.

Or, not...


They can even have a smell to them.

Fading, or wilted and rotted, roses.

They are beautiful ... if delicately pressed.

They are coarse dust if pressed too hard.

They skulk.

They linger.

They shimmy and skitter up and down walls in back corners.

They're imposing.

They disappear when you turn on bright lights ... or when you shut those lights off completely.

I prefer a dim gloaming, myself.

Showing just a little Shadow.

It'll be fine.

It's what makes you interesting. If anyone's paying attention...

It's Your Past speaking up on your behalf. Why you are what you are. Why things turned out the way they did.

In essence ... it's your 'Essence'.


I had no "Dad" ... most of the time. Occasionally he would prove otherwise, but mostly...

I definitely had a 'father', though.

He co-existed, for the most part, alongside an old classical guitar, in a perpetual self medicating ritual of alcohol consumption and nurturing one very courageous, oxygen-depleting, pack-a-day cigarette habit. He hid himself away in a back room most days. Sunlight may have had it out for him we gathered. We'd hear from him occasionally if we got too loud.

There is more.

Much more

But at the risk of writing a novel(!) or accidentally making the man sound evil or that I loathed him (he was not, and I did not) you'll have to take my word on the complexity of the situation for the moment.

In short he could be brash when he was upset and prone to stupid outbursts (physical and verbal) when he was really on a tear. But these were just that: outbursts.

(n.b. - perhaps, in another post, I'll recollect the kinder, gentler moments, too...)

Consistently, though, he was distant ... let's just make that understood.

He is a Shadow now much like all those exhaled clouds of smoke that yellowed the 'TV den' walls. Those vapors that did Museum-of- Science-Display-Case-Of-Horrors type things to his breathing apparatus.

A Shadow, too, in some wrecked cobalt-blue colored automobile.

"Rescuing" himself one night, no doubt. Long divorced. Long unemployed. But not retired. With a failing heart and apparently not enough common sense to call 911.

The result? A once sturdy engine-block hood crumpled into a fifty-five mile-per-hour front-end redesign. A near perfect letter 'U' shape gave the car a bull-horned look.

American automotive prowess blended into a forced osmosis with an even sturdier Oak along Route 119 in Littleton, Massachusetts.





Died behind the wheel probably before actually making contact. Cardiac arrest. Swerved off the road. Met Fate. Proved, or Disproved, Catholicism in one masterful, fell swoop.

Damn near lucky he didn't take someone else with him.


Days later.

At some automobile accident graveyard.

A blue tarpalin sheet covers the entire car, shroud-like, it is so bloodied and damaged. The same shroud covers this memory.

"You may not want to look. Hasn't been cleaned up yet. It's still pretty bad inside.", warns the Massachusetts Towing Authority man.

'But I have to.'

Brother Mike is there, too.

The steering wheel practically faces the driver side door and is nearly pushed up against the seat-back.

No one lives through this.

'I need to get his wallet on the passenger-side floor. Someone, something, took it from his shirt coat pocket and callously launched it onto the carpet in front of him.'

The stench of gasoline permeates everything. The passenger seat saturated in an earthy, dirt-red colored fuel of a human kind. Something lacerated his throat. He leaned to one side to drain himself out.

Sparkly-green glass shrapnel litters the soaked-through fabric everywhere.

Blood diamonds.






Now mine to own.

To keep.

Until another generation needs to know.


"Dennis, for God's Sake, answer the phone! It's your Mother! You need to call me! Right away..."

New York City.

Uptown Manhattan, more specifically.



A phone message. Left on my home answering machine.

Another Shadow now, too.

('Damnit, Mom, I'm at work! Why didn't you call me there or just leave a message!? What can be so important!?' thinks aloud in best 'Monday Morning Quarter Backing-style'...)


"Hello, my name is Dennis. I'm calling to follow up on your advertisement placed in our magazine, The Review: Latin American Arts & Literature. I understand you had placed the ad in last June's edition of The Review. I'm wondering whether your advertising needs are being thoroughly met? We want to hear your feedback. Please give me a call back at your earliest convenience at..."


