Monday, October 13, 2008

Happenings One Month's Time Ago

Inspired by the season premiere of The Office on 9/25, I figure I should do a recap by way of highlights rather than muddle through every little stupid thing that happened. It's been just under a month, and I can only apologize for those of you out there still regularly checking this site while the cobwebs form.

And you know what? I PROMISE to keep you all updated from here on out. It's just a little hard since I am using Shelley's computer a lot of the time since I don't have Internet at my place for my desktop.

Two days after my last real entry that wasn't cartoons or a smartass comment about the economy, Nick and Holly broke up. He seems better now, but she dumped him...he was bummed out for a while. He was her first real relationship, she was his second one. It's best for both of them to move on and see other people, experience dating, etc., and who knows? Maybe they'll get back together at some point in the (distant) future. Holly seemed really friendly, and I wish her the very best.

No, I didn't say "I told you so" to him, either. But I've seen couples in high school do just fine until college (my dear friends Joe and Tonya broke off their engagement a few days ago, though as Joe told me it was three years' coming, read: since they started college in separate towns on opposite ends of the state), at which point they hit a brick wall. So for them to be 700 miles apart almost completely throughout high school and go to college 675 miles apart...

I decided to spend most of my waking hours out of the apartment. That is the best remedy I can come up with, seeing both Kieth and Graham as friends still and using that stuffy apartment as a place to rest my head. Shelley was nice enough to copy her apartment keys so I can drop by to use the Internet, work on my Kinks project, write papers, grade tests for Z402, play with Phyllis, and eat. (I keep my food here even if that gives you an idea of how little I spend over at Woodlawn Terrace other than sleeping and showering.)

My social interaction with Graham has been stunted because I don't like a lot of his friends over at Collins. Tonight I removed a friend of his who added me because I saw she published a note advertising this pseudo-subversive cause called "Orgasms For Peace," where at the precise moment on the precise date those interested pleasure themselves or get pleasured in hopes that it will create cosmic waves and spread peace, love, and good cheer.

Doesn't Santa Claus bring those things, too?

There's wishful thinking for world peace and then there's just plain dumb. This is just plain dumb. The secret to world peace rests not in radicalism, candlelight vigils, marches, or by singing "Give Peace A Chance" in front of the White House. And it really isn't going to come about by jacking off. Trust me, if jacking off had an effect on anything other than one's own loins, I could have single-handedly taken down Al-Qaeda.

Care to know the real secret to world peace? It's not as fun as protest marches (though that is a good way to set the wheels in motion for a change in domestic policy) or as solemn and reverent as a vigil, definitely not as awesome as throwing a Molotov at a bus, and not as respectful to the memory of John Lennon, but nothing is ever what it seems. Never has been.

It really boils down to dollars and sense: open up trade with another country, and watch the hostilities fade away.

Also - dismantle the Israeli government, give a God-like edict that the nation cannot re-form until all of the members of the Knesset have passed away, and take it from there. Meanwhile, keep the region's government secular.

I can't stand these Collins assholes. I can be talking with Graham and one of these bogus hippies will run up, interrupting us, and act as though I'm not even there. Might as well be a tree. One of his friends I have introduced and re-introduced myself to no less than four times. You all can imagine how great that feels.

A wild guess as to where their minds would have been circa June 1967:

Thank you, Frank. Thank you for hating hippies back when it wasn't cool to hate hippies. Also - thanks for calling their bluff.

These are the people who are more than comfortable hearing Graham bitch about Kieth on a regular basis without unflinchingly questioning a word he says. The ones who aren't sitting him down and saying, "Listen man, you can make this work with some effort or you need to tell Kieth it's over. Stop fathering him, that's not what he needs. He needs love and support. Invite him to hang out with you. Would it kill you to take him out on a date? You're more than welcome to rant and rave about politics or music or school or your family...but this is something you DO have control over. You aren't married to him!"

But hey, what the fuck do I know about anything?

I've also noticed he's really good at pretending to know what he's talking about...when he really doesn't have the foggiest. Certainly gives off the vibe that he's knowledgeable in all matters.

