Dec 11 2010

the great purge

For the longest time, CarrieNation thought I was a neat freak.  This came out after I’d known her for maybe two years.  What happened was: the first time she was ever in my apartment was the first time I met her, which was also right after I’d done a fairly major cleaning.  My place was…. well, not spotless, but as close as it’s been to spotless in the past decade.  And then we always hung out somewhere else after that.  So naturally she just assumed I was always so fastidious.  She’s under no such illusions any more.

It has recently come to my attention that I’m not a hoarder.  It’s not like this was a huge concern, but I’ll admit I had my doubts.  But a friend of my friend Cait’s father is the world’s leading expert on hoarding – he wrote the book on it, literally – and I don’t exhibit any of the big warning signs.  It hasn’t been impossible for me to move around my house; I can distinguish between throwing away an object and throwing away a memory or a person or place.  It turns out I’m just lazy.  And disorganized.  That’s why this stupid task is going to take all goddamn weekend.


10-ish PM — I started with the bookshelves, which maybe was a bad idea.  There are more tough decisions to be made there than probably anywhere else.  It took about an hour, but I think I made decent progress.In the foreground is my first of many bags of trash.  I’ve obviously ignored the pressing problem of compact discs for now, but I identified more books than I expected to get rid of.


10:16 AM — After a visit to Alexandria’s finest (and only) breakfast joint, I write my introduction to the live-blog and mentally prepare to tackle the closet in the bedroom.  Clothes should be easy, because if they don’t fit or if I haven’t worn them in over a year, they’re going.  I give that plan about half an hour before I revise my criteria.

11:40 AM — The Leaning Tower of Pasta clanked against the floor as I carried the trash outside.  I’m up to two full bags, and removing them from my apartment was a good excuse to head over to Misha’s for a cup of coffee.  I also have three bags of clothes to donate.  The less fortunate of Northern Virginia will soon be sporting the fresh styles of 2002.  I’ve reached the back of my closet in my bedroom.  The excavation has just reached a box of crap from my office two jobs ago and my old cassette tapes.  This journey just got interesting.

1:32 PM — If one is inclined to believe – as I am – that an undertaking such as this is a exercise of self-discovery, then the overwhelming revelation this morning is that I really like to swipe pens from the office.  I’ve found some in every box, bag, and parcel I’ve sorted through.  And of course they’ve all been tested, because I’d hate to throw out perfectly good pens.  Trash bags number three, four, and five have been carted downstairs and I’m officially done with all of my clothes and the closet in my bedroom.  Going through my tapes was surprisingly anti-climactic because (except for the Mighty Roy’s account of his move across the country) they all got tossed.  I have nowhere to listen to them and they have no resale value.  The only mild amusement was the occasional reminder that U2 wasn’t always on the spite list.3:14 PM — There is no more appropriate label for the boxes in my apartment than “Misc. Shit”.4:29 PM — The trash bag count stands at seven, not including assorted items that are too large to go in the cans.  And these are lawn and leaf bags, mind you – not the wimpy kitchen variety.  I just wanted to be clear on that.  It’s been over an h0ur now since I’ve touched any of the dozen remaining boxes in my “Misc. Shit” closet, and though I’ve eaten lunch and done some laundry in that time I now need to power through the rest in order to wrap that up before a holiday party this evening.  It’s like a game.  Can I throw out all my crap before time runs out?  We shall see.

7:14 PM — Ten bags.  And I didn’t quite make it.  I have five boxes left.  I’ll have to get to them later.


2:42 PM — Um, okay…  This break wasn’t supposed to be so long.  But I was wiped out after last night’s holiday party and then had brunch plans with Cait and Daby and CarrieNation.  After taking my beater bike in to the shop for a tune-up, I’m finding my motivation at a low point.  I’ve already started bargaining: if I get through the middle closet and the coat closet, I can save my storage unit in the basement for another day.  I guess I need to get to it.  I sure wish the Steeler game was on to distract me.

3:50 PM — Two and a half more bags of trash later and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

4:30 PM — I came across a box of stuff that obviously ended up with me because my mom insisted that I clean out my old bedroom when they moved out of the house I lived in during high school.  I know this because I threw out four broken Walkmen.  I also found this gem, which makes me think of M-Dashes and is appropriate right now.5:20 PM — Screw it.  I’m going to the movies.

