Thursday, May 26, 2005

Getting Imagery Back 

I can't be the only one on the planet to wish that Motley Crue would just go away forever. And who would have thought that this sentiment could come from me -- the one who as a 13-year-old claimed they were his second favorite band behind Aerosmith? There's a time for rocking. There's a time for nostalgia. And then there's the time to just go away forever. Now is that time for the Crue.

I don't really have anything of interest today, but Nolan's asleep in the crib for once and Ranger and I can't think of anything better to do that wouldn't wake him up.

Does anybody else think that Rob Thomas has been watching way too much American Idol? Don't quit your day job, Rob. You can always tell that a band has plateaued when they only appeal to women, and Rob is at that plateau. Rob, meet Bon Jovi, Barry Manilow, and all the boy bands in the history of the world. Bon Jovi, Barry, boy bands, meet Rob.

So I'm going to be an uncle soon, and Nolan will no longer be the big, super-surprise of the moment. That's OK. That's how the wife and I prefer it, really. There's something to be said about being the menu's special of the day. But for the long term, it's best to remain a solid repeat item: patty melt, Denver omelet, steak & eggs.

There's all these gay guys who are coming out to me. I get the impression it's this big thing for them to want me to know which side of the plate they're swinging from. And the thing I want to say to them is: I don't care. You're gay. Good for you, but it really doesn't affect me. So stop worrying what I think -- what does that matter anyway? Just let it be so we can get back to talking about what sucks, new music, Star Wars, and what happened over the weekend.

The white trash idiot three doors down just spent five minutes screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of the street at his dogs and kids (who should be in school). This is the same guy who drives through the alley at 40 MPH. The same guy sits in the alley doing absolutely nothing with the stereo blaring, head bobbing, wearing nothing but a beer gut and a dirty pair of grey sweatpants. I don't know what kind of justice I want served upon this guy. But I want it served.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Getting Behind the Transmission 

I've been behind on everything lately. I'm behind on my writing; haven't really gotten a good go on the new chapter. Behind on my housework; dishes piling up. Behind at work; e-mail inbox overflowing. Behind in my running; stuck at just getting lucky to get out the door.

I'm even behind with basic communication. People come up to me at work; I'm supposed to speak to them, so I throw all these pauses into my speech, as if the space of the sentence will get the idea across rather than the content. Then I realize I'm not making sense, so I try and speed things up, talking over myself, interrupting myself, making sense only for one.

Maybe that's why all sorts of people . . . . let me think, let me think . . . . 8 people in the last week have asked me if I'm all right. They ask hesitantly. I'm great, but I must look like shit for them to ask this. I can't figure out why people don't ask this when I'm not doing great. That's the real mystery. But asking doesn't matter. Whether I'm great or not doesn't change how I'd answer the question. I answer like everyone else: I'm fine. Because if you're not, and you tell the truth, that promotes an investigation. Everyone wants to know why he's not fine and what can be done to make him fine. Then, when they find out why he's not fine and realize it was never the end of the world, state, democracy, existence, sunny days or pepperoni pizza, they're annoyed.

That's why everyone's always 'fine'.

Nevertheless, I'm fine and great and still behind on everything, which is why I feel justified commenting on an old story. By now everyone knows our good ol' quarterback Brett Favre called out our money-grubbing wide receiver Javon Walker for his contract dispute. Short story: Javon's under contract for two more years but is holding out for more dough; Brett commented in the paper that he should honor his contract and that the Packers shouldn't give in to his demands.

What this story has shown -- based on Milwaukee media's repudiation of Favre for this statement -- is how much of a faux pa it is to give one's opinion these days. Everyone's telling Brett to mind his own business, and business is business, and even though he's the captain he's not the captain of Javon, and Javon's Javon's boss, and no one else is the boss of Javon, and you get the picture. (Note: To Javon's credit, he's kept his mouth mostly shut. Mostly.)

And my whole take on this is Brett Favre is a fucking captain. And I know in pro sports that's often a title sort of thrown out there as a reward rather than a title someone deserves or lives up to. To me, he wouldn't be a good captain if he didn't stand up and shove his opinion in Javon's face. Being a captain's not about being liked. It's about getting the best out of your men. This isn't Javon's best hour. Brett let him know. Simple as that.

