Saturday, April 24, 2010

...11 songs I wish I wrote.

It was as I was trying to get the shit (both mine and the younglings') together so that I could ship them off to the Succubus for the remainder of the weekend when it happened.  I had been streaming some music over the PS3 ( as I got everyone bathed.  I bounced from jazz, then a few versions of rock.  And then the fateful call from the cutest girl on the planet, when given a couple options, she called out "hair bands" and the song began (it's the first one n this list, in fact).  And the thought in my head, which I think I edited was, "Fuck, I wish I'd written this song!"

So what follows is not necessarily my list of "favorite" songs, because there are some songs that I like at the moment, some that capture the spirit of something, and some songs that just happen to fit somewhere.  This list would definitely be great songs, but great songs with orchestration that you can see the video in your head.  And it's the kind of music I've half-assedly tried to capture when I can be motivated enough to get a guitar.  And it's not even a complete list.  It started with 10, but I had to add another because I ran out of space.  So feel free to add another if you'd wished you wrote something else.

1. Bon Jovi - Livin' On a Prayer - A child of the 80's that grew up without Bon Jovi was abused.  Because even if they weren't your favorite all the time, they could always be counted on for big-ass sound that flat out rocked.  There are plenty of songs to pick.  This one gets it for two reasons.  First, it's a ballad.  It tells a simple story.  And the intro, which starts with a fade in, then just builds to the start of the song.  And the song builds all the way to the chorus.  And it never fails, at appropriate volumes, to give me a moment of goosebumps.

2. B52's - Love Shack - For the most part, it's nonsensical crap for lyrics.  But it's grotesquely, sweetly seductive in that you can't help but bounce to this obscenity to deep meaningful music.  Seriously, turn it up really loud, stand in the middle of the room and see if you can't NOT bounce  to it.  I can't describe why this song is good.  It has to be blasted.

3. The Doors - The Celebration of the Lizard - This is actually a sequence of a few songs and bits of poem, the song "Not to Touch the Earth" being the only part that made it out of the studio.  I found it on their live In Concert album.  It was something that defined how I did my college radio back in the day (tapes survive), and it's what happens when you mix poetry and jam band performance and a shitload of people (and assloads of LSD).  And it's something almost too organic to be written down.  But it was and I wish I had.

4. Alanis Morissette - Perfect - This is one of the lesser-known tracks off Jagged Little Pill.  It's also a buildup of sheer agony that other tracks touch on, but don't quite convey.  It's the musical equivalent of having your guts ripped out, your soul shattered, and all that there ever was made meaningless.  It's not a pissed off song, or a contemplative song, or whatever bohemian shit Alanis is up to this week.  It's pure, beautiful pain.

5. System of a Down - Chop Suey! - Sometimes it takes just one song for me to pick up and listen to a band and thereby get hooked.  This is the one that got me to first pay attention to System.  Half the fun is the quiet moments and cuts to silence.  And even if the majority of the song is high-speed, high-octane thrashing guitar, it's mixing those elements that makes it a symphony worthy of recognition.

6.  Kenny Rogers - The Gambler - A few years back, I decided to try my hand playing in front of people (after some previous disasters).  Plus, I had honed my stage presence in some choral work.  And I needed a song that was universal, was that good, and could be rendered on just a 12-string and my voice.  My version doesn't sound that much like the original (because Kenny isn't my style), but there are few songs that are better.  Period.  

7.  Green Day - Wake Me Up When September Ends - If you want one album to listen through without interruption, the opus that is American Idiot is well worth it, even the Bush-ripping parts (because a few songs wouldn't be on this list if my politics dictated the bands I listen to).  And track 11 on the album (September 11, get it?) is both emblematic of how the album functions, as well as reminding us how much the world changed in a sense.  And it does both lament and buildup to an explosion of emotion.  Three chords (more or less) never sounded so sublime.

8.  Billy Joel - Scenes From an Italian Restaurant - This one is on the list because it is a song within a song within a song.  How the fuck do you do that?  And the whole ballad thing, of course.  For me, it's being able to engage my mind, my emotions, and my ear.  This is one of those songs that probably wouldn't make the top 10 anything.  But then again, when you have a song that keeps changing, even if it has some douche horn work, it makes me wish I had come up with it.