Kieth has found a job on campus working as a caterer at the IMU. He's making good money and getting a lot of hours. It's what he needs: interaction, a confidence boost, and money to save and spend. Graham finally registered to vote after watching Sarah Palin's winking "by golly" performance at the debate. Thank God. (Again, I'm keeping discussion of her to a complete minimum. Less said the better.)

One slightly chilly night I brainstormed with Shelley about how I needed to revise my Kinks project. An album-by-album synopsis would get BO-RING. But analyzing a handful of albums along with essays on various themes in Ray Davies' songwriting (plus an essay on Dave Davies' songs with The Kinks) and hey...I smell a book. Or at least an undergrad's senior project.

The albums I will single out:
+ Something Else
+ The Village Green Preservation Society
+ Arthur
+ Lola Vs. Powerman & The Moneygoround
+ Muswell Hillbillies
+ Everybody's In Showbiz and A Soap Opera
+ Preservation Act One and Preservation Act Two
+ Schoolboys In Disgrace
+ Sleepwalker and Misfits

+ Poverty and Class
+ The Modern World
+ Nostalgia
+ Madness
+ The Early Singles
+ Dave Davies


Anyway, I ran this by Andy, who said it made a lot more sense and was "quite frankly" (to borrow an oft-used phrase of his) more feasible.

One day in class, I was really bored and designed a course that would cover the same period of time (1963-1978) for The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Who. There's some classic albums, some overlooked albums, some massively influential singles, and a great story to be told for the lot of them in that time-frame. (For my money The Stones pretty much died in 1978, The Kinks' streak of brilliance ended with 1978's Misfits album - though they squeezed off one more masterpiece in 1981, and Keith Moon LITERALLY died in 1978.) I took this one step further by designing a weekly scheduled syllabus and a listening list for each group.

For me, totally fascinating. For anyone else, it's, "Okay...Alex has officially gone bye-bye...I think I'll just leave him be."

I've established some rules for my grad school search:
1.) In or within 30 minutes of a major city.
2.) Not in California. (Too expensive. Also, earthquakes.)
3.) Not in the South. (Wanting to get away from ignorance. Also, no one ever really praises the merits of Montgomery or Atlanta or Biloxi, Mississippi.)
4.) Not in Indiana. (And yes. This includes Indiana University.)
5.) Not in the Midwest. (Change of scenery? Absolutely.)

I have also settled on a field of study: history. Pretty universal, not as competitively exclusive as media studies or cultural studies, not as inside-the-box shit as journalism. I'll hone my specific desired topic soon, but it will most likely be the US and/or the UK in the 1960's/1970's and its pop culture(s). In other words, rock history.

A couple weeks ago I talked to Dad about this and indirectly hinted that I'm not going to bother applying here for graduate school...and he understood the need to keep moving. One thing I mentioned to him that he agreed with was that I couldn't have made the leap from Seymour, a town of 18,000, to a big city and not gone bat-shit crazy. But using Bloomington - population 100,000 with students, 60,000 without - as a middle ground of sorts has been great. And unlike Eric Condon, I'm not going to blow off my time here as a waste or harbor bad feelings. It's been fantastic. I'll miss it, I'm sure, but I'll be happy wherever I go from here provided it's not Seymour.

More importantly, Dad knew what I was getting at. I felt like I needed his "blessing." I mentioned to Mom that I was looking at other schools "along with" Indiana, but that very notion had her telling me she'd miss me if I was too far off. Dad saying he understood that I needed to go somewhere else (he acknowledged my hatred of Indiana's awful weather, my desire to be in a more widely liberal environment, etc.) made up for all that. After all, it's not like he went from Louisville for his undergrad to Birmingham, Alabama for pharmacy school.

Dream schools:
1.) UT Austin
2.) Anywhere in/near NYC
3.) Anywhere in Nashville, Tennessee

But...we'll see. I'm retaking the GRE on November 15th. Given my past rejection I am frightened to death of the prospect of failure, let alone re-applying to graduate programs. I feel this is like me saying, "Am I good enough for you now, Master's programs? Is this what you wanted?" It's like that scene in Back To The Future Part II:

Marty: Doc, what if we don't succeed?
Doc: We. Must. Succeed!

