It Hurts, It’s Cruel, But It Feels Real Good

Wednesday night found your devoted robot servant driving all over the state in search of fun. First it was a trip to the Geek Boutique, Maynard’s mom-and-pop computer store, staffed by friendly, knowledgeable guys and gals. I always try to support the local businesses, so I relied on them to help me pick out a suitable wireless router. After all, it’s extremely important that I be able to surf the web anywhere in the house. I mean, if I need to find out some information about Uganda, I shouldn’t have to take the five minutes to walk upstairs and turn on the computer, right? Right. I need to know that the population of Uganda is 26,404,543 immeadiately!

After work, it was over to Marlborough, Mass for an 8:30 hockey game, where I play in a men’s league. I don’t need to say much more than a few words about this one: we sucked eggs. It was our first loss of the season and I pretty much played one of the worst games in a while.

However, any remnant bitterness about my level of suckage in a hockey game was quickly dashed away by a drive afterward to Cambridge, MA, where Sloan took the stage at about 11:30pm and proceeded to deliver, yet again, their unmatched and devastatingly catchy rock and roll, into the early hours of Thursday morning.

The thing about Sloan is this: if you see that band and you leave the club not smiling and feeling thoroughly rocked, then you’ve got deeper problems that need to be addressed professionally. They have incredible charisma, unstoppable songs and their versatility is admirable – look no further than the fact that all four of them write and sing songs. At one point, the lead singer moves to drums, the guitarist takes up the bass and drummer moves up to sing lead.

And if you don’t believe the charisma thing, check this out (although I don’t recommend this – easy way to catch a cold):

Say no more.

By the way, word hit the news wires this morning that the arranged marriage between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes is on. When asked how she felt about being engaged to the man whose posters graced her bedroom walls as a teenager, Holmes smiled with half her face, like she always does, and remarked “I’m not really sure, we’ve never spoken. Oh wait. No. Yes, they told me that I am very happy! Yes. I’m psyched.”

At that point, her Scientology coach punched her.

You Radiate Cold Shafts Of Broken Glass

So, word comes out of the jolly U.K. that Pink Floyd will be reuniting for the big Live8 concert being held this summer. It’s not a true reunion, for Syd Barrett remains in the womb-like place where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are on their way to (start the arm flailing and cue the crazy-bird cackles). Nonetheless, it’s as close as we’ll get, and that lineup did put out some great stuff. None greater in my eyes than 1977’s Animals, their darkest, most bitter piece of work. Naturally, it’s not only my favorite Pink Floyd album, but one of my favorite 1970’s releases. A five song concept album in which our fellow man is reduced to a type of animal (pigs, sheep, dogs), the lyrics are biting and the music is murky, all making for an interesting and captivating listen. The middle three songs each run more than ten minutes (give or take) and the two bookend songs are each less than two minutes.

A desert-islander? It probably just misses the cut. But it is by far their most underrated piece of work and has stood the test of time for me – through high school, through a heavy bout of Animals-obsession during college (including a specific recollection involving a girl, too much beer, a single bed and cigarette breath – and it’s not what you’re thinking, pervs) and then a renaissance period over the past couple of years.

Now, if I were to be the one who dictated the set list for the Live8 reunion this summer, it’s a pretty simple call – I’d just write down the five songs that appear on Animals and let them go for it. It would be such a gutsy move and it would certainly satisfy a lot of their fans. Alas, I think we all know where this is headed – Wish You Were Here, Another Brick In The Wall, blah blah blah. The shit you can hear every day by tuning into your classic rock station. Ah, well…..a kid can dream, can’t he?

The Olsen Twins Are 19 Today

Quick poll:

a) After getting a haircut, do you tend to race home and take a shower to prevent the little discarded hairs from making your neck itch like crazy?

b) upon buying a shirt, do you immeadiately try to rip the permanent tag off with your hands or, as a more patient person would do, calmly remove the tag using scissors or a similar instrument? I’m not talking about the price tags, I mean the tag that’s sewn into the shirt, most often located on the back of the neck. Either way – the question is the same. Do tags from shirts irritate the back of your neck?

Or is it just me? I’ve put several holes into t-shirts by attempting to rip them off with my hands.