I remember once in college, freshman year, I told a friend of mine -- normally a very hard-working over-achiever -- I thought he was wasting his time in school. He was dicking around, taking the minimum number of credits for no good reason. Didn't affect me at all, so I suppose I should have let it go. It was none of my business. But it was just a comment. As I remember it, he threatened to punch me -- right there in the crowded lunch room. I laughed at him and he walked out. I think we spoke maybe one more time after that. Which -- of course -- is too bad. I should have resolved it. But he couldn't take criticism, not a hint of it. To this day, I'm convinced that's because he knew I was right.

That's kind of sad, to live like that -- rather sheltered. It reminds me of little kids who close their eyes if they don't want to be seen; if they can't see you, it can't be happening. If he couldn't hear me, he didn't have to think about it. I guess this whole topic goes back to the distinction between friends and acquaintances. If we were true friends, he would have taken my shit, and I would have given enough of a damn to salvage the friendship before we began walking around campus pretending we didn't see each other. But acquaintances always have to agree.

What's the alternative to honesty? Are we all going to tip-toe around each other? Isn't part of friendship telling someone they can give more when you know they're not? Telling them when they impress us? When they make us proud? But also when they piss in the wind?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Let the Cliches Begin 

As promised, I've begun my dissection of The All-American Rejects' (I don't really need to link to them anymore, do I?) upcoming album.

The first song is called . . . . brace yourselves . . . . "Dirty Little Secret".

I so want to be in the room as these buffoons come up with their lyrics. Do they talk to each other about the songs as they write, I wonder?

"Hey, I've got a new song idea."
"Yeah? What's it about?"
"Oh, it's about love and relationships. Chicks. How girls are always doing me wrong. But then, it's also about how I screwed up and want her back. But it's all over now. I just have to move on."
"Man, that sounds great! Let's do this!"

As you might have imagined, this song details again the only topic our Reject heroes seem to embrace: the ups and the downs, the ins and the outs, and the trials and the tribulations of the ever-challenging world of relationships. Aside from the title of the song itself, the other cliches presented in the usual blustery whine are:

-- "I've known this all along"
-- "Games that you want to play" (charmingly rhymed to "all" the young lass this song is directed at has "thrown away")
-- "These sleeping dogs won't lie"
-- "It's eating me apart."

If this album gets airplay, it could be a long summer.

Finding the Worst 

Ladies and gentlemen, I've done it. I've found my "Worst Movie Ever". Last night at the video store -- as usual, I paced the horror aisle before hitting New Releases. Nothing really jumped out at me until I found this little disc promising a disturbing little anthology of stories "not for the feint of heart". I bit.

Cradle of Fear -- and you can read my review on the linked site -- is all of these things:
•• British horror. I can't really tell you why this doesn't work. I know there have been British horror films that have worked, like the Hammer films. But it really, really doesn't work.
•• Shot on videotape, so the entire viewing experience feels like you're watching a high school student's end-of-year film project.
•• Gore and splatter effects that are so poorly executed . . . again, hard to imagine anyone over the age of 17 was involved.
•• They must have recorded all audio while filming, because the dialog is almost entirely in the background; conversely, the sound effects -- utterly obvious foley noises abound -- and terrible, British synth-metal overwhelm the audio.
•• No causation. There's no reason anything happens. It all just . . . happens.
•• Not a single likeable character.
•• All sorts of T&A . . . but you'll leave wishing they kept their clothes on. Not pretty. Take my word on this. Some things should not be shaped like reflected cones.
•• Predictable in every scene. What's worse -- each vignette is about a half-hour long. So even though you know what's going to happen in the first 5 minutes of each piece, you have to struggle through a half-hour of dreck.
•• Total running time of 120 minutes long! If you've got a bad horror film on your hands, please, keep it to the industry-standard 90 minutes!
•• Astonishingly, the dvd includes a brief "making of" video, in which listeners are treated to watching how the dreadful effects were achieved; all throughout the video, the director is heard, saying: "Oh, that's smashing. Just smashing. Oh, lovely. Lovely. That's just brilliant. Brilliant."