"Dennis. It's your Mother again. Why haven't you called me? Didn't you get my message from earlier? Call me. Please! PLEASE! It's very important."

Tick. Tick. Tick.

"Hi, this is Jo Anne from the So & So Art Gallery returning your call. We're very disappointed in your service. The printer's ink in your last edition? It's all blurred. You can hardly read the copy! Utterly undecipherable! Nobody can read this! Now, I'm trying to keep my composure but it's inexcusable! It's bloody terrible! We want our money back. We won't be using you again."


Must check my messages.

Dial home phone #.

Punch personal code #.

Press check messages #.



"Y.O.U. H.A.V.E. S.I.X. N.E.W. M.E.S.S.A.G.E.S..."

"OK. I understand if you can't answer your phone right now ... but it's about your father. He was killed today. In an accident. A car accident. Your father is dead. Please, Dennis, call me..."


What!? Why...?

Why didn't you call me at work?

Why were there a half dozen messages on my answering machine when I called home tonight? I told you my WORK number! Call that in an emergency! Call that! Goddamnit!'

All day long: Messages left to the ether.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

"Hello? Is this Jo Anne? Hi, it's Dennis from The Review again. You know what? Go fuck yourself. My Father is dead. Did you get that, Sweetheart? Fuck you and fuck everything about your pretentious Upper West Side art gallery. How's that for composure, you miserable sow?"


Professionalism: 0

Dignity (or, the perceived execution of it at the time): 1


New York City.

Park Slope, Brooklyn, more specifically.

Later that evening.


In my bedroom.


Blathering idiot.

You didn't even hear your roommate on her side of the apartment while you were shouting at the walls.

"(Cough! Cough!)" she hints.

"Die. My Father is dead. I'm in agony. And this was a man I hardly knew. Please, just leave me alone... so I can figure this all out."

'Why is this so important?', I ask this over and over again, 'If he wasn't there, if you hardly knew this hidden man, why is this act worth so many damned-ably draining troughs of tears?'



Foundations are usually born from these.

Solid Foundations.

The things we reference as guide posts in our time of need as "Adults".


'What would my Father do? How should I respond to this or that situation? How will I ever make it out of here unscathed, unbeaten, un-phased, or simply alive and in one piece? A father would know, wouldn't he?'

I'm still waiting.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Making 'A'-List, Checking It Twice

'The Current' (on 89.3 FM in St. Paul, MN.) is a very respectable "independent" music radio program produced out of Minnesota Public Radio (one of my old "alma maters"...). For what it's worth it's a public radio sponsored show so you know it's got at least a little bit more 'cred' than the average commercial "alternative rock" station anyway.

They're asking their listeners to vote for their favorite music from this year, 2007.

So, I did.

And, you can play along, too - go ahead and click the "I Voted" icon and it will jettison you off to their website - you could even win an Apple iPod Touch if you're lucky...
I Voted in 89.3 The Current's Top 89 Albums of 2006

By no means is this a complete list of my favorite albums of 2007 (there was so much good music this year!) but the rules allow you only 20 picks out of nearly 600 choices ... their selection is fairly comprehensive to boot so it was a bit rough for me ... but here's what it came down to this year - these are not in any particular order:

Don't take my word for it ... go ahead and give some of these fine bands a listen if you haven't heard them already!

Also, I am very curious as to what some of your favorites are this year, too, so if there's anything you think I should know about please leave it in the COMMENTS section; I am a new music hound...!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"It's O.K."

"That everything is not O.K."

-- Black Cab from "Altamont Diary"

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like ....

Every year Austin's Zilker Park puts on one of the most over-the-top displays of holiday lights and life-size seasonal diorama scenes I have ever witnessed a city create before. Seriously, not even New York City does Christmas like Austin!

Thousands of people flock to The Trail of Lights Festival each December to walk around the mile long path and 'ooo' and 'ahh' over the millions of lights hanging from the trees, fencing and lamp posts. It's quite a show.

They really, really, really must like Christmas around these parts. Come see for yourself. Visit sometime and behold the spectacle of exactly how festivity can be done up to the X(mas)th degree ... just don't move here (says the hypocrite) because with any more people...

./~./ It's beginning to look a lot like Hooouuston! ./~./

Viewing North from Zilker Park toward Downtown Austin, Texas (December 2007).

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Seasonal (AA)ffective Disorder

Go ahead.

Just you try it!

Just try and compare your Christmas music collection to mine!

I dare you! Even if you have me beat by one CD, LP or cassette tape (which you don't...) do you have an entire iPod solely dedicated to Christmas music? Huh? With over 6,000 Christmas related songs on it?? Well, do ya, bub!?! Huh!?

Not just the typical mundane trappings either but rare, obscure, underground, way off the charts type of stuff...

Audio ornaments such as aliens singing Christmas carols, preachers imploring little kids
to abandon Santa Claus and accept Jesus into their hearts or find themselves in hell on Christmas morn (cheery!), pornographic Christmas carols (e.g. "I Want A Blow Up Doll for Christmas" by Arnie Aardvark <--- yikes!), a CD dedicated entirely to every single song ever written and performed about Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (don't even get me started about the Auld Lang Syne compilation somewhere in my ill in the head gotten booty...), canticles strummed on rubber bands, a complete album about Santa Claus getting high on reefer, jingles produced by electric energy companies branding themselves as merry power providing Christmas elves!?!

Hey, did you know that Jesus Presley has a Christmas album out? Well, hell yeah, he does! "Christmas With Jesus Presley", of course. Duh!

Every spoof, mockery and re-imagining of just about any traditional Christmas tune possible can be found somewhere in my Christ-Massive collection! And the madness won't just end one day soon either I assure you; the music labels capitalize on lunatics like me and put out new and more bizarre compilations every year that I simply MUST have in my possession!

You wouldn't believe what they'll do to innocent holiday verse now-a-days!
Punk it out, Hip-Hop it up, Rock'N'Rollify it, Outsider it to death, Steel Drum Caribbeanize it, Indian Trans-Raga-morgrify it, belch it, spank it, laugh it, yodel it, tap-dance to it! Some even get R2-D2ed, remixed, reconfigured, lounge-cored, melted, warped, mash-upped, H-Bombed, acid-dropped, and on and on it goes!

Somebody, please ... spike my eggnog with Zoloft!

Yep, it is my annual end of the year addiction.

This is my Christmas crack(er).

My sugarplum wine.

My candy co-caine.

My Holiday Seasonal Affective Disorder! H.S.A.D?

Santa has his milk-and-cookies, I have an entire CD rack collection given totally over to Christmas music (my "O-CDs"...)! That's close to 500 holiday CDs, folks (and that doesn't include MP3 downloads, fyi...).

Ho, Ho, Hooowwwhat the Fudge du Noel!?!?!

Indeed, I am a Christmas Music-aholic-agist. A bon-bon-afide musical Noelaphile!

Oh, go ahead - laugh! You wouldn't be the first...

My wife thinks I must have been Santa Claus in a past-life - no, really, she tells her friends and co-workers this... "Oh, hey. So, you're, ummm, you're Heather's, ahhh ... you're Mr. Kringle, eh?"

My neighbors must think I'm Satan's Claws in the present-life; I start playing my music amped-up around early November.

And the happy white-coat wearing people will tell me whatever I want to think in my future-life, "Yes, Supreme Elf Commander, Santa sends his sincerest regards and once again regrets he won't be needing your services this year. He thinks you should stay right here - with us ... at 'Santa's Southern-Based Mass General Office' - where it's warmer and ... safer."


But, I am not alone in my affliction.

Hear me loud and midnight clear on this fact: There. Are. Others!

A Cult of Christmas Carol Connoisseurs!

A former colleague of mine actually piqued my curiosity about this whole sordid holiday affair many jingle-belled seasons ago. Several years back when I worked at Monitor Radio in Boston a fellow named Mike W. used to make Christmas themed CDs for everyone as gifts. Wonderful idea (he still does it to this day, too, by the way)! He has a huuuge Xmas CD collection, apparently, although I haven't seen it personally. But you know what the real scary thing is? He now comes to ME to find out what's making the latest Xmas music rounds! He's, in essence, passing the garlanded torch off to old Den Kringle and saying, "Here, bud, all yours. But, as I do still enjoy making these CDs every year, I'll tell you what ... would you mind being my official Christmas Music Archivist? Can we work something out? Do we have a deal?"

Oh, Holy Night, how did I ever find myself as lead magi in this Christmas Pageant?

Since that time, way back when, I have converted at least one other person to my secret double-life as one of Santa's Little Helpers. Admit it, Troy L.! You are shepherd-hooked! You have been sacked by Santa's bag, my friend, and are now being specially delivered to The Island of Misfit Boys!

Real funny story, too, this one...

After introducing Troy to the wondrous, and non-stop escapades, of Christmas music hunting I caught him absolutely red-handed (red-suited?) one day inside of Somerville, Mass.'s 'Disc Diggers' used-music shop ... and get this ... with a ceiling-high stack of Christmas CDs! And here's the real elf-kicker: he was accumulating this over-stuffed stocking of goodies ... in the middle of July.

Man, were you sheepish that day! Don't deny it, "Tiny Tim", you've been officially crippled. I remember how you turned beat-red and could barely look me in the eye after that. Why, I know not... no need for shame! This is a terrific hobby! Albeit, not the most sanity inducing sport, per se, but it's still relatively harmless for the most part (most harmful to the wallet...).

And, hey there, guy ... you know what I was there looking for that day ...?



Ahem, onward 'Ho'.

So, what gives? Why this humdinger of a holiday hang-up? Just what exactly are its elvishly evil origins, pray tell?

Okay, ready for your, "Awww, that is just ssssooooo cute!" moment?

Here goes...

I, like many of you, grew up watching the classic Rankin/Bass, et al. animated Christmas TV staples every year: "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", "The Year Without A Santa Claus", "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town", "Frosty, The Snowman", "A Charlie Brown Christmas", and my all time favorite, "The Little Drummer Boy".


"The Little Drummer Boy"?

Now, that's odd. 'That was your favorite?', you may ask.

Usually the other shows qualify as the favorites!

Especially with the likes of Snow Miser and Heat Miser having at it all Christmas Cabaret-style (why the Evangelicals never went after these two like they did, Tinky Winky, the wee Purple Teletubby, I'll never know), or the Winter Warlock's revelatory song-and-dance number, "One Foot In Front Of The Other", also with the nasty Burgermeister Meisterburger lording over Sombertown denying toys to all the sad little tots!

Or, Rudolph, of course, with his dentistry obsessed pal, Herbie The Elf! Those were the favorites!

Nope, not for me. Drummer Boy. Hands down.

And here's why...

The Harry Simeone Chorale's devastatingly beautiful score to that particular animated classic brought me to tears every time I heard it. It certainly didn't hurt that I totally identified with that poor moppet of a kid having only his talent to offer as a gift to the New Boy King... it was a no-brainer.

I became so enamored with the The Little Drummer Boy's main theme song that I had my mother sing it to me in order to fall asleep at night, or while driving around in the car while looking at Christmas lights in my old home town, and, yes, even one day in 90 degree heat sitting outside of a bank in the middle of summer, "Mom! Sing me the drummer boy song!" And when she did my eyes glazed over like I had just been hooked up with some wickedly potent sedative.

I was simply in, well ... heaven.

Now at this juncture some might want to argue that I'm just another foolhardy shill, some idiot foot soldier, for the Christian Right's Brigade against the supposed "War On Christmas".

Not quite. If anything a spy in their House, maybe, as I wouldn't mind winning the fun back in Christmas from those moribund bastards.

First of all, let it be known, I am a total Recovering Catholic. Yeah, yeah, yeah the whole guilty Mary Mother of God thing in overdrive now settling to a lowered, less noisy drone. Currently that translates into 'God' and I fist fighting more often than actually caring to find peaceful common ground in acceptance of one another's existence.

The Christians, as a rule of thumb, would probably just assume write me off as a ... as a Democrat, I suppose. Please!

I used to know a kind and loving dude named Jesus Christ while growing up.


Sadly, the perversity of adulthood's more reality-based trials, and American politics in general, has all but drove a stake into those youthful and tender belief systems.

(BTW, thanks a lot, you self righteous deplorable toss-offs! Sometimes trying to cram doctrine down throats has an equal and opposite effect...go figure.)

Nah. Christmas music to me is merely an affable reverberation, a cordial echo, now making its rounds from a past manifesting itself in equal parts joyful and pleasant reminisces, and cynical and sinister revoking.

Case in point: When I used to host a radio show a number of years back at M.I.T.'s WMBR-FM community station my annual Holiday Music Show would get more than a few irate listeners calling in with the usual, "Yeah, my kids were listening to your holiday special when FEAR's "Fuck Christmas" came on ... do you really think that's necessary?"

Oh, but surely I did.

Making sense of what became of a formerly religious holiday now gone terribly commercial, and politically awry, was never more important to me and, arguably, the very mission of that particular show. I did warn my audience, in fact, it was an adult-themed special from the beginning. I was merely utilizing a formidable musical arsenal awash in as much sardonic wit I could find to get the message out to anyone listening in ... kids or no kids (perhaps, importantly, that they were ... except for the whole swearing thing).

Ho-Ho-Ho! Lumps of Rock-N-Coal anyone?

I digress.

So, let me reiterate - there are seemingly endless legions of Xmas Tune Obsessives out there like me scouring record store bins, listservs, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and other obscure, cranberry-and-popcorn strung corners of the internet looking for the latest musical fiXmas offerings. I have found any number of websites specifically designed to humor this very pursuit that pretty much prove my theory. As far as I can tell most of these resources do not subscribe to any cause deus celebre either. It's purely for the warped fun of it all.

A reliable enough explanation as to why may still elude me for the rest of the initiated, but allow me one other speculation on my own behalf...

Yes, there was my mother's rumpa-bump-bumping all along the way, but I think what drives me to dig through all of this Christmas music rubble is, indeed, something more profound than a mere drummer boy and the beat of his humble drum.

I am no doubt searching for something.

Searching for something substantial that has a long time ago gone astray. Not entirely the absence of the Divine, but more of an absence of the Innocence left behind in childhood. The whole notion beaten to a sad cliche at this stage but resonant to me (and many others, I'm sure...) none-the-less.

Perhaps, too, found in that sickly-sweet marzipan-ed pile of compact discs, tucked away some place in this manger of fading vinyl LP records, or wrapped up some how in my tinselly tangle of now obsolete cassette tape, is a twinkly lit path leading back to some long abandoned Salvation.

Could it be through this one very eccentric obsession an Epiphany awaits?

One that may even lean towards finding a reason to Believe again?


(And now for your very special holiday treat just for making it all the way down to the bottom of this post ... Christmas music!! Did you really think I was going to let you off that easily?)

Below a personal favorite amongst all of the thousands of odd musical Christmas gems I've collected over the years! Originally discovered on 'The 365 Days Project' website - a service dedicated to turning out one rare (free!) song per day culminating in several eclectic holiday tracks around the month of December:

Song: "Merry Christmas, Elvis"

Singer: Michele Cody
Year: 1978
Album: The 365 Days Project

Happy Holidays, Everyone!