I’ve known from watching interviews with Tom Cruise over the past couple of years that the crazy-meter was starting to get near the red. Upon watching a repeat of the MTV Movie Awards last night, though, we can welcome a new addition. Katie Holmes introduced Tom Cruise and presented him with some kind of lifetime bullshit award and as she was introducing him, she did some kind of mystifying body contortion. It was one part yoga, one part ballet and ten parts insane. She’s now gone from cute teen star to riding sidecar on the motorcycle to cuckoo-land. Sad.

However, Rachel McAdams is my new celeb crush!

The Sun’s Not Yellow, It’s Chicken

Some interesting reading here about China’s energy use. It’s a short article, so don’t cop out. Read it, and when you do, keep in the back of your mind that China is the world’s fastest growing economy and that their energy use is projected to increase by 10x its current amount, largely driven by one of the worst agents of pollution, coal. They don’t necessarily want to use coal, they just have to for now. They want large-scale energy alternatives, though. That’s right – the driving reason they’re using coal is that they simply cannot afford anything else. Sad.

I swear this is not turning into an energy blog (really, I promise), but you might also be interested to read about how our current politicans are purposefully downplaying reports of the effects of carbon on our enviroment or how Exxon has played a role in influencing U.S. decision-making on the Kyoto Treaty.

And about that pesky Kyoto Treaty: for now, I’m actually finding myself marginally supporting Bush on his decision about Kyoto – Paul Roberts’ book devotes and entire chapter to this – and the details of the treaty, while unquestionably packed with good intentions, do seem to support the theory that the treaty, as is, could seriously harm the U.S. economy in ways you probably can’t imagine. Do I think Bush is influenced by the oil companies? You bet I do. That the administration is actually trying to dispute scientific fact about the consequences of carbon is puzzling, to put it mildly.

So their solution is to open up the Alaskan Reserves and drill for more oil? This solution would actually make sense and I would support it if it were going to move the needle in terms of seriously decreasing our need for foreign oil. But even if we squeeze every drop possible out of Alaska, our dependance on foreign oil is still projected to rise and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Production of oil from our own sands is going nowhere but down, Alaska or no Alaska.

OK, off my soapbox. I only wanted to write one paragraph about energy for today and look what happened. What else is up? There seem to be an abundance of really good albums being released lately. Of all the things I’ve been digging lately, I’m sure most of the people who know me would not guess that I’ve been all over the new Aimee Mann album, The Forgotten Arm. To say that I disliked most of her past work would be glossing it over. But there’s something about this one that I’ve taken quite a liking to. I can’t explain it.

I might have already mentioned Gimme Fiction here before, but Spoon’s new album is really doing it for me. Ever since the disbanding of Pavement, I’ve been looking for a band to hang my indie rock hat on and this is the closest I’ve come. It could be on the verge of borderline obsessive soon. These guys are a great band. Their new single “I Turn My Camera On” would make the “Miss You” era Mick Jagger blush with envy.

You will find it very difficult to convince me that Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub wasn’t one of the top 3 bands of the 1990s. Their new album, Man-Made was just released and while it doesn’t approach the rock peaks they hit back then, it’s still a supremely crafted set of pop songs, just a little more wimpy. Wimpy is ok in the right setting, though, and this album is well worth having if you like the band. Bonus: they’ll be making the rounds in the U.S. for the first time in a while this summer. Can you say “I’m not missing A THING for that?”

I had also resigned myself to the fact that I would pretty much hate everything Ryan Adams ever did again. Heartbreaker was such a great album, but when he followed it up with Gold, I threw up. Hard. Everything since then has been, to me, like jumping into a pool of rubbing alcohol with cuts all over my body. Cold Roses, however, has turned my head. A little. Lots of critics are comparing this to the Grateful Dead’s peak era (Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty, etc). While I can’t agree with that just yet, the output on Cold Roses is encouraging. Now let’s watch him ruin it as he releases like 86 more albums this year. Ick.

