Monday, October 20, 2008

This Is Not A Political Post

For a lark, and because I was interested in how this whole "early voting" thing was working, I went and voted today at the Board Of Elections in downtown Painesville.

For those thinking of doing so, I'd only recommend this if you are certain you are going to face a long line at the polls on November 4, or if you have a pretty busy schedule on that day, as the process took a little bit longer than I'd anticipated (probably a half hour from when I walked in the door to the BOE to the time that I left). After filling out a page or so of "who are you, anyway"-styled paperwork and then cross-checking a couple of details with the attending clerk, I was given a pen, a yellow envelope, a two-page ballot and went off to do my voting thing.

This last bit was a bit of a surprise: I'd figured we'd be using one of those newfangled electronic voting machines instead of being handed an absentee ballot, but this being my day off, I wasn't in any kind of hurry. That said, I think next time I'll just stick with voting on Election Day.

Maybe There Is A God, After All ...

Wow, I guess good things can happen in this world, after all. I haven't been this chuffed about watching the Fall Classic since, well, 1997 ...

My heartfelt congratulations go to the Tampa Bay Rays in their vanquishing of the hated Boston Red Sox in an ALCS Game 7 for the ages, setting up a World Series Game 1 against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night.

At last, I can look forward to a World Series with no "bad guy" and just enjoy some good postseason baseball between two teams who I'd both like to see win it all. If pressed, I might admit to a bit of a hankering to see Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel win the Big One for old time's sake, but honestly, I just hope the series goes seven games.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Meditating On Matters Of Wood And Porcelain

OK, so I'm watching playoff baseball (despite the lack of total lack of ball clubs from Cleveland being involved this year) and, of course, there are ads for Viagra and Cialis during every single commercial break.

Well, alrighty, then. I guess Erectile Dysfunction is now a plague of biblical proportions judging by the amount of air time these ads chew up on a nightly basis, though I suspect a lot of our national shrinkage problem has to do with ever-increasing amounts of able-bodied males watching the Boston Red Sox in high definition widescreen. Really, drug companies, what the hell do you expect to happen down south of the belt line when such genetic abominations as Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis fill our television screens? Contrary to popular opinion, we're not all Red Sox fans out here.

Anyway, to the question at hand: it has come to my attention that nearly all of these erectile dysfunction ads at some point will feature a middle-aged (and ostensibly naked) couple sitting on a beach or in a forest, gazing at the sunset or rolling waves from the comfort of two separate bath tubs. What the hell?

Who sticks these bath tubs in these areas and for what purpose? Is there some kind of juicy symbolism I am failing to catch here? Where does the hot water come from to fill these tubs? How is sitting naked in two separate tubs romantic or erotic? Wouldn't a Jacuzzi built for two be a better idea?

Color me stymied.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chinese Democracy Is Finally At Hand

Billboard's Jonathan Cohen is reporting the release of the fifteen-years-in-the-making Guns N' Roses album Chinese Democracy, which will (of course) only be available through everyone's favorite neighborhood record store, Best Buy. Oh goody.

The set ... will be available Sunday, November 23, rather than the usual Tuesday.

Gosh, how clever and daring, Axl. Nice to have you back. I hope your shitty new record tanks.

This spring, soft drink manufacturer Dr Pepper offered to send a free can of the beverage to "everyone in America" (excluding ex-GNR members Slash and Buckethead) if "Chinese Democracy" were to arrive anytime during the calendar year 2008. A Dr Pepper spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Crap. Dr. Pepper? Ewww. Can I ask for a Pepsi or Mountain Dew instead?

The Road: November 26

Here's a movie that might be worth looking forward to.

I picked up this book on a whim last summer and was completely blown away. Relentlessly downbeat and drenched in misery, The Road is a shattering, striking read. I can't imagine how they're going to do the movie adaptation "right," but I am totally psyched regardless.

Thanksgiving, huh? Boy, this'll attract families in droves ...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Life Is Just A Fantasy/Can You Live This Fantasy Life?

