Thursday, December 29, 2005
There is no song #0 tonight, because I already had my entire playlist on shuffle, so I’m starting with the first song that plays after 12:00.
I’m also in a slightly more introspective mood than usual, so look for some commentary on how these songs reflect on my current state of mind, and less frivolous crap from me.
The road to hell is paved with frivolity. And cobblestones. And maple syrup.
- Eagles – New Kid In Town – A live version. I’m a halfways fan of the Eagles – some of their stuff is fantastic, some is just kind of average. This is, I think, among the average, and so it sadly inspires no introspection.
- Sinead O’Connor – I Want to be Loved By You – It’s funny. I don’t directly recognize the song, but it certainly *sounds* like an oldie, and even though it’s a modern take, it’s orchestrated like an oldie. As much as her political views kind of sent some people running in the 90s, you can’t deny that O’Connor has a helluva voice. And there is probably few feelings as universal as the desire for someone else – someone specific – to love us.
- Erasure – Sometimes (Mix) – I actually used to enjoy these kind of dance-y remixes, but now they’re just kind of annoying. And it’s not that I was more prone to dance when I was younger. I was never prone to dancing. I’m tempted to quote something from the song, to aid in my introspectiveness, but this particular remix has almost no lyrics, so the quotate is lacking. As is the introspectionage. Woah, and then this thing just completely segues into a different song, with more lyrics than the song actually included in the title. My brain hurts.
- They Might Be Giants – Mammal – Ow, a crappy, low quality, live version. Still, you can’t go wrong with lyrics like, “Mammal, mammal, their names are called, they raise a paw…” Yeah, okay, so TMBG is kind of an acquired taste.
- Jan Wayne meets Lena – Total Eclipse of My Heart – After speaking of my general distaste for annoying dance music (barring, of course, “Man, It’s So Loud in Here” by TMBG, which is a satire of annoying dance music) here comes this. An annoying dance version of a legitimately beautiful song. “Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by.” – Probably one of the saddest and most true sentiments contained in modern music.
- Evanescence – Taking Over Me – This sounds like it’s from one of the bootleg albums I downloaded of their earlier songs and demo tracks. Along with Sinead, you can’t deny that Amy Lee has an amazingly powerful voice. Lyrically some of their material seems a little overly simplistic, but their “My Tourniquet” manages to be a powerful look at someone terrified of the great beyond after suicide.
- Nirvana – Drain You – An early demo of a song I’m not familiar with, so very little introspection to come from this one. What’s wrong with this playlist tonight? I think it must’ve burned through all the introspection between 11:30 and 12:00.
- Dayna Manning – Miracle – Don’t know where this song came from, but it has the same kind of late-90s-post-rock-folk sensibilities that might remind you of Jewel. And it’s also mostly uninspiring. Okay, it’s official, any attempts at letting my playlist guide me into introspection are now officially over and dead.
- Natalie Imbruglia – Wishing You Were Here – To completely avoid any attempt at introspection, I’ll simply say that my introduction to Natalie Imbruglia came courtesy of PCXL magazine (kind of a cross between PC Gamer and Maxim magazines) and their inclination to show pictures of scantily-clad pop-culture personalities. Like Ms. Imbruglia. I miss you, PCXL. Rest easy.
- Mike Oldfield – Landfall – From the album “Tres Lunas” which is the album that, indirectly, broke my brand new DVD player. Which is a memory that makes me cry. Stupid JVC tech support.
And so there we go. A Friday Random 10, on Friday, though much less introspection than was originally intended. I was up for it. This night had the feeling of the kind of night when my random playlist just hit every song perfectly, matching mood word for word. But that feeling, it would seem, was wrong. Maybe it was just gas.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
And cobblestones, as I like to say.
But seriously...if there is a single cliche that lives, unmarred, close to my heart, it is that one. The idea that we, as fallable human beings, can fuck things up beyond belief in trying to do something good and decent seems very real and very true and very accurate. Hitler, for example, probably had the best of intentions. And thus was his road to hell paved.
Of course, the road to hell is not always paved with genocide. Finding a wallet on the street and taking the cash to feed your family, however hungry they might be, when the money isn't yours, is just as valid an example of how the road to hell is paved.
Of course, if my family was starving, I'd probably take the money. So would most of us.
This is why the cliche strikes such a chord in me. Not because it implies that we're all somehow damned in trying to do something good, but because the struggle to be good people, the struggle to be human, is not something played out only in the largest battlefields, but something played out in the mundane. It is a struggle we face every day, in the minutest details of life. And I believe that very, very much.
It's not what we do when everyone is watching that matters the most. It's what we do when no one else is around. It's what we choose to do when we know that no one else is watching, that is the ultimate judge of our character.
A friend of mine did something stupid recently, and it's not a road to hell kind of stupid, but it's similar, because hew as doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Or maybe it was the wrong thing for the right reasons.
Either way, it was dumb.
Not to say that I couldn't understand why he did it. I could. In a way, I think I understood it better than a lot would, and I wouldn't even go so far as to say that I wouldn't have done it myself if I had been in his shoes.
But I wasn't in his shoes. And it's so much easier to judge someone else's life than it is to judge your own. And so I can sit here and say that he's a fucking idiot, because it's his life and not mine, and I don't have to live it, or live with the choices made.
But sometimes the road to hell is a figurative one. Sometimes we face our own damnation while we're still alive. Sometimes -- in fact, more often than not, I think -- we suffer for our crimes, no matter how good the intentions, while we still walk among the living.
Whatever the case, I found myself Tori Amos' "Space Dog" tune stuck in my head for most of the afternoon, which was kind of weird, and out of the blue, as I hadn't thought of the song or the album it was on ("Under the Pink" if you're not familiar with either) in years.
So, hoping to purge myself of the melody, I loaded the song up and gave it a listen. Musically, it's great fun to listen to, but to be perfectly honest, I've never really got what the song was about. Though, admitedly, I've never really put much effort into studying it.
And besides, it's actuallynot that song that's bugging me now.
While I had my media list up, I decided to fire up some of the other songs from the "Under the Pink" album because, as I said before, I hadn't heard it in awhile. So I started with the first song, "Pretty Good Year" and continued to browse the web while the music played.
And then, out of the blue, came a line that I had completely forgotten about, but which leapt immediately back into my memory upon hearing it.
"Hold onto nothing as fast as you can."
And while the "Space Dog" tune is still tinkling away in the back of my brain, it's those words that have been at the front of it since this afternoon.
I've always thought there was something beautiful and tragic about those words. Something desperately futile. No, not desperately futile, but a desperate struggle towards futility, if that's any clearer.
It seems to me that "Hold Onto Nothing" needs to be a title of something -- a short story, or a novel, or a play, or, well, *something*. Anything. It's been doing its little dance in the front of my brain for most of the day, and I haven't figured out what it should be quite yet, and I'm not hopeful that I'll stumble upon it anytime soon. But there's something there, that meshes wonderfully with where my head is right now. "Hold Onto Nothing" -- tragedy, yes, but if it can somehow be held onto, then at least it's *something* to hold on to.
Someone asked me a few weeks backwhat sort of tone I was looking for in the "Welcome to the Monkey House" exit music, because I was stressing out about what it should be. And my answer was, "Cautiously optimistic."
The hope, perhaps even the belief, that things will improve. But an unwillingness to actually put any money it. Because as much as good things happen from time to time, they happen all to infrequently.
It's funny to think about the line "Hold onto nothing" as being close to where my head is at right now, because I don't actually have any idea where my head is at right now. In fact, in some ways I feel completely lost, like I've stumbled into an entirely new country, an entirely new world, and I don't know if the natives are friendly or just waiting for the chance to carve out my spleen and have a feast.
Which reminds me of another lyric, actually, from Oingo Boingo's "Lost Like This."
"I've never been lost like this, but I wouldn't be happy anywhere else."
Which, I guess, is kind of a stretch, because I wouldn't say that I'm particularly happy in this place, wherever it is, but the funny thing is that I wouldn't say that I'm particularly unhappy either. Not particularly bitter or jaded or cynical. Not particularly much of anything, either, really. I just kind of...am.
I've been thinking a lot about fragments in the last few days, because I'm thinking of cobbling together a bunch of chunks of my other writing into a series of monologues for a one act play, and after some struggling with a prospective title, I think "Fragments" is what I've finally ended up on. Which is appropriate, because I had, at one time, considered using the same title on any collection of short stories I might eventually publish. Because most of my stories -- and, in their own way, shorter selections from those stories or novels -- kind of come off like fragments. Like little pieces of someone's life that you can peek into for a few minutes, or a few hours.
But I've been thinking about fragments in relation to life in general as well. Thinking about how, as much as some people like to say that it's the journey and not the destination, it's just as true that sometimes it's the little pit stops along the way too. That it's not really about getting from point A to point B, nor is really about how you get from point A to point B, but rather everything that happens along the way, whether or not you ever actually get to point B.
It's these little moment, the little memories, the fragments, that make up a life. The little things that seem so insignificant when they're happening, but suddenly come to mean everything six months or a year or 10 years down the road.