Recently podded:
Spoon: Jonathon Fisk
Dramarama: Memo From Turner
Uncle Tupelo: I Wanna Be Your Dog
Linda Thompson: Dear Mary
Bob Dylan: It Takes A Lot To Laugh….
Nick Lowe: American Squirm
Jimi Hendrix: Hey Joe
Sir Douglas Quintet: Texas Me
The Marathons: Peanut Butter
The Soft Boys: Kingdom Of Love
Johnny Cash: I’ve Been Everywhere

Roll Up For The Mystery Tour

In yesterday’s Boston Globe, an article appeared about a soldier in his 20’s from here in Maynard, Mass. who died on the battlefield. We’ve been hearing more and more of these stories lately as the war in Iraq inches toward its third year, fighting for headlines with Michael Jackson, the murder of the day or, uh, blogging. Yep, life in America continues to be an odd mix of the bizarro and the mysterious, yet it shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s not the 24-hour-fast-food-all-you-can-eat news channels or the now countless amounts of completely brainless reality television shows (Hi, Britney).

What keeps me interested are the stories of the everyday people who inhabit our country – past and present. The soldier in the article yesterday was a part of the first unit that went ashore at Normandy, France 61 years ago yesterday. The family lived over on Florida Rd., less than a half a mile away from the house where Stephanie & I now call home. In driving by it yesterday, 2 Florida Road looks to be a multi-family unit that’s undoubtedly been renovated since those days, but the original walls and wires are probably all still there. Multiple generations have since passed through it and each inhabitant has stared at the same walls & ceilings, dreamed their own dreams and suffered through their own heartbreak, albeit probably not as devastating as the day in 1944 when word came back to the mother at 2 Florida Rd. that her son was gone. The soldier’s sister, quoted in the article, speaking of her mother after the news:

“You could not even mention his name, ever, or she would break into sobs. She had loved to dance, but after Vincent died she never danced. And, you know, we did not have a Christmas tree again.”

That sentence really rings, doens’t it? So while one generation dealt with the ultimate heartbreak, the next inhabitants of the house may have been realizing their dreams. Maybe it was their first house? Maybe they were just passing through and renting for a year? Regardless, they all flipped the same wall switches and all had their own stories to tell – their own cherished memories, documented through keepsakes and pictures on the mantle. That’s America.

It was late autumn of last year when Stephanie & I were in the throes of a kitchen renovation, perfecting our own dreams, I suppose, when we found the book pictured above. The plumber needed to get into our attic to run a vent up through the roof and when he came back down, he held “The Love Book” in his hand. Being fully Americanized, I immeadiately thought it was some kind of anitique porn that might fetch many dollars on EBay or something. In opening its extremely brittle pages, however, I discovered it was merely a set of short love stories with a military slant (i.e., absent husbands returning from service, etc). The monthly issues were clearly targeted towards women whose husbands were off serving in the war. It made me wonder again about the lives of the previous owners of this house. Did they have a son or husband in the war?

The ads are quite fascinating, too. Of course, there were several encouragements to buy war bonds, but there were also ads for picture framing services “for your young soldier” and things like that. More curiously, there seem to be an extraordinary amount of medical ads, particiularly for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. We can only wonder…..

Anyway, the plumber said there’s a whole stack of them up there in the attic, in good condition. I haven’t made the climb to fetch them yet and I’m not terribly anxious to do so. It does leave me wondering what else is up there, but I’ll get to that enventually. While we continue to renovate the house to make it “ours” and bring it up to date, I take great pride in leaving parts of its past intact. I’ve kept a series of old coffee cans in the basement, each lined up perfectly on a shelf and filled with different size screws, nails, odds, ends and small tools. Each can is painted beige and has written labels of what’s contained in them. It’s both practical and romantic. Newspapers from the 1930’s fill some of the space in the basement where insulation should be. Those are staying.

I’m starting to ramble now, but I think my point is this: there is nothing more sad or beautiful than generations changing hands. We are here, we laugh, we cry, we love and then we move on and we pass the baton to the next set, who do exactly the same. That’s the way it’s been forever. The faces keep changing and the world keeps changing, but in the end we’re all made up of tissue and nerves, seeking trust, information and comfort from those who came before us and hoping we can do the same for those who come after us.

I hope that soldier’s family remembered yesterday.