Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dear Life, Thank You

I suppose 12/31/09 would be an apropos time to stare 2009 in the eye and reflect upon the good and the bad throughout the year, and after coffee and an introspective interlude, formulate a renewed hope and set of aspirations for 2010. But, frankly, I'll be busy that night, sitting on my sister's couch in my nicest sweats, with Season 3 of Dexter and a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

As Thanksgiving approached, I've been pondering how the really truly shitty moments in a year, or their longer counterparts, episodes, can re-cast good moments, even lukewarm OK moments, in a much shinier light. So, I hereby proclaim that on this Thanksgiving Day I give a hearty gracias for the bad times. And, I mean bad times: true job suckage, super early conference calls, the kind of sharp and prolonged stress that causes insomnia and the curse of acne, and times when my checking account brought me nothing but a piercing woe.

Amidst a challenging job search, an anemic bank account, and the adjustment to becoming a member of the Boomerang generation (adults who return home to roost with Mom and Dad), I've also got to give my sincerest thanks - and I feel this thanks all the way down, deep, deep, down, in the cartilage that forms my kneecaps - for my family, friends, laughter, the Twilight Series, HBO, the incredible music that came out this year, and the good friends who despite my being me, were still generous with their time, their $, and heartfelt advice. 2009 demonstrated to me, more than any other year thus far, that after a prolonged gloom, much like after the harshest and most destructive of weather systems concludes, the sun shines again.

Don't just take my word for it. Herewith, a brief glimpse for what others are thankful.

"1. Bacon, in all its savory, sweet and succulent glory
2. Beer, despite all the deplorable things I do when I drink it
3. A decent metabolism that allows me to chronically overindulge in #1 & #2
4. The acute understanding that I'm just another expendable, semi-gelatinous, carbon-based, resource-annihilating whore-ganism in the greater game of nature
5. Phreedom to do my life on my terms
6. Phamily who always have a home for me and shower me in this magical stuff called "unconditional love"
7. Phriends who know my dark side yet trust and defend me
8. Traveling the world but calling Amurrica my home
9. The hope of silent sunrises
10. The comfort of an unknown future"

"Well of course [I'm] thankful for another day above the turf...I am grateful to have been relieved of the bondage of self..that I am free to do whatever I desire to within principled boundries...that I am surrounded by fellow members of my tribe who love and support me--that I didn't gain weight when I quit smoking, and most of all for my assistant who makes it possible for me to only work 4 hours a"

"I am very thankful for my family and my awesome son."

"-Thankful for another wonderful year of life.
-Thankful for the opportunities to travel and see knew things with old friends
-Thankful that I can survive 48 hours with my family (maybe)
-Thankful for a 4 day weekend"

"I'm thankful to live in a country where I can go to college (twice) to pursue the career I want to have. I'm thankful I have a loving husband who is my soulmate. I'm thankful I have two loving, strong parents and a brother who is my best friend. I'm thankful for all of those in my life that help keep me sane and make life worth living. I'm thankful for my poochy, Winston. And, I'm really thankful for food and sex. God is a genius. Oh, and I'm definitely thankful for Stephenie Meyer for letting me lust after seventeen year old vampires and werewolves. *Sigh*"

"I am thankful for kick-ass friends and family...a dog that entertains me on a daily basis, and the knowledge that I'm FINALLY on the right path in life. Better late than never right? oh yea...and for my health, and home, and job. whew!"

"I'm thankful for people who think beyond their own lives, their own families, their own countries and have the balls to act with that bigger picture in mind even (especially) if they may be fired, vilified, or voted out of office for those acts. And for burritos."

"I am thankful for living in America despite all of its faults and mindful of the access and privilege I am provided because of this. I am thankful for a healthy body that functions despite my badness (and I do mean BADNESS!). I am thankful for my wonderful friends and family who love me despite myself and I am thankful for kittens without which I would know no pure joy and unconditional love!"

"I am thankful that throughout so many phases and stages of my life, and in so many settings, I have found myself surrounded by good, honest, intelligent, caring and fun people."

"I am thankful that so far life has pushed me in certain directions and pulled me back from others - in time for me to learn, but not drown ... I am also so very grateful for living so close to this part of the Pacific Ocean ... the sun set today made me feel comfortingly small and in wonderment ..."