God, this post is all over the map. Probably in part because I haven't posted in so long, but just as likely that my brain has been playing ping pong with a 1,000 different ideas for the last few days. My vacation has turned in to "God, it's nice to have nothing to do," to "Well, there's nothing to do, so let's think about every bloody thing under the sun, in an effort to make sense of it all."
Thanks, brain. I owe's ya one.
I guess I'm also all over the map because, to get back to the reason I started this in the first place, I'm trying to fumble my way around the idea of "Hold onto nothing," to figure out exactly what it means to me, and how I might use it something. I still don't think I have an answer, exactly, but at this point, maybe I have more fuel for the fires of thought.
Friday, December 16, 2005
- Apocalyptica – Hope – I’ve been stressed out lately because I haven’t known exactly what to do with the exit music for “Welcome to the Monkey House” but after downloading some Apocalyptica last week, after hearing a coworker playing a few tracks, I think I might finally have that problem solved. I’m not 100% sold on it quite yet, but it’s sitting about 97%, so that’s not too bad.
- Pink Floyd – Moonhead – And more Floyd, after last week’s unequalled “three tracks in one night” performance. Though to be honest, I don’t know this song, or where it’s from, but I’m guessing my 18 CD rarity collection which I have yet to listen to in its entirety.
- Roger Waters – Shine On You Crazy Diamond – From his “In The Flesh Tour” of 2000, which I was lucky enough to catch in Washington (had to travel a few miles further because the goof didn’t stop in Vancouver). If you ever get the chance to see a show at The Gorge in Washington, please do. It is, hands down, the most spectacular concert venue I’ve ever seen.
- The Offspring – Have You Ever – I think they must win the award for fewest songs on playlist, compared to number of times appeared on playlist. Or, I guess, they would if there was such an award.
- Depeche Mode – Sister of Night – This song came right at the end of my Depeche Mode period, on an album that I picked up as an afterthought, at a pawn shop, and then promptly lost. Still, this is probably the only song on the album that did anything for me – I remember being so struck with it the first time I heard it that I replayed it three or four times.
- Nirvana Marigold – Apparently a rarity, so I’m guessing it’s from a rarity collection that I downloaded and never listened to.
- Pink Floyd – Cluster One – And we now have *two* Pink Floyd tracks on this week’s Random 10, a strong showing, but not quite up to last week’s appearances. From “The Division Bell” which was an improvement over “Momentary Lapse of Reason” but, I must confess, still not fantastic to my ears, as I am, and will always be, a lover of the Roger Waters era Pink Floyd.
- Peter Gabriel – Signal to Noise – Hands down the best song from his last album, “Up.” One of the best of songs of his career, in my opinion. This one taken from his live album, of which the name currently escapes me.
- Linkin Park – Session – WTF? Haven’t I dumped these guys from my hard drive…oh, wait, I actually like this song.
- Pink Floyd – The Committee Part 8 – And we have a third PF song for the second week in a row. And it’s one I don’t recognize. Whee!
- Elton John – Candle in the Wind (1997 Tribute to Diana) – Wow, what a song to end on. This song (well, not *this* song, but the single off Elton’s Australian live album) was the first single I ever bought. And I adored this song. And while I can’t debate the gesture made in this song, it has always seemed kind of tacky to me.
- Sarah McLachlan – Full of Grace – I just happened to queue up the next track while I was saving and posting this, and this song came up, and…well, I just had to add it to the random 10, or 11, or, in this case, 12. Because this song is just too goddamn fantastic. “Pulled down by the undertow; I never thought I could feel so low; Oh darkness, I feel like letting go” – who, among us, hasn’t felt like that a time or two in the past? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Good night everyone!
Monday, December 12, 2005
- Oingo Boingo – Can’t See (Useless) – I haven’t had much Boingo material pop-up in during the Random 10 so far, and I got tired of waiting for fate to take care of the problem. A nice little song from what would prove to be the band’s last studio album.
- Lita Ford – Close My Eyes Forever – I think I downloaded this off Usenet one day, when I was overwhelmed by a very bizarre sense of 80s power ballad nostalgia. Not a feeling that hits me very often. Though, thankfully, not as bad as 90s power ballads…
- Nine Inch Nails – Reptile – Though it’s from the brilliant “The Downward Spiral” this song has never really done a whole lot for me. It works just fine within the context of the album, as a whole, but to listen to it on its own is just…meh.
- Amanda Marshall – Trust Me (This is Love) – Can’t say I have the foggiest idea where this track came from, though from the looks of my playlist, I apparently have the whole album.
- Pink Floyd – Mother – This particular version is from “The Wall (Under Construction)” which is actually the very early, still in development, demo version of The Wall. It’s a weird thing to listen to just recreationally, but if you’re a fan of the band, or a fan of the album, it’s interesting to hear it in this state.
- Roxette – Anyone – Hm, I don’t listen to their stuff much, but I guess I should admit that Roxette is a bit of a 90s-music guilty pleasure for me. Except for their phase as creator of mandatory radio-play ballads for bad romantic comedies (a title the stole, I believe, from Bryan Adams).
- The Statler Brothers – Pictures – I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the Statlers were actually one of the first bands I ever heard, off a four-record set my dad. I listened to their stuff for years as a kid, and then tracked down every single song I could remember a few years ago when I was struck by a powerful nostalgia for it. And unlike many things experienced as an adult, I still love this stuff as much as ever did as a kid. Interestingly, a lot of their songs (this one included) seem to involve lists, a trait common to another band I would fall in love with years later – Pink Floyd.
- Linkin Park – High Voltage – Note to self, you *really* must clean out your MP3 folder someday soon.
- Sarah McLachlan – Black & White – Is it just me, or do most of Sarah’s songs – barring a few exceptions – sound eerily the same. Not necessarily in a bad way, I guess, because they sound good. But just…you know, similar.
- Pink Floyd – Stay – Third mention of the Floyd in one Random 10. Is that a record? Likely. I must confess that I’m not quite as familiar with this one as some of their others, as it’s from an album I’ve not spent much time listening too. But even unfamiliar Floyd is still Floyd.
- Enigma – Responsorium I – Perhaps not as fond of them (him?) as I once was, I still must confess that most of the work Enigma has done has been mildly interesting at being a little bit off from the norm, yet appealing enough to not alienate its audience.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
I'm kind of tired, from being up too late last night. Kind of foggy from having one scotch too many last night (which likely wouldn't have happened if I hadn't stayed up too late).
I hate feeling like this. It feels almost like there's something I *should* be doing, but even if I could think of what it was, I doubt I'd have the energy to do it right now anyway. I don't even have the energy to write much of a blog post. In fact, I'm mostly just posting because I was sitting at my computer already, with no idea why or what I was going to do while I was sitting here.
I should write something. I should do a character design for "Spiffy the Chicken". I should dig up "Amityville" again and try to get the ball rolling on that. I should finish the middle of last year's NaNo novel. I should get back to work on this year's, so it actually gets finished. I should finish watching the commentary track on "Huckabees". I should read Monkey House again and start planning what I'm going to get people to read at the auditions. There are so many things I should be doing right now, but I have no ambition to do any of them.
Back to wandering aimlessly.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
The little joke I tossed out in my last column -- that writing about a guy who discovers on page one that he's dying, and promptly dies at the 50,000 word mark,r regardless of what else is happening -- is actually incredibly appealing to me. It will likely make for the worst, least satisfying, and ultimately anticlimactic climax I've ever written, but, most important, it'll be fun. Well, at least for me. And that's kind of the most important thing, to me.
I've even found a tasty little subplot to play with -- having the character purchase scratch and wins, obsessively. He'll drop $20.00 on them in the first chapter, thinking, hey, what does it matter if I burn my money on these stupid things, I'm dying anyway, and then will see how long he can go buying more with the winnings from his tickets. Which, thanks to the gods of literary fiction, will carry him through until the endof the book.
Again, a mostly meaningless idea, but something that would be fun to do, and give the character just one odd little tick that'll make him a little bit more fun to write, and hopefully a little bit more fun to read.
Although, really, instead of making plans for next year's NaNo, I really should focus on just getting this year's done. And then getting around to do the editing work on last year's novel, which is desperate need of some.
And please, don't even get me thinking about "The Amazingly True Adventures of Spiffy The Chicken" -- I have enough other projects on the go at the moment. Though, ironically, I'm sure that'll end up being the one that's actually completed first.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
- Carly Simon – You’re So Vain – This is my mad haxx0rzing song, because it’s number 1337 on my playlist. Which is how you spell “leet” or “elite” if you’re a mad haxx0rz with no basic English or grammar skills. Which, when you think of how cool most of those mad haxx0rz think they are, seems kind of strangely, wonderfully appropriate.
- Erasure – In the Hall of the Mountain King – For reasons I would be hard pressed to explain today, I was fairly into the electronic music of Erasure and Depeche Mode in the very early 90s. Tunes by either band still bring a smile of nostalgia to me, though this electronic take on classical piece is not exactly Erasure’s best moment, in my opinion. Speaking of Erasure, I always kind of got the sense that the leader singer danced very much like he had a fish in his trousers. Odd, to say the least.