Seriously, what would I do if I didn't get in? There is no contingency plan. Plan B is going to another school I applied to that wasn't my "dream" school. Plan C is the same. So is Plan D.

I just need to kick a little more ass on the GRE. Plus, there's a history professor on my IMP advisory committee who said she would be glad to help with applications. And it's not like I won't have a shit-ton of references. The more the merrier.

The band I joined last time I ranted and raved at you has kicked into second gear. Not gonna lie, I did what I could to do what Frank Zappa would call "put eyebrows" on some of the slower tunes. The slowest, dullest track has turned into a Who-esque rocker. This past week I invested in some drum sticks called Hot Rods, which are between brushes and sticks in terms of timbre and volume. Definitely spruces up my playing and allows for some shift in dynamic on songs.

Might want to scroll until you see capitalized boldface again, unless you have time.

Eric, the accordionist/trombonist and Jason the lead guitarist have recorded a few rehearsals...I don't know if any of you were dumb enough to check out my MySpace where I'm playing with songs on my headphones (meaning you just hear drums), but I have since been wary of hearing myself play.

Case in point:

Me doing "Mindless" with The Heliocentrics, December 2006.

Until now.

Between the Blues class and the Hendrix class I learned all about drummers providing rhythm and feel rather than playing in an ostentatious manner. There's reason I didn't like hearing myself play: it was too much all of the time. Keith Moon could play the way he did in The Who because Pete Townshend was not (and is not) a lead guitar player. He's a rhythm guitarist through and through. Keith managed to fill space (listen to The Who's Live At Leeds and you'll see that Pete's sustained, windmill style of playing left a ton of space in the high-end. Bassist John Entwistle - God love him - did great stuff on his instrument, but something needed to balance him out sonically) where a "lead" instrument would go but at the same time did a great job keeping time.

The Who doing "Pinball Wizard" live at Woodstock, August 1969

A phrase I've both Andy and my friend Mark kick around is the notion of a drummer playing "in the pocket." It took me a while to warm up to this thought, having grown up on the fantastic playing of Keith Moon, Aynsley Dunbar (Zappa, Bowie), Ginger Baker (Cream), Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), and Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix). If you were to compile a "highlight reel" of their drumming it would probably consist of them filling up space. But check it out: The Who, Cream, Black Sabbath, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Let's see here...all four of these groups consisted of guitar, bass, and drums (though The Who and Black Sabbath had vocalists fronting the so-called "power trio"). It's all the same school of playing. Dunbar, Mitchell, Ward, and Baker both started off playing jazz and blues before rock. Moon was from another planet. (And yes, I realize the astronomical pun in that statement.)

Bart Elliott at Drummer Cafe explains it excellently:
"...if two musicians (usually the bass player and the drummer) are feeling the downbeats together, feeling and placing beat "one" at the exact same time, they are said to be "in the pocket."
Many people feel that the question is not so much what the pocket is as much as how you know when you've achieved it. To the musician, it feels like the music is playing itself, as though everything has merged together ... all the rhythmic parts being played by one instrument.

Listen again to The Who. Keith's beats aren't manic, they are in sync with John's bass throughout most of the song. Fills aren't the Devil for drummers, just use them when needed (not when you feel like it - as I used to do). Many drummers today overplay, and as a result the music doesn't groove. Would you say "Pinball Wizard" has a defined 'groove' or 'feel' to it? Not in the same way a funk song would, but yes, it does.

Look at that list of drummers I admire. If you were to listen closely, aside from the spruced-up fills, these guys keep steady beats without overplaying.
Check out "Sparks" by The Who...

Unlike Jimi Hendrix, The Who were on FIRE at Woodstock...from 1:07 to 2:00 is literally my favorite stretch of sound ever recorded in the history of mankind. I am not kidding. If you were to ever be held at gunpoint and asked what my favorite piece of music/sound is, it's THIS.

"Diamond Dogs" by David Bowie (feat. Aynsley Dunbar on drums)...