A special thank you to the dear friends who kindly shared their thoughts. You are my counterparts, not just on this post, but in life, and I feel pretty fucking lucky.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bedroom Muses

During a summer in the early 90s I worked as a journalist intern for my hometown newspaper. One of my mentors, for all her daytime professionalism and reserve, could not completely suppress what she was in her off hours -- a Good Time Girl*. She seemed to recognize I was one in the making. She slipped me a cassette. It was Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville.

None of the tape covers in the collection I owned were like this. Liz Phair, draped in a dark cape, her mouth open in a forceful "O", had paired her intimately revealing lyrics with a cover that gave peek at the upper tip of her left areola. The tape cover sat at the very back of my sock drawer -- musical contraband.

I credit Liz Phair with the truce my naiveté feverishly made that summer with my heretofore dormant irreverence and inclination toward highbrow snark. A Catholic education had previously curbed but not quashed the inevitable. Liz Phair used the word "Fuck" all the time and repudiated anything demure or - gag me - princess-y. I unabashedly sang her words in my car with the windows down -- as long as my parents weren't around.

I found out later that Liz Phair wrote and recorded Exile in Guyville in her bedroom. She had taken her destiny into her own arms and completed the ultimate DIY project: a still to this day critically hailed debut.

I have a special place in my heart for musicians who don't wait for recording contracts, but charge up their Macs, ask for donations, sling espressos, walk dogs, and employ Web 2.0 strategies so they can put their music out into the ether, and preferably in your ears. These are the artists who are a pleasure to support because they are bypassing traditional means of mass producing and marketing their music. (So when one in particular makes your eyes go wide with delight, be sure you tell the world about it.)

Merrill Garbus is the one-woman show behind tUnE-YaRdS. She classifies herself as "experimental", and describes her music thusly:
Your mom when she gets really mad but instead of whoopin' yo' ass she starts making crazy-ass beats with the pots and pans AND yo' ass.

This makes me want to get my Mom really mad -- around some strategically placed kitchen gadgetry.

*Good Time Girl: A member of the female species inclined toward activities one would confidently term as "fun", or "a good time"; a member of a group engaging in goodhearted, if slightly irreverent -- fuck, who are we kidding? -- completely irreverent dialogue that may or may not involve a round or four of spirits, uninhibited dancing, and potentially watching the sun illuminate the dark, giving rise to a brand new fun, er, day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Recordings Of The Middle East

When you've got a good thing going, sometimes a second chance is really a blessing wrapped up in shiny, celestial paper, with a big rapturous bow on top. I'd opine The Middle East would agree with me.

I admit to confusion when I first came across the album The Recordings of the Middle East, thinking it was a compilation by Western artists providing their musical viewpoints on the group of nation-states first identified in the Eisenhower Doctrine, in the part about the Suez Canal.

The Middle East is not actually from the Middle East, but from the smallest continent on the planet -- Australia. At first I thought that naming themselves after a complex and violent geographical hot spot was mystifying. Now I think, whatever. I think this mostly because the music is superb; it's ethereal and atmospheric -- but not all the way through. Each song has blood and guts and marrow.

The band broke up a year ago and - thankfully for the rest of us - band members came to their senses, re-recognized that good thing they had going, and reunited. The band released an abridged version of their earlier work a couple weeks ago. If the musical blogosphere has anything to do with it, the album will catch fire like a desiccated Christmas tree and tingle the ears of the alternative set before the calendar year reaches its coup de grâce.

The Recordings of the Middle East is one of the finest etherealesque albums I've had the pleasure of listening to in this Year of our Lord 2009. For me, "Blood" is the standout track, and the album cover is a visual dagger through the chest, but in the best possible sense that can be said.

After staring at the cover for the better part of a minute I wanted to hug someone, but not a dainty squeeze. I felt the desire to participate in an embrace with the kind of vigor and adoration that engages every last chamber of the heart for a moment of true physical connection -- a tactile time out powerful enough to briefly still this fleeting life and demonstrate the sentiments not so easily uttered -- much like the album does in the architecture of each song, and each visceral lyric.

Friday, November 13, 2009

You're A Bone Machine

I had to turn down a ticket to see The Pixies at the newly beautiful (renovated) Fox Theater in Oakland earlier this week. Saying no to the ticket was like stabbing myself through the heart with a dirty, dusty, blade that causes profound pain but is most assuredly non-fatal.

I have a string of epithets, italicized and bolded, to follow that thought, but I am going to save their incendiary intent for my post on Carrie Prejean.

In the meantime I leave you with what is possibly my most cherished Pixies tune: "You're A Bone Machine".