I guess the consolation is I can only go up from here.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

More Music Meme 

Good ol' Tommy's got Meme that I'll run with:

Q: Total volume of music files on my computer:

4,993. iPod's almost full. Damn 7 songs left. Not enough to fit my new Nada Surf CD on. Think I weighed it down with too much classic rock.

Q: The last CD I bought:

Nada Surf's Let Go and Weezer's Make Believe were on the same tab. I've been on a pop kick for some reason. Maybe I need some Anthrax to break me out of this.

Q: Song playing now:

3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds. For some reason, I've also been on a little bit of an Airplane kick lately. If one can just remove the politics from the message . . . not bad.

Q: Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

The Bridge . . . very little-known Neil Young song. Don't think about the lyrics too much. Yeah, that is what he's singing about. I don't know why this one made the list, but it's very earnest.
Never-ending Math Equation . . . probably my favorite Modest Mouse song. Nice plane imagery.
Fuckin' in the Bushes . . . the song I'm convinced Oasis put on the album just so they could drop an F-Bomb. Still, great groove.
W.M.A. . . . Pearl Jam song that got me ready to race for several years. Can never figure why they rarely play it live.
Stateline Blues . . . When in doubt, turn to the Stills.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Sith Get Their Revenge . . . and Weezer . . . and the Twisted Head of Fandom 

I've spoken or written to a number of people lately about the new Weezer album. Weezer's lucky to even have a fifth album out -- let's get that out of the way, right away. The conclusion I've come to, unfortunately though, is Weezer has been co-opted by fandom. Allow me to illustrate. Here are the public's reactions* to Weezer's albums through the years:

Public Perception Upon Release:
Weezer: It's OK. Pretty catchy. They make nerd rock. But how long can they do this? Guess they made some funny videos.
Pinkerton: Oh, this sure isn't what we expected. This isn't like the Blue album! What happened to the fun, catchy songs?! Where's Fonzie?
Green Album: What the hell is this? Are they trying to be commercial? Where's all the great soul-baring lyrics of Pinkerton? Where's the honesty? Where's the integrity? This . . . this is all just a bunch of catchy, radio songs! Sellouts!
Maladroit: Huh? This is so . . . heavy! And . . . there are guitar solos! No! Where's my Weezer?! This isn't Weezer! They made this too fast! That's the problem! This came out too fast on the heels of the Green Album. They need another five-year break.
Make Believe: Weezer has raped my childhood. What is this crap? Now I have to re-think all of their previous work. How can I like anything when they put out . . . this? It's so much like everything else they've ever done!

Public Perception Now (not including the just-released Make Believe):
Weezer: A rock-pop masterpiece. A gem of the modern age.
Pinkerton: People should make babies to this music. It will change your life.
Green Album: Utter bubblegum crap. The babies people made to Pinkerton should be sacrificed because of this.
Maladroit: Meh. They still released it too fast. They're so over.

*Admittedly, these are my wholly subjective summarizations of perception, I realize.

While the irony and lack of logic are obvious, my main problem is with how this all gets communicated. Somebody reviews it, mentioning the above. The good ol' Associated Press picks it up, and all the sudden, hundreds of thousands of readers are taking some gonad's opinion for fact.

It's fitting I saw Revenge of the Sith the same week I bought Make Believe because Star Wars garners the same reactions that Weezer does. For some reason, when fandom grabs ahold of something, it only does so in frustratingly polarizing fashion. Something can either save your life or rape you. That's comforting, I guess, if you like to play War.

Star Wars is perhaps even more stratified than Weezer. But it's no less affected by the media game. Every single review you will read of Revenge of the Sith will claim that the last two prequel movies were terrible. Oh, what the hell? Let's do it for Star Wars too.