9. Tenacious D - City Hall - I can't believe I've got the fucking D on the list.  But this particular song has the epicness, goes all over the map, and is funny as shit.  That it's the nonsensical funny album from two ingenious fat fucks doesn't diminish from the quality of writing and performance.  Makes me wish they put these bastards in a video game that rocks....  Wait, they did.

10. Meat Loaf (written by Jim Steinman) - Paradise by the Dashboard Light - First of all, I have to credit both writer and and musician.  After all, Elton John would just plunk piano without Bernie Taupin as his hetero music partner.  And this was a hard one, because there were a few options from the same album that were just as awesome, and furthermore, there's some history of this song and the Succubus.  But I'm not going to let that ruin a song for me (there are a few songs that have exes attached).  What put this over the top is the tendency to tell a story, be ridiculously over the top musically, and call the struggle of a guy trying to fuck a chick in the backseat like it's a baseball game, turning it into a girl manipulating a guy into selling his soul to get laid, then regretting the insane choice he just made.  Wow, it's almost autobiographical.

11.  Don McLean - American Pie - I sat down with my guitar one day to see if I could master this epic of epics.  I can play through it.  I suck at some points.  But if you wanted to capture what I wanted my music to become, this song would be the blueprint.  It might sound completely different, but this is the ultimate one hit wonder song.  How was the poor bastard ever going to top this?  Which is why I saved it for last.  I don't think further elaboration is necessary.

So with the kids gone, maybe I'll pick up my axe and murder one or two of these myself (assuming I get some cleaning done too).....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

...from atop the 2-story mulch pile.

As I make my way through the process of turning the yard into a nice thing (mowing on Monday, edging on Tuesday, shaping the bushes today, and the whacking of the weeds tomorrow), I have the opportunity to be outside and to let my kids roam, because I can be right there when the inevitable nosy neighbor decides to call the cops because my preschoolers are near the street and I'm not strictly in line of sight.

But either way, it's a daily exercise in managing the chaos.  Which brought me to some fun popping up on Twitter from the Free Range Kids territory.

(side note, I should have the book of said philosophy whenever Amazon gets it delivered.)

This one started with the post entitled: ANNOUNCING MAY 22: “TAKE OUR CHILDREN TO THE PARK…AND LEAVE THEM THERE DAY”.  Now for clarification, 4 and an autistic 5 is too young to participate to the fullest here (although my 4-year-old daughter wouldn't complain), but I do have a neighbor who has a daughter in preschool with my kids and an older son (6 or 7), who might be old enough (except they tend to helicopter too much from what I've seen).  And if I could find a family with an 8 or 9-year old, maybe I could ship them away for a few.

Of course, that's the advantage of being in the small town.  I'll be able to get them riding bikes to the store for me in a few years, once they acquire the ability to ride safely on the road, watch for cars, and count money.  It does depend on where you live to a degree.  But I have a feeling that there are parents that would flip if their kids climbed to the top of a two-story pile of mulch.  But mine were up there today as I loaded up a garbage can full to spread out in the flower beds.  I went about halfway up when it was time for them to come down, as it was the first time they climbed a giant shifting pile of dirt and rotting wood chips.  It's probably safer than climbing the slick and shifting boulders out at the lake, but since it was their first time on top of the community mulch pile, it never hurts to be handy.

Oh, and if you want the balanced assessment (and the ridiculous comments by helicopter parents), here's another site assessing the aforementioned kid-ditching event.

In the end,  my embrace of the Free-range mentality is part necessity (single parenthood helicoptering would leave me no time for gaming and masturbation), and part opportunity to raise kids that can go out there and live in the world without hanging on my ass for everything.  And being who I am, it will be to their benefit.

Finally, for the helicopter parents out there, here's the next thing you need to worry about:

As for me, I miss the good ol' days of playing with mercury in your bare hands....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

...roller coaster weather, Twitter, and bread.

The funnestestest part of April in Ohio is the weather.  We had some brutal cold to end March, followed by temperatures in the 80's (for my foreign readers, you're used to converting us provincial bastards who use Fahrenheit, so ho to it), followed by frost warnings and sub-freezing temperatures, and then back into the 80's, then cold again.  It's marked by the need to have a winter coat, a jacket, and shorts, because you'll need all three at some point in the day some days.