8:59 PM — Fair Game wasn’t bad.  I’m up to fourteen bags of trash.  I’m racing the clock again, because I want to get the coat closet done before I hit the sack.  And I’m ready to go to bed now.

9:24 PM — The weekend’s biggest mystery: Why do I own a metal detector and where did it come from?

11:15 PM — I just limped across the finish line – utterly defeated.  The final count was sixteen bags of trash, and I’m a little surprised that it wasn’t more.  All I can say is that those are some big bags.  I have more thoughts, I think, but those will have to wait for another day.  6:00 AM comes around awful early.  At the risk of sounding like every other asshole who goes to an office, I need a weekend after my weekend.

Jul 28 2010

the last king of scotland

I love movies.  My tastes are generally pretty mainstream, but as a post-ironic hipster I recognize that it’s important to see the occasional indie or foreign film in order to maintain my credibility.  Independent movies aren’t so much a problem (except, of course, for those that to strive be the next Clerks or Pulp Fiction – which is to say at least half of them), but I struggle with the foreign films.  I blame Wim Wenders.

The first foreign movie I ever saw was The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick.  Most Americans explain away their aversion to world cinema by claiming they don’t go to the movies to read.  Me, I love to read.  Reading is not the problem.  The problem is that foreign films are unbelievably boring.  I fell asleep on at least four separate occasions during The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick.  In my defense, though, the movie was seven hours long.  And it’s actually just a recreation of a quarter-final game from the 1970 World Cup.  I’d say I don’t know what I was thinking trying to watch it, but I know that happened when I was living with Vrabel and Roy.  Chances are pretty good that Vrabel brought it home from Video Vault one day and I was too drunk to protest.

But I remain determined to be as pretentious as possible.  That’s why I am as excited as can be for the stateside release of Who Killed Captain Alex.  For starters, it’s got a shitload of gunfire, and we all know that gunfire is the true sign of a kick-ass movie.  But most importantly, it’s from the burgeoning Ugandan film scene.  So it’s an honest-to-goodness foreign movie that I totally have to see.  What, you’re not up on the latest Ugandan films?  What rock have you been living under?

Aug 20 2009

flathead redux

I was late to the Weezer bandwagon.  Way late.  Like, 2009 late.  Sure, I'd heard the requisite cuts off the Blue Album, and "Say It Ain't So" was a staple of the rotation when the Mighty Roy and I put a twenty into the jukebox at Bardo Rodeo to commandeer it for the evening way back in '96.  But I didn't actually buy the Blue Album until a couple of years ago.  And my second purchase was earlier this year, when I decided I should finally give Pinkerton a listenOn M—–l's suggestion, I picked up the Green Album within the past couple of weeks.  Those are the only records of theirs I own.

I think I owe it to myself, though, to fill out the Weezer section in my collection.  The first single from their forthcoming record (the awesomely titled Raditude) hit the internets this week.  I've listened to it about a hundred times since Tuesday.  It's the most infectious piece of bubble-gum pop/rock I've heard since….  I don't know what.

My favorite thing about Weezer – the reason I need the four records I don't already own – is that unlike virtually every other band in existence, they've become less serious and self-important as they get older.  I mean, Rivers Coumo is pushing forty now, and he's singing about watching Titanic with his girlfriend and meeting her parents.  Their last single was called "Pork and Beans."  Two other songs expected to be on the new release are called "I'm Your Daddy" and "The Girl Got Hot," which earned the scorn of sticks-in-the-mud like that chick from Sleater-Kinney.  Weezer has successfully transitioned from emo to full-on joke-rock.  And frankly, we needed another great joke-rock band.  It's been a long, long time since the Replacements called it quits.

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Apr 3 2009

always something there to remind me

I'm sure I have mentioned this once or twice before, but I mark time by my music collection.  I have freakish recall for the circumstances under which I acquired most of the music I own, and I tend to commemorate life's events – both major and minor – with the purchase of new tunes.  For example: to celebrate moving to Virginia after college, I went CD shopping.  I bought Wilco's AM and Pavement's Wowee Zowee.  I even remember that the cashier rang up the Wilco disc first, officially making it the first record I bought as a Virginia resident.  Basically, I am like the guy in Midnight Run who wants to celebrate everything that happens by going to get donuts, only instead of donuts I buy music.  And also I am not buying music as an excuse to get out of the office to snitch to the mob on my bail bondsman employer.  And also I sometimes celebrate by buying donuts too.