Public Perception Upon Release:
A New Hope: Landmark! Breathtaking! Lucas is a genius! More! More! More!
The Empire Strikes Back: Huh? What the hell do we do with this? It's a middle chapter. Well . . . I guess it was fairly exciting. Nice big surprise at the end. But, you know? It didn't capture the sense of adventure that New Hope did. Kind of a disappointment.
Return of the Jedi: It's not as good as the last two, but it does the job. It's clunky in parts, but I guess it'll have to do.
The Phantom Menace: Dialogue and acting is so bad. But, overall, the effects were great and it was pretty fun.
Attack of the Clones: All right, it was a lot better than that dreadful Phantom Menace. But still, the acting and the writing are terrible. Great Yoda fight at the end, though!
Revenge of the Sith: Much, much better than those dreadful two prequels! Maybe even better than Return of the Jedi! Still, the acting and the dialogue sucked, but it was very exciting, and we finally had fun.

Public Perception Now (not including the just-released ROTS):
ANH: Very good. A bit dated, though.
TESB: Brilliant! People should make babies to this movie!
ROTJ: Quite a step downward. Nearly awful.
TPM: Awful.
AOTC: Awful.

What's the bottom line to all this? Both Weezer and Lucas have reached that magical point in the road in which -- no matter what stars align -- they cannot win. Luckily for them, even the people who hate their work are still buying it. For example, more than just a few fans who hated TPM and AOTC must have shown up to watch ROTS already (which apparently made a record $50 million in a day). Go figure.

What do I think? I'm too biased to write a Star Wars review, that's for sure. Nevertheless, I laugh and sigh every time a read a review of ROTS that claims one of the reasons the movie fails is because of the terrible, coughing voice of the droid leader. This is what people spend their time writing. I can't even believe I just wrote that sentence. The movie sucks because of the droid leader's voice. Let's all think about that for a minute. Better yet . . . .

And Weezer? It's good. I admit, there are moments in which the writing is entirely underwhelming . . . . almost . . . almost, but not quite to the point of the wretched TA-AR. Blagh!

Cough it out, Will. Cough it out. It'll be OK.

The melodies are still very well-written, but they've taken a real emotional turn. There are times, listening to this, that I've thought to myself, "High school lyric-writing." I guess my main gripe is, as much as I enjoy the record, it's a lot of love songs. And after listening to other pop I've bought recently, it seems a bit thin. But it's worth the purchase.

After all, it didn't rape me or save my life.

Monday, May 16, 2005

On Prom 

Dear Ms. Gramse (and venerable newspaper editors),

I read your thoughtful letter to the editor, but I did not particularly enjoy the thoughts in stated letter, so I decided to write you my own.

I understand you are upset that your schoolmate, one Mr. Kerry Lofy, ruined prom by attending the event in a dress. As you state, "I believe any punishment he receives is justified. He did not listen."

My dear Madame! Just what kind of parent will you become one day? If your child doesn't listen to you -- and you believe that any punishment is justified -- it could be torture day at the Gramse home, no? Not eating your peas -- 2 weeks' grounding! Didn't wash hands before dinner -- stick those hands in a light socket! Bicycle's not put away -- off with your big toe! I sincerely ask you to reconsider your judgment that any punishment is justified if one does not listen. For the sake of your future children, Ms. Gramse!

What makes this missive to you all the more embarrassing -- because I assure you, Madame, that I take no pleasure in being argumentative, especially with such a force of intelligence as yourself -- is that I think it is quite clear that Mr. Lofy did listen to Badger High School administration. He simply chose to wear a dress to prom anyway. Wouldn't have been my choice, I admit. I've never understood the cross-dressers. Then again, based on the picture our persistent newspaper published next to the news story about this item, context appears to show that Mr. Lofy may not be a cross-dresser; I would argue he merely enjoys creating a good-natured stir. And I tip my hat to him for that.

As your letter states, you believe Mr. Lofy's dress-wearing behavior "is mocking the whole event." At this point, I humbly beg you to answer one minor, yet not insignificant, question: So what? There are some people -- you do not know them, I'm sure -- who would honor Mr. Lofy for mocking an event such as prom.

But my dear Ms. Gramse: you believe this is a travesty, no? In your final sentence, you ask the timeless question: "Is nothing sacred anymore?" Allow me the trouble of examining this question -- peeling back the layers, as is said -- for I am nothing, if not an inquisitive fellow.