"White Room" by Cream...

From the opening credits of a 2004 Japanese film entitled '69'. Haven't seen it, but this truncated version of the song is 3 minutes shorter than the studio version. You guys have lives outside of this least I hope, otherwise this past month has been Dullsville, Population: You.

"Paranoid" by Black Sabbath...

and lastly, "Purple Haze" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience...

(Listen to Mitch during the guitar solo.)

These guys provide good pocket beats, just with some added fills. It wasn't all balls to the wall manic drumming, though Mitch Mitchell could sometimes come a bit close for comfort.

Jimmy Reed's "Baby, What You Want Me To Do" is a fine example of straight-up groove drumming and one of my favorites:

Is this making sense? The song has a "feel" to it. A definitive feel. I can't say the same about "Mindless" by The Heliocentrics. I'd do it differently now, that's for damn sure. I got bored because I felt like I was playing the same thing all the time. And I was because I was operating on the principle of MAKE AS MUCH NOISE AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN IT IS ALL ABOUT POWER AND VOLUME KICK OUT THE JAMS MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!!!!!

But the best-known drummer who specializes in providing a pocket - and again, it is all within the framework of the music and the musicians in the band - is actually one of the best-known drummers in the world...

Total LOL moment at 1:35, especially out of context from the movie!


Long story short for those of you smart enough to skip my rant about what separates a great drummer from someone TRYING to be great: I learned the secret and made the transition from the latter to the former. (Don't overplay. Give the song a good "feel." Play in rhythmic sync with one other instrument, preferably the bass guitar.)

I've heard our playbacks after each practice and I can actually something I didn't think I'd say.

I'm a good drummer.
Took me long enough, no?

Of all people, Bill Bowser came to Bloomington one weekend with Joe Bray. It prompted me to not offer my promised rant about his career choice. (Joe got so drunk he puked on some of Shelley's paintings, which we had to throw away.) When I saw Bill at Oktoberfest he acted as though we hadn't hung out a few weeks ago; he opted instead to be Newlin's shadow, comparing Eric and Newlin seeing each other to a reunion of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. (I know.)

Expect one now. Soon.

The last weekend of September I had my mid-program assessment for the Individualized Major Program. One member of the committee was present, along with the assistant director of the program, Andy, and me. It went well, but some of the recommendations made are just impractical and/or unnecessary. The committee member in attendance was from the music school, thus a lot of music classes were strongly suggested for me. My project proposal outlined that I wanted to do a series of essays on The Kinks, which I in turn would like to have published as a book; there were questions asked that I had answered in April. It was redundant, but I had no less than six writing samples from both the book and my articles for Culture Week. (More on the local paper gig in a bit...)

It was fine until I started mapping out my schedule for next spring, aka my FINAL SEMESTER AS AN UNDERGRAD! Both sections of Music Theory, a heavily-pushed course, overlapped with the Rock Music of The 1960's and my IMP senior capstone course. I wasn't about to NOT do either of those, so Music Theory went out the window. Andy ok'd it, other faculty members and peers told me exactly what I was thinking: don't bother with theory.

Then another problem arose: the IMP capstone is only 2 credits. If I do less than 12 credits a semester I will no longer be considered a full-time student (the magic number might actually be 9,) but worse (and this is for sure) I would no longer be eligible for my parents' health insurance. Since other courses of 1 or 2 credits are Phys. Ed. classes or Chess...I figured, eh, what the Hell, final semester, might as well take a course where I learn something related to my career. There was also a History class suggested to me that I'm going to opt out of.

My courses for next semester:
Z120 - Music In Multimedia (we'll be working with Macromedia Director, the same program Prof. Glenn Gass uses in Z201, Z202, and The Beatles class. It's like PowerPoint on steroids.)
Z202 - Rock Music: British Invasion To The 1970's
A382 - The 1960's (History Course)
Z393 - The History Of Jazz
I470 - IMP Senior Capstone

I don't need Latin American Music, Music Theory, or Contemporary Jazz & Soul, so I'm not going to take them. I DO need to learn about the culture of America (and England) in the 1960's, hence A382. Broadening my horizons on 1960's popular music makes sense. Ray Davies and Frank Zappa, my two real idols, loved jazz music...I'd love to hear the stuff I've heard them praise and to expand my musical palate - enter Z393. The Senior Capstone is a writing tutorial (among other things) for the seniors in the IMP and only meets for the first 8 weeks.