I was poking around this morning for something to listen to on the way to work that I hadn't heard in a long time.  I saw a CD by a band called Hum that I maybe only listened to twice (This was a recommendation from Schmitt via the mighty Roy when I was looking for bands that sounded like the Grifters.  They don't, by the way.)  I wanted one more, just in case Hum wasn't doing it for me, so I thumbed through a few non-descript jewel cases just to the left of the empty slot on my shelf.  That's when I stumbled upon a disc called Heads Are Gonna Roll by the Hippos.

I literally have no idea how this record came into my possession – nor why.  I don't remember ever hearing a song on the radio.  I certainly have never seen the Hippos in concert.  What's more, I can't imagine under what circumstances I might have acquired it.  Was it when I needed something new to listen to on the way to Toronto for a college reunion?  Possibly.  Could it have been part of the haul when I finally got a job in marine biology after schlepping coffee for two years?  Perhaps.  Is it one of the CD's that christened my new apartment when I moved into the place on Cameron Street?  Could be.  Did I buy it in a heady daze after seeing Twister at the Uptown Theater?  I don't know!  The only thing I know for certain (based on the jewel case and nonexistent cover art) is that I acquired this disc prior to November of 2000.

Maybe the strangest thing of all is that I was completely unsurprised to find this mystery record.  My reaction – at least at first – was basically "Oh yeah, I have a Hippos CD."  Which is….  well, it's an odd feeling.  I just think owning a Hippos CD is the kind of thing one would remember.  I listened all the way to work, and then on the way home again this evening.  The songs are simultaneously both new and familiar.  The music itself is vaguely shitty ska-influenced pop-punk, which leads me to believe that Dabysan might somehow be involved.  But that doesn't fit with the only thing I know for sure, since Daby and I have been friends for only the past four or five years.  Anyway, the best song – and this will shock you about a record I forgot I owned by a band I forgot existed – is a cover.

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Oct 10 2008

pony express record

If you're a fan of music, the chances are pretty good that there are a few bands that you like more than you actually should.  I know you know what I mean.  These bands certainly are not essential by anybody's judgment.  Hell, they may not even be that good.  But you still listen all the same, and chances are you still listen because they remind you of a specific time and place.

It's ironic that some of the bands that remind me the most of college are bands from DC.  This city hasn't always been a festering hole where music comes to die.  It's only been that way since I moved here.  I can only imagine what it must have been like around here in the early nineties when bands like Shudder to Think (who I will be seeing at the 9:30 Club this evening) and Jawbox and Velocity Girl were on the scene.  Because when I hear them, I think of southwest Ohio.

There was a rumor back in college that a drunken Mighty Roy grabbed singer Sarah Shannon's boob after a show at Sudsy Malone's.  That story is almost certainly not true.  Most stories about Roy aren't.

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Jan 26 2008

the flood

Vrabel and Alexis entered toward the beginning of the morning rush.  With a hint of a smile he said, “I’ve got some bad news.  Do you want to hear it straight or do you want me to dance around the issue a little?”

Sunday mornings were my favorite shift, despite that I was supposed to be there by five-thirty.  I almost never made it there on time, but then Andrea wasn’t there to chew me out for being late either.  It didn’t really matter, anyway.  Unlike the rest of the week, Sundays usually didn’t get busy back then until about nine o’clock.  We had plenty of time to get everything set up before the crowd showed up, and with time to spare.  Most days we had a good ninety minutes to chew the fat.  Misha was uncharacteristically chatty on Sundays; away from the prying customers he often seemed almost human.  And my co-worker Karl had a day-job; he worked only one shift a week to make some extra cash.  It was a refreshing change to work occasionally with someone who had also graduated from college.  And he knew what he was doing, so there was no need for a third wheel mucking up the works behind the counter and cutting into our tips.  We didn’t get Saturday-level tips on Sundays, but they were a far cry better than what I usually earned serving tea bags and hot water refills to the annoying crowd of non-tipping loiterers that were my usual weekday evening customers.