I propose to you that you believe prom to be a sort of "coming-of-age" for young people. High-schoolers get to dress up in fancy clothes, go out and eat like royalty, dance and party like the world will soon end in a massive ball of flame, drink alcoholic beverages like runners quaff water after a race, and enjoy the thrills and sensations of premarital sex. Grouping all these activities together -- I agree -- seems to adequately describe a prom night. Therefore, I begin to understand your cunning thought process. It would seem that, given all these delectable activities crammed together, that this was not merely another high school dance, but a rite -- a rite of passage.

And that, Madame, is where our philosophies shake hands in the dark and part ways. Because all those things I described: the eating, the partying, the drinking, the sex -- that's not just a night called prom. That's also called four or five years of college. I understand, all these activities may mean a lot right now. But trust me -- oh, how condescending that must sound to such young, intelligent ears! -- it's not just a night; it's a lifestyle.

Therefore, I argue to you: many things are sacred, yes. God is sacred. Trust is sacred. Prom, my dear Ms. Gramse, is not sacred.

I wish you only the very best of luck in all your future endeavors. And, of course, I remain--

Sincerely yours,

Saturday, May 14, 2005

3:25 am 

I reviewed the last post . . . and then the last few posts. And I recognize the site has taken on a foul tone of late. I apologize for that. I'm usually better than that. Oh, who am I kidding? Still, perhaps there will be improvement. Really, I don't know, though, if there will be. I'll try. But honestly, my fiction is better when I'm pissed off. So maybe all this is a good thing.

Anyway. Just wanted to let you know that . . . I know. One of these days, I'll put up something nice . . . decent. Perhaps a nice long movie review. Maybe an old college paper I particularly like. Something decent.

Pretty-boy in the Grey VW Bug with Tinted Windows 

The light was red. I saw you across the street, creeping up on the left turn lane, making sure to go as slowly as possible so that you would hang back from the line, thus triggering the left-turn arrow.

It was 12:30 in the fucking morning. I'm sure you were in such a hurry you had to screw me like that, didn't you?

There's just one word appropriate for you, one epithet. It's one I don't use very often. It's a word my wife learned from her fellow meteorology students, back when I first met her. I remember thinking, upon first hearing it, "That doesn't make any sense." It means . . . almost nothing. It's foolish, really. But there are instances -- rare, undeserved happenings -- in which an individual such as yourself earns this curse, this title.

You're a cockmouth. That's what you are. There's no denying it. You're a fucking cockmouth for cutting off me and the rest of the end-of-second-shift traffic at 12:30 in the morning because you and your special little car just had to beat us all, didn't you? Didn't you?


Thursday, May 12, 2005

To The Rescue 

Marquette University needs a new nickname. They just can't seem to get it right. So they're polling the student body. Alumni are e-mailing. Trustees are trusting. And I, always one to lend a hand when I see a party in such dire need, have my submissions at the ready:

1.) Marquette Warriors

"It's sooooooo offensive to Native Americans." I happen to think of a warrior as a positive image. For example, after a race in which someone's run his heart out, someone may say, "You were a warrior out there." So take that, close-minded Marquette. Number one! Right atcha!

2.) Marquette Golden Avalanche

This name is so utterly ridiculous . . . . that it just has to be the one. Apparently this was the name of Marquette's football squad back in the 1920s and 1930s, so we'd be reinstating a sense of history, right? Even though, well, there's no football team anymore -- it doesn't matter. When an act of nature is used as a sports monicker, it sounds so idiotic . . . . which, in this alternate-reality type of situation we're in . . . . seems almost perfect to me.

3.) Marquette Hilltoppers

Also the name of Marquette Highschool's sports team. Therefore, I want this one just to piss off the local paper who would be at constant pains to delineate between the two. Again, there would be a sense of returning to history, as this was the name prior to "Warriors".

4.) Marquette Mannequins

Love that alliteration. Plus, it's a fair criticism of their defense last year.

5.) Marquette Jumpin' Jesuits

Heard this one on the radio today. Just sort of lays it all out there, doesn't it? Jesuits. Jumpin'. It's basketball. Can't offend the Indians, so we'll offend the Jesuits. It's not a real nickname unless we offend somebody. And justice isn't really served in America unless offense is taken.