I do have the windows open and the heat off right now, but as it is only in the 50's, I'm going to probably close that up.

But it does have its advantages.  For example, it looks like I'll be mowing grass tomorrow, which is better than having to wait until May.  Last year hella-sucked for grass growth, especially since the front portion of the yard is still recovering from road reconstruction, which killed off the grass.  And the village has resown the grass twice, and I've thrown myself some seed in there too.  But it's half weed/half bare for the most part.

But there are signs that the grass is greener now.  I threw some seed on a bare spot up near the steps, and it is sprouting beautifully.  And I'm really trying to see if I've got some green thumb going on.  I planted some new flowers, and plants to fill out the front, got some caging around my rose bush so it doesn't flop around like my cock at the thought of my future sex life, and threw some fruit and vegetables in to boot.  Have some strawberries, bell peppers, and green onions in my back flower bed (which is better than having weeds), and am working up a hanging basket of strawberries, and a basket of tomatoes.  So I'll have to let you all know if that works.

And the fastest way to do that?  Twitter!  Yes, I have submitted myself to the 140-character limit that microblogging requires.  Actually, it's a real challenge for someone as verbose as me.  Considering that some of my compound curses alone evade the character limit, and that I abhor the use of excessive abbreviations in almost all cases (except instant messaging, where it's really an organic conversation, although I just abbreviate for the common crap (brb, bbiab, gfyysmfpos, etc.)).  Really, unless you really have a limit to your characters, do you really need to shorten every word by a letter or two?  It makes you sound like a retard.

That's one thing that I've been working on with my kids is the proper use of the English language.  Of course the fact that I often use the F-word twice to describe a newborn puppy does tend to make it more of a challenge.  And imagine what happens when I hear a politician laying out the bullshit.

Which is why I like to do the simple things.  Like making bread.  The only problem with the breadmaking was that it was labor-damned-intensive.  My stand mixer fried a few years ago, and that meant hand kneading the shit.  10 minutes, let it rise, beat it down some more, rise it again, shape it and bake it.  2 1/2 hours later, excellent bread.  But it's work.

So the answer would be a bread machine.  I finally got around to getting one as I perused some garage sales on Thursday.  I had originally planned to be doing a garage sale this year, but I got behind on everything (and am still behind now), so I planned to do the community sales on Saturday, and slept in (no kids weekend).  So my garage sale experience was a few on the way home from a shuffle-the-autism-boy meeting at school, and a walk around the block to check out the neighbors on Thursday.  So i finally got the machine set up, loaded, and walked away.  However, the kneading paddle didn't move.

Shit.  $10 wasted.  Of course, being the industrious son of a bitch that I am, I got around to tearing into the machine today (while fielding tech calls).  The biggest challenge was, of course, unscrewing the thing.  I had to undo some of the screw removal damage before I could check anything.  What I found only seconds later was that it was one of those stupid fucking kill switches, the kind that they put on because people are stupid enough to not close the lid.  It was literally a 30-second fix once I go in there.  That machine is making delicious bread right now, in fact.  As long as I didn't short on the flour.

Which reminds me of how easy my longest call was to actually fix after I got past all the bullshit in between.  40 minutes.  And due to limitations on what we can tech, it took 35 minutes to figure out that the computer WAS connected.  And the problem was solved by unchecking ONE BOX.

I think solving most problems in life involves digging through a lot of shit to fix the simplest thing in the world.....

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

...NOW they're candy cigarettes.

So as the kids have returned to school, a little of their Easter candy has trickled it.  One of those items that came home to day (a la pinkeye boy) was a box of candy sticks.  I remember these.  You remember these.  In the old days, they were candy cigarettes.  You'd get them out and "smoke them" as long as you could, nibbling them down to a tiny little butt, then with a quick bite, not make the butt mess that real cigarettes cause.

Wanting my kids to have the authentic experiences of yore (which now mostly come in dollar boxes rather than nickel and dime bins), I made with the red food coloring on one end, so now my kids can blaze up like I did back in the days when smoking wasn't a capital crime worse than pulling out your ballsack in the mall.

I think this is part of that whole movement to sanitize childhood.  And I'm talking about more than the bottles of antibacterial goo dotting the landscape of kid-dom these days. It's the idea we can protect our children from every danger big or small, and shield them from every idea that isn't written in a parenting manual.  Not so for my youngling.