This particular Sunday was shaping up to be a busy day.  I had to work until two o’clock and the NFL Conference Championships took place that afternoon.  My beloved Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Indianapolis Colts in the early game, and I planned to wash some bottles while watching the Cowboys and Packers in the second game.  We had been through a blizzard just over a week prior, and I decided to commemorate the occasion by cooking up a batch of an especially chunky imperial stout.  The amount of fermentables that had gone into this diabolical brew was almost obscene.  Within a few days, it would be ready to drag out from the dark corner behind the television and siphon into individual bottles.  Another few weeks spent carbonating in the bottle and a heavy stout would be ready for consumption by mid-February, in time to ease the long, pre-KttD late winter doldrums.

I was contemplating those bottles of dark, silky stout I’d be savoring in less than a month’s time when Vrabel and Alexis walked in.  Alexis had been visiting since before New Year’s and they were on the way to the airport.  It was just the beginning of the morning rush, so I had time to chat for a second when I went to the end of the counter to grind a couple pounds of ’66.  I wished them a good morning and Vrabel said with a hint of a smile, “I’ve got some bad news.  Do you want to hear it straight or do you want me to dance around the issue a little?”

I was understandably confused.  “What are you talking about?”

“Bad news.  Do you want it straight or not?”

I turned to Alexis.  “What’s he talking about?”

“Your beer blew up.”

I turned back to Vrabel.  “My beer blew up?”

“Your beer blew up.”

I staggered.  I reeled.  “What do you mean, my beer blew up?”

“Your beer…” Vrabel began.  Alexis finished his sentence.  “It blew up.”  Vrabel continued, “Alexis was in the kitchen, eating breakfast.  I was getting ready to go.  I heard a loud crack from the middle room.  I went to to investigate only to watch five gallons of imperial stout spread across our living room.  I threw some towels down, but I didn’t have time to do anything more, or else Alexis would miss her flight.”

I spent the rest of my shift in a daze.  Aside from the fact that two cases of potent stout were now never to be, there was the matter of an enormous mess and – most importantly – the questionable status of our still new “entertainment center” immediately adjacent ground zero.  The VCR I had owned since June, because Garrett already had an old and barely serviceable television that he left with us when he moved out.  When I was home for the previous Thanksgiving, I upgraded our television, thanks to Sister #2’s employee discount in the Electronics Department of the local Sears.  Without knowing the extent of the damage, my mind raced and I feared the worst.  I had visions of still-new circuitry fried and caked with malted hops.  And what’s more, I had no idea when I might return to Ohio, so my options were either to pay a then-prohibitive full price for a new television or *shudder* do without.  Either scenario was less than ideal.

I scurried home as soon as I could, even foregoing my precious tips – opting to count them the following day.  I was greeted as I opened the door by the overwhelming aroma of malt and alcohol.  A soupçon of hops was detectable within the pungent stew.  Our baby blue carpet had been stained a seemingly permanent shade of chocolate.  A cursory examination of my now-shattered carboy revealed that the tube which released excess fermentation gases had become clogged with grain and hop particulate, resulting in pressures sufficient to crack quarter-inch-thick glass.  The Mighty Roy, who had taught me to brew, claimed I was too fussy, and that I should relax.  This was the first time I had followed his advice.  Of course, he once tried to brew a chicken beer with bullion cubes and thought if a few drops of spruce essence were good, a whole bottle would be better.  So I guess it was nobody’s fault but mine.  But I still like to blame Roy.

It was almost too much to bear.  Actually, it was too much to bear. I threw a few more towels on the pile and settled into the sofa to watch the Steeler game amid olfactory overload, postponing the cleanup effort until much later.  The television and VCR were both fine.  (Still are, in fact – I have the very same television on in front of me as I type.)  We lost, though, our Atari 2600 and copies of a Charlie Chaplin movie and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”  The Steelers won the game and advanced to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys.  ESPN2 rebroadcast the 1996 AFC Championship Game this afternoon, in the absence of any real football games.  I still got a little nervous, even though the outcome was decided a dozen years ago.