I suppose it would surprise absolutely no one that I have a "Google Alert" set to "Pink Floyd," which sends me a nice little daily rundown of all the most popular new stories on said subject to appear on the web (whether through so-called "mainstream" news sites or blogs). 98% of the time, these alerts e-mails are either full of false-positives or plain old chaff, but one link came up last week that caught my eye: drummer Nick Mason will apparently be one of the instructors at a "Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp" in England in early November.

I researched this "fantasy camp" further and the details offered in the package are quite interesting indeed: you (the participant) will practice at the famed Abbey Road Studios and then perform with your band at the (rebuilt) Cavern Club (across from the old location shuttered years ago) in historic Liverpool!

Live the dream! No experience necessary!
trumpets the official website. You'll be treated like a rock star. You'll live the rock n' roll lifestyle day in and day out, learning or perfecting your knowledge of an instrument, practicing and jamming with your band mates and learning the ins and outs of the music business - all in the company of some of music's brightest stars.

Funny, I was under the impression that the life of a rock star was more along the lines of frequent anonymous sex, binge drinking, recreational drug use, malnutrition and cultivating a healthy love/hate relationship with your audience. Sure, practice and jamming is certainly involved and all, but the rest of that sounds suspiciously like a community college course.

And while I love Nick and all, I can't say I consider him or Bill Wyman to be among "music's brightest stars," but I suppose they can't have Slash available for these kind of things 24/7.

By the way, that "no experience necessary" part looks absolutely horrifying, doesn't it?

Depending on your skill level and interest, you may try picking up a Peavey guitar during your time at camp, or you may spend your time singing backup vocals or playing tambourine with the band.

Terrific. How many acolyte tambourine players can a live amateur performance of The Wall support before the universe starts to collapse in upon itself?

So, what can a paying customer expect from his experience? The site goes into a point-by-point list:

• Small group instruction from celebrity musicians (campers are placed in a band with a rock star counselor for the entire camp duration)

Good lord, this just sounds like someone's awful idea of a reality series.

• Play and write your own original song

Hey, Brian and Rob! This is your chance to get "Butterflies In The Wind" professionally recorded at last! Can y'all write me a bass part?

• Perform live on stage to a sold out audience at a major rock venue

What, the (second iteration of the) Cavern Club? What's the capacity there? 300 people? Boy, I'll bet they are chomping at the bit to hear a bunch of inexperienced musicians tackle a Pink Floyd double album.

• Counselor-led master class sessions in drums, bass, guitar, songwriting, etc.

Sooo, will Nick Mason be teaching power chords and organ riffs, then?

• A souvenir DVD of you jamming at the final night's Battle of the Bands

Sweet Jesus Mercy, there will be more than one band performing? This is cruel.

• 10+ hours of daily jam sessions with your bandmates and rock star counselors

Good. You're gonna need it if you have any hopes of not embarrassing yourself.

• Daily meals with celebrity musicians and campers

If they are offering the true rock star experience, these meals will come straight out of the ass end of the nearest drive-through burger joint.

• Rehearsal time at professional rehearsal studios (you'll play where the stars play!)

Makes you wonder which engineers at Abbey Road drew the shortest straws to land this gig.

• Plenty of opportunities for photos and autographs as guest stars walk through the camp all week (so be sure to bring your camera!)

"Wow! Chris Slade! Wassup, homey!?"

"Hey, Kip Winger! Can I get a picture with you?"

"Hey, look! It's that guy who was once in The Beach Boys in the 1970s! Awesome!"

At first, reading the article and then perusing the website made me feel sad and embarrassed: my god, is this what our ex-rock stars have sunk to? Teaching a bunch of rich kids whose parents paid $15,000 so that their little Dominics, Dantes and Dillons can learn how to perform The Wall from a guy who, quite honestly, didn't have an awful lot to do with the creation of the piece in the first place (and, considering Pink Floyd's increasing use of session musicians around that time, who knows how much he had to do with the actual recording anyway)?