As for Z120, wouldn't it be strange if for my semester project I just happened to design a Director presentation for a course covering the music of The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Who? Funny how these things work out...

Culture Week is in a state of upheaval. Due to what sounds like a fairly petty conflict with the publisher - he wanted to promote his business in CW but they said no, he got pissy, etc. - the editors are leaving to start a bimonthly literary magazine. We were notified via email to come to an "emergency staff meeting" to "discuss the future of Culture Week." I couldn't make it since I was home for Oktoberfest (which I'll get to in a second). But the long and short of it is our editors left us high and dry, not telling us who to send our articles for November to or who the Hell is going to run the publication!

It gets better. That review I wrote for The Residents album? Didn't get published on the website. Every other article for October did. But not mine. Oh, and good luck finding October's issue...I haven't seen it in any of the newsstands around town. I got my copy at Wal-Mart, way out on the west side of town.

Quoting Daffy Duck: "Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin!"

Oktoberfest was great this year. The last time I said that was 8th grade, which I keep going back to as the high point of my existence until college, when I walked around all day with Ashley Vega (whose cousin was dating Eric) holding her hand (the COOLEST thing a 13 year old boy could do, by the way...) and considering her my girlfriend after having a HUUUUGE crush on her the entire summer, rehearsing what I'd say each time I saw her, counting the number of times I saw her.

Puppy love.

After that, it was "Well, last year was better." "Ah, the year before that was better." "Man, this year sucked!" "Oktoberfest is kinda gay!" "Once I get to college, I'm not going to Oktoberfest!" "I'm not going NEXT year!" "I'm glad I didn't go this year!"

But to walk around all weekend with Shelley Leshin, who I met because of a stray piece of chalk, holding her hand (the COOLEST thing a 21 year old man could do, by the way...) and realizing she is the love of my life in the same setting as many years of fun Oktoberfest memories from childhood through adolescence, and knowing I won her back after a painful breakup and separation period where I never really stopped loving her, rehearsing how I would ask her back, finding out the right time and place to tell her I never really stopped loving her, well...

Who needs puppy love? I have the real thing now.

If my life were a movie or television series, the "scene" of me and Shelley riding in the 96.3 Cool Bus and waving at everyone would be allegorical - for a start, I'd see WAY more faces from my past rather than thousands of schmucks and their kids and only a few people I knew (this one weirdo in the Boulevards took our picture...) - but it would be an allegory for me accepting that I need to wave goodbye to Seymour and venture onward.

With a little luck, it could very well be my last Oktoberfest. I went into it knowing that. And it didn't take much effort at all to make it count.

Last thing, something I've not talked about, then I'm off to sleep: the beach (8/16-8/23) wasn't half as entertaining this year, aside from me bonding with Rick and learning he loves Dada and Surrealism as well as fine literature. Eric wouldn't quit pissing and moaning about how bad his job answering phones for TiVo is when he was sober, then he'd have two drinks and pretend to act drunk when he was just letting out his inner buffoon. His girlfriend Sarah has him convinced he is suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, but he refuses to get tested for it...therefore he thinks he has it.

Also - Sarah was a total bitch about me and Shelley being back together, telling me it was a mistake and that she hadn't changed. You know, it makes sense coming from her, since Sarah knows Shelley so well and has been such a big part of both of our lives in different capacities this entire time. She really knows Shelley in and out, you could almost say they "get" each other, in fact. So I can't really be too upset about this, since Sarah is completely qualified to make such an assessment.

I didn't realize until after the beach - after a week of Sarah being a total bitch about...well, a lot of things - that I'm comfortable with making myself unavailable or even just pretending to have other plans if they're ever back up here. Eric is too bleak and depressing about all sorts of stuff (the value of going to college, the concept of life itself). He actually had the audacity to say "we talk about things the way people who have seen the horrors of war do." That's disrespectful to anyone who fought in a war this past century, where true forces of evil were challenged.