Jun 28 2007

sporty spice, part III (a.k.a. our adidas….)

david beckham didn't do anything ridiculous today.  by which i mean he probably did something, but we don't know about it because for once everybody gave him the attention he deserves and neglected to report it.  i suppose it's probably for the best, because there's much bigger news in the spice world.  that's right: the spice girls announced their reunion tour.  surely there are millions of other people besides the mighty roy who have been waiting with bated breath for this announcement.  i, however, don't know any of them.  a highly scientific straw poll taken five minutes ago in my kitchen produced the following list of things that the spice girls are better than: soccer.  (see how i worked that in?  i'm very clever.  and soccer blows.)

for what it's worth, today and the past two days here on represent exhibits one and two of why we should be looking to someone – almost anyone, really – but the brits for our pop culture diversions.  they haven't gotten it right with any regularity since the 1960's.

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May 24 2007

not guilty: no doubt

i don't have much to add here, given that i've mentioned my affinity for this particular song at least twice before.  i will say, though, that the video isn't quite as pleasingly midriff-y as memory serves.  no matter.  the song is still good.

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Feb 14 2007

i'm as free as a bird now

a few weeks ago, dabysan related the story of the origin of Karaoke to the Death
and i am pleased that he finally got it mostly right.  we've each told
this grand tale – some might say the greatest story ever told –
countless times.  and we have quibbled over the veracity of the details
ad nauseum.  and then some.  and then – even – some more.  but the one aspect that has never been up
for debate was that dabysan's joyous painful song was "Free Bird."  which is
ironic because it was almost certainly not the song he was singing on that fateful day so long ago.

in fact, "Free Bird" became shorthand for wretched and public singing
much earlier – way back in 1996.  the story – possibly apocryphal –
goes something like this: dabysan and rob breckenridge were playing
cards one day in the smoking room of misha's coffeehouse and for some
reason (because they were profoundly annoying customers, probably – and
bad tippers to boot) began to utter various passages from lynyrd
skynyrd's magnum opus.  this, inevitably, lead to moderately quiet
song.  one by one, however, various other patrons (also bad tippers)
joined the chorus and the song crescendoed.  at this point, misha's
beleaguered barista – one ryan roy ullmann – leapt over the counter to
put a stop to the disruptive behavior.  just as the horde had crooned
"i'm as free as a bird now," roy loudly interjected: "THE NEXT ONE OF

now…. i wasn't present for this particular display of
shameful disrespect for authority.  and as vrabel correctly points out, it's
difficult to imagine roy leaping over anything.  but i have to
believe there is at least a kernel of truth here, having heard this
tale several times over from numerous sources.  not least of which is – and
i will be the first to admit he is hardly the most reliable of witnesses – the
mighty roy himself.  i distinctly recall meeting roy at king pepper one evening at
king pepper for our nightly pints.  (actually, i distinctly recall
meeting roy at king pepper many evenings, but that's another story….)  the evening in
question, he opened the conversation with "so i had to throw all the kids
out tonight."  when i asked why he responded with "aw, NOFXdaby got 'em
all fired up.  singin' and shit.  that shit's got to stop."

that shit didn't stop, of course.  if anything, it occurred with even
more frequency, which sheds some light on where we were five years
later.  one can take only so much.  i will state for the record,
however, knowing what i now know – that from this humble beginning
would be born the single greatest sporting event known to humanity – i would
gladly suffer it all again.  probably.

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Nov 30 2006

not guilty: oasis

my MTV heyday dovetailed exactly with the pinnacle of oasis' fame.  it's almost impossible to understate how seriously this band took themselves, and MTV slurped it all up.  it's somewhat frightening in retrospect how much amusement was provided by the smug visage of kurt loder, seriously reporting on the inane feud between oasis and blur, not to mention oasis and oasis.  it made for fine comedic fodder in the long stretches between no doubt videos.  and i liked oasis in spite of it.

you'll be pleased to learn oasis is still taking themselves very seriously from deep within the "where are they now" file.  i'm off momentarily to meet up with emma for a screening of a new documentary shot on their latest world tour.  that's right – they toured the world and elsewhere.  i sure hope they play 'cups and cakes' in this thing.

[UPDATE: one time roy and i decided to turn off the music videos for an evening.  we headed over to the video vault and rented "plan 9 from outer space," long reputed to be the worst movie ever made.  our plan, obviously, was to revel in its badness.  our plan failed.  it wasn't funny bad; it was just bad.  and so i arrive home earlier than anticipated this evening, reflecting for the second time today on 1996.]

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