This includes playing in dirt, playing with real tools, working around a hot stove (except when deep frying, of course, and supervised), cutting stuff (with actual knives, supervised), watching things that don't have the stamp of approval of the "kid experts" (except the sexual stuff), secondhand smoke, strange dogs, bees, falling on concrete and stone, talking to strange adults, and smoking candy cigarettes.

Because if they get to do all this stuff, then they'll ask about it.  And then I can teach them....

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

...some Easter reflections and the fun of pinkeye.

As the weather took a little dive on Saturday and the final bits of an orgy of candy were set into place, I got to enjoy another day of running around with the kids.  We had put my daughter's birthday party earache aside, had gotten through another week of work and school (ending with preschooler bowling on Wednesday), and were set on a course for some BBQ chicken (slapped on some dry rub, a honey mustard sauce, and some hickory smoke (amazing what you can do with some wood chips, an old tin, and a power drill).  It was good, of course.

Then, in the middle of Wal-Mart, the eye pus emerged.

I had noticed Friday night that the boy had some redness in his eyes.  And both kids have been coughing a little more, mainly because the allergy season is up (and the drugs are being administered).  But as soon as that goop became apparent, i knew it was conjunctivitis time.  Especially since it's not the first time he's had it.  Thankfully, we didn't have anything scheduled until Monday afternoon, so no worries.

Which brought us to Easter, the playing of the full Messiah (of which I can rock many of the tenor parts well even now), and the orgy of candy that, so far, is all my kids really are getting out of Easter at this time. And that's where I run into yet another problem of a spiritual nature.

A short post by Beth crystallizes this, which, looking back, I think I misread it a little.  But this is the problem with my shift away from Christianity.  I cannot accept the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus without a belief in it, and therefore it is relegated to a story of incredible sacrifice and love.

But how do I relate the valuable parts of the story without having the belief in it I grew up with.  I don't want to adopt a faith for the kids sake, nor do I want to go a purely secular route in this sense, as I do believe in the existence of God, in some form or another, just not the excessive dogma that organized religions bring to it.

And if you doubt the existence of God, listen to the Messiah all the way through.  If you're not moved at any level (even if you're atheist), you have no soul.  Of course, if you're an atheist, you don't believe in a soul, but you should be moved anyway.

So a good Easter was had by all, and then came Monday.

I had scheduled a dentist appointment at 9am so as to get drilled while the kids were in school.  Except they didn't have school.  Then there was the pinkeye to deal with, which meant a visit to the doctor.  Earliest appointment, 11:30.  That left a little under 2 hours to burn, as I didn't want to have to drive home and then back for the appointment (about 25 minutes).  So we went shopping (including the post-Easter candy buy), washed the car, and got the kids irritable.  Then we get to the doctor, I deal with the latest stupid government regulation, and then we wait.  And because it's almost lunch, and we've already been dragging ass to not have to drive home, the wait at the office is long.  Unusually (for their doctor) long.  45 minutes long.  Most of that was spent in the waiting room, stocked with toys.  We get the scrip, and hit the pharmacy.  But then comes the insurance insanity.  The prescription is one not covered.  So they call back to the doctor.  But the office is out to lunch.  So my choices were either wait and come back later for the eye drops once they get the prescription changed or shell out the $20 to get what was prescribed.  I paid the cash for 5ml of droppy goodness.  By the time we have the eye drops and hit the road, it's 1pm, which means a bag and gag run to feed the younglings.  And the fun of getting eye drops in the boy's eyes.

But no, this isn't the end, because I forgot about the rules concerning day care.  As in he has to be on the drops for 24 hours before the babysitter can take the kids.  And since there are babies there today, I'm boned.  This is as I am supposed to be dropping the kids off before work, so there's no time left.  Luckily, my sister happened to be heading my way, and I wisely had shown up a little early just in case.  The bonus there was that my sister (a round trip of 40 minutes) brought the kids home rather than me having to run to get them.  And since I got off at 9, and they have school, meaning bedtime is normally 9, this was good.

Of course, my son was a little worn out, and didn't make it to school today.  But at least it was warm enough to get out, get some coffee, get some grass spread, and get a couple plants going.

And any day that the doors and the windows are open is a good day....