6.) Marquette Marquette

When in doubt, repeat. It kind of goes with that whole "We are Marquette" thing, doesn't it? I mean, with a nickname like this -- that is, a nickname without any nick -- there can be no doubt. The chant could even be extended: "We are Marquette, Marquette! We are Marquette, Marquette!" Say it aloud to yourself -- works, doesn't it? No? Keep trying.

7.) Marquette Platters

It has kind of a 1950s-diner quality to it. Serving up some dinner with that basketball game. Hey, no one's accused this city of not being well-fed.

8.) Marquette Golden Boys

The university seems so stuck on "gold", that I thought I should include this. Plus, most students that attend Marquette seem to think they're pretty golden, so it fits. What would the women's team call themselves? You haven't guessed? Come on, it's perfect: the Marquette Golden Girls, a great name, and a tribute to fine 1980s television -- all at once!

9.) Marquette Milwaukee

Not that the city needs any advertisement, but if you go out-of-state, many basketball fans don't know where Marquette is. This name solves that problem. Furthermore, it would create the not-so-wild notion that Milwaukee is a state, and Marquette is its own sovereign city within it.

10.) Marquette Manure

We're coming to stink up your basketball stadium! Woo-hooo! Tell me that isn't catchy enough for you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Five is the number of times I've been here, trying to write, with so much to say, only to be interrupted or bored. Or lured away by the wife or Star Wars.

Five is the number of times I need the phone to ring so that I can find it and answer it before it goes to the machine. It only rings four times; and sometimes, inexplicably, three.

Five is the number of people fired by my employer within the last couple days. They've got this policy in which they don't tell anybody that someone else is gone. So it's a little spooky. But mostly, it's sad-- that you didn't get to at least say goodbye to the lady who gave everyone free mints at her desk and always had something kind to say.

Five is the number of times I've listened to Eel's new double-album, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. I've been really into pop lately. I've read a couple reviews that call it a masterpiece. And, damnit, it's so good I have to agree. It's the most visual album I've listened to of late, written with so much imagery one would expect it to be written for a soundtrack. But it's also full of the catchiest, easiest hooks to bob to. And the songs are all so short, they leave one wanting more, even after 33 songs.

Five is the number of chapters left to write in my book, and as many that are finished. Slow train comin'.

Five is the number of times I've turned on talk radio and still heard people complaining about Marquette University naming themselves the "Gold". As an alumnus of the "Blugolds", I must admit: I liked being a "Blugold". It was a unique, meaningless name that seemed to fit the Division III world we all lived so hard in. But alas! Such nihilism is not so appropriate for a big-name, big-conference, serious, Division I school with high aspirations and dire need for alumni donations. "Fuckin' Goldbrickers" would have been a better name.

Five is the number of days I wish we'd spent at the cabin in Shawano this past weekend. It's also the number of times we drove back and forth between Shawano and Green Bay. But we only had two and a half days. It was fun, anyway, fishing off the pier, eating brats at 1:30 in the morning, and walking around the junk at the local flea market.

Five is the number of times I've tried to get this little festival my friends and I celebrate every year off the ground this year. Everyone seems to have an opinion as to what we should not do, but no one wants to take any responsibility to plan it. Folks who check their e-mails twice a day all the sudden clam up when pressed for effort. Then the kicker: this weekend, when speaking with the festival's namesake, I find out that he has a wedding on the date we've committed to. Nice. And guess who's the guy who's gonna have to break that news?

Five is the number of times too many that the fuckin' BoDeans have headlined Summerfest. I like the BoDeans. I'm actually listening to them right now. But they missed the boat. They were a non-band for so many years . . . then they headlined Summerfest last year (for the umpteenth time) with a new album under their belt. What did they do? Played all the classics. Fuckin' nostalgia-fest. I'm sorry, boys, but you're a side act now. Miller Oasis was built for you. For as long as these guys continue to be billed as a Marcus Amphitheater headliner, the festival will be small potatoes. In my eyes, anyway.

Five is the number of bass notes to start Cannonball, which will take me to sleep . . . .

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