You think McCain is scary? You think Obama is scary? How about George W. Bush or John Kerry? I hate making such an obvious statement, but try Hitler on for size! Or how about Stalin? Or Castro? Idi Amin? Doc Duvalier? Pol Pot? Hideki Tojo? Slobodan Milosevic? Arafat? And yes - at one point in time, long before we actually got him - Saddam Hussein? Despotic mass-killers. All of them. McCain and Kerry served in the armed forces. They killed people on the orders of their country. Aside from that, none of the four men listed at the top of this paragraph have ordered the systematic killing of an ethnic, religious, or political group.

If you had told me three years ago I would be defending George Bush against his harshest critics, I would have laughed. But if you're going to liken the deaths of 4,000 American soldiers to the ten million lives ended as part of Hitler's "final solution" then I suggest you just sit down and do some basic arithmetic:

10,000,000 - 4,000 = 9,996,000

Sorry, but Mr. Bush has some catching up to do if he wants to compete with Hitler. The man is a moron. But he's not a tyrant or a despot or a madman.

Aside from seeing 9/11 live on television our generation has been jaded. Horrors my ass. Never mind that Eric grew up never going to bed hungry, with two parents who loved him very much - they never beat him or sexually abused him, any needs were met and most wants. Listen to Kieth's story and tell me you've had it rough.

On a much less severe note, he's too close-minded about music. If he didn't discover it on his own, it's crap. But dammit if what he plays for you isn't the highest art ever made, played and replayed for you with his hyperbolic commentary.

He isn't the person I met two years ago, and from what I've gathered I met him in an oddly upbeat period in his life.

So, yeah...guess I'm not going to the beach next year (especially if Eric and Sarah are non-commenting readers like my brother Eric and Maddie are). Besides, I'd like to think I'll be busy moving to wherever my life takes me. You know, basic causes for celebration, not a week of the depressing revelation that someone you considered a best friend has committed the cardinal sin of giving up, turning them into someone you would avoid in the real world.

Once more, it's a great feeling.

Another week awaits and it's Zappa Exam #2, my first paper for F111, work on that Kinks project, go with Shelley and our buddy Luke to go see THE RESIDENTS up in Chicago!, work on that Kinks project, do my first paper for A383, get my hair slightly trimmed (Dad told me tonight that I "look better with long hair" and that it reflects who I am better than short hair. Suck on THAT, Shelley!) before the wedding, work on that Kinks project, and if I have time, work on my Kinks project.

And then work on that Kinks project.



m@ said...

I won't comment on anything other than this:

This is the happiest, most positively written entry I've read in a LONG time.
Maybe ever.
Even when you were complaining it wasn't nearly as dour as some of your earlier entries.
That's a very cool thing. Nicely done.

Forrest said...

I tried watching the YouTube clips but they wouldn't work.

Otherwise, an articulate entry as always. It would seem that you've become a little more moderate and I'm not saying that's a bad thing.

Miss Shelley said...

I do understand what you mean by a "groove" or "feel" to the music, however, it is real hard for me to separate the instruments - my ears just don't have that technology like yours.

I've told you once, but yeah, leave Indiana.

Sarah is a bitch. I met her ONCE after we were back together, she hardly talked, I was pretty chatty if I may say so, and how DARE she make assumptions about who I am without even saying a WORD to me the whole night. Like I said, she's a bitch (and funny enough, I had no problems with her until I heard what she said about me).

And Eric does not have Asperger's Syndrome. Either way, he should fight his "disease" and make something of himself.

I still think you are Alex with shorter hair (not SHORT hair, but shorter). I love you the exact same if you had short, long, curly, blonde, blue, green, or even had a mullet (although I'd make fun of you for it everyday until you change it).

I love you.


m@ said...

Oh and by the way, I've dealt with two cases of Asperger's so I do actually know a little about that. It's fascinating, to say the least.