Much like one might pair a romantic interlude with champagne and strawberries (actually, I'm not sure if anyone does that; champagne is never a cliche without or without the berries), or match the time-tested favorite of peanut butter and jelly on wheat (no crust), "You're A Bone Machine" does not translate well, as in you cannot truly experience the transcendent atomic energy it will unfold in you, if you listen to it on a tepid volume. Some songs require an appropriate amplification that truly rattles double-paned windows. This is one such song.

So do yourself a favor: Go thermonuclear. Turn the dial up on this tune. Your neighbors might be sorry, but you won't be. Such is the fission of The Pixies, and such is the frisson of jettisoning momentary proprietary and embracing your inner, feral, wild child. Allow yourself to scream with Frank Black, to splay your demons, stresses, and cheerful profundities in a musical tantrum that doesn't require you to be the ringleader -- just a member of the crowd. One who sings a long.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You Made A Bad Choice. Now I'll Take A Testicle.

I hate reading stories about bad things happening to defenseless people: little kids, the elderly, harmless animals, but I especially hate coming across stories about gang rape.

I've never wanted to be a vampire, or a superhero, or possess abilities that would allow me to rise above being an average mortal with too many pairs of shoes. But when a glaring act of injustice occurs -- when someone elects to harm another with the kind of viciousness that makes me hope there is a hell, my first thought is not compassion. Maybe it should be. My first white hot thought involves getting in the perpetrator's grill, ripping the grill out, and then hacking out every tooth with a soiled pair of pliers -- one by one.

A recent gang rape in the Bay Area jarringly put into focus how a collection of ugly factors can explode into the kind of appalling brutality that was inflicted on a fifteen-year-old girl as she left a homecoming dance. The violence enacted on this girl is a result of - a fucking horrible symptom of - a societal gangrene we're all exposed to whether we want it or not.

The gangrene's many elements involve an entrenched and violent inner city culture; young, impressionable, and stupid high school students and dropouts; troubled men who have aged out of continuation school and juvenile hall with their tarnished and malfunctioning moral compasses in tow. Mix in generous heaps of drugs, alcohol abuse, and boredom and you've got one hell of a potent molotov cocktail that once hurled exploded a toxic chemistry that burned, charred, and seared not just the victim, but all of us.

My anger is not just limited to the perpetrators. I want to expose and humiliate the subhumans who stood by and watched as events unfolded. They took pictures and they took video. I want them all to explain what they were thinking. Then, I want to rip out each of their eyelashes, one by one. And then I want to slowly cauterize a "V" (for voyeur) into their foreheads with a blowtorch. Everything has a price of admission.

I have no doubt that those arrested will be incarcerated for a very long time. I know I should feel some compassion for the guilty (most entered the world with major disadvantages), but we all come to pivotal crossroads and have to make choices, and they made theirs. And now I want one testicle -- each. Their karmic burden is not my business. But, it's time for them to sacrifice a profound part of themselves. I'll take their testicles.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Summertime Clothes on a Summer Day in November

It is November 2, 2009, and on this day the sun perched itself showily in a new November sky free of clouds and smoke (the Santa Cruz mountains keep birthing forest fires) and radiated a warmth we don't often feel in the middle of summer -- much less an autumn stretching itself into California's version of winter.

I did what any sane person would do: I marveled at this unexpected gift of 80 degrees on this 306th day of the year, and played hooky from editing assignments to take myself for a walk -- a glorious walk. Today was a day for pool parties, barbecues, shorts, and contemplating one's naval or election choices (tomorrow's Election Day) outside.

As I walked through the streets I felt an exuberance return with which I had parted ways months ago. The sun whisked away remnant cerebral cobwebs, and my situation - one in the midst of yet another career change - tilted in a direction, if only by perception, that was decidedly positive.

Naturally, I had trouble easing my way back indoors. There is no WiFi on the patch of grass in the backyard, alas, which a job search grudgingly requires. Luckily, a melodic encapsulation of this November summer day crossed my path (or ear canals rather) in a most synchronous manner, allowing me to relive the warmth and all-around sweetness of this short-sleeved day once the sun had made its farewell, and as a theatrical and thoroughly rotund harvest moon hoisted itself into position.

Rip off your sleeves and I'll ditch my socks
We'll dance to the songs from the cars as they pass...
Walking around in our summertime clothes...
And I want to walk around with you
And I want to walk around with you