The more I chewed this program over, the more disturbed I became by what I was reading. A school of rock? We're now giving trust fund brats and aging baby boomers professional seminars on how to be a rock star? What kind of post-Reagan cultural dicketry is this?

Has rock music become so safe and homogenized now that it has completely lost any semblance of artistry or danger that it once held? OK, I'll look the other way on adults working their way through midlife crises (since Goat knows I'm due for mine anytime now), but when exactly did kids growing up in the hopes of becoming a rock star become an agreeable career goal for their parents? Hell, when did joining a rock band become something you went to camp for (and with your parents chaperoning, to boot)?

Maybe I missed something over the years, but I was under the impression that a rebellious teenager joining a rock band was the antithesis of a respectable career choice. If anything, trying to become a professional rock musician was more like running off to join the circus: something that horrify your parents and either turn you into a drug-addled guitar god or at least a spotty, chain-smoking roadie. Not anymore, though! These days, living the rock star lifestyle is as cute and tame an idea as a day at Disneyworld.

The more you think about it, the more Rock 'N Roll Fantasy Camp becomes a vaguely creepy homage to an era that really does feel a century old. Be Amish for a week and raise a barn! Join the Union and be a Civil War soldier for a week and then fight in a real mock battle! Join a rock band and learn to play Pink Floyd's The Wall!

"Lookit me, Darian! I'm a rock star! I can play 'The Thin Ice' on drums!"

Sickening. And we wonder why rock music has seemingly lost much of its meaning and impact on people over the last fifteen years.

Look, it's either this or politics ...

A Warning To CD-R Collectors

One of my big projects for this year has been going through and listening to every CD I own in order to clear some space on my shelves, thin out the overgrown herd a bit, and make a few bucks from selling the oldies but goodies on Amazon. Currently, I'm nearing the end of the R section (lots of Rolling Stones, Todd Rundgren and Rush in the air lately) and hoping to get through the end of the alphabet by Christmas.

Anyway, while going through this marathon endeavor, I've been making the disturbing discovery that a lot of old CD-R titles have deteriorated a lot more quickly than I'd anticipated, especially titles that have some kind of labeling or silk screening done on the top side of the disc. I'd heard before that some CD labels were notoriously prone to ruining CD-Rs over time (Goat knows how), and it appears that has been quietly happening in my shelves the last few years. Ick.

For me, this is not a major problem: nearly all of the music I own on CD-Rs is bootlegged live recordings, as that particular segment of the music market went nearly all CD-R around 1998 or so. Thankfully, this means much of this music is replaceable (and perhaps even upgradeable) if I know where to look (and I do). What I've found is that not every CD-R I own has gone bad, but enough have become undependable that I've been backing everything up to FLAC in hopes of keeping at least some of these recordings in playable shape.

So, to anyone out there who has placed a fair amount of your music on CD-Rs, whether in musical or data form (particularly those of you who then added some kind of fancy colorful label to the top): you might be well advised to start checking some of your archives and making sure everything is in playable shape. Hopefully, you'll be spared an unpleasant surprise.

Monday, October 06, 2008

End Of Discussion. For Now.

Not that you would ever notice it here since I rarely go political on this blog, but my complete avoidance at all costs of the vice-presidential debates the other night made me realize that I've reached my personal fill of political discourse for this term. My mind is made up, and I'm dead tired of this subject coming up several times a day every single day at work. It's time to step back, affect an air of blissful ignorance, and let whatever happens happen at the polls.

Thus, with one month to go until Election Day, I hereby state for the record that I am taking a break from all discussion, comment, and riffing on political affairs in all forums, whether we're talking about e-mail lists, blogs, shooting the shit at work, or any other public venue where the subject can possibly come up.

Ohhhh, damn. Almost forgot. One last thing before my promise officially goes active ...

Hee hee. Don't forget to vote on November 4!