- Moby – The Great Escape – I really like Moby in theory. When I hear his stuff – like now – I tend to think, “Hey, nifty, that’s really unique and creative and kind of pretty.” And yet I never go out of my way to listen to it. Ever. It’s like he manages to be really, really good, without actually being appealing. Which is probably a pretty good trick.
- Tori Amos – Bells for Her – Interesting piano sound in this song (assuming it is a piano – it sounds like one, but incredibly muted). From her second album, off which I absolutely adore the song “Yes, Anastasia,” which I now kind of wish had come up on the Random 10 instead of this one. Stupid random songs…
- Antonin Dvorak – Serenad i E-dur för stråkar (första satsen) – From my respectable collection of “In Classical Mood” albums. I’m actually a big fan of classical music, even if I don’t really know much about it. Like this song, for instance. Don’t know where it’s from, or why it’s significant. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever given it much of a listen before. It’s from the “Morning Mists” mood, and yeah, okay, I guess it sounds kind of…misty. I guess.
- The Orb – Any Colour You Like – Woohoo, a whacked out dance remix of Dark Side of the Moon. Strangely effective, even while be unappealing.
- Eurythmics – Would I Lie To You? – A song I’ve never really heard before, of a greatest hits album I probably downloaded for just a few songs. Oh well, it’s just hard drive space, right?
- Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet (Live) – This one is funny, actually, because the song came up in conversation the other day when I was talking about wanting to use a musical take on Romeo and Juliet in the play I’m directing very shortly (Welcome to the Monkey House, if you’re interested – auditions are on Dec. 12 and 14 at the Studio Theatre in Glendale school, but I digress…). In actual fact I was referring to a Tchaikovsky piece.
- Sarah McLachlan – Vox – Ah, it’s moments like this that make the Random 10 so much fun. Stumbling upon a song that you absolutely adore, that you probably wouldn’t have manually loaded up any time in the foreseeable future.
- They Might Be Giants – Number Three – I love this song. “There’s only two songs in me, and I just wrote the third, don’t where I got the inspiration, or how I wrote the words…” Actually, I think I just love TMBG in general.
- John Travolta / Samuel L. Jackson – Personality Goes a Long Way – A conversation from the film Pulp Fiction, part of the Pulp Fiction Soundtrack. I used to think it was a great movie, but I’m beginning to think, in my age and wisdom, and Mr. Tarantino may be just a little overrated as a filmmaker.
Let me just say it again – Random 10, ON FREAKING TIME. Oh yeah!
Not to say that it’s not comfortable, it is. The space bar still seems to be giving a bit more resistance than I’d like, but I imagine my thumb will get used to it fairly quickly. But over and above little issues like that, the design of this keyboard feels like a very substantial change of previous natural keyboards – of which I’ve used three different generations. And it’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. It’s actually quite comfortable, quite…well, natural, actually, in a lot of ways.
But it still feels kind of weird.
I’m disappointed that one of the primary reasons for my purchase is actually not going to pan out. Like I said in the last entry, one of the deciding factors for purchasing this new keyboard was that it was black, and would therefore better match my system. But that wasn’t the only reason. I was also looking forward to taking my previous keyboard, which was only a year old, and using it replace the keyboard on my work computer, which is four years old, and actually quite a grimy mess.
Unfortunately, my work PC – a very, very, very compact Dell computer – has no bloody PS2 port. And, of course, the keyboard I bought last year is a PS2 keboard.
So now I have a quite lovely, if one year old, Microsoft ergonomic keyboard and no home for it. Which is quite a disappointment.
And, gosh darn it, these quiet and slightly squishy keys are still kind of annoying. Why do they have to be so quiet and squishy? This keyboard would be almost perfect if it was just a little bit louder. Why is quieter always better? It’s not! It’s not, I tell you! Just look how hard it is to buy speakers without a subwoofer! Loud is good!
Stupid quiet keyboards.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
So, in spite of the fact that I only just bought a new keyboard just about exactly a year ago, I just bought another new one. And I'd be lying if I tried to say that it wasn't, in part, because it was black and now better matches the rest of my computer set up (spiffy black mouse, spiffy black computer case).
I'm so far a little torn on the quality of the keyboard. The space bar seems a little troublesome to get down all the way, but that may improve as it gets worked in a little bit. The wrist rest is actually quite comfortable -- kind of a faux leather feel, slightly soft, slightly squishy. The forward and back buttons don't seem to work properly with Winamp, but maybe there'll be a patch for that sort of issue sometime in the future. And the little zoom switch thingy is actualy kind of cool -- something I'll probably get quite used to using in time, unlike the sideways scrolling on the new Microsoft mice.
The biggest downside is that the keys seem to be very, very quiet, which does make for a more relaxing atmosphere of work, is kind of a disappointment. I love big, heavy, noisy, clicky-clacks coming from my keyboard.
In spite of that, it *is* a comfortable keyboard, which is ultimately the most important thing. And it *is* spiffy and black, which is kind of the second most important thing, however ridiculously dorky that might be.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
I've endeavored for many years now to track down the "meaning" -- assuming it can be said to have one -- of life.
This is not to say that I necessarily believe that there is a single, catch-all, explanation of why we are here. An answer that, upon hearing it, would inspire each and every one of us to gasp in shock and amazement, and say, "Ooooooh, now I get it."
Life, for all our attempts to inject meaning into it, is, when left to its own devices, ultimately meaningless. We are here for X number of years between birth and death, and left to fill that void of time in whatever way we choose. Whether we entertain ourselves with television or video games, flex our creative muscles by writing or painting, or perform random acts of selfless kindness, the bottom line is still simply that we are looking for ways to kill time until we die.
Which, when you think about it, is kind of a depressing thought.
Which is why I try to find meaning when and wherever I can.
William Peter Blatty, the author of the Exorcist, has an interesting take on the idea of a God that would put us on this planet, give us free will, and then, for the most part, pretty much just leave us alone. I mean, why not just make us all good people? Why not just wipe away death and sin and greed and all the ugliness, and make everyone happy and perfect?
His idea is that truly honourable traits -- like selflessness, courage, sacrifice -- are not things that can simply be handed to someone. They have to be learned. You can't be courageous without being afraid. You can't have shown courage without first going through something terrifying, something potentially fatal, perhaps even something that *was* fatal.
These are things that have to be learned. Things that have to be earned.
I have a very similar approach to finding *meaning* in life.
Given that there is no all-encompassing answer to the question of why we are here, it is left to us to instead find meaning every single day. To take every event, from the most earth-shattering to the most mind-numbingly mundane, and find within in a lesson that we can learn, or a way to inject a newfound passion into our life, or, at the very least, a way of saying, "Today wasn't entirely pointless."
The best lessons in life aren't the obvious ones. The best lessons are the ones you have to dig for, the ones you have to ask questions to find, because they are stronger and far more profound for the work that you have put into them.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
- Jon Brion – Knock Yourself – A short, folky song from the I Heart Huckabees soundtrack that I completely fell in love with after picking up the DVD and listening to the first few lines, over and over again, in the menu screen for the second disc. Mmmm, existential pop music. Yummy.
- Roger Waters – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Waters, to my knowledge, has never been much for cover songs, but his particular voice, as well his musical sensibilities, make him a perfect fit for this song. Another one I’d love to use, somewhere, in a play one day.
- REM – Leave (Alternate Version) – Don’t think I’ve heard this one before. That’s the great thing about my music archive – always something new to discover.
- Joe Satriani – What Breaks a Heart – Don’t think I’ve heard this one before either, but I’m liking it on a first listen. Some nice, slow, sad guitar work going on here. What does break a heart, anyway? Loss? Death? An icepick?
- Roger Waters & Ron Geesin – Hand Dance-Full Evening Dress – From the soundtrack of “The Body” I believe. Downloaded, but never listened to. And I will never understand why.
- Michelle Branch – Goodbye to You – I think this was another album that was downloaded, essentially, just to get my hands on a single song, though this one does sound vaguely familiar. I probably heard it at a bar once, somewhere in the background. It has that kind of sound to it…
- U2 – Pride (In The Name of Love) – A live version, from somewhere or another. Good song, and a reminder that, as I think I mentioned before, U2 kind of fell apart in the late 90s.
- Nine Inch Nails – The Day the World Went Away – A really fantastic song off of “The Fragile”. I’ve got a really spiffy, toned-down, almost mellow version of it kicking around somewhere, but this isn’t that version.
- Sivak Drac – Deus Ex Main Title (Piano) – This is an odd little thing I found on a web site for the game Deus Ex – someone performing the main title on a piano. As a fan of both the game, and the game’s music, I couldn’t avoid downloading these acoustic takes on what were highly electronic pieces. These songs, and a really interesting piano-only version of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” make interesting reminders of just how much can be done with a piano if you know what you’re doing with it.
- The Offspring – LAPD – Is this the third week in a row that The Offspring has shown up in the Random 10? I didn’t think I had that much of their stuff…
- Twin Peaks – The Pink Room – Haven’t listened to it much in years, but I always liked the kind of surreal, jazz-esque music from this show. Loved the show too, mind you, which probably helped.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Guess I'll have to put up content a bit more regularly now that people some to be coming by to visit now and then.
On the other hand, at least I’m getting around to doing the Random 10 before more than a week has gone by, which is significant considering how little blogging I’ve done lately (in spite of the absence of a play in my schedule.
0. Mike Oldfield – Resolution – From the “Shade” side of his recent “Light + Shade” release. It’s taken me awhile to warm up to the album, but I’m actually quite fond of it now, though I think I favour the “Shade” side. This is, at least for the moment, my favourite track of both discs.
1. Offspring – Falling – You know, I never actually feel like I’m in the mood for Offspring, but as soon as they pop on, I can’t help but grin and bounce a little bit. Don’t tell anyone, okay?
2. Linkin Park – By Myslf – Whole albums downloaded because I kind of liked one of their songs for about a week. Good Lord, my MP3 folder needs a cleaning. If I had a dollar for every song on my hard drive I’d never listen to, I’d have a whole lot of dollars, let me tell you.
3. The Offspring – Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) – Okay, some Offspring I’m just never really in the mood for. This is one of those songs.
4. Lisa Stansfield – All Woman – And this song’s presence on my hard drive is a completely, bizarre mystery to me. Planted by a virus, maybe.
5. Tori Amos – China – Lovely song, from her first, and arguably, best album.
6. Oingo Boing – War Again – The songs from this album always make a me a little sad, as it was the last album they recorded before making the decision to retire the band. The material on this last release was just different enough that I always think it a bit of a tragedy that we’ll never know where they would have gone musically. Curse you, Danny Elfman!
7. U2 – Sweetest Thing (The Single Mix) – I’ve never been able to warm up to newer U2 stuff – anything past, say, “Achtung Baby” has always just seemed kind of wrong to me somehow. It’s not bad, exactly. And listenable, certainly. But it’s just…I don’t know. It’s like eating at McDonald’s. You know it’s food, but somehow it just seems a little bit like plastic too.
8. They Might Be Giants – New York City (Acoustic) Apparently this is a cover of a song by…well, someone else. Also, apparently, they had to figure out the lyrics themselves from hearing the song on the radio, so their version actually has a wrong lyric in it. Which is kind of weird. Which is also kind of appropriate for TMBG. It’s worth mentioning that the acoustic version contains an accordion, which I think is criminally underused in modern music.
9. Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night? – I was never a big Nirvana fan, but I have a huge fondness for their Unplugged album, and this is certainly one of the best songs from it, with a really great intensity crescendo.
10. Madonna – You’ll See – I think this is off her greatest hits album, which I downloaded because there are actually a few of her songs that I enjoy, but it doesn’t sound even remotely familiar. Either I completely slept through a Madonna phase – which is far from impossible – or they were really stretching to flesh out the latter half of the hits.
And that’s it for this week. Next week we try, yet again, to get the Random 10 done on time. Anyone placing bets yet?
Sunday, November 13, 2005
- Kidney Thieves – Layers – I spent a few hours one night trying to track down who it was who performed the “NG Resonance” rock songs in Deus Ex: Invisible War, and eventually stumbled upon the Kidney Thieves. They’re kind of like a combination of Evanescence and Nine Inch Nails. This is my favourite of the songs that made an appearance in Invisible War.
- They Might Be Giants – Critic Intro – Less of a song, and more of a…I don’t know to call it, exactly. But it’s brilliant. “If you hear only one song this year, there’s something terribly wrong with you – Kitty Carlisle, Easy Riders.” How can you go wrong with a piece that includes a quote like that?
- Ani Difranco – Up up up up up up – Live version of a tune that, in spite of being eminently catchy, just never caught my ear.
- Alanis Morissette – Flinch – I had a coworker who absolutely refused to listen to Alanis Morissette (occasionally reminding people that our work space was an Alanis-Free-Zone). I never bothered to argue with him, as he was clearly adamant, but I never really figured out what his problem with her was.
- Evanescence – October – A song from one of their rarities albums. Nothing brilliant, but then Amy Lee’s voice can make just about anything a winner, if you ask me. Which you didn’t. So, uh, I guess you can forget I said anything.
- ????? – The Freshmen – I don’t know who this is, because the artist is listed as “Billboard Top 100 of 1997.” Stupid people and their bad MP3 tags. Though, I suppose it doesn’t much matter, as it sounds like an average, cookie-cutter, mid-90s radio hit. Which is to say that it’s palatable, but doesn’t do much to excite me as a listener.
- Pink Floyd – Echoes – Hands down, the best piece from their pre-Dark Side of the Moon discography. I have a strange fascination with epic-length songs, and this is one of the best. “A Saucerful of Secrets” slides in at a close second. Some of the shifts in the song remind me of their later work on “Animals”…
- Tori Amos – Upside Down – I wish more songs that I knew actually appeared during my Random 10. Is my playlist really that full of music I’ve never listened to?
- Alexander Brandon – Hong Kong Helipad – From the game “Deus Ex” – it’s amazing how one little song from a video game soundtrack can transport you back to those moments in the game itself.
- Tragically Hip – New Orleans is Sinking – Live version of a song that now seems eerily prophetic. Not my favourite Hip song, but a good’un nonetheless.
- Oingo Boingo – Stay – Live version, from their Farewell CD. I’ve got to track down the DVD of that album some day soon, I think. Ten years after the end of Oingo Boingo, I heard Danny Elfman’s voice performing the Oompah-Loompah songs in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” the other night, and it was the strangest, surrealist thing. I had to actually watch the credits just to make sure that I hadn’t hallucinated it.
And that’s it for this week’s Random 10. Tune in next week for the answer to the exciting question: Will it damn well be on time for a change?
Today is day two of the return of the beard. Little growth is apparent in the photograph, and can really only be seen if you get really, really close to my face (or, in my case, if I get really, really close to a mirror).
Lessons learned on day two: Push up your glasses before your picture is taken, otherwise your eyes look like they're on the outside of your head. Also, turn off the flash on the camera so you don't end up looking like you're wearing clown makeup.
Also, don't take the picture at 9:30 p.m. when you've only had four hours sleep the night before.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
And because I am a dork, I will be photographing that process, and posting those photographs here on the blog, so that the entire world can experience the excitement that is me growing a beard.
Tune in tomorrow for Day 1. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Well, I suppose I shouldn't promise that. Because you probably will be. Instead, let me promise you this: at the very least, you shouldn't get leprosy by viewing these photos.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Well, that's not true. I actually felt pretty good most of the day, except for the whole being tired thing. I drifted off on the sofa a couple of times over the course of the day, A&E making muddy noise on the television in the background.
In spite of the being tired thing, I managed to do two cracks at the NaNo novel over the course of the day, and I crossed the 10,000 word mark just a few minutes ago. I am still surprised by how ridiculously well the novel is going, given that I had given it almost no thought in advance, save for a bit of character defining that was done in the "This is not a prologue" series of blog posts.
I even stumbled across what might be an interesting plot twist in a few chapters, assuming I don't change my mind before I get there.
Next chapter introduces two new characters, which is a moment I'm quite looking forward to, as these two characters will end up creating the primary conflict in the story. I should have the current chapter done by tomorrow, which means I'll be saying hello to these two by Tuesday.
And I can't wait...
- Nine Inch Nails – The Persistence of Loss – From the “Still” limited edition bonus album. The tragedy is that this fantastic song never ended up on a more readily available album. A lament on a love that’s doomed from the get-go. Sad, but oh so…oh, what’s the word…poignant.
- Collective Soul – Burning Bridges – I picked up a Collective Soul album some years ago, and thought it was perfectly fine. Thus I’ve taken to downloading their albums when they pop up on Usenet, and promptly never listening to any of them. I assume this is from one of those albums, as I’ve never heard it before.
- Dire Straits – Lady Writer – Again, the bane of downloading greatest hits albums from bands you’re not religiously fond of that you never get around to listening to. Never heard this one before either, that I can recall.
- Radiohead – I Might Be Wrong – I found Radiohead after finally getting tired of reading the rave reviews for “OK Computer” and just bought the album. I’ve continued to enjoy and respect them since, for their continued attempts to experiment musically. There’s nothing worse than listening to a band do the same exact thing, over and over again, for their entire career. Which, sadly, describes most modern music.
- Elton John – Benny and the Jets – Sounds like it’s from some live album or other.
- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Depending on You – I always thought Tom Petty had kind of annoyingly whiney voice, but a former coworkers used to play his stuff at the office now and then and it kind of grew on me. A little.
- Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue – Where did this come from? I must have an 80s collection or two somewhere on my hard drive, I guess…
- Roxette – Better Off on her Own – Whee—more fun early-90s cheese. Which is not to say that they didn’t have one or two good songs. Which is also not to say that I don’t enjoy cheese. Mmm, cheese.
- They Might Be Giants – Women and Men – You know, one of these Fridays, I’m going to have to do a straight TMBG “Random 10” for no reason beyond the fact that they have so damn much good material. The last time I turned their stuff on at work, I heard a, “Good Lord, what is?” from someone, which is further evidence that TMBG is clearly an acquired taste. And generally acquired by the odd and the twisted. And ridiculous.
- Mike Oldfield – Thou Art in Heaven – One of the biggest problems with a random playlist is hearing songs out of the context of their album. Certain songs, while good as stand alone songs, simply belong as part of a larger whole—much of Oldfield’s stuff is like that. From the Tr3s Lunas album, for anyone interested
- Kim Mitchell – America – Didn’t this come up last week too? Is my playlist telling me something? Does it have something to do with Canadian semi-rock? With U.S. foreign policy? Is Kim Mitchell really terrorist? Should I stop rambling now before this gets completely out of control?
At least this stupid Random 10 – whether it occurs on Friday or Sunday – is sort of a guarantee that I’ll post something here at least once a week, even when I’m ridiculously busy. Like I’ve been this last few weeks.
On that note, see you next week, at the latest.
Monday, October 31, 2005
I guess I could just pretend that I had written this on Friday, but had neglected to post it until just now. But that would be dishonest. And if there’s one thing that I strive to do at this blog, it’s be honest. Or at least give the impression of being honest. By saying that I try to be honest.
On with the crap.
- Tori Amos – Snow Cherries From France – I don’t know why this song has suddenly grown on me so much in the last few weeks, but it has. The lyrics just kind of drift lazily through my ears without leaving much of an impression, but it’s just got such a lovely melody that I don’t much care.
- Benjamin Britten / Peter Grimes – Four Sea Interludes, Dawn – One of the problems with downloading albums-full of random classical music (I’ve got about a dozen different “Classical Moods” albums) is that for every gem that you fall instantly in love with, you get another ten pieces that you never listen to and occasionally wonder why you bother keeping.
- Kim Mitchell – America – Ah, late-80s–early-90s Canadian rock. Ish. I actually don’t mind Kim Mitchell in a nostalgic, “Hey, I can kind of remember liking that song once upon a time.” And I don’t think listening to it is quite as embarrassing as tuning in some Def Leppard or Bon Jovi, but maybe that’s just me…
- Depeche Mode – Barrel of a Gun (Underworld Hard Mix) – Great song. Annoying remix.
- Pink Floyd – One of These Days (Live) – Not sure when this live performance is from, exactly, but it’s a decent recording if it’s an ROIO…
- Radiohead – Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong – Worth having in your playlist for the song title alone.
- The Offspring – Why Don’t You Get A Job – “My friend’s got a girlfriend, and he hates that bitch, he tells me everyday…” You gotta love modern love songs. In all seriousness though, The Offspring really appeals to me on my cranky, seething, grinding-my-teeth-til-they-bleed kind of days.
- Joe Satriani – Midnight – It was a certain scrawny friend of mine who introduced me to Joe Satriani. I’m not a rabid fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve downloaded a few albums because it’s nice when his stuff pops up on random playlists like this one.
- Pink Floyd – Julia Dream – I feel like a failure of a PF fan because I suddenly can’t remember what album this is from. Nonetheless, a nice song from the early, pre-DSOTM Floyd.
- REM – Belong – From the album “Out of Time” which, I think, was one of the first 10 CDs that I bought not long after my parents first got a CD player. My enjoyment of REM tends to drift on and off, but stays on most of the time, for most of their stuff.
- REM – Make It All OK – 9165 songs to choose from, and my random playlist takes two songs in a row from the same band? Ouch.
G’night folks! Tip your waitress!
Thursday, October 27, 2005
3:10 a.m. My eyes are heavy. My body is exhausted. Everything is in place for a good night's sleep, but for reasons beyond me sleep continues to avoid me. I've got tunes on my MP3 player, playing softly through headphone -- something to distract me, something to heopfully keep my thoughts from getting so loud that I stare at the ceiling. Unfortunately it's not working.
Goddamn opening night stage adrenaline won't go away.
Goddamn thoughts won't settle down.
Goddamn body won't just shut itself off, in spite of my burning desire for it to do so.
EDIT: Oh my lord, the current Strongbad Email is about insomnia. And I'm just about tired enough to think that means something significant in the grand scheme of things...
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The thing is this: I thought about it. I thought about how I should be doing it. I thought about how much I wanted to be doing it. Two short weeks into this stupid “Random 10” and I’m already an addict. Way to go stupid internet blog memes. Way to goddamn go.
So, in spite of the fact that it’s late by a handful of days, here is this week’s Friday “Random 10” (or, in this case, 11)
- Eva Cassidy – Somewhere Over the Rainbow – This song completely destroys my brain every time I hear it. Eva Cassidy – who died a few years back, far too young – turns a song that everyone knows into the most amazingly melancholy piece of music. I have a very, very special place for this song in a play I’m desperate to direct one day.
- Nirvana – Tourette’s – There’s a handful of Nirvana songs that I enjoy – and those that I do, I enjoy quite a bit. I don’t think this is one of them, really…
- Elton John & Billy Joel – The Bitch is Back – Two piano legends on a song that isn’t one of my favourites is a recipe for some fine mediocrity.
- Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop – I’m not sure how this got on my playlist, but it’s a damn fine song – one of those iconic pieces that you recognize, immediately, from the first few chords.
- Ani DiFranco – Everest – I suppose I should confess that I prefer the earlier, acoustic-er Ani than to the later, more produced and electric Ani. Does that make me a bad person?
- Cher – Strong Enough – Yes, I have a Cher “Greatest Hits” album. What’re you gonna do about it?
- The Orb – Time – A cover of a popular Pink Floyd tune. Except it’s got all sorts of weird dance beat stuff in it. This is in my playlist only because it is tangently related to Pink Floyd. Which is reason enough to download anything, I think.
- John Lennon – Look at Me – Having missed the magic of the Beatles, and of Lennon himself as a solo artist, while both were actually in existence, I can’t help but wonder if some of the power we place on Lennon’s work stems from the fact that, as an artist, his ability to output material was rather abruptly cut off when he was shot to death. Not to disrespect what is clearly a valid talent – “Imagine” is one of my favourite songs of all time – but I wonder if perhaps we tend to over-romanticize those artists that die too young.
- Silicon Knights – The Last Hope – From the game “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem” which had a fine soundtrack, and was a damn fine horror game as well.
- Billy Joel – Don’t Ask Me Why – I don’t think I even know this song…
- Joe Cocker – You Are So Beautiful to Me – And a lovely note to end on. Sometimes the most moving songs are the ones that are the most simple. Sometimes we need to be reminded that, when you strip everything else away, the bare bones of life are pretty basic.
And that’s it for this week. See you again next week, with a “Random 10” which, I can assure you right now, will be at least just as late as this one. Thank you, and good night!
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Most of the novels I've written in the past -- and, in fact, most of the short stories I've written as well -- have a common thread. Redemption. I write stories about people who end up in terrible places, doing terrible things, feeling terribly about themselves, but at the end of the story, ultimately find themselves redeemed, in some way.
But traditionally, these characters have put themselves into those terrible places. They are, in a nutshell, self-destructive. Filled with self-loathing and self-doubt. And it is their own decisions, their own feelings, their own sense of themselves that needs to be redeemed by the novel's end.
In the case of The Small Town Pornographer's Blues, though, the main character (who, for those who read "This is not a prologue (Part Four)" already know, now has a name) is really just a guy who ends up in a lot of wrong places at the wrong times.
Sure, he's a pornographer, which some might argue is not the most morally solid occupation in the world. But he's a good pornographer. He doesnt' exploit his talent, he doesn't get his actresses strung out on drugs, he pays them as well as he can under the circumstances. In effect, he is exactly what a small town pornographer would be like. Kind, friendly, and just wanting to make some entertaining films.
And I'm quite looking forward to this change of pace, to writing a character that is not so completely self destructive. Last November, when writing what is tentatively titled "Waiting for a Miracle," I had to stop writing the first part of the novel about halfway through the month and switch to the second part, which is written by a different first person narrator, because the narrator of the first part was just too goddamn depressing. I couldn't stand living in his head for another day.
As much as I'm fascinated by characters with self-destructive behaviour -- in part, I think, because I have self-destructive tendencies myself, on occasion -- they can get awfully tiring to write, day in and day out. Particularly when you're feeling terribly self-destructive at the time, and don't feel like being dragged down to those sorts of feelings either.
Sadly some of the momentum I had for the novel has dipped, slightly, in the last few weeks, but I think that's just a result of work stresses, and the fact that the play I'm in is going to open in just a few days. Hopefully by the time November 1 arrives and I write that first sentence, I'll be ready to rock and roll. God knows these non-prologues have gone about as smoothly and comfortably as anything I've written about in quite awhile.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
I'm about THIS close (I know you can't actually see it, but I've got my finger and thumb really, really, really close together) from dropping anonymous comments from the blog because of the ridiculous advertisement comments that seem to appear within 5 minutes of a post being made. It's driving me batty.
I really don't want to do that, because it will prevent those who don't have blogger accounts from leaving comments, but the ads are really, really starting to piss me off.
On an entirely unrelated subject, yes, I've now registered firstname.lastname@example.org. Also email@example.com, just to be safe. Please don't contact me at those addresses, though, as I don't think I'll be checking them with any sort of regularity.
It was supposed to be a brainstorming session, but that was before we’d gotten into our fourth beer. Now it was more of an unofficial bitch-session.
“For Christ’s sakes, Dan,” I said, “you’re at the gym more often than the rest of us. Can’t you track down any prospective talent there?”
“I don’t know if you’re aware of this, Lucas,” he said to me, “but it’s actually not cool to wander around staring at other men’s crotches while you’re at the gym. Maybe if you visited a bit more often, you’d know the rules.”
“Can’t you peek out of the corner of your eye?”
“Jesus Christ, man, I’m not going to peek, I’m not going to glance, I’m not going to gawk. I have no interest in checking anyone else’s privates out.
“Fine. And you, Karen?”
“You’ve asked me this before,” she said, rolling her eyes. “And the answer’s still the same. No, I haven’t been with any fabulously endowed men.”
“At this point, I’d be content with mildly above average.”
“Well, at the moment I can’t recall anyone mildly above average.” She paused for a moment, thinking about it again. “Well, maybe one or two, but no one I’d like to hop in the sack with again.”
“Not even if he was going to help us create something fantastic.”
“Lucas,” Jason said, taking a rare moment to contribute to the conversation, “We’re trying to make a porn film, not Citizen Kane.”
“And you can just take your negativity elsewhere, if that’s how you’re going to be about it,” I said, looking down into my drink because I really couldn’t think of anything else to say at the moment.
We were stuck. We were at an impasse. And it was a problem that I hadn’t considered in advance, and therefore we didn’t currently have any solution to how to get around it. We needed a dick. Based on the general rules of pornography, it needed to be at least a bit larger than average, be attached to someone not entirely hideous who was able to control his climax to at least some degree, and also belong to someone interested in being the star of an independent porn video in which he’d get to have sex with Karen in about a dozen different positions.
Now, the last part would probably be the easiest to find. Karen was attractive enough, even with her slightly bizarre cheekbones, and just about any red-blooded young male would be willing to drop his pants and have a go at her. It might take a little bit more convincing before he was comfortable with us setting cameras up around him, and it might take even more convincing before he’d be willing to let Dan point the camera right at his crotch, for those all important action-close-ups, but I was fairly confident that we’d be able to convince the majority of the applicants that there was nothing to fear and that he’d likely have the time of his life.
The biggest trouble was in finding someone who had the physical qualifications. How the hell were we supposed to screen them? I couldn’t very well just saunter up to every man I encountered on the street and say, “Hey, can I see your cock?”
And no one currently at the table – which made up the extent of our porn film cast and crew – seemed to know anyone who fit the bill.
“Why don’t put an ad in the paper?” Jason asked, out of the blue.
“In the personals or something. Like: Wanted, gigantic cock for porn film…”
“That’s a retarded idea,” I said, shaking my head.
“Because…because I don’t want people to know what we’re doing. I mean, we all still have to live in this community, we all still have to go to our day jobs and buy groceries and stuff. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be looked at as ‘That Creepy Pornographer’ while I’m trying to buy bread and milk.”
“They don’t have to know it’s us. Look, we set up a Hotmail e-mail address that can’t be traced back to anyone in particular – something like firstname.lastname@example.org. We use that as the contact point. No evidence. No phone numbers or addresses. There are enough digital cameras around that most people know someone who has one, and if they don’t they can track down a cheap Polaroid instant-style camera that doesn’t require them to send the film out to a developer. Then we just ask them to email head shots and penis portraits to us at that e-mail address. It seems like the perfect solution to me.”
It wasn’t perfect, exactly. Digital cameras weren’t quite as common as Jason thought, and the people who tried to use a Polaroid would have to track down someone with a scanner to get the photo into a digital form that they could e-mail. But even considering those little issues, it seemed to me as if maybe this wasn’t a terrible idea.
“Once we get the photos,” he continued, “we can pick out the ones who seem like the best candidates and go through an interview process. We should be able to track down at least one physically viable candidate who’s also interested in having sex on video tape.”
“Why stop at the male talent though?” Dan asked. “I mean, we could solicit actresses that way as well.”
“Who’s got a pen?” I asked.
“I’ve got one, and some paper, I think,” Karen said, starting to dig through her purse.
“Okay, so the ad reads: Local adult film production seeks…”
“Exotic film,” Dan said.
“Call them exotic films. It sounds less freaky that way. That’s what Burt Reynolds’ character called his film in Boogie Nights.”
“I think the word ‘exotic’ might confuse people. It’s not clear enough.”
“No, no, but it’s, like, exotic,” Dan said, with a weird kind of leer in his eye.
“You can’t really do a wink-wink, nudge-nudge like that on paper. We’re sticking with ‘adult film’.”
“Okay. Local adult film production seeks prospective talent. Men and women required. Please send head shot and full-body nude photo to…whatever the e-mail address happens to be.”
“I like the first suggestion,” Karen said. Smalltownporn@hotmail.com. It’s got kind of a quaint feel to it.
“Fine, Jason, see if you can get that address.”
“I’m on it.”
“So…send head shot and full-body nude photo to blah blah blah. Please include any relevant experience…”
“What’s relevant?” Dan asked.
“I don’t know, acting experience, that kind of thing…”
“What if the guy has just had a whole lot of sex?”
“Well, I guess that’s kind of relevant too.”
“Are we screening for diseases?” Karen asked, her eyes suddenly bright. “Shit, I hadn’t even thought of that, we need to screen for diseases.”
“Don’t worry, Karen,” I said, “we’ll be screening for diseases, but I don’t think that’s necessary at this point. We’re just looking at prospective candidates. We can disease-screen the final round of applicants.”
“I don’t want to get genital herpes.”
“No one wants to get genital herpes,” Jason said.
“That’s not necessarily true,” Dan said, turning to Jason. “There’s all sorts of weird motherfuckers out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some bizarre, sexual sub-culture of people who were just desperate to get infected with herpes.”
“We’re getting off track,” I said. “What’ve we got so far.”
Karen, who’d been scribbling away on a scrap of paper, read the ad back to me. “Local adult film production seeks prospective talent. Men and women required. Please send head shot and full-body nude photo to, whatever e-mail address we end up with. Please include any relevant experience.”
“Only those applicants being considered for a role in the production will be contacted,” Jason added. “I think that’s a necessary inclusion, as we don’t want to be flooded by e-mails from people wondering why we haven’t written them back yet.”
I nodded. “Yeah, that’s good. That’s really good. Jason, can you see about getting that into the paper?”
“First thing in the morning.” He took the scrap from Karen and started to tuck it into his pocket, but I stopped him.
“Wait, there’s one more thing.”
I took the pen from Karen and tugged the scrap of paper from Jason’s hand, adding the final sentences in my own handwriting.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime. Fame and fortune can at last be yours too.
“There,” I said, sliding the paper back to Jason. “Now we’re ready to rock.”
Sunday, October 16, 2005
While Dan sat on the sofa behind me, examining my recently acquired digital video camera, I wondered whether or not I should start by showing him my test footage of Karen, or just toss “NymphMania Volume 8” into the DVD player.
“This thing is fucking sweet,” I heard Dan say.
Examining was, perhaps, a little on the light side to describe how he was looking at the camera. He had his face only a few inches away from it, examining every line, every curve, every bump, ever button, every slot, every port, every outlet, from corner to corner, top to bottom. I worried that, with his face that close, drops of saliva would start to dribble out from his mouth and damage the fragile electronics. The man was, most assuredly, drooling.
Dan worked at the electronics shop with me, and had been a photography buff for years. He’d actually won a bunch of awards for his photographs at local contests, fairs, and such, which maybe didn’t sound like a whole lot, but it still meant he was generating better photography than the average shmoe wielding a point-and-click Kodak Special.
I decided to skip the porn for a second, and explain the situation to Dan first.
“Okay,” I said, “here’s the deal. I’m trying to become a filmmaker.”
“Holy shit, does this thing support Timecode? Fucking-A!”
I don’t think he was listening. I snapped my fingers a few times, inches away from his face. “Hello. Earth to Dan.”
With some effort, he pulled himself away from the camera and looked up at me. “Yeah, what’s up.”
“Listen, Dan. I have a proposition for you.”
I started to pace back and forth in front of him while I talked. “I’m trying to become a filmmaker. I know, I know, it probably sounds like a crazy dream, and maybe it even is. But I think that if we can pull some talented people together – and God knows there’s enough talent around if you know where to look at it – we might just be able to make something. Make it cheap. And then turn around and sell it a whole lot of money.”
“Cool.” Dan didn’t care much for the big words.
“Now, I’ve got a bit of money from an investor. That’s how I paid for the camera, and for the tapes and what not. There’s still a bit of money to go around, for more equipment as we need it, and for catering and all that kind of bullshit. I can’t afford to pay any of the participants in this project very much at the moment…well, actually, I can’t afford to pay them anything at the moment, but if things go well, we could all be rolling in the cash in no time at all.”
“But I’ve got a problem. I took the camera out for a test spin last week, and shot a bunch of footage, but…well, it looks like crap, to be honest with you. I dumped it all on my computer, and tried to fuck around with it and make it prettier, but everything I did to it just made it worse. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise, because I’m not a photographer, I’ve never been a photographer. So, I think I need a photographer.”
“That’s you, Dan.” Also, Dan wasn’t the sharpest tack in the drawer.
“Oh! What, me? Wait, start again.”
“Oh, God, listen. I’m trying to make movies, Dan. Films. Videos. To sell to people. They look like crap, so I need to get someone behind the camera who can make them look pretty. A cinematographer, or a director of photography, or whatever fucking title you like. You can call yourself the King of Digital Video for all I care, as long as you agree to run my camera for me.”
“You want me to shoot your films for you?”
“Oh, sure, yeah. Why not. I haven’t really done anything on video before, it’s all just been still photography stuff, but I don’t think it’d be that much different. It’d be fun to play around with something new anyway.”
“Okay,” I said, turning around and popping the NymphMania DVD into the player. “I want you to take a look at this scene real quickly, just so you can see the sort of look I’m going for, and then I’ll show you what I shot, and you can maybe figure out what I was doing wrong, and how to avoid it.” I punched some buttons on the remote control and then hopped onto the sofa next to Dan just as the images on the television came to life, mid-blowjob.
“It’s not amazing photography by any stretch of the imagination,” I said, “but you can at least see that the colours are, you know, true to life. The reds look red, and the blues look blue, but when I was shooting, every looked really washed out. Like there was too much white in it or something.”
I noticed Dan shifting uncomfortably next to me. I looked over in his direction and caught a look of noticeable discomfort on his face.
“Hey, what’s up?” I asked him.
“Um, listen man, no offense, but…this is kind of creeping me out.”
“This fucking video.”
“Look, I’m…you know, all secure in my sexuality and shit, but I’m not real open about it either. And this whole sitting around watching porn with a buddy, well…it’s fucking weird.” He suddenly looked over at me. “Oh fuck, you’re not coming on to me, are you?”
“Jesus Christ,” I said, and hit the power button on the remote control. The image blinked into blackness. “No, I’m not coming on to you.”
“Then what was up with that video?”
“Because,” I said, temporarily unable to conceive of how thick Dan could be sometimes, “those are the kinds of films I want to make. Adult films. Porno fucking films.”
The words settled in eventually. “Oh,” he finally said. “Oh!”
“Yeah. Okay, yeah, I get it now.”
“Okay, so can I turn the video back on now so you can compare the differences in colour and quality and all that shit?”
“Uh, actually I’d prefer if you didn’t. I’m still not big on sitting around watching porno films in, you know, a social setting.”
“Well, you better get used to it. You’re going to be pointing a camera at two people mashing their genitals together.”
We sat there in an awkward silence for a few minutes, neither us entirely sure what to say or what to do following the bizarre, surreal turn that any conversation about one’s desire to get into the porn industry inevitably takes. Finally, I said, “Do you want to just take the DVDs home and check them out there?”
“Yeah, that’d probably be best.”
I pushed myself off the sofa and pulled NymphMania from the DVD player, dropping it in its case, then picked up the DVD I had burned of my own test footage, and handed both discs over to Dan. “Call me tomorrow or the day after to let me know what you think.”
“And I swear to God if these things are sticky when I get them back, you’re fucking fired.”
Saturday, October 15, 2005
She had long blonde hair and intense cheekbones. Her face was funny – sharp, in a way, like you might poke your eye out if you got too close to it. But still pretty in an odd way. And she had the most amazing knockers I’d ever seen.
Plus, she was the first one that hadn’t slapped me when I tried to tell that I was recruiting talent for pornographic films.
Instead, she had this quizzical look on her face. It was a look she gave to me, and then to my business card, and then back to me again, and then back to the business card, and on and on and on.
Her name was Karen, at least according to her nametag. It's 2:00 in the morning and I'm in the goddamn 7-Eleven because I was drunk and wanted a hot dog. I'm not sure exactly why I decided to toss out my, "Hey, do you want to be a porn star?" pitch to her, except that there was no one else around, she didn't look too dreadful under the harsh fluorescents, and because she had amazing knockers.
And, I guess, because I was drunk.
“Is this some kind of a pickup line?” she finally asked me. Her eyes were still on the business card. It read: MURPHY MIDNIGHT – DIRECTOR – ADULT FILMS.
It wasn’t my real name, obviously. It was, in fact, my porn star name – the name you get when you combine the name of your first pet with the name of the street you grew up on. The card, when you got right down to it, was a farce, but I’d approached it as seriously as possible, hitting up a friend in the printing industry to output them for me.
He’d looked at me just as strangely as the blonde-haired, intense-cheek-boned beauty was looking at me now.
“No,” I said, “it’s not just some kind of pickup line.”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Because you’re kind of cute.”
“Um, thank you.”
“And if this was some kind of pickup line, you know, it might actually work for you, if you weren't quite so drunk.” She fondled the card gently, sliding it in my direction. “I mean, you’ve clearly put some effort into it.”
“I have,” I said, “but not because it’s a pickup line. Because I’m trying to put together some local, adult film talent.”
“You’re trying to make a porno film.”
“Well…yes. Pretty much.”
She met my eyes for just a second before looking down at the business card again. I wasn’t sure why she was obsessing about it, why it seemed like she couldn’t take her eyes of it. But right them, I didn’t care. I hadn’t scared her off, or inspired her to slap me or punch me in the stomach or dump her drink on my head, which pretty much encapsulated the extent of the responses I had received to my attempted proposals thus far.
“Futura,” she said, completely out of the blue.
“It’s the typeface on your card. Futura.”
And then she laughed, a real laugh, and I jumped a little. There was something friendly in that laugh, something almost intimate, and I found it a little scary. I wasn’t sure what to say or do, because I wasn’t sure what she was talking about or laughing at. I was grateful when she continued the conversation all on her own.
“It’s the name of the font that the words on the business card are set in,” she said, sliding the card towards me. “Different fonts have different names. You know what a font is, don’t you?”
“Fuck, yeah, I know what a font is,” I said, looking down at the business card. I didn't have any idea which of the words on the card was in "Futura" and I didn't much care either..
“It’s a nice typeface,” she said smiling. “Futura. I took some design courses in university. I'm crazy about typefaces.”
She looked weirder than ever when she smiled. The skin around her cheekbones was stretched tight, like the bones underneath could just pop through the flesh at any moment. But her knockers were still incredible, and no one smiled much in porn films anyway.
“So,” I said, trying the steer the conversation away from whatever the fuck it was she was trying to talk about, “you haven't slapped me or dropped a drink on my head yet.”
“I'd have to go to the cooler and get a drink to dump one on your head. And then it'd just come out of my paycheque, so it's not really worth it, unless you really want me to?”
“No. I’d rather you didn’t. That’s how most of my interviews have gone so far, and I’m trying to stray away from that.”
“Maybe your interviews would go better if you didn’t approach lonely, vulnerable women and ask them to be in a porn film.”
She had a point. I conceded, internally, that it was something worth looking into in the future. But the future wasn’t now, and I still had this odd-but-strangely-enticing-and-attractive creature to deal with in the moment.
“Look,” I said, trying desperately to cut to the chase, “Maybe I should be sorry I brought it up, but it's brought up now, so I guess we'll just have to deal with it. Right now I just want to go and eat my hot dog, so let's just cut to the chase. Are you interested, or should I just leave before you do decide to dump a drink on my head, loss of income or not?”
She held my gaze for a terrifying length of time. After three or four minutes I desperately wanted to break our gaze, to stare at the magazine rack, or the selection of beef jerky, or the rows upon rows of cigarettes lined up behind her, or any-fucking-thing other than her stare which was trying its damndest to bore its way through my brain.
And then she broke it off for me and looked down at the business card again. “That’s your porn star name, isn’t it?”
“I’m looking to direct these films,” I said, “not star in them.”
“First pet. Street you grew up on. Right?”
I’m not sure what made me angrier – the fact that she saw through my terrible name, or the fact that I knew that if I didn’t answer her question she was going to just shrug her shoulders and our conversation would be over.
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re right.
She grabbed a pen from behind the counter and flipped my business card over, scrawling seven digits on the back. "I've got Thursday off," she said. "Call me. Buy me lunch or something. We can talk."
I'm not afraid to admit that I was so excited that I left my goddamn hot dog behind.
NOTE: This post has been midly edited, because details were missing, and parts of it just weren't sitting right with me. I think it's better now.
I just about forgot this week’s Random 10. I guess that shows you just how messed up a week I have. Or it illustrates how ultimately confused and out of synch with reality I am. One or the other.
Damn, and I was gonna write “This is Not a Prologue (Part Two)” tonight too. Oh well. I can get on that tomorrow.
Rules are the same as last week. Ten random songs, plus song #0 that is handpicked by me to start things off.
- Harry Manx – The Great Unknown – Harry Manx is a BC bluesman I discovered when he played here in the ol’ WL a few years back. His gimmick (unfortunately, too many musical acts need a gimmick) is the inclusion of a fantastic Indian instrument in his repertoire of musical instruments. And yes, it gives him a fantastically unique sound, but even when he’s not strumming away on it, he can deliver the blues with the best of ‘em. Look him up some time. It’ll be worth it.
- Sheryl Crow – Maybe That’s Something – Gahd, I had to go to Amazon to look this song up, because my MP3 ID info is all messed up. Anyway, don’t much know this song, have even less to say about it. Er, Sheryl Crow rockz0rz. Mostly.
- Leonard Cohen – Our Lady of Shadows – And yet more musica obscura. I just download stuff from people I like, people I think I might like, people I think might be interesting, people I think will be bad, etc., and then never listen to it. This falls into the “downloaded from people I like” category, but I’ve still never heard it until now.
- Eagles – Victim of Love – This is off some kind of 1994 live bootleg thingy, I think. Another random download. Is that the theme this week? Time will tell. I know Don Henley gets a lot of flack from the cool folks, but I’m still a fan of his, and of the Eagles in general. If that makes me a loser, so be it. I was probably a loser before then anyway.
- Tori Amos – Bells for Her – Can’t go wrong with Tori. Gotta love someone who can peak like she did on her first album, and then continue on putting out interesting, challenging music that doesn’t completely alienate the listener.
- The Bangles – In Your Room – Yay for 80s chick bands! For technicalities sake, this is yet again a live version, from a late-90s or early-2000s reunion gig kind of thingy.
- Eagles – I Can’t Tell You Why – I’ve got 9,000 MP3s on my hard drive. Why do I so often get repeated bands during the Friday 10? This makes no sense to me…
- Level 42 – Fashion Fever – Er, hardly one of my favourites from them, but it’s on my hard drive because it’s on an album I’m mostly fond of, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m an insane completist. Also, go crappy 80s music!
- Erasure – Stop! – Oh, more 80s tune-age. This time from the electronica side of things. Is it cheese? Yeah, pretty much. But a little cheese now and then is perfectly good. This, by the way, is some remixed version of the song. If anyone cares.
- Nine Inch Nails – Pinion – Short. Abrupt. Angry. To the point. The essence of NIN, distilled.
- Peter Gabriel – My Head Sounds Like That – Off his most recent album – Up – for whatever reason, I never really cared much for this song. Musically, it’s fine. Lyrically…it bugs me somehow. Oh well, I shouldn’t complain I guess, as bad Peter Gabriel is still better than most of the dreck available…
And that’s it for another week. Tune in tomorrow (hopefully) for “This Is Not a Prologue (Part Two)”…
Sunday, October 09, 2005
“Pornography,” I said.
Jason looked at me funny, like he was waiting for a punchline or something. He clicked his fingernails against his drink – double rye and coke – while in the background someone was belting out an 80s power ballad on a karaoke machine.
Finally he spoke. “That’s it?” he asked me. “That’s your big get-rich-quick plan? Pornography?”
“Don’t you think you’re missing something? Like, I don’t know…details, maybe?”
“Details, Schmetails. We can work that sort of stuff out later. For now, the only thing we need to worry about is this: Supply and demand.”
“Uh-huh.” It didn’t sound like I was doing much to convince him.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed,” I continued, “but there’s a massive – and I mean massive – demand for pornography.”
“Right. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s also a massive supply.”
I waved my hand at looked down at my own drink. The beer had gone warm and flat. I hadn’t really wanted it in the first place, this was just the only place that Jason would ever agree to meet. The fact that it was a karaoke bar was something I would never understand.
“Is that something else you’d file under ‘Details, Schmetails?’”
“As a matter of fact, it would.”
“You’re going to have to think about the details eventually, you know.”
“I know. But for now, one thing at a time. One step at a time. One day at a time. First step, money.”
“Well, at least it’s nice to see you’re thinking about one detail. Any ideas on where you’re going to get it from?”
“That’s where you come in.”
“Uh-huh. Wait, what? What do you mean, that’s where I come in?”
“Well, that’s what you do, isn’t it? I mean, you handle people’s investment portfolios and whatnot. All you do is steer some of that investment my way, and then…” My voice trailed off when I realized that Jason was laughing at me. It wasn’t just a small chuckle either. This was a massive, shake your shoulders, roll your belly kind of laugh. “What’s so funny?”
“Sorry to say this, my friend, but right at the moment I can’t think of a single person who’d be interested in dumping their retirement money into an independently produced porno flick.”
“So don’t tell them that part.”
“Oh, sure, as if that wasn’t more than just a little bit illegal.”
“Oh, don’t be such a pussy. You don’t have to completely lie to them. It’s just…you know, a lie by omission. You don’t tell them it’s a porn film, you say that it’s an independent movie that someone local is trying to make, and sure it’s high risk, but it has a good chance at paying off, and blah blah blah.”
He shook his head. “Sorry man, it’s just not going to happen that way.”
“I don’t even need very much.”
“How much is not very much?”
I tugged the scrap of paper on which I’d worked out a very basic budget out of my pocket and unfolded it, setting on the table between the two of us. “The way I’m looking at it, we grab a basic, entry-level, digital video camera, and a shitload of videotapes. I can do the editing on my PC, and I’ve got a pirated copy of Adobe Premier already…”
“I thought all the pros used Final Cut Pro on the Macintosh.”
“Just shut up and listen. Okay, so we buy a camera, we buy a shitload of tapes, I’ve got the necessary editing equipment already. All we need then is talent, and I figure if we can track down a few hot and horny young things, flash the promise of stardom in front of them, and we can probably get them in front of the camera for a few bucks and sandwich halfway through the day.”
“And I’m sure you have a little black book that’s just full of the names and phone numbers of these hot and horny young things, don’t you?”
“Why are you always so negative?”
“So, had you given any thought to how you were going to track these women down? Just go up to them and say, ‘Hi, want to be a porn star?’”
“Well, I thought I might get a business card first.”
“Oh, I can only imagine how much that will improve your chances.” He shook his head and quickly finished his drink, then stared at me with a look I knew well – it was the look of him trying to dig under the surface of something.
“What’s this really about?” he asked. “Is this just some stupid way to score chicks’ phone numbers?”
“Jesus Christ, no.”
“This isn’t just some plan to try to get a few dozen women into the sack with you, so can check out their ‘abilities’?”
“No, it’s not.”
“So, really, what’s this about then?”
I thought about what I was going to say, not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give Jason the real one or some half-assed sales pitch. I noticed that the voice coming over the karaoke speakers had changed, and a rap song was now playing underneath the sound of someone who was trying far too hard to be black.
“Jason,” I finally said, “I’m an assistant manager at a franchise electronics store. I’m 25 years old, and as far as my own corporate ladder goes, there aren’t too many steps left. It’s a little late in life for me to decide to become a doctor or a lawyer, and besides I hardly have the money for 12 years of schooling in either case. If I’m ever going to be successful, the sad truth is that I’m going to have to come up with some retarded idea that’s just crazy enough to work. I don’t know if this idea is it or not, but I know that at least it’s feasible. It’s something that I can do. There’s money to be made, a lot of it too, if you can just find the right product at the right time, and if you can manage to ride the wave of popularity and success in just the right way. And I think it’s worth a try.”
He kept his gaze locked on me, digging away at me, trying to see how much of what I had said was true. It drove me nuts, because Jason was always so fucking good at digging the truth out of people. I was just glad that I what I had told him had, in fact, been the truth.
And then he broke the gaze and looked down at the budget again, looking at the numbers, crunching them in his head. “You’re a fucking lunatic,” he said.
“I know,” I told him.
“I’ll tell you what. There’s still not a chance in hell that I’m going to embezzle even a dime from any of my clients in order to fund this lunatic production, but I’ve got a few grand tucked away that I’ve been waiting for the right time to drop into the right investment. My gut tells me that this investment isn’t it, but I’m willing to put my faith into you anyway.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“But,” he continued, looking back up at me again, and this time there was a very different look in his eyes. “I want you to realize that I’m going to just toss you a few thousand dollars so you can piss it away on a project you have no intention of seeing through to the end. If you don’t go into this with every bit of passion and energy that you have, if you don’t work your ass to do everything that you can to ensure that this is a success, I’m going to expect you to return every fucking penny to me. Do you understand me?”
“Good,” he said, and slid my budget back towards me. “We’ll go shopping in the morning.”
“Congratulations,” I said, unable to suppress a smile. “You’re officially in the pornography business.”
“That’s detail number one taken care of. What’s next on the agenda?”
“Talent,” I said, as my eyes drifted towards an attractive blonde who was sitting with a cluster of her friends at a table ten feet away. I imagined myself asking her if she wanted to be a porn star. And I imagined her slapping me across the face, slamming her knee into my crotch, and storming out of the bar.
Something told me this wasn’t going to be easy.
“Good luck with that,” Jason said.
“Thanks for your support.”