Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Go-to Guy

I'm gonna be your go-to guy.

I've been gone to quite a few times in the past, and have rarely disappointed. You can go to me with quiet confidence that your going-to will be rewarded. I have exhibited an unmistakable pattern of success at being gone to. And I have every expectation that future goers-to will be pleased with the results at having gone to me. By this time next year, I will have been gone to even more times than I have been gone to in past years, and I fully expect this improvement to continue. I will look back with quiet satisfaction on a record of high achievement in the area of having been gone to, knowing full well that those who have gone to me have never been sorry that they went to me. I will have been gone to without spite or cavil; and having been gone to, I will be gone to again.

Don't go to that guy over there. He's not your go-to guy. Going to him is a guarantee that your going-to experience will teach you never to go to him again. I went to him last week, and he sucked at being gone to.

No, the go-to guy is me. No question about it. I'm the go-to guy.

Whoop, gotta go.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Three Hundred Sixty-Four Days Filled with Doubt and Fear

It's a very nice thing indeed to collaborate with Blue Girl on these annual Christmas songs. In 2006, we did a very quiet, meditative, woody version of the Vince Guaraldi number, "Christmas Time Is Here"; for last year's project we acknowledged the Inner Rockabilly, doing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Keep this up, we'll have enough for an album.

The Viscount LaCarte suggested this year's tune. We go a long way back, he and I, in the Digital XTC Fan World -- nearly to its inception -- and he importuned us to work up a version of a novelty single XTC released in 1983 under the pseudonym The Three Wise Men and the Good Lord. It is a regular feature on the sorts of Christmas CD compilations that get played in shops and public places, and it never grows old for me. It's got a sweet sentimentality appropriate to the season, and hearing it simply makes me happy. What can I say? I'm a sucker for bubblegum.

Apple's update to Logic, their pro-level digital audio workstation, has brought the fabled Apple ease-of-use to what was once an insanely complicated interface. It was a joy to use it, and it was just as wonderful to use a borrowed Rickenbacker 12-string for the arpeggiated bits. While I was squirreling away in the studio, Blue Girl took a guide track in to a studio near her, blew the paint off the walls, and sent me the result. Drop the resulting file into my audio bed, and presto! Instant X-Muss Joy. As always, Glue Birl's fabulous husband The Skimmer supplied the witty artwork.

Without further fuss, then, here it is...

Thanks for Christmas (pops).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Failure to Dim

Took Betty out for some X-Muss shopping yesterday. All was proceeding apace when we left Purcellville through the back door. They've recently dropped the speed limit on Hillsboro Road to 35, and John Law was out about a half-mile from town, Enforcing, radar gun pointed at oncoming out-of-town traffic.

Me, I wasn't worried. Inveterate speed-limit submissive, me. Speedometer needle pointed perfectly at 35. Yeah, buddy. You Can't Catch Me.

Turned around the bend from Mr. Law. Oncoming headlights shining through the oncoming dusk. Looks like he's going a hair too fast. Better let him know what's around the next corner...

Blinkety-blinkety-blink go the headlights. Practically did it by themselves; it's an ingrained habit.



Only after the headlights did their blinkety-blink bit did I notice what might have been a ski-rack, or perhaps a...set of lights...on top of the car encroaching in the gathering darkness.


As I watched him screech into a driveway to turn around in my rearview, the thought occurred: There was a herd of deer back there! They just jumped into the woods! You gotta warn other motorists in these parlous times! Yeah, that's the ticket!

Officer Friendly thought the whole thing was about as funny as I secretly did myself. (Betty was turning red from the suppression of laughter.) He mentioned Obstruction of Justice in his initial conversation with me, as he pointed out my expired inspection sticker. (What, three weeks out of date? So sue me! It's Christmas! Got shit to do!) He retired back to his prowler with my license and registration to verify that I wasn't wanted for moral turpitude in 23 states. After what seemed an eternity, during which Betty and I exchanged the blackest of jokes, he returned.

He'd knocked the Obstruction charge back to "failure to dim high beams."

I will happily cop to it. Merry Christmas, Occifer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Welcome to Blogdom!

Frequent commenter Giggles (she's helping me come to grips with my sexual identity after the gay-assed Obama post of yesterday) has opened up a shop of her own.

Everybody pop on over and make her feel welcome!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It Would Be Irresponsible Not to Speculate

I'm gonna go way out on a limb, here, with some crazy, wild-assed guessing.

Weird as it may be to think, as foreign as the concept may be, here goes: To judge from the photographic evidence -- and mind you, I'm really just spitballing, here...

I'm guessing -- just guessing -- that the 20-year-old Barack "Who's Sane" Obama didn't have much trouble getting laid at Occidental College in 1980.

Yeah. I know. Ca-ray-zee!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just Like a Christmas Tree in Bondage, Boyyyy

We Jingos like a disciplined life. Up at five, family calisthenics, cold showers, a breakfast of Graham crackers and castor oil, and off to the affairs of the day. Christmas decoration is nothing if not spartan chez nous: a small wooden creche on the coffee table, an unadorned wreath on the front door. Strings of lights are vulgar things, and music is banned from our home as inflaming to the senses and heightening of the passions -- fallibilities best avoided by the proper bourgeois family of good breeding. Our children have learned that elaborate Christmas presents are privileges only for the nouveaux riches; for those of our social class, we make do with the annual single orange and pencil-box in our stockings.

It is in this spirit of the avoidance of excess -- how fervently it is to be wished that others might follow our virtuous example! -- that I present our Christmas tree:

A damned fine sight, don't you agree? Tightly disciplined, its sinews straining at their bonds as it gazes demurely at its masters, clad in their leather evening-wear and boots, riding-crops ready to administer richly deserved correction at a twig out of place here, a dropped needle there.... With anxiety growing to fever pitch, the scent of fear in the air, the tree, bound and helpless, anticipates the next application of the bullwhip of loving discipline....

Oh! Sorry. Where was I...?

(Oh, foo! The tree has a safe word!*)

Finally, its Calvary ended by a merciful and just master, it is time to release the trembling pine from its durance vile.

Helpful Kittehs are helpful:

I find it passing strange how a fluffball of Dangerous Cuteness can in an instant assume a facial expression of Full-On, Raging Psychosis when confronted with a loose (and undisciplined!) bit of string:

Come to think of it, the moggie has learned from Master to rage at slovenly lower-class disorder. Clearly, he's attempting to hank the string neatly and place it in a drawer with other hanked strings from Christmases past, there to wait the day when its usefulness becomes apparent. Good kitty! You are excused from your evening spanking -- this once.

There. Isn't that better, little tree? Not that you have successfully survived your ordeal, you will be festooned in furs and leathern gew-gaws, and made a full member of our family until your needles drop out and your faded beauty no longer appeals to us.

It is The Way.


*"Oh, God! Please stop! Owwwwww!" Not that I've ever actually heard it. It's a very good tree.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Calm Reason Prevails

The news that at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy there is a light-sucking, infinite-mass-sporting BLACK FUCKING HOLE leaves me with a quiet certainty that WE'RE ALL GONNA FUCKING DIE but not yet not yet not yet....

Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.

I find it comforting to rock back and forth in my chair, muttering what may well become my new mantra:




Rumor Has It

An item in Shitshovel Media catches the attention:
Harridans Reunion?

Th' Muthafuckin' Harridans, whose untimely 2005 demise so shocked the rock world, have been the subjects of reunion rumors. The power trio, whose chart-busting hits included "I Was a Teenaged Werewolf for the FBI" and "Bobby Lightfoot Rips Up His Lyric Sheet and Wings It," were seen together with an entourage at a Washington, DC beer celler [sic] last week, crying drunkenly on each others' shoulders and swearing off their methamphetamine use, which devastated the band's musical coherence in the middle of the decade.

Some talk of a live reunion gig was overheard, although specifics were not hashed out.

This could easily outstrip the Led Zep reunion for historical significance.
Don't know nothin' more than that. Just thought I'd put it out there.

Monday, December 08, 2008

G'Phwarg-Glarb-Flang -- ROCK!

(#2 in a [hopefully] ongoing series)

Friday, December 5, 2008
In Flames
Supporting: 36 Crazyfists, Gojira
Venue: Ram's Head Live, Baltimore

The Ram's Head Live is a great place to watch a heavy metal gig, particularly if you're a 48-year-old dad whose tastes run more to hillbilly 78s from the 1920s and early Dylan. The main concert space -- what I hear you youngsters call the "mosh-pit" -- is surrounded by little alcoves, each of which sports a fully stocked bar serving excellent microbrews. The alcove toward which I naturally gravitated faced the central hall perpendicularly, so the main force-blast of the music traveled across its opening, leaving the bar quiet enough to carry on a conversation -- or at least order another beer without having to shriek and point at a bar-pull.

The bar was tended by a trio of quite toothsome young women, one of whom remarked that she loved working this particular bar because "the Dads always sit here," and thus there is a minimum of the creepy behavior that drunk rock-n-rollers are wont to display toward a hot bartender of the female persuasion. Indeed, there were three other "Dads" (that's eunuchs to the rest of you), each nursing beers and wincing visibly every so often when double-kick-drum attacks got particularly thunderous. I took a stroll among the celebrants at one point, and the view of the mosh-pit from the balcony above did not inspire envy. One fellow with asymmetrical hair and a spade beard thrashed about the crowd with his elbows at a height best calculated to contact his fellow concertgoers in the head, and I recalled with little nostalgia the times when that young man might well have been me. I had little concern for Freddie and his friends down in the scrum; teenagers, it is well known, heal quickly from being dropped on their heads while crowd-surfing. Some even have their dispositions improved.

I wandered downstairs to view the action more closely. Noting that the staircase offered an uninterrupted view of both the stage and the crowd, I sat down on a stair. Immediately a strong light shone directly in my eyes from in front of the stage, and a beefy security type motioned my to my feet. Ah. Apparently, people throwing themselves at each other at full tilt, leaping into the air to be carried on the shoulders of pogoing youths, and lashing out with knees and elbows is all perfectly acceptable concertgoing behavior, but if you sit on the fourth stair, man -- that's a safety violation, dude, and could get us shut down by the Man!

Back at the bar after my little expedition, I realized I had the best seat in the house; not only was the noise not so deafening, but closed-circuit video monitors above the bar followed the action onstage. The first band, 36 Crazyfists, weren't to my taste at all -- thrashy, noisy, and inconsistent, with the apparent compositional philosophy that no musical idea should be sustained for more than four bars.

It was during Gojira's set that I began to warm up. I am lucky enough to speak occasionally with XTC's Andy Partridge, and something he said once really stuck with me: that the enjoyment of music arises from repetition. A listener able to predict the next beat or two and anticipate what's coming next is a happy listener; but also conversely when the composer wrongfoots the listener and changes unexpectedly, this also surprises and delights. Gojira -- apparently a French outfit -- understands this principle well; Parts of songs repeated in satisfying sorts of ways; songs had choruses and verses -- not, admittedly, in the Tin Pan Alley sense of the words, but these things were markedly present. Another point about Gojira: They clearly had a keen appreciation of the emotional appeal of the beautiful, thick, meaty, creamy overtones generated by a distorted electric guitar playing a power-chord, and knew damned well how to use them.

I saw In Flames at the concert reviewed here, when they were an opening act for MegaDeth. As an opener, I was unimpressed with them, finding them choppy and unfocused. As a headliner, though, able to stretch their set out, they were quite dazzling. Their set had dynamic flow, highs and lows, ups and downs. Most of what I found impressive about Gojira was emphasized and made central by In Flames; again, songs and arrangements had structure and agreeable flow from part to part, and there was a very appealing emotional element to Anders Fridén's singing that I hadn't expected. The lead guitar work, shared by Jesper Strömblad and Björn Gelotte, was particularly good -- at one point, I found myself thinking, as Gelotte played a solo, "Good god, he's actually carving out a melody!" -- first time I'd seen it that night.

Between sets, the boys found me at the bar -- they wanted to deposit their sodden outwear with me. Sweaty and clearly very happy, they flitted back into the crowd for another session of joyful moshing. Enjoy it while you can, kids.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Don't We Know Archaic Barrel?

Each Christmas season, I notice an increase in traffic to this post, on Google searches for "Pogo Christmas song." I'm sure the resulting page must frustrate the poor dears a bit, as I only allude to the song and don't quote it in full.

It's worth doing, however, as it's my favorite carol, and I bellow it out whenever the rest of you ginks are assaying "Deck the Halls."

I anticipate its return will forever displace "The Carol of the Bells" from the house speakers at every shopping mall in America. About time, too.

Only the first two verses come from memory. I had to look the rest of it up. From the magnificently silly mind of Walt Kelly, I give you...

Deck Us All with Boston Charlie

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof!

In Which Everything Turns Out OK

Today, a completely routine day at work, suddenly acquired an overtone of slight menace.

Riding down in the elevator, I noticed something: three small metal objects had been placed on top of a decorative panel, at about eye height. On further examination, they turned out to be what looked for all the world like small-caliber pistol cartridges. (I assumed they were pistol cartridges, but what I know about ammo and $3.95 will get you a grande mocha frap at Starbucks.)

So consider: These cartridges could not possibly have been dropped, or appeared by some other accident. They would have to have been placed there carefully by hand.

Menace? Passive aggression? Veiled threat? The company I'm contracting for is not doing very well; could a soon-to-be-laid-off hothead have been trying to send a message?


I turned the cartridges in to the receptionist, a retired military man, asking if he recognized them to be what I thought they were. He agreed they were cartridges, all right, but he noticed that they had green paint on their business ends, which he thought unusual. He promised to look into it.

All through my lunch hour, I pondered the cartridges. What a strange thing to do -- put your ammo on display like that. Was somebody about to go Columbine on us? Should I go back after lunch? Was I about to become a headline?

I did decide to return -- I definitely need the money -- figuring that forewarned was forearmed, as it were. If gunplay broke out, I'd be the first out the door.

Went back to the receptionist, to share my increasing feeling of apprehension. He had investigated, and he had gotten to the bottom of the mystery.

They were indeed ballistic cartridges, but not for a pistol. They are used to drive pins into concrete, evidently -- and some repairmen who had been working on the elevator had stored them in the spot where I found them and forgotten to retrieve them when they were done.


Still, it was damned irresponsible to leave them there like that, and they got a good bollocking from the receptionist. Wish I'd been around to hear it. You know, instead of under my desk, squeaking gently